Putting the Pieces Together

Sanj has edited a few rough cuts of the film (with feedback from John and me), and we are very close to picture lock and moving on to the final stages of post-production. (A rough cut, for those unfamiliar with the term, is an assembly of the chosen footage, with the shots edited together in the sequence in which they’ll appear in the final film. They’re the equivalent of drafts in writing, going through editorial stages before approval.)

Rough cuts — as the name suggests — are “rough.” They ain’t always pretty, but they provide a crucial starting point that, through iteration (editing, review, feedback; rinse; repeat) brings us ever closer to releasing the film.

It is the editor (Sanj, in this case) who has the daunting task of adding the best elements for each cut. He had to catalog hours and hours of footage, then choose the right elements to create a 10-minute short film. Once he finishes a cut, he shares with John and me. We, in turn, provide notes back to Sanj, which he takes into consideration when editing another cut.

It’s a laborious process, requiring great patience and skill. And I’m happy to say that with each and every cut, I grow more and more excited about the potential of the end result.

Sanj’s expertise is what drives us through this portion of post-production, but as co-producers, John and I also influence what ultimately makes the final cut. As the film’s writer and director, I have a definite vision of what I want to see in the film. John, as the cinematographer with post-production artistry, has his own interpretation of my ideas — and his eye is very evident in every shot. Complementing John’s eye is Sanj’s ear, as Sanj was the guy on set capturing sound (and he’s very aware of this when editing). Sanj is also in charge of setting the pace with his editing, as his instincts very much dictate the flow.

On one hand, working through rough cuts is a very collaborative process, but, on the other, we all have very specific and important roles. In a sense, the editing almost began before production — with the script. Here’s an example…from the very first page of my screenplay:

(As an aside, I must confess that my script breaks some cardinal rules of screenwriting — most significantly, don’t write “direction.” Specifically, my script outlines the camera action, and that’s a no-no. The screenplay should only give the basic action, plot, and dialogue, while the director quite literally calls the shots. Since I am the director, however, my screenwriting faux pas is a bit more acceptable.)

To provide additional guidance, I also drew crude storyboards to help illustrate what I wanted to see. Here’s what I prepared to match the script page above:

As cinematographer, John used these storyboards when considering how to set up shots. As editor, Sanj also used these storyboards to determine which shots should go into the cut. Neither John nor Sanj, however, were beholden to all of my proposals. They applied their talents as well, made improvements, and added amazing things that I had never even considered.

To give you an example: As you can see from the script page, the film starts in the interior of a home. In the story, the home is located in a forest in feudal Japan. Getting the appropriate home was tough enough for location scouting. I never imagined that we could show the outside. This is where John’s aforementioned post-production artistry came in. He explained how by compositing a green-screen shot and stock footage, he could give us an establishing shot outside. So I added this to the storyboard (the very first box) to indicate the new flow of the film, and here’s a taste of what John created for the opening…

This image shows John’s composite, but it also shows Sanj’s editing work, using Adobe After Effects to insert John’s input into the cut. As you might notice from everything on the screen, Sanj isn’t simply copying and pasting pieces together though. He has to fine-tune every moment…and that’s just for the rough cut!

Speaking of which…here’s a brief glimpse from the beginning of the film — reflecting the exact description from the original script and storyboard (and demonstrating the parts that Sanj and John played when shooting and editing the film, respectively):

Again, this clip is from the rough cut. It still needs to go through color correction (we have an expert waiting to convert the film to black and white and fix any lighting issues). The film also needs to go to our composer and sound designer for music and more. (Per the script, we should hear thunder in this clip. That’s not in the rough cut. It will be in the final cut.)

But consider everything that got us to this point, as detailed throughout this post: the writing, the planning, the days and days of production, the post-production mastery (from John’s composite to Sanj’s long hours of editing). That 19-second clip above — while hardly an impressive piece of cinema independently — required a tremendous amount of dedication and energy. And when that clip is finally seen within context of the whole film, it will create a sense of dread and set an important cadence — especially when heightened with sound design and converted to haunting black and white (where ghostly shadows and light are more easily manipulated).

I should not overlook another important contribution that got us to this point: the contribution from our supporters. Those who have followed the project, promoted it, donated to it…they have helped us every step of the way — by encouraging us and/or financing the film.

Thanks to our supporters, we’ve made it this far. And thanks to them, we’ll release the film in 2023.

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2023, I’m so very proud of Kaishakunin. A lot of people did a lot for this film this year (excluding Sanj, John, and me, we have a much larger cast and crew who deserve credit), and as I shared in this post, adding each and every piece requires a great deal of effort. The reward is our love for doing this. We love telling stories. We love making films.

We want you to love this one.

We think you will.

You’ll be able to see for yourself in 2023.

I’ll share more news in the New Year. May yours be happy and healthy.

Leave a Comment