Believe It

After a lot of conversation and before the editorial process begins, I like to get a keyword from the director — a keyword that represents the director’s vision in a nutshell that also serves as the guide to filter my decisions through. On Down and Dangerous, that keyword was Big: larger than life characters, a muscular soundtrack, and moments of raw violence. And for someone who’s previous editorial effort was a naturalistic, improvised drama, whose keyword was Authenticity, big left me shaking in my boots.

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A Challenging Scene

At one point or another we have all faced a challenging scene. The scene that no matter what you throw at it, no matter how you approach it for one reason or another, never turns out quite right. It slowly consumes all of your focus, and becomes the editor’s Moby-Dick, if you will. While scene 48 never bit off my leg or sunk my boat, it definitely became an unhealthy obsession to get right.

When I first read the scene, a late addition to the script, I was very excited by the prospect of getting to cut it; a four page, face to face showdown between our hero, Paul Boxer, and his nemesis, Henry Langlois. It had tension, reveals, and even a few monologues. I couldn’t wait to get started.

My first feelings of unease about the scene began to arise as I looked down at my audio recorder on set. Each take was running close to 7 minutes, almost twice as long as expected. It was the smallest glimpse of the scene taking on new life, off the page, and slowly evolving into a beast.

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The First Pass

I am a firm believer that the footage will tell you what you can and cannot do with it and Down and Dangerous has proved no exception to the rule. The more time I spend with this footage the better my understanding of its needs has become. On the last feature, that was largely improv-based, I found that I could really only work with and shape one take because the organic rhythms would change too much and you could see my editorial hand in it too much. But the more time I spend with this scripted material I am discovering that not only can I pull from multiple takes, but that I should.

Opening the door to more choices has been freeing yet overwhelming all at the same time. When I’ve been watching the dailies down on this film, I’ll pull the lines that immediately affect me and put them in a separate string-out so they don’t get lost in a sea of takes. I also put them in order and back to back. It can be fun to watch certain lines from different takes go head to head and battle it out.

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