No Short Cuts: An Editor’s Tale

March 31, 2011 at 11:29 am

INTERVIEW: An Editing Tale | Editing Blog | Becoming A Professional Editor

AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
EDITOR ANDY PETERSON

“I was attracted to post production because it scared me”

Andy Peterson is a professional editor who has worked on feature length documentaries, live productions and television shows like Survivorman.  His journey to become a professional editor is a story of passion and the dedication needed to realize your dreams.

Every passion begins with a spark.  In Andy’s case, it was a tour of CBC.

“I was in highschool and we did a tour of the CBC news studio in Windsor, near my home town. I was bored out of my mind, so I strayed from the tour. Walking down a hallway I passed a dimly lit room with a bunch of TV screens and a guy tapping away on a computer.  The thing that caught my attention oddly enough was his color-coded keyboard.  It was an editor frantically working on a news story for the 6 o’clock news. I remember thinking the whole thing was fascinating, and wanting my own color-coded keyboard.”

That spark fueled his established interest in film and television and led him to study the industry in college.

“I was always able to compose a decent shot with a camera, I understood the technical aspects of a studio production but when it came to post- I didn’t know how to put two shots together.  My first year of school we didn’t touch a computer, everything was tape to tape. Nowadays I can cut a scene 5 different ways in 10 minutes and decide on the strongest cut… When you are editing to tape, (or film) each edit has to be deliberate and intentional- or you end up spending all night in the suite fixing cuts. It’s a fantastic way to learn what shots will work and what won’t.  It quickly became an addiction and I decided to make it a career.”

I think there is something calming about knowing instinctively what you want to do with your life. In Andy’s case, he knew early on that he wanted to become an editor and avoided the stress that can sometimes weigh heavily on the mind of a high school graduate.

However, knowing what you want to do doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to devote yourself to that goal.  Andy seized every opportunity he could.

“To graduate, we needed to complete a 100 hour unpaid internship. Most people ended up in Toronto at big studios, or in their hometown Rogers Cable stations.  I was presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to work and shadow Les Stroud, host of Discovery Channel’s ground breaking, genre-creating show ‘Survivorman’. It just so happened Les was expanding his company, and was looking to take on two student placements.  I jumped at the chance to work with him.  I worked away in an abandoned hotel room in Huntsville Ontario for two years side by side with Les.

My entry into the industry was unconventional but I wouldn’t trade it for anything  I worked my butt off and Les kept re-signing me. Smaller projects at first, then a feature doc, and I eventually ended up as an editor on seasons 2 and 3 of Survivorman.”

Proof that anything is possible if you put in the time and effort.

“My first big project was the documentary ‘Off The Grid with Les Stroud’, a 90 minute feature about sustainable and environmentally friendly living. I started out by logging and capturing over 120 hours of footage. This was also my first real gig as a cameraman.  I remember Les pulled my co-worker Max and myself into his office one day and said ‘Alright boys, I didn’t bring you here to just log tapes- start cutting.’  That was it.”

As his knowledge and skills increased, Andy found himself gaining more and more responsibilities and once again, he took on every challenge.

“During seasons 2 and 3 of Survivorman I was fortunate enough to go on location with Les and act as a second unit cameraman. I’d shoot the setup of the show, and then film beauty shots, sunrises and sunsets, and interviews while Les was off surviving for 7 days.  I remember I flew back from the South Pacific shoot on a sunday night with a Pelican case full of about 80 tapes. I had contracted Dengue fever on the shoot and was pretty violently ill. We had 11 days to capture, cut and finish an entire episode… we usually get 6 weeks.

The decision was made to post the show in Toronto- out of our element, using Avid machines (we were all Final Cut Pro guys at the time). We lived, ate, slept and cut in that post house until the job was done- teaching ourselves Avid on the fly. Our senior editor did not flinch and his confidence lead us to deliver the show on time. Whenever I see that show on air I always smile. It’s probably my favourite episode.”

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary Andy directed and edited called Rubber Side Down.  It was a phenomenal story.

