This is really an extension of an earlier post on editing.
I’ve been rereading what I feel is becoming my bible on directing, “Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics” by Michael Rabiger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, and this morning started the section on editing. I probably blew past it the earlier times I read it, as the focus isn’t specifically on first-time directors, but the authors state that directors should always edit their first effort. This was reinforced by John, the experienced director who has agreed to help me with my first effort, who said the same thing. I don’t feel I’ll be a good editor, or at least don’t feel called toward the topic like I do to directing, but I’m becoming convinced having the in-depth experience of doing my own editing will be worth the personal sacrifice in the long run.
What I may wind up doing is investing a few months (or longer) in developing the edit to the best of my capabilities, then hire an experienced editor (John offered as much at one point) to go over my decisions with the eye toward improving it. Even though I feel I’m too close to the story, as writer and director, to make the necessary analytical decisions to get the best balance for the material, I’m sure, by going through the likely painful process myself, I’ll be able to internalize the advice given to a much better degree. Plus, as the bible states a number of times, having the viewpoint of the editor embedded in my psych will improve the entire pre- and production system by being sensitized to the opportunities inherent in the process.
Since I plan to film my first over weekends, I’ll have five days to work on a rough cut of what happened the previous weekend to give me a chance to identify weaknesses I can recover from the following weekend. Also, by going through this process, I can probably substantially improve myself as a director as well. My goal is ten pages each day. This highly optimistic number (the oft-stated average is around 5 pages per day) has been reinforced in reading about various indie experiences, as well as by John, as attainable in my project. The gist seems to be, because my locations are highly condensed (I hope to film 80% or more on our own property), there will be very little travel time to deal with, so average setup time should be dramatically lower. I have yet to complete a shooting schedule to have any confidence in this figure, but it’s very high on my list-of-things-to-do over the next couple of weeks (first, I want to update the script to incorporate the romcom aspects).
Assuming I can contain myself to a 10:1 ratio of filmed minutes to finished (I’ve read horror stories of up to 200:1), that would mean each week I’d have 200 minutes of raw footage to edit down to 20. Three and a third hours. That seems like a minor thing to do in five days (I’m usually home from work by 2:30 and don’t go to bed until 9, so 6.5 hours a day, assuming I eat in front of the computer), but the degrees of freedom inherent in editing tells me that I’ll be doing very very good to have an assembly (basically, a linear collection of the ‘master’ shots faithful to the script), let alone a sloppy rough cut.
Just thinking about it feels painful, but, as they say (whoever ‘they’ are), no pain, no gain.