Our movie is shrinking! The original cut was about twenty-five minutes, but after the feedback from our focus group, we made some drastic edits to bring it in at just over twenty minutes. However, the prevailing wisdom about film festivals says we still really needed to lose another five minutes to have the best chance at succeeding on the festival circuit. But at this point, we are so immersed in the movie that it’s tough to be objective about what needs to stay and what would be best left on the cutting room floor. So we decided it was time to bring in the big guns.
Roberta Munroe (right) has years of experience as a filmmaker and festival programmer, including five years programming short films at The Sundance Film Festival. To have her sage advice on our film as a story consultant pretty much makes us giddy. Although now we’re wishing we’d read her book How NOT To Make A Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmerbefore we filmed our movie.
We also brought on Ann Collins as an editing consultant. She has more than twenty years of experience and edited several documentaries that premiered at Sundance, including Sound and Fury, which was also nominated for an Academy Award. We knew her keen eye would help us make the edit as smooth and tight as possible.
The nausea returned as we waited for these experts to view our film, and we braced ourselves for the worst before our conference call with each consultant. Fortunately, both Roberta and Ann were fantastic to talk to – they were kindly honest about the things that weren’t working and enthusiastic about the things that did work. And underneath it all, their passion for filmmaking was apparent. Our conversations with them left us with the feeling that with some tweaking, we would have something special on our hands.
So we spent this weekend trying to reconcile the advice we had received from both Roberta and Ann along with our own gut feelings about what we felt needed to be onscreen, and then we started editing. There were some very tough moments where we had to cut scenes that looked really pretty or scenes that took forever to get the cat to cooperate or (most distressing of all) scenes with some of our favorite supporting characters. But we knew it was all in service to the strongest story possible, so we gritted our teeth and pressed delete.
After the cutting frenzy was over, we had shaved another four and a half minutes from the film. And as painful as some of those cuts were, we know our movie is now better for it. Thank you Roberta and Ann for your guidance!