For three days in one week, I was having incredible nightmares. They were the kind of nightmares that comedians would joke about: what is a nightmare to a mathematician? Not being chased by a killer. But when things don’t add up?
So what would dear Ji dream about?
Well, my nightmare was that everyone was watching my film before it’s released. The dreams were so real that when I woke up, I felt like texting or calling the people I remembered in the dream and saying, “I can’t believe you saw my film!”
In other dreams, I would have critiques of the film from the viewers. Or, I would dream about the guilt I felt that some of the extras with lines didn’t make it into the cut.
I could not figure out why everyone was showing up in my dreams and watching my films. Finally, I was like “Oh, I guess a lot of people want to see it.” I guess that’s a good sign.
These dreams however, go deeper than this. These dreams were trying to show me what was true about NUNE.
In all of these dreams, the viewers were watching the full-length version (director’s cut) of the movie. And THAT was not the official version. This is why it was a nightmare for me!
I called Rian (my new sound guy) the other night to tell him that I might need to do another remix of NUNE. He was very kind and patient and told me that he’s around and doesn’t plan to leave L.A. I said “Yeah, you own a house—so you’re definitely not going to pick up and run.”
His patience extends beyond just being available to me when I am ready. It’s the fact that he’s willing to dive back into the work ahead of us. We had just finished a taxing 5.1 remix. I do not consider myself a masochist by any means. But I’m scratching it and starting over. We are striving for mastery of an ungodly kind.
I’m definitely going through the “Milarepa” journey once more (the story about the Tibetan saint who kept having to build and tear down his house). Why after doing a final mix, did I have to do a remix, and then right after the remix, another one again? It sounds utterly fucking crazy. But Rian understands. We both strive for perfection—but not for the sake of being anal. We share one major thing in common: which is inner truth. This is when our gut tells us it will not accept a lie.
When Rian listens to sound, he can’t accept when it doesn’t tell the truth. In our last mix, it drove him crazy when we watched a scene of Jessica putting down a glass. He kept scrubbing it back and forth. “It’s not a glass!” he’d shout.
“What is it?”
“It’s a noise. It’s not a glass.”
He left the room. Came back with glasses of water and ice. Disappeared into his foley playpen and shut the door.The mike would rumble over the surround sound speakers. I’d hear a bunch of sound effects and he’d come back and without even seeing or foleying to the image (like in ADR), he’d match up the movements exactly.
“Now that’s a glass!” he yelled, satisfied.
It was subtle too. And I agreed. This is truth. That’s someone who takes pride in their work. They do not settle for lies.
He has helped me learn to hear things I have never heard before. When I listen to the original final mix (from a previous sound mixer), I hear the sounds in my movie the way Rian would hear it. By working with him, even for just one day, he had trained my ear.
But perfection isn’t the real reason the mix has to be redone. Short story is: I’m falling in love with NUNE again.
After trying to please the programming festival requirements for what is determined to be a considerate length for a short, I’ve decided to go back to square one. I am sticking with the original short (which is 30 minutes in length). Most shorts are 5-10 minutes so they stand a better chance at getting programmed. I don’t care if the longer short will be rejected by shorts festivals. I love this version and know that it will succeed played in or outside of festivals.
When I cut my film down, I didn’t realize it affected the relationship I had to the film. It caused me to unknowingly fall less in love but I accepted it: the way a married couple drifts further away from the time they first met. The spark has left them and what remains is a love filled with compromises. It’s love; but contractual.
When I watch the long-short, the spark got reignited. I feel whole again. My entire body is filled with energy—every creative molecule sings. And I remember, “This is why I wrote this film. This is why every frame was shot without compromise.” Yet when it came to editing time—I started to package it to fit the festivals. And that was wrong.
The original version of NUNE was shot faithful to the script at the intended length of 30 minutes. I watched it in real-time and paid close attention. I watched it as a film editor: checking the pacing, rhythm and choices of every cut. By every “cut,” I also mean how each edit acts like musical notes. These notes give the edited film harmony and cohesiveness. Altogether, that is what makes the movie sing, or as with wine, gives it fullness or “body.”
I became absorbed in the score Eduardo (the composer) wrote. They are in their full length the way we originally worked on together. And I relished every note of that too.
The film is a meditation. If a viewer lets go of thinking and let the story fill up their being—it will take shape inside the body, inside the mind and inside the heart. Any ounce of impatience will spoil it—the way air let into an oven door will kill the beautiful rising peak of a soufflé.
When I mentioned that the theme in my life is Patience right now, I was referring to the patience others have offered me. I did not realize that this applied to the patience I needed to give to my film. I had fallen into the trap of shorts consultants often screaming “Make it tighter!” I believed them and learned the hard way that you can’t please everybody. You just have to make the film true to itself. To be true to yourself.
I have always loved the original version. It’s similar to how a person knows what true love is yet will make a foolish mistake of settling. True love is always harder to fight for. It requires risks and sacrifices such as loss of reputation, opportunities, subjection to criticism, rejection, persecution or alienation to win its worth. All the steps on the path that rests between lies and reaching the destination of truth contain painful thorns to walk on. But I realize that if you don’t walk on it, you will never walk with confidence. You will constantly be nagged with an inner-acknowledgement of being diminished. A part of you knows you’re a schmuck and because of that, you will stumble. Each day, you become a greater fool.
The only way to save yourself is to go with where the love is. Because where that goes, people follow—because they are attracted to it.
I’ve gained a type of confidence that’s different than before. My confidence doesn’t come from the mind or the ego. The love I feel when I watch this movie gives me tremendous energy. And when I can watch it and experience chills run through my body—I know that the film has power. It has a life force that I rarely see in other films and that is why I make films: because I want to see something that gives me goose bumps. There are only two films in the world that has done that for me. And NUNE is the third.
When I decided to do a 360 and go back to the original 30-minute short, it’s like going back to true love. What it demanded was more patience because it LITERALLY is a longer piece. The short has a pacing of an art-house feature. It doesn’t even feel or run like a short. It is its own thing.
The patience that I have with my own film, I expect of others. And I am no longer interested in appeasing programmers—who really have no patience. They expect a film to sing and dance for them because their sensory buds are jaded but will never admit it. Those who aren’t will know when they can watch a film without expectations. Only then, will they really understand such a film as NUNE.
I have lovingly returned to the director’s cut. It will no longer be called the “director’s cut” because it is, has been, and will be the original version to begin with. Like Rian, I am not afraid to go back into the lion’s den and do it all over—to make things right and to face the grueling work ahead. I have found a partner to make it happen. I believe that out of this, the movie is going to levitate.