Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Bathwater Scene: Getting to the Picture Lock

The rough cut of Endings is down to a total running time of 96 minutes, which both pleases and amazes me, especially considering the fact that my mockumentary comedy American Messiah was 95 minutes long.

I'm pleased to be able to keep a challenging indie drama like Endings to a shorter running time, but I'm also pondering whether or not certain elements work, if it's paced too quickly now.

I don't really think there are pacing problems (or, at least, none that can be fixed based on what was shot) -- but when you're faced with locking picture soon, you start questioning everything. I'm a perfectionist and a realist at the same time. I want to get it right, even if it means going through every take to check what else we've got; but I also want to get it done. Finding the middle ground between these two extremes is, I suppose, what an indie filmmaker does.

Also, the editor of the film likely won't stick around if I started reviewing every cut. I'm nitpicking things enough as it is right now, and he and I are haggling back and forth over one scene that he has affectionately dubbed "the Bathwater scene" -- so named because he believes it holds more bathwater than baby and should just be thrown out.

I'm not sure I agree -- and therein lies the process. We're tweaking this one scene every which way, to emphasize various things, to avoid cheesiness, to trim bad acting, and to try to find a way to transition to the next scene (something I should have planned for better when we shot these two scenes)...

I just took a blog break to answer an email from the editor with his latest suggestion for transitioning. Today has mostly been dedicated to watching the film and working on these little details.

But sometimes I worry that I'm losing the bigger picture while we work on these details. On the other hand, I think I lost the big picture when I started shooting. I really can't see Endings in the way an audience member can, because I'm too close to it and too aware of all the details (of the story, of the shooting, of the post process).

It's kind of a sad thing, in a way. You're trying to create something transcendent, but you yourself can't experience that transcendence, because you created the thing and can only experience it with all your memories of its creation intact. The hard part is determining if other people can experience it as a transcendent experience, something that's hard to judge if you will never see it that way yourself.

I'm trying to determine at what point I'll ask some people unfamiliar with the story to watch it and comment. That's a nerve-wracking process, for me anyway...

In any case, the picture will likely be locked in the next couple of weeks. After that, color correction, visual effects, and sound work all need to be done. But picture lock always feels like the biggest step to me. That's not to diminish the others; the work involved in all of them is critical. But getting the picture cut itself right is critical in setting the stage for all those other steps.


Anonymous Joshua Chance said...

I know what you mean, with the disconnect from the audience part at least. I have only made short films so far, but I find myself in the same situation where I feel like I am losing sight of the the original meaning and find it hard to see it through the audience's view. Good luck to you on that and if you need anyone to review it, just let me know. I was on set but I have no real feel for the story line or how the characters should be portrayed like you do.

5/07/2009 10:27 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Yea, I can imagine how difficult it can get to make decisions when you are so close.

If you could afford the time, it might help to take a vacation for a week or two when you don't even think about it at all. Then come back with a fresh and slightly-divorced perspective. But I imagine you probably can't afford that.

Anyway, I wish you luck, Chris!

5/11/2009 10:44 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Josh-- yes, it's a difficult task, but one that I'm getting better and better at (I think) with each new film.

Jonathan -- that's the approach I've taken. I always try to take a week or so away, then view it straight through without stopping. Unfortunately, once I start watching again, all the things I'd rather not remember come back to me, and I get focused on "how we shot this" or "how we edited that." It's pernicious, really. Hard to avoid.

5/11/2009 2:21 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Just flew back form Peru, India and Mali and boy are my arms tired... (yuck!) Reading your blog I'm wondering what the bathwater scene is???? Maybe I can make it back to Waco soon and we can catch up. How's Joeseph doing???


5/12/2009 1:48 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

John... LOL... call me, I'll fill you in. The bathwater scene in this case is Charlie knocking on the neighbor-lady's door... lots of issues with it... but, in the end, we kept it...

5/12/2009 1:56 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

I should add... we kept it, for now.

5/12/2009 8:22 PM  
Blogger The Medievalist said...

Don't overtweek the thing. You included the scene for a reason--go back and think about that. Make an imperfect film. By the way, I just "Capote" which is scary good, but a very imperfect film. Leave the scene in.

5/26/2009 5:29 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

If it makes you feel better, Paul, it's still in there in the latest cut and probably will remain. As far as making an imperfect film, I have no doubt done that, but I'd like it not to be imperfect in certain ways. One of those ways is bad acting -- when there's bad acting in a scene, it pulls people out of the whole film, and it ruins the experience... but, there was a reason the scene was in there, and that's why I kept it.

5/27/2009 6:24 AM  

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