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Post-production is terrifying

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

I’ve recently wrapped principal photography on my short film The Woodlands. Yay! I’m now slogging through the muddy, emotional leech infested waters known as post-production. I think many consider shooting the film the biggest hurdle in the process, and yes it comes with its traumas, but that’s peanuts compared to facing the dreaded edit.


Steven Spielberg said that editing is one of his favorite parts of filmmaking, but what does he know.


Here’s my take: it’s terrifying.


When you’re writing your screenplay, or dreaming up the images in pre-production, you live in the fantasy world of everything the film could be. Even though you know the film in your head will never perfectly materialize on screen, you don’t have to fully confront that reality just yet.


When you're shooting your film, you get little glimpses into that reality, but you’re on a train that doesn’t stop until you wrap. You don’t really have the time to fully process what you’ve achieved yet.


Then you finish shooting. You (and/or your editor ) have all your files organized nicely in your editing software of choice, and you put the images together in your timeline.


Immediately proceeding, you panic. Or at least I do.


This is not the film that I dreamed up all those months ago. It’s something different. It’s the film I shot, but wearing its ugliest outfit: the assembly edit.


It’s unwatchable. Stiff. Uninteresting. Non-investing. Powerless. Cheesy. Horrible.


Thankfully, I’ve heard enough directors speak about this post-production panic, (and experienced it myself) that I’ve learned to suppress the impulse to prematurely write the film off as a failure.


Hour by hour, you chip away at that hideous little rough-cut. Clean up that dialogue. Cut around that one thing that isn’t working. Lean into that other thing that’s really strong. Sound design. Music. Color.


I’m happy to report I’ve emerged a little out of that panic and have made some progress. 4 weeks of editing left to go until my deadline. It’s still not the film in my head, but it’s closer every day. ✊🏼📽


Susannah


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