The Process - THIS/NEXT/LAST TIME Part III
Momentum is a critical component of any creative endeavour. Without it, your project is doomed to languish before completion.
I lost my momentum.
After returning from London, it took me weeks before I got around to editing together the exterior scenes we shot. I’m not sure if it was general apathy towards the project or just working around my pre-existing schedule, but it took until almost Christmas before I had anything to show Chris and Bobcat.
The biggest issue to tackle in the edit was the scene transitions. As written and shot, the movement of my character, Ted, through the bar door would carry us from one scene to the other. However, when shooting the exteriors we didn’t have access to open the door all night, so we had to shoot around the actual entrance except for the last scene.
Added to the complication was the dialogue — it was designed to start on one side and finish in a new context on the other. By shooting the scenes 9 months apart, we lost the connective tissue to really sell that idea.
The most significant change to the film was made fairly early on - we removed an entire scene.
Originally the film started with the exterior of me banging my head against the wall, went inside for Christmas, then returned to the exterior for Halloween. This lacked punch, as the opening scene had far less production value than the interior, so by dropping the Halloween scene, we could start in the inside, go out to the head bashing scene, and return for New Year’s. It took some work around to get the transitions to smooth out, but it works substantially better and gets us into the film in a faster and funnier way; in hindsight it should always have started in the bar first.
Once we finally had a decent rough cut, the real problems started to emerge.
We began to show the edit to some unbiased friends and family, and while we got some very positive feedback, we also kept getting the same note: it feels incomplete. Multiple people mentioned it felt more like a trailer for something longer, and they were right; somehow in the re-writes we had lost or muddled the story too much. People wanted to see more of Ted and Erin, portrayed by the beautiful Amanda Verhagen, but the film had become more about his inaction rather than their relationship - an obvious mistake in hindsight that was not present in the first draft.
There wasn’t much we could do, as it was practically impossible to do any reshoots. We thought about some pickup shots that might help, but at the end of the day what we had just wasn’t exactly what we wanted.
So the film became what it is now, and I wasn’t satisfied with it. I let it sit on a shelf for the better part of a year because I didn’t feel like it was good enough. It didn’t resonate the way I wanted it to, and more importantly, a year later I didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t feel the same way I did when Chris and I were writing it, and it became hard to want to put out an idea I no longer believed in.
It wasn’t until December 2013 that my mind was changed. I was chatting with a friend who was going though a situation similar to what I had experienced, and I decided to send him a link to watch the film. Not long after I got a reply, “Yeah, that’s about how it feels.”
Even though I’d lost momentum, it didn’t mean what Chris and I created was invalid or didn’t work on some small level, and it wasn’t fair to all those who volunteered their time and energy to just sit on the project. So in January of 2014, almost exactly two years since we began shooting, the film (now retitled to THIS/NEXT/LAST TIME after anguishing discussion) premiered at the Short Circuit Film Festival in Victoria, and it made its way online 6 months later.
The film never “took off” or got many hits at all, but that’s all besides the point. It said what Chris and I were trying to say, and shit, we made something. It was a great learning experience, and it makes me chuckle. That’s enough.
• TRUST YOUR SCRIPT
Sure, the second version of the script saved our butts when we had to postpone the shoot, but had we stuck to the original version, we never would have been outside anyways. Plus we wouldn’t have had a gimmick get in the way of our story. Story first, always.
• KEEP MOMENTUM
Especially if you’re one of the primary creative forces behind a project, you have to keep invested. Time will change your perspective and feelings about it, but your job is to keep it moving. Taking extended time away from your purpose will kill your momentum and do nothing but hurt the project.
• JUST RELEASE IT
When all is said and done, the whole point of making things is for them to be seen or experienced, no matter how far they fall from your expectations. Unless it’s an un-resounding failure, just learn from your mistakes, put it out and move on.
More than anything I have to thank everyone in the cast and crew who volunteered their time to help this project, and apologize for letting it sit on a shelf for so long. To Bobcat, you are a champion among men. You get things done, and this film would absolutely never have happened without you. To Chris, you made this film better than it should be. Without your writing and directing, and your hilarious ad-libs on set, this wouldn’t have worked at all. I should have trusted in our first draft, and I will forever be sorry for that, but thanks for going along with my insanity anyways.
And if you care to revisit it, here is the final film: