an exercise in film editing

Yesterday, I spent eight hours working with my Dad and our editor, Jonathan Lindaya, re-editing an old television movie my Dad and Lore Reyes worked on. It was aired back in 1995 and it was cut to a little less than 50 minutes, but they had an original one hour and 51 minute cut for the film and we have the material. So my Dad wanted to recut the film to try and, at least, make it more modern.

Of course, the difficulty came from the fact that we had no extra footage to play around with. We only had the finished full-length film and we just had to cut that and work around what we had available.

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My Dad, editing in his room. I’m behind him, out of camera. On screen is the fantastic Jaclyn Jose in Gunita. (Photo taken by Jonathan Lindaya)

My Dad asked me to come along because he wanted my eye and my feel for rhythm and pacing, in its contemporary sense, as an extra pair of eyes on how to edit the work. The piece, shot in 1994, and based on a play, had a lot of quiet moments in between dialogue and we chose which of those quiet moments could be cut out and when we should be doing cut-aways to show the person listening. And since we only had available material already in the film and no extra footage to take from, we had to find close-ups from within the scene that we could manipulate to create a new feel for the editing.

Since it was a television drama special, the high dramatic moments of the feature had a breathing space for commercial breaks. We were editing it as a television movie and so we were cutting the gaps and the whole structure had to be reviewed. It was originally structured and shot with the commercial gaps for breathers. Without the gaps, the film moves from one dramatic scene to the next. There’s no breathing space. So we tried to find smaller scenes to grab and transfer earlier or later to help fix the structure.

We only really found one. I wanted to do more but my Dad wanted to preserve as much of the original structure as possible, being faithful to the original play and the original script.

There were so many things I wanted to take out but we had an all-star cast and everyone was giving amazing, incredible performances that to cut out scenes and dialogue would have been such a waste of great performances.

We weren’t able to do much. We did the best we could with what we had and there were some choices that we were able to make that put the focus to where it should go and it might have made the film better.

Even if we were not able to do much, I was able to learn so much about editing from this exercise. I was watching this film, shot in two days, with a minuscule budget and I could see what I would have wanted to do instead, directorially and as a scriptwriter. My Dad said that he is trying to seduce me into become a director eventually but I’ve already made my mind up.

I’m going to direct, for sure. I want to.

This little exercise in editing was extremely challenging but I learned so much from the experience.

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