Newsletter 65 – Autumn 2005

Letter from the President

What a difference a year makes. 2005 has started with a lot more optimism. It was such a tough year last year in just about every area of film making in this country. Not since the late 60s has production been so low. Now that’s probably not true, it just felt like it.

Congratulations to Evelyn Cronk and the Victorian committee for finishing the year off with a fantastic Christmas party. It was a very stylish event, wonderfully sponsored and it basically washed the 2004 blues away. We have finished the first quarter of the new year and everyone’s working. It makes such a big difference. It takes a bit of pressure off all the price cutting that occurred last year.

Our visual effects colleagues are enjoying a wonderful run of work with a number of films being shared around the country, providing a much needed boost to employment, skills and infrastructure. We all know how fickle our industry can be but the signs are there for a very positive future. Success will breed success.

Speaking of success a huge thank you goes to Emma Hay ASE who is doing a superb job with the mentor scheme. Many of our senior editors and accredited members are signing up to provide support, direction, advice and valuable knowledge to the new generation of editors coming into our industry. Well done everyone.

If you haven’t been on the web lately, I suggest checking out the new-look ASE website (http://www.screeneditors.com). For those of you who have seen it, I hope you’re all finding it just as informative and easy to navigate. Thank you to all involved. To Meg Tonkin our web designer for all her fabulous work. Not an easy task working with a committee and keeping it so stylish.
Matthew Tucker, whose mammoth contribution has given us a museum of information. He has taken us so far, we will always be grateful.
To our committee - well done and I’d like to particularly acknowledge the work of Emma McCleave and Michael Webb. To Margaret Slarke for just being brilliant, all the time. You really have no idea how much work is involved until you’ve done it. Fantastic work everyone.
For those who loved the site as it was, with all it’s great bulletin board info, don’t despair - it’s all still there, just check under forums.

Now that the site is up and running – we would love some feedback and if you’d like to contribute, we are always looking for content, pictures and stories.

Bill Russo ASE and AFTRS are tailoring courses specifically for the Guild and its members. With an onslaught of digital technology changes are occurring at a rapid rate. So have a think about anything you might like to learn (and give us ideas as to what you would like to study or skills you might like to refresh etc.) There will be very generous discounts for guild members.

Dany Cooper ASE is home cutting ’Candy’ for Neil Armfield and will be doing a special night for us on editing Battlestar Galactica. Dany will be talking to Philippa Rowlands and will provide a huge insight into the American Tele series system. So don’t miss that.

Thank you and farewell to our good friend and fellow committee member Chris Mill who is heading off to London to work for a while. Good luck on that adventure. If you have any valuable contacts for Chris I’m sure he would appreciate it. You can contact him through the website.
Thank you to all the committee for their valuable time and work and humor. Thank you to all the members who have been getting involved with the Guild lately, both here and overseas. There is a growing interest within the film community and we want to keep that momentum going.
It promises to be a very exciting year. Now if we could just get all the Tropfest fans to commit to the real film industry, we could really go somewhere.

Keep laughing and cutting great work.

Peter Whitmore ASE

 

A Taste of Sundance 2005
or “Do You Want Fries With That?”

Editor James Bradley reports from the Sundance Film Festival

A good test of any film is watching it through a haze of jetlag and lack of sleep. Micro sleeps may not be actually dangerous when sitting in a darkened cinema but only the most involving films bestow the cure to those momentary blackouts of the brain.

The Sundance Film Festival 05 provided the perfect opportunity for this sort of dazed viewing. The 6 member “Dhakiyarr vs The King” team (Directors Allan Collins & Tom Murray, Producer Graeme Isaac, Executive Producer Anna Grieve, ABC EP David Jowsey, and Editor James Bradley) (some of us self-funded) arrived in Park City Utah a few days after the Festival start.

This was a misjudgement – to really get a hold on promoting the film we should have arrived before the start of proceedings. But hey, only three Australian docos had ever screened at Sundance, and this was the first year of the World Cinema Documentary Competition in which our film was a participant.

More than 30,000 festival-goers had packed into the former gold mining town and started to party. We quickly settled into a pattern - meetings & movies by day, an endless round of parties by night. Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” bash at Wahso, the best restaurant in town, was never equalled by the likes of the Native American Party, the “Trudell” party, the World Cinema party, the Awards

night party etc etc. It seemed like some people, including the accompanying Dhakiyarr directors and ABC honcho, never slept. But as they say, what happens on the road stays on the road.
It was all a daze really. Snow slippery footpaths, shuttle buses, deafening party music, piles of multi coloured corn chips, strange finger food and weird blue drinks. The shuttle bus rides through the snowy world between the ten or more theatres provided the best opportunities for discussion of the films. At night bright lights could be seen slowly ascending and descending the surrounding snowy peaks – distant machines meticulously grooming the ski trails that outnumber the cinemas. Several ski runs marked the hills bathed in an eerie glow, but none of us took the opportunity to indulge in night skiing. (Day skiing is another story and an opportunity not to be missed).

Sundance is a celebration of “Independent” filmmaking but the annoying trailers (by flavour of the year animation house JibJab), which played before each session, were perversely celebrations of Independence gone disastrously wrong. (Thankfully the one about the Independent Explosives Expert who blows herself to smithereens seemed to quietly disappear from the screens after a few days). There’s a muddled message here that is perhaps closer to the truth of Sundance than anyone would care to admit.

The standout films from the limited number I managed to see (tickets are famously almost impossible to get) were Eugene Jarecki’s “Why We Fight”, a well funded (!) and superbly crafted exploration of the unstoppable need of the notorious Military, Industrial, Congressional Complex to engage in War. Though it didn’t deliver much optimism, there is a kernel of hope in the fact that such a film clearly exposing the powerful forces behind US warmongering has been made and highly applauded (it won the Grand Jury prize for an American Documentary) in the current political climate. Being at Sundance made it clearer than ever that there are two Americas and that those at Sundance were massively against the US of George Bush. (Though the vast majority of voters in Utah voted for him, we managed to meet none of those – none that would admit it anyway) Hal Hartley’s “fake sci-fi movie” “The Girl From Monday” was shot on DV using various rates of shutter speed blur and Dutch tilts throughout to great effect.

