Editor Bryan Capri Talks Cutting Lifetime TV Movies
COW Library : Art of the Edit : Kylee Peña : Editor Bryan Capri Talks Cutting Lifetime TV Movies
"We just wanted to make sure you weren't an ass****."
Felix Funicello (Wyatt Ralff) in detention in a scene from Wishin' and Hopin'.
That's what Connecticut-based editor Bryan Capri was told at his first meeting with Synthetic Cinema International (SCI), where he was nervously clutching his resume and reel and hoping for the best.
A self-described horror junkie, Bryan started making films when his age was still a single digit and the zombies in his live action shorts weren't yet mainstream. When college came around, he headed off to study film and computer science, focusing on cinematography while still cutting his own films. It wasn't until a few years after graduation when he was working as a 1st assistant camera that he realized he was wired for post. After all, camera people usually don't go home and unwind by playing with FCP3, After Effects or Avid. He learned everything and started cutting anything he could get his hands on, from no-budget docs to wedding videos.
Wedding videos led to decent paying corporate work led to shorts led to features, and now? He's working on TV movies that are broadcast to millions of households, recorded on DVRs, and live-tweeted by the masses. Bryan's career path and attitude toward editing shine a light on an important aspect of post production: working hard and having a good attitude is everything if you want to keep moving forward.
Creative COW: How did you handle post on Wishin' and Hopin'.?
Bryan Capri: Production wrapped in mid-August 2014 and we had to deliver the finished film the first week in November. So we had two and a half months for all of post-production, which isn't really a ton of time. I started cutting from a trailer on set on day two and my rough cut was done a week and a half after wrap. It took five and a half weeks total for the first cut. I work without an assistant though, so I'd arrive to set and load up all the dailies from the previous day. I'd sync, log, watch and take notes until lunch. After lunch, I'd dig into actually editing. When the end of the day hit, I'd take my copy of all the footage from that day on a transport drive back to the hotel and do my daily backups. If I wasn't brain dead after that, I'd get a jump on syncing and logging for the next day.
We shot with the Alexa (2K ProRes 4444) and I edited in FCP7, so the workflow was relatively painless. I just brought everything in native and plugged away. When it came time for the color grade and finishing, we did it the old school way. Each act was exported as a flat movie file along with its companion EDL, then conformed in Resolve. With the grade complete, each act was brought back into FCP7 and merged with the twelve tracks of audio from our lab to create the masters. It seems like an old way of doing things today, but it's rock solid and fast. It will be totally different for the next film (which unfortunately I can't talk about yet), as I've designed a new workflow involving Avid Media Composer and Resolve that I promise is much more sophisticated and modern.
The kids in the pageant.
How do you feel your editorial work on this film differed than your work on the first feature you cut?
On my first "real" indie feature, I inherited a very messy project for a film that just wasn't working. I was brought on to fix it. I learned a ton sorting through all of that while trying to make the story work. My first cut (done mostly from scratch, but using the existing cut as a general guideline) was a much tighter, better moving film... and a whopping 45 minutes shorter. I killed some babies on that first pass, but I clearly explained my reasoning and the director and producer agreed with nearly all of my sweeping changes. Looking back, that was pretty ballsy. I had no idea how they'd react, but my gut said I'd made good choices.
Wishin' was different in every respect. I was involved before shooting even began. It's hard for me to pinpoint how my work has differed between those two. It feels like a drastic improvement, but in reality it was very small steps, learning something new with each project. Facing and overcoming new challenges, I've gradually found better ways of doing things and more efficient ways of organizing -- both the project, and my own mind in the process of building a movie. I edit better and quicker with every movie. Each film's problems add to my toolkit for the next. But that's the same for everyone, I think.
Madame Frechette (Molly Ringwald) watches the pageant from the wings.
On Wishin' and Hopin', how did you approach the edit? Did you work closely with the director, and did he give you a lot of creative leeway?
This was my third movie working with Colin Theys. He can also edit, and we work very well together. I did the entire rough cut on my own, asking questions when necessary, or he'd tell me his thoughts on certain things -- like why something was shot in a certain way, or if the coverage changed drastically and he had specific ideas already for the edit. Mostly I just dug my heels in and got to it. I have a lot of leeway to feel out the scenes and make them work with what I've been provided. Toward the end of editorial, to address notes and changes, we traded off back and forth. I was also working as Post-Production Coordinator and Colorist on The Santa Con (also for Lifetime, directed by Melissa Joan Hart, SCI handled all the post) and we had very little time to finish both movies. Some editors seem to really be against this "trade-off" way of working, but I really enjoy the give and take. Fresh eyes and perspective: it all ends up being better for the movie.
What kind of technical or creative challenges did you have?
There were the usual story challenges. The only specific one that comes to mind was that we got network notes that required us to cut out a significant portion of the end and having to figure out how to make it all work without that. Which we did. Those are the fun challenges. On a technical level, our "old school" Resolve workflow came out of a necessary workaround for a workflow breaking bug on Dark Haul. We edited that movie in Premiere Pro CC and at the time, using merged clips to sync your audio broke both AAF and XML export. We didn't have scratch audio, so I couldn't use PluralEyes. I HAD to use merged clips. I don't know of a way to send metadata to Resolve without either of those, so I came up with the idea to just do it the old way with flat movies and EDLs. It worked so smoothly, that I just did it again on Wishin'. Again, speed was a huge factor as there wasn't really any time for error towards the end.
Teacher and Students from Wishin' and Hopin'
It seems to me that editing TV movies might be a little different than theatrical features because of the commercial breaks. Do you have to build editorial decisions around those breaks?
Yes, the placement really depends on the network. Some have very specific break points, or ranges the breaks have to fall within. These are usually figured out in the scripting stage. Wishin' and Hopin' has a nine act structure and there were points that were suggested breaks, but as the timing of the movie changed during editorial, we had to make some changes to the breaks are well. This is common. The breaks also got shifted around on The Santa Con. In the case of Wishin', we cut it originally as the "theatrical cut" and found the break points after using network guidelines for ideal act lengths. This does inform editorial decisions of course. If you watch the two versions side by side, there are slight differences, like "reminder shots" after breaks.
Brian, Editing from his trailer on location
How did it feel to go from editing corporate work or indies that have kind of a limited audience, to working on films that are advertised, broadcast and tweeted about in real time?
I'm still not sure! It's all very surreal. Especially on Wishin' and Hopin'. I've gotten praise from complete strangers. I'm definitely not used to it yet.
You started out in corporate like many of us do, and now you've edited some notable stuff for big networks in your own home state. What's next?
My adopted motto (and I wish I could remember who said it) has always been, "Don't wait for your dream project. Cut everything that comes across your plate." Within reason obviously. It's okay to turn down free or low paying jobs when you need money, or refuse to work with someone who has treated you poorly in the past. My goal is to keep pushing forward to bigger projects. I'd love to land a wide release theatrical film. I would really love the honor of those three letters appended after my name. For now, the plan is to keep doing what I'm doing: more TV movies, indies and networking!
Shooting a Christmas movie in July means adding steam breath to exteriors!
What qualities do you think are most important for a person to get to editing features?
Organization, storytelling, great instincts and not being an ass*****. Sure, there are rules and guidelines to follow which can certainly be learned in school or from books, but so much of it is instinct. It's also very important to have an experimental outlook. Never be afraid to try new things and fail horribly. I've always learned more from what didn't work.