Tonight, out director Nisha Ganatra‘s new film, Beholder, will premiere as part of the ITVS/ PBS series FutureStates. FutureStates is a modern day Twilight Zone series for which 10 filmmakers were selected to each make an episode that takes place in the future and explores a political idea in the realm of a fictional film. Beholder stars Jessica Paré (of Mad Men and Lost and Delirious) Elaine Hendrix (from Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and Superstar) and Michael McMillian (True Blood), with Rupak Ginn (Royal Pains and Private Practice). In this article, the third and final in this series (read the first and second installments) that takes readers behind the scenes in the making of the film, Ganatra writes about what happens in post-production and presents us with the final version of the film in its entirety.
The best teacher I had at NYU film school, which I fully credit for my having any sort of directing career, said that editing is the Joseph Campbell-Belly-of-the-Whale portion of storytelling. It’s like when Luke Skywalker goes into that dark cave to face his fears and sees himself under the mask of Darth Vader. Post-production is full of “Why did I do that?” and “What was I thinking?” And the occasional “What are you talking about? I’m sure I shot that. It’s gotta be in that bin somewhere!”
Luckily, in life, we have a companion on this journey and that is the editor. I usually work with the same team on every movie so that we know the important things already – like what we think is most important (acting and performance), when to stay wide and when to use the close up, and we can talk to each other with an honesty that can seem brutal to anyone on the outside. My longtime editor and collaborator was tied up on another job, so Jasmine called upon her good friend Eleanor Infante to come to the rescue. Eleanor and I hit it off instantly and since she didn’t mince words, I trusted her immediately. Eleanor is what I like to refer to as an “old school editor.” That basically means the type that works their ass off, doesn’t use all the fancy Avid tricks just because they can, and takes ownership of their work on the movie all the way through until the final print is delivered.
I don’t know how other people work, but the editor, to me, is the most like your co-director. They tell you how it is when the story isn’t working, they’ll cut out your favorite shot if it’s not serving the greater good and they won’t let you use that shot where the color is off even if it’s the best take. Well, maybe if it’s the best take. True editors, in my opinion, are artists that can do many things. They have to have the best eye to see what the film is saying photographically, they have to have the best taste in music so they can put a score and a song in the right place with the right emotional resonance, they have to differentiate between good acting from acting that is being phoned in, and they have to deal with all the baggage the director is bringing in from set and see the film for what it is. They are the Yoda and the voice that can guide you — hopefully not to the dark side.
It always kills me when the editor credit comes up and no one in the general audience understands just how important an editor is. Let me put it this way: When certain actors win Oscars for their performances, that Oscar, many times, should go to the editor for best cutting of a performance. And if you are an actor, you should go out of your way to be nice to the editor. The best ones won’t let it influence them. But we’re all human and you have a better chance of not ending up on the cutting room floor if the editor likes you.
So as you edit, what else is going on? This is where the producer becomes insanely important (as if they haven’t been through the whole shoot). The producer has to cajole whatever is left in your bank account to cover the insanely large costs of finishing a movie. You thought shooting was an endeavor? Now you have to put sound to the movie, get a score and songs if you want, cut it all together, mix the sound to the picture, color correct because the red camera shoots “raw” footage that looks awful until you color correct it and then when you think all of that is over, they have to find someone to transfer all of that back to something a film festival can actually play. Oh, and come up with the money to pay those festival fees. This is where you wonder, “Who in the hell wants to produce?”
I have to say that I do not have the answer to that question. I also have no idea how any producers actually manage to make a living – but I will say thank god for producers, because I sure as hell don’t like making a movie without them. My good friend Jen Small (who produced Cosmopolitan) always says that being a producer is like being the Ugly Stepsister in Cinderella. And my writing and producing partner on Chutney Popcorn, Susan Carnival, went through this. When we went to festivals, it was always so heartbreaking to watch people just blow past her to get to the “filmmaker.” I used to say, “Sue, when the star is around no one gives a s–t about the director. And when the director is around, no one cares about the writer, and when the writer is around — well, no one ever really cares about the producers even when no one else is around.” Then Jill Hennessy would get swarmed by people pushing us out of the way and I’d just shrug and say “See?” It sucks but it’s true. So next time you are at a festival, give the producer a little bit of love because they never get any — unless the movie wins the Oscar. Then they get it all.