First cut vs Final cut (Studycase StarWars TFW)

set wrote on 1/20/2016, 8:46 PM
Reading this article:

First cut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is 2 hours 50 minutes, while the final cut result shown theater is 2 hour 16 minute.

Just wondering to most of you who did full movie or feature length documentary etc. - what is your first cut's durations and what is your final duration cut after re-edit / re-cut ?


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ushere wrote on 1/20/2016, 9:07 PM
how long is a piece of string?

i recently edited a ww2 vet doco (get 'em before they're gone) - there was 15+ hours of interviews - that was the first rough cut for a final program of 25 minutes ;-)
larry-peter wrote on 1/21/2016, 10:58 AM
+1 ushere

In my last documentary an editor gave me a "cut" of 3 -1/2 hrs. I edited the release version to 1:20. It depends so much on the amount of scripting vs. pure documentary footage, as in ushere's 15 hours of interviews. I would assume that for scripted movies such as SW, the "director's cut" to release length ratio is much lower.
Chienworks wrote on 1/21/2016, 12:19 PM
I haven't done anything quite like that, however my church once handed me about 3 hours' worth of tape of interviews of various parishioners about a new ministry program we were implementing and asked me to "shorten it a bit." I cut out the dead parts and the non-interview stuff ("Hey, Cathy! How's your dad doing?" and the 6 minute reply...) and got it down to about 40 minutes. Then upon review i realized that most of the answers were nearly identical to other interviewees and were really very, very obvious anyway, so i did another cut just showing the unique and thoughtful responses. In many cases i was even able to eliminate the question proceeding the response as it would have been repetitive since the topic was well expressed in the answer. My final version was about 6 minutes.

Everyone who viewed it agreed the 6 minute version was way better. With the 40 minute version viewers got bored and lost interest after a few minutes. The shorter version kept moving and kept them engaged.
SecondWind-SK wrote on 1/21/2016, 4:48 PM
When handling large amounts of interview footage. I do a quick pass to cut out all the obvious stuff. Then I do a second pass. That often catches some really marginal stuff I let pass the first time through. At that point, I render the selected footage to an MP4 with a burned in time code, which I send to a transcription service. I get back a Word Doc with time code in the left column and just what the interviewer and the subject said in the right column. I know, you're thinking that must be expensive. The approximately $140 per hour transcription fee seems cheap to me. Having the he-said, she-said on paper I find really helpful to craft "the story". Might not work for everybody, but seeing the words on paper helps me immensely to find those one sentence gems that work really well with similar gems from other interviewees. It also helps me to winnow down to the essence of the story. When just working with the clips, I find myself going over and over the footage. "Where was it that guy said .......?" I can also make notes on the page about ideas for B-roll that fit the content. For me it is a time-saver worth way more than the cost of the transcription.
ushere wrote on 1/21/2016, 5:56 PM
+1 sw-sk

transcriptions are a MUST if you have the budget. in fact, they probably pay for themselves with what you save looking for lines, trying to remember who said what and where, etc., etc., (but only after a first cut getting rid of superfluous material - which in a lot of interviews can be up to 50%)

i also find shuffling text around much easier on paper than shuffling clips around on a timeline.
SecondWind-SK wrote on 1/21/2016, 6:05 PM
Sometimes old technology, printing on paper plus pencil notes for instance, is the best tech for the job.
Steve Grisetti wrote on 1/21/2016, 6:27 PM
If you're Quentin Tarantino, your first cut is 3 hours. Your final cut is 3 hours and 30 minutes.