Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Principle Voices: Kevin on THE LIST edit

Kevin Belli is Principle Pictures’ Senior Editor and Director of Photography

A whole day of editing, that’s how a typical day at Principle Pictures looks like for me, these last few months. I come in and review what I’ve done the day before. I try to macromanage myself and set daily goals. You can get really overwhelmed when you think about an hour long film for example. Every scene is like its own little film and it has to make sense in the context of the bigger story.

The most important thing for the rough cut is establishing structure. Beth Murphy (Director) and I will sit down and work out the film’s structure. The order information is presented, the order of the scenes, how the information is shared, how much information is being revealed... all of that establishes the pacing of the film.

I like to think creatively about how to tell parts of the story for which there is little to no video coverage. For example, a major part of Kirk Johnson’s character development in THE LIST is to tell his post-traumatic stress accident story: He was sleepwalking while on vacation and fell out a two story window. We have a few still photographs of Kirk in the hospital, and excellent interview material, but by themselves, I thought the presentation of the material fell flat.

The fun thing about being an editor is when a problem like this comes up, I can try to think of a unique way to shoot it or show it. In this case I came up with the idea of putting Kirk’s photographs from the Dominican Republic in a slide projector and shooting the projector itself and the projected images. So that became my coverage for telling this part of the story, and I think it provides a sort of a cool aesthetic that works well with some other stylistic choices we’ve made.

I have a love-hate relationship with editing, because it can seem overwhelming--especially at the beginning. For THE LIST, we have more than 350 hours of raw footage that we’re cutting down to less than an hour. And there are days when nothing seems to be going right, and a whole day will be spent trying to work through 10 or 20 seconds of the film. But then there are the good days - the great days. The days when it’s going so well I don’t want to leave the edit room. I love being in the groove, and there’s nothing like watching back a section that you know works. The rewards are so worth the struggle.

So I don’t view any of this as work. It eats up a lot of time, especially social time. But I love doing it because at the end of the day I’m working on a film. I’m making a movie! It’s fun, you know. It’s a mental struggle, it’s an emotional struggle, but at the end of the day it’s the most fun you can have.

Principle Voices is a new blog series that features weekly interviews with staff and interns to provide insights into what, how and why we do what we do.


Richard sitruk said...

I like this short and straightforward description of a typical day of a movie editor. Having fun in doing your job is most important. And i can understand why . Such a rewarding passion ! Richard

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing the movie. Since I work with people who made it to the US from that country and work for the US government I have been meeting those not left behind. Peter