It was very inspiring to see such poetic results from DV. In his intro Hartley stated that although the pic is set in the future it is really about America now – a world where people engage in sex only to increase their own financial worth, where the punishment for convicted felons is to be sent to teach High School, where the Government embraces even the rebels and manipulates them to its own ends because they are consumers too. There were quite a few good laughs to be had in this jaded image of a world gone wrong. Again it was somehow reassuring to see that some Independent filmmakers are seeing through the web of deceit that props up the culture they inhabit. While outside huge petrol guzzling Hummers and worse filled the acres of car parks, inside the cinema the audience was laughing nervously at this scary vision of America.
“Grizzly Man” directed by Werner Herzog would have been an exciting project for any editor. There was the intense and impressive Werner, passionately introducing this extraordinary story of Timothy Treadwell, a one time aspiring Hollywood actor turned zealous wildlife and wilderness advocate. Treadwell spent many summers in Alaska mostly alone researching and befriending Grizzly Bears. Like an aspiring Steve Irwin, he would set up his DV camera, jump in front of it and deliver numerous takes of elaborate pieces to camera while huge Grizzlies went about their business right behind him. Gradually we witness a compelling descent into madness, with Herzog’s intelligent narration to guide us and give a philosophical depth to the tragedy unfolding. Of course, Treadwell’s increasingly shrill warnings that he could be a Grizzly’s dinner at any moment are borne out, but it’s truly sad that his brave and devoted (and almost invisible) girlfriend gets consumed too.

As Herzog said, it was an immense privilege to be given access to Treadwell’s footage, in which the documentary is essentially laid out, but Herzog does take it to another level with powerful and sometimes bizarre interviews and especially his masterful narration.
“The Shape of The Moon” by Leonard Retel Helmrich was viewed on the last day of the fest after it had won the Jury Prize for World Documentary.

Helmrich’s extraordinarily dynamic footage mostly shot on DV takes the viewer into the daily lives of a Christian family in Jakarta as the son wrestles with the need to convert to Islam in order to marry his girlfriend, and the mother longs to return to the countryside. I have never seen such daring visual poetry, distorted as it was from our front row seat with the screen towering above. The camera travels through railway tunnels, up through a well, traverses bodies as landscapes, and floats through the sky in seemingly impossible manoeuvres. It seems to be partly the result of the unexpected use of relatively high tech camera supports in what appears to be a very down to earth low-tech production.

Though we had spent some time with Leonard and his producer sister Hetty, we had missed a great opportunity to discuss his techniques, as we hadn’t seen the film at that stage. What an eye! And the ability to observe and reveal a world in amazing detail. The sound was brilliant too!

Our film “Dhakiyarr vs the King” played to full houses for its 3 screenings in Park City and one in Salt Lake City. The directors Tom Murray & Allan Collins intro’d the screenings in Park City and answered questions from the emotionally charged audiences afterwards. The film clearly struck a cord with the mainly American viewers, and random conversations in the shuttle buses over the week confirmed this. (“The best film at the festival”) But we needed to throw a lavish party and give away sample bags crammed with stuff like caps, T-shirts and CDs (maybe the odd bark painting) to convincingly grab the attention of people at Sundance!

Behind the scenes, multi million dollar deals were being done for many of the dramatic features, including Australian writer-director Greg McLean’s horror pic “Wolf Creek” which was picked up by Miramax’s Dimension Films for $3.5 million. Sundance’s reputation as a hard nosed market was being consolidated for better or worse. Even the British doco “Unknown White Male” did a deal a worth $650,000 for the North American rights with distributors Wellspring and broadcasters Court TV.

The amusing story of their Sundance adventure is at http://www.shootingpeople.org/uwm/ uwmblog/wrapper.php

An entertaining read about Sundance, Robert Redford, Miramax, and the rise of Independent film can be found in Peter Biskind’s “Down and Dirty Pictures” (Simon & Schuster 2005)

 

Victorian Notes

I was surprised and pleased to be invited to stand for the position of Chairperson of the ASE Melbourne Committee in October. Although no longer actively editing, I do maintain an active interest in all matters Post.

The members of the Melbourne Committee assisted my vertical take off and I wish to thank you all. Also Pres Peter and Margaret Slarke in Sydney for their support.

Andrew Brinsmead retired from the committee. On behalf of the committee and members, thank you Andrew for your time and contribution to the ASE.

Meeting up with President Peter Whitmore at our first committee meeting was also a pleasure. We all appreciated his appearance and enjoyed our first meeting with him. For me, it was great to catch up with Peter again. I have known him since he was a kid just out of short pants at Piccadilly Pictures in Melbourne if my memory is correct.

Our first event was the Workplace Seminar organized by the indefatigable Roberta Horslie. The speaker, Sue Marriott gave an excellent presentation. Roberta has contributed an article elsewhere in the newsletter. I was a little disappointed at the low turn out of members; there was so much information of value to each one of us. I believe The Post Production Checklist is a must-have for any editor. Sue gave me a real sense of the importance of choice of language in negotiating for ourselves. I believe many of us could do with coaching to help us in this area. We hope to organize another seminar with Sue to further our understanding of negotiating fees and conditions. I have long held the suspicion that often, editors’ are meant to be ’grateful’ to be invited to work on a project and should not be seen to rock any boats because there are plenty of others out there. Hmmm.

