“It’s in Edit.”
A term that’s been thrown around so much around anyone who’s worked in media, film, tv etc.
But there’s a certain meat-packing assembly line mentality to the way this phrase does the rounds in an environment like TV.
In Pakistan, where TV channels have been bubbling towards climax like a pot of unwatched soup, sitting on an edit to finish a project has become this unlikely media community’s annoying daily chore.
I say unlikely because it’s precisely that.
It’s been an arena where the most unlikely mix of people have come together around the common process of think-shoot-edit-deliver. Motorcycling lads from middle-class families trek from far away not only to make an earnest living, but sometimes also to be part of less regimented working mindset. 20-30 somethings from rich families come via chauffer or in any case a decent car. Mod-squad foreign return hipsters, sometimes even with foreign film degrees will work closely with a 48 year-old journalist who’s been working in Urdu print for the last 25 years. A local art-school graduate in her mid-20’s, engaged to be married soon, perhaps, will revise the edits of the night-time editor who attends classes for a BSc during the day, saving up for his sister’s wedding.
I know I’m pulling big fat cliche’s out of the air, but this is a good sampling of how it’s felt. Perhaps this is also because I’ve largely worked in environments that cater t0 a more youthful and/or westernized audience. In any case, amidst this constantly shifting melting pot of varying attitudes, backgrounds and perceptions about this field of work, editing, the kind of step-child of filmmaking, has become the most neglected process. For the glamour-seeking lot, glorifying themselves as “power-producers,” perpetually emanating an uber-busy, stressed out vibe, it’s much easier to tout a camera, be present on a shoot, and take ownership of that process. Editing, however, requires the complete opposite mindset: calm, durability, a long-attention span, a shit loads of patience. Things that will only come to you when there’s truly a vision present.
Although I’ve been stuck like glue to this process of creation, creativity, concept and execution, I sometimes think I’m in the wrong environment.
Editing is really like playing with time.
An infinite array of moods, rhythms, stories and messages lie in the juxtaposition of even two shots. It’s equally necessary, though, as I’ve learned (painfully slowly) to look at the bigger picture, and the relationship between bigger chunks of time.
But this fascination for breaking up time to such a degree, conveying experience in one never-ending montage of starts and stops…. this has eaten me (and my personal time) alive over the last few years. I seem to harbor a need to explore every possible variation of the way one picture can replace another in the viewer’s stream of consciousness. Maybe that’s why I’ve favoured styles such as split screen: when I can’t fit in all the variations that I like, I have two images running simultaneously. (I recognize, of course, that this is the poorest reason possible to use split-screen).
I’m re-examining my approach to editing not only because laying down the big picture is simply more practical in terms of work deadlines, but also because I finally recovered a digital version of my first finished piece. A thesis work, 20 minutes long, called Settled in Transit. The whole thing has a voiceover that’s repetitively looped, like a deliberate echo. I never articulated exactly why I felt that this persistently disjointed delivery would enhance the piece. But in hindsight it seems that an ever-changing stream of experience, a never-ending chain of flickering images, settled, as it were, in its very transience… has been an obsession for me.
I’m beginning to think that perhaps this ADD approach to visuals relates to other aspects of my life? It’s funny that only now, at a stage where I’m re-examining my life, long-term goals, etc., do I understand the reassuring, binding balm of a larger story thread.
Coming back to the issue at hand though, I suddenly feel completely rattled. I’m fearful of, though simultaneously exhilarated by the notion that I, in fact, perhaps know nothing about story-telling. Narrative is the hardest thing to construct, and I believe that tenet. I feel like it’s the easiest and the toughest, because it flows from the true nature of our own experience of time. So in a way, we are trying to imitate nature. Perhaps what I have been trying to do is play with the laws of nature [i.e. time & the human mind’s need to perceive time as a story], before actually understanding and establishing a firm grasp of those laws themselves.