Editing is a wonderfully creative process which begins as soon as you start reading a script. Working as both Director and Editor on The Trial of Lady Godiva by Stephen Hardy has been an illuminating experience with regards to the visual and technical process of putting a film together.
As a scriptwriter I am heavily reliant on my visual sense, I 'see' a scene before writing it. For me the visuals come first, and the dialogue is there to serve the visual storytelling. It is probably the reason why my first two short scripts were practically silent films! As a result, it's clear to me that my editing process is already happening at the stage of creation.
Working with someone else's writing, in this instance taking a play which is completely reliant on dialogue rather than action, has been instructive in that the same strong visual process which happens in writing, happens when reading someone else's work. In a strange way it has felt like a natural progression. When reading Stephen's play, I saw it filmically. I started constructing it visually from the first read.
Mindful of our technical and time limits, I broke it down into shots that could be filmed within a five hour shooting period with three cameras (two fixed and one hand-held). Collaborating with Gary Tanner, the DoP, helped pull these initial ideas back further, keeping it simple but with the possibility of working more in the edit.
When directing, the limits of a court setting with regards to movement and the positioning of the actors in relation to their role in the piece, of course, set useful natural limits on what was possible. Given this is a provocation, it is essential that the storytelling is clear so that the points of interest and debate in the work came strongly across. This (and the DoP) also helped rein in my tendency for more artistic flourishes! Close-ups of the witnesses and the accused as opposed to mid and wide-shots of the defence, prosecution and judge, helped create a sense of tension and sympathy towards those being questioned, whilst emphasising the performance aspect of the court professionals.
Having a limited crew and a limited budget also helped to create and control the film in a useful and very practical way. The years of expertise and patience of Gary, who is used to working on far bigger projects, ensured that we have in the can a film that is visually interesting and engaging within those constraints.
In the editing suite we used DaVinci Resolve 17, which I've written about elsewhere. Given the visual prep-work put into the script breakdown and shooting, the initial assembly was relatively straight forward. Editing the rhythm of the shots during the scenes where witnesses are questioned was particularly satisfying. It was wonderful to piece together the jigsaw of shots which Gary had usefully categorised into separate folders under character, and see what had been in the head appear on the screen.
My essential 'note to self', was to ensure that next time I direct with limited budget and time (which is highly likely), I pay more attention to the cutaways - those shots which enhance the visual storytelling, and which can also cover up a multitude of sins.
The final edit is scheduled before Christmas so I hope to share the results in the next couple of weeks.