9. Editing – part 1
To put it mildly: Editing is the most important part of filmmaking. You can have the greatest script, the most talented cast and crew, but if your editor isn’t brilliant and completely in sync with you, the film will suffer and most likely fail.
Probably the truest statement I can think of regarding filmmaking comes from David Mamet, who said, and I’m paraphrasing, “There’s the movie you write, the movie you film, and the movie you edit.” After making films for going on three decades I have never found a film that doesn’t hold true to this statement.
You can write the most beautiful, perfect script in the world. But once you get to the filming stage (and this goes for any budget $25K to $250 million, doesn’t matter), it will change. The words you wrote will inevitably stick in an actor’s mouth, it will rain when you need sun, or it will never rain, never snow (stay away from exteriors). Something, many things, will be out of your control, and your beautiful, perfect script will change. Then you will get into the editing room. And I do truly believe filmmakers should edit their own films, or have an editor who can read the filmmaker’s mind, who knows everything about his/her aesthetic, has a similar taste in film, can SPEAK film. But in the editing room, that second version of your movie, the one you shot based off that beautiful, perfect script, will morph into yet another form. Hopefully, the story you originally wanted to tell.
I’ll use the first bar scene with all six leads from FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) as an example. Wrote a kick-ass funny scene with some wicked dialog. In rehearsals I had the actors deliver the dialog during the group scenes at a breakneck HIS GIRL FRIDAY clip. It was fast, it was funny, it rocked. Then we get on set. Throw in the intricacies of lights, sounds, camera moves, dolly tracks, extras, blocking, egos, attitudes, who’s just having a bad day, overnight shooting, and of course, time constraints, and things begin to change. And seventeen takes later of a nine page scene with a slow dolly creep past the table of six friends, we have a really solid oner — a one-take master of the entire scene that could potentially work on It’s own.
I love oners. But thankfully I had the wherewithal to go into closeups on the six leads. Because once I got into the editing room, the scene though funny as a whole, just slowed down the first act, and along with other too-long scenes, pushed the end of the first act to the 40 minute mark. About 12 to 15 minutes too long. (If your first act is more than 30 minutes, you film will fail in every way. It will suck. No one will care. Period. End of story. That’s just the way it is. As soon as you figure out a way to live without oxygen I’ll listen to your arguments as to why I’m wrong.) The problem with the scene was that the writing made one thought flow into the next, with a lot of very real “cutting off” of lines when people were speaking. Which made chopping it up a bit of a task.
And then one day in the shower (don’t we all come up with our most brilliant ideas in the shower?) I came up with Brad’s Rules…or how to really use them in the film.
All through the film, the character of Brad, played to perfection by Brendon Bradley, talks about his rules – rules of sex, rules of friendship, rules of life. (I’ll post the entire list at the end of this entry.) And at one point during the early part of the bar scene he comment that something wouldn’t happen “if you just followed my rules.” And it came to me. List the rules. Actually put in a list. White letters on a black background. A hundred rules in all. Scrolling past, super fast, with the cheesiest of music.
That would allow me to then cut further into the scene. The flow had already been broken. People would be laughing. It would appear seemless.
I put out an email to everyone I knew with a sense of humor and got back some great responses as to what Brad’s rules could be. And it so worked. And I was able to cut the 9 plus minute scene down to under 4 minutes.
But was this use of the list anything I thought of during the writing process, or during filming? No, never. Not for a second. This was the editing version of my film.
More on editing in the next installment.
Here now, Brad’s Rules (warning, they are obnoxious and hardly PC . . . and note #56 has always been my favorite):
