In this Weekly Series Part 5, Gary King tackles the mysterious world of Post-Production, where many movies get lost or saved.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments before diving into Part 5, you can read Part 1: Dreaming vs. Doing, Part 2: Films Beget Films, Part 3: 5 Things I Like to Do During Pre-Production and Part 4: 6 Things I Like to Do During the Film Shoot here.
5 THINGS I LIKE TO DO DURING POST-PRODUCTION
Okay so the long, arduous task of shooting the film is over. So what’s next on the plate to keep you busy for months on end? That’s right….finishing it. Sounds simple and yet there are many pitfalls and roadblocks that can stand in the way of getting the movie to the finish line – and more importantly “exhibition ready” for festivals (if that’s the route one wishes to take) as well as delivering the necessary materials to a distributor for a release.
I could go on for days about what I do in post. However, I’m by no means an expert in all the technical details. Basically I surround myself with the experts to work on the sound, music, visual effects….so this is more of a “Big Picture” high-level list of things I do to keep sane during the process of completing my film. Again, this may not apply to everyone based on your project’s unique situation. It’s just some things I like to keep in mind.
#1. Maintain the order
If you don’t have a post-production supervisor to handle things (scratch that even if you do), it’s important to track and make sure all the various pieces for video and sound are being prepped and delivered as needed. There can be nothing worse than to have to re-do, or heaven forbid start over from scratch because a technical requirement (for example, an M&E track) was omitted or done incorrectly. It can be a waste of time and money that ideally should be properly dealt with beforehand instead of cleaning up the mess at the backend. Fortunately, I’ve been good about this for every project I do and never had any nightmare problems (yet).
#2. Back up the footage
One can never be too careful about having backup drives of your footage. My UNNERVED DP Chad McClarnon knows all about this. On location in Maine, I had a primary drive for our footage, then backed it up twice on 2 separate drives. As of this writing it’s now sitting on 4 drives (2 with me, one with my editor, one with our CG supervisor). I’ve heard several horror stories from people the past few months where the sole drive with footage was being held hostage by the editor or someone else. That can’t be fun.
#3. Test screening
One of the most important pieces to me when working on the edit of the film is to test screen it. It brings in so much fresh perspective to help me see how others are viewing the movie. Now, collecting and processing feedback is another thing. I don’t (and can’t) worry about any individual opinion because I’d go crazy trying to change the film to make a single person happy. Instead I try to address any feedback that becomes a common note….something that is consistently pointed out by several people/audiences.
I like using anonymous surveys to get honest opinions of things. Be prepared. Some people will love it. Some people will think it’s poo-poo. What’s actually more valuable than surveys to me though is watching it with an audience, because only then do I get a real sense of the pacing (scientifically measured by butt shifting in seats), if jokes work or not, does the story make sense or not, etc.
For HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG, I first tested out the initial cut with a small group of friends and family in my apartment. After another editing pass, we expanded our tests to more groups of 6-12 people. When it was pretty close to locking, we took it to Los Angeles and test screened it courtesy of Cinema Speakeasy in front of approximately 60-70 people. It was instrumental in providing feedback for me.
All along the way I kept trying to keep an opening scene that most audiences were unsure of why it was there. I thought it set a nice tone for the film and established the lead characters (Joe and Evey) living together. However, I kept getting consistent feedback about that scene where I had to finally address it. I removed it and replaced it with the opening song number “The Plea” (which ironically was the original opening scene in the script). Turns out, without that opening song, it took 12 minutes before someone began to sing, which to the test audiences was far too long to wait for a musical.
Watch: the Deleted Opening Scene from How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song (featuring Joe Schermann and Christina Rose)
I believe the film plays much better now as it feels like how a Broadway musical would start. The test audience feedback led me to intercut Joe’s opening number with introducing Evey.
Watch the Opening Scene that Made the Cut!
#4. Start the next one
If possible, I like to have something else cooking in the oven while a project is in post-production. When editing my own films, pretty much 100% has to be spent on that sole project. However, if someone else is editing….or if picture is locked and the sound and music team is working on the film, then I love to at least begin the idea machine to narrow down what the next project will be. It’s a great position to be in to have something else going on so all the eggs aren’t in one basket waiting for it to be done – because you never know how long that will actually take. Case in point, I luckily have 2 writers actively developing scripts for me, while I work on a screenplay of my own. I wish to be ready sooner than later in getting my next project off the ground.
#5. Finish it
Plain and simple. Many people start things and never complete them. This separates the doers from the talkers. Get it done. Get it seen. Learn from it and make another one.
Bio: Gary King is an award-winning filmmaker whose work is known for powerful performances with an emphasis on a strong, visual style. He has written, directed and produced several critically acclaimed feature films.
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