Tag Archives: Editing

Space and Pace

I’ve been thinking a lot about space. Not as in “outer space” but as in breadth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about breath, about the unconscious breath that occurs between sentences, and about catching one’s breath after a dramatic moment. And of course thinking about the cinematic equivalent of these things.

Part of this is jazz guitarist Bill Frisell’s fault because I’ve been kind of obsessed with his music lately, and Frisell is a master of space.

So many of us get caught up in the pyrotechnics musicians employ. We swoon when we hear/see them play dazzlingly fast passages, playing more notes in five seconds than we can count. Frisell is the opposite. He controls the space between the notes like few other musicians. Not playing notes may seem like an easy thing to do, but trust me, it is VERY difficult to do well musically. Here he is playing the Beach Boys Surfer Girl.  You’ll notice his speech is very deliberate as well. Oh, and you may also notice that his tone is mighty tasty. For my money, he has the sweetest tone around.

The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, "Early Summer" by Yasujiro Ozu.
The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, “Early Summer” by Yasujiro Ozu.

This thinking of space, of breadth, and of breath comes at a time when I’m looking at the previous cut and seeing that I have perhaps allowed too much space in it. I always wanted the film to be deliberately paced, to have a meditative quality, to allow the audience to reflect on the moving image before them as they would a painting, to consider what the subject just said as if the subject had just finished reading the last line of a poem. But I don’t want to put people to sleep. I realize we all have different ideas of what “well-paced” is, but at the moment, I’m dealing with my own notions of well-paced, moderately-paced, slow-paced, and too slow-paced. I’m finding that I’m tightening. My concern is I’ll swing too far to the other side of the pendulum. I could perhaps blame my day job for this; it’s there that I put together tight (that’s the goal, anyway), three- to five-minute videos. But perhaps once I get through this cut, I will swing back and feel the need to add more space. Hopefully, eventually, I will find the right amount of space, breadth, and breath, for me, at least.

Any thoughts on finding equilibrium when it comes to pacing? Care to share the titles of films or plays you’ve seen that were perfectly, deliberately paced?

And just because, here’s Frisell playing a bunch of Beatles (Lennon penned) tunes. It’s gorgeous. About 10 1/2 minutes in he talks about seeing the Beatles on TV at age 12 and relearning these songs now, despite the tunes being in his blood. And then he launches into Strawberry Fields. Stick around for the trippy part, where he employs a host of effect pedals.

Time + Distance

Around the turn of the millennium I took a drawing class. At one point I asked the teacher how he put distance between himself and his work.


“I take several steps back.” He said. He understood I was asking him how he went about looking at his work objectively, but his answer was in measurable terms.

Of course his answer was also metaphorical.

I have been obsessed with this question for as long as I can remember. It’s a major challenge for me and, I suspect, for many other people.

The only way I can achieve any sense of objectivity–take several steps back–is by putting time between me and the work. Fortunately, time is something I seem to have a lot of, and putting time between me and A Life’s Work has never been a problem. Mostly, the time has been involuntary and frustrating. During production I ran out of money and I had to stop shooting. Now when I’m trying to get into an editing groove, I have to concentrate on making a living to pay my bills. Something always seems to put the film on the shelf for a bit. Yes, it’s very frustrating. Yes, I want to keep moving forward at a steady pace. But since I can’t always do that, I’ve decided to be positive (today) and proclaim that for the last couple of months—as I was working full time at my day job—I was also putting distance between me and my real work.

Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and close up that distance. I hope the time away will bring some new ideas.

Do you do something that requires you to see it objectively? How do you do it?

Drop me a line. You know I love hearing from you.



I Need More Archival Footage!

A little context: I’m working on a Soleri clip wherein he is critical of hyperconsumption and suburban sprawl — and how sprawl creates a reliance on cars. I’m using interview footage of Soleri and Jeff Stein, AIA, as well as a lecture we shot of Soleri speaking to an audience at the New School here in NYC.

Okay, where to begin?

The first thing I did was set some parameters. What am I looking for? (Images that say suburbs and consumerism.) What decade am I looking for? (1950s and 1960s, this is when Soleri begins coming into his own as a thinker.) Black and white or color? (Both.) Commercials, industrials, home movies, b-movies, or something else? (Commercials and industrial.) I’m especially excited to use commercials. The hucksterism of commercials from that era makes us laugh now (and that’s welcome) but the message is the same. Buying stuff you don’t need or want will make you happy, successful, sexy, etc.

Great, I head over to the Internet Archive, and search “consumerism” and presto-change-o! An embarrassment of riches. Ads for appliances featuring ballroom dancers. Images from the 1950s of housewives in evening gowns. I like that, it echoes what Jill Tarter said about the gender bias she had to deal with growing up in the 50s and 60s. A nice layer. I’ll use some of that.

Search for “suburbia.” More goodies. Lots of white picket fences, middle class families, children playing in yards with trees. A really wonderful industrial made for Redbook is chockfull of images, including people shopping at malls. A banner that reads

Easy Living”! Good stuff in there.

Search for “car commercials.” And here, jackpot.

Take a look at this commercial (one and a half minutes). This suburban housewife felt like a prisoner in her home, until they bought a second car. Now her life is awesome!

The prisoner line and the “it’s a whole new way of life” are perfect.

I found another great industrial about the 1956’s new GM cars that will work nicely with Soleri’s riff on the American Dream, and other images of consumerism will be used, but this commercial will be the centerpiece of that section.

