A writer observes the making of her friend's movie: watching Moze Mossanen's Canadian dance film, Roxana, come to life.

Location: Ontario, Canada

A Canadian writer, story editor and teacher of film and theology. Looking to integrate spirituality and the arts in a celebration and love of visual and written language.

Monday, June 12, 2006

the final sprint

Roxana is in its final sprint. After months spent assembling and refining the cuts of the film, laying in the music and recutting, adding voiceover and mixing sound, the final moments are at hand. The journey has been mostly technical since January, about numbers and coding and timing. But the soul of the story and its artistic expression are borne out in each choice and the final shape has been given enormous new expression by the work of the editor, composers, musicians and sound designers.

I was privileged to see a rough assembly back in March and even then I was excited. At that point, the old music guidetracks and pieces used for the purpose of shooting were still in. These tracks had not yet been replaced by the gorgeous textured composition and arrangements of Alexina Pauk and Alex Louie. During this time, Moze and Jeff were talking about adding voiceover. I even came down one day to record a guide voiceover track to help them figure things out. (Moze ended up recording his own voice instead - there goes my alternate career!)

Producer Stephen Traynor was in the room at that first screening too. In the discussion that followed, we all traded thoughts on how it was shaping up. I was astonished even then by the intensity and yet sustainable consistency of the emotional line of the film. Neither gothic, nor melodramatic, it nonetheless achieved a near constant dramatic intensity, both in and out of the dance sequences. Moze was clearly mining new territory for himself.

A month later, a larger gathering huddled in a different Third Floor Editing suite and editor Jeff Bessner ran the tape again. Assistant Director Maria Popoff was among those in the room this time, as well as friends of Moze who had no relation to the project. The response was unanimously excited, while still offering important observations and questions for Moze and Jeff to consider. The biggest difference in this version was the more conscious skewing of the film's perspective in the direction of Roxana's friend, Amy. Even though the film is still centered around Roxana’s exploits, it was decided that it would be largely Amy's story, or a story told from her perspective. As a result, the difference in the clarity of the editing was remarkable. (Moze's guidetrack voice would later be replaced by actress Sheila McCarthy's.) The net result was another layer of meaning: a seamlessness of audio texture that somehow strengthened the feeling of unity to the movie. The look of the film is also sensational, with a lushness of deep primal colours in various scenes. An outside producer in the room remarked aloud how rich the film looked, and how much had been made of the given resources.

Throughout February and March, Jeff and Moze continued to refine the picture cut and gather feedback. During that time the music was recorded for the dance sequences and Jeff went back and recut the numbers to the new music. The next step was an ADR session to re-record all the dialogue in the film, followed by the "Loop Group" day, in which general background and people noises were added. Finally the dramatic music was recorded - a session I attended (see pictures below). On Thursday June 15th, all the remaining sound recording will occur, including the sounds created by the feet of the dancers and actors in both the dancing and acting scenes. At that point, all the sound elements: dialogue, music and sound effects will be mixed together and get married to the online version of the film.

Until now the movie has existed in low resolution video for cutting purposes. But when it is finished, Jeff will return to the master picture tapes and lay in every single shot again in high resolution. Once it has been onlined this way, every shot will also have to be corrected for colour, contrast and other picture enhancements.

And it must all occur by June 30th!, when the film will be delivered to CBC. After so much intense work, it will be time for a break or to take a look at other projects. Or perhaps Moze will just skip town and head to Muskoka cottage country! Either way, Roxana will be waiting in the wings, standing by for her next cue. Stay tuned.