So films really come together in the editing?

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Dave Watterson

So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Dave Watterson » Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:44 pm

Watching the DVD extras of "Sideways" last night I saw Alexander Payne's comment
that he finds it fascinating how films really only come together in the editing.
That scenes which seemed to work perfectly in the script don't work on screen.

Now as an occasional writer I like to think that you only need three things
for a great movie:
a great script,
a great script and
a great script.

But maybe I have just not done enough editing to have come across this phenomenon.

What's your experience?

Dave

Willy Van der Linden

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Willy Van der Linden » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:03 pm

"Dave Watterson" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
Watching the DVD extras of "Sideways" last night I saw Alexander Payne's
comment
that he finds it fascinating how films really only come together in the
editing.
That scenes which seemed to work perfectly in the script don't work on screen.

Now as an occasional writer I like to think that you only need three things
for a great movie:
a great script,
a great script and
a great script.

But maybe I have just not done enough editing to have come across this phenomenon.

What's your experience?
I enjoy writing articles. About twenty years ago I was a free lance journalist.
In 1979 I started writing commentaries for films made by friends. Florent
Van Opstal, the filmmaker who made "Wonders of Nature" (see BIAFF), was one
of them. After some time I started making films myself. I travelled around
Europe : Britain, Tuscany, the RhÔne Valley, Norway, Ireland, Brittanny.
I made films without scripts. I just read books about these countries or
regions. Some time ago, after having seen my "Masquerade" you told some
friends, Dave, that you were a bit surprised because I always make films
about countries, regions, etc., not about persons. But 6-7 years ago I made
a mysterious feature film called "Mi Tio Pacco". The script was written by
a Spanish teacher from my school. After that I made "Masquerade" and don't
forget "Faithfully Yours", a dramatized documentary about Charles Dickens.
I made this one together with Tony Jacobs, the man of the unforgettable "Yellow
Tulips". So now I think I have some experience. In my travelogues there are
also sequences with dialogues in them. No I'm sure ... without a good script
you cannot make a good film. Once upon a time I worked together with a charismatic
welknown filmmaker who is much better than I am. I wrote the script and screenplay,
and he was the director, but after some time it seemed that he is an excellent
improvisator. It was very difficult working with him. He didn't follow the
script anymore because he hates reading and writing. Some friends had already
"warned" me and they were right. In my opinion you must write down everything
in a very detailed way before making the film. In this way you don't forget
anything. You always try the finish the programme (= script) you've made.
A script is also essential for the structure of the film. Making a script
you can think of a good structure in your film. You can even make scripts
while preparing documentaries or travelogues, but of course there may be
unforseen situations (bad weather circumstances etc...). Making travelogues
that are not boring is not easier than making feature films.

Ian Gardner

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Ian Gardner » Mon Apr 24, 2006 12:26 pm

"Dave Watterson" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
Watching the DVD extras of "Sideways" last night I saw Alexander Payne's
comment
that he finds it fascinating how films really only come together in the
editing.
That scenes which seemed to work perfectly in the script don't work on screen.

Now as an occasional writer I like to think that you only need three things
for a great movie:
a great script,
a great script and
a great script.

But maybe I have just not done enough editing to have come across this phenomenon.

What's your experience?

Dave
I do agree a bit with you David. You do need a good script. You also need
a big notepad full of ideas and jots. When the film is being filmed, you
tend to get more ideas and you may decide to film different angles. Filming
different angles of the same scene lets the Editor decide which shot to use,
or even use a mixture of them all. We discussed Editing in a different thread
but How you edit can make or break a film. You can even give it a different
style, because of the editing, also it can have different endings, just by
useing the same shots.

