Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mule Days February 20 (now with YouTube)

Hello again, my neglected reader(s). Apologies again for the radio silence. We have roommates moving out, jobs to settle into and various cranky / depressed persons to deal with. So, here's some Mule Days.

Mule Days February 20 from Joseph Peeler on Vimeo.

This edit may not seem like a huge change from previous uploads, but I assure you it took a long time and is loads better than anything before it, primarily because I'm finally finding a structure to the story. The most difficult part of the editing has been eliminating the episodic element as much as possible. The documentary is shaping up to be a collection of portraits set against the backbone of this weird festival, and I'm doing everything I can to make it feel like one big story rather than ten tiny ones. I've edited much further ahead than this cut (I probably have 11-13 or so minutes of footage cut together when it is all said and done), but I'm really working toward erasing the seams between each little segment. And this 5 minute opening, I feel, is getting pretty close to that seamlessness. Or as close as we can come with what we have.

I've decided to use the clown as a prologue. I'll tell his whole story from beginning to end to set the tone of the rest of the movie. From there I wanted to give a context to the celebration as early as possible. Steve, our announcer, has a very long, functional interview that talks about the history of Mule Days and its events. We're aiming for no narration, so his interview is a good crutch to lean on throughout, and lets us give voice to what's going on in the arena, around town, etc. It's a perfect fit to introduce Mike and Zack, two packers, after talking about the history of Mule Days. I hope to keep slowly dissolving the seams between segments.

As research / preparation for editing, I've been listening to a lot of episodes of This American Life. They know how to drop you into the middle of a story and not let you go. I hope the prologue has this same effect. We do have one marked difference between our movie and TAL's way of storytelling: we're going to tell all of our stories in tandem. TAL structures their show in acts, and tells each miniature story from beginning to end. In contrast, I'd like to move onto another story at the end of the clip I just uploaded, then come back to Mike and Zack later on and check in on them. I'd like it to feel like it is all happening at once.

Strangely, the guy we thought was our 'main character,' Tucker, has been the hardest guy to edit. At this point his story is really just a collection of funny clips and nothing more, while guys like the clown and Mike are really tight and progress pretty well, despite (or maybe because of) the smaller amount of footage we have on each of them.

There have been two subtle cuts to the clown's story, but I think they help it immensely. See if you can spot them. I also shortened the montage -- it was just a mix-and-match of what it might feel like before, but I think I'll hold off on it until it feels emotionally appropriate. And I think that Mike's competition is actually shaping up into something interesting and watchable. Let me know what you think.


Shawn said...

If you're sitting around the ol' housearoo with some time and can upload it to YouTube I'd appreciate it. If you can't that's cool. For reasons beyond my knowledge vimeo doesn't work for me.

joe said...

Done and done. Should be processed by morning. Click the link ... it'll play at a larger size.

Shawn said...

It looks and sounds great. The narrative sweep and emotional currents are already detectable and effective. Real strong beginning. Easy to watch, impossible to not enjoy.

What's the projected length?

At appx. the 5:08 mark I'd throw up some subtitles for the man's (Jesse's?) question because you can't really hear it and it'll obscure that Fig Rig shadow. Or maybe you can drop "It's God's will", the purpose of the early cut I imagine, into a v.o. (in the moment prior) and cut at his answer to the question?

I also think something about the rhythm of the cutting into the clown's interview is insincere. I think you have the right idea but it's a little off. Because the purpose of the intercutting is to express duality and sincerity of heart, and it's a great idea and will work great, but I think it's off somehow. Do you think so too?

joe said...

Definitely planning to throw up some subtitles. The question is "How does it feel to have your son out there watching you?" and I think that's important for the continuing story of Mike / son Zack.

You're the first person to mention that about the Clown's interview. It was literally the very first thing I cut together, so I can't say that I've thought a lot about it. I think I snuck a couple of jokes in there -- he talks about marriage and i have the two chickens fighting, maybe another one in there as well -- and I think the sweeping time lapse may be a bit on the early side, but it actually functions well as a visual set up for the next bit about the packers entering the valley. We were thinking about cutting to something else, but we need to see the valley at some early point to get a sense of where we are in relation to the sierra nevadas. So you might be picking up on me chuckling a bit in the editing room, and on the fact that the time lapse feels super-emotional and may not be warranted yet (though I think the second shot of the pan-sunset works really well).

Tell me more about the rhythm if you can, because that's an interesting point.

I'm going to keep the "god's will" part, I think, because Mike was an extremely religious guy and he mentioned that kind of thing every once in a while. Incredibly devout, so I'd like to portray that a little bit.

joe said...

Oh, and projected length is 20-30 minutes, a PBS time-slot-ish length of time. We'll see, though. Who knows.

Shawn said...

Keep "God's will" for sure, I meant you could use it as a soundbite v.o. in the previous moment if you wanted to cut later, but subtitling the question works perfectly well.

And I'm picking up on you chuckling in the editing room, which I think clashes with the clown's sincerity.

I think the time lapse works fine where it is and accomplishes exactly what you're meaning for it to.

joe said...

Interestinggg. I'll search through the footage and see if I can find some better cuts.

On a related note: the you tube video has more views in one day than any of the previous vimeo videos. Within 10 hours "Comfort Inn Bishop" added me to their favorites, and we got an email from one of our main ladies in Bishop about it. I think that'll be the last video for a while to go up on youtube, since I'd rather present it to them in final product rather than bits along the way. It'll keep popping up here, of course.

Shawn said...

What if you put it on YouTube but didn't title it Mule Days?