The Magic of Editing by Richard Something

In the wake of Donald Trump’s ascension to God Emperor, I’ve not felt much like writing blog posts. Seems trite in the face of a malevolent boob becoming president. 

As we edit the movie though, I’m getting more and more excited to share it with everyone. HELL! is easily the best project I’ve ever been part of in my life. Depending on your opinion of my previous personal and professional accomplishments, you may or may not find this all that impressive. But still!

Our movie's own (charmingly) malevolent boob looks off screen. 

Our movie's own (charmingly) malevolent boob looks off screen. 

I love editing more than almost any other part of the movie making process. Taking a forty hour pile of video content, shaping all these disparate parts of the story which were filmed out of order over a series of months, and making it all into a coherent film is genuinely fun.

Editors really don't get the credit they deserve. Directors are the glory boys (and they are, very unfortunately, nearly always boys) of Hollywood, picking up most, if not all, of the public credit for the creative side of an enormous project that usually requires hundreds of people to finish. This is in contrast to TV, where writers run the show and all the various episodes are directed by a number of different people without any big changes in vision or tone. Proof enough that directors are not the definitive linchpins of quality they’re made out to be.   

Maybe it’s because editing happens in a darkened room with only a few people around. Maybe it’s because great editing is not as easy to spot as incredible visuals or snappy dialogue. Maybe it’s because when people think of editing, they think of book editors, which aren’t really all that appropriate a comparison. Maybe it’s because there are more women working as editors in Hollywood than there are in the other creative fields (17% of major film editors were women in 2016, vs 7% of directors, 5% of cinematographers, 13% of writers). 

Whatever the reason, and it’s probably a combination of all of the above plus a bunch of other shit I don’t know, it's a shame. So much of a movie’s storytelling is brought out through the editing process. Something that has been very much true for HELL! thus far. 

What's next in HELL!? by Richard Something

Hello Again!

Long time, no write! I took a break from blog posts after principal production ended so people wouldn't get even more tired of seeing me link to them on Facebook. Those days of relative calm and quiet are now at an end. 

We're currently editing up a storm, or at at least a mild northernly wind with gusts up to thirty miles per hour. Here's a look at a scene mid-edit: 

Editing will continue for at least two more months as we cut over 35 hours of footage down to a 1 hour and 45 minute movie. 

What now? 

Editing is not the only movie related thing that's happening over the next several months. We'll also:

  • Launch a movie website, as well as Twitter and FB pages (Feb) 
  • Start building a mailing list (Feb) 
  • Release a couple of trailers (Feb) 
  • Make some fancy t-shirts (Mar) 
  • Premiere HELL! in SF, LA, and NY (Apr) 

You'll hear all about these and other activities in future posts.

That's all for now. See you after the New Year!

Principal Photography is (Essentially) Finished! by Richard Something

After an entire summer of shooting, principal photography on HELL! is essentially finished. Thank you to everyone who has given their time and talent to this project (and to those who still have some time and talent to give)! It means everything to Jamie, George, and me that you’ve made the movie we first started discussing three years ago better than we could ever have done alone. 

What does it mean that principal photography is essentially finished? 

Jamie Milliken as Roger Oddcock at 25th Street Studios in Oakland earlier this month 

Jamie Milliken as Roger Oddcock at 25th Street Studios in Oakland earlier this month 

We still have a few small scenes and filler shots left to film, all of which we plan to knock out over the first few weeks in October. 

We have a lot of editing to do. Like a lot. Like a whole lot. We have well over 2 Terabytes of data and roughly 40 hours of footage that will ultimately be cut into a 1 hour and 40 minute movie. 

The editing process will involve putting together a rough cut, color correcting it, tightening that rough cut, and then mixing the sound. Sound will be the most difficult part of all, as virtually every sound effect you’ll hear on screen (from footsteps to coffee mugs being set down to car crashes) will be created separately. Meticulously building a soundtrack that's interesting, cohesive, and realistic is one of the most under appreciated parts of filmmaking.  

Riah Gouvea as Brunch and Land Smith as The Sound Engineer witnessing Roger's greatness. 

Riah Gouvea as Brunch and Land Smith as The Sound Engineer witnessing Roger's greatness. 

Next time you watch a movie, really listen to some of the scenes. Just about everything you hear (aside from most of the dialog) was recorded later and added during post-production. Not getting this mix right can and will make a film seem amateurish. We obviously want to avoid this as we'd like HELL! to sound professionalish at worst. We already have amazing music from Jamie and it's important the rest of the sound match that. 

But as we prepare to dive into editing, the great thing is that we filmed almost entirely on schedule, at a variety of interesting locations, with an incredible collection of actors who brought their own vision and improvements to their roles. Instead of trying to find good takes while editing, we'll be struggling to choose which excellent take is the best one for the scene. That's a great spot to be in. 

