Unreal Nature

May 21, 2015

The Audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… they’re not aware of the editing. You’re not supposed to be aware of the editing. But it’s amazingly naive about the process of how you make a film …

This first bit is from the interview with Emily Paine in First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors by Gabriella Oldham (1992):

[ … ]

… I like to hear what assistants think; I like to have a body next to me watching. It makes for a different experience.

A silent body?

A silent body! I say, “Sit next to me while we look at this.” All of a sudden, it becomes an audience instead of me alone with my material.

The following is from the interview with Tom Haneke:

[ … ]

How do you not feel inundated by the amount of film you receive?

… there are millions of different ways to make material work. You can almost make it jump through hoops, put a different spin on it. What are you going to make the material do for you? Cinéma vérité, I don’t think it ever happens. You can make the material serve what you see as the truth of the situation. It’s really in your hands. You have to decide what you think happens in this footage; then you have to take, say, an hour and a half of film of a particular event and make it into a three-minute scene that communicates what you think happened in that hour-and-a-half event. It’s the only way you can proceed. You’re trying to distill. That’s essentially what you’re doing in the whole process, distilling the truth, as you perceive it.

But you’re manipulating the audience.

Of course you are! That’s the point. There’s no way not to manipulate. Even if you say you’re not manipulating, by putting Scene A next to Scene B, you’re manipulating, you’re leading them on a journey. Seeing a film is an experience in time. You want the audience to be asking, “What happens next? What happens next?” You control the flow of events, the rhythm, the juxtaposition of information. I worry about that because it’s so easy to manipulate. You have to be true to the facts, but more importantly, to what you perceive as the truth. Ultimately, it’s through your eyes, the filmmaker’s eyes. There’s no way around that.

[ … ]

… You always have to be aware that this is an experience in time, it’s got to be finished at one hundred minutes or eighty minutes or ninety minutes. You can’t ever forget that. A film is a journey. It’s just not one thing after another. One interesting thing, another interesting thing, another — you get tired of that after a while.

Do you yourself research the subjects before you start working?

I do some reading, but only after I’ve seen the footage. I don’t want to fall prey to the problem of knowing too much already. I want to come to it cold. I have to be able to recognize when the material is confusing or incomplete. If I already know about it, I won’t recognize those problems. It’s very difficult to maintain that distance. After you’ve seen the film four hundred thousand times, it’s not fresh.

How do you keep it so?

An audience helps a lot. When you invite two or three strangers into the cutting room, even if you’re not looking at their faces — while they’re watching, you can feel their reactions. You know when you want something to go faster, when it’s not working. You can fool yourself when you’re watching it by yourself, but suddenly it’s up there on the screen, people are watching. Something tells you, “This Is Not Working.”

[ … ]

… Three faces. Those shots came out of the big audience reaction roll. Pictures of audience. What do you do with them? You could do a million things. Where do you put them? As I said, that’s a manufactured moment in the film, more than once people said, “The camera always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Bet you love that!

Well, you do in a sense because they’re not aware of the editing. You’re not supposed to be aware of the editing. But it’s amazingly naive about the process of how you make a film like this. It’s only in a fast cutting montage that people ever notice the editing. People don’t know what editing is — even my friends who know what I do. I turn off the sound and I show them pictures. “See? Cut, cut, cut.” I turn on the sound, you know, effects, music, etcetera. “See, that didn’t happen that way. We added all that in later.” So what? The whole film should go somewhere.

My previous post from Oldham’s book is here.

-Julie

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