Focus On – Jason Ballantine ASE on “Wish You Were Here”
The film maintains a strong level of tension throughout, playing on revealing pieces of the puzzle on the inciting incident along the way. How much was scripted placement of these flashback scenes and how much was played with in the edit?
Kiz (Kieran Darcy-Smith) and Flick (Felicity Price) wrote a beautiful non-linear structured script. It was this element that most caught my interest. Films of this nature are a personal favourite. Their scripted structuring certainly formed the basis for the final edit. But as we know, a good read is not necessarily a good watch. There were manipulations to scene placement and lengths according to what we felt were the required rhythms once assembled. This consideration of story balance became the most time consuming element of the edit.
Coming from a primarily acting background, what was the working dynamic like with Kieran Darcy-Smith on his first feature film as writer/director?
Working with Kiz was fantastic. His astute eye for performance details was an education. There are levels of believable performance and utterly ‘real’. We were driven to finding the most truthful moment in a scene. This is one of the film’s most powerful elements. This believability plays hand-in-hand with a thriller. The audience must unreservedly ‘feel’ the onscreen experiences.
Although this was Kiz’ first feature film, his acquired knowledge of filmmaking through his professional acting, previous well-received short films and his key involvement in the Blue-Tongue camp of exceptional talent, meant we were very much hitting the ground running.
The film had excellent sound work. How much did you work with sound in your edit?
The film had as much to say in the silences as it did in the chaotic mess of noise. We constructed these moments in the offline, which were presented in draft form during the numerous test screenings, both with funding bodies and audiences. But of course was only strengthened and brought to life through the brilliance of Sound Post in design and score.
You had a tight post schedule on this film. Talk about what it was like cutting the film under these pressures. How did this affect your edit process?
Tighter post schedules incur a greater discipline in time management. Your reliance upon the first assembly being close to the Director’s intent increases. Lower budget films don’t necessarily lend to the Director re-assessing every syllable delivery from every take in the rushes. This places a greater need for communication during the shoot period, conversing on scene intent, with their performance preferences.
The principal considerations of story clarity, structure and pacing become the main focus during the concentrated Director’s cut. However, some scenes do require re-assessment from ground level through changes to story intent or weight of character requirement.
The opening of the film is an energetic montage planting the viewer squarely in the chaos and vibrancy of Cambodia, establishing character, relationships, setting and a mood of what will soon be turned around. Talk about creating such a montage.
The opening of the film was last to be constructed oddly enough. The scripted opening was replaced for a part scene to help place emphasis on the character that goes missing. We needed to strengthen the audiences emotional attachment. There were healthy discussions and edit trials to find what now opens the film.
As for the music-driven montage, that was a fun piece to cut. Somewhat overwhelming at first construction, given the 13-hours of accumulated footage. The Director’s “must have” selects brought it down to one third of this. The end result being around 3-minutes over two song choices to set the characters in their environment, delivering right on the door step of a dramatic tonal shift.
What was your favourite experience on the film?
My favourite experience on the film was the opportunity itself. This really was a feel-good-Editor-experience. One of those limited times in your career where everything came together – working with people you trusted and admired, a solid intriguing script, stellar performances, beautiful looking pictures, great coverage, culminating in a mountain of potential all waiting for you…and no politics in the cutting room. Magic times indeed looking back.