The Last Push forward by Richard Something

Before I write about where we’re at with filming, I want to take a moment to say a few words about a member of our cast, and also the lead singer of In Letter Form, Eric Miranda. Eric passed away over the weekend. 

I didn’t know Eric very well. Other than the day he so kindly filmed with us (and ad-libbed one of the funniest scenes in the movie) I had seen him at a few events and parties. So I’m in no position to write him a proper memorial. Others are better suited to that. But I can say from the outpouring of love and grief I’ve seen from his friends and former students that I wish I had known him better, and that I will always regret not knowing him better. I'm lucky to have known him at all. 

Consider donating to his family’s GoFundMe so Eric can have the celebration and send-off they know he would have wanted. 

Eric (upper left) and his fellow bandmates from In Letter Form posing with Erma Kyriakos. 

Eric (upper left) and his fellow bandmates from In Letter Form posing with Erma Kyriakos. 

The rest of filming is dedicated to Eric, and the movie itself will be dedicated to both him and Kimberly Kenny (another incredibly talented singer, and great friend of many people involved with the film, who passed away earlier this year).  

So where are we with the rest of that filming? 

We have two more major weekends to go and some smaller insert scenes to shoot. And that's it. 

That's it? 

That's it. 

It seems remarkably weird to be nearing the end of Production. Most of my weekends since the first week of June have been tied up in this movie and I'm not entirely sure I'll know what to do with myself when that's no longer the case. 

Wait, I do know what I'll be doing with myself. I'll be editing the movie. Post-production will take several months and be even more labor intensive than Production. 

What will we be doing over these next two weeks? 

Filming 25 pages of script, which will bring us up to 120 minutes of movie. Once it's all said and done we'll have 125 minutes of movie (represented by around 60 to 70 hours of footage) which we'll cut down to 105 minutes or so.  

But I'll dive more into that next week. For now, let's listen to In Letter Form instead. 

What's It Like Making An Independent Movie? by Richard Something

Great question! Thanks for asking, blog post title. 

Some nights I lie in bed wondering if leaving my fancy job in its fancy office with its fancy kitchen and gym and massages was a dumb decision. I was fairly poor when I was a kid, so my instinct is to hold tight to a nice job so big piles of cash can stack up around my house. Though that probably wouldn’t be a terrible instinct even if I’d grown up as a delicate little man of leisure. 

Now here I am, making an independent film and certainly not earning any money from the process. Why do I even want to make movies? The work can be pretty stressful. It eats up a ton of energy and time. Why can’t I just be happy watching other people’s movies? That’d free up a lot more evenings for cocktails. 

Why even bother?  

Why even bother?  

Besides, most movies are bad. Even movies with lots of Hollywood funding and a crew of hundreds. Who am I to think we can make something worth watching, almost entirely independent of that system?

I set up shots during filming and wonder if the composition is boring or brilliant or dumb, cliched or interesting or needlessly weird, flat or strikingly composed or second year film student style pov-shot-from-inside-a-garbage-can nonsense. “Should I be panning the camera around more?” I’ll suddenly wonder for no real reason.  

Is this actually a good shot? 

Is this actually a good shot? 

Are our scenes varied enough? Are our locations interesting enough? Will the atmosphere of the movie live up to the script and what we see in our heads? Is stuff we shot two months ago going to match up properly with scenes we're shooting right now? 

"Wow, Richard!" You say, relaxing on a couch in my head. "It sure sounds like making this movie gives you a lot of self-doubt."

Of course it does. I'd be stupid not to constantly question what we're doing. I want this movie to be good. I want every actor and crew member to be proud they were part of it. I want both people I know and don't know to laugh at the jokes, sing along to the music, leave the theater feeling good about the whole experience. 

Will people laugh at the jokes in this scene? 

Will people laugh at the jokes in this scene? 

Happily, I'm not the anxious mess this blog post might be implying. These moments of doubt are highly outnumbered by the many more moments of excitement and confidence. 

When Jamie sends over a new song with amazing lyrics, when he or Erma or Aviva or Scott or Riah or Mark or any of the many other actors in the movie delivers their lines even better than I had envisioned them in my head, when George rewrites a scene and comes up with ideas I wouldn't have ever thought up, when I see someone in costume for the first time, when I examine footage that looks and sounds great, when I try not to laugh while one of the very funny actors is ad-libbing... I really feel like we might just maybe have something here. 

So on those nights when I lie in bed wondering if leaving my fancy job in its fancy office with its fancy kitchen and gym and massages was a dumb decision, I eventually always come around to the same answer. No, it wasn't a dumb decision. It was the best decision I've ever made.