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August 13, 2013

ATBS Frames, Pt. 9


This shot is the first shot of the end of the movie.

When I put together my first cut of the film, I broke the movie into three chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. I even had cards to denote this. This scene was the last one of chapter three; everything else that happened in the movie was an epilogue. Even though I wound up removing those cards, I still feel that the narrative breaks they denoted are very much in place. Hence, this is the end of the movie. If an audience member were to walk out after this scene, I would theoretically be okay with that. If some devilish producer had told me I had to chose between this or everything after, I would have rolled the credits when this scene ended. Certainly, the movie needs the epilogue. But the final shot of this scene, where the car drives off into the distance, is where Bob Muldoon's journey comes to an end.

But that's the last shot, and I'm here to talk about the first. This shot is very simple and very direct, which is why it's important. We shot it as we were driving back to base camp after finishing the rest of the scene. We put a 100mm lens on the camera and just rolled, grabbing fleeting little details, racking between Casey's hand on the gun and Rami's hands on the steering wheel, panning up and and then to an ECU of Rami's eyes.

When I first cut this scene, I got into it with a series of glimpses made up of this very footage. Three or four shots, all jittery and irresolute, which cohered into an impression of the circumstances at hand. A glimpse of a gun here, a frightened glance there. This is an editorial style with which I am completely comfortable - a decoupage approach, in which no frame needs to be perfect or direct or 100% clear, because clarity is going to come from the accumulated value of multiple images juxtaposed together in fluid fashion. The movie has very little of this type of editing, mainly because our visual approach doesn't completely support it. Which was intentional. But my brain naturally strays towards this type of cutting, and I was happy that this footage lent itself to such montage.

I've hinted here and there about my frustration with the editing process on this film. The comfort zone I looked forward to all through the shoot turned into a sticky mess of red tape that we never quite managed to cut through. It was (not through the part of any person) an unhappy and unproductive situation. In spite of this, there are things that my collaborators brought to the table that I am immensely grateful for, and this shot is one of them. After I had made my slipstream point of entry, Craig McKay took it and distilled it down to this single shot. Upon first glance I wanted to take thing back to the way I had them, but after thinking about it, I realized he had did what any good editor does, which is to let the picture speak. In this case, we had a very solid frame that told the audience everything you needed to know about the situation. There was a gun and it was being pointed. Nothing fancy, no slippery edits required. This is how we shot the movie, with strong images designed to do heavy lifting, and here was a muscular edit to match. I started referring to it as a John Ford cut. It made its point, and it actually made me think about the entire movie in a new and more direct light.

I'm glad I listened.

Posted by David Lowery at August 13, 2013 1:57 AM