Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video The narrative film: Planning, Production and Post, part of Filmmaking Forum: Conversations.
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- When you're working on narrative stuff, it's creating a little bit of movie magic. - I mean it really is the true birthing of those ideas that you've had into reality. And it's one thing to write it down, but to be able to pull that from the paper into life, it's exactly what it is, and when you get to do that and you do it once, even if you hate it you're gonna do it again. - You know, these characters, creating this character on screen and have an audience believe it. - To have an actor, like, connect with something that you wrote and show you the character that you thought of, and you go "Holy smokes, that's it! "You did it!" - When making a narrative film I really enjoy the teamwork process, the collaboration that has to be there for a narrative film to work.
- I love it when there's like 20 people on set, and there's all these lights and trucks and all of that stuff. - You need, you know, art directors, and you need DPs, and gaffers, and grips, and all these different people. - Working on a film set and having all of the elements that you put together there, and have them all firing and operating as a unit, is the best feeling. It's a bunch of people that have different lives coming together to realize this one creative project and bring it into the world, is like nothing else.
And it's cool, and it's dramatic, and it's scary, and it's hard. That's what I really love, I love to embrace that chaos. - For features, what I love about them is that you sort of get to live in this alternate world for a couple months at a time, which is really cool. Every film is a different story, and it takes you some time to understand the characters you have, and how they're sort of different than what was shot and what was written, and I love just diving into that and knowing for the next three, or maybe six months, this is the world I'm living in, and this is the story that I'm trying to perfect.
- My first love has always been scripted narrative drama. That's what I've always wanted to do since I was little, and understood that this was a process that actually was a real job, and it's because you are, for the period of whether it's 42 minutes, or 60 minutes, or 90 minutes, whatever it is, you are directing the audience's attention every frame of the way. - The editor has precise control over exactly what the audience sees and hears, from the very beginning of the movie to the very end of the movie. It is an enormous privilege to be the person who can construct that and imagine from cut to cut how you are manipulating the audience's emotions, how you are drip feeding them this story.
- To know where the audience's eye is every frame, and know what they're feeling for every frame. - How to make them laugh, how to make them tense, how to make them excited. - And it's my job to manipulate them along the way to get them to feel what I want them to feel, and there's no more powerful way to do that than, in my opinion, with scripted drama. - And just to be in that incredible position of power every single day, firstly on your own, and then with the director, through the whole of the post-production of the film, is a great honor and great fun.
- There can also be a challenge for some people, they are long. Like I think one of the longest features I was working on for almost a year. So, you know, it can get hard to maintain perspective, and you can start to feel frustrated, and if you're sitting in a room with the same person for almost a year, it's a lot. - The thing that I like the most about working in feature film, is that you have takes to choose from. So whereas in a documentary, you know, that really heartwrenching interview, that point where that person finally opens up themselves and tells the truth, you've got one take on that, whereas in feature film, you know, you've got several takes on it, and one of the things that I really enjoy the most about being a feature film editor is making choices, basically, being able to identify what performance will work for the film, and being able to choose from those.
- Right before I started my recent editing gig, I reread Walter Murch's In the Blink of an Eye, and there's this equation he calls out of just a friendly reminder of how many astronomical possibilities there are even in just one scene. So, you know, on an average scene, you might have eight setups, and that can equal about over 100,000 choices for just putting together that one scene, and if you extrapolate that to an episode of the last show I was on, we had upwards of 80 scenes, so that's, like, over 8 million choices.
So if you're just looking at it from a quantitative point of view, it can be very daunting. But the switching over to the creative side and using that kind of human element, it makes the process so much easier and more fun, because I love to apply the kind of psychological background of what's this character going through at this time, and that really motivates and slims down the choices. - And, you know, maybe that's what I don't like about feature film at the same time, is that you can actually start to drown in those choices as well, and you start to question, "Can I even identify what is good "about these 10 different takes?" You know, sometimes, you'll have a scene that goes for five, maybe six minutes, and you're just watching it through, and you're sort of like, "I don't know what the difference "between that last take and this take was.
"So what am I looking for?" Of course, that's usually an indication that you need to start breaking things up and appraise them on different parts. - What's equally rewarding and daunting is the sheer amount of choices and then working within that to create a product that you feel, by the end, there is only this one way to put it together. What I love about cutting narrative television is that everyone's kind of working off this one entity, and this is the script, and so I love being able to come in and try to honor that vision, and hopefully enhance it using the tools that I have.
- You kinda think, "Okay, "there's a script in place, "I can relax, I can always fall back on the fact "that there's this well thought out screenplay "that's gonna guide me through the process." But I think the more films I work on, the more I realize films are just like documentaries in many ways, as well, because you get to the edit suite, and if you're still sort of trying to hold on to the script too much, that's actually gonna get in the way of a good film. You need to look at the footage that you have in front of you, and go, this is the film now, we've gotta make this work, we're not trying to make the screenplay work anymore.
'Cause lots of different things happen on set, I mean, production, something different comes out that wasn't there in the script. That's really my experience with feature films. - You can really kind of make it sane at the end, and kind of polish it and do things that maybe the creator didn't expect to see.
- Advice for novice filmmakers entering the industry
- Finding, enhancing, and tweaking your story
- Experimenting in filmmaking
- Solving problems and troubleshooting your film
- Changing your approach or finding new angles
- Communicating and collaborating on set and in the edit room—and with clients
- Working on different genres of film
- Teaching and mentoring new filmmakers