Rian and I worked until midnight last night on re-mastering the NUNE sound mix. He almost gave up on me but hung on. That was very kind of him. The day started off rough when he opened my OMFs for the first time to find that the 5.1 tracks were missing. I had the stems, but not the ones folded into the mix. We had miscommunicated in terms of workflow.
This was my first time dealing with 5.1 sound mix. It’s not complicated, but it is a different beast. I mistook the split 6 tracks (wrapped under one .wav file) as duplicates. Since my editing system doesn’t import third party labels verbatim (such as Pro Tools), I deleted all the “duplicate” tracks but one—not realizing they were part of the entire mix. I take full blame for it—but you know, no one teaches you this, not even school. So you chalk it up to what’s called, “experience.”
The key word that I’ve been focusing on all week is “Workflow.” I love this word. It is a thing of beauty. By understanding someone’s methodology, both your “work” will “flow” better. This is the key to collaboration.
One year, I was shooting an experimental film with an actress whose only experience with acting was improv. She got really upset whenever I would direct everything down to the detail. She thought I was being a “control freak” but that was a misunderstanding.
If an artist is particular about having a certain look or style, that is not a control issue. It’s called having a vision.
After the shoot was over, I apologized for the bumps and miscommunications. I explained how I work and she was like, “Oh, OK, I get it. That’s how you roll.”
I thought to myself, “Yeah. That’s how I roll.”
How a person rolls is called workflow. In all areas of life, there is workflow.
When you first start dating somebody, you’re better off knowing their workflow. How they live their life in terms of routine, ritual, schedule, if they have hang-ups or cherished ideals, and if you don’t get it, you’re not going to get along. You may not get along anyway—but you find out earlier by understanding workflow.
Workflow is about having consideration for one another’s holy grail.
Understanding workflow can take you far, but only so far. The rest is called experience.
Rian and I hit that glitch yesterday because of my handling of 5.1 deliverables. If you’ve never worked with discreet tracks and aren’t used to channels being off-centered, 5.1 tracks “look” normal but they are not. It’s like playing two different sports on the same field. One is soccer and the other, volleyball. Both have balls and a net. Yes, they are both a sport, but played differently. I understood his workflow when he said, “Yeah, you’re going to have a lot of tracks.” How those tracks work is a different story. Stereo splits in two. 5.1 in six or more. In soccer you’re not allowed to hit the balls with your hand, whereas in volleyball you do. And I should not have touched those other five tracks. Many filmmakers never touch 5.1, certainly not for a short. But NUNE is deserving.
Even the most experienced experts cannot master something outside of his game. Take lawyers for instance. They all know law, but civil rights law is different than entertainment law or real estate law. You can get your attorney to dabble and fake it, but if he got deep into it, he’ll hit a learning curve.
With collaboration, it’s important to always find experts in the areas they do best. This explains why I went through three different sound mixers for NUNE, because they all have different strengths. If I know that certain weaknesses will harm the film, I have to move onward. If people understand the way collaboration works, they will not take any of it personally. But most people do not understand this.
A lot of people don’t have the humility to admit that they don’t understand someone else’s workflow. They would rather fake it and fuck up. I’d rather ask. And this has been a lifesaver and forgiving when things go wrong.
Rian and I freaked out for a good hour—seriously, I could feel every mechanisms in his brain tick like the internal organs of a clock trying to figure out, “How the fuck do I solve this?” We bitched and ranted and blamed each other (me, being the culprit). Then I decided that it is best to stay quiet to let him think.
He came up with a nice solution, but he couldn’t do it until I told him, “We have to stop thinking that we’re working off the previous mix. We have to start over.”
The pain of starting over is a fear every artist has. Whether it’s a writer’s draft lost in a computer freeze, a carpenter that accidentally splits a finished piece of wood, the third tier of a beautiful wedding cake collapsing upon tacking on the candied bride and groom, or on a emotional note, a long term relationship that falls apart after all the invested years of knowing the person so intimately.
I have learned to accept this pain. I am used to destroying things or being destroyed. The muscle I gained is called Perseverance.