A group of about 40 wider industry people attended the ’’Opening the Creative Channels of Communication’’ panel discussion held at the Horse + Trap pub Mt Eden on the 19th of November.
A collaborative event between the Directors and Editors Guild and NZCS, supported with financial assistance from The Film Commission, the widely experienced panel of actor/writer/director Fiona Samuel, editor Peter Roberts and NZCS member cinematographer/director Simon Raby was mediated by producer Christina Milligan.
The informal discussion started with Christina asking Fiona at what stage in the process did she start talking to an editor and DoP. Fiona said that usually it was after the money was in place, but some prior discussions may have happened. She described the process of choosing her DoP and editor as similar to casting her actors and carried the same importance for her. Asked as a writer whether she would involve an editor or DoP in that early part she said that she hadn’t in the past as there was a degree of ‘’working in your pyjamas’’ or ‘’nakedness’’ at that stage, but felt it was something that she would do if there was good reason. Both Peter and Simon felt any early involvement in a project was good for them as it could only help the thought and preparation processes. But of course it started with reading a script.
When asked as editor and DoP what criteria they used for deciding on whether to get on board with a project, both were adamant that making an emotional connection with the story was paramount, and then determining that there was common ground with the director in regard to the tone and style of the project. Simon spoke of visualizing and pacing a story while reading the script. Peter also mentioned getting an early feel for the edit pace of a project through the script. Having a common emotional connection with a story was an underlying theme for all three throughout the discussion. Fiona spoke of the importance to her of spending prep time on location with the DoP, and how it was there that she was able to actually start getting a feeling for how scenes could be staged, with the DoP’s input.
Simon described this time as when the 3D space was considered for it’s realization into a 2D word and the ‘’architecture’’ and look of a project could start to be felt. Also how important it was to use that time to nut out the physical and logistical problems that may arise on location and talk about these with the director regardless of whether the director had a strong technical understanding or not. This time and communication seemed invaluable to both Fiona and Simon. Peter said he very rarely if ever visited locations and that in fact by doing so could prejudice him with preconceived ideas about geography.
Simon and Peter admitted that traditionally there wasn’t a lot of communication between DoP and editor and when there was it usually started with technical discussions re codec’s and slating, etc. But both thought additional communication could only benefit a project. Peter also talked of the editor’s job now becoming bigger with the sheer volume of material that can eventuate with digital capture and the need for all that material to be viewed and organized. To this point Fiona mentioned that she was happy to forgo watching rushes as she was usually ‘’buggered’’ and would only do so if she thought she had a problem. However, all thought that crew screenings of rushes was a good idea and helped with the feeling of inclusion for everyone.
In the edit suite Fiona was always happy to see a new perspective on a scene or listen to what the editor may have to say. When asked about potential difficulties in the edit suite Peter described tricks he has for making directors feel a contrary view point was actually theirs all along. Simon and Peter also felt editing as you go was good for the editor/DoP relationship and very helpful when it came to filling in holes. Plus Simon mentioned it helped fine tune coverage and keep him focused on the ‘’beats’’ of the script he is always looking for.
Peter and Simon both spoke of the role of DIT becoming the ‘’new lab’’ and how although traditionally a camera department job it could easily move into a post job with Peter suggesting it could be done by an assistant editor and thereby giving him an additional set of eyes.
When asked about what made a happy set both Fiona and Simon thought that a crew focused on the story and task at hand made for a good time. Simon mentioned the need for departments to gel and work together and not be insular. Fiona said laughs and light relief were always welcome and important too.
Fiona, Peter and Simon all spoke of their commitment to filmmaking–even with tight budget constraints there was always a desire to give and do the best job possible. Fiona spoke genuinely of the great generosity of creative people and it was obvious to all that a big part of that generosity is making time to communicate. It’s a vital part of the process in our industry and must be nurtured and encouraged.
The panel wrapped up after about an hour or so for a general chat and drink to culminate a really worthwhile event.
Thanks to all who organized and participated!