The Final Rewrite
It’s been a few years since I made a film that I was really excited about, but doing it again last month rekindled my love of the art form. As I mentioned on here, I shot my new political satire, Ratio, in October and this weekend I was finally able to watch a rough cut.
I’ve personally never understood why famous directors talk about how “you make the movie in the editing room.” I know that it’s standard practice to shoot lots of footage, then only decide what you want to use when it’s done. But I’ve always felt like directors had to know in their hearts what the movie would look like while they shoot. There’s no way that Spielberg and Scorsese just randomly film things without a detailed plan for how it will be edited together.
Obviously editing is an art form, I’ve just always felt like its importance was overstated, relative to writing and shooting. In the past, I’ve shot films in a way that looked exactly like I wanted them to, then simply cut them together. But this time…this time it did not go so well. The film looked beautiful (all credit goes to the cinematographer, not me), and I was happy with all of the acting performances. But everything was just dragging. There were long silences when it should have been fast-paced, and none of the dialogue felt natural. It certainly didn’t feel that way when we were on set, but that doesn’t change the reality of what I saw.
Part of this was an editing problem, but part of it was my fault. I didn’t direct the actors to speak fast enough, and I didn’t get the level of energy that I thought I was getting. I was quite upset at first, then I realized that a lot of this can be fixed by cutting lines of dialogue. By removing parts of the scene that feel redundant, or lines that I shouldn’t have written in the first place, I can artificially create the level of energy that I thought we were creating on set. I finally figured out what filmmakers mean when they refer to the editing process as the last rewrite. Sometimes, you just can’t tell if something isn’t working until you see it on screen. Fortunately, I still have one more chance to fix it. Now I’m as excited to enter the editing room as I usually am to write.
Getting Better at Writing, Getting Really Good at Fixing Bad Writing