JOHN FARRELL: A BYTE OF CINEMA

In your own work as a filmmaker, what were the greatest freedoms and greatest frustrations, which arose from using the new technology in the creation of Richard the Second and Everyman? ^ The greatest freedom is the leisure you have to consider and re-consider your edits and sequences, your sound effects and visual effects and music soundtrack from a purely creative standpoint as you put the whole thing together. Since you’re no longer freaking out about the $300 to $400 per hour you’d be spending in an online edit suite under the old model, with all the pressure that puts on your editorial decisions, you can finish your day’s work in Final Cut Pro or Premiere 6.5, take the train home and think about your movie the way that novelists think about their day’s quota of writing. You can sleep on it, come back the next morning, look at your work again with a cold eye, and improve it if it needs it. And you don’t have to take it off your credit card to make those changes.
A concrete example for me is the use of cutaways. Cutaways (meaning reaction shots) of your actors in key dramatic sequences are the most underrated and powerful means of engaging your audience. They provide the real subtext of your movie. And you can’t experiment with them enough. There’s a million ways you can change the effect of a single scene, just by the use of one cutaway. With the control of your editing on your desktop and at your fingertips, you can try just about any sequence your heart desires; you have that necessary time to stand back and think about where all your shots belong in the grand scheme.
The only frustrations I can think of, at least for me, is the fact that mini-DV only comes in 60 minute cassettes (as opposed to 120 minutes) and that you can’t do insert edits with mini-DV, just assembly editing. That’s a pain in the neck. But only a pain in the neck.
And, it still costs over $300/minute to transfer video to film. Other than that, I’m very happy with the technology. I was able to professionally finish two projects that languished for so long for lack of funds, and the prospects for new productions are very good (in spite of the economy).
What new projects are you working on, both in terms of films and writing? ^ In terms of writing, I finished a short script about a retired British general who’s losing his sight. He visits a Manor and meets an old Slovenian woman who turns out to be the sister of a man he helped escape the massacres under Tito in Yugoslavia. So it’s about their relationship. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve finished a novel, a sort of horror story about a 400-year-old puritan minister who comes back to Boston to rid himself of a curse that wiped out an entire tribe of the Native American Patuxets. That’s being looked at by a couple of New York publishers, and I have two more finished manuscripts in the wings if that takes off.
For movie projects, aside from shopping the rights to Richard the Second, I’m working on a 90-minute thriller based on some characters I created for my second novel. I’ve written half a dozen feature scripts for submission to Hollywood in the past, but this feature I’m writing with the new technology in mind. Small cast. Great (meaning scenic) locations in and north of Boston. I also have another of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays that would make a great DV movie, to shoot as I did the first one at some of the great locations on the Boston harbor islands-but that will entirely depend on whether Richard the Second gets picked up for home video distribution.
I’m also beginning to shoot a documentary. Boston’s big with the scandal in the Archdiocese now, but over the years there’s been a lot of other scandals that haven’t necessarily captured the attention of the rest of the country when they should have. In terms of corrupt cities in America, the old Hub doesn’t get nearly the scrutiny it deserves. My father worked for over 35 years as newspaper reporter and columnist, and something I tended to overlook as I grew up was the fact that, as WBZ radio talk show host David Brudnoy reminded me, “He knows where all the bodies are buried.” I’m realizing how much great stuff he and his generation of pols and journalists know, and I am working on getting them all in front of the camera to talk about it. Something admirably suited to DV.
Visit John Farrell at his website.




Posted on January 9, 2003 in Interviews by
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