Our Christmas party at ’Grissini’ in Port Melbourne was well attended. It was truly appreciated that Pres Peter came to catch up with old friends and meet newer members. So much is happening. Looking back at Christmas feels like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

Future events include:
• A screening of clips from ’Outback House’ and discussions with ABC editors who stepped out of home base to work on location .
• An Editing Assistants’ Training Seminar
• A Sound night at M&E , are all in development stages.
• Casual drinks

Major events also include 4 babies in various stages of pre-production amongst 3 of our committee members, I think this may be an unprecedented level of production in a small, or any size committee. Mother-to -be Sara Edwards will be retiring from the committee after our March meeting. Sara will remain a ’friend of the committee’. Thank you Sara and our very best wishes.

In closing this brief note, I ask all our members to really try to support social or craft-based activities in 2005. It is really important we communicate, network and most importantly enjoy each other’s company. So many editors work in isolation these days.

Evelyn Jones-Cronk

 

Victorian Branch Christmas Party

On Friday 3rd December the Victorian Committee put on their christmas party for members and guests at Grissini wine bar looking across the bay to where the Tassie Ferry leaves each night across the strait. It was a fabulous turnout with a great mixture of people in post production. Picture editors and assistants mixed with sound editors and mixing engineers, animators and web designers, online and graphics based designers, post production supervisors, equipment suppliers and neg matchers.

Peter Whitmore the National president of ASE was there mixing it up and reminiscing with some old Melbourne pals. As the crowd listened on Pete made a warm welcoming speech with Victorian Chairperson Evelyn Cronk.
It was a great night and always good to catch up with other members and sponsors.

The Victorian Committee would like to give a big thank you to their christmas sponsors, without them we could not have put on the night: Active Motion, The Edit Shop, Digistor, Horizon Films, MRPPP, Soundfirm, NegCutPro, Cinevex, Music & Effects, Complete Post, Good Audio Sense and ICorp Pro Video.

Roberta Horslie

 

Vale Amanda Barton

Many of you may be aware that Amanda died on Monday 27th December.

On 5 January friends and family gathered in Melbourne at the Cedar Lawn, Ripponlea House. The day is Melbourne summer at its best, blue sky and sunshine with a soft breeze. The setting was beautiful with huge trees surrounding the lawn, white Marquees gleamed in the sunshine, coloured balloons festooned the Marquees. The setting almost looked Carnivale, I feel sure Amanda would have been delighted.We were asked to wear bright clothes and bring a balloon. Many balloons - including 6 brought by me, popped in the heat with accompanying sound effects, most often rudely interrupting a speaker. I almost felt they were objecting to Amanda being taken from life. Sophie Meyrick (with baby Noah) & I joined the celebration of Amanda’s life.

Members of her family and various friends spoke giving us a clear and loving picture of Amanda as a much loved and valued person, from childhood until her death. A sad day was bright and gay, in every way a fitting farewell for Amanda Gaye Barton.

- Evelyn Jones-Cronk

For those who didn’t know Amanda, she was only 34 and was highly regarded as a creative and energetic editor by all those she worked with. She graduated with an MA from AFTRS in 2002 and had worked extensively in both Sydney and her home town of Melbourne.
Our deepest sympathies go out to all her family and friends.

- Philippa Rowlands

Amanda was an active and enthusiastic member of ASE and was one of the founding members of the Mentor Scheme. She was completely dedicated to the craft of editing. She will be so missed by her many friends and colleagues.

- Emma Hay

I have just returned from holidays to hear this very sad news. Amanda was a student of mine at AFTRS such a short time ago.

Amanda was an exceptionally gifted editor both creatively and technically. She was fluent across many of the digital applications that intimidate many of us “older” editors.

However for me Amanda’s finest gift was the vibrant spirit of her personality. Her enthusiasm, generosity of the considerable knowledge she possessed and the collaborative skills that came so naturally to her.

Amanda was one of my student interns on Young Lions. Not many people know that the opening scene to the series, that included a very complex stunt, was cut entirely by Amanda.
Amanda went straight from AFTRS to work at Beyond as a part time assistant. Beyond quickly realised her skills and she was given a National Geographic doco series to edit. This did not surprise me at all.

Amanda clearly had a wonderful career ahead of her and will be sadly, sadly missed.

- Bill Russo

Amanda Barton was a dear friend and colleague of mine. Amanda, Ian Montgomery, Rani Chaleyer, Rob Buttery, Geoff Moselley and myself were the new Editing students at AFTRS in 2001 under the tuition of Bill Russo and Phillippa Harvey. As you can imagine, we grew very close as classmates and friends. Even after graduation, we kept in close contact with each other.

Amanda was a talented, dedicated and creative editor, with wonderful collaborative skills. Every director who worked with her, not only appreciated her skill and talent as a storyteller, but also her kind, generous personality.
Amanda certainly had a brilliant career as an editor ahead of her, and it seems very unfair that that will never happen.

My admiration for her began when we first met at AFTRS. She had such wonderful confidence and possessed the most positive, beautiful, outgoing nature. I think I can say on behalf of the others that Amanda was our “Mother Hen”. She took care of us all and her wonderful attitude rubbed off on us. We all looked out for each other during those often-competitive years at AFTRS and we were certainly the most bonded department in the school.

I also had the privilege of working with Amanda when we did our editing attachment on “Young Lions” with Bill. We had a fabulous time cutting scenes, watching Bill edit and, in general, gaining wonderful experience on the show.
Amanda was the most generous of friends, always willing to help others, to offer her support and love. You could always rely on her. She helped me during some difficult times in my personal life and I will always remember and cherish that.

She was also a wonderful, talented cook, and I was the lucky recipient of many invitations to her place for delicious dinner parties. Amanda once made the best sticky date pudding I’ve ever tasted!

I know for a fact that she was much loved amongst the AFTRS students of our year,
and that her passing away has been a huge shock for us all. However, her spirit will live long in our hearts and minds as long as we hold on to the memories we have of Amanda and all the experiences we shared.

My deepest sympathies to the Barton family, Martin, Ian Reid and her many friends.