Now to edit it together and have it all make sense. That’s the really difficult part.

To see how editor Cabot Philbrick expertly did that in another clip, click here.

Give Me Tourist Eyes

I went for a walk through Riverside Park (NYC) today and took my little point and shoot camera. I walk through this park frequently, but take my camera along infrequently. The sun was low and there were many things to photograph — people, trees, flowers, oddities, the New Jersey skyline. I thought about the things we photograph and why. And then I remembered this photograph I had taken in Berlin when I was there with Tango Octogenario.


I took this photo because I had never seen urinals shaped like these before. If I were a Berliner, the chances are pretty good I would not have taken this photo. This led me to think about all the photos in NYC I do not take because I’m not a tourist here. Maybe something like this (which I did not take):


If I were visiting Amsterdam, I have no doubt I would take a photo similar to this one:


(I probably would have taken a close-up of the bike in the red rectangle, framed by some of the bricks.)

I have often tried to explain to people who think I should be editing A Life’s Work why I need to hire an editor. I think from now on I will tell them because, when it comes to the film, I no longer have tourist eyes.

Send me a photo of something in the place you live, taken with your tourist eyes, and I’ll put it on the blog [if you want], and I’ll send you an origami crane. You can attach it to an email:
d a v i d [ a t ] b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s ( d o t ) c o m .


There’s a tool editors use called ripple.

The ripple tool in Final Cut Pro leads to unwelcome earworms.
The ripple tool in Final Cut Pro leads to unwelcome earworms.

What it does doesn’t concern this post. What you need to know is I’ve been using this tool frequently, and every time I do the Grateful Dead song “Ripple” lodges itself in my brain.

This does not please me one bit.

Does anyone know how I can avoid this and therefore keep my sanity!

Thank you.

Note: Apologies if the song is now lodged in your brain.

March in Wyoming – Thank You, Ucross!

For the month of March, my home computer monitor will look like this —



— that is, off, because I’ll be at the Ucross Foundation artist residency in Wyoming.

“What Is It with You and Artist Residencies, Licata?”

I’ll be writing, but I’ll also be working on A Life’s Work. It seems I’ve reached a point where I have to start thinking about putting together all these sections (three to six minutes long) I’ve been editing, some of which I’ve revealed on this here little blog.

The film’s narrative structure is straight forward. It begins with a brief Overture where each subject speaks in broad terms about their  subjects. For example, Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute says —

Throughout recorded history humans have wondered what their place in the cosmos actually is. Are we alone? Where do we fit in? Is life somewhere else going to be at all like us?  And how much more is there than what we’ve been able to experience on this one planet?

Following the Overture section,  I have the rest of the film organized thematically, so that Tarter, Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, David and Jared Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and Paolo Soleri of Arcosanti talk about their Goals, Beginnings, Challenges/Meeting Challenges, Setbacks, Successes, and Other Successes. Organizing the themes to create a narrative structure is pretty straightforward, but organizing the order of the subjects within each theme will be a huge challenge, and that’s where I’m at. You can see the mathematical possibilities are quite numerous.

So I’ll be shuffling all these sections around within each theme. I will be looking for strong transitions, because this film is going to … not live and die by the transitions, but sparkle or not by the transitions. I’m taking a laptop loaded with iMovie and these sections. I’m not looking to do any fine editing. I just want to move stuff around and see what happens.

It should be an exciting month.

And though the posts may slow down a little, you can be sure I’ll be uploading some photos of the Wyoming landscape. Hopefully  the blizzards will wait until I’m back in NYC.


About the Clips

There are a bunch of original clips using footage shot for A Life’s Work on this blog. You can see a list of posts that contain clips by clicking here. If you visit the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel you can watch them without reading the text.

What’s With the Clips, Anyway?

Each time I put a clip up I have a little fear that someone will see it and think it’s part of the finished film. And then look at another clip and say, “Huh, what the hell are these two clips going to be in the same film?”

Editing at the MacDowell Colony, 2010.

Some are taken from the 36-minute sample editor Cabot Philbrick and/or I put together (“The Redwoods,” “Looking for Rare Gospel Vinyl,” “Jill Tarter on Growing Up in the 50s”), but most I edited especially for the blog. The film right now has a somewhat sturdy outline and many of those clips don’t fall within its parameters. Does that mean they won’t be in the finished film?

My Notebook

Some most definitely won’t be (“First Shots”)*, and others will most likely not be (“What’s My Favorite Tree,” though part of David Milarch’s answer and the archival footage might be). And the rest? Who knows? This blog has become a notebook for me, a way for me to focus what I’m working on and try some new things. Editing the clips makes me review footage and think of new possibilities. “Paolo Soleri Discusses Arcosanti Residents” is a good example of this. It’s quite possible that some of those shots and edits will make it in the final film, and that clip was really put together exclusively for here.

So, when you watch a clip, you might be seeing something like the birth of an idea that will be in the final film, or something that might make it to the DVD extras, or, in the case of something like “Ends,” just a favorite shot of mine that will only be seen here.

No matter where they wind up, it’s exciting for me to share them. Do you enjoy watching them? Let me know.

You can view most of the clips I mentioned and a LOT more by visiting the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel.


* “First Shots” and nine other clips are on Vimeo. These clips are mostly tangential, more like outtakes. They are usually just a series of shots or some weird little one offs such as this one: “Banter at the Allen Telescope Array.”