Tag Archives: production

[Film] Editing: The Fragmentation of Time.

the luxury of documentary shooting: early morning en route to "keenjhar lake."

“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.

set-up for a long-night of real-time capturing.

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.

images from my college thesis of a moment in the subway, a plane window, a train... further fragmented as the backdrop for on-campus post-cards.

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.

a wider vista on painstaking detail.

2/25th's of a second. who am i kidding.

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.


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Filed under |Introspection & Experiences|, |The Way Things Look|

A Gulp of Fresh Life

Despite all the twists and turns in my erratic, newbie and completely self-indulgent journey as a blogger, despite all the ten-thousand eye-burning nitty-gritty visual tweaks and CSS guesswork I’ve waded through, I still have the urge to SCRAPPPP it all and just sign up for that liberating, free wordpress blog with the most barebones theme ever.

Even now, I’m challenging myself to just WRITE instead of having to make a photo-essay out of everything, from baking, to putting a show-reel up, to reading at a cafe.

If there’s any guarantee in life, it’s that one season will be drastically different from another.

As I sat in my first few months of glaring, unabashed unemployment, attached to my duvet like a mushroom caught in melted cheese, I knew, that no matter how operatically and richly full the experience of sharing aesthetically charged vignettes of my life was making me feel; no matter how hooked I became day by day, that all this would simply disappear and be replaced by something else very soon.

And hey presto.

Movement and coordination suddenly took over my life. Travel. Budget. Money transfer. Shot list. Line Up. Paperwork. These were my stoic and distinctly un-malleable friends for the last two-three weeks. It’s really funny that people used to think, in the later years of school, that I must be sensible and practical because I have a knack for maths. Yes, my mind clung around the conceptual beauty of the infinity of calculus and the symmetry of quadratics, but it seems that (with age) I increasingly turn into a flashing red lightbulb as anything to do with logistics approaches. A cold panic glazes over circuits which may have been logically more nimble once, the search for a receipt turns threatens to blow the lid off tightly compressed mental compartments.

MS / WS view from Daamne-koh with Faisal Mosque, as requested

Despite juggling the logistics of two projects cramped in one week in this blind-sighted, brain-dead fashion, I’m really grateful for the experience. I got to leave town for a couple of days and breathe some fresh air. There’s nothing like a shoot to get you up early. Although I’d been to Isloo many times to visit Abba & Co. during the teenage years, I don’t think things like air quality meant quite the same thing back then as they do now.

It was also nice to work with such a regimented treatment/shot list. It’s that discipline of vision, even if it’s someone else’s, that makes you feel like you are actually getting your feet wet in the process of making a film.

Up the crystalline clarity of blue ether, cheery sun and happy hillocks we went on our second morning.

What we were really there for, though was to capture footage of local Islamabadi’s doing their thing. As my DP admitted, his one weakness is not being able to shove his camera in people’s faces. He and I, I responded, don’t really make a very good team then. I have the same problem. Nevertheless, we managed some surreptitiously obtained footage of a group of women, lurking about an ice cream stall like some highly instinctive grassland species.

After the hectic, extremely tense game of catch-and-run behind the scenes of Tehreema Mitha’s emotionally charged first performance in Pakistan after some time, the serenity of this shoot was a welcome change.

some sort of wildlife park - we definitely saw exotically gurgling birds as well as the better known isloo natives - the monkeeeeys!

I’d been violently sick just the day before leaving for Islamabad and catching a 7 am flight. The combination of my strange, twitchy phobia of drips, the dread and panic of a migraine, the rapid exiting of verve and energy from your body (regurgitation) and a feeling of not being totally prepared for the next day with a subject who I haven’t even met yet, was all enough to terrify any possibility of sleep out of me that night. I was, for lack of a better word, simply smashed the next day. The quiet of my hotel room coupled with hot water, a change, two cups of room service coffee interspersed with one green tea (while juggling a meeting with a DP I had to brief (and meet) for the first time as well as the hyper-vigilant telephone monitoring of it all by my US-based producer) was minimally necessary to trick myself into thinking I could make it through the day.

Lens flare: easy on a silent, empty stage. illusive on the brink of performance

I’m glad its over, and I’m glad I squeezed it all in. I don’t think I’ll ever trust my self enough, (except maybe deep-down inside in some very instinctive place), to not stress out on a shoot like this. I know I have become somewhat better at trusting my cameraman. The skill of communicating the feel of the shot, so that its communicated from that deep-down grueling pit of fuel, while still making him feel like its his creation, is something to be reckoned with. Perhaps the root of overflowing layers of anxiety, though, is that, very frankly, I still have sublime expectations of every shoot, and I need to level with the equipment and resources available. And then there’s the people. The people who need to be captured, who become completely different creatures when on the other side of lens. More importantly, I become a freak show, a sort of sullen anxiety-ridden peacock, a wildly probing force that’s trying to balance a circus of physical toil, blustering life, the precision of sound recording, and the expectation of immaculate beauty.

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Filed under |Introspection & Experiences|

Showreel Blues

It’s one of those stomach-filling, incredibly reassuring sensations: the lifting of at least some of the haze that obscures our eyes.

I’ve come [at least temporarily] to a conclusion that this is one way of looking at the eternal question of what this crazy, bewildering, vast yet microcosmic, stagnant yet perpetually changing existence really may be at least partially about: illusion. It’s as if we are submerged, at birth, into a hazy atmosphere full of dust particles [too much Star Trek, as per usual], and everything that we acquire, execute, plan and orchestrate is all within the limits of that obscured vision.

Goals that elude us, limits that haunt us, insecurities that plague us… we know there’s a clue to unravelling all of these. Perhaps the key is to stop trying (but not too early), to pull back, detach, and perhaps then, some of the dust will evaporate, revealing glimmering fissures through which we perceive the truth.

When I looked anew at the production showreel I submitted for grad school, I felt like I some of the layers began to thin out.

[The very term “showreel” makes my stomach quaver. It coveys images of cocky, action-oriented A-type personalities swaggering into a studio and securing a film deal through sheer arrogance and the veneer of championing some celebrated cause of the day.]

I look at this showreel now, and I see the a jam-packed linear timeline of a completely disconnected array of products that have been squashed together. The slow-paced, harmonious circles of an individual’s life blending together in Urban Sketches lose their meaning when met with the abrupt assembly line of a sharply segmented, cut-and-pasted studio format that neatly packages break-neck speed tech-related information bytes.

Between the layers upon layers of “quirky” graphics, stylized montages and quick-paced edits, I see a myriad mouse-clicks, ribbons upon ribbons of my life-span sucked into the vacuum of transitions and 20 minute time structures.

I see an inner expression of the world impinged by the linearity of the [non-linear] editing timeline.

When I think of what I would say an interview about what I wanted to do with my, and as filmmaker, I realize I don’t have a plan, a central driving force theme. It’s not that the themes aren’t there. They’re in the process of emerging into focus like images from multiples lenses [the way your brain brings into focus the conflicting images from your two eyes].

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