Thursday, June 7, 2007

Good Afternoon, and Good Luck: The Thrilling Conclusion

{Ed. note: Parts I and II of this series have already run, as has the introduction.}

Clooney and Heslov wolf down steak burritos from a local Mexican joint called Poquito Mas, which forces them to pause the screening but doesn’t halt their banter. When a studio exec mentions an interview concerning Murrow on NPR that’s available for download, Clooney cracks, “I’m gonna download this burrito in about ten minutes.”

“The commentaries I like the best are the ones that are very irreverent about subject matters that are very reverent,” Clooney says later. “People take themselves so seriously that it’s sometimes frustrating to listen to: ‘This is my character and this is what I was feeling.’ I’d rather just hear, ‘We did that shot because it was raining, and it was the only shot we could do.’”

After a break of about fifteen minutes, the headphones go back on. “I’ll tell you when I’m recording,” says Angie the engineer. “I’ll tell you when I’m talking,” Clooney responds.

Lerner spends much of the remainder of the film asking questions, about the real-life characters portrayed on the screen, Clooney’s decision to use only real footage of Joe McCarthy rather than have an actor play him, and the research that went into the film. DVD comments that seem to be answering a question that was never asked were probably prompted in this way, with the question later erased from the audio track.

Clooney is almost fanatically self-deprecating, ridiculing his own acting career at several points. “That’s me on the right,” he says. “You might remember me from the TV series Sisters. I played a character named ‘Falconer.’”

Heslov follows with a rookie mistake. “I can’t see your face,” he says, trying to keep the joke going. “It’s covered up by the word TARY,” the tail end of the COMMENTARY chyroned on the screen. “They won’t see that on the DVD,” Clooney says quietly.

It will be up to Lerner to edit that remark out, as well as all of his own questions. As the movie ends, he tosses out some stray questions for Clooney and Heslov to answer. He’ll have those answers to plug in to any gaps that might end up in the commentary. “If there was some dead space, or parts where they were just watching the film, we might take some responses from my Q&A to fill in,” Lerner says. “I won’t be cutting things they said; the only reason I would cut something is due to legal concerns.” He’ll rearrange snippets of dialogue in hopes of creating a seamless, free-flowing conversation. He compares it to making an audio documentary of the making of a film.

Three and a half weeks later, the track has been edited, mixed, run by legal and the studio, and transferred to a master for final printing. Although the process seemed to be completed at a two-hour session on a Saturday afternoon, it would be almost a month before there was a finished, usable product, something that another filmmaker may learn a few tricks from. DVD commentaries seem to be as popular among moviemakers as they are among movie fans. Church raves about Ridley Scott’s on Alien; Roach says he’s listened to UCLA film professor Howard Suber’s commentary on The Graduate countless times.

“If I’m going to watch one of those commentaries,” Clooney says after he’s laid down his own track, “I’m gonna want to know how some of those shots are done. But you also want them to be fun. It’d be fun to hear Altman not talk for five minutes, you know? Because you’re watching it thinking he’s watching it and he’s gotten caught up in his own story. That’s cool. I love that.”


Mark Lerner said...

I was just doing my daily Google search for "It will be up to Lerner to edit that remark out, as well as all of his own questions" and I came upon this blog.

But I will take this happy reunion to e-mail.

Mark Lerner said...

Wait, no I won't. I can't find your e-mail address. Write me, Tom. (Mark at ragandboneshop dot com)

T. Nawrocki said...

Sorry, my correspondence is conducted entirely through the comments section of this blog. Now excuse me while I go post my water bill.