CLOSURE: In Post

When you talk to film veterans, “post” only means one thing: post-production.

Post-production is exactly what it sounds like. “Production,” i.e. the actual making of the movie, is complete. Now we are in the phase of what comes next.

Movies are actually made three times: Writing the script, shooting the movie, and editing. Each part is instrumental and very different, and what’s important to note is that in each era of a movie, the movie is created. Each time. And differently. By the time production is complete, the movie is very different from what was in the initial script. And after the edit…

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…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Post” can also refer to post-traumatic stress a.k.a. “PTSD.” A caveat: I use this term with much respect to people suffering from actual PTSD following much more horrifying situations. While making a film has been described in this blog (and in many other places) as akin to going to war, it is not the same. At all. Days are grueling, but lives are not risked (usually).

But I was showing similar symptoms. For weeks I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering what shot I missed, what mistake I made, and dozens of other ways I ruined the movie. I would wake up to the angry voices of fellow crew members, collaborators, or even one of the dozens of investors yelling at me, only to hear their voices fade as my darkened room came into focus. Then I’d breathe, and relax. It was over. We got all of our shots. Except for some b-roll…

…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Once my life returned to normal (i.e. taking care of my kid, various writing jobs, having wine with dinner, not waking before dawn) we geared up to edit. As the anxiety and fears of production subsided, new fears crept in: sure we got all our footage, but how does it look? Does the sound hold up? Is the story clear?

Fortunately, my fears would be addressed quickly. The day after we wrapped I met our editor, Jeff, in a scene worthy of any Coen Brothers movie. Jeff agreed to edit our movie for an extremely cut rate, provided we could fit it in to his other conflicts, namely a TV show he would be working on for the next month. We agreed, and he said in the initial weeks he would work on his own time. Totally fine. When you have no money to spend, you get creative. And Jeff liked the footage he saw and felt he understood the tone, which is very important in picking an editor.

While we were shooting, Jeff had started cutting together footage on his own time. He even “employed” a friend as his assistant to cut some scenes together. The bit of footage I saw was good; he understood the tone of the movie. The day after we wrapped we needed to get the last drive of footage to Jeff, and since I was free I volunteered so I could meet the guy shepherding the next phase of our movie. He was working in Hollywood on his other project, so I had the address and was told to text him when I got there. He would come out and meet me, since he was technically working on another project and I couldn’t just drop in and talk shop. Fine.

So I park my car on one of the seediest blocks in Hollywood, which is a big claim since most of Hollywood is seedy, and walked past multiple homeless people to the address Jeff provided. The address was for multiple bungalows behind a security gate, and sure enough the names on the buzzer were legitimate companies; this wasn’t a flophouse but a legitimate film chop house. I texted Jeff that I was out front, and I waited.

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The scene of the handoff.

Parked next to the gate was a faded VW Beetle, and a heavyset driver sat behind the wheel, staring at me.

“Hey. How’s it goin’,” the driver called out to me through the open passenger window.

“Pretty good.” I looked down the street. The homeless were unfazed.

“Waitin’ for someone?” Why the third degree, bub?

“Yeah.”

“Me too,” he replied. Great, glad we had this talk. Stared at each other awkwardly for a few moments until the gate opened. A lanky, long haired guy in flip flops walked out, holding a drive identical to the one I was holding. He looked at me, nodded, and walked to the car, holding out the drive.

“Have fun with Dee Wallace,” he said, handing the drive off to the guy behind the wheel. Then they both looked at me. What’s going on here? Dee from my movie? Is that one of OUR drivers? The other car spun off, as quickly as a decade old VW Beetle could speed off.

“Ah. You must be the director,” said the surfer dude. For months, our movie had been compared to The Big Lebowski. And here, standing in front of me, was a very Lebowski type of guy. And our movie was now in his hands.

And that, my friends, is a true Hollywood story.


Up next in Closure: The edit, a.k.a. reinventing the movie a third time.

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