Saturday 9th February 2013
A glorious day, what more can I say.
In fact what the hell do I want to say. I sat on the deck this morning with Wellie pals Julian and Diana. Julian played guitar with crickets very alive in the background and a gentle breeze. Now this, as he played guitar, how he sang and hummed and strummed, this is how I want the music input for my Documentary to be. Spontaneous, as if played by the campfire, as I sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon, alone. As I drive, hike, explore. Julian is a classic english musician in the traditional sense, Diana is an awesome Acapella slinger. The sound of her voice gently drifting in our garden was a joy.
Sound has been a very large part of my film making years. My life actually. There, sitting on the bench in front of me is my collection or what remains of my musical collection as a young teen. 45‘s. Still in good knick, all numbered from Cajun to African to Opera to Pop. Today my music collection is made up of some 2500 CD’s and quite a large Collection of Vinyl LP’s. I am not a musician, cannot strum or drum. Cannot read or write chords but I can take a variety of musical strands and create an emotional music track of it’s own. In the 90’s for LandRover, in America, I cobbled African Mine Music, a Mickey Hart Drum track and Australian Didjeridoo into an awesome piece that the Ad agency paid some one, not me, 45 grand to make into a legal track, no different from what I concocted. I loved doing that. Another time clients flew me from Los Angeles to Vancouver for an edit. They invited me to sit in on the music session where a top Canadien composer displayed his wares. The client was totally unimpressed. The composer offered up another version, fingers crossed I guess. Still unimpressed. The client turned and asked for my opinion, dangerous ground :) I suggested they line both tracks together and play them as one track. The composer exploded. The client supported my risk and . . . Voila! The outcome? Client and Composer were blown away. He apologized and stated he would never again say no.
Don’t ask me where that gift comes from but I will venture that I loved music as a kid, wanted to join a local Pipe Band. The Black Watch played as they paraded down our main street. I was in tears, still am at hearing the Pipes. My father was of Scottish Heritage. My parents bought me a toy drum, I was so ashamed I never ventured into music until the film business grabbed my attention. As children, as a family, we adventured on long road trips, I would stare, face pressed to the window, out at the passing landscape as we drove. Fence posts, telegraph poles, road marking, to me that was my metronome. My musical training, my rhythm. The beat that became embedded into my DNA. Funnier things have happened. Musicians in Sydney, New York and Hollywood loved working on my films, they found a rhythm in my editing that spoke to them. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I was able to provide a musical direction for composers. I never edited to a music track, my uneducated teacher, John Hoskins in Sydney, taught me that. In fact I was sharing with Diana this morning, that the best way to to tell if a film works is to turn off the sound. I have done it when watching an inflight movie, some classics, they work gang busters, seriously. Try it. I love muting the sound on TV when Ads pop up. I cringe at 99% of what I watch. Film editing is an Art as well as a Craft. Many would argue but not me. It’s pure story telling and I am convinced that to hire a film editor who doesn’t read vociferously is to create a tough working relationship. Just thinking aloud.
Proof of that comes from the advertising films I have edited over the past years. I started my own editing boutique in Sydney 40 years ago, 1973. The ads I edited were the best of the best. I won my first Cannes Award in 1976 for Land Rover and my last Gold Clio in 1996, also for LandRover. My last major award was in 2003. Not a bad span. I am in awe, at times, of my career. Not in the egoic sense but that I always considered myself to be a hick from the sticks. Over 5000 television commercials for some of the very best Advertising Agencies around the World, some of the most prolific Creatives and some of the very best Directors and Producers. Maybe I should list them . . . Nah, you can check my LinkedIn page for that. I know what I have done. I did good, in fact, very, very good.
On the feature film scene, nah . . . not so good.
The idea was killed in 1983 when I was approached by a well known Australia producer team. I wasn’t soliciting movie work, I was doing just fine. Anyhow they persuaded me to ‘come on board’. What was I thinking? I got on well with the Director Quentin Masters, a London based Australian. The cast was awesome, James Mason’s swan song even. Australian actors, American actors, the great English Director of Photography, Peter Suschitzky, and others of a very high calibre. And so, the fun began and all went well as I constructed a working edit as the crew filmed, I loved it. But then! A kiwi actor, a young lead actor, critical to the story, fell off the roof and broke his leg.
Not good. Six months was the time frame for his recovery and the shoot to start over. I went back to editing commercials but the Producers wished to fiddle with what was shot. Bugger. As far as I was concerned, I had done what was needed. They saw otherwise. It appeared to me, at the time, that they were into ego stoking with their friends, stoking themselves while the actors and crew went their own way, back into their own worlds. Not me, I was expected to fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. I phoned the Director. He bounced it back on me. My choice he said. I pulled the plug. And so ended, or so I thought, my feature career.
Rocket ahead twenty years. 2003. Painful divorce. My life upside down. I was invited to a screening in Hollywood of a Dogma movie that was being reconstructed. I sat thinking as I watched, I want to take this film over, now how can I do that, they have not even asked me. I drove home along Venice Boulevard and there, when I arrived home, was an eMail asking if I would consider a proposal to edit. They had $1000.00. Total. For me to edit. However, it was a life saver. I went on a camping trip out into the West, the beginning of my own Documentary, came home and buried myself in editing. I actually loved it. I suggested a radical post production style, far different to what the Producers had experienced, I asked for some new images and we ended up with a pretty cool movie. We had taken it from a basic MiniDV format to a 2K Digital Film finish, awesome.
American Reunion became a hit across the American College scene.
Three years later I returned to New Zealand, restored a run down Vineyard, harvested the 2006 Vintage, which I continue to drink, and got back to film making. My one New Zealand feature film, ‘No Petrol/No Diesel’ was accepted into the New Zealand International Film Festival, missed out on Sundance but was a great deal of fun. Again both those films were Dogma, Lars von Triers, style and the Producers and Directors were open to my own particular way of editing and post production.
And now, right here, today, I simply cannot edit and I have handed over my Documentary film to others. It has a sense of relief, actually Dickey get real, an enormous sense of relief that someone else, who is passionate about film making, is up to the task. I am excited. It will now have a life of it’s own and I get to surrender to the process.
Film has been my life, storytelling via Film in reality has been my life. Advertising films that I edited 40 years ago, today? They hold there own. I feel blessed. Ciao.