Editor's Cut
The 546 semester at USC Film school

#6 in a series of 13

Lights, camera, action! .. at USC Film school

Fade up & zoom in.

Wendy & Geof just finished the Editors' cut of Echo, their first film edited on an Avid
with sync-sound dialogue. It weighs in at ~17 minutes, and must be whittled down 
to 12. Much work remains, but they're pleased with how the first cut came out. 

Wendy edited the first half of the film. Geof did the second. Wendy would like to try 
her hand at editing the ending, which Geof did, cuz that's where it all comes together. 

Mary Jensen, the head of 546, said that Pema's film, more than any other, will come 
together in the editing. The pressure is on the editors. 

The Editors' cut is due for the director's (Pema's) viewing later today, & is due to show 
in class Wednesday. She thinks (not sure) that the Editor's cut becomes the Rough cut
after they incorporate input from the director. 


Wendy is happy to be working on Pema's film, cuz it offers so much opportunity for 
creativity in editing. With his film, titled
Echo, Pema is trying to represent four different 
state's of mind
for the main character, played by
Jon. Pema is from Tibet, where they 
recognize many different states of consciousness. 

Just as Eskimos have many different words for the word 'snow',
Tibetan people (who 
practice meditation) have many different words for various states of consciousness. 
Wendy is stimulated by working on a project with people from several different cultures 
from around the globe, gleaning new ideas on life.


I haven't seen her in a couple days, and don't expect to see much of her for the next 
week or two. She's arranged to stay at Tara's place (in Silver Lake). Tara was one of 
Wendy's profs as an undergrad. Tara's guest apt has its own entrance & is separate 
from the rest of the house. 

Wendy was previously staying with Alex & Berni, but their guest house flooded when 
heavy rains came. They were most gracious to let her sleep on their couch, but she 
felt bad about dragging in at vampire hours, waking them up in the middle of the night. 

Tara has been an inspiration to Wendy from the time she took her class on Feminist 
Film theory. The films Wendy makes are still influenced by that class. She seeks to 
portray women in a positive light. (Tara wrote Wendy a letter to accompany her 
application to grad school.) 

We went to a party at Tara's last weekend. It one of those parties where you glance 
at your watch and can't believe it's 1AM already. Many interesting people. For example,
we met two profs from UC Santa Cruz, where
Lani goes to school. They drove down for 
the party. One is teaching a Critical Studies class on the Techno genre, which includes 
films like Blade Runner & The Matrix, which we both love. Battman joined us.

Another person at the party, a prof who teaches Sculpture, told us about an exhibit 
at the
Laguna Art Museum, by Stephen Hendee, called Presence Control. It'll be there 
until July 8th. Admission is $5

Tara's place isn't very far from school, so I don't have to worry about her driving very 
much after she's been up all night editing. It certainly better than driving all the way 
Laguna. I feel better knowing where she's staying, after having been to Tara's house. 


Pema & crew shot 1200 feet of film during their final weekend of shooting. That's equal 
to the total allotment for the entire
508 project. So Wendy & Geof had their work cut 
out for them. Wendy called Monday night (Tues morn) at 4:30 to let me know she was 
on her way to Tara's (I told her to call, no matter what time it is). She said, "Traffic is
great this time of day." 

She got to Tara's/sleep by 5:00, and had to set the alarm for 6AM, cuz she had class 
at 7. One hour of sleep. She & Geof had a bad case of basketball head in class the next 


Wendy's first serious day of editing was not pretty. She had problems with the
crashing. No tech sppt people were there to help. Turns out that even the prof was 
not aware of the problems, which had something to do with selecting audio tracks 
when making individual clips. 

She came home in a foul mood, after wasting much time. Wendy does not handle 
technical problems very well, which is why I've had to learn how to set up her video
editing system so well. 

When she has a problem here, she doesn't complain to me directly, but rather talks 
to her computer, just loudly enough so I can hear, saying, "This %&#! computer,
what a piece of &*%$! .. all I wanna do is edit some video without it crashing .."

Now I have her system humming beautifully, so she can do anything she wants, 
without a problem. But we've had to work thru many painful problems, which are 
made worse by Wendy's complaining. I was so glad I wasn't there at USC when 
she was having her problems. She'll have to redo much of the work. 

She loves her Editing prof, cuz he tells it like it is. In class, some profs water down 
their criticism of the films. But he speaks his mind, tho in a non-condescending way. 
Wendy & Geof love how he articulates when something isn't working, or an actor's 
performance stinks.