Ian Gardner

Michael Slowe

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Michael Slowe » Mon Apr 24, 2006 2:46 pm

In my opinion you must write down everything
in a very detailed way before making the film. In this way you don't forget
anything. You always try the finish the programme (= script) you've made.
A script is also essential for the structure of the film. Making a script
you can think of a good structure in your film. You can even make scripts
while preparing documentaries or travelogues, but of course there may be
unforseen situations (bad weather circumstances etc...). Making travelogues
that are not boring is not easier than making feature films.
Oh dear, once again I have to disagree with good friends! Having made some
successful films over the last 30 years I have to say that I have never written
a script! I am primarily an editor anyway and all my films are really made
at that stage. It is true that I bear in mind cutting possibilities whilst
I shoot but with documentaries one can never be sure what can be obtained
until it is shot. I may make some notes before a shoot to try and remember
what basically I need to capture but that is the sum of it. I only form
my structure whilst I am digitising my footage and carefully labelling and
commenting on the many hundreds of clips.

Willy Van der Linden

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Willy Van der Linden » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:12 pm

"Michael Slowe" <michael.slowe@btinternet.com> wrote:

Oh dear, once again I have to disagree with good friends! Having made some
successful films over the last 30 years I have to say that I have never
written
a script! I am primarily an editor anyway and all my films are really made
at that stage. It is true that I bear in mind cutting possibilities whilst
I shoot but with documentaries one can never be sure what can be obtained
until it is shot. I may make some notes before a shoot to try and remember
what basically I need to capture but that is the sum of it. I only form
my structure whilst I am digitising my footage and carefully labelling and
commenting on the many hundreds of clips.
Yes, you've made wonderful films over the last 30 years. I agree, Michael.
As you know I've shown some of your films in my clubhouse : "Melissa", "Glass
Art", "Still Life", etc... Excellent films. You're a master improvisator
! Congratulations ! But there is a difference between preparing feature
(or do you call them 'fiction') films and documentaries. In some way you
agree with me and I agree with you. I told you : there are sometimes unforeseen
circumstances when making a documentary or a travelogue. The weather circumstances
for instance. Imagine that I had to film "La fête cornouialle" (in my film
"Breizh") when it was raining cats and dogs ! I agree : while taking shots
you sometimes see things that you did not expect. So why not filming these
unexpected things even if they are not in your script ? A question : I remember
your film "Melissa" very well. Before filming : didn't you prepare that film
by writing a rough script ? You said : "I remember what basically I need
to capture ..." You could have written down the things that you had to remember.
For instance the questions that you were going to ask Melissa's teacher and
her friend etc ... ? So in fact you've "written down" these things in your
memory.

Making a feature film is quite different. In my opinion then it is really
necessary to write a script or screenplay. By the way : is there any difference
between a script and a screenplay ? My English-Dutch dictionary says : screenplay
= draaiboek/script = draaiboek. Are they synonyms ? For my film "Together
with Yoda" I prepared everything at home. I didn't want to take any risks
because I hired a vintage car for only one day. Imagine that I had not written
a script with the dialogues for my actors Colin Howett, for the Morris Man,
the Lady of the luxury B & B, etc... ? I sent the script with the dialogues
to the Morris Man a few weeks before going to England. So he knew what he
had to say. Having written a script does not mean that you're not allowed
to improvise anymore, but in my opinion the script helps to make a solid
foundation of a well-structured film. I always try to avoid the following
thing while editing my film : "Saying "Oh, Jesus, I should have taken such
a shot as well !". I asked Colin Howett, the Morris man and other actors
to use their own words, but thanks to my script I saved time and I avoided
any disappointments while editing. Michael, we are good friends, but "Ieder
vogeltje zingt zoals hij gebekt is". It's a Dutch expression and I think
it means something like "If better were within, better would come out." or
"Everyone talks after his own fashion".

Dave Watterson

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Dave Watterson » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:55 pm

I muddied the waters by mentioning script ... what really interests me is
the idea that a film can be made (or made great) in the editing. In the commercial
world where film making is so very expensive I find it amazing that several
days may be spent shooting a scene which is removed at the first cut.

It seems to me that Michael's approach is often to shoot so much material
that he has covered all the ideas and angles before structuring his movie.
That said, recent ones have all had some narrative element: the creating
of the screen in 'On Silk', Melissa's history and her cabaret performances;
the creating of one piece of art in 'Glass'. In a similar way Willy often
seems to do his research and to know his subject so well before he even unpacks
a camera that he is able to mentally make the movie before he starts shooting.
For Willy the script is written down for Michael it is not.

