Picture Lock: A Love Story

UnnervedPictureLock

At the beginning of feature editorial there is so much unknown that the only thing you can be sure of is having self doubt. But you dig in, keep your head down, placing one frame in front of another as you embark on a journey that entails an overwhelming amount of decisions. It may take weeks, or it might take months, but inevitably you encounter that certain scene or sequence that draws you in, that clicks, and bam, you know that you have hit your stride. That previous timeline of hair-pulling and uncertainty begins to take shape and breathe with life. Guided by the director’s voice, now clearly in your head, and armed with the previously earned knowledge of each actors’ specific rhythms and the camera’s inclinations you can swiftly merge all of these elements to their maximum potential (or at least pretty darn close, we’re still talking first cut here). You have gone from the unknown to the known and there is nothing more rewarding than that moment of discovery in your editorial life…

…Until you complete your first cut. Filled with the satisfaction of having been through every frame of footage, you finally get to kick back and take the whole ride from beginning to end. Quickly followed by the terror of screening the cut with the director and knowing there is still a long way to go. Yet you are equipped with new knowledge and context to filter the next round of decisions through. The focus has shifted from the micro to the macro. You’re refreshed, renewed, feeling absolutely invincible…

…Until your first test screening. Revisited by self doubt, questioning everything, especially the clumps of hair in your hands and the water molecules building in your eyes. (Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit here). In any case, seeing the film through the audience’s fresh eyes restores objectivity. You get to step back and consider how characters and certain situations are playing. What story information wasn’t as clear as it could be and what story points are playing perhaps a bit too clear. And so the process continues, a constant finessing and strengthening of emotion, story, pace, rhythm, performance, and tension…

…Until one day you stop, pull your head up, and realize that your to do list is no more. Of course, no film is ever completed, just abandoned. But how do you know when it’s the right time to call it? Digging back into the raw footage and watching unused takes usually helps to alleviate those concerns, verifying that the “right” pieces have been arranged to their fullest potential and that all combinations to support them within the story have been exhausted. Intuition has graduated to certainty. You have been influenced by the footage to do what it wants, yet you have still willed the material to be what the story needs it to be. And then those magic words from the director arrive, “Picture lock.” Followed by the inescapable, “Just one more thing,” and then again,”Picture lock.” Victory!

Part of me celebrates the completion of the journey, and the other part of me mourns the passing of the living, breathing, dominos that have occupied my thoughts for so long. To distract myself from the absence of my once constant companion, I’ll tend to my neglected bookshelf, and *consider* cleaning my closet, until I am given the tremendous privilege of taking this journey once again.

For more information on Unnerved visit Haunt Me No More.


Unnerved