Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Editing Quotes + Freelance Thumb Twiddlers

I think there are people like me with similar abilities and disabilities, because editors are disabled on the social level. It's not normal to be alone in a room with people who look alive but are not. It's a kind of dysfunctional element that editors have, that they can relate to people who are not really people.

Michael Leszczylowski, Page 201

Milos Forman writes in his memoirs that you would give your soul to the devil in return for the eyes of an editor.

Lidia Zonn, Page 213


'Hi, my name is Kai. I edit stuff... ...' *awkward pause / twiddle thumbs* 'And you?'

Haha, nah, I don't think I'm THAT socially dysfunctional. I attribute my other portfolio of being a producer as the counterbalance. Though I do smile at people in those little boxes when they smile back at me... when I'm editing. Or not.

The second quote is certainly more epic. Ah, to believe in the day when I may posses such a pair of magical eyeballs.

Meanwhile, back in the realm of reality called 'Singapore', life as an editor continues to be fraught with potholes... when freelancing. After nudging [again] a client for months regarding payment [project was completed late last year], I was told that nope, they still can't pay me until... they sort out their finances. Le sigh.

Of the 4 times I have been on contract/freelancing, this is the 2nd time I've been made to twiddle thumb while waiting for the company to sort out payment... indefinitely, with neither proactive contact or follow-up.

Of the many chats I've had with other freelancers in production and post, the overall situation here is equally frustrating and disappointing. Some were owed payments, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, for months... half a year... more than a year. Often, the same companies perpetrate the cycle of exploitation, over and over again, since there are always clueless and eager new kids on the blocks [Like I once were!] when the experienced ones avoid them like the plague.

I still remember my maiden journey of being exploited... editing a kids' program for a production house. I was quite the eager beaver since I hadn't edited any TV programs at that point. Actually, I was quite surprised that they even picked me, of all people, to edit a TV program. The process turned out to be... an eye-opener, in the 'wise up, young Jedi' kinda way. No script, no log, no direction, no director sitting in... had to capture everything from 5+ hours of tape... told to cut 3 segments. Ta-dah.

Eventually, when the ep aired, I saw that most of my cuts were left intact. That was... nice to see. Though looking at the way things were being run, I kinda wondered whether it's because no one really bothered...

Like the current project which has left me twiddling my thumb, this one was yet another thumb-twiddler [4 months of waiting, nudging and waiting in vacuum for paycheck]... and like the current project, this one was under quoted [for the length and scope of work] due to my inexperience.

On hindsight and with very valuable lessons learnt from and
1) Your skills and profession are worth a certain rate. Don't be arm-twisted into dropping your rates unless you see a tangible value in doing so.
2) Learn to say 'No' - there comes to a point in your career when you know certain things are worth doing and certain things are just too painful to do.

Globally, it seems that there is a positive correlation between substandard rates and substandard payment schedule.

I've paid my fair share of dues under the 'Exploit Me!' category - time to wise up! [there are always new batches of students and interns to undergo the baptism of fire :P]

Fortunately, my faith in what I do is still intact since I have been meeting good, decent people who understand that freelancers can't be made to twiddle thumbs while you sort out your business. Freelancers depend on their paycheck to eat, pay their bills and survive. Imagine waiting 3 months for your pay - sometimes 4 months, or hey, maybe half a year... who knows?!

Someone I used to work for on a freelance contract [who also demonstrated the positive correlation between good rate and good payment schedule] mentioned to me over a homely lunch that when freelancers work for you, they offer their trust because they invest their time, effort and expertise FIRST and trust you to do the right thing later. Of course, this same boss pays her freelancers very VERY speedily. Blink of an eye speedily.

Which is also why I'm proud of working with Intuitive Films because we also believe in being responsible to not only our clients, our work but also, to our freelancers. Good work does not come from squeezing the last drop from your profit-driven budget, when it means going down the chain and squeezing/exploiting the people you work with. We continue to respect our work and our freelancers - because, hey, they're both equally important!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Takis Yannopoulos Quotes from 'Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing'

A person more detached than the director is needed to judge the rushes objectively. Perhaps technology will reduce the editor's role as it stands today... Many directors will be satisfied using just an Avid 'operator' and this has nothing to do with proper editing, that is with synthesis.

Takis Yannopoulos, Page 148

Due to my genuine love for editing, this has become an essential part of my life. I feel happy at work. I am used to working many hours, as many as I can, with no limits or restrictions. I can't conceive that it is possible for anybody to edit well - something as fundamental as life itself, for it imitates life - following the timetable of a clerk.

Takis Yannopoulos, Page 148 - 149

The ideal editor is not someone who makes good cuts or edits a scene with great speed. The ideal or good editor is someone who gets into a scene and loves it, who composes with his heart, who gets involved passionately and actively.