On a practical level I sympathise with Ian's point that even with a script/plan
you sometimes see a chance to do something different during the shoot. In
fact I once met commercial director Alan Parker and asked him about this.
He agreed that though, for practical reasons with a large cast and crew,
you plan everything first - there is scope for some improvisation when you
have got the planned shots in the can.

Jan, my wife, who is a perceptive critic commented on 'Confidentially' that
if the "chair moment" happened earlier it would be less controversial. We
would accept it and keep our attention on Narelle's performance and a powerful
script. It would also highten the surprise of what comes later. It might
be interesting for Ken to try that since he often revisits work ... but those
moves and shots are not independent of the words, they are linked quite frequently
and the links might be hard to break.

As for Willy's question - I am not aware of a real difference between "screenplay"
and "script". The first sounds more formal (what the writer might call it)
and the second more practical (what the actor might call it.) Of course a
script might be the words and directions for a theatre or other live performance,
while screenplay is for film and tv only.

But back to editing ... has anyone an example of a non-commercial film where
the editing has made it special?

Dave

Ken Wilson

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Ken Wilson » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:46 pm

"Dave Watterson" <david.filmsocs@virgin.net> wrote:
I muddied the waters by mentioning script ... what really interests me is
the idea that a film can be made (or made great) in the editing. In the
commercial
world where film making is so very expensive I find it amazing that several
days may be spent shooting a scene which is removed at the first cut.

It seems to me that Michael's approach is often to shoot so much material
that he has covered all the ideas and angles before structuring his movie.
That said, recent ones have all had some narrative element: the creating
of the screen in 'On Silk', Melissa's history and her cabaret performances;
the creating of one piece of art in 'Glass'. In a similar way Willy often
seems to do his research and to know his subject so well before he even
unpacks
a camera that he is able to mentally make the movie before he starts shooting.
For Willy the script is written down for Michael it is not.

On a practical level I sympathise with Ian's point that even with a script/plan
you sometimes see a chance to do something different during the shoot.
In
fact I once met commercial director Alan Parker and asked him about this.
He agreed that though, for practical reasons with a large cast and crew,
you plan everything first - there is scope for some improvisation when you
have got the planned shots in the can.

Jan, my wife, who is a perceptive critic commented on 'Confidentially' that
if the "chair moment" happened earlier it would be less controversial. We
would accept it and keep our attention on Narelle's performance and a powerful
script. It would also highten the surprise of what comes later. It might
be interesting for Ken to try that since he often revisits work ... but
those
moves and shots are not independent of the words, they are linked quite
frequently
and the links might be hard to break.

As for Willy's question - I am not aware of a real difference between "screenplay"
and "script". The first sounds more formal (what the writer might call it)
and the second more practical (what the actor might call it.) Of course
a
script might be the words and directions for a theatre or other live performance,
while screenplay is for film and tv only.

But back to editing ... has anyone an example of a non-commercial film where
the editing has made it special?

Dave

Guest

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Guest » Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:49 pm

I spent ages writing a long reply which the computer "lost" into the ether.
I am too tired tonight to write it all again.
Ken

Peter

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Peter » Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:30 am

"Dave Watterson" <david.filmsocs@virgin.net> wrote:
I muddied the waters by mentioning script ... what really interests me is
the idea that a film can be made (or made great) in the editing. In the
commercial
world where film making is so very expensive I find it amazing that several
days may be spent shooting a scene which is removed at the first cut.

It seems to me that Michael's approach is often to shoot so much material
that he has covered all the ideas and angles before structuring his movie.
That said, recent ones have all had some narrative element: the creating
of the screen in 'On Silk', Melissa's history and her cabaret performances;
the creating of one piece of art in 'Glass'. In a similar way Willy often
seems to do his research and to know his subject so well before he even
unpacks
a camera that he is able to mentally make the movie before he starts shooting.
For Willy the script is written down for Michael it is not.

