A few weeks ago I wrote about learning how to edit digital video and how much fun it was to finally, after a couple years of playing around, be able to create short films on my own from start to finish. And that process is still going, with me regularly in the basement for a couple hours a day, editing travel footage from Tokyo, London, Edinburgh, and Portland's Central Eastside Industrial District.
As the weeks have gone by since first setting up an editing area in the basement this summer, I've come to find that experience affecting how I see everyday life.
While editing travel footage, my work consists largely of reducing several hours down to, say, a half hour. I prefer to keep the succession of shots in their original order rather than juggling them around, so without that Pandora's Box opened I focus instead on cutting out little chunks of time, anywhere from a single second to several minutes. Much of what I shoot on vacation has been from trains, so while editing that footage I look for passages with particularly striking rural or urban landscapes, or perhaps some audio cue that has its own time frame that needs to be honored, like the beginning and end of someone talking. And watching the film, collectively I want the succession of shots to have a kind of rhythm. Jim Jarmusch has often compared film editing to music, and while I'm practically microscopic in filmmaking stature compared to him, in principle I couldn't agree more.
Even when I'm not editing, I often find myself watching a particular moment transpire and considering what aspects I would alter, be it banal as waiting at a stoplight in my car or some historic moment like seeing a friend's new baby. Maybe there's a light shadow on a building, but I want to increase the contrast with a few clicks of Final Cut Pro. At that stoplight, I might get impatient waiting for it to turn green and imagine everything happening at ultra-high speeds, as with the time lapse sequences I've occasionally tinkered with.
I think we forget what an infinite amount of ways there are to view any situation, and filmmaking--especially the editing stage--really reminds one that. The time of day affects the angle of the sun and the quality of light you see. Whether you're moving or sitting still determines the pace at which you see particular places or objects move in and out of view. When I'm anywhere outside, I'm reminded that the environment will look completely different just by the time of day being different and the sun coming from a different angle.
Editing also resembles memory itself. In a sense, memory is just a few key moments one has experienced boiled down to their essential and most compelling personal meaning. And so when editing footage, while it's true what you've shot, however artfully, probably will never replicate what you see in your mind's eye, it also brings the luxury of limitless replays that can be altered with the click of the button.
Now if only I could find the right software to edit my actual memories and not what I've shot. There's a botched chance at scoring a touchdown in 5th grade pee-wee football that has always haunted me, and I'd like to see it on the cutting room floor.