DOG resurrection

She’s back! Daughter of God is in the house.

3:30 minutes

The first objective was to post a micro version of the story (~3:00 minutes) by Wednesday 8/10.  Between Sunday 8/7 and Wednesday 8/10 I was able to dedicate 11 hours to extracting the essential moments from Acts 1 and 2.

The last time I had tried to cut DOG down was 2009. While going from 26:40 to 12:00, I had explored the “Previously on Dexter” approach, borrowing from the recap style of episodic TV – DOG as an orphaned episode from a trans-dimensional dramedy.

The 3 minute cut was feeling like that, which was fine. Even so, I experimented with adding just enough back to soften the jarring continuity breaks and jump cuts. The final 3:30 version points to a possible hybrid between recap and traditional editorial, an accelerated narrative, sleek. How many shots are needed to depict action? <1. What is needed to feel flow? Can I develop a hand cranked compression algorithm for cognitive coherence? Imagine distilling a story down to essential information rich packets, streaming across the screen.  To be continued…

Two versions were posted by 8:00 pm on 8/10 – the no frills 3:30 cut and a 5:20 version with an Uncle Joe beginning and ending tacked on.

So what was the objective of the 3 minute version? From the previous post…

A working edit of approximately 12 minutes is the grail. How to get there? 1) Feeling like an editor and 2) establishing inner and outer inventory are key. Another strategy is to limber up with an audacious exercise – cutting a 3 minute version. If I can bust it down to 3 minutes, then 12 minutes will feel like extravagance.

Feeling like an editor means feeling competent and inspired. Reacquainting myself with the material to the point where I could pull off a 3 minute version has been exhilarating. Though there are gaffs, blunders and horrible errors to deal with in DOG, I know I can find a way. This confidence is both authentic and vital. Finishing a first film is tough, especially 5 years after shooting. Every aspect of the plan should generate energy and enthusiasm. Momentum is everything.

The 3 minute cut illustrated how a comprehensive inventory is clearly the next step – I’ll want a full palette. What I don’t have I can make, but there’s no point remaking what already exists. It’s amazing how many intriguing exploits I discovered rooting through the archives.

Cutting the project down to 3 minutes showed the way. The 12 minute cut now feels totally doable, especially since I have the “sleek” technique in my toolbox. I know the 3:30 is going to be the basis of longer cuts, as the 5:20 illustrates. I could even do several 3 minute variants, just to be sure I’ve got the best of all possible cores.

Faisal out the house

On Thursday 8/11 a slight snafu. After Faisal had checked out the shorts, he and I had a rather rushed and one sided conversation. I was excited to share my lessons from the latest achievement, what the 3 minute edit suggested for the future and why I was so energized to be back in the saddle. Rather than listen and get the report, he started giving unsolicited… creative… opinions. Thus was revealed our mutual mistake – we hadn’t clearly defined the Producer’s job description in writing.

Faisal is an accomplished editor, with scads of narrative and doc projects to his credit. He’s now working on a complex doc for theatrical release that will likely capture some serious kudos. He’s hooked up and has contacts. More important than all of that, I like him. We eat the same sort of food.

In early December 2010, over cups of mint tea at 12 chairs in Soho, Faisal offered to be DOG’s Producer. What I thought I heard him say was that he would help me to set realistic goals and follow up on their achievement. I recall we talked about how I might draw upon his extensive editorial experience and network. I’m sure I said that I would retain complete control over the creative direction. That was what I remember. I really appreciated my friend’s offer to help. Knowing that he would be engaged and expecting results felt like motivation.

Jeez, how many times do I need to get my ass kicked about contracts, letters of agreements and the like?  I had intended to discuss this with my entertainment lawyer, Innes Smolansky, oops. Faisal and I didn’t even review our understanding on the phone. Nine months later, what I wanted and what he was offering were completely at odds. So, I fired him. Heck, he was going on vacation for a few weeks anyway. When he returns – if he’s still crazy enough to want to help – we can put our expectations in writing and reactivate.

Generally, a Producer’s job description varies based on the specific requirements of the project AND the unique super powers of the prospective Producer. In an ideal world what’s wanted and what’s available are matched.  Handy producer attributes include being well connected in the biz, technically savvy, organizationally fluent, socially adept, open minded and svelte of ego. At the minimum they ought to be a movie enthusiast with project management hutzpah.

DOG’s producer should be able to understand the completion plan, offer cognizant feedback about time, budget and resource requirements, monitor progress and follow up to make sure milestones are met. DOG could use a pragmatic savant, an accomplished artist who is thrilled by threading nuts onto bolts.

Here’s what I wrote to Faisal after our talk…

The objective is to finish this movie. I’m building a plan for completion and working the plan. Knowing that someone is out there providing a reality check for the plan and making sure deadlines are met is highly useful. It might also be helpful if you tried to understand my vision and get behind it, though that’s not absolutely necessary.

Getting behind my vision is not absolutely necessary because the Producer’s job description doesn’t include creative direction. I can’t afford to complicate the completion process with conflicting visions of what DOG should be. One cook is plenty for this soup.

Stepping up as Producer pro tem is El Carne Loco. He’s been building sweat equity on DOG since it’s inception. Here’s an interview transcription.

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