“Two of my good friends decided to bike across Canada: Victoria to St. John’s. My friend Greg Mailloux was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 15 and had always dreamed of doing it. Once he felt well enough, he decided to take on the feat as a fundraiser and donate money to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. I set the guys up with a couple HD camcorders and they filmed about 130 hours of footage from coast to coast. We turned it into a feature length doc and were able to raise about 100k for the foundation.”

It’s inspiring to think that a chance encounter with an editor at CBC years ago led to a career that would help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good cause.  You never know where you will end up unless you go for it.

Currently, Andy is working on a pilot called ‘Road of Wonders’.  You can check out the trailer at www.roadofwonders.com

To make a donation to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada and find out more about Rubber Side Down visit www.rubbersidedownmovie.com.

Special thanks to Andy Peterson.  Follow him on twitter @andyDpeterson

No Short Cuts: An Editor's Tale | Editing Blog | Becoming A Professional Editor

All Time Best: Baseball Movie Moment

March 30, 2011 at 12:12 am

All Time Best: Baseball Movie Moment | Movie Blog

I fell in love with basketball long ago. I played non stop for years but it wasn’t my first love.  That distinction belongs to baseball.  In the six years I played competitive baseball there were many moments I will never forget but one in particular rises above the rest.

LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL

It was my second season and I wasn’t old enough to play hardball yet so it was softball for me.  I was basically an infielder my whole ‘career’ but for some reason, this was the only season I was a catcher.  Our team completely dominated that year and made it to the championship game.

So there I was at the end of the summer, in the final inning with 2 out.  We were only up by one or two runs so the pressure was on.  The batter took his final swing and popped it up directly above my head.  I had to hustle but I caught that ball and we won the championship.  There’s nothing like making the final play to win a title, even if it was only little league softball.

Strangely enough, another memory I have from that day was a meteor shower that everyone was talking about.  Back then, I was a little naive and I remember a few people messing with me causing me to ‘worry’ about one of the meteors crashing down to earth.

“The chances are slim but it could happen” They told me.

I stayed up that night and watched the only meteor shower I’ve ever seen.  I haven’t witnessed one since.

It was an amazing day.

BASEBALL MOVIES

All Time Best: Baseball Movie Moment | Movie Blog

It wasn’t long after that when I became obsessed with movies as well and films like The Sandlot captured my imagination.  I ran a bit of a poll on my Facebook account last week and asked people what their favorite baseball movie moment was.

I started it off with one of my favorite moments: Kevin Costner’s character playing catch with his father in Field of Dreams.  Great moment.  Many people mentioned their personal favorites like ‘The Pickle with Hercules’, ‘There’s no crying in baseball’, a whole bunch of awesome Bull Durham references and more…

It was so easy for people to select their favorite moment.  Like it was instinct.  Ask a question like ‘What is your favorite baseball movie moment?’ and people just know.  It’s a part of them.  People love baseball movies.  I love baseball movies!

LINK: Check out ESPN’s favorite baseball moments here.

The more I thought about it, the more I kept going back to my favorite little league moment and how much fun I had.  And so…

The Sandlot Wins For Me

Field of Dreams is a close second but I knew my favorite baseball moment would come from The Sandlot the second I started writing this post.

This classic is permanently etched in my mind but this isn’t about picking my favorite baseball movie.  It’s about my favorite baseball movie moment. So I decided to go with ‘The Omen’ when Benny crushes the ball with such force it literally rips the ball apart.

I chose that particular moment above all the hilarious and quotable lines because it’s all about baseball.  It’s about playing the game and being a part of something amazing.

That’s what baseball means to me.  Even if the Blue Jays haven’t won for a million years…

What’s your favorite baseball movie moment?

Imagination & Sucker Punch… Explained?

March 29, 2011 at 9:06 am

Imagination & Sucker Punch... Explained? | Movie Blog | Sucker Punch Review

DRAGONS, STEAM POWERED SOLDIERS
GIANT SAMURAI WARRIORS WITH GATLING GUNS…

I went into Sucker Punch armed with all the negative buzz and reviews from frustrated critics and fans. However, I also went in armed with a love for Zack Snyder’s films and especially his visual style.

