The Edward Norton of Herpetology

Cool weather has arrived.

Monday night I checked the Weather Underground website (sadly, not a militant activist clearing house, but rather a weather resource). Eleven p.m., and it was 51 degrees Fahrenheit. Mild, to be sure, but I was fucking freezing!

The previous night (Sunday) at the Jump Start Theater, Monessa (who was working the front of the house) wore a pull-over hoodie with pale blue and turquoise stripes. These were straight from the color pallet of the show, including the promo materials. I was a bit bemused in that, as she worked the box office, she had the hood deployed. Fashion decision or a bad hair day? I could not be sure which. Later, when she walked on to the stage to introduce the show, she made some comment that she was bundled up in preparation for the cold front that would soon hit town.

Sounded suspicious to me. Sure, I was wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt, but that was because it'd been awhile since I'd last done laundry. The fact is, it was pretty warm out. I just assumed she'd suffered a bad perm.

However, Monessa proved to have good weather sources.

Sunday night I had a fan two feet from my bed, with all my windows open, hoping I could cool off enough to drift off to sleep. Around three or four the winds started to get crazy. The flapping of the curtains woke me. Or was it all the pecans raining on to the driveway and the roof of my truck? Well, I got up and closed the windows to muffle the irritating noises. But it was also getting pretty cold.

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Monday morning I looked out the window. My truck was covered with pecans, leaves, and a couple of branches that'd snapped off the big pecan tree. There was also a huge branch stretched out on the drive, mortally felled by the rambunctious cold front which had muscled into town.

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I spent way too many hours early in the week engaged in a cursory edit of the Quinceañera I shot Saturday night. I'm turning the major editing over to someone else. But because I decided to use two cameras during the mass at the church, and seeing as I was jumping from one camera to another (repositioning each on its tripod), I knew there would be some real sloppy shots. I felt it was incumbent upon me to fix my own mess. I was using two Canon GL2s. And even though I set them both on the same white balance presets, they didn't come out matching perfectly. I decided it was good enough, and concentrated on a simple picture edit, keeping the entire high mass in real time, with all it's tedium. I pumped up the luminosity on a few clips. And even though I wasn't given the opportunity to pull audio off a soundboard, I laid down the cleanest audio track the cameras picked up. I also managed to tone down the sound when it got too hot. (Actually, I had four different sound levels to chose from. A quick and dirty way to give yourself audio options to chose from is to set one channel (there are controls on the pricier camcorders for both left and right audio channels) higher than the other — so, with two cameras, that gave me four discreet channels to chose from … four choices of varying degrees of awfulness.)

One of the strange dynamics of editing video footage of real people (as opposed to actors playing roles) — such as interviews or things like weddings or Quinceañeras — is that you spend loads of time with these people. And you begin to connect with them.

It's, of course, a wholly irrational situation. And you've got to keep in mind that you don't know these people, and they don't know you. The first time I was struck by the creepy transgressive nature of this line of work was when I was directing a video project maybe five years ago at UTA (when I first got into film and video production). It was a commercial video class, and the project was to produce a recruiting video for the graduate programs of the university. One of the interview subjects graciously made time for me and my crew of two. She was shy and unassuming. I sat beside the camera and interviewed her, telling her to ignore that soul-sucking machine with one glassy eye. Just look at me, I said. It's just you and me talking.

And as artificial as that situation was, there quickly developed this rapport. There was this sense — well to me — of a deep intimacy. I've spoken to some of my photographer friends about this. They face the same dynamics when they do portraits. You connect … and it seems real. Actors, also, have to deal with this weird energy of intimacy (or pretend intimacy) all the time. Though for them it's ten times worse, because they are absolutely vulnerable; whereas we — directors, cinematographers, photographers, editors — hell, we're just voyeurs, usually with some sort of machine between us and the other.

What I discovered on my UTA project was that these feelings of connection I had during the interview process were intensified then I began editing the interview. I could see every nuance of expression. I could freeze the frame. I could stop and see an honest smile, play a genuine laugh over and over again. I could even pick out the occasional soft-footed skirting of the truth. Editors see all your lies.

There was this guy I interviewed — same project — from the biology department. Herpetologist. He was a dead-ringer for the actor Edward Norton. It wasn't me who mentioned it, but one of my crew members. The snake guy laughed. It turned out he was a huge Edward Norton fan, and we weren't the first to make the connection. While the camera was rolling, he gave us some really good Norton imitations. And later, as I was editing his interview, I had this unsettling feeling that were I to encounter him at a bar or a grocery store — even years later — I would walk up to him all enthusiastic and ask how he's been … only to have him fearfully reel back, wondering who is this freak. Because, the truth is, thanks to the editing process, I'd spent loads more time with him that he spent with me. And I mean, hours.

I guess this is how it plays out when you subscribe to someone's blog. Especially when it's someone you've never met.

It's hard, at times, to keep the real world separate from the virtual world.

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