My latest short film, Emily, premiered ten days ago at the Studio. It was a fun night with a packed house that also heard Arlin's new album played in its entirety. The night was over before it seemed like it started, and another premiere night was behind me.
The days following premiere nights are usually difficult. The weeks leading up to the premiere are spent frantically finishing up the edit, promoting the event, preparing the venue and, sometimes an hour before showtime, exporting the final movie. The next day though, it's all done. I'm exhausted and emotionally drained.
With Emily, I actually finished editing a few days before the premiere. It was lovely. On premiere night, I could (kind of) relax and enjoy the show. I was more present than I think I've ever been on the premiere of any of my films. After months of editing, it was the first time I got to sit and watch the film without taking notes of what to change. It was done, and I was along for the ride.
The next day though... was hard. I found myself in a capital-f Funk. And I had all these strong emotions that I wasn't really processing well, assuming that it was just a normal post-premiere funk that would clear itself up in a couple of days.
It took me awhile to understand what was going on, but the truth is that I had developed a very strong emotional connection to the main two characters in the film, and I was essentially grieving their departure in my life. If that makes any sense. I had been editing them for months, acutely tuned into the conflicts that they experience in the film, working to shape the arcs of their lives. By the end of the editing process, I knew them. They were family. And now that they were gone, I felt this overwhelming, ambiguous sense of loss. It was weird.
It was also isolating, because nobody else knew these characters like I did. I edited this thing by myself for months. The actors, Mary Young and Stella Cole, had given me such good footage to work with. But for them, the work ended when production wrapped back in March.
There's a weird relationship you develop with actors as an editor. You spend hours — HOURS — with actors and their performances. You analyze every detail, every nuance of each take. You get to know the characters intimately. And there's a special magic that happens when you piece together multiple angles from multiple takes into a scene that flows organically. You get to see the story, and the characters, come to life.
But it's completely a one-sided relationship. You might run into the actors in real life at some point during the editing process, and it's just weird. Here's somebody you've been working with day in and day out. You've gotten to know the details of their face, the nuances of their speech, what they do with their hands when they're listening. And they haven't seen you in months. And they're not in character. It's just kind of weird.
I think Emily was more powerful in part because the story was so intense. The characters were dealing with extremely difficult situations. I think I unknowingly took on a lot of their emotional weight as I was editing the film.
As much as that might kinda make sense, it also felt ridiculous to feel such strong emotions for fictional characters that I created.
Side note for Future Dave: schedule a vacation immediately after future films. Leave the morning after the premiere. Go West. Go camping. Go hiking. Get out of Springfield and do something fun and distracting. And take the family.
Anyway, I'm still struggling with the post-premiere Funk a bit, but it helps to understand what's going on.
I'm proud of the film. I had a vague idea early on what I wanted to make, and each step of the process refined that vision while staying true to the core idea. That's not always easy to do. But I'm happy with my editing decisions, and I wouldn't change a thing about the film.
I have no idea what other people will get out of it though. I'm too close to the story and characters to pretend to see it with fresh eyes. I think there's enough clarity to understand what's happening to the characters, and I think there's enough ambiguity in places to let the audience make their own connections.
The film has been submitted to some film festivals, and I plan to continue submitting it over the coming months (if you'd like to sponsor some festival submissions, please send a note). It's not going to be available online for awhile though. Some festivals prefer short films to not be publicly available, and it's not really the kind of film to just casually dump on social media feeds. I'd be happy to send you a BluRay if you want to see it. Just send me a note.
In the mean time, I've been staying busy with various creative projects to try and block out the general sense of loss that fades a little more with each day. I finished my running website which I'll be launching tomorrow maybe. I'm learning the violin, which I've already fallen in love with completely. And I'm looking forward to a lot of computer programming this winter. I'm also working up to my first marathon, which I'll likely do on a whim some day in the coming weeks when conditions are just right.
So yeah, it's been quite a ride with this film. I can't thank Mary and Stella enough for everything they put into the film. And I apologize in advance if I break down crying and hug you tightly if I see you on the sidewalk. I promise it's completely normal.