Way back in the 20th Century I made my first film. I was working with a very experienced editor who indulged my notes about shortening this shot a hair and lengthening that shot a smidgen, until finally she said, “David. I know you want it to be perfect, but two things. One, it’s never going to be Citizen Kane,” she was straight up like that, “and two, you’re obsessing about these tiny details and I have to tell you, you’re going to screen this at film festivals and they’re going start with the lights still up or the sound off. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen at Sundance!”
The world premiere of 8 1/2 x 11 took place at a very nice (but now defunct) festival and started off a bit rocky. The program was introduced, the emcee exited, the lights went down … and nothing happened for about a minute. A crowd of people doesn’t like to sit in the dark like that for a minute. It’s very awkward and a little unnerving. When the first images flickered on the screen, they did so without sound for about 15 seconds. In addition to being a fine editor, she was also, apparently, a pretty good psychic.
When I consider how films are screened and viewed nowadays, shown on the tiniest of screens and watched by an audience distracted by all of our modern gadgets, I wonder what’s the point of obsessing over the smallest details. It’s disheartening from time to time, so much so that I just want to throw my hands up in the air like I just don’t care, and not in a good way. But though I don’t have control of how the viewer watches A Life’s Work, I do control the content. So to that end, my job is to make it as good as I can possibly can.
But, it seems, I don’t always control the content either, as I found out the other day while looking for something on YouTube. Look at what “teamferryboat” did to 8 1/2 x 11.
I couldn’t watch it, but it seems someone compiled just the Ellen Pompeo scenes. Now, I love Ellen’s work in this film, but “teamferryboat” just downloaded my film, cut out 8 minutes, and uploaded a horribly pixelated, nonsensical version for the world to see. I wasn’t credited, and needless to say, all this was done without my permission. Good thing I hold the copyright.
So it seems I don’t control the content. Some vague “We” does, just like the opening credits of The Outer Limits proclaimed 50 years ago.
What to do, what to do?