The First Cut Is the Hardest – A Clip & Process

First there is a lot of procrastination.

I’m not a procrastinator by nature, but something about editing really brings it out in me. Like now, as I’m writing this, I have Final Cut Pro open and I should be working on a SETI sequence for A Life’s Work. But instead, I’m going to write about the process of putting together a sequence.

Right, so here’s the clip.


And here’s how I arrived at that clip.

It begins by compiling all the talking head bits I think might have some place in the sequence, in this case anything Soleri said about the residents and their lives at Arcosanti. Then I read those bits over and over.

For this short clip I decided to focus on Soleri speaking about how great friendships are forged at Arcosanti. I knew I wanted the musicians and I knew I wanted the people sitting on top of the vault watching the sunset. Two beautiful images that said “friendship.” Then it occurred to me to make the geographical focus of this section the Vaults. This was a perfect fit, since the Vaults are where Arcosanti’s town meetings are held.

Great. That’s a start, right? Not really. There’s a lot of talking head to cover. So what did I do next? I typed the subtitles, a necessary activity, but not a pressing one. Then I procrastinated some more. This usually involves cleaning my apartment, playing guitar, going food shopping, going to the gym, doing laundry, playing Facebook Scrabble, making ginger tea, biking to New Jersey, that kind of thing. Then, when I’ve had enough of all of that, it’s time to dive back into the footage and choose “selex”; that is, any visual imagery I think might work over what Soleri is saying.  As I looked at the selex, I could see a little story developing. The young man and woman are clearly friends, maybe more than friends. The musicians may be friends, but maybe they’ve just found each other and are jamming. But I liked the relationship between the musicians and the couple–she dances and looks at them, the guitarist accepts the applause. Yippee! I have something. A center.

Since I’m always thinking about time with this film, I decided I could make this little clip a kind of day in the life of the Vaults. I establish place with the two long shots, and though you may not consciously register it, it’s early morning. With the tilt up from inside the Vaults (1:24) time passes and we’ve gone from morning with the young couple to dusk with the older couple. It is as if our young couple, dancing and exuberant, she pouring a drink from a can in to his mouth, have aged and mellowed and are the couple on the roof, watching the sunset, drinking wine out of stemmed glasses. And though the years have passed, a sense of wonder still remains, as they look up and point out stars to each other. Fade out.

Now I have to make it work. Select the best sections of the shots, work on transitions, decide where I’m cutting away from Soleri and where I’m cutting into him. The options are infinite.

In the midst of that, I remembered Soleri saying something about Arcosanti being an instrument and he was the instrument maker. I searched for it and found it. With a tweak, I thought it would make a nice introduction to the segment.

So that’s the process. Will this be used in the final film? Don’t know. I really edited this clip for the blog. I was procrastinating.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into my film brain.