Zack Snyder went into production armed with one hell of an imagination.  Was it enough?

Sucker Punch wasn’t a great movie but once again, Zack Snyder delivered another stylized and action packed adventure that was entertaining at times but I just didn’t get it.

Still, the movie is geared towards video game nuts and geeks and I fit perfectly into that category so there were elements of the film I loved. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played a game where you have to defeat bosses to collect items and move on.

If you don’t know dungeon bosses, you are unprepared for Sucker Punch.

I’ve decided to structure my review in the style of Sucker Punch since the film is basically a video game you get to watch.  There are items to collect so lets get to it.

*Spolers ahead*

Item 1: Map
What is Sucker Punch?

Simply put, Sucker Punch is the story of a girl who is committed into an insane asylum.  She then leads a group of girls on a journey through not one but two fantasy worlds.  The first is a social club where the girls dance for the ‘clients’ of the incredibly smug and effective ‘Blue’.  An evil club owner who also happens to be the head orderly in ‘reality’.

The girls are presented with a plan to collect 5 items in order to complete their quest and escape the club/asylum.  Their fight to gain these items takes them into a more elaborate and fun fantasy world where huge slow motion battles take place.  Nice.

The treat here is Zack Snyder’s wild imagination.  The battles in this fantasy world range from fighting giant Samurai to steam powered dead soldiers to technologically advanced alien robots.  In addition to these wars you are also treated to dragons, blimps, aerial battles and bunny robots.

It’s a lot to take in but each distinct section of this movie is absolutely beautiful and exciting.

The problem is that there is one hell of a complicated and vague storyline connecting them.

Imagination & Sucker Punch... Explained? | Movie Blog | Sucker Punch Review

Item 2: Fire
The Characters

I suppose the only real thing connecting these fights together to form a cohesive story are the main characters.

Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber.

Still, the whole time you are cheering for them to escape you’ll also be wondering if they are actually achieving their goal at all.  It gets complicated when the girls encountering a problem in the ‘super fantasy world’ but only deal with the consequences in the ‘regular fantasy world’.  It isn’t until the end when you see the results of their actions in reality.  Got all that?

It’s complicated and tough to follow but the fights are sweet.

Imagination & Sucker Punch... Explained? | Movie Blog | Sucker Punch Review

Item 3: Knife
The Action

This is what I paid to see.  Intense and stylized action sequences hit hard and often and the film really doesn’t disappoint if you can get over the fact that it makes little sense at first.

These types of movies are difficult to pull off.  I remember my dad joining me in the middle of The Matrix Reloaded one afternoon.  Trying to explain why Neo’s skills are ‘realistic’ within the movie was tough.  It’s the same kind of idea here but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The winner for me was the robots on the train.  In typical Snyder fashion, the girls flip, kick and blast their way through the car in a single shot full of speed changes and money moments.  It’s exactly what I loved about 300 and exactly what I was hoping to see in the film.  In that sense, I definitely wasn’t disappointed but everyone knew it would be full of cool action.

It was the story that lost me.

Item 4: Key
Understanding The Story

I’m sure feeling lost was part of the overall experience but it wasn’t until an hour or so after the movie that I really started to piece together a theory.

Spoiler.  If I’m not mistaken and I could very well be, the entire film is seen through the eyes of Sweet Pea’s imagination and not Baby Doll’s.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense but you really, REALLY have to think about it.

If it’s true, the story’s themes remain the same but are focused on the wrong person.  Is that the Sucker Punch?

The hints that led me to this conclusion pretty much hinge on the bus driver at the end.  He’s the one who gives Baby Doll the quest in the first place in fantasy land so it has to be Sweet Pea’s vision right?  Because she can still see him once she’s escaped? I think so.  It’s a good twist that I enjoyed pondering but my problem is if she sees him at the end, isn’t she still fantasizing?

There are a ton of hints that support this theory.  For starters, when we are introduced to the Club it’s Sweet Pea who proclaims that she is running the show.  Even when we first meet Sweet Pea in the theater she is under the care of a doctor telling her that her fantasies can be real.