As for Willy's question - I am not aware of a real difference between "screenplay"
and "script". The first sounds more formal (what the writer might call it)
and the second more practical (what the actor might call it.) Of course
a
script might be the words and directions for a theatre or other live performance,
while screenplay is for film and tv only.

But back to editing ... has anyone an example of a non-commercial film where
the editing has made it special?

Dave
The answer, Dave, to your question is YES!! (They do come together ...)

There is such a thing as a "shooting script." I found that (about two centuries
ago when I attempted to make films) I would make a detailed shooting script
(in the case of a drama) from the actual script. It would cover every camera
angle, CU etc etc. Then at the shoot I would virtually abandon it and sort
of shoot from the hip. But I suppose, having written it all down, may have
helped me, even without realising it.

I do believe, and I have heard of commercial films that have been improved,
and even saved, by the editing. As with most things, you cannot put in, or
put back, what is not already there. If the acting is lousy, then no amount
of editing will improve that. If there are scenes missing, or points left
hanging, then it's "hard luck mate." But, if the direction lacked pace for
example, editing could improve that situation.

Michael is an instinctive film maker, and one who can do without too much
formal structure at the pre-shoot stage. Others may work better with a blueprint.
Each to his/her own.

Now back to my really important work, editing a music CD, of Faure and Mendelssohn
- beats making movies anyday - Ha Ha !!!!!!

Willy Van der Linden

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Willy Van der Linden » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:53 am

"Dave Watterson" <david.filmsocs@virgin.net> wrote:
But back to editing ... has anyone an example of a non-commercial film where
the editing has made it special?
An example of a non-commercial film where the editing has made it special
? Yes, I think I know one : "Still Life" made by Michael. I remember that
he shows close-ups in that film with a length of about 5 minutes. He used
well-thought out special effects. He edited all this on the rhythm of fine
and unusual music. At the end of that film you can see that he has shown
parts of a still life. A surprise ! Michael is a very creative editor ('cutter'
in English ?). Indeed his intuition is great !
I also remember that short picture film (also with a length of about 5 minutes)
made by a German (Dave and our Guernsey friends will remember his name and
the title of the film) who won the Guernsey Lily a few years ago. But I wonder
if you can you go on using such a special editing style for more than five
minutes or let's say ten minutes. Toshi Sakuarai, our Belgian-Japanese filmmaker
- I don't know where he is at the moment. He seems to have disappeared -
made that wonderful short film of 7 minutes about "New York". I enjoyed it
very much. The editing rhythm is very fast and special. Such a swiftness
and dash are excellent for short films with such a theme : life in New York.
In BIAFF 2006 I appreciated the editing style in "Wie Die Zeit Verweht' (How
the time flies) by Uwe Germar. Old windsmills gradually change into modern
mills that disfigure our landscapes but they produce electricity in a very
kind way.

Dave Watterson

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:20 pm

"Ken Wilson" kw'phase4.free-online.co.uk wrote:
I spent ages writing a long reply which the computer "lost" into the ether.
I am too tired tonight to write it all again.
Ken
I've had that too, Ken. I keep meaning to get into the habit of composing
replies in my word-processor and just cutting and pasting them into these
forum pages. (That would also let me apply the spell-checker!)

There is something too tempting about the white space here waiting for some
typing.

When you can be bothered, do let us know what you meant to say. Your views
are always interesting and often provoke good debate too.

Dave

Michael Slowe

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Michael Slowe » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:11 pm

I am sorry if I was rather muddled in my previous post on this subject. Willy
is of course correct in saying that drama or story films need fairly tight
scripting otherwise a shoot could develop into chaos (what's new about that!!).
The difference between fiction and documentary is that with fiction you
have many more people on location all having to be organised and not kept
waiting while the director thinks. With commercial film making this would
not only be un professional but very expensive indeed. I have often missed
shooting material that I sorely desired during editing and have had to 'fiddle'
in all sorts of ways!

