Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's worse...?

Which is worse? Is it worse to do a average job on something that you really want to be good, or is it worse to a bad job on something that you know can't be good no matter how much effort you out in?

For the past two (and a bit) weeks I've been editing a series for a company that I worked for last year. This company is small but incredibly well respected. I should have been cutting the food show but I've made concessions and have devoted my days to the other company show, and my nights to cutting the food show.

They're both very different. The company show is a semi-scripted comedy show about back-yard cricket. Think 'The Office' or 'Flight Of The Conchords' and you've about got it. The food show is semi advertorial where the vineyards and suppliers involved have paid cash to be on the show. Without bias I can say that the cricket show is some of the funniest tele I've seen in a long time. And I watch a LOT of tele. The food show, which let's face it, I should be biased about given that I directed most of it, is not that great. And that makes me feel bad.

As an editor I get to work with loads of different material. In 17 years doing this job I've cut music vids, docos, dramas, comedies, porn (yes, really) and almost everything that comes across your screen. And now working in my lounge editing footage that I directed I feel miserable.

I've just come back to the screen after a gorgeous Marlboro Light (sorry) and have realised that I'm missing the point.

I meant to write about cutting. So here ya go...

Many people can push the buttons that are involved in running an edit suite. The trick that makes a good editor (and it's no trick, it's learnt at the breast of a mentor) is working out a tempo.

Whatever you're watching there's a tempo to it. Whether it's a commercial, a sitcom or a re-run of your favourite movie... there's a tempo. And like any of your favourite songs this tempo will bring you up, engage you, level you off, bring you up again, level you off again, and then raise once more... and hopefully raise some more... before finishing you off with someting that makes you feel as if you've had sunshine mainlined into your femoral bits.

Doing this however takes a bit of time. There have been 30 second commercials I've worked on that have had over seven hours of footage. There have been music vids that have been four minutes on air that have had only twenty minutes of footage. There are degrees of competence in directors (and degrees of competence in editors) which make a massive difference. But the biggest thing comes back to tempo.

As an editor you can fool people. But you need to feel people. And if you can't do that, for whatever reason then well...

You can manipulate emotion according to the timing of an edit. You can make people cry with a well chosen audio bed. You can make them feel uplifted with a well timed look... Or you can ruin it all with a badly timed cut from one shot to another. Sometimes just a few frames make a difference.

And sometimes you just want to leave people.

(if you've read this far, go and see Watchmen at the movies. Seriously, it's a work of genius)


Kate said...

Are you saying you may be a better editor than a director?
Is this a crisis of confidence, Mr House?
If you have lost the ability to feel people, then maybe its time to reassess.

the projectivist said...

your words are so evocative.
thank you for explaining a bit about what it is that you do.
how exciting to have that sort of power.

oh, and -
marlboro light, huh?

Anonymous said...

Hey I enjoyed reading this post..kind of an insiders look.

I watched The Truman show on the weekend for the sixth makes you realise just how easy manipulated we humans can be.
Sometimes a movie clip that wasn't going to make me cry, makes me cry just by adding in some audio.

Anonymous said...

I have the greatest respect for editors like yourself. I get the tempo thing - completely makes sense. Sorry you are feeling a little frustrated.

Anonymous said...

...went over to the johnaugust site you mentioned... like it. Found the bottom of the screen and clicked on 'formatting' and found heaps of questions that I should be asking with all the right answers.


the projectivist said...

where oh where has damien gone?
don't you love him anymore?

The Melb IT Geek said...

I've done a job I hate for more than 17 years, with nary a complaint.

So SHUT your stupid little face!!!

(then smile, knowing I love you still)