September 06, 2010

It's on a dark room that movies are really made

(Leia este artigo em português - acesse AQUI)

The wizard of editing in action: Walter Murch

Making movies is basically telling stories using pictures and sound, right? Everything starts with an idea, then comes the script and the infamous budget, of course.

It's like a roller coaster. You start at the top, leaving the creativity flow and fly. Then you realize what you dreamed is not so easy to do -- especially if you do not have enough money. And you get caught on a freefall with butterflies in your stomach.

But let me tell you a little secret that my teacher revealed us: no one ever has enough money to make a movie. Not even James Cameron had all the money he wanted to do Avatar. Believe it or not. We always have to reduce our megalomaniacal delusions to something feasible.

Then, after a precipitous drop we began to rise slowly again. The script is now possible to shoot. We design the navigation maps: filming schedule, shot list, floor plan. It's time to select the cast, scout locations, arrange props and costumes. And you get to the top of the hill again.

Then comes a even faster falling: the shootings. You have to direct the actors, talk to the crew, decide hows, whens, whats to shoot. If you're lucky and get ready for the unpredictable, you will have enough time for everything. But normally you have to make decisions faster, cut scenes, rearrange the material. It's like changing the tire with the car moving. Your actor gives you a good idea and you change. The director of photography suggests a new take and you accept. If it's interesting, why not? Do you want to achieve the best possible, right?

When you reach the end of the shootings, you hit the rock bottom again. And you’re so exhausted that you can not even think, eat, sleep. But the movie is not finished yet.

Actually, that's when the movie really begins – on a dark room in front of a computer. It's time to make the supreme effort to forget everything you scraped so far. Forget the script. Check out all the shots you have. Analyze the performance of the actors. Think visually. And yes, cut ruthlessly what does not work. I think this is the hardest part. After all the Herculean effort, you just want to keep everything that was cool, everything was fun to do, all that is trendy. Sorry, you can’t.

The film has to work and sometimes you need to cut a leg or an arm to make it happen. Be brave and just do it -- no matter who gets hurt. Cut whole performances, if necessary. That friend who thinks that can be an actor won’t talk to you for a while, but remember it's for a good cause. Tell him that the cinematographer ruined the scene! Be creative in your excuses, but cut it out.

Nothing is more worthwhile than watching your movie with the audience: they laugh when they should laugh, cry when you wanted them to weep, and they just ... love your work!

So if you want to learn more about editing take a look at the book that is recommended by 11 filmmaking teachers out of 10: In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch. I'll talk more about that soon. There is also an amazing documentary called The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. Do not miss!

And if you're thinking "why on earth she’s writing me this. I don’t want to be an editor!" You know what? Neither do I! But to be not just a filmmaker but a remarkable filmmaker, you have to know what editing is and why it can save (or destroy) your movie. Editing can change your life! You want to be just another one or you want to stand out?


Daniel Lemos Cury said...

And your are absolutely right. Filmmaking is cutting when you need to cut...

Janaína Duarte said...

So... That's the reason why my scene got cut out of that movie of yours? lol I am happy to see that you are even more into editing than when I left. I really need to get a Final Cut so I can keep practicing...

Anonymous said...

Hey Gabriela, can you tell if it's possible to find this book "in the blink of an eye here in Brazil? or online for free?

Unknown said...

Hi, Diogo! Yes, Walter Murch's book is "Num Piscar de Olhos" on Brazil and you can find it at (R$ 29,90) and other bookstores. Or you can purchase the original version at Amazon (US$ 8,98). They deliver to Brazil. I don't about free versions. Sorry.

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