This past fall, I had the pleasure of co-directing the short film Little Red with NYC-based filmmaker Laura Lechner. As a complete newcomer to filmmaking, the months we have spent editing in post-production is a totally new process for me and almost feels like an endless series of "tech weeks" for this theatre veteran. ;-) While we work toward a final edit of this short (coming to you this April!), I'm delighted to bring Laura on to our blog and have her give you an update on our editing process. Onward!
~ David Hanzal
I've always wanted to experiment with puppets on film, to see how (or if) puppets could be used in a cinematic way (as opposed to simply filming a live performance), and to see if I could achieve the same emotional impact with puppets as with actors on screen. Collaborating with Collective Unconscious Performance on Little Red has been a worthwhile challenge, as we’ve worked to see how much story and emotion we can convey by employing the vocabulary of cinema within a world of puppets and masks.
David and I have been working on this short film for almost a year. David originally began developing Little Red as a live puppet performance piece. When he shared his storyboards with me, something clicked: we both thought that the play had the potential to be even more compelling as a film.
I’ve known David since 2010, and we’ve worked on a variety of projects together over the years, so I was very excited for another opportunity to collaborate. This, however, was our first time managing a long-distance (working) relationship: I’ve lived in New York for the past four years, and David is in Minneapolis. Outside of four days together in Minneapolis this past October for principle photography, we’ve managed to realize this film while not being in the same physical space!
We spent the spring and summer writing and fine-tuning the script (thank god for Google Docs!), while we were also casting, location scouting, raising some funds, and doing all manner of pre-production work. David was also designing and fabricating the puppets and costumes, and I was working out camera and lighting possibilities with our cinematographer, Joe Valenzuela. After we wrapped up shooting in mid-October, I went back to New York, and I began to edit the film, sharing cuts with David along the way for his invaluable feedback.
A cliche in filmmaking is to say that a movie is made three separate time - when the script is written, when you’re shooting it, and when you’re editing it. And it’s definitely true - by the end of that process, your film is always different than what you imagined when you were simply putting words down on a page. I for one think this almost always creates something a lot more interesting, and it’s probably my favorite part of the filmmaking process. In Little Red, we played with the order of several key scenes in the beginning, trying a variety of different combinations until we found an order that made our story more cohesive, and that served the character development, even with minimal dialogue.
Editing is all about making decisions, and sometimes those decisions (or just the thought of making those decisions) can seem paralyzing. If I choose one thing (for instance, one particular take of a close-up within a scene), that takes me farther and farther down a certain path, and it becomes harder and harder to move forward with other potential scenarios. But on the other hand, you HAVE to make choices, or else you’re just sitting there with 20 hours of raw video footage. Whenever I am editing, I like to remind myself of this Anne Bogart quote: "Art is violent. To be decisive is violent. ... To place a chair at a partial angle on the stage destroys every other possible choice, every other option.” In order to construct a film, you’re in fact eliminating all of the other movies that you can potentially make.
In addition to editing the picture, the other main component is sound design and audio editing. Another film school cliche is that your audience will forgive bad picture quality, but not poor sound. Dan Dukich has been composing original music for the film, as well as collaborating with us on the sound design. It’s incredible how transformational music and sound can be in a film. It’s as crucial an ingredient as beautiful imagery and profound acting.
Collaborating with David on Little Red has been a great experience, and I know I speak for the two of us (and the cast and crew) when I say that we’re VERY excited to share our film with you this coming April!
~ Laura Lechner, Co-Director & Editor