A few days before Christmas break I finished a really rough cut of South of the Border, the title of which has since been changed to "S.O.B. and the Legend of Alan Schafer". That cut was riddled with problems including a lack of credits, glitchy footage that needed to be recaptured, and a few insufficient scenes.
After returning to Charleston from my trip home to Indy, I revised a few things, added the credits (which took way too much time), and added a few parts. The first roughcut was about 65 minutes long, and the second was bumped up to about 80 minutes. This was all part of the original plan, to beef up the cut in terms of length before ultimately chopping it back down to around an hour. Keep in mind that these length goals are completely arbitrary.
I finished the second cut Sunday night and dropped it off to our accomplished accomplice Virginia at the school's Documentary Center and waited eagerly for a response. Last night we received the email. Virginia's main advice: "Kill your Darlings".
What exactly does this mean? Well here's a definition lifted from Everything2.com:
"It was author William Faulkner who said it first, and a whole lot of teachers of creative writing, film making, journalism and other kinds of storytelling have been repeating it ever since: Kill your darlings.
This does not mean that you should take a chainsaw to your loved ones, it means that you, in your writing, should cut to the chase and have the courage to get rid of the elements that you love so much yourself, but that don't really add anything to the whole - or, even worse, actually weaken it. Typical "darlings" would be clever turns of phrase, insignificant trivia, funny anecdotes that don't really relate to the question at hand etcetera."
Alas we've received the advice that I both anticipated and dreaded. Though I'm confident that certain parts of the film have turned out well so far, especially the ending which is the most important part in my opinion, its time to cut the fluff. But killing your darlings isn't as easy as it sounds. Certain characters such as a giant man and his small girlfriend may have funny things to say, and the framing of them might have been perfect, but since they don't say much relevant to our focus... they must be murdered.
In fact, nearly all of our darlings are tangents of the story's focus. Tidbits of information about the characters that define them do just that: define the characters but distract the viewer from the story. Though at first I know I'll be remorseful, it won't take long to become a cold hearted serial killer of sorts. Cutting out the cute funny things, aka some of my favorite but wholly unnecessary parts is going to be the hardest part of the whole process for me. But we're gearing toward the home stretch: the final cut.
After I get done cutting out anything that is even remotely irrelevant, its basically back to the drawing boards. I actually did make an editing drawing board a few months ago and I'll post a pic on this blog whenever I get a chance.
Receiving criticism of your work is always tough. Lets be honest about the nature of long term projects. When you work on something with even the least bit of passion, you put a piece of yourself into it. But the important thing to remember with film or writing or almost any other creation is that you're not creating it for your personal viewing pleasure. At least not when you're an unheard of student filmmaker. A film should always be made with the audience in mind.
The bottom line: its time to take a film that's watchable and make it good. That'll be the 3rd cut. Then its time for some more feedback... and hopefully finish it up with the 4th cut thats a little better. I'm a firm believer in letting things digest. so I'm going to take a week off of editing S.O.B. and play catch up on some other projects. Then its time to get my hands dirty.