Saturday, October 10, 2009

Moze updates us!

A message from Moze:

Almost three months after we finished shooting, I'm happy to say the film is nearing completion! It was a long haul, in many ways, with a number of challenges that seemed daunting, to say the least. But the great thing about working with brilliant collaborators is that you eventually find a way from the maze into a recognizable clearing.

One of the first challenges was the editing of the dance sequences themselves. Almost one-half of all the dance scenes had to be shortened for either dramatic purposes or program length limitations. It was a difficult task as we were faced with maintaining the integrity and fluidity of the choreography so that each of the shortened dance sequences would appear seamless in the end. It's entirely due to Jeff Bessner, our talented editor, who tirelessly worked with me in getting it all right when the prospect of fishing in the Sahara seemed like a better bet.

However, once we solved those picture issues, there appeared a new and larger headache: the music itself which accompanied each of those sequences. At first, we tried to edit the music itself to conform to the edited dance scenes but that proved not entirely satisfactory as the tempos and even key registers changed from one part of the music to the next. The only solution was to re-score those sequences which was not as easy as we'd hoped. After all, how do you re-score a cut up piece of music that starts with one tempo, proceeds to a different musical register entirely and then changes tempo again!? It's to the genius of the composers, Philip Strong and Laurel MacDonald, who managed the impossible by creating music that ended up fitting each edited performance sequence like a glove. Don't ask me how they derive their extraordinary inspiration: I'm guessing it's something they eat every day. [Note: the photo of them here is from their appearance at the Gemini Awards in 2003, accepting an award for their work on Moze's movie "Year of the Lion".]

Meanwhile, Alan Geldart, our wonderful sound designer, was busy creating a soundscape against which the Nureyev story unfolds. As the pictorial elements in the film have been pared down to their most rudimentary form (i.e. a large, single rear-projected screen), I had initially thought we would need a very complex and layered sound design to provide references to time and place. Well, the opposite ended up being true! The sound of factories churning in the background, as well as the clatter of horses and carriages and the drone of the Soviet military and political apparatus all slowly got peeled away to leave the most basic of sound elements: A bell, a whistle or, in many cases, just the music itself. It's to Alan's credit and his artistry that he was able to use a single sound source in each instance to create a major aural brushstroke.

All of these elements came together last week as we completed the colour correction final sound mixing. I realize I'm taking the risk of sounding a bit effusive, but the colour correction bore out a whole new film for me. Working with colourist Arlene Grant, along with our ace cinematographer, Dylan Macleod, we were able to create many dramatic effects by simply intensifying the primary colours in each of the scenes. And finally, the sound mix provided the icing on the cake by blending the dialogue, music and sound effects into a complete and balanced soundtrack entity.

I was musing with all my post-production collaborators at one point at how "invisible" all these elements are in watching a film, and yet how vital they all are in the way a film is shaped and experienced. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding; and I can only hope we've created something that audiences will enjoy while celebrating the life of Rudolph Nureyev, who was certainly no stranger himself when it came to facing challenges.

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