I talked to a number of people who saw the film and took it as is.  They completely missed the big twist.  This brings up two important questions.  Did I read too far into it or did they miss it?  Both suggest that it’s not entirely clear but maybe that was the point.

Is Baby Doll simply Sweet Pea’s vision of someone who will fight for her when really she is really learning to fight for herself?  It’s interesting to consider but all the hints are there.  Sometimes twist endings are too well hidden though.  This might be a good example of that.

Imagination & Sucker Punch... Explained? | Movie Blog | Sucker Punch Review

According to Wikipedia, Zack Snyder defends the story by blaming the editing process.

“Director Zack Snyder has stated one interpretation of the film is that it is a critique on geek culture’s sexism and objectification of women.He further admits that part of the difficulty in interpreting the movie is due to him being forced to cut many crucial scenes before the film’s release in order for the MPAA to give the film a PG-13 rating, something that caused him much frustration.”

So Sweet Pea dreams up an escape plan and uses her friends in the asylum to escape?

Lets hear it from Sweet Pea herself Abbie Cornish:

“[Baby Doll] changes their whole perception of freedom, of hope, of escapism.  And so their ways of life are challenged, they’re sucker-punched with this whole idea of freedom.” Digital Spy

What she really means is Baby Doll inspires her to escape right?  We will have to wait for the extended DVD to find out I suppose.

Item 5: Me
The Verdict

In the end, I found myself counting down the seconds before the next action scene instead of investing fully in the story.  That’s usually a bad sign especially if the action doesn’t deliver but thankfully it does.  The action saves the film from truly being the disaster that many people are calling it.  It’s not that bad.

The more I thought about the movie and the layers I probably missed, the more I thought about giving it a second chance.  Is it worth a trip to the theater?  Probably not.  But it could be a worth while ‘rent’ someday.

Sucker Punch isn’t a movie for everyone.  Some people will be lost but others will fall in love with the world Zack Snyder has created.

Either way you will be unprepared for Sucker Punch.

The one thing you can’t help but admire is Snyder’s incredibly visual eye and remarkable imagination.  Why not try something completely ‘out there’ and see what happens.  I have a lot of respect for filmmakers like him.  It’s just cool to see what he comes up with.

Click here to check out more of my reviews and comment below if my theory is way off.  I’d love some clarification if I’m wrong.

XTRA: /FILM has a great article up called In Defense of Sucker Punch.  Great read.

Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If They Made A BASE WARS Movie?

March 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

Wouldn't It Be Awesome If They Made A Base Wars Movie? | Movie Blog

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY
MOVIES ABOUT ROBOTS

Stop reading now if you aren’t entertained by giant robots kicking the crap out of each other…  You can stay if you hated Transformers 2 because everybody hated that movie.

This year, we will be treated to not one but TWO giant robot movies.  Transformers Dark of the Moon and Real Steel.  Even though I thought Transformers Revenge of the Fallen was a complete disaster, the third installment is still one of my most anticipated movie of the summer.  There are other movies that are close but I happen to love Michael Bay action movies and his new film looks like a blast.

XTRA: Check out my summer movie rankings.

Some people may not like the Transformers franchise (or Michael Bay) at all but I love big summer movies like this.  You would think I’d be a little more excited about Real Steel but I’m not completely sold yet.

So many boxing movies are among the most successful sports films ever made.  2010 gave us yet another Academy Award winning boxing film in The Fighter.  Something tells me Real Steel won’t be winning any Oscars but it could still be entertaining.

Boxing may be the most decorated sport on the big screen but if there is a second place it’s baseball.  Let’s get some robots on a diamond shall we?

Remember Base Wars for NES?

Base Wars is an old school baseball game where you play with a team of supercharged Cyborgs with guns.  In this baseball game, you aren’t out if you’re tagged.  You fight for the base and it was a blast.

My favorite baseball game growing up was Baseball Simulator 1000 but Base Wars is a close second.  How can you resist beating the hell out of your friends just to be safe a second?  Even pitching a ball right down the middle only to curve it at the last second was sweet.

