May 2, 2016 at 6:00AM, Edited May 2, 6:07AM

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Should I finish a bad film?

I've took a long time to shoot my first movie and really wanted everyone to be proud of it. However I've had a lot of trouble with my leading man and he's threw a spanner in the works at every turn. Everything from shaving when he said he wouldn't to repeatedly not learning lines which meant constant rewrites because he ad-libed. Everyone else on the project worked incredibly hard but we were all feeling it. We'd commited to him through the rehearsal stage and felt he was the right choice at the time. But when filming started he went into premadona mode. It was zero budget and everyone just gave there time but all are excited to see the end result as I've posted stills and people are saying how incredible it looks. Although the scenes we shot look amazing, nothing cuts together into anything even remotly similar to the script as there are holes all over the story due to the constant adlibing by my leading man. His refusal to be directed on set and just do his own thing meant set pieces didn't work and continuity is a joke. I'm so depressed about this that I can hardly bring myself to finish the film. Advice please, what would you do?

21 Comments

Are things really as black and white? Everybody was perfect except for one man and because of that the film turned out a disaster?

Finish it, enjoy the trip and use the destination as a stepping stone to new voyages!

May 2, 2016 at 10:43AM

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Cary Knoop
Member
2000

I appreciate what you're saying, we had issues along the way of course, it is a first film after all and there were problems. But problems are to be expected with lighting and cameras and other technical stuff. Maybe I just need to learn how to manage difficult personalities. Your right of course as that's what makes great directors out of OK directors or even bad directors. I will finish the film, I cant not finish it as it would let everyone down who have put in their time. I'll pay more attention to casting next time. The annoying thing is, when he gets it right and I get it right, it's really good. I just wish he'd allowed himself to be directed more and hit his mark when I needed him too. And I'm just pissed off at myself for not handling the shoots as well as I now I could have. Now the edit is a headache and my story isn't my story any more, it's something else. But onwards and upwards. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

May 2, 2016 at 2:49PM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

You wrote: "Now the edit is a headache and my story isn't my story any more, it's something else. But onwards and upwards. "

That is a problem. Using the editing stage as a way to solve problems in the footage is not a good idea, it won't work!

Perhaps you could add narrator scenes 'explaining' the 'complicated turns' in the story? The film then could become a narrative film. By introducing and commenting on scenes every illogical turn of your main actor could be explained in some grander scheme.

Think for instance about Amadeus (1984) by Milos Forman or even Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorsese.

May 2, 2016 at 3:05PM, Edited May 2, 3:07PM

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Cary Knoop
Member
2000

Finish the film brother, just play around with the edit, I'm sure you will come up with something decent. I recently did my first no-budget short in which everything that could go wrong did. Actors showed up late for reasons some beyond their control, some of the people who had pledged to help were a no show. So the three people who were there had to take up multiple duties on a very limited time. The result was something completely different from the script that I had to rename the film altogether. Some of the camera work was butchered. But I went on and salvaged the little that I could in the edit. The result was a so-so film by my standards which some people interestingly liked and I got good feedback which is helping me in my growth. You can find the short film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1pO393jj5s

May 2, 2016 at 3:52PM

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MacDonald Kengaletswe
Writer, Filmmaker
1

You could try some drastic changes in the edit:
Voice over narration, omitting problematic scenes and shortening the length, turn the character into a psycho/drug-addict/Dr. Jekyll-Mr Hyde persona. Maybe even turn it from drama to comedy (with a hilarious voice over).
I hate to say but if you go towards this route, maybe you would need to shoot a couple of additional scenes. Explain to the rest of the crew that you absolutely need them in order to have a finished film.

May 2, 2016 at 6:49PM, Edited May 2, 6:50PM

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Stel Kouk
Filmmaker
3202

FINISH IT.

I think several people have given you some very good advice. Editing is the place where you can recut the story into a completely different film from your original story. If what you shot has little correlation to the script or your original vision, then try to take off your script-writer hat and director hat and put on your editor hat.

You have raw material. You have the ideas or feelings of the original intent, but you also have the actual raw material. You can cut out all the dialogue from the "problem actor" and use voice-over. You can cut things up until they make sense. You can use a disjointed flash-forward/flash-backward amalgam that circles around the subject matter. Watch "Petulia" by Richard Lester. A dream-like state can be achieved by resequencing and returning to a shot repeatedly throughout a film. Is it a memory? A premonition?

It's hard in situations where you wrote something, then you try to shoot and direct it, and then you have to edit it. It is very difficult not to be "married" to your original intention. But storytelling and all forms of art are about problem-solving. Your story or your film presents some elements, and then the introduction of those elements presents "problems" or conflicts which the viewer wants to see resolved. If it comes down to it you can chop up your footage with no regard for the "original story" and instead try to create a beautiful, evocative puzzle that is so tantalizing that your audience *wants* to put it together by watching it and perhaps even thinking about it well after the film is over.

But finish it. Complete it. You'll learn things from every step of the process. And it's an invaluable lesson to learn how to make things better when things don't turn out like how you planned.

May 3, 2016 at 1:17PM, Edited May 3, 1:18PM

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Sean Bokenkamp
Animator
363

Thanks for all the replies guys. I wasn't expecting to have anyone reply really but I'm over the moon you all cared enough to respond. I will finish the film and you've all offered some great idea's on how to do it. I'll post it when it's done I'd love a critique on it.

