Cutting Room Blues

July 25, 2007


Shooting ended Dec. 15, 2005. I took a week off to recover then the holidays hit so my first real day in the editing room wasn’t until after New Year’s. I was working with a new editor, Paul Zucker. He was fast, smart and was a whiz with the Avid editing software. He could do just about everything, which was great because we couldn’t afford to hire him an assistant.

So it was just the two of us, locked in a tiny, overheated room all through the NY winter. We put the film together, took it apart, sifted through all the footage over and over seeking the sharpest, most vital performances and put everything back together again. Sometimes we would just collapse on the floor in exhaustion. Sofia Coppola and her team had been in the room before us editing Marie Antoinette.  Her name was still on the room’s voicemail system. Paul accidentally discovered that all Sofia's voicemails were still on there too. We spent many a dreary winter afternoon passed out on the floor listening to them. Although I was surprised at how few of them had anything to do with editing they were still very pleasant to listen to and they were a great help in easing me into sleep.

Around February we made a decision to get a cut ready for Cannes in May. Even though it would throw the editing process into insane hyperdrive we decided to go for it. Cannes is the biggest, flashiest film festival in the world. Every director on the planet dreams of having their film shown there. Just getting accepted instantly lifts the film into the eyes of all the US and European distributors who go there in force. We’d made Delirious without a distributor. A company called Gestation had financed the entire film with the hopes that we’d sell the film to a strong US distributor. They had as much riding on it as I did.

I was very excited at how the film had come together and really felt we had a shot. We began working like maniacs so we could get a finished print ready if by some miracle we were accepted. The only slightly alarming thought was remembering that Cannes had previously rejected every one of my films.

We sent a cut with a rough mix over in April. A few weeks later we got an answer. Cannes chose to remain consistent and passed on the film. Sure, I was depressed. But I was also surprised. Yeah, you can be depressed and surprised at the same time. There’s no law against that. I had really thought this was the one. I really thought we were on our way. But, I was proud of myself. I dug myself out of it in about a week—a personal best for me.

Of course the rejection was a good thing. It allowed Paul and me to finish the film in a calm, creative way. It is definitely not advisable to rush like a lunatic through the final stages of locking the picture.  Every decision is crucial; especially when every decision is ultimately forever.

We finished editing around the beginning of May. Cannes had accepted Marie Antoinette. Out of respect and gratitude to Sofia, just before we vacated the editing room we deleted all her voicemails for her.


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