I appreciated Willy's comments but have to say that in 'Melissa' I had no
idea what the trapeze instructer was going to say. In such cases I prefer
to let people talk and then try and make sense of what the had to say. I
may on occasions though prompt them gently, either before starting the camera
but more often while it is running. In the case of 'Glass Art' it was not
unfortunately one piece of glasswork that we were following, much as I would
have preferred. I could not know in advance of a shhoting visit exactly
what was going to be done that day, I had to take pot luck and film a similar
part of the process I wanted but usually it was on a different work. That
aspect of the film was noticed and rightly criticised but there was little
I could do about it, I had to fall back on creative editing!

On Peter's posting I have to say that he under plays his skill as a director,
I should know, I was his cameraman on the film he refers to!

Ned C

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Ned C » Thu Apr 27, 2006 3:34 am

These notes are pinned on my studio wall!


Nobody can tell at the script stage how a film is
going to cut (David Lean)

It is the editor shaping and arranging shots, scenes and sequences, modulating
and integrating the sound who influences the development, rhythm, emphasis
and final impact of the film (Complete Film Dictionary)

If you didn’t shoot it I can’t cut it (Every editor at sometime)

From sh*t you get sh*t (Ralph Rosenblum - Woody Allen's editor)

Editing is never finished, only abandoned, (Anon)

The Images deliver the information but the sound creates the emotion (anon)

Ned C

Peter

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Peter » Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:33 am

"Michael Slowe" <michael.slowe@btinternet.com> wrote:
On Peter's posting I have to say that he under plays his skill as a director,
I should know, I was his cameraman on the film he refers to!

This is praise indeed, from Michael, who is a fantastic film maker, and a
lot more experienced than me. I would also say that it was a pleasure to
work with him as the cameraman on the little drama I directed. And, he is
quite right, the editing offers many opportunties to make any film progress
from good to brilliant.

Of course, a good script, good actors (if a drama), a good director, good
lighting cameraperson, good continuity (often seen as an afterthought), good
set designer, good wardrobe person - all these things are incredibly important.

Film making is a minefield, and a great art. Those who dare to become involved
in this superhuman endeavour are rather special people. In my humble opinion
film making and music are possibly the two greatest art forms known to mankind.
(I hear painters, writers, actors, and dancers, screaming at me at this point,
and they are of course, quite right to do so!!!)

Peter

Dave Watterson

Re: So films really come together in the editing?

Post by Dave Watterson » Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:08 pm

"Peter" <sonata@pocoanimato.co.uk> wrote:
Film making is a minefield, and a great art. Those who dare to become involved
in this superhuman endeavour are rather special people. In my humble opinion
film making and music are possibly the two greatest art forms known to mankind.
(I hear painters, writers, actors, and dancers, screaming at me at this
point,
and they are of course, quite right to do so!!!)
No argument from me on these points.

It always seems to me that for a film to be successful each aspect of the
production has to be of roughly equal quality.

For example last night I watched the professional movie "Aurora".
The photography is pretty good - though often softened by colour filtering
applied to make a rocky landscape look like an alien planet.
Editing is invisible. (good)
The music is very good - though over-used to make up for deficiences in other
production values.
The script is average at best - the idea is a group of spacemen have crash-landed
on a dead planet with a hostile environment and have to trek hundreds of
miles to reach cached supplies. There are no real dramatic conflicts. After
the setup event of the crash, all depends on character development.
The acting is not up to it. The performers would be adequate minor characters
on a tv series ... and by comparison with most actors in amateur films are
good. But they cannot convey the emotional subtleties and depths which might
have made the movie worth watching.
With all respect to writer/director, Mr. Kulikowski, the result is not a
great movie.

[It is interesting to wonder how such a film might be scored by those competitions
which assign x points for this and y points for that.]


By my logic, though, a film where every department functioned at 80% should
be preferable to one where most elements were 100% but one was 80%. So if,
in "Aurora" the music were less good and the photography less good would
it have felt better???

Does that make sense?

Dave (tryping in my lunch break)

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