Changing the Picture Editor Mid-Project on Horror Comedy Film ‘Scareycrows’

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

A girl, a boy, a seaside town, and a horde of homicidal Scareycrows. The film ‘Scareycrows’ is a horror/comedy and follows hairdresser Amy and her friends during the events surrounding Sidcombe’s annual Scareycrow Festival, celebrated each year in honor of an event in the town’s past. It becomes apparent though that some characters have secrets and there is more to the Scareycrows than first appears…

PC Summers (Richard Warwick), Declan (Martin Challinor) and Amy (Alice Maguire)

In reality ‘Sidcombe’ is Dawlish, a town which is situated on the south Devon coast of England. For the most part the film was shot at various locations around there over the course of 3 weeks.

Initially I was not down to edit the film itself, but was involved after writer/producer Diana Townsend invited me to produce some cast interview videos to help promote the film.

A while later she got in touch and asked if I’d like to take over the edit as the first editor, Graeme Holmes couldn’t finish it off due to commitments working on TV programs. At this stage a full edit had been cut but the scenes where only roughly constructed. This would be my first opportunity to edit a feature so I wasn’t going to turn it down! The transition between Graeme’s system and my own ultimately proved to be very easy even when using different versions of Media Composer.

The film had been shot on RED, with all the media transcoded into DNxHD 36 for editing using REDCINE-X PRO.

One of the biggest editing challenges along the way was trying to figure out the best way of incorporating the films flashback sequences. The question of when do you want an audience to know certain information and including that at times where it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the present day story where things that needed solutions.

Perhaps the hardest sequence to cut was one that occurs around halfway through when things really start to ‘kick off’. There’s a moment where two different conversations (but with very different paces) are happening at the same time and had to be intercut. Finding a way of doing that which didn’t feel jarring but kept the flow in the edit was challenging but by using some overlapping audio I think we managed it in the end.

One of the things I like to do with my timelines is an idea I picked up from Eddie Hamilton, which is to color the source clips so odd numbered scenes are green and even scenes blue. It’s a nice quick way of seeing where one scene ends and the next begins, as well as visually giving an idea of scene lengths in relation to one another.

Dillon (Ben Gilbert) leans in closer.

I temped numerous VFX shots myself and made heavy use of 3D warps, Timewarps and Animattes. There are lots of instances where different takes were composited together, either so the best performances could be used or to get around continuity errors.

Having worked as a sound designer/mixer on a few shorts, I like to add in a fair few sound effects within Media Composer. I find it’s really helpful when making decisions on the timings of certain cuts and anything you can do to create a more realized sound scape to aid with bringing the film to life is well worth doing. I like to run an EQ, De-Esser and Compressor on all the dialogue tracks and make use of the Audio Suite plug-ins when required.

Ryan (Tom Child) and Amy (Alice Maguire) hiding from a Scareycrow

As this was the first feature I’ve edited it was also the first time I’d been part of a proper test screening. This was both exciting and somewhat terrifying, having been editing away and now showing it to others for their judgment.

The screening got a very positive response and It was a very worthwhile experience as the audience suggested many things which we had not even considered. During the screening I found myself watching them more than the film, trying to gauge their reactions and how they were responding at different moments. Perhaps one of the most helpful aspects was seeing which jokes landed and which needed an alternate approach to get them working to their potential.

Writer/producer David Hardie with Alice Maguire and Lucy Townsend

DOP Scott Sandford with Director Lucy Townsend

I was editing on and off for about 5 months in total, with the locked edit having a running time of around 75 minutes. Working with writer/producer Diana and director Lucy Townsend was a very easy process. There is always going to be areas where you disagree on how scenes should be edited but we worked through these trying out the different options until we found solutions we could agree on. It’s probably a good sign about the state of our working relationship that I’m going to edit a short which Lucy is directing in the next few months.

The film is currently in the hands of the grader, composer, sound designers and VFX artists with a release in 2016 currently being planned. More information can be found at www.scareycrows.co.uk or by visiting the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/scareycrows.

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I’m an editor based in England and have mainly cut short films & music videos. Above anything else I just like telling stories, whether that's helping others bring theirs to life or writing and directing my own. Visit my web at www.domlee.co.uk.