Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video A conversation with director and editor Tyler Cook, part of Filmmaking Forum: Scene Analysis.
- Well, thank you so much for sharing the scene from this web series with us, Tyler. You know, your most well known credits are with Vampire Diaries, and The Originals, and Minority Report. But this is, I think, a really special look into a personal project. And it also provides us a look at both your editing and you also shot it, as well. So you directed it, shot it, and edited it. So, can you start off by telling us just a little bit about the project and how you became involved with it? - Yeah, so the web series is called Happy and You Know It.
And it was started by my wife, Kira, and our good friend Ramsey. And they are the two main actors in it, as well. And really it was a way for them to collaborate, originally. They share a very common love for 70s cinema like Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch later and that kind of aesthetic, which you don't really see a lot of today. And also, to sort of just kind of work some things out about what it means to live in Los Angeles and kind of make your way.
So that was sort of the genesis of the project, and I'm a fan of those films so much and it's something that I'm really passionate about. And on top of that, too, like when you work in TV you do the same thing for like 10 months straight, and you're working the same muscles over and over and over again. And if you don't, I feel like if you don't keep up the other aspects, the other tones, the other styles, the other types of material out there, those things start to atrophy. So I'm a big proponent of always kind of working and trying out new formats and new ideas when you have some free time, when you're not working on a show.
So you can stay fresh and sharp and kind of keep everything going. So that's sort of how I got involved and I really wanted to be a part of this really special project. - That's an awesome idea to keep things fresh and to participate in things that you normally wouldn't. And can you set this scene up a little bit for us? As far as where it is within the overall structure of the web series and how this exists within these characters' world? - So the clip that we just watched was the first episode of season two.
And season one was all about them coming together. Emily and Ray sort of meeting each other, getting involved, and wondering if they had something more than just a friendship. Or if it was, you know, if there was anything romantically gonna happen. But what you kind of find out at the end of season one is that Ray has been lying to Emily. That he has a kid that he didn't tell her about. That he has an ex that he's still involved with that he didn't share with her. So if season one is about them coming together, season two is about them kind of falling apart.
And them separate and isolated again. So that's really sort of where we come in to the story. - So I think this is a really interesting scene. 'Cause, while we do have dialogue happening, it's not happening in the traditional sense with people talking to one another. Instead we have, you know, the story being told by telephone messages. Tell us a little bit about the style of the scene, how you arrived at the decisions that you made. - So, like I was saying, the theme of this season is really kind of isolation and being apart.
And so you know, yeah, we could have had them having this dialogue together. Maybe they could be talking on the phone back and forth. But I think that would have rally weakened sort of what we were going for. So instead, we chose to do it as voice mails. And you know the first half is Ray, and the second half is Emily. So there's a dividing line. There's obviously a break where they can't really communicate effectively because she's in Sweden, he's in the States, there's no real effective line of communication there.
And also, we wanted to separate it out visually, as well. So while Ray is talking, we're only really seeing shots of Emily on the train. And she's by herself and there's no one around her and she's traveling. And then when it switches to Emily, she's on the island and it's sunny and its a completely different atmosphere than what we previously just saw which was very blue and kind of dark. And now it's red and everything's on fire so this very distinct parallels that we were trying to draw between the two of them.
To kind of separate out everything that was happening and to further isolate the two of them so they weren't really ever together. - And then what about the actual selection of shots. You obviously, you know, shot a lot of footage on the train and you shot a lot of footage on the island. But can you take us through your decisions of what the shots would be as well as the pacing for how you're laying it out over the voice mails. - Yeah, so I cut the visuals before cutting the voice mails.
I really kind of focused first on telling the story visually and making sure that made sense. Because I was really just going like she starts at point A and then she gets to Point B. So it's this you know this movement from the train up to the island, up to the top of the island at the pilot house, and then sitting there and taking in the scenery. So that was the trajectory. So I just kind of followed that visually and tried to make that work in a kind of organic, emotional, tonally appropriate way.
