I made a film about 25 years ago and for the past week or two I have been very busy re-cutting it. Only a half hour or so long – well 28 minutes – and I've cut it down to about 22.
The reason I did this was because, after all these years, I can.
I have the editing facilities and there was always something nagging me about it: one of the scenes in the movie concerns an American tourist calling his Rabi in New York to tell him that he has found a Jewish scroll – a Torah – at Portobello Market in London and, when we shot it, I read the 'other' voice whilst an old pal of mine, playing the American, speaks.
It's quite a normal technique and I did a 'cod' American/New York accent. I was never satisfied with my accent but it was good enough for the day; I had planned to get an American to do the voice but when it came to it I couldn't afford it.
Even today I listen to the so called American voices in the plays on Radio 4 and they are awful; even then I didn't want anybody but an American doing it.
But my voice stayed with it and each time I have seen the film since that voice sticks out like a sore thumb!
My pal – Jeff Chiswick – who was playing the American tourist, died of a heart attack in 1993; he was a really good actor and in my film, The Scroll, he is terrific.
As the writer and director on the picture he asked me the right questions, questions which made me go back to the drawing board and re-write his role and that was a lesson learned.
Working 'with him' for the past couple of weeks made me realise just how good he was or is in the film.
A couple of years ago I asked my pal in Los Angeles, Ron, to record the 'other voice' for me, the one that I did; I was never sure if I would ever be able to do anything with it but I kept it; I played the movie and recorded the sound in to my sound editing system and there it is on the screen as follows:
As you can see it's in sound waves; some of them are mine and some of them as Jeff's. Then I separated the two voice – like so and put Ron's voice in:
You can see where I have changed the volume etc and left gaps where my voice used to be.
I did that a few years ago and left it on my lap top somewhere.
And then last year one of my daughter's friends, who was in the film as a seller at the jumble sale, found a VHS copy of The Scroll and I asked him to send his copy to me which he did.
Of course I don't have a VHS VCR any more so I couldn't play it which meant taking the tape into Wardour Street without being able to check it, to get it transferred to DVD MP4 so I could edit it. Forgive me for the gobbledygook but . . .well.
At last I had the chance and rushed home with the DVD; I knew it wouldn't play on my DVD machine, as it was on MP4, so put it onto my computer and played it back.
Of course what happened was that my daughter's friend, who had very kindly sent the tape to me, had, some years ago, wiped my movie off the tape and it contained footage of people on holiday – maybe his relations. Sitting in the beach, I think, walking around etc.
So there we are – it was a nice idea whilst it lasted.
Then I remembered that my other pal, Gary, who played my partner in the movie, might have a copy, and when I called him he did and he sent it to me.
There was another bit of confusion as the two copies were sitting on my desk looking exactly like each other – which one was which?
But that was sorted out when I took both of them in to be transferred.
You may remember that last year my pal Ron, in Los Angeles, died. I wrote a post about him and here he is:
So for the last few weeks I have been working with two of my late friends; both of them dead, neither had ever met the other.
It was strange and somehow very rewarding; a few other people in the film have died since I made it – I love the way I say I made it when making a film is a group effort, but you know what I mean.
It's only a small nondescript movie so it should be flattered that it's getting a 'director's cut' – but there we are.
I found there were other things in the film I had compromised with at the time; a pool ball sound I wanted, maybe a little cutting here and there but any way it is done and who knows what I'm going to do with it now and you will know that Who is on first base!!
By the way – The Beans:
English speakers have been using the word "spill" to mean "divulge secret information" since 1547, but the spilling of beans in particular may predate the term by millennia. Many historians claim that secret societies in ancient Greece voted by dropping black or white beans into a clay urn. To spill those beans would be to reveal the results of a secret vote before the ballots had been counted. Kidney he lives, pinto he dies!