Movie Post Production Is Going Through Hell to Get To Heaven
Movie post production can be described as going through hell to get to heaven. Your filmmaking heart gets pounding when you start movie post production. Thump…thump…thump!
All the sweat and energy poured into filming scenes with dedicated actors and crew that stuck with you all comes down to what can be edited on a timeline.
Movie post production is a long and tedious creative process where raw footage has to be looked at frame by frame. Film editor’s eyes are trained to pay attention to the smallest details when cutting a movie.
I’ve always personally thought of film editors as unsung heroes. Only hardcore movie fans can tell you who edited their favorite movies.
Film editors work out of the spotlight using movie editing suites across the world. Some in plush post production studios with all the amenities and others wherever they have space and privacy to work.
Film editors have to deal with movie producers and directors that change their minds a lot or expect them to be able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Creative film editors are masters at being to cut around problems or fix scenes with the digital tools of their craft, but a film editor can’t fix every damn problem that arises during movie post production.
That’s why, especially with indie produced films where re-shoots of scenes are not usually financially possible a movie director needs to give film editors enough coverage as possible while filming on set. Post production for movies needs edit options that were grabbed during filming.
Many an indie movie has been flushed down the toilet never to see the light of day only the foul sewer where failed movies go to die and decompose because these infamous words are said during filming…”No worries. We can fix it in post.”
Always avoid ever thinking about fixing filming issues on set later in movie post production. It will keep a director honest and aware to get the best stuff they can during filming.
The best stuff isn’t just killer performances by actors or your sweet director camera call pulled off by the director of photography, but getting solid coverage of a scene even you don’t plan on using it later.
It’s boring saver coverage that often covers asses later when there is a jam in movie post production that pushes you close to losing your cool and melting down.
There are always post production problems. No reason to add to them by being narrow minded or sloppy during filming. Movie post production is a little bit of heaven and hell. You just want more heaven than hell when cutting a movie.
“You know you got to go through hell
Before you get to heaven.”
(Steve Miller Band – Jet Airliner)
But you will have moments of both. Sometimes you’ll be on cloud nine and other times you’ll be an anxious angry wreck yelling, “Why isn’t this scene working? How come in can’t get together!”
Just like with movie post production there are always problems that happen during filming that are shown bare naked when looking at raw footage. A filmmaker is going to get bit in the ass on more than a few scenes and have to be able to move with decent enough coverage of a scene so that it can cut together.
Giving a film editor options will save your ass in movie post production. When things WILL have to be fixed in post production there is better chance the film editor can come up with creative solutions when they have options.
Next time you’re in movie post production checkout the edit timeline of your movie if you’re not editing it yourself. It looks like workings of a modern day digital alchemist.
There are so many cuts and layers that have to be assembled during movie post production that first-time filmmakers that are not film editors can feel overwhelmed sometimes.
Even seasoned movie producers and filmmakers still feel anxious and stressed during post production. Film editors can’t catch every mistake in post production. Hollywood studio budget produced films with large and costly post production teams always have their mistakes pointed out by movie viewers.
It’s impossible to edit a perfect movie no matter the size of the post production budget is.
A smaller budget indie film will be no different. Once you accept there are going to mistakes in the final cut you can get to business on kicking creative ass to entertain movie viewers. During movie post production a body of raw footage filmed is like a body on a plastic surgeons table.
The film editor is like a plastic surgeon for raw footage. They’re going to lay your film’s raw and natural body naked on their timeline. Every flaw will be shown to the naked eye of the producer, director and film editor.
Decisions will be made where to nip and tuck scenes and most importantly where to cut the unwanted fat from a movie to shorten its running time to between 70 and 90 minutes. I use that running time range as a general rule of thumb for an indie film produced on a tight budget with unknown actors.
This comes from dealing with movie distributors that acquire independent films.
Unless it’s a Hollywood blockbuster movies that run long lose the attention of movie viewers fast. In the business of independent film distribution this is even truer. Movie distributors cater to distributing independent films to retailers domestically and internationally shy away from buying indie films that run too long.
I watched The American starring George Clooney the other day. Its running time was 105 minutes. George Clooney has millions of fans, so movie viewers will stick watching him on screen for 105 minutes. I enjoyed the movie as one of his fans.
The pacing would have been to slow in some parts, like when his character was putting together a silencer for an indie film with an unknown actor. But name talent has a way of keeping movie viewers watching most of the time.
When editing an indie movie it’s better to cut as much fat as possible to have a more run 70 to 90 minutes. Indie films in that running time range have a better track record of selling to movie distributors. The entertainment business is driven by name talent, if you don’t have name talent you need to tell a tight story in a shorter amount of time.
