If you feel no sense of accomplishment, what is the point of attempting to do anything at all? How do you know you’re on a journey you can appreciate?
Why You Shouldn’t Give Up On Your Dreams
Last Fall I talked a little about why you shouldn’t give up on your dreams. In particular, I talked about the experience my wife, Emily, had recently had with her short film Are You Listening, and how her hard work and perseverance led to her winning the Best Writer at the Smoky Mountain Film Festival.
Well, I can now claim to have had a moment a bit like that, too.
Around the same time of the afore-motioned festival, I was approached by Eric Byford and Beardforce Films about editing a project that he was working on entitled Straight Up: Kentucky Bourbon. It was to be a followup to his multi-award winning Straight Up: Tennessee Whiskey, which was itself a short film documentary. Kentucky Bourbon would be a full feature film documentary – new territory for Eric and certainly new territory for me.
I remember when I was hired, I was sitting at a table eating breakfast (or brunch, maybe) with Eric at IHOP in Nashville and, not knowing the amount of footage that was involved, I told him I could likely have the first cut done by Thanksgiving which, I think, was about three or four weeks from that moment in time. Of course, I had no idea how much footage there was, and I didn’t realize it until I actually sat down to organize and categorize it. We’re talking well over a dozen interviews, some two hours long, all equaling out to probably somewhere between 20 and 24 hours.
It’s possible I’m exaggerating, but I highly doubt it… it really doesn’t feel like I am.
Considering what I’d done up to that point (music videos, promos, television commercials and sketch comedy – all things under 5-10 minutes), this looked completely insane.
Straight Up Editing
There were certainly times where I didn’t think I could get it done.
It was a long process of going through each interview, cutting out the questions done by the interviewer (Eric, in this case), and finding a category that all of the different answers and stories could go into. Some answers might go into “Early History” while others might go into “Government Involvement” and others still into places like “Industry – Family” and so on. I believe I had roughly twenty different possible categories, which essentially were the basis for each segment in the film. Eric’s direction was mainly to start from the early history and work my way up to the present – in doing so I would sometimes go off in little sidebars that helped flesh out the story of bourbon – like Bottled in Bond in the History section, or the Kentucky Distillers Association in Government.
It was early February (yes, really) before I had done enough categorizing and whittling to actually have the meat of each segment laid out. It was another month of rearranging each piece within a segment so that I could use each interviewer’s little blurbs and soundbites to create a flowing story. Believe it or not, once everything was categorized and sorted into a proper segment, this part was extremely easy. The story more or less told itself, and it was very clear most of the time which soundbite should lead into the next. It became a growing organism. It came alive! And as it was doing so, Eric was able to look at each cut and hand me back notes that further tightened the film up.
I believe I was done with the main cut in early March. I was hired just for the cut – not to handle the color, or the sound or even the dropping in of B Roll.
Sidebar: The idea behind the B Roll is that it would first help keep the piece from being a monotonous series of talking heads; second it would help to cover up hard cuts (like if an interviewer said one thing and then I immediately cut to something else he said, which would look obvious). At the time I thought, thank God I wasn’t going to be responsible for any of that! I hadn’t seen any of the B Roll, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to drop that in and cover up some of the cuts.
The Great Panic Of 2016
In April, I got a surprise – Eric needed me to do the B Roll editing after all, as well as drop in titles and music and hand each segment off to sound and color within two weeks (because the Louisville premiere would be then). As it so happens, the person he’d hired to take care of this hadn’t delivered what Eric had wanted, and so he came back to me for help. On one hand it was incredibly humbling to have him come back to me, of all people, to handle this part of the process; it was also a wonderful feeling to know he trusted me to get it done.
On the other hand… oh shit!
I about nearly had a panic attack. In fact, Emily will probably tell you that I did have one. Again, I hadn’t seen the B Roll, and I didn’t know what kind of time I was going to have to make this happen. It was a lot of pressure. Particularly if you consider what I noted above – Eric was trusting me to do this. He had faith in me. That’s a huge responsibility that I take very seriously, so it goes without saying that I did not want to let him down.
And, as it is, I tend to work better under pressure, with final deadlines. It’s hard, and often-times scary, but that is – in a strange way – part of the fun of it.
As I was putting the B Roll in and dropping in music, we came to realize that a good portion of the B Roll we had wasn’t usable – not for our tastes nor for the pacing of the film – so we had to do a mad scramble to find or create more whenever and wherever we could. Not an easy task considering the time crunch we were up against. Yet, somehow, Eric managed to snag a lot of what we needed, and I found creative ways to utilize some of what we already had in order to make the movie work. I had actually just finished test-screening the Blu-Ray of the film (to ensure that it would function and play properly) when Eric stopped by to pick it up on his way to Louisville for the world premiere.
Talk about cutting it close!
Screening And Dreaming
I wasn’t able to attend that screening because I wasn’t available, however, a few weeks ago I was able to attend the Tennessee premiere in Franklin, at the Franklin Theater. It was an incredible feeling not only to see this big thing that I’d done playing on a gigantic screen, but also to see all the people who had come to support Eric and the film (the theater was practically full) and to hear all the wonderful things attendees had to say about the movie and my editing in particular.
I have a hard time taking compliments or praise. I don’t know why this is. Maybe I feel like I’m a part of something larger than myself. Maybe I don’t think I’m that special. Maybe I’m afraid of that big monster called Pride. Maybe I’m aware of that little megalomaniac inside my brain that’s always threatening to swell my head up, and as a result I squash him before he can say or do anything.
Actually… yeah… I think it’s that last one.
In any event, working on this project hasn’t just been a fantastic exercise in film editing, it has challenged me to relax (once it’s done, mind you) and understand that it is okay for me to take pride in my work. I downplay the things I’ve done so often that it frustrates Emily to no end – she always tells me that I need to be proud of and appreciate the things I’ve accomplished, big or small. And she’s right. After all, if I can’t feel any sense of accomplishment, what is the point of attempting to do anything at all? If I don’t say much about what I do and what I’ve done, how is anyone to know that I’m worth picking up for their next project?
If I won’t talk myself up – if I don’t highly value my worth – why would anyone else?
Isn’t that sense of accomplishment part of how you know you’re on an actual journey? Isn’t that part of the point?
Appreciate What You Do
Sitting there in the theater, watching the film play before me, (after quite a few drinks of bourbon), I couldn’t believe that we had done it! I couldn’t believe that I’d accomplished this thing! Beyond that, I couldn’t quite remember how the heck I’d gotten all that footage into this condensed 80-minute story. It looked and sounded amazing, and it was incredible to see this thing on a giant screen after having watched it over and over and over again on my computer’s tiny little one.
Watching the film on the big screen showed me how far I had come in seven years, with absolutely no training and just a make-it-happen, learn-it-as-I-go attitude – very much in the spirit of what makes Kentucky Bourbon and the people behind it what it is.
8 months ago, this picture was a collection of seemingly random videos, interviews and music. Now, somehow, in front of me was this living thing! I took up the challenge, I saw it through and it got done.
What an incredible thing, indeed.
And certainly something to appreciate.