- Andrew Soo

 

A Question of Imbalance???

What follows is a response to an article in the previous newsletter, wherein the ASE Committee responded to a request by the Film Finance Corporation to comment on a particular employment issue.

We the undersigned feel strongly that the article entitled ’A Question of’ Balance’ printed in the ASE newsletter for Spring 2004 deserves a considered reply.

Firstly, with specific regard to the 26 part drama series referred to, the article contains fundamental errors. This production was not funded by the FFC with a presale to the ABC, but was in fact a co-production between an independent production company, a European network, and the ABC with partial funding from the FFC. The ABC, as its part of the co-production agreement, contributed some cash, but primarily agreed to provide facilities and staff from various production areas, including a production manager, Sound recordist, two picture editors and an assistant editor, as well as sound post production staff and facilities.

Further, it should be emphasised that in no way was any staff member forced upon the production as the article’s phrase ’two full time ABC staff editors had been nominated...’ seems to suggest. Indeed, resumes were submitted for assessment by the producers as is the norm in the freelance sector, and the producers were more than satisfied with levels of experience of all the ABC staff proposed.

Whilst we do not begrudge this work for the editors eventually contracted to the series, it is our feeling that the ruling against the ABC editors by the ASE and FFC has had several repercussions, One, the ABC was deemed to have not met its part of the co-production agreement by not providing two picture editors, and was therefore forced to contribute a larger cash contribution. Two, the proposed attachment of a junior editor for the duration of the series was cancelled, and finally, in all likelihood, the need for several freelance positions within the ABC to fill behind the editors employed on this series was negated.

There is also the larger picture to consider; that being the role of training. The ABC has long played a vital role in training editors in all program areas for the benefit of the whole industry. This begs the question, if the ABC is not involved in editing TV drama, or documentaries, where will the next generation of editors come from?

We would also question in the broader picture, the validity and equity of the FFC guidelines with regard ’Key Creatives - Television’.
This clause effectively discriminates solely against editors from the ABC. No other network providing a presale can also provide staff, and within the ABC, of the key creatives listed by the FFC, editors are the only ones it can furnish.
We have no wish to be handed highly sought positions ’on a platter’ as it were, but only wish to be considered on our merits, particularly on productions in which the ABC is involved, and feel that this clause prevents this.

However, this article raises more serious concerns beyond this particular production, in that it seems to suggest that this action by the ASE helps to redress a perceived imbalance. Nowhere in the ASE charter or goals is it stated that editors from the freelance sector are to be favoured by the ASE, and the suggestion that the use of ABC editors ’was not in the interest of our members' is inaccurate and short sighted. Numerous ABC and indeed ASE accredited editors and members will be directly affected by the precedent set by this decision, and so the ASE is in effect hampering its own members and editors as a whole.

Further to this, the subtext of this article seems to be that the ABC somehow opposes the interests of the ASE. Apart from the historical fact that editors from the ABC were fundamental in the initial foundation of the ASE, there is the more practical issue that the ABC is a regular source of employment for freelance editors in all program areas. The last ten years have seen a shift towards a more contract workforce within the ABC, the result of which is more employment opportunities for freelance ASE members. We feel sure that the ASE does not wish to discourage this trend, however, if ABC editors are to be excluded from FFC funded projects this must impact eventually on employment available for freelance editors in other program areas.
So to conclude, if the ASE truly wants to “pitch in and do our part in the struggle to maintain a buoyant and viable industry for us all”, perhaps it needs more of a consultation process with all parties involved with its decisions, and also consideration of the wider ramifications
of its actions not solely for its freelance members, but all editors throughout the industry. Indeed, “particularly in such an austere production climate “ we need to avoid pitting one editor against another, but rather work together to achieve fairness and equity for all.

Endorsed by:

Paul Cantwell ASE
John Pleffer - ASE
Alec Cullen - ASE

Martin Hiscox , Mark Spessot, Lile Judickas ( ASE members )

plus 12 non ASE members

 

A Question of Balance

V.P. ’s note from Executive Committee:
The headline “A Question of Balance” appears to have sent a message we did not intend. Perhaps it should have read “A Question of Funding”.

In response to an enquiry made by the FFC, the opinion offered by both the Sydney and Melbourne committees was that it would be unethical for us to endorse any contravention of FFC guidelines. In no way whatsoever were we making a judgement of the potential skills or merits of any staff editors proposed by the ABC. To do so would not only be preposterous, but abhorrent.

The fact remains, however, that a production seeking a financial contribution from any funding body should be prepared to do so under the terms of their stated guidelines. This would appear not to have been the case in this instance. Any issues that individuals may have to do with the validity of these guidelines should be addressed directly to the FFC, rather than the Guild.

We have no wish to create divisions within our own community. The ASE strives to support the full diversity of its membership in the most appropriate ways possible. For the ASE to have sanctioned such a breach of FFC guidelines would have been an act that we had neither the right, nor indeed the power, to make.

Philippa Rowlands

 

Is your Sound Soundly Recorded?

Just an observation over the last few months in the commercial world. I’ve noticed that over half of the TV advertisements I get booked on recently have been without a boom operator. On questioning producers and production managers, the general reasoning is : “you can put radio mics on the cast”.

This mentality has, I think, been inherited from reality tv where each subject is wired with a radio mic and the signal is sent to each camera. The mics are in shot and what you see is what you get- producers are accepting the degraded sound quality or even adding subtitles if it altogether unintelligible. This may be fine for this type of programme, or for documentaries where a 2 person crew will work within its parameters to achieve a good if not compromised result.

But it has no place in drama recording, where the boom mic can pick up certain acoustics and subtle nuances that purely radio mics cannot. Don’t get me wrong, radio mics have a definite place in modern sound recording, but the first choice has to be the boom mic. That’s where a good boom operator comes in handy. He/she can place radio mics on the cast and then boom the scene where I can make the choice of which mic to mix in, or even now days (with multi track hard disk systems becoming available) record all on separate tracks.

