With the exception the 2 weeks we took to film at GDC and PAX, we’ve been editing straight for the past four months. The first two months were simply watching, organizing and notarizing the hundreds of hours of film. In this period, there were certainly pre-existing ideas for the structure of the film, and definitely new ideas being hatched every couple of hours. But nothing was actually being executed or put together on the editing timeline.
After everything was looked at, we then put together an initially edit plan/script. This plan was made without 1) film runtime as a limitation and 2) without a large section of end filming yet to be done. So even though, it gave us a structure to pursue, we knew it was setting us up to make big cuts (runtime) and answer big questions (the-yet-to-be-filmed-scenes). Both were things we were ready for.
Here’s that initial editing plan being laid out.
The next month and a half was spent knocking together a version of what was on that wall. Basically each of the 39 cards on that wall represented a scene lasting between 3 and 8 minutes (average was about 4.5 mins). As we started to cut, some pieces worked better than others, but pretty much all of them came together nicely.
We were happy with were the film was headed but there were two obvious problems arising:
- 39 scenes at an avg of 4 mins each = 175 minutes or 3 hours. NOT COOL
- We had yet to film an entire movement of the film. Which would lead to more time added.
Of course, outrageous runtimes are fine for a first pass. But we could tell that the edit wasn’t leading up to a series of future nip and tucks, we were going to have to schedule amputations!
The length situation was made even worse when we went to go film at GDC and PAX and captured (what we think is) AMAZING content. Content that we knew was going in the film. It spoke directly to the spirit of the film and we needed to put it in. Length of said content - 20 minutes.
Lowering the Axe...
Faced with 195 minutes of really good stuff, we knew there was no point in continuing to move forward without making some extremely tough decisions. This ushered us to into a stretch of the project that was so much more stressful and argumentative than we could have ever imagined. If either of us were into punching holes in drywall, this would be the time to do it :)
Both of us had slightly different takes on how the film should be cut down. And we did approach this phase objectively. We knew that these cuts were making the film better - but it didn’t make the process any easier.
The stressors came from the fact that we had tons to cut, but didn’t want to loose any, let alone our favourite pieces....and we had differing favourites :) Every time a person ceded a segment, it made each of us that much more protective of the ones that remained.
It was the absolute worst part of this entire project, and it provided the absolute best results.
Huge cuts were made. Our hearts were broken. And the film is now better.
The Rough Cut...
This cleared the way to take the new svelte framework and put together a proper rough cut. Meaning, let’s take each individual scene and actually put them together, in order, as if it were a real movie and everything!
It took about two days for Lisanne to assemble the rough cut into something watchable ( I was finishing up the last couple of scenes). We exported it to the AppleTV and scheduled a screening - just us, the film was far from ready for any external eyes (more on that in a bit).
Our plan was to do two viewings. The first was simply just to watch it as a film - no note taking, no pausing and talking it out. Just watch and take it in. The next day, pads, pens and pausing was fair game.
Going into the screening, I was surprisingly anxious. To the point where I was actually afraid to watch it. Objectively, I knew it was going to have holes, bumps, and moments that flat-out didn’t work. But a large part of me wasn’t ready to see that in one packaged form. So I watched our first screening in a cloud of dread.
Lisanne was pretty much the opposite. Where I see sloppy editing, she sees something that simply has yet to be made better. She was excited to watch.
And that’s what we did. We watched.
What followed was 97 minutes of half smiles, full grimaces, fits of uncomfortable body language and brief flashes of self-satisfaction.It’s hard to describe the feeling after first watching a rough cut. I suppose, it’s a maddening mixture of the following:
- You are immediately full of ideas on how to make things better.
- You are immediately daunted by the necessity of needing to make things better.
- You’re proud of the nuggets that work and the base film that is trying to get out.
- And at those moments that don’t work, you can’t help but think of the big cuts you’ve made, mourning the loss of scenes that perhaps might have worked better.
But more than anything, watching it front to back, on an actual television (not a corner of a monitor) brought home more than ever, that we were making something that people were ACTUALLY going to watch at some point. And this served to only amplify all thoughts, concerns and emotion.
It was weird.
After the rough cut, we couldn’t think. Really. I couldn’t formulate thought. Time was needed to mentally organize and process it all. We went to sleep.
Taking the Rough Cut Forward...
The next morning was much better, much clearer and with emotions moving to the back, a game plan started to come together. Objectively, here is what we got from the rough cut:
- The big cuts were the right ones, it provided a focus that was only going to get stronger with more work.
- Narratively, some things didn’t make sense. We had assumed knowledge in play, and that needed to change.
- Some ugly scenes needed to be made prettier. Full stop.
- We have a lot of graphic work ahead of us. This wasn’t a surprise, but was certainly underscored by the rough cut.
The next three days were spent with iPads & Laptops, with each of us hunkering down in separate coffeeshops (editing tip: leave the house/studio whenever possible). We both watched the film a second time. This time, the emphasis was on the details, and not the general emotions and movements at large.
Roughly 200 pages of notes were compiled in those viewings. A long debrief was held and we emerged with a spreadsheet to rule them all. A massive list of actionable items meant to guide us for the next two months or so.
If the spreadsheet had to be boiled down into one sentiment, it would be this: It’s good. But this is how to make it better.
First Outside Eyes...
One of the reasons we put the rough cut together when we did was to show a potential collaborator what the film is about. Though this person was extremely enthusiastic at the idea of working on the movie, it was indeed important for them to see the film - as they needed to gauge the feel and tone of the movie for the work that they may be doing on it. But also, before they commit to working on it, you want it that commitment to be fully informed. The video clips on our site give an idea, but is actually quite removed from the actual film.
We can not express how nerve-wrecking sending the film of to this person was. We really wanted them on board, and we had no idea whether or not this person would be able to see through the missing graphics, sloppy edits, wonky color grades, etc. We know the movie that we want to make in the end. But that movie is in our head. Could someone see glimmers of that movie through the rough cut?
We sent off the rough cut and waited for three very long days. We were half expecting a luke-warm response, perhaps followed by an apology of their being too busy to work on it. What we were not expecting was this....
By far, the highlight of this edit process to date.
So where are we now?
- We are now working on the edit, with an eye at getting a more polished rough cut in for a festival deadline at the end of May. If we get into this festival, it could be huge for the film, and we’re hoping it’ll do good things for indie games at large.
- As of this writing, we have 9mins 38 seconds of the 100 minute film festival ready. We hoping to average 4 mins per day. This should be relatively achievable. But, we have a priority list for the festival version and if it all doesn’t get done, it shouldn’t be the end of the world (it is a rough cut entry).
- New Video: We are planning to release new material. But alas, with only two people and all resource put towards the main film, we don’t have time right now. As things start to ramp up mid-summer, there will be more video coming out. Including a kick ass trailer that we are very excited to unleash.
- Screenings, Distribution, etc. All of this will be sorted once the film is in a good place for us to move on to concentrating on distribution.
Sooo, that’s where we’re at. Frame by frame, the film is coming together. We are really liking it, and can not wait to show it to you. .... soon .... kind of soon...