“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci
It was brutal. I thought I was completely finished with my short film, “Ending Up“ about a month before I actually was finished. (You can’t help but notice the irony to this, in the film’s title, can you?) We popped the champagne and toasted to a year of hard work and dedication. My producers and I patted each other on the back, discussed how much we had grown, sent it out to film festivals, and even got 150 DVDs made.
A few days before the cast and crew premiere, we went to the screening room to project the film onto the big screen to make sure it worked. That’s when we heard them: small imperfections in the sound that we had never noticed. Before that day, we had only watched the film on small screens, or on computers, where many subtle background noises go undetected. When you amplify those subtleties they are really noticeable.
I cried. Literally, cried. We weren’t done after all.
We had to re-do the entire sound mix, and that not only meant an added expense, it also meant completely opening up the film again. It was like a house of cards…one change affected the shot behind it. It felt like Groundhogs Day…a relentless re-occurring nightmare. Every change was painful, because I had already made the same exact editing decisions, and creatively I was utterly frustrated.
But there was also good news. For one, I learned a lot. I’ll never make the mistake of ‘finishing’ a film again without projecting it first. Assuming the big screen is the intended medium, there are some nuances in a film that you can’t pick up on until you project it.
And another good thing: there was one spot in the film that I was never happy with, and thought I had to just live with. It was a creative decision I went back and forth on fifty times (just ask my editor, Michelle – she’ll tell you!). I regretted the direction I went with, and now I had an opportunity to change it. It was a small change – a nuance that most people didn’t notice, but it made a world of difference to me. When we were finally finished (again!), that vexing spot in the film finally worked for me.
Now, three months later, I see new things in the film I wish I could change. Truth be told, I feel this way when I look back on all my films. As we evolve and grow, our sensibilities change; as artists and as human beings. I’m grateful that the video editor tool on You Tube is so poorly designed… because if it were easy to use, I would tweak my films forever!
I’ve decided not to dwell on my past creative choices, but instead view them as stepping-stones to who I am NOW, and as milestones to who I was THEN. My films are pieces of me…never perfect, ever evolving, and always deepening into the woman I am now.
And that woman really does just keep getting better and better.