100. Friends don’t let friends fuck ugly people
99. Try everything twice, the first time you might have been doing it wrong
98. Fat girls give the best head because they’re always hungry
97. Cologne: overrated…Deodorant: a must
96. Blondes are usually too dumb to realize they’re having more fun
95. After puberty, that’s not “baby fat”
94. ATM = the Holy Grail
93. All hippie chicks deep throat, but few vegans swallow
92. Women like shoes. They will look at yours; purchase accordingly
91. BBBJ or why bother?
90. Women cannot parallel park
89. If you wanna fuck it, you’ve got to be willing to lick it
88. Ass, stomach, legs, boobs – in that order
87. If it’s not dirty, you’re doing something wrong
86. If a friend’s apartment is running low on toilet paper, you’re required to use it all
85. Cheerleaders are overrated
84. Under no circumstance may two men share an umbrella
83. Never allow a conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her
82. Other than in February, the 14th of every month is Pizza and Blowjob Night
81. Dogs are better than cats…period
80. Bigger is never better when they’re fake
79. Don’t leave the house if you’re not camera ready
78. A period does not equal a week off from sex
77. Mustaches + Hunting = Gay
76. Sucking your best friend’s dick = priceless
75. You are not accountable if you bring ugly people home, unless you fuck them again in the morning
74. If her mom isn’t a MILF, chances are she won’t be one either
73. Fake orgasms count, as long as they’re not yours
72. The G-spot does not exist
71. There is NOTHING sexy about pregnant women
70. Persistence gets you laid
69. Never give yourself a haircut while drunk
68. No panties = a good night
67. Drinks hard liquor = a great night
66. Tongue piercing = God loves you!
65. Saliva isn’t always the best lubricant, just the most fun to apply
64. White cotton panties and knee socks. Enough said!
63. Never lend money to friends
62. Never lend books, CDs, or DVDs to anyone
61. The month you finish paying for your car, it will break down
60. Elvis is not dead
59. Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone
58. What’s good for you does not always taste better. Example: processed peanut butter vs. the all-natural kind
57. People who don’t use turn signals deserve mandatory prison sentences
56. Never let a girl shave your balls
55. Porn saves lives
54. Republicans are better at…well…nothing
53. If you’ve never had New Haven brick oven pizza, you’ve never had pizza. There is no pizza in New York or Chicago. Don’t argue, you’ll just sound foolish
52. Old country = cool
Alt-country = really cool
New country = sucks
51. Condition your hair once a day
50. Masturbate twice a day
49. Eat three square meals every day
48. Women should never cut their hair, unless they’re going to play for the other team
47. Crying is blackmail
46. Your choice: spay or neuter your pet…or yourself
45. If she sleeps in your bed, sex is a given
44. If a girl leaves her dirty panties lying around, she wants you to sniff them
43. There’s no such thing as “giving 110%”
42. Halloween is the only holiday that matters
41. Sympathy sex trumps make-up sex
40. Body hair just gets in the way
39. Rip bread, don’t slice it
38. Every man should learn how to dance, but no other man should know he can
37. Men have no right to speak on the subject of abortion
36. Every decade gives us only one great double album: The White Album, Exile On Main Street, London Calling, Being There, and Cold Roses.
35. Chivalry is not dead, but she has to earn it
34. Watch Carnival Of Souls at least once in your lifetime
33. If your pubic hair is blonde or red, shaving is optional
32. You can cheat on girls with hairy legs
31. If they don’t answer, it means yes
30. Never turn down a chance to sleep with a celebrity
29. Sex is better in warmer climates
28. Emo guys = gay; emo gals = easy marks
27. Never trust people who don’t drink coffee
26. Springsteen really is The Boss
25. If there’s a problem, talk it out
24. If you can’t talk it out: fuck, then try again
23. Never lease what you can buy
22. Never break up using a post-it note, her biker friends will hurt you for it
21. Never say “no” to a green-eyed girl
20. Live life as if The Catcher In The Rye were your bible
19. Don’t lie, you will get caught
18. Admit that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team of all time and life will be easier
17. Know the legal age of consent in every place you visit
16. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, fairs, or roadside attractions
15. Pussy farts are charming
14. Only wear a bra if you’re going to offend me
13. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder
12. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye
11. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups
10. When in doubt, mumble
9. Masturbation is overrated
8. Small boobs are misunderstood
7. Better to be feared than loved, but even better to have your love feared
6. Handcuffs are the ultimate sex toy
5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them
4. Quiet girls are the most likely to toss your salad
3. Women do not understand remote controls, there is no exception to this rule
2. Never overthink
1. Friends don’t fuck