Society keeps moving faster and attention spans keep getting shorter. I wonder how movies like The Godfather and Scarface would day with today’s audiences in movie theaters.
No major special effects or fast moving video game feel to these movies, plus they run long. Those would be tougher sells to the masses from the days when they were released.
The younger crowd I’ve talked to think The Godfather and Scarface are too slow. They fast-forward to a few scenes. The horse head in the bed and Sonny getting killed is their favorite parts in The Godfather. There is too much talking in rest of movie to hold their interest from start to finish.
Scarface for them is the motel chainsaw shoot-out scene, helicopter hanging, club shoot-out scene and the end bloodbath. The younger crowd of movie viewers told me they thought Scarface could have been shorter. It was too long for them.
I have close friends that will pass on watching movies that are too long no matter the buzz about them or what A-List actors are in it. They watch their movies on the go with the latest digital device and will fast-forward through parts they feel are dragging or not important.
The kiss of death comment from movie viewers, “This movie is way too long.”
I asked why they were hung up on running times. They tell me they don’t want to invest more than an hour and half tops of their life in watching a movie. There seems to be lots of movie viewers that share their entertainment attitude. More packed into less running time is how to stay in stride with an instant technology driven society.
A film editor is the best voice of reason for a movie producer and director to listen to. Directors tend to want to keep everything in a movie leading to a long running time, a movie producer wants to trim the fat to quicken the pace and a good film editor can find that balance.
Tell a movie distributor that caters to releasing indie produced films you have a title that runs 100 minutes or more and they will ask who is in it? If you don’t have at least one known actor then they will ask if you can edit down to 90 or fewer minutes then submit for screening.
I know movies are made because filmmakers have a passion and love for the art of visual storytelling and not just making film money. I love making movies, but I need to make money too. I think about the entertainment wants of movie viewers and movie distributors from the script stage all through movie post production.
I’m not looking at as selling out creatively. I see it as what’s the point of making a movie that nobody watches? If cutting a movie down from 100 minutes to 70 minutes will get movie distributors to release it and movie viewers to watch it then I’ll have the film editor cut it down without hesitation.
Most true indie produced films, not the ones made for millions as a pet project for an A-List actor or director will not get a theatrical release through a studio. Indie movie producers and directors in post production should think of how the movie is going to be distributed and viewed.
If you’re going to self-distribute via digital distribution to mobile devices editing your movie to a shorter running time will help attract more viewers.
Whatever your end movie distribution game plan is for your project it all has to come together in movie post production. It’s hard to cut pieces of brilliant dialogue or shorten a good scene, but sometimes it just has to happen or you could end up with a 2 hour indie film that never lands a movie distribution deal.
These rambling thoughts come from currently being in post production on Psoro with U.K. based LiarDice Films and Graphic Delusions. We’re using Skype, email and file sharing to keep me involved in post production from here in So Cal.
We’ve already finished shooting lots of cool stuff and are adding a couple more killer scenes to showcase more of the visual gore creations of London based SFX creator Paul While. When you have talent you maximize it. Bring on the bloody gore Paul!
We know if we wanted to use everything we shot we would have an indie movie that was 2 hours or longer. Instead we are going to stay within the 70 to 90 minute running time range.
It can be a challenge when a director is editing their own movie in post production because normally they will have a tougher time cutting out scenes entirely or trimming scenes down. There’s not a film editor to keep them honest.
As a Psoro producer I hope I don’t have to play the bad guy to director Wayne Daniells during post production. Wayne, Paul and I have been clicking creatively since I started fleshing out the Psoro screenplay and all through filming so far.
Now we’re in post production. Psoro is not being edited in a plush studio, but in a comfortable U.K. flat that’s a converted shoe factory or something like that.
Movie post production tests the grit and patience of filmmakers. Post production is heaven and hell. A way to stay emotionally and creatively balanced is to not let your highs be too high and your lows too low.
Don’t fall in love with any one bit of dialogue or scene. Keep your movie from becoming bloated because you’re hanging on too tight to certain scenes. Movie viewers are bored with BS B-Roll to introduce opening credits. Slide in a scene with opening credits part of it when you can.
Know who your market is for your movie. It could be your audience enjoys longer and slower movies, so your film editor might not have to use his cut tool as much to slice and dice.
But I still think it’s better to keep a movie leaner and meaner. Anyway you cut it as long as you finish a project in movie post production you’re further than the person that always talks about making a movie and never does. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing movie post production FADE TO BLACK
Categories: Indie Film Production Tags: distributing independent films to retailers, edit timeline, film editor, Going Through Hell To Get To Heaven, independent film distribution, indie produced films, making film money, movie distributor, movie distributors, movie editing suites, Movie post-production, post produciton for movies, post production problems, post production studios, post-production, post-production budget, psoro