So I think that's where the kind of pacing came in. It was really just like how long does this shot or series of shots effectively set this sort of morose, sad, contemplative tone? And I think any time you're dealing with subject matter like this and with tones like this, it really is very easy for it to fall into tedium and just kind of like beauty shot for beauty shot's sake. So I really wanted to focus on her journey both emotionally and physically to let that guide me.
So then once the visuals were in place I then put in the audio and kind of cut it to fit the visual. Also you know you kind of like let them work in tandem. One thing I love to do is when I'm dealing with the intersection of audio and video I like to figure out the overlaps and I kind of think of it as like breaks in poetry. Like, so you'll have one line and I don't like to break anywhere in between that line, so if I'm cutting picture, I don't want to cut here, or here, or here.
Always here or... Like always the beginning or end of that segment. Now whether that's a comma, or a period, or whatever, I really just like to make sure it's cleaned out and separated because it's a rhythm thing for me. It's just like, its something that feels like it has a little bit better momentum and flows cleaner. So I'm just kind of keeping that in mind as I go through. And I'll kind of tailor shots, extend it a few prints here a few prints there to make sure everything's kind of playing in harmony. - [Ray] Hey, will you pick up the phone? You know I'm getting sick and tired of callin'.
Goes to voice mail. You make me feel like I'm a bad person. (beep) You know, I came over bunch of times and I stood at your door. And I, I know you're not in there 'cause I don't hear you breathing on the other side. (beep) - [Emily] I'm late. Um, I'm actually in Sweden now. My grandmother died. I didn't really know her, not since I was really little, but I came out here for the funeral. And then, afterwards, instead of coming right back home, I decided to go find the house where she grew up. - And so would you say that when you are working on something like this, where its dictated by the rhythm and these beeps and just feeling it.
Is that cutting from the gut? Is that, you know, when you say it's visual poetry, is that, does that translate to just you know, a sense of instinct from you as the editor? - I think so, yeah. I mean it's it's kind of hard to articulate any other way. It's really just kind of like watching it back and responding. I think, When does it start to feel right? It's constantly watching the whole thing through and evaluating.
And adjusting. So until it feels internally right. Or what you're going for or that sort of thing. - And then what was your process in cutting the audio? Where there multiple takes? Did you combine takes? Did you put in pauses that the actors didn't have? Did you tighten up? I'm wondering what your audio tracks looked like. - Good question. Well the good thing about doing it this way is you kind of can have so much more control. You're not tied to sync. You're not tied to what they said.
So if like, you need to like, hey, I actually need you to say this, this time. You can have them come in and re-record it or whatever and it's so much more painless than if we had to re-shoot something. But yeah, I mean it was a little bit of all the things you mentioned. Speeding things up, collapsing breaths, and making sure the rhythms felt right in certain areas. And also elongating pauses. You know, we had a lot of discussion about, like, mess ups.
Like should we, you know, I think Ray kind of stutters through a few things. And it's like do we leave those in? Or do we take them out? And for us, it was, felt more authentic as a character for him and as just like a human being making a phone call. To like, to actually kind of fumble through it. And he's, you know, he's kind of baring his soul in some respects. So you know some trepidation and some you know insecurity you know might cause a fumble here or there that we thought was good and natural and felt right.
So yeah, you know, it was a lot of kind of like doing a little bit of every trick in the book to make it feel the way it needed to feel to work with the picture. - Great. Well, thank you so much. Is there anything else that you'd like to say about, um, about this scene or your experience working on it at all? - The only other thing I would say is if people wanna watch more, it's on the web the website is really easy to find, it's www.happyandyouknow.it so it's just Happy and You Know It.
So it's kind of self explanatory in that way. And it's on Vimeo and you can find it that way. So please watch and let me know if you have any feed back or if you like it or not. - All right. Well thank you so much, Tyler. Really appreciate you giving us a glimpse at one of your personal projects. And you know it just sounds awesome that you still do that when you're so busy with all of the scripted narrative episodic television that you cut. So that's really refreshing. But thanks so much for talking to us.
- Of course, thank you so much.