However, the mindset of certain producers is purely bottom line- save the money- boom is dispensable. I can only convince a few of this new breed that no matter how experienced I am, I can’t offer as good a product without a boom operator. That’s what I’m up against at the moment.

Thankfully, feature films of worth don’t fall into this category.

Ben Osmo

 

AV Appoints New Chief Executive Officer

The Chairman of AAV Limited, Bob Mansfield, recently announced that Michael Gardner has accepted the position of CEO of AAV Limited. In making the announcement, Mr Mansfield said that Michael will succeed Ted Gregory as CEO and will also be appointed an executive director of the Company.

“Michael’s career has been based around the leadership, service and provision of high level sales and marketing of IT related solutions and services throughout the UK, USA and Australia”, said Mr Mansfield.

“In 1989 he was founder and CEO of CI Pty Ltd; a business that was subsequently acquired by
Computershare. Michael went on to become entrenched in Computershare’s global business and in May 2002 returned to Australia and was appointed Managing Director of Computershare Investor Services.

“Michael has extensive experience in conducting successful turn arounds, M&As, change and major growth requirements within various enterprises globally. It is a pleasure to welcome Michael to the position of CEO and I am confident he will provide the necessary leadership to continue the development and growth of the AAV Group”, said Mr Mansfield.

As announced on 17 August 2004, Ted Gregory will be stepping down as CEO at the end of February 2005 after thirty years with AAV; twenty years as CEO. Ted will remain as a non executive Director of AAV. Michael commenced with the AAV Group on Monday 10 January 2005 and will work closely with Ted Gregory until Ted’s retirement.

 

Editing with DV: The Good, The Bad and The (Really) Ugly

For most of the 1990s “filming” a documentary meant hiring a DOP who shot on Beta-SP or Digi-Beta. In the independent documentary world those days are now gone, and most docos and many short films are now shot on one of the DV formats – whether it be DVC-Pro, DV-Cam or the infamous mini-DV.

Rachel Walls and Walter McIntosh look at some of the plusses and pitfalls of this approach.

Part 1 - The Good

In 1960 Cinema Verite pioneers Robert Drew, DA Pennebaker and Richard Leacock set out to make Primary, an observational documentary that would follow Senator John F. Kennedy as he campaigned to be elected to US President. They were equipment enthusiasts as well as filmmakers, and built their own camera and sound gear - which at the time was hailed as revolutionary in its lightweight compactness. The equipment filled two taxi cabs.
In 1989, Richard Leacock made the documentary Les Oeufs A La Coque, which was the first film shot with a tiny Video-8 Handycam to go on prime-time television.

This time, the camera equipment used in the shoot fitted into his hand. At the end of Hearts of Darkness, the 1991 doco about the making of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola says, “My great hope, is that with these little 8mm video cameras, people who wouldn’t normally make movies will suddenly be making them. One day, some little fat girl from Ohio is gonna be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film using her father’s camcorder…. and the so-called “professionalism” about movies will be destroyed forever. It will really become an art form.”

In 2005 we as editors are in a unique position to see how technology has changed filmmaking over the past decades. The advent of DV formats has perhaps had the biggest impact, and these days filmmakers who choose small, lightweight cameras and recording formats do not have to sacrifice picture and sound quality, and the ability to edit with SMPTE timecode as Leacock did in 1989.

This is especially true now that Sony has released the first low cost High Definition Video camera, the HVR-Z1P, with a picture quality that has been compared favourably to much more expensive formats, such as Digital Betacam.
This technological revolution, which may have democratised the filmmaking process, allowing anyone - even Coppola’s “little fat girl from Ohio” – to have access to the equipment they need to “make a masterpiece” comes, however, with a few traps for the inexperienced player. And often as editors we are expected to magically fix the consequences of these traps in the cutting room. While any editor who is hired to cut a “DV project” hopes that they are working on the next The Finished People or SuperSize Me, before one dives into the DV ocean it usually pays to be wary of some of the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.

Walter McIntosh

 

Part 2 - The Bad

Forgetting the havoc that is wreaked in the suite when these formats’ limitations become obvious, the first obstacle to creating any viable product on DV is the double-edged sword of its
economy.

Ah, DV is so cheap! Bonza! You can go totally ape and shoot until the cows come home!! But is this really a good thing? Or is it a terrible omen when a director fronts up to the edit suite with 150 hours of footage?? For a 26 minute doco???? Egads, it can be a nightmare of epic proportions. With the availability of low-end technology comes the capacity of the unskilled and undisciplined to wield these DV tools without mercy, taste, or vision. The fact that DV is so cheap can lead to a massive blow-out in the shooting ratio. Just knowing that you can keep shooting if you need to or want to can cause a loss of discipline, and a serious distortion of the original script or concept. As much as some editors complain that the advent of NLEs bore a slew of uneducated techno-brats into the editing community, the moment that DV was let loose on the consumer market was perhaps one of the biggest turns in filmmaking history. All of a sudden, anyone could do it, from start to finish. Just you, your camera, and your iMac. DV has been marketed as a strong,

immediate production tool, rather than a low-end consumer version of ’the real thing’. So there’s no need for expensive high end equipment, or skilled technicians (who, might I add, have craft far above their technical abilities). There’s no need to invest too much time or money in the project, and sprouting out of this is the theory that because DV is so cheap that all people involved in the project should be cheap too; because heck, it’s not a masterpiece; it’s just DV, so the rates go down for anyone who actually gets paid to work on it. Crapola, sez I. I gets paid wot I gets paid, regardless of whether it’s 35 or some micro tape that’s smaller than a feminine hygiene product.

