The difference between walking and riding in a car is enormous. The difference between riding in my Scion xB (aka SV-1) and a Bugatti Veyron may seem as big, but it really isn’t. It’s a difference of subtleties. They both have four wheels, an engine, a place for me to sit, and can get me places at around the speed limit. Again, that’s a giant leap over walking.
I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I do like an occasional Cab, or Chardonnay. And, from my wine consumption I’ve found the same to be true with wine.
In fact, it’s pretty much universally true.
I like Macs. They’re the Veyron of computers. A Windows machine or a Linux box will both get the job done. But, Apple really has taken design seriously; they’ve made something with taste and discrimination. And, naturally, like the Veyron and the fine wines, it costs more.
Of course, it really hit me when I saw a child who could barely speak, using an iPad. The design of that device is so good that a child, who knows almost nothing about this world, can pick it up and figure out how to get something they want on it. That’s staggeringly good design. Think about how many things today that’s simply not true about, that a child can’t use. They might do something that’s dangerous with a thing, but it will be an accident. Not so with the iPad. They will find the game they want, they will play it. They will enjoy themselves and it will all be intentional, as much as a child can be intentional about anything.
What has any of this got to do with editing, you might ask? “Allow me to retort.”
ALGORITHM is a massive project for an independent movie. It’s almost 2hrs long, with a cast of around 30 people, on location, in a major U.S. city. It’s technically accurate, and emotionally gripping. But, rather than ramble on about the awesomeness I made, I’d like to quote my friend, and fellow writer, Matt Wallace who saw a very early version of the movie earlier this week.
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“I was fortunate enough to screen a rough cut of writer/director @jschiefer’s [this quote is from Twitter, in case you couldn’t tell] #ALGORITHM yesterday. If it ain’t brilliant it’s damn close. ALGORITHM is probably one of the best indie films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely the best movie about technology I’ve ever seen. It called to mind The Social Network and Primer while doing deeper into its subject matter than either of them. Loved it.”
—Matt Wallace (@MattFnWallace)
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It was great to read such praise from a fellow creative, especially one I respect as much as Matt. But, that’s not why I showed him the movie. I showed it to him, and a few others, to get some early feedback, to see if what I was trying to do worked. That quote is a big yes. But, there are also some fixes that need to be made. A lot of the scenes need to be tightened down to their essence, without losing the heart of the movie. And, there are some things that just don’t make as much sense as they need to for ALGORITHM to have the full impact I want it to have.
We don’t have money for reshoots. We don’t have money for expensive post-production CG modifications. So, any fix has to be done with subtlety. (See how I did that? Brought it right back around to the the opening idea. Just be patient and I’ll probably deliver what you want. Or, I’ll bore you or transgress into some side topic or rabbit trail until you stop reading, much like this one could easily…) The fix has to come from the voice over.
I’m normally not a fan of V.O. because they’re usually used as a crutch for bad storytelling. I’ve gone into this in other blog posts. But, that’s not what the V.O. in ALGORITHM does. It is designed to work as an emotional bridge to bring people along for a ride they probably wouldn’t otherwise understand. It works so amazingly well that when I sent out an early version of the script, without the V.O. the reader came back saying that it was so technically complex that he couldn’t possibly understand it. And… that guy wasn’t computer illiterate. He wasn’t a hacker, but he’s quite competent and smart. The moment I added the V.O. in, gone went that technical problem.
In the script, which includes the V.O. not a single person had the problem with the ending that now appears in the movie. And, I should also let you know at this point that the RC Matt and others have seen does not have the V.O. yet.
The script, with the V.O. reads like a techno-thriller. But, the movie, without the V.O. feels more like a techno-drama, with some really intense scenes in for spice. My hope is that the V.O. being added to the movie will once again return it to the thriller category. At least, that’s how I’m writing the V.O. now.
A Voice Over is basically like a volume knob, but instead of volume, it’s intensity and clarity. It can take a scene that’s slow and crank it up to a frenetic pace. Or, it can work as a buffer and slow a frenetic scene down by taking the audience out of the action and getting a bit cerebral about it.
And then there’s the clarity knob. This is where the V.O. can easily become a crutch. If the V.O. tells us things we already know or are about to discover, that’s bad writing. If the V.O. tells us something we could figure out with a bit of thought, that’s also kinda bad writing. But, if the V.O. tells us something there’s no other way we would know, something that couldn’t be conveyed through a good (read: realistic) conversation or a series of images (Use the images first, in movies. The adage is, show, don’t tell.) then it becomes an incredibly useful tool.
And, that gets back to subtlety.