She posted a copy of the 5-min adaptation of a scene from the book Green Mansions
. Wendy's 508 partner, Lisa, ran the camera for the shoot. I went along on the 
shoot to the
Huntington Gardens. It was good to see Lisa. She's currently dating an 
industry cinematographer, who she says reminds her of me. (I'm not sure whether 
that's good or bad.) 

It was interesting to hear Lisa & Wendy talk their Film lingo, as they planned each shot. 
Sounded Greek to me. I could tell they learned a lot working on their

Liliana's negative is cut. Next step is to get the (high-quality) answer print made. 
USC has the (cut) negative now, and will send it to Fotokem. Wendy will schedule 
a sit-down with the people at Fotokem in what's referred to as timing session. 
That's where they'll look at the negative to make sure that the areas that were 
lightened & darkened came out right.


After the 546 film is shot, it first goes to the developer. From there, it gets timecode  
added to it. Then it goes to the Telecine, where the 16mm footage is converted to 
3/4-inch tape. Wendy & Geof get the 3/4-ich tape, & use it to 'digitize' the footage 
with the
Avid (Film Composer). 

After the footage is digitized into the Avid, the first job is to sync the sound from each 
scene to the picture. (cuz the sound & picture are recorded on different mediums)

They use the clapperboard sound to sync the audio. They sync the instant they see 
the clapperboard make contact with the clap sound. (I never knew what a clapperboard 
was for before.)

Sound is recorded on a device called a Nagra, which also must be digitized. The Nagra 
is an analog device. Wendy & other students prefer digitally recorded audio, as that's the 
way the industry is heading. 

Word is that there are many advantages to digital audio, with devices such as
Portable DAT
recorder, and this ADAT, but word is that, unlike analog devices, digital 
devices give no warning signs before they fail. So if you have a problem, it's better 
to have a problem with an analog unit. Most students feel this is merely old-school 


Every once in a while Wendy goes thru a period of feeling insecure, where she feels like 
Film school is too hard for her, like she doesn't have the raw intellectual horsepower to 
compete with her high IQ classmates, graduates of
Ivy league & other top-tier schools. 

This is surprising, cuz Wendy is normally a confident person. Some of her classmates 
have expressed similar feelings of insecurity. 

It could simply be a result of the level of competition. Even in the athletic realm, I'm sure 
the high-school track star feels less confident competing at the state level, and certainly 
at national or Olympic level. She now has world-class competition, at the finest Film school
in the nation. 

The main dynamic of Film school is this: you work your butt off to create something 
aesthetically & intellectually appealing & engaging, often sacrificing sleep & hygiene in 
the process. Then a room full of very intelligent people view it with a critical eye, and 
pick it apart, telling you everything that doesn't work, pointing out all the places where 
(they feel) your film falls short. 

We've been thru this insecure thing enough times that I have my spiel wired. 

I usually begin by asking, "Have you seen the fridge lately?" That's where we post a 
copy of her most recent
grade report. I say, "It seems like your professors & TA's think 
you're doing okay, and they're the ones whose opinions really matter." 

If that doesn't do the trick, I ask, "Didn't Pema select you first, to edit his 546? .. and 
ask who you'd like to work with? I wonder why he didn't pick someone else first? How 
many people signed up to edit a 546 Narrative this semester? 35? 40? How many were 
selected? eight? How many were selected first? only four? You were selected as one
of the first four out of 35 or 40 applicants? Sounds like you have a good reputation." 

If that doesn't work, I ask, "Didn't Tania also select you first, to produce her 546? then 
ask who'd you wanted to work with? I wonder why she didn't pick someone else first." 

Or I say, "What did that message say? the one that Denise left? I thought I heard her 
say, 'I've heard nothing but glowing things about you.'" (I exaggerate the word glowing
like Denise did.) 

If none of that works, I start pulling out the heavy artillery: "How many of your 
classmates are graduates of USC Film school? None? Hmm, seems like you might have 
an unfair advantage there, girly. Maybe you should be required to make films with one 
arm tied behind your back, to even the playing field a little." 

Another ace-in-the-hole is, "What did the announcer say at your graduation ceremony? 
After calling your name? You know, those Latin-sounding words, Magna Cum Laude
What does that mean? Does it have anything to do with those unpaid parking tickets 
you have at school? 

If none of that works, my last-ditch effort is:

"You're at the finest Film school on the planet. You have world-class competition. If it 
was easy, if anybody could do it, how good could that school be? How many people 
have dropped out already? Did they drop cuz it was too easy? I don't think so."  

But if none of that works, I ask, "How 'bout if I make you a martini & a hot bath?" =D
That always does the trick. 

Fade to black.

Next -> Editor's Cut Shown
Previous -> Making an Unconventional Film

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