I came home from principal photography on the film Sabina – Tortured for Christ, The Nazi Years (a working title) at the end of February. I’d been in Bucharest for 8 weeks and had completed principal photography for all the winter scenes. Our plan was to return again to Romania at the beginning of May to shoot the remaining spring and summer scenes. So, my wife, Ben (our DIT), and I packed up our collective 23 production cases and schlepped the gear back to the home base in Michigan.
I had been working nonstop and full speed since the first of October. Six solid months of intense focus and long, long days. So, when we got home – I went skiing. Took off to Colorado to spend a couple days with my son and his family and a couple more days with some friends in Beaver Creek. I don’t get to ski very often, but I hate to miss the chance to get out at least once a season. I was considering extending my stay in the mountains a bit when COVID-19 took over America. I flew home just before the airlines locked down. Then, we all got locked down.
"I have always been the primary editor on my films. I wrote an earlier blog about the importance of the pre-edit in my process. And even though a solid pre-edit is a critical step for me to get my head around a film, it is only a starting point for the real edit. Real footage reveals its own pace. Real performances grab me in ways I never expected. "
Like everybody else, I was quarantined. At first, it was going to be just for two weeks. Two weeks turned into two months. Now, who knows how long this will last? Our state has been particularly forceful in the length and breadth of its lockdown. But the silver lining – for me at least – was that I could edit. I had 4/5th of a film shot and now I had almost no interruptions. Time aplenty for me, an AVID, and 96 or so scenes. I read George Lucas’ biography earlier this year and was energized by his love of editing. I love it, too, but it is a massive time suck. But hey – now I had nothing but time.
I have always been the primary editor on my films. I wrote an earlier blog about the importance of the pre-edit in my process. And even though a solid pre-edit is a critical step for me to get my head around a film, it is only a starting point for the real edit. Real footage reveals its own pace. Real performances grab me in ways I never expected.
A film edit, like a fine wine, needs time to age a little bit. I need to let it sit for a while. I learned this in recording music. My band, Grooters & Beal, recorded nine CDs over the years. We spent a lot of time in mixing sessions with our music. Often times a mix would feel great when we left the studio, but the real test was how it sounded the next afternoon. The second, the third, the fourth listen were when the all the subtle problems began to draw attention to themselves.
Such is the movie edit. Give it time to breathe. Work like a madman – then take a break. Watch it all over again from the beginning. Show it to some trusted friends who have no idea what you’ve been doing. And then, work it again. When it sings – then you have a song.