Friday, January 01, 2010

Mister Rogers, Ambivalence & Me

I spent yesterday afternoon in the closet wrestling with editorial challenges in my head, and technical challenges with my laptop. Were I less frustrated and annoyed, I might have laughed.

My closet is tiny and crowded with clothes. I sit on a tiny stool crouched over my Mac. My mic stand is broken, so I had to hold the mic in one hand and the pop screen (so every word starting with the letter "p" doesn't sound like a sonic boom) with the other. Ridiculous as it sounds, it takes me about thirty minutes per twenty-second take. There's so much to get right: pace, inflection, to say nothing of not stumbling over words. Heck, I'm not even sure what made me think I could do voice over; I never had before.

All said, I spent eight hours re-tracking less than ten minutes worth of voice over. It's time well-spent, of course, if I've managed to create a little clarity.

Example, it takes about five minutes of film (HDDV, really) for me to get to the back porch of Mister Rogers Crooked House where he first asked me about my job and exposed my existential ambivalence about it. Initial feedback (not including the Sundance folks, a grand total of three people have seen the most-recent edit) and my own intuition suggested I needed to heighten or clarify the conflict. The original v.o. went thusly:

Later, Mister Rogers and I stood on the back porch of The Crooked House staring out to sea. He asked me about my job, and frankly, I was a little embarrassed. I mean, here he was: America’s Most beloved Neighbor, creator and steward of one of television’s most-substantive, long-running shows.

Me? At worst, I produce silly stories about pop stars. At best, I keep music fans connected to the source of their inspiration.

Doesn't really seem to get at my conflict, or my ambivalence, right? So here's what I tracked yesterday:

Me? As one-time editor of the high school newspaper and sometimes singer/songwriter, MTV made a lot of sense. But I was ambivalent, a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit MTV world – trying to figure out just what I could do to make it a better place.

And then we get to the quote that began the whole journey:

Mister Rogers didn’t render any judgement, but said simply: “I feel so strongly, that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.” Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.

Minor differences, sure. But hopefully the kind of thing that'll create some additional narrative clarity.

Truth is, it's tough to have any sense whatsoever of whether the film hits its mark; I know every second of this story, and every inch of the tape. Try as I might, I can't come to it fresh.

In a perfect world, we'd show a few dozen people, gather some feedback, and make changes accordingly. But even with all of the support we've received from family and friends, we can only afford three more days of edit before submitting to Tribeca and Nantucket. There's no way we'll get everything done as we stand with these v.o. changes plus two dozen other tiny tweaks (Ex. 1: "00:07:09 - Fade Photo," Ex 2: "00:07:45 - Replace Photo").

Anyway, I've done about all that I can for now. Chris has new voice overs, plus two pages of notes. I've scripted the new Susan Linn segment, reached out to FCI and NBC for additional footage, remixed vocal-free version of my songs for audio beds, and secured the perfect song for the end from my pal, Casey Shea.

So now we just gotta' get back into the edit. Fast.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Harper said...

I feel sure Mister Rogers would say something like,

" Just do your best, Benjamin. "