Day Twenty Six

Posted: 2020-06-16 12:00:00


16th June 

"This would normally take 9 months plus”. And so spake Tristan as I tried to feedback on his first cut of a 50 minute sequence. I’m not sure he’s sleeping very much at the moment as we try and achieve this in a 3 week period.

So to bring us all up to speed, we have a rough cut of the bulk of Act 1. This rough cut has no sound elements (explosions, effects etc) beyond the basic dialogue and only about 20% of the music. But the heavy lifting has at least been done running individual shots together into scenes and then those scenes now stitched together with transitions between them. 

Tristan has done a sterling job. And he is also right, we are expecting a lot. Of him and indeed of everyone who has been involved so far- which is now over 50 people.Demanding more the whole project than we ever thought we would. The simple truth is we all want this to be as good as it possibly can be, there is a quiet belief that this could work and that we might be able pull something resembling a rabbit out of our imaginary hat. Yet being more pragmatic there is so much to explore in this format that remains largely undiscovered and we are being encouraged/forced to making important decisions very quickly.

So today on receiving this very large file with the rough cut, I promptly watched these 50 minutes twice through, allowing it to soak in on the first pass and then making detailed notes the on the second. This doesn’t look or perhaps sound like the most exciting part of the process- but it’s arguably one of the most important. We don’t have those 9 months to have a more traditional process of trial and error- instead we have this, one or at most two batches of notes and then Tristan needs to screen lock act 1 so he can move onto act 2. 

Furthermore there isn’t much human to human interaction going on at the moment of any kind- be that on screen or in person. Everyone is locked away in their respective bubbles working away- my job is probably now as much to keep us all communicating and on the same page as it directing in a more traditional sense. 

It’s where working in an office or shared space is so much more preferable. The ability to catch up over a coffee break, compare notes over a shoulder and steal moments to check in if only to order the lunchtime sandwiches- it all helps. And much as it’s now a click of a button to connect us to each other via phone or zoom- it’s also a deliberate choice to do so- requiring a specific purpose. We rarely in our online working, choose to have a chat just for the sake of having a chat. I’ve already mentioned and bemoaned the loss of the post show pint- it’s all part of the wider fabric of social intercourse which allows ideas to grow, ferment and brew. Creativity doesn’t happen on cue, alas. There is no formula for it- all I know is that it can only be encouraged, teased out and facilitated- I’m not sure it responds to traditional 9-5 working and I’m certain it doesn’t respond to lockdown online working. So we have to keep thinking outside the zoom box.

Charlotte was busy on other projects until the evening so I checked in with David who was watching back the cut keeping his eyes on elements and details usually missed by own less clever eyes. He managed to spot a few clothing labels (Ralph Lauren not known for his connection to pre war provincial France), incorrect props as well as helping us continue to shape the look and feel of the production. 

This is where ‘grading’ comes in. Yet another film making word I had heard before but not really understood. Grading as best as I can understand it, seems to be about the colouring of the shots- how much, how little, and the palate we want to focus on drawing on the colours from the original shots. Yet this isn’t alas something that can be achieved with a cure all touch of a button. Rather it is painstaking, delicate, and art in itself  and of course time consuming. Todays photo shows a great example of this in how Tristan has treated the colour on this shot from the very first scene. 

I checked in with Tristan and spent 45 minutes talking through the cut ahead of the more specific notes being sent back to him. Not fully understanding the mechanics of what he is doing, unable to sit in a room on his shoulder (for which he is no doubt hugely relieved) I need to be clear as to whether asking him to slightly re-grade, for example, a sequence is achievable or not and indeed whether completely re-cutting a scene or transition is going to work on the time-frame we have and so on. More than that- it’s about trying to carve out time- even when there seems to be none to talk through some of the wider challenges and ambitions- to get us and to keep us both working on the same wave length and where appropriate singing on the same hymnal sheet.

Whilst this process can be dictatorial- in that as director you could just say or in some cases shout what you want- and hope your team then deliver it to you. It is in my experience far better if that process remain collaborative. Sometimes the best thing to say is, ‘I don’t know’- which is fortunate as I have said that phrase a lot in the last few weeks. The truth is none of us know-not with this style of film making.  I am however certain that we know more by pooling our collective ignorance- we may only have 3 weeks- but we can at least make those 3 weeks count. 

Although we’ve only got 2 left now.