Moving Pictures
Jan 19, 2024, 06:29AM

A Hen is Editing My Film

Monica Quibbits invited herself to complete my third movie, SATUR-19.

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Sorry—Monica won’t be contributing this week. Or next. Maybe not for the whole year… Rooster and Bennington are incommunicado and I’m the only one here, so it’s my duty to report on Monica’s activities if she won’t do it herself. Monica’s my film editor now—she volunteered. She came to me with a proposal and a pantsuit: “I will edit your film. I know you need help. I’ve studied all 30 of your short films and I believe I understand your rhythms. Please give me dupes of all of your drives and I will make a rough cut of your film. May even have temp sound. If you don’t like it, you won’t lose a dime. If you do like it, I’ll work for room and board.”

I live alone and Monica’s a small hen, so I waved her through. I needed the help, too: my new film SATUR-19 must be finished by April and I’m already in prep on the next one. I don’t want to get bogged down in the sound mix again—sure, let the hen give it a go. Why not? She doesn’t have internet access. I never gave her the password. She won’t be able to upload it to the interne— “NICKY WHAT IS THE WI-FI PASSWORD I NEED IT TO USE PREMIERE.” Unfortunately, one does need internet to use a non-linear editing system: besides updates and additional fonts and effects, Adobe has to know whether or not you’re using a pirated copy of their software. I’m amazed they didn’t do something like this in the mid-2000s.

On Monica’s first day, she showed up in 1930s vintage clothing, with thick Coke bottle glasses and a big red binder full of blank paper waiting to be filled. “Are those your notes?” I asked. “No, I need something to sit on and your paper is too pulpy.” She barged past me and into the living room, where she set up. I told her there was no electricity in the living room, but that I could get her a surge protector. “I DO NOT NEED LIGHT TO EDIT FILM. WHERE IS MY MONITOR!” I understood that, to some extent, this was no longer my house, and I dutifully retrieved my editing computer from upstairs and gave it to her—along with setting it up, showing her how to peck, where the bathroom was (she just used my floor).

SATUR-19 is a strange film, and one I thought a hen could tackle well. “So it’s an anthology film?” Yes, I explained—there were a certain number of distinct segments with the same group of actors, and there’s a rough order of where they’re supposed to go. “Is it sync sound?” No, I recorded the score and the dialogue will have to be dubbed. “Who’s coming in to dub their parts?” I said that everyone was coming in to dub someone else’s part, and Monica spur-clawed me right in the face. “How can you do that? An actor re-voiced is like a gutted fish. Don’t you know about Andie McDowell and Greystroke? Even if you decide to use different actors for the dub, please have everyone read the lines they spoke on the day, otherwise they won’t work with you again.”

It was sensible advice from a hen. I started cobbling together a transcript of every line needed and who’d be recording what. And then Monica asked about the final 20 minutes, a section I’d marked off as “magnum exit.” I told her this was where the film starts to break down, to talk about itself, to revisit previous scenes. She looked me up and down, and without a word of criticism, went back to her work. I’ll be watching her rough cut in a week.

—Follow Nicky Otis Smith on Twitter and Instagram: @nickyotissmith


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