Monday, 2 April 2012

The First Cut

My favourite part of the job I do is doing the first rough cut of a dialogue scene. It doesn't have to be a dialogue scene, I'm quite happy with an action scene or music video or a simple montage, but dialogue is my forte. But that moment when I have a bin full of footage ready to go and a completely blank timeline is the most exciting moment in filmmaking for me. Truly, I believe it's the moment when the filmmaking actually begins. Production is exciting and I wouldn't dream of demeaning the input of the various roles involved, but a lot of the skills which go into it are not unique to filming. Photography, lighting, acting, art direction, they all have there roots in other art forms, but editing is the thing that sets cinema apart from everything that preceded it. Up until the moment you start trying to seamlessly combine the various performance and camera angles together to create a new little universe that no longer contains cameras and lights and crew and actors, only the characters that inhabit it, you don't really have a film. You just have footage. And that is why I love being an Editor.

I have in the past had people ask about how much "say" I get into what goes into the final draft of the films I edit. They are usually surprised that, technically, I don't get any. Thankfully, I am usually afforded the opportunity to put together a first cut of the film on my own. But if the director came along and decided that he literally wanted to change everything, he could. And at the end of the day he has that right, because its him that will get the credit if its great (i.e. it sells) and the stick if its rubbish (i.e. it flops). But putting money on this happening would be a foolish way to waste money, because it underestimates the power of the first cut. There is something special about seeing the footage cut together for the first time, and although there is always going to be a lot of work done after that, the first cut (if done well) will always leave an imprint on the finished project. So even, if I encounter a director who doesn't know the meaning of the world collaborate, I'm pretty sure I will always get my fair share of "say".

To finish off this post, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and give you  a complete dialogue scene that I did for The Turing Enigma, my second feature as Editor. It's one of my favourite scenes that I've had the pleasure of working on.

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