Who Wrote This Thing?

I can't see the forest for the trees. This initial assembly has me banging my head against the wall at times. I find I am battling my own judgement at every turn.

The first time I tackle the edit of a scene it tends to be with the mind-set of the scene and that scene alone. I tend to approach my scene edits like this: I sync the audio, and while doing so I get a feel and a reminder of what I shot and how many takes I have of each angle. After syncing, I usually pull up a PDF of the screenplay and revisit the words on the page as I go. I'll also usually watch one take of a wide shot or a "master" shot to get a feel for the overall flow.. From there I begin telling the story of the scene line by line. The first cut of a scene in the assembly process tends to be very "cutty". By that, I mean that almost each time a someone speaks, I cut to them or to a new shot. This is generally not a helpful editing approach, but at this point in the process I really need it. This is the only way I know for sure whether or not I have real options for how to shape a scene when I come back to it. So, sometimes I'll finish a scene and think, "That looks okay, but I can see that I have a world of options that will help me make it great down the road." Other times I'll finish a scene and think, "That was a pain in the ass to get through, and I really only had one option for each cut. Crap, this scene is as good as it's going to be and it's mediocre." (That last part is particularly true of scenes where there is not coverage, but only one long shot.)

Back to the issue of my own judgement. Each scene assembled ends with me loving or hating it. But the truth is, I can't rightly have any opinions yet. I am looking for the projected version of my film in the footage-- the best lines, the funniest looks, the slickest camera move, etc. That should be a fair approach except that these things have little to do with the final film as a whole. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not editing a whole bunch of short films, but one big film. These are all pieces of a greater whole whose edits need to be made based on the overall shape, not the overall quality of the vignettes. With a feature, the scenes cannot exist in a vacuum, only in context with the whole.

There's my problem. I still don't have a whole. In many ways, this first assembly is taking even more muscle than the original "Muscle Draft". Once I have a whole, I can let myself judge more freely. Then I can shape, mold, salvage, and  re-shoot (hopefully not, who's paying?). Easier said than done on suspending one's own judgement. I'm nothing if not judgement concentrate. Then again, this may all just be convenient logic to let me kick the can of worries into the next month of editing.

For now, I'm almost done with the first assembly. I'll be sure to report back any epiphanies or rashes that may break out.