Apologies for mentioning femininity, but being a chickadee, I think I have every right to wonder why my director should ask me to cart masters around in my handbag. Like I want to have that tsuris on my head. But, sticking to the point, DV productions are more likely to be budgeted in a very lean and inappropriate way. Of course, so long as someone’s willing to do the work, the problem of undermining industry rates will always be there; blah, blah, it’s an argument we’ve heard before. I’m sick of it. Just because you’re working with someone who chose a cheap format does not mean you are cheapened by touching it. And you probably ought to be getting paid more than usual, because of the total pain in the keister that DV productions tend to be.

Why, you ask? Because DV is crap.

Compared to other video formats, the smaller DV tapes are less robust and more prone to drop-outs and timecode errors. In fact, timecode on DV can stray up to 5 frames or more, causing all sorts of kooky problems that would make any editor consider taking up alcoholism as a hobby. And it seems that the cheaper the camera, the worse the problems. Because it’s consumer gear rather than professional broadcast gear, there are really no serious standards in the design or manufacture of most DV equipment, and thus you often have problems that can’t even be reasonably explained. Is it operator error, or a cheap camera?? The worst case scenario is that it’s both, and so the advice from this editor is to sit down with the production team for a bit of Q n A before you take on the job. If they seem to have the collective intellect of a sweet potato, it’s time to get the hell outta there. Honest. Because it will all become YOUR PROBLEM. Their lack of understanding will lead them to believe that YOU can’t do your job. Just because they gave you a shoebox full of sand, sun lotion and twenty camera tapes, and you can’t redigitise at full res because of t/c problems does not mean that they’re going to see what’s nuts in that scenario.

Rachel Walls

 

Editing with DV: The Good, The Bad and The (Really) Ugly

For most of the 1990s “filming” a documentary meant hiring a DOP who shot on Beta-SP or Digi-Beta. In the independent documentary world those days are now gone, and most docos and many short films are now shot on one of the DV formats – whether it be DVC-Pro, DV-Cam or the infamous mini-DV.

Rachel Walls and Walter McIntosh look at some of the plusses and pitfalls of this approach.

Part 3 - The Really Ugly

The smaller, more fragile nature of DV tapes can lead them to break if dropped or if they are inserted incorrectly in decks. Also, tapes can snap in the machine, sometimes seemingly for no reason at all. This problem is heightened by el cheapo productions that refuse to buy a playback deck, and use the DV camera as an edit deck for digitising and mastering. That’s pretty scary, and as bad for the camera as it is for the tapes. The video heads and mechanisms in these things are not designed for that type of heavy useage. No wonder the tapes snap,
or get stuck in the camera. How does
driving a machine into the ground help anybody? Not even in piddly regional television have I been asked to use a camera to edit with. But with DV productions, there seems to be a fifty- fifty chance of playing ’chicken’ with your deck and masters; seeing who will conk it first, the tape or the camera. Frightening stuff, and not something I’d willingly engage in. Big hint - if you are asked to use a camcorder in the edit suite, please fully inform your director of the dire possibilities before you go and break their stuff, or they may likely blame you and ask you to replace their lost footage, broken camera, etc.

Rachel’s all-over vote for DV: Hey, it looks like crap, handles like crap, and is frustrating as hell. But if you are working on a good project with the right people, you can just about bear it. I’d only work in DV if I fully trusted and respected the team I was working with. It’d have to be a serious job that I was into, because it’s otherwise very frustrating work. There is a new schmicko camera coming out tooting itself as being ’as good as HD’ - and seems to be pretty broadcast friendly. It’s also not cheap. Perhaps DV is trying to mature into something else?? But in general, it’s the exception rather than the rule to work on a cool DV project. I give it a thumbs down, despite the fact that both of my works for which awards have been won were DV projects. Me no like. Me no touch. I used to be sane.

Rachel Walls

 

WA notes

The past few months here have been very busy for us all – for the main part due to the festive season, and as such we couldn’t let the month pass without some of our own Christmas cheer! So we had Chrissie drinks at the Inglewood Hotel and I must say that the turn out was our most promising yet! Seven editors showed up – some members, others not. Some new faces that we hope to see at future meetings (and convert to guild members!).

One of the great things about the meetings we’ve had so far is the ability to interact in person and discuss the topics raised in the web forums to great length. It was also great to hear about production projects that are currently being worked on by some editors. Other stuff discussed included: Good and Bad experiences in past projects. Director / Editor relationships in storytelling – especially when a director is precious about a scene or sequence that just doesn’t seem to work. How do you as an editor approach the director whilst knowing his / her feelings? The old debate about being a creative contributor to the storytelling process or a mere button pusher!!!!!???? From this we discussed much of what has been batted around the website regarding the advent of cheaper equipment and DIY approaches to editing. An example brought up was that a company feels that because editing is now done on a computer, it’s easy and anyone can do it. They then buy themselves a system with the money they would’ve spent on an editor. From this line of thought you get a variety of people working in the industry. Firstly those who think they know what they’re doing but never finish the project; those who are enthusiastic, with basic editing skills, undercut other more experienced editors and those who make the transition from enthusiast to editor – and thus think about the creative process, the concepts behind the cut and the reasoning behind the edit.

We hope you are looking forward to 2005 as much as we are. Here is a short list of our hopes and plans for the future 12 months.Things to do in 2005:

Encourage more people along to our gatherings and increase the WA member base. Hold various workshops on NLE systems. Jude kindly held the first of these in October 2004 on Final Cut Pro HD. Hold some Talking Pictures events – hopefully this will eventually lead to discussions with the editor of a particular film but at the moment may only be a group of us watching a film and analysing it.

In all of these our main aim will be to raise the profile of the ASE Guild in WA and hopefully encourage others to join once WA has a substantial base. Then the benefits of being a member will start to shine through.
Michelle Lord

 

Backing-Up

By Rachel Walls

Ok. This may seem very, very ’simple simon’, but today’s rant is about project backups. Already, you’re thinking, ’heck, I don’t need to read this, I can backup just fine’. For those of you who have been working in this industry long enough to have been burnt and learnt, fantastic. You can turn the page. Or go read the funnies, which are not present in this newsletter. (If someone wants to doodle some funnies, please forward them to your newsletter.) Otherwise, if you want to read what I gots to write, on we go.

