Dark Dissonance: When do you stop editing a film?
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Dark Dissonance is the oldest film I have chosen to feature on this website. It is also the most roughly hewn of these films. Production was a beast. I remember sneaking into the abandoned cement factory, outside town. Or another episode: cutting down a four inch sapling with nothing but my house key to make way for a gear truck, stuck in a rut.
I question whether those stories are even worth telling. For better or worse, none of those adventures end up on screen. We cannot excuse our workmanship to the audience with our war stories.
I am still quite proud of the film regardless its flaws or strengths. The thematic and aesthetic vision for me was quite palpable from the outset, but for months after we wrapped production, I grappled with how to best reconcile that vision with the footage itself.
Shooting began in October 2013 and I completed a rough cut around March the following year. From there I went straight into production on my next film, Anomie, which I worked on until utter completion in January of 2015. Anomie was such a demanding experience as a filmmaker that by the time I had finished I felt tragically detached from Dark Dissonance, and I did not finish editing it until September of that year.
By that time I felt thoroughly aware of the film's weaknesses, and I experimented heavily with ways to “save” the film or to improve it. I got feedback from friends and other filmmakers. A few said it was too long. I couldn't disagree objectively. My shortest, most drastic cut was around fourteen minutes, meaning the film's length was trimmed by nearly forty percent. Watching this cut, I could not escape the feeling that I had lost something; almost the very essence of the film. Objectively it was cleaner and more perfect, but the intangible atmospheric qualities which I loved had utterly vanished. After a few more weeks of mulling it over, I decided to return the film almost entirely to my original March 2014 rough cut; aside from a few polishing touches this is the version that now stands. In this form it better reflects where I was as a filmmaker at that time. Editing makes a film, quite literally. But I think there is a natural limit to how much one can truly improve upon what ultimately lies within the source material. I have found that, at one point or another, you must simply own up to what you have done and accept it for what it is. No one can tell you exactly when that moment arrives, you must discern it for yourself.
Dark Dissonance was an incredibly formative experience for me as a director, and likewise I am sure, for my fellow collaborators. Recutting the film felt like trespassing into a prior era. Though I tarried for a while, poring through the old raw footage we had filmed almost two years before, remembering the old, abandoned places we once stood within, I felt it better to leave everything as I had found it. > Watch Dark Dissonance Here
I would like to make a special mention here that the bridge sequence near the end of the film was shot in January 2014, on an inactive, decommissioned railroad bridge, for which it would be physically impossible for a train to be present. This was only a few weeks prior to the Sarah Jones incident. Had we not already filmed the sequence and wrapped before the incident occurred, I absolutely would have looked for an alternative location in light of the circumstances. We must all strive to create safest possible environments in which to make our films. - Bryan