The Cutting Room Floor

BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA — I spend most of my days editing. I try to get one section done every few days. Yesterday I was so pleased with my progress. cuttingroomfloor.jpgThe section I was working on was a scene where the actor actually repeated his lines pretty accurately take after take. Then I went to work today. In the morning, I like to review what I did the day before to inspire me and get me going. I was stunned with what I saw today. Yes, the dialogue was cut well, but I had failed to see the continuity in the actor’s wardrobe! He started with his suit coat buttoned and as the day and scene progressed his clothes became more and more casual, his coat went from buttoned to unbuttoned, his shirt went from smooth to wrinkled, his face grew more tired and the microphone wire was hanging out for all to see! For everyone except me! The editor. ARGHHHH. So, today, I started the same scene all over again.

What a waste! Or was it?

Filmmaking is so revelatory. You watch the characters and they become your friends. You begin to relate certain characteristics to people you know or even to yourself. You experience disappointment when your favorite character lets you down or does something that doesn’t work in the scene you’re trying to cut. You adjust and forgive their weakness because you have come to know them.

If only life were as easy as editing. If people do things you don’t like, you just cut out what is bad. You make the scene work the way you want it to work. You make the characters behave the way they should. If characters disappoint, you simply hide their mistakes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same thing in real life that we do in reel life? Just leave the parts of life that don’t work on the cutting room floor.

But, today, I was reminded that filmmaking is like life. Yesterday’s solution became today’s mistake. No matter how hard you work at it, mistakes still happen. If I had it to do over, I might cut yesterday out but then I wouldn’t be as aware of continuity while editing tomorrow.

Waste? Not.

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