One of the most critical things to note about a backup of your project is that it is not a copy of your project. It is a valuable thing that will save your butt in a system meltdown, facility fire or other such catastrophe. So think about the concept of the backup rather than it’s possible execution. You will be more capable of adapting your backup needs if you think of its ramifications rather than seeing it as a ritualistic thing that one does because one has learnt that one should do so.

So, ok, we have just totally changed the way we view the concept of the backup. I’m sure it was an awesome, moving experience for ya. The backup is a life raft, a time-saver, a job-saver, etc. So what makes this change the way you approach your project when it’s time to do a backup?? Hopefully the main points you will consider have little to do with dragging and dropping a file icon from one folder to another. Hopefully you will consider the strategies you have in place and make decisions about the risks involved and benefits of your method of creating a backup file or files.

So how exactly can we maximise the effectiveness of the backup? Well, of course, it depends on the project’s needs, the system setup, etc. But in most instances, you have some basic elements that don’t seem to vary. You have your computer, which has a system drive, and potentially other drives, you have either a raid array or drive (internal or external) for digitising, and anything else is a bonus. If you’re lucky you’ve got a server, a few extra portable drives, nice big plasma screens and a personal fitness coach. But assuming that you’ve only got the basics, let’s assess the situation. Or possible situations.
Situation one - you have an external drive which you use to store media. You are saving your project file to the system drive, so that if your external drive poops itself, you haven’t lost everything. Where do you back up and how often do you do it???

Well, most systems have an autosave function that puts versions of your projects into a folder every thirty minutes or so - this function can be modified to your liking, and is darn handy. If you crash during the day, you should be able to recover from a crash file. Some systems will recover the ’last known version’ or ’unsaved version’ of the file after a crash and reboot. The important thing with these is to save these files immediately - but probably with a different name from the last version before the crash, in case you want to go backwards, because you will have lost your ability to undo. Also this is handy in case the other file has become corrupt. Maybe a new name will fool your stupid computer. At the very least the name should keep a record of your crash history, so you can trace your disasters easily. So. If you are happy to let that be it during the working day, fantastic. Should be plenty, unless you’ve had a major crash, in which I recommend a full backup directly after recovery, just for posterity’s sake. Savour the moment.

Situation two-you have a cantankerous system that is behaving strangely. You have grave fears about the whole setup, and tenaciously go into work every day wondering if your edit suite’s fairy godmother has died and the whole thing has morphed back into the stale piece of limburger that it is. Your system stinks. It ain’t even yours. You’re a freelancer, you’ve been kidnapped, drugged, and have woken up tied to your bench with a script in your face and this terribly third-rate system to do your job. All the tapes are mini dvs, shot poorly by the director, and every shot’s a loser.

Well, in this instance, I would (apart from kvetching about the crappiness of your system in hopes that it will be replaced) also backup daily to a cd, a zip disc, anything that can be removed from the system and isn’t totally crap. Or should I say, limburger (apologies to limburger fans). Can’t do much about the poor quality. The kidnapping experience will come in handy when it’s time to write your memoirs or if you ever do a Q & A session for Popcorn Taxi. An interesting twist on how you cut this auteur masterpiece. Give the files dates and label the discs with indelible markers. Take them home, in case they somehow get morphed into cheese in the suite in a ’morph by association’ accident. Now, let’s jump to the whole backup the file issue, and about where and how we do it. Just copying the file is really not ideal. Because you now have two identically named files. If they both exist on your system; say, one in the system drive and one on your digitising drive, and especially if you’re not the only person monkeying about with your footage, you risk opening your backup and working on it as if it is the project. You could then have changes to one, then changes to the other, people coming in and not understanding what happened to the edit, etc. The best way of creating a backup file is to choose the destination of your file, which should be a drive apart from the drive you are using to store your project, and creating a folder conspicuously named as your backup folder. Then, at the end of the day, after you’ve saved your project, choose the ’save as’ function. Save your project as ’backup (project name)(date)’ and then close the project. Remember to open the working project again before quitting the edit software, so you load up with the correct version on the following day. Or, if you are a drag n drop person, give the copy a name that distinctly marks it as a backup from a particular day - don’t trust that everyone spends an eternity squizzing at the file properties to see when it was made, comparing it to other versions, etc.

If you have a server, you lucky thing, you may wish to copy there also, with a slightly modified folder name. Maybe ’the last bastion of hope’. Or save a copy of the backup to a portable drive which you take off site in the evening. This is handy if you’re cutting in a ghetto with sub-standard security, and you are in risk of losing your gear to a young punk with fine taste in computers. You can lose your setup and still go somewhere else and redigitise. It is very rare for young punks to steal camera tapes.
Camera tapes? A-ha, camera tapes. What do you do with your source footage in order to preserve it as a medium to reconstitute your project once you’ve got it digitised? Do you have working submasters, is it a telecine with film stored in someone’s fridge next to the cold pizza and beer? Do all the masters sit on your bench, open and nekkid to the elements, the director, and your coffee??? It is best to make sure that either your material is safe in your suite, or that it is taken off site to a secure place when it is no longer required, if that is feasible. It is especially desireable to make working copies if you are working on some of the more flimsy tape formats, such as dv, or dvcam. Heck, I’ve even had a dvc pro snap whilst going to air in a broadcast facility. Didn’t think that would happen. It says ’pro’. You’d think it’d have its act together. But even ’broadcast quality’ formats can be fragile. So if you have the means and the cash I heartily recommend safety masters for irreplaceable material. Timecode and audio same as original, thanks.

If you are working with rendered files that cannot be replaced by a tape format, I suggest these are either burnt to disc or printed to tape, with log notes on useage. You may even want to put these to tape and then digitise them to use in your project, so that there are no freaky reels in your edls. But we’re not going to talk about edls....are we???

