Going to the Dentist

After returning from a great trip helping Jonathan Smith shoot a portion of his incredible documentary, They Go To Die, I settled back into working on the Visual Law Project film. A rough cut screening for VLP advisors was only a week away.

Some team members took up the editing while I was gone, and it was up to me to tidy up the rest into a complete rough cut. I also took a detour to bring our Final Cut Pro X project to Yale’s Digital Media Center for the Arts, and the main man there Lee Faulkner.

Lee is listed as “Associate Direcotr,” but essentially he runs the DMCA as far as I’m concerned. The DMCA is Yale’s film school, or at least its lab where all the editing suites, design studios, studio space, and equipment is housed. It’s not a bad set up, considering Yale isn’t exactly known for its film production program.

But Lee is great and guides us through technical problems and has been assisting us in the ways of Final Cut Pro X. So I took over our drive with our media to see what the problem is and to see if I can recreate the problem on their systems. (It took 15 hours just to copy our media!) I haven’t had a chance to see if I encounter the same slowdowns and inefficiencies that’s driving me crazy as we edit The Worst of the Worst, but I will in a couple of days.

Lee did show me a trick that helped – moving the unused “projects” (used to be called “timelines” or “sequences”) to a different folder in the Finder before opening up FCP X. The program can’t find them and thinks you only have the one or two “projects” – which has seemed to make the system run a tad faster so far.

So, with that, I fired away, sprinting to complete a rough cut for our July 31 screening to advisors. It culminated in a 23-hour work day, followed by one hour of sleep, and four more hours of work, before heading down to New York City for the screening with film in hand.

But yes, we did it – we finally have a rough cut, with only animation/infographics missing. It was really a relief.

The screening was at a fancy Fifth Avenue law firm where one of our team members works this summer. The room featured an incredible view of Central Park and Uptown Manhattan. It was pretty incredible. The dozen or so audience members ranged from lawyers, advocates, and independent documentary filmmakers.

I see these test screenings the same way I see dentist visits – I know they’re good for me, I’m apprehensive before going in, and I’m invariably sore and a little bloody afterwards. But I’m thankful that my overall health is improving.

So that’s how it went. We had some abrasive and brutal comments, with most of the discussion focused on what was wrong with the film and very little about what was working. This was probably my fault in not steering the discussion more (to be honest, I was barely awake after the sprint to finish the film). And as usual, the comments ranged from helpful to idiotic. It’s our job to focus on the helpful.

The film is certainly not bad. But at 54 minutes, it’s long and needs to be more focused. And that was the gist of the entire discussion. So, like I said, a little sore and bloody but definitely good for us to have gone to the dentist.

We’ll likely do a long hard look at the film, craft a way forward on paper (a “paper edit” as some people call it) and get back to business of cutting it. We were hoping to be done within the next two weeks and I think we can still hit that, but there’s work to be done.

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