Focus On – Sasha Dylan Bell on “Face to Face”
What was your favourite part of being involved with Face To Face?
I couldn’t have been more blessed on this film. Editing rushes of some of Australia’s best actors, with an exceptional script based on a play by one of Australia’s national treasures, David Williamson. Hands down though the real gift was spending time in an edit room with director Michael Rymer. Such an experienced and confident artist, generous and very respectful of the post process. Michael helped create a relaxed cutting room, very open to ideas and experimentation. This allowed me to grow every day as an editor and I often have those ‘pinch myself’ moments when reminded.
Does cutting a film adapted from a stage play come into consideration when editing?
The challenge was that the majority of the film would take place in one room and was dialogue driven, often with 12-minute takes from actors powering through dialogue, which could at times feel understandably a little theatrical. Michael’s adaptation, incorporating flashbacks to break the room’s claustrophobia and his experience shooting very ‘talky’ television in the US gave me a lot to work with in terms of dynamic angles. That and the strong performances all-round made my life easier. I felt my job on a cinematic level was to really allow the film to breathe and to focus on creating a rhythm that felt more natural and less stagey. This meant creating pauses and often lengthy character reactions that didn’t exist.
What’s the best tip you can give to a first time editor when dealing with an established director?
To have a voice. I feel that directors enjoy seeing their film through fresh eyes. That they enjoy being presented with ideas and thoughts that they may not have considered, as long as these ideas aren’t aggressively forced down their throat. I am always conscious of this in an editing room and make sure that when I have thoughts that I respectfully discuss them, or create a cut to illustrate what I have in mind. Face To Face was certainly a great example of ideas being presented every hour of every day, much of which ended up in the film. I feel that’s my job. My advice would be to be bold and bring those ideas to the table respectfully.
What was the system you set up to handle the three camera shoot?
Given the micro budget of the film, I edited on my own Mac Pro system using Final Cut Pro’s multicam function. The only tweaks that were made was a small increase to the RAM and the addition of a Blackmagic Decklink HD Extreme which allowed HDMI monitoring for Michael. I cut using a ProRes Proxy codec, which the multicam handled great and looked excellent. In fact many of our initial big-screen screenings were output directly from the proxy codec. For media management we used a PC-based server, which sat halfway between myself and my assistant Adam’s setup (who was literally on a laptop). We were each connected to this server through ethernet cables. It had it’s limitations, but the system proudly delivered the completed film.I like to think of it as my MacGyver set up, held together with chewing gum and copper wire. The little system that could. It’s not dissimilar to much Australian drama out there at the moment in terms of workflow, only my system was less shiny with bells and whistles.
What would you do differently in hindsight?
Probably the biggest issue my assistant and I had on a technical level was with syncing and how Final Cut Pro dealt (at the time) with the new camera technology. We’d find that over the course of a 12-minute take (which was commonplace) the audio would slip considerably. We developed workarounds, but even these presented all kinds of issues in the editing room. Truthfully back when post production began early 2010 the technology was largely untested throughout the world at this scale, so I am ultimately pleased with how we dealt with it. I guess if we had the luxury of time I would have liked to have developed a better system of workflow overall. On a personal level I would have done things differently by taking time to enjoy the process a little more. Throughout the cut and screenings I found myself in constant focus-mode, trying every moment to make the right choices and impressions. Really head-down tunnel-vision times. So many wonderful things happened throughout the process I would have liked to have smelled the roses a little more. I guess that’s what I get to enjoy in hindsight.