Edit At Home — Without Talent!!

13 01 2008

John August, a screenwriter who has a fantastic blog about writing, talks about the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray smackdown.  Conventional wisdom now has Blu-Ray winning, since Warners became the 4th of the six big distributors to choose the format.  So, John went out and bought his first Blu-Ray disk and a PS3 to play it on.  He talks about how he is most excited about the enormous amount of disk space on a Blu-Ray disk and then goes on to say…

Most of all, Blu-ray discs are big. My dream — which I pitched at last year’s Sundance Film Festival — is to use the extra capacity to include compressed clips of all the original source material, so ambitious viewers could recut the movie on their own systems. That’s a big thing to ask for Sony to support, so reasonable success with this month’s DVD release will be a major factor.

Frankly, I can’t imagine that anyone, aside from a few film students and some geeks with too much time on their hands, would really want to spend the months necessary to do an alternative edit of the movies.

Still, it’s an interesting concept and one which I cannot believe will ever come to pass.  I can’t imagine directors and actors willing to give up the control over every edit, and let a bunch of 12 year olds with iMovie take over.  One of the classes that I teach at USC is called Advanced Editing and we do something in the class that, to my knowledge, no other film school does.  We get the dailies from an entire low budget feature film; the class then divvies up the dailies and, over the course of the semester, we edit a different version of the film, taking it through the actual process of editing, re-editing and re-editing again — four or five times.  It’s a huge undertaking, and the class has done some enormously difficult and interesting work.

But my point is that it is very very difficult to get filmmakers to part with their dailies.  They are petrified of it — and for good reason.  There are an enormous number of things that get laid down on film/tape that you wouldn’t want anyone to see.  I’m not talking about the blooper reel material — that ends up on DVDs anyway.  I’m talking about experiments that the actors or directors do with the material.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.  If I were them, I wouldn’t want to have to think that a wildly bizarre take might someday be seen by anyone who buys or steals the DVD of my film.  I would worry about a chilling effect on the set.

So, while I’m interested in the concept, I can’t but think that it’s a terrifying idea.

[In all fairness to John, he himself posts early version of some of his screenplays on his site for download.  Not all of the drafts, I’m quite sure.  But some early ones.]

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4 responses

14 01 2008
Ben Varnau

Apparently you haven’t heard about – The Tracy Fragments. http://www.thetraceyfragments.com/
(Click on refragmented link)

They are doing essentially this with bit torrent. I’ve downloaded all the dailies and although I haven’t had time to cut the film together it’s some really great stuff. (All 23 hours of it) Ellen Page (the girl from Juno) is amazing….

Check it out!

14 01 2008
John August

Norman —

I’m a USC guy. At Sundance last year, I had a long discussion with the USC SCA tech person (a woman whose name I forget) about what they’re doing, and letting them (and all film schools) have the footage for The Nines.

You don’t have to cut a full movie for this to be worthwhile. Even if you’re just doing a compression, collage or mash-up, having the real source material is awesome.

16 01 2008


I’d love to take you up on your offer for THE NINES footage. Let’s talk about it. I’ll be up at Sundance tomorrow through Sunday, but if you’re not up there just click on the email link on the right side of the page.



12 02 2008
The Art and History of Editing « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] of digital editing systems which give the feeling that anyone can do it (see my entry on “Edit At Home — Without Talent!!“), and secondly the misperception on the public’s part about what we do (see my entry […]

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