Where would I post it for this community to see?

Thanks again.

May 3, 2016 at 2:43PM

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You voted '-1'.
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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

I would suggest Vimeo or YouTube

May 4, 2016 at 12:06AM

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Cary Knoop
Member
2000

Finish it. The "shark" didn't work for Jaws and the rest is history. You really don't know how things will be received.

May 4, 2016 at 10:29AM

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Finish it.
For a few reasons:
- Your team deserves to see the result
- Your filmmaking future will be easier if you can say you finished your first movie. Being able to finish a project evoked more trust than being the man who let everyone put in the efoort but never finished it.
- You will learn from editing it.

Let go of your frustrations and look for possibilities.
If the scene only works with your main character looking discontinuous, so be it. That way he will see how stupid it was to not listen :-p

May 4, 2016 at 11:25AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9032

A few other ideas: take a break for a few weeks, work on something else, and come back with fresh eyes. You may see it in a completely different way. That happens often with any kind of project.

Also, has anyone else seen it? Consider showing it to another editor who has not been involved in the project at all. You're almost guaranteed to get a dozen light bulb moments when that person says "have you thought about trying..."

But bottom line, I agree with what everyone else here has said: under no circumstances leave the project unfinished. That's the only scenario here in which you truly fail.

Good luck, and be sure to let us know how it goes!

May 4, 2016 at 9:09PM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
347

It totally depends, will your crew be more pissed if they see it or if they don't and you tell em it was a failure. As a crew member, if its trash and I worked on it, I'd rather not see it, and as long as directors play it straight with crew and you have potential they will still respect you. You only get one dud with most people though.

Its one of the hardest lessons to learn as a director, if the casting is flawed then the project will never work, but there hasn't been an established director who hasn't gone through what you have. Its normal.

May 5, 2016 at 8:28AM

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Indie Guy
1223

Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting. I think everyone has offered great advice but I can see your side of it as well. If I did the cinematography for a project that turned out trash I would be very keen to have my name removed from the credits. So my current plan is all of the above. I'll definatly finish the movie just because I think from any perspective it's important to do so. But then instead of just automatically entering it into a bunch of festivals and stuff, I plan to show to cast and crew in a private showing and get their reaction. Then I would welcome anyone on these boards volenteering to watch a private screener that I could post on youtube if they could give an honest critique warts and all. Family and friends will tell me it's amazing even if it's rubbish, we all know that. If you do view the film I will not upsell it before hand, I want you to watch it completly cold, I think that's the best way to see what if anything an audience gets from it. thanks again I really appreciate it.

May 6, 2016 at 6:13AM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

John,

We discuss your question on this week's podcast!

http://nofilmschool.com/2016/05/ifweekly-050516

May 5, 2016 at 10:52AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I listened to the Podcast Ryan, thanks for all the encouragement. When you said you'd discussed it I thought at first you'r discussed the topic generally. I like the idea of getting a different editor in to see if they can help shed a new light on the footage. Thanks again.

May 6, 2016 at 8:06AM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

One of the finest films ever made is called "Plan9 from outer space. It was fraught with compromises, from the religious producers forcing a name change, to its lead actor dying during production (Bella Lugosi). So Director Ed Wood used his chiropractor with a large cape, keeping the face covered and finished the film. I like what people are posting to you, but in being a great Director, instead of blaming your lead actor, the energy is better focused to the creative opportunity you have to turn this film around. Maybe your chiropractor can help?

May 5, 2016 at 2:01PM

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Agreed

May 6, 2016 at 6:14AM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

Finish it definitely. Not only to reward everyone who gave their time but for yourself so you can finish this chapter then move on with what you've learnt.

May 5, 2016 at 2:53PM

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Cole Black
Filmmaker
267

Did a film sometime ago, after shooting it i was not happy with it neither were the members of our small production company. We took sometime from it say about 3 weeks then went back to it, got some B rolls as well, Finished it and uploaded it. That short film got the most views of any of our other films that we were "proud" of. a number of bloggers spoke about it in their blogs and even a radio interview came from it!. Now persons want that short film to be turned into a series. We are currently working on Part two of the film. You never know man, just finish the film and let it be a stepping stone for you.

May 6, 2016 at 3:25AM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2549

It's great to get so many replies from complete strangers that clearly have had similar challenges. Like I said in one of my earlier replies, family and friends are supportive and that's important but when you need complete honesty a community like this is absolutly critical. Thanks. I'll post it on youtube when its finished and hopefully get some valuable feedback good and bad.

May 6, 2016 at 6:18AM, Edited May 6, 6:18AM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
355

I have a short film for a film festival I have been trying to make for 5 yrs, I think finally will be shooting in a couple of weeks. The biggest problem is one of the two main actors will quit, it is a two day shoot, but even 90% of a film is shot, it still is no film. I have used the footage up to this far as proof of concept and I have honed the script and basically have the same script as 5yrs ago, but now with more clarity and clear vision of what to do. In using prior footage as rehersal, some scenes have been dropped and some have been modified. Based on my experience and this topic, you might consider re making the film with an actor that will do it justice. All the work up to this point even if re done will be a blueprint on how to do it right, if you have a great script, it may take some courage to do it again and do it right and make a great movie instead of something you will always hate.

May 8, 2016 at 3:31AM, Edited May 8, 3:31AM

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