 

In Case You Asked

By Dominic Case

I have just landed a job cutting a low budget short drama. The production team is very keen to create high production values with beautiful visuals. The DOP wants to shoot on super-16 film but the director is happy to use DV-cam video. I’m tending to agree with the DOP that film would produce a better result - but am I just being silly and old fashioned?

Excuse me? I think I just read “high production values” and “low budget” in the same sentence. In fact, I’ve read your piece several times, and it seems to veer between the sublimely obvious and the ridiculously contradictory. Have you considered scriptwriting as a career? Editing clearly isn’t enough of a challenge for you. I think what you’ve written is ready for making into a short film. I’m sure it would be better than the script you’ve been given. Let’s see what we’ve got.

Firstly, you’ve clearly introduced us to the characters and identified them. Two filmmakers: should they shoot film or video? It’s the eternal question. So it’s good that you have established some conflict in the script. But do we recognise these people? Yes. There’s a DOP, he’s obviously the hero, as he is fighting for beautiful visuals. (It’s going to be an art-house film, isn’t it?)
Then there’s a director, who seems to have gone over to the dark side. But do we care about them? What is the driving force in this film? Obviously it appears to be money versus beauty. You will need to bring out the Mephistophelean angle in all of this: digital technology, numerology, the religion of the devil, and so on. You get the idea.

A lot of productions work very well on DV: that is, formats such as DV, DVCam, DVC-Pro. Ask the DOP about lighting. If s/he really wants to “light” the show, they should probably use film: if s/he just wants to capture the action, then DV would make the director happy enough.

Back to our script: it’s a sort of film-within-a- film, about the conflicts in the production. Here’s my idea: shoot all the stuff about the DOP and the director on DV, for a sort of documentary feel. And then the film-within- a-film itself (your original script, you might as well use it for the inserts) can be done on real film, to see if it looks different. Bring the whole lot together via a digital intermediate blow-up.

Finally, with all these ideas about the shooting format – in fact with a completely new script – I think you should be going for a bigger credit. The director’s obviously suffering some internal conflicts: now is the time to move in. Make it your film. Become the producer/director. As well as the scriptwriter. And then, you might as well shoot it on DV – after all, everyone knows that with digital, you don’t need a crew, or lights. Or anything really!

I cut a 35mm colour short 20 years ago. It was shown at a few festivals in the mid-80s and then disappeared into oblivion. The following year the producer was arrested for corporate fraud and last I heard the director was teaching English at a Quaker school in Helsinki. I was quite fond of the film, but my Betacam copy was damaged beyond repair in the great Sydney hailstorm of 1999. Yesterday I ran into an actor friend who actually was in the film, and we thought it would be good for a laugh to get a new telecine made onto DigiBeta. Will the original negative still be at the lab all these years later, and will the picture and sound quality still be as good as when we first proudly screened it back in November ’84?

Ah! (sigh). 1984. Life was easier then. In 1984, Big Brother was watching us, instead of the other way around. Film was still film.
Remember the films we made that year?
I met My First Wife that year. She was a real Queen of the Road – I followed her to Coolangatta. Gold rings were exchanged.
Bliss it was to be alive – but to be young was very heaven!

But then I met a bloke from Bullamakanka called Stanley – he was a bit of a Street Hero, and he talked me into producing his film about a miners’ Strike. Bound to be a hit, he said. He’d been working on it since the year Dot, and Bunny (my wife) and he really got on well. Too well really – she ran off with him to Silver City, and they even stole all my personal belongings. I never recovered anything – didn’t even get my Razorback.

As for your less-than-memorable little film,
I doubt if you’d find it at the lab. (I doubt if you’d even find the lab – at least, not where you left it.) It’s good to leave your neg with the lab in the short term – you never know when you’ll need another print, or the textless backgrounds or something. But they can’t look after everything forever, for free. If you’d been smart, you’d have sent your negatives to the National Film and Sound Archive (yes, it was formed in 1984, happy 20th birthday to the Archive!) where it would be preserved in proper conditions. If your negative does turn up, there’s every chance that a good telecine transfer – or even a good print made on a modern print stock, will be just as good, and probably better, than you remember it from all those years ago.

 

www.screeneditors.com australian screen editors newsletter autumn 2005 15
Australian Screen Editors Guild
ASE NATIONAL OFFICE
Administration:
Margaret Slarke
Tel (02) 9380 6945
Fax: (02) 9380 6946
Australian Screen Editors Guild Inc PO Box 150, Paddington NSW, 2021 Australia
email: nswoffice@screeneditors.com
ASE Executive Committee
Peter Whitmore ASE (President)
Philippa Rowlands (Vice-President)
Lindi Harrison (Treasurer)
Emma Hay ASE (Secretary)
Emma McCleave
Walter McIntosh
Christopher Mill
Greg Miller
Rachel Walls
ASE VICTORIA
Administration:
Beth Akister
Tel (03) 9686 6955
Australian Screen Editors Guild Inc PO Box 558, Prahran VIC, 3181 Australia
email: vicoffice@screeneditors.com
ASE Victorian Committee
Evelyn Cronk (Chair)
Trevor Holcomb (Secretary)
Mark Atkin ASE
Sara Edwards
Jill Holt
Roberta Horslie ASE
John Leonard
Shaun Smith
NEWSLETTER ISSUE 65
Editors: Rachel Walls,
Walter McIntosh
Layout & Design: Sally Goodfellow
Art Force Ph: 02 9453 3057
Contributors: James Bradley, Dominic
Case, Roberta Horslie ASE, Michelle
Lord, Walter McIntosh, Ben Osmo,
Philippa Rowlands, Rachel Walls and
Peter Whitmore ASE
Contributions and readers letters welcome: newsletter@screeneditors.com
Deadline for next issue:
10 June 2005
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