Takis Yannopoulos, Page 149 - 150


I'm not experienced or privileged enough to fully understand quote 1 or 3, but quote 2 is something that I personally have experienced over and over again. A 'simple edit' is never as 'simple' as imagined by someone else. There are just... infinite number of permutations and combinations, various ways to improve, many other ways to destroy, minute things that can be fixed, sneaky little things that are only discovered seconds before you're about to dump out and go home [and then, it becomes a moral dilemma - to fix or not to fix?]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Julia Juaniz Quotes from 'Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing'

Technology neither makes the technician nor the artist... The true editor will always exist, but perhaps in the future most people will only look for someone to stick the shots together. That's the way things seem to be going.

Julia Juaniz, Page 137

An editor believes that you have to be modest and humble enough not to want to make your own film with the material.

Julia Juaniz, Page 138


Just like a ship can only have one captain [but also many many other able hands], so is a film? At this point of my life/career, I still see myself as a better regenerative creative collaborator [editor's role] than a generative creative instigator [more of a director's/writer's/producer's role].

This afternoon, I was browsing through the latest Creative Cow forums email alerts and clicked on an editor's showreel. There's always this niggling problem I have when it comes to an editor's showreel: how can you show how 'good' you are as an editor with a [generally short] reel? A DP can show his shots - composition, movement, a captured moment... but as an editor, when and how do other people how much of that reel is 'yours'? How much of it was the director? How much of it was due to you being a creative collaborator rather than an 'edit operator'? How much of it was impressive due to you getting cool rushes, rather than crap shots you had to rescue?

In comparison, I'm always slightly jealous of motion graphic designers' reels - wham bam kaboom - from the first frame onwards, it usually impresses right till the very end.

On another thought: I happened to catch 2 local programmes of vastly different quality today. One's a kids' drama, which had mediocre acting and uninspired shots/editing. Later at night, I was captivated by a Chinese infotainment which was quite nicely done, with obvious aesthetic considerations [nice color grading going on there]. Haven't had the chance to really work on the aesthetics of editing much, when it comes to color grading... tendency/priority of corporate clients is to get content covered, so there's usually no time and budget allocated for all the fancy-pantsy stuff like color grading - which isn't something many clients pay much attention to anyway, methinks. In an ideal world, I'll always have time to do proper 'finishing' - which gets appreciated.

That said, I had the pleasure of doing some color grading on the TVCs I've worked on. Something like this one for the 'Shanghai Blues' TVC we did for Toy Factory:

This was a draft grading... overdid the soft focus initially, I mean, it's supposed to look like 1930s Shanghai but not THAT dreamy. Could possibly be more nuanced - next time, next time.


R.I.P Anthony Minghella - director of 'The English Patient' and 'Cold Mountain'. One of the most memorable books on editing I've read is:

'Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema', in which Murch mentioned quite a bit about his creative relationship with Minghella while working on the film.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Simona Paggi Quotes from 'Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing'

The American editor is inserted in a production system in which he himself is a pawn - he is first and foremost a great technician at the service of the production of the film. While in Europe the editor is like the alter ego of the director, a watchful eye, a critical eye, the armed hand of the cutting room. He has to combine a rich technical knowledge with an open mind to be at the height of a day-by-day experimentation with new things.

Simona Paggi, Page 128

To be able to excel in your work, you have to have ideas. The same goes for everyone - you have to have ideas, intuitions, imagination, you need to question what you're doing all the time and sometimes even to know how you wait. You must know how to listen, how to look, never to be satisfied, to take risks. And in editing, which forces you to be in a constant state of constant evolution, this ought to be a dogma.

Simona Paggi, Page 130

My cutting style varies because every film I edit is different. I would always like my style to be recognisable by the commitment and sensibility I put into my work to reach the heart that film may have.

Simona Paggi, Page 133


The only constant is change?

Looks like there's a whole lot more going into what should be 'invisible' [when done right]. No space for the ego to demand your 'work' be all attention-grabbing and flashy :] The third quote is a good one to keep to heart.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Roberto Perpignani Quotes from 'Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing'

In European cinemas as elsewhere, 'A film by...' is the winning formula and although invented for the 'authors' it works in the commercial sphere as well. In addition, it became a sort of 'caste' title, whether the directors deserved it or not. Returning to Welles, an undisputed author, he was inclined to say that the system had created a sort of protection for very good collaborators which allowed the weakest of them to feel at ease. So we are the only ones responsible for recognising where quality actually lies.

Roberto Perpignani, Page 116

Editors Baptism - Most editors, in this book or not, will have experienced the moment where they confront their ability to cut creatively. It can be painful and prolonged, but is never forgotten.

Roberto Perpignani, Page 119 (Notes)


Indeed, for personally, I am terribly crappy at 'critiquing' a film, unlike many people who seem to have a knack for doing film reviews for everything they watch. For me, most things I watch have their own merits - and I'll probably only be able to point out if something seems pretty damn bad... or perhaps, if a film reached out to be in an extraordinary way.

And indeed, again, I think I have encountered my own bout of 'editors baptism' before, where I severely doubted my abilities as an editor. The wacky logic went: wait, a trained monkey can probably do what I'm doing, no, wait, just an ordinary monkey might be able to do it better... therefore, me = monkey?

I'm sure there will be more baptisms to follow, since every project is different and a fresh start. Just because you've completed 'A' doesn't mean 'B' and 'C' will come to you naturally.