Having complete control over the ball like that got annoying so we instituted a rule that one pitch per at bat had to be down the middle. You just never knew which one.  Failing to comply with this rule meant you had to lose the next battle.  Tough cost as your robots took damage throughout the game.

Wouldn't It Be Awesome If They Made A Base Wars Movie? | Movie Blog

Could they make a Base Wars movie? I think it would be very similar to Real Steel so you would have to avoid that.  I like the idea of making a Base Wars movie set in a world that’s become too technologically obsessed and forgotten the purity of things like Baseball.

My Base Wars movie would mix The Sandlot and Field of Dreams together and have the whole thing revolve around our history as a species.

Movies like this tend to assume that people stopped watching humans play in favor of huge Gladiator Robots.  I think Major League Baseball would remain.  It has to!

Here is how I would do it.

MLB struggles in the ratings so they decide to add Base Wars to the seventh inning stretch of each game.  I would have the film center on a family with three generations.  A grandfather who played a few pro seasons, his son who is currently a major league manager and former player and his son who is a gifted engineer.

The movie would be about our emotional attachment to the game AND about the evolution of our planet’s technology.  Also there would be HUGE robot battles and a ton of baseball.

I just wouldn’t want the movie to be set in the future where baseball is dead.  That’s not a movie I want to see.  There would be nothing but bitter old men rejecting the game.  I think the integration of robots is enough while still preserving what makes the game of baseball great.  Of course, there still needs to be some high stakes and conflicts but I haven’t developed the entire story yet.

Will we ever see a Base Wars movie?  Probably not but if this video is any evidence, we may see the real thing someday.

I’d name the robots after famous movies. Johnny 5, Optimus, HAL etc…

PS: How have we not had a remake of Base Wars yet?!  Get on it people!

10 Flicks: Alien Weaknesses

March 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

10 Flicks: Strange Ways To Kill Movie Aliens | Top 10 Strange Ways To Kill An Alien | Movie Blog

GUNS AND GIANT BOMBS
ARE NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER

Thousands of Aliens have invaded big screens around the world.  There are countless stories of vicious species determined to kill us but also lovable beings that touched our hearts.

Regardless, there is always someone who wants to take them out.  Most of the time, humans call in the big guns, tanks and jets to do the dirty work but there are instances when guns aren’t the answer.

Sometimes, the key to everything lies in a very simple and unexpected solution.  However, it’s important to remember that not all Aliens are evil.  Who would want to use E.T’s home sickness against him?  That’s mean.

Here are 10 of the best Alien weaknesses.

Space Jam
Basketball

Sometimes, defeating Aliens is just a matter of challenging them to competitive game of basketball and recruiting his royal Airness. (Oh and Bill Murray too.)

Pitch Black
Light

What are the odds that a prisoner who can only see in the dark finds himself on a planet with horrible monsters who only come out at night?  Furthermore, what are the odds this prisoner would find himself on this planet juuuuuuust when a solar eclipse goes down?  Bring on the light.

Mars Attacks
Music/Yodeling

These fierce Martians are no match for the Indian Love Call.

War of the Worlds
Bacteria

Like Signs, I feel like this species should have done more research before invading our planet.  You have to do your research!

Men In Black 2: Ballchinian
Balls

It’s bad enough getting kicked in the groin but getting chin punched in the ball throat?  Now THAT’S a weakness.

Spider-Man 3: Venom
Sound

The space goop’s only weakness lies high on the decibel meter.  Bells, gongs and other loud noises work nicely.  In this case, a series of metal pipes arranged in a circular xylophone type formation.

E.T
Home Sickness

He just wants to go home!

Signs
Water

These Aliens were taking one hell of a risk invading Earth to harvest us.  I don’t know if they noticed but there is a lot of water here.

Independence Day
Computer Virus

Technologically advanced Alien civilizations have no answer for Jeff Goldblum’s quick thinking and hacking skills.

Superman
Kryptonite

Arguably the most famous fictional Alien of all time is seemingly invincible except for a certain green rock.

Perhaps Alien strengths will be the next list…