“It’s not a script anymore. It’s a living thing; it’s changing and growing and we need to grow with it.”
POST PRODUCTION REMORSE AND A COUPLE OF OTHER THOUGHTS
By Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl
Image (above) from “The Mourning Hour”
So, I’ve heard it said that one can be in post production indefinitely. Indeed, many films are. I have several on my IMDB page that have been in “post production” for YEARS! My own experience as of late has me wondering about this: Is a prolonged post period due to a project floundering? Or due to the incessant nagging of one’s own perfectionism – daring just one last tweak, one final amendment to the finished product to make it even better? We all want to make our creative endeavors a success. We all want high regard and respect for our tireless efforts. So, it’s no wonder that when we say “It’s done,” there is an itch to go back for one more look.
I have the itch, and I hate myself for it. I swear at the start of each venture that I won’t be one of “those” people – the Actor who pleads for one more take because they just didn’t “feel it” that time; the Writer who will tweak a scene to death only to crumple up the last six hours of work and toss in the trash basket;, the Director adding a final filter to enhance the look of a five second scene and then change their mind and take it off, then realize they miss the filter. It’s chaos of the creative intellect and a sure-fire sign to “let it go!” And yet, we find ourselves going back for one, last look in post production.
I am not suggesting that if an issue truly needs fixing, one ignores their instincts to make a change (even if the word “COMPLETE” has been uttered out loud) but slipping into a type of POST PRODUCTION REMORSE is dangerous territory. So, how do you evaluate whether making post-post changes is a valid choice or simply, narcissistic indulgence?
Anyone?…I am asking because I don’t know!
But maybe THAT is the answer. If you can’t articulate specifically why something needs to be changed, chances are, it doesn’t. And the urge to fix something, is merely a defense mechanism in an effort to cope with a fear of failure. Because once something is done and put out there for all to see as a finished work of art, the door is held wide open for others to judge it accordingly. No more excuses, or time . . . And that’s scary!
Be brave! (I tell myself) “It’s done!” The proverbial “but..” is invalid. I think sometimes I just need to write it down to you all in order to read later and hope for a conclusion. The nagging might continue, but I’ll need to take up yoga or chanting or something to channel it instead “Eat, Pray, Love”.. And all that..
Which brings me to another pesky issue plaguing me as I struggle with rewrites of a script that has garnered quite a bit of positive praise but I have gone down the rabbit hole.. I speak of course of PERSPECTIVE.
So you wrote a script. It began as a kernel, an idea, then germinated, took root and broke ground with the kind of promise we CHEER in our festive countdown to New Year’s or the bubbles effervescing in our champagne glasses. The promise of RESOLUTION by post production. Strong and strident with those three beautiful words every writer loves and longs to type.. FADE TO BLACK.
And then.. it happens. The wave of notes, thoughts put forth by friends and colleagues. We strive to remain steadfast in our vision but humble and open to “constructive criticism.”
We take said notes, thoughts, suggestions, and begin implementation, adjustment, reworking. And there, we find ourselves, one week into a proverbial New Year’s funk, thoroughly disenchanted what with the promise that seemed to shine so bright mere days prior but now has dulled a bit and in our heady state the clear path to greatness? Those artistic calculations we were painstaking about.. have taken on a sort of spin with all the helpful advice proffered. All in the name of art, right?
This is what we do as human beings. We strive to be masters of our creativity and productivity, and if we fall short or lose our perspective, we take it personally. So, now is the time, more than ever, to take a step back and remind ourselves that the only thing constant is change. And that while it’s wonderful to have plans, sometimes, we need to have the willingness to throw those plans out the window by post production. And sometimes we don’t. Be wary of straying so far from the the original story that got you/us here.
I offer no concrete answers in this article, just a reminder from one writer, artist, perfectionist, anal-retentive and certified lunatic to another that you have to cut the cord sometime. And go with the flow because the script is only the blueprint. A design which only exists to it’s fullest potential in your mind. Once you start pre-pro and then shooting and then post, the movie in your mind will change. It has to. It IS the way of filmmaking. If you manage to keep your head and move on to production, it’s a whole new ballgame.
It’s not a script anymore. It’s a living thing, that’s changing and growing and we need to grow with it.
Sometimes we become so attached to our material that it’s hard to think of it in any other way. I recall being in the midst of our 3rd rough cut of Conversations With Lucifer, experiencing more than a little separation anxiety from what I played and replayed in my head at the computer all those months prior to filming. It was a slow-learning process to relinquish my white-knuckle hold on the reins and allow my team to offer their fresh perspective on that project. And it’s worked.
I heard it said once by a filmmaker on a panel at the L.A. Shortsfest that POST is the fun stuff – there you get to experiment and mix and match scenes and shots, and basically, play. As a student of theatre, where the actors follow a predetermined arch every night, cutting up the “flow” of the script makes me nervous. But again, PERSPECTIVE. It’s a film that will be viewed, and may need to be re-sequenced in order to translate on screen; or enhanced with an image taken from a reaction in between takes for that matter. And I agree now – it is fun and exciting. And the film in my head transforms into something I could never have foreseen. And that is thrilling each and every time I am blessed enough to do it.
So, to conclude this entry, and as we approach another New Year, and I struggle to maintain perspective and stay true to the script I am reworking right now, I will offer my own New Year’s resolution for 2017.
To take the first step and then go with the flow; to be open and gentle with myself as I push and pull (as we do) and know that more will be revealed, have I only the courage to be patient and watch my blank canvas fill with the colors of life . . . a life that I created and will stand by for better or worse.
Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl is an award-winning actress, writer and producer currently living in NYC. Her production company, Mad About Pictures, has produced three films all currently playing the festival circuit. The Mourning Hour, her most recent film, just took top honors at The Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently writing a thriller while pursuing her acting career and has appeared in episodes of Revenge, Criminal Minds and Heroes.