I guess its been a long time, because I forgot the ups and downs of editing, and how vulnerable it can feel. You are on a high, riding through the cutting, the scenes falling into place, and then you are opening the door, and you let people in — damn their opinions, the movie they are making in their head, as opposed to yours — and suddenly crash, bang, boom, and you wake up feeling like its the end of the world. And then the next day, you are back at it, in the middle, everything that was set becomes un-set, all the smooth cuts that you were impressing yourself with, you break apart, and then the roughness is back. The thing becomes alive again.
After a very short few weeks, we’d finished a full pass. Because of our compressed schedule, we skipped the stage of an assembly, and went right to a first cut. In some ways, I don’t recommend this, because you think you are farther along than you actually are. The scenes, individually, are well done, there’s no terrible moments — you already went through all the footage and got rid of those — so you think its working like a charm. Our first screening is just me and Fonz (“The Fonz”) in the cutting room. Our cutting room has a wonderful view down to where the World Trade Center used to be. Outside, a bunch of interns for a tv show hang out in the lounge all day and type away on their laptops. Inside our little room, it’s just me and the Fonz. A picture of Arthur Russell lying on the sand by the ocean, tape recording his voice and the sea, tacked to the wall behind our Avid. It’s a peaceful shot — he would die soon — but its also single-minded, obsessive, focused. He didn’t give a fuck, and it’s inspiring.
Back to the first screening. I watch the first half feeling knots in my stomach. Clunky here and there, and too many starts and stops. But by the second half something happens and I have this scary, surprising epiphany. Not that the movie is a masterpiece or anything, its just this very surprising realization — and you wouldn’t think this would surprise me, given the subject matter — but I suddenly realize the film is very, very personal. Yes, the story is close-to-mine, but that’s not it, its not the events, its the character. I identify so deeply with the guy in the middle of the story — Thure Lindhardt’s character, Eric — that I feel like I’m being opened up and displayed on a meat counter. It’s something about his trying to be all things at once, his attempt to avoid what’s right in front of him, his resistance at causing harm to others, that ends up causing so much harm. It’s the guy I was in the years that the film portrays. Its me.
As I’m writing, I’m remembering a scene in Bugsy, the Warren Beatty movie, in which Beatty’s character is trying to juggle everything at once. He’s in his mansion, and upstairs is his angry wife (Annette!), downstairs are his demanding business partners, and in the room behind the stairs is his mistress, and he’s happy as a clam running up stairs, running down stairs, trying to keep it all going. Is everybody happy! I remember seeing that movie and thinking about how much Warren reminded me of my father, that the chaos, and the rush of excitement the chaos brought, and the charm that he had balancing it all, were very much how my father was in the world. I now see so much of “Eric,” of myself, in this scene. I am Bugsy Malone, too.
So, tonight, another screening, for some of the executive producers, some filmmaker friends. I have no idea what to expect, or how I’ll feel. I will admit after the first screening, I lost some confidence. My footing is off. I had been so certain, and now I have the uncertainty that also must come. How could I have forgotten this part?