Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Short film diary - Week 20...

So I've been trying to finish a script I've been working on in the few spare hours between the day job and short film stuff, hence last weeks diary being a little late. I finished it in the end, although in my constant state of exhausted confusion had somehow managed to make amendments on two completely different drafts. Luckily this was spotted before the script went out to anyone and I stitched the two amended versions together, but this was a clear indication that I have way too much on right now. And I was going to open this diary with a self-pitying rant about how I never have enough time to do anything, then realised my last two blogs have been about films I've watched and bands I've seen. Maybe I'll skip the self-pitying rant and get right into what happened last week...

So last week was mostly spent amending and polishing the picture edit. Most things have been pretty easy to fix - usually it's just a case of tightening up the edit. There are a couple of problem moments where I'd like to have the edit even tighter and there just isn't anything to cut to, but I don't think these will bother anyone else. We also added in some temporary voice-overs and effects so it would look more like the finished product when we showed it to our next test audience. And it felt like it was nearly there, a few cuts away from being finished...until we actually showed it to our next test audience.

I've had a lot of feedback on scripts in the past and have given a lot of feedback too. I know that if you ask someone for criticism there will always be criticism - you will never reach a point with a script where everyone who reads it agrees that it is the most awesome thing they're ever read. The trick is to work out at which point the criticisms stop being problems with the script and become personal opinion instead.

I usually work on a basis of consistency - if everyone is making the same point, then that issue needs to be addressed. If everyone has different issues then you can choose to ignore the points you disagree with. But with writing that decision will eventually be taken out of your hands. You can get feedback on a script forever, but at some point, in an ideal world, that script will be filmed and the director makes the call on the script being finished.

So now I'm in the situation where I'm the director and that decision is mine, which is part of the reason I wanted to direct in the first place. And it's the part I'm finding difficult. I really want to say we're done, just to be finished. I also really want to put the work in now because I know I'll regret it later. But it can't go on forever.

Well, actually it can. You remember back in Week 15 when I had to put it on hold for a bit and I said it would be fine because no one was due to leave the country anytime soon? Turns out one of our actors is actually leaving the country in October. Like forever. So then we had a deadline to get the picture edit near enough finished so we could record her additional dialogue before she left, which in a lot of ways was a good thing - deadlines are always good. And we got it to a pretty good state and did her ADR session on Sunday - it's mostly the exterior dialogue we needed, but seeing as we can't get her back we ended up just recording all her lines again just in case.

So now there's no deadline again, just me wanting to get it finished by the end of the year. And this still looks possible. I had a meeting with the composer last week too and showed him the film as it was (I cringed at the musical sequence which isn't quite the Busby Berkeley masterpiece I'd described to him when he agreed to write the song). The end of the year is working for him too. But before I can pass him the film to score, we need to lock the picture edit.

Which brings me back to not wanting it to go on forever and getting feedback from our test audience. There are a couple of issues that I wasn't sure about which everyone who's seen the film has now raised, so these definitely need to be changed. There's also one big moment I'm not happy with that I'm hoping to be able to work on soon. Then there's the ending, which is deliberately ambiguous and confuses everyone. I thought I was fine with this, until I explained what the ending was supposed to mean and everyone seemed to get it and suggested a couple of things to make it work. So I'm going to tweak it slightly. It will still be pretty obscure but if it helps another couple of people in the audience get it then it seems worthwhile.

As with a lot of points it feels like we're treading a really fine line between subtlety and spoon-feeding the audience. A few points have been raised where the only solution seems to be for the main character to turn to camera and explain exactly what she's doing and why (she talks direct to camera anyway, so actually this would kind of work). Although sometimes you just have to trust the writing. There was one moment like this where no one was getting it and I was struggling to find a line we could add in ADR that would help it all make sense. Then Andrea pointed out there was a line we missed when we were filming. And the line in the script that I'd completely forgotten about works perfectly and should help the scene make a lot more sense. So now we just need to ADR that line, which was already in the script to being with.

There were other moments that were criticised, of course, but these were individual comments and lacked the consistency among the group that I'm looking for. I also realised, and this is not just me making excuses, that it's actually pretty hard to get feedback on a film in this state. A few people said they found the inconsistencies in the sound really distracting and some of the criticisms were specifically directed at the sound. I'm confident that these issues will all be smoothed over in the sound mix. So we are going to carry on working on it, and I'm hoping we can get some of the recorded sound put in before we lock picture just to make sure. But I think we are getting there.

By next week we should have finished all the ADR meaning we'll be even closer to being finished...


MarkM said...

Hey Chris. Enjoying the blog as always. Question for you dude. At what point did you decide to do the dialogue as ADR rather than live recording?


Chris Regan said...

Hi Mark, good question. We recorded the sound live too, it's just about a third of it is unusable. We did a lot of filming on the seafront so there's wind and screaming kids to contend with and we always knew we'd have to ADR those scenes. While we've got the actors in we're getting them to record a proportion of their other dialogue too, just to give us some options. I'm hoping we don't have to use too much of the ADR recordings ideally as you can quite often tell the difference, but the guy doing all our sound editing and mixing is really experienced so I'm following his lead really.