Kevin Kenney <email@example.com> asks:
> Can you spare a few words on how you went about the re-edit?
> Did you start with what you wanted to get back in, or trying to
> find out how much time you could recapture? I see in the Lurker's
> Guide you originally had 25 extra minutes of material to re-add:
> did this trim down to 14, or was that all the room you could
> make? (or were the other minutes not on the A-list?) Of what you
> wanted to do, how much were you able to?
"Can you spare a few words on how you went about the re-edit? Did you
start with what you wanted to get back in, or trying to find out how
much time you could recapture?"
The first thing I did was to sit down with the editor assigned
to the re-edit, Suzie, and go through the original script for the
pilot. My first words to her were, "Put everyhing in that ain't
there." To that end, she redigitized all of the footage from missing
scenes, and had available all of the available footage of the other
scenes for digitizing as we went.
Note that I said all the *available* footage. The folks at WB
who held custody of the film (we don't keep that stuff, we're not
allowed to by contract, they store film, negative, prints, all that
stuff) put the negative canisters into storage...and at one point in
the intervening 4 years, there had been water damage, and on another
occasion, apparently rats had gotten in there and chewed some of the
original negatives (and in most cases there weren't positive struck of
Take your reaction to the foregoing, put it in front of the
Hubble telescope, and you will have mine.
However, we lucked out...where there were some takes that are
gone, we were able to find enough others (masters instead of a
two-shot, or a close-up instead of an over-shoulder) and B-camera
footage that we were able to build solid versions of those scenes. We
didn't always have as many choices as we're used to but there was more
than enough for our needs.
Suzi then dumped all of the newly edited additional scenes into
the existing pilot, and that gave us the new running time (we added
about 14 minutes). So at that point, John and I went in and worked to
slice down the previously existing scenes, doing what we do with B5:
tightening every loose screw and nut as much as we could. One or two
incidental, unimportant scenes in the original pilot went out, because
they added nothing and shouldn't have been there in the first place (a
total of about 3 minutes). The remaining 11 minutes we made up in just
tightening scenes, which were *so* lax and slow that it's amazing at
In some cases, we substituted one take for another in the
pre-existing pilot when we had a better reaction, or played scenes
closer for more intimacy. (One of the problems with the pilot is that
it kept the audience far from the action, and the actors far from each
other, something we changed in our shooting style for the series...here
we tried to change it when we could and when we had the coverage.)
Tiny example: when Kosh falls down upon arriving at B5, that
sequence ends with a big honking wide downshot of a nearly empty
docking bay, with Kosh far from us, and Sinclair looking down (away
from us) when he says "Damn." Then we go from that to a wide shot of
the medlab. Same framing. So I had Suzie look for a take where we
panned up from a close on Kosh, to a close on Sinclair for that line,
so it's more immediate, more personal, and the jump to the next scene
doesn't feel like the one before.
See, directors like to stay wide in their cuts, so you can see
their nifty camera angles, see the set, the lighting...but after you've
established where we are, most people want to see the *characters*, not
the walls or how the camera moves. That was what we tried to fix where
We couldn't totally re-edit the pilot, because we hadn't been
given the money for something that intensive (the main expense is in
opening up all the audio stems in the sound mix). But all the stuff I
wanted back in, is now in, and the scenes I wanted to fix, I fixed.
I also got the thing back to its original format. All TV movies
are 6 acts. Because PTEN wanted more commercial breaks, I had to
re-jig the structure of the thing into 9 acts, which meant moving some
scenes into places where they weren't as effective, and frankly after 9
acts you just get tired of watching. Here I was able to move scenes
around and get back to the original 6 act structure that was intended
for the thing, and that alone makes a huge difference in how the film
One of the biggest changes is the one least immediately
apparent. After we finished the original pilot, some folks at WB felt
that Laurel was too...strong. They will rarely put it in terms quite
as blatant as that, but that was the message...she was "unlikeable,
unsympathetic, harsh." Meaning some of the guys felt she was too
strong, let's cut to the chase, okay?
They wanted her to loop her lines, soften their (her) delivery.
I fought this tooth and nail. I fought this until finally I was pulled
aside and it was communicated to me that B5 was, after all, still an
unknown property, could be a big failure, and if we ever wanted to see
this thing on the air, we'd accommodate this note (which was, I have to
admit on balance, one of the few they had). The advice was, in
essence, "Pick your battles."
So, reluctantly, I let it get looped by Tamlyn.
But now, when the re-edit was commissioned, and with the person
at the studio who insisted on this now no longer AT the studio, I told
Suzie, "Screw it, put back her original production track and trash the
loops." Instantly, Laurel's energy level comes up, the performance is
better...it just *feels* more natural now.
So basically, we did a lot...some of it may not be immediately
apparent (improving a sound here, altering coverage, adding additional
sound layers, redoing a composite shot of the garden), but over the
duration of watching it, it's just *better*. It's still a *tad* slower
around the middle than I would've liked, but that's a WP (writer
problem), nothing that can be fixed in an edit. It's just
exposition-dense there, and nothing of a sort that can be cut.