In the "real world" of filmmaking, a director usually gets to sit with their editors to work on the first cut of their film. They get to work with the cut before showing it to anyone - even the producers. This is not the case in our class, 546.
Wednesday was our "editor's cut" in our advanced production class 546 - the class in which we are producing "Volcano Girl." Calling it an "editor's cut," though, is a misnomer. It's actually an "assembly" of all of our footage. The editors put everything we shot from the script into the cut. This means it includes lines that may not be playing right or shots that may not work in their proper order anymore.
As a filmmaker, you usually have to re-cut your film based on your footage, not necessarily based on your script. The script is a guideline at this point but by no means does it confine us. We say "now we edit the movie we shot." It's a good saying.
Seeing It For the First Time
The rules of 546 do not allow me to see the cut before the "editor's cut." So I see it for the first time with everyone - all 50 classmates/professors. All of the directors were warned about this class. We were told it will be tough - no fun at all. It will be 50 people telling us exactly what they think of our movie, the movie we haven't even been able to touch yet. I certainly prepared myself. I've heard that directors in the industry get drunk for these first assemblies. I couldn't do that at 8am.
Oh the Comments
Yes, this process prepares us for the real world - when we'll receive every comment possible from every person possible - and believe me, we got them all on Wednesday.
Some of the best were "I still don't get it," and "Why don't you solve it with a phone call? or maybe a title card?" The best was suggesting a Star Wars like crawl to explain the relationship between Volcano Girl and Radian ... would you believe that I heard that suggestion more than once? Some more: "your character doesn't make sense" "I hate the mom" "Just cut the whole scene... well... try it!" "is she a robot?"
Don't get me wrong, each comment is taken seriously, because there is truth behind them. The "Star Wars like crawl" comment refers to the fact that they don't understand our characters right away. Same with the "your character doesn't make sense." So that certainly needs to be fixed - and it will. The "is she a robot" referred to a VFX that wasn't working, so I then spoke to the VFX guy to figure out a change. And we're fixing it.
Listening to Comments
Some comments you may disagree with, but they should be heard. I think "listening to comments" is actually a learned skill in this industry. You get better with experience.
So, when receiving comments, you should never simply dismiss them. I have a few colleagues who think that way, and it upsets me. You also shouldn't believe every single comment as fact. You really have to pick and choose. The comments that tend to repeat are usually the ones worth your time.
Seeing the movie from the point of view of someone else is a gift.
"Stick to your gut, but be mature enough to know when you're wrong."
I think that sums it up!
I Wasn't the Only One
Don't worry - the other directors were not spared. One of our professors yelled out to my colleague "I'm glad your character died and I hope it was a miserable death!" ... my colleague doesn't want us to hate that character... oops! We all received the "your movie doesn't have a beginning...or an ending" and "I don't feel for your main character. Why should I care?"
The whole experience was tough, but all I can do is laugh. Believe me, this movie is in such beginning stages that it shouldn't be shared with anyone!
We Were on a Break!
The hardest part was actually the 15 minute break after I showed my cut. It's the break where we get to grab a coffee (the class does start at 8am), grab something to eat, and go to the bathroom.
I didn't get to do any of that.
I walked out and was immediately grabbed by someone to talk about business. It was needed for sure - we were talking about composers. I walked with them to the line at Coffee Bean (the line gets long at CB so you have to run). A few people interrupted us once we reached the line to give more feedback on the cut until I got to the front of the line. Then I talked to someone different as I paid for my yogurt.
I tried to walk over to the counter, so I could set down my coffee and open my yogurt and another person walked up to me. It had been 10 minutes, and I still didn't get to eat. I was starving! I was drinking coffee on an empty stomach and that is NOT good for me...
I walked back over to the class, still trying to open that yogurt, and was stopped again. Then class started. Did I mention I also had to pee?? Ugh! So that was my break. I didn't get much of one...
Needless to say that after the next movie screened, I gave my comments then ran to the bathroom. I brought that yogurt too. No, I didn't eat it in the bathroom...
That was my break. And it was good.
I can't complain, really. All I can do is smile. This is the industry. This is what it's like. Every director will deal with everyone and their mother telling them how they should make their movie. 546 truly prepares us for this. No need to get defensive. People want to be heard. My job is to listen and say thank you. Maybe I'll get lucky and there will be a suggestion that would actually work really well. Then I get to steal it and call it my own!
That's all I could do during Wednesday's cut - but I'll be damned if I don't get to eat my parfait.
I know we have work to do on the cut. I wrote down the suggestions and will review them once I have had an opportunity to work through the cut.
After Wednesday's class, the most important concerns are the ones repeated many times by the audience. We are certainly paying attention to those.
The editors and I will work over our Spring Break to perfect this cut in preparation for next Wednesday's class and Pick-Up weekend.