The 546 semester at USC Film school
#7 in a series of 13
Fade up & zoom in.
Wendy & Geof showed their
Editor's cut of Echo last
week - the first time it was seen
in its entirety. Everybody liked it. The only comments were merely a repeat of things
already mentioned, which have already been addressed & incorporated into the most
recent version of editing.
One student came up to Wendy after the class and said, "You know, from watching
the dailies every week, I could never figure out what the heck was going on. Now that
I've seen it all together, I must say, you did an amazing job." This was from a student
who's known more for his bashing than compliments.
The next job is what they call conforming the work print. This is where the editors
take the info regarding cuts referenced in the Avid's Edit Decision List (EDL) and use
it to cut (and splice) the 16mm film (so it can be projected on the big screen).
To conform the work print, they don't use a flatbed. Rather they use what's called a
sync block (no pics of sync block), which has two reels, a sprocket and a frame counter.
They use the info outputted from the Avid's EDL to cut & splice the original 16mm film
footage, based on edge-code on the film.
Conforming the print with a sync block is easier than editing with a flatbed, cuz all the
editing decisions are already made.
To maintain lip-sync, each cut must be frame-accurate when conforming the print.
Each second of footage contains 24 frames of film. If the footage gets more than one
frame out of sync, it could cause problems .. such as, you see a door close, then hear
is close a fraction of a second later (or earlier). A sync block helps keep the picture
sync'ed to the audio.
The first conformed work print is due Wednesday morning, so there's not much time.
It sounds straightforward, but neither Wendy nor Geof has ever done it before.
Guessimates are that it takes two people 24-to-36 hours to conform a 12-minute film.
It's extremely tedious work, involving no creativity whatsoever.
In order to save hard drive space, the Avid uses a low resolution (low-quality) version
of the footage. Lower resolution makes a less-detailed picture, more grainy. At low rez,
you don't notice some things until the footage is viewed at full resolution, especially when
projected on the big screen.
For comparison purposes, Wendy's home editing system
(digital video) uses full resolution
(720x480), and has 5 hard drives, totaling ~150 gigs. Students editing on the Avid at
school are limited to a single, 9-gig drive. So they can hold only a small fraction of the
footage and quality as her home system.
When you edit with a compressed version of the footage (not the actual footage itself),
that's referred to as an off-line editing system (i.e. Avid). When you edit using the
full/actual footage, it's referred to as online editing (her home digital video system).
To some degree, all films try to strike a balance between being too subtle and too obvious.
The challenge becomes more difficult when you consider that every person is different
(which explains why some people hate the very same movie that others love). Some
viewers want the filmmaker to spell out everything for them. But if you spell everything
out in great detail, other viewers complain, "You're beating me over the head."
There are also those who prefer a minimalist approach, preferring to figure out for
themselves what's going on. But if you provide only the bare essential to a plot, others
complain, "I can't figure out what the heck is going on."
In the end, it's obvious that you can't please everyone, so you try to strike a balance.
film has previously taken a minimalist approach, but Wendy & Geof are
adapting their editing approach to include more hints (more details) as to what's going on.
Pema's prefers to give only a bare minimum of info, leaving more work for the viewer to
figure things out. The risk is that someone will go thru the film saying, "Huh?" .. and
not "get it."
Wendy made a VHS copy of the
film, and brought it home for me to see. I agree that
it could use a little more info, but not much. She showed it to me late, just before bed.
I had her stop it, cuz it was starting to get to me. It's a disturbing story, and I didn't
want to have bad dreams. But that's a good sign. The lead actor is very good. His
performance accounts for most of the movie. He's very believable. If his acting stunk,
the film would surely bomb.
answer print is done. Wendy said it was so beautiful that she
cried. The next step is to have VHS copies of the high-quality print made, so she can
give them to the members of the cast & crew, and to submit for her application for a
546 directing position next semester, and to submit to film festivals.
She's excited about the
possibly of directing a 546 next semester. She thinks she has
a good chance. Only four students are selected (out of ~50 or 60 applicants).
Besides the film she's
working on, titled Echo, three other 546 films are
Wendy says that the best of these is one being made by Denise McCarthy, titled
Joey Petrone - TV Cop.
Denise wrote the script, and knows exactly what she wants. It's a good example of
what can happen when good planning is combined with a focused approach. Wendy
says her project looks (by far) the most professional of all the 546 films.
Wendy has repeatedly complimented Denise on her film. Wendy was not crazy about
working on Denise's story, cuz it's "too TV-like" .. not enough opportunity for artistic
impression for her, but she likes the story more as it continues to develop. It makes
her laugh. Denise is getting great performances from her actors.
Wendy heard that Denise used
a Casting agency to find her actors, and that she has
industry-recognized talent. Wendy likes the idea of a using a Casting agency for a big,
Wendy was surprised to hear
from the guys working on Denise's film as Producers are
not happy. They're complaining that they're nothing more than "glorified PAs" (production
assistants), saying that Denise micro-manages the project, eliminating the opportunity
for any creative input they might have.
You may recall that Denise is the one who called
near the end of last semester, and
left a message on the phone (while I was writing an update), asking Wendy if she'd
like to work with her, saying, "I've heard nothing but glowing things about about you."
Wendy held auditions for her
final 3-person scene for the Intermediate Directing
class (w/ Jeremy Kagan). That project is due Thursday, so she'll be a busy beaver
this week. While describing the project to perspective actors & actresses (on the
phone), Wendy was surprised to hear several actors ask, "Is this for Kagan's class?"
Apparently, some of them are familiar with Kagan & his class. Anyone who accepts
the part has to commit to a certain day in class, which is not negotiable. If they
can't make the class, they don't get the part.
Wendy selected Zarena
(the great Zarena) for one of the parts for her 3-person scene,
an adaptation of a scene from The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho. She'd originally planned
to adapt a scene from this book for her 2-person scene, but decided against it, due to
a lack of conflict, opting instead for a scene from Green Mansions.
But she received such a strong response (buckets full of headshots from the post office)
that she figured it was a sign she should go for it.
For example, this is one letter:
My name is Holly. I came across your audition notice for The Alchemist in Backstage
West. I'm wondering if your film is based on the novel by Paul Coelho. I read the story
several years ago. It's about a young man who journeys through the desert, looking for
Nothing I've ever read made more sense. Altho it reads almost like a children's book,
it holds much wisdom about the importance of following your heart. That story has
affected every major decision I've made since reading it. It's a large part of the reason
I moved to LA from NYC three months ago.
If your movie is based on this novel, I would be very interested in seeing it. Please
contact me when you get a chance. I will be glad to buy a copy of your film once it's
Wendy receive many such letters. She thinks she'll get ripped for scene, cuz it lacks
strong conflict, but she's gonna do it anyway. She's planning to shoot it at Joshua Tree
National Park, which contains some other-worldly landscapes.
Fade to black.
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