Two of the most commonly misplaced comments from lay-people on hearing a film shoot has reached completion are 1) well done; you must be relieved and 2) when will it be released? To which of course the correct responses are 1) thanks, yes but now the real work begins and 2) how long is a piece of string?
Of course, the latter may not be appropriate if we’re talking about a movie fully-financed in advance at the auspices of a studio or major production company (or Russian oligarch). It may well be possible to fill such a film with stars, secure pre-sales and an advance release date from a UK distributor before cameras roll. Suffice it to say though that, if this happens, it’s once in a blue moon and even less frequently in independent UK cinema. The rest of us are knitting our jerseys without knowing if our disgruntled, movie-jaded offspring will like, suit or even want such gifts.
For this reason, the edit can be a process where urgency flounders on shifting sands. There are desired completion dates, markets and festival deadlines to hit, but little that’s really, absolutely concrete (such as a red-carpet premiere at Leicester Square) and even such intangible deadlines can be further eroded by glitches in post-production cashflow. However, it remains vital to maintain forward momentum even in the face of such uncertainty and that’s what we’ve been doing during the edit of Sparks and Embers.
Editor Guy Ducker and I have been painstakingly cutting, re-cutting and assessing the scenes, their pacing, placement and effect, for over four weeks now (although Guy has been working since day one of the shoot in December). The film is really taking shape and we’ve enjoyed the process of sourcing band tracks (final selection to be announced soon) and obtaining temp music score tracks courtesy of our composer Dimitri Scarlato (and other sources). It’s incredible how music can lift a scene that may at first appear to be flagging or one-note. Suddenly nuances can be drawn out and changes in tempo and mood can be highlighted. We’ve even gone as far as to cut a couple of scenes to specific tracks, finding the music provided the key to the cutting strategy. The importance of serendipity in the edit process should not be underestimated.
The cut has now been viewed by producers Ben Craig and Alan Latham, who have provided vital feedback, informing subsequent cuts. However, inevitably there comes a time when subjective eyes and ears, particularly those that have lived with the film for several years, can provide nothing more of value. And when that time comes it’s time for a test screening.
We intend to run one such screening, hopefully within the next fortnight and possibly in a small town near York. That will be the film’s real first excursion into the world at large. I’ll report back on how it was received, what lessons we learned and the general process of holding test screenings and running focus groups in the next posting.
Next blog: Sparks Rekindled