Here’s how you finish editing a movie: you set a date on which the movie will be finished and on that date you stop working on it. I haven’t set that date yet, and so here I am still tweaking away.
I’m not embarrassed by the continued work. I was sufficiently happy with The Devil’s Tail as of October 12, 2008 that I attended its world premiere in Orlando and was able to watch it on a 20′ x 30′ screen without completely losing my mind.
However, the writing, prep, and shoot of The Devil’s Tail went by like a speeding bullet, and it seemed like the real work only began for me in post. From the first draft to wrap of principal photography (December to March) I didn’t have much time for careful reflection on the process, and the resulting footage certainly bears the marks of a piece that was directed almost completely from instinct. For the most part I’m intrigued and delighted by the way that quality comes through. Sure there have been days in the editing suite where I cursed the lack of a particular angle or a lack of cutaways overall, but these annoyances are overshadowed by a very relaxed, unselfconscious feel to most of the footage.
As I become more and more aware of the power of the editor, especially the modern editor who has extremely detailed effects, colour, and soundtrack controls at his fingertips, I’m starting to hear little voices in my head that never used to be there. The voices want something.
They want candy. And loads of it.
Ear candy, eye candy: slo-mo, fancy dissolves, extreme colour treatments, in-your-face smash cuts with sound effects that make you jump, freeze frames, low level hums and sighs and crystalline shrieks, electronic pans and zooms and cropping and image stabilization. I can do it all! It’s right there in the effects menu!
But should I?
It’s the same essential aesthetic question I always face on every project, be it live theatre or video. I know what will impress the audience as far as form goes, believe me. But I’ve always been confident enough in the content of the work I’ve done with Samantha Swan and our various collaborators, and have tried to make the form as unobtrusive as possible: no distracting flash, just storytelling clarity and the simplest, most elegant solutions I could come up with to narrative problems. My aesthetic has always been to avoid anything which drew the audience’s attention away from the characters and the story in the moment.