“Movies are made in the editing room”
In Parts 1-3 of this blog series, I discussed how Fixation matured into a much larger project than I had anticipated, and some of the struggles that we encountered while filming and starting postproduction. Part 4 will go into more detail about the postproduction process and how re-recording mixer Jon Greasley and music composer Paul Cristo helped me to fine tune the film.
Once all of the footage had been imported, it was extremely intimidating to look at all of the video thumbnails that represented the hours and hours of footage. I figured the best way to start editing would be to jump into a sequence that I knew would be a big part of the film: the interview and freestyle riding with the members of the bike shop iMinusD. Located in San Jose, iMinusD specializes in freestyle fixed gear riding and is one of the largest distributers in California. I wanted this section of the film to feel young and up-beat; riding freestyle fixed gear tends to attract a younger crowd, and I wanted to edit this sequence with some hip-hop, quick cuts and with the juxtaposition of the pre-interview. The interview inside the bike shop is supported with some intense music to make the audience feel as if what was coming would be serious and thrilling. Then when the riding began, I switched gears to an upbeat and fun hip-hop track. This part of the film is actually the original edit; it was never changed and ended up making it to the final cut. The crew and classmates actually got together at the end of that week for a pre-screening and a first glimpse at my “Cinematic, intense, beautiful, exciting, and artsy” vision. The sound of, “Oh, that’s what you meant” arose from the audience—the mixture of composed string music and freestyle fixed gear riding isn’t something you see every day.
Fixation is not just about one style of fixed gear cycling; the film follows: messengers, bike polo players, Olympic athletes, city riders, freestyle trick riders, and regular people who just ride their bikes for pleasure. With each section, I wanted the different cyclists to have a unique feel; I wanted the music and the editing to match their style and personality, both individually and as a representation of the city where they ride. A great example of this is the sequence with John Gabriel. He rides throughout L.A. as if he is the only one on the road. While filming, John rode through the busy traffic and streets lights with such ease, and I wanted to portray that with the music, video edits, and sound fx. It seems that the most affective piece was what Jon Greasley and I came up with for his SFX and atmosphere noise. Because John rides as if nothing is around him, I wanted it to sound the same way that it looked: with a light hum, the simple sound of wind gusts, the swooshing effects as he rode by cars, and most importantly the sound of his pedaling. The traffic noise, people talking, and cars honking was all turned down to make the audience hear the experience the way that John sees it.
Jon Greasley and I met while working on a project for Avid Students. We were both hand-picked from the L.A. Film School to do a project with Avid for the NAMM convention that was held in Anaheim (along with Director of Photography Justin Gamboa). I quickly realized how strong Jon’s passion was for sound mixing, and how his reputation had grown throughout the L.A. Film School. We got along well during the Avid project and once we returned to L.A., I asked him to join the Fixation team. His commitment went beyond the project’s original finish date and he put in so much of his own personal time to make sure that it ended up perfect. He fixed audio interviews, managed all of the sound fx, mixed and really added some great personality to the film. I had never planned for so much post work, with sound or music. I honestly don’t know of anyone else that I could have trusted with this film, and am grateful to have brought Jon on board as the re-recording mixer.
Now returning to the editing process; when it came time to edit the section with the velodrome, I was torn because I wanted to cover it as a live event; I wanted there to be a competition with a final winner, but the events and footage that were shot just did not support that approach. So instead, I tried to take the audience into this competitive world of velodrome racing by adding a scored piece of music by Paul Cristo. Paul Cristo was recommended to me by cyclist John Gabriel and is someone that I don’t know what I would have done without. I searched endless websites for scores that I thought could fit the film, but found nothing that even compares to the abilities of Paul. I’m a huge fan of film scores, which also makes my taste very particular and apparently expensive. It was a privilege to work with a composer on a film that I had directed, to not only communicate with him how I wanted the film to feel, but also to have him express those feelings with music. I had so many big-name composers floating through my mind as inspiration, and what Paul did with the small amount of time and a small budget was amazing.
Paul created a score for the velodrome influenced by former sports movies, in scenes of: desperation, winning goals, and game-time struggles. The focus and determination you see in the cyclists’ eyes told a story of competition and determination. We didn’t need a podium to know that these guys were giving it 100%; there is so much excitement seeing the pack of riders staying close, pedaling together, and competing. I didn’t focus on any particular cyclist, or even go into detail about who won the races—this section was about the amount of work, skill, respect, and strength that goes into velodrome racing.
As I mentioned before Justin Gamboa worked with me as an additional editor on the film. I often turned to him for input and even asked him to put his own style into a section, ensuring that everything was kept fresh and exciting. He put in so many more hours than he had originally anticipated, and with all the set backs there was no way that I could have had this film done without him.
I knew I wanted to create a 20-minute version of the film, to meet the deadline for graduation. There was no way that the 40-minute version could be completed in time, and I wanted my friends and family to know why my wife and I left them all to live out this dream. I didn’t want them to watch a clip or trailer; I wanted to have enough done so that they could get a sense of the amount of passion and dedication that I had put into this film. I edited practically every day in efforts to make sure this happened, and the screening and graduation went better than I could have imagined. The look on my parents’ faces, and the expressions of friends was that of, “we knew you could do it, and now I know why you moved out here.” After graduation, I continued to film and edit for 3 more months. I would edit back at school or even from my living room. Most of the L.A. portion was edited during countless 10pm-5am sessions—for some reason my motivation and creativity strived during these hours. Because I continued to make the film after graduation, I decided that I did not have to categorize Fixation specifically as a “student film;” this is why in some festivals Fixation was accepted as a student short documentary, and in others it was classified as just a short documentary.
In Part 5, I will talk about the finalization of the film, what I did with the various screenings and festival submissions, and the film’s signing with producing rep company Circus Road Films.
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