When your film is in the can (not literally, anymore, of course – more like on the hard drive), it’s time for the screenwriter to get even further out of the way. Of course I was one of the people consulted and shown rough cuts of the film, but basically the editorial process is an intense submersion of the Director and the Editor in the footage, and other people should interfere with it as little as possible. Anything you saw filmed, or glimpsed in the rushes, can still be thrown away, or cut together in a way you may not recognize.
In post-production (meaning, all the stuff they do with – and add to – the film after shooting it) there’s just as much jargon as in pre- or production. Even after picture lock (when the editing is done) there’s still a lot of tinkering, mostly with the sound. In ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) they not only get the actors to say most of their lines again, to capture the sound cleanly, but they also add lots of background dialogue to add texture and realism. (The voice actors recording ADR of the crowd gathered at Ma’s childhood home to welcome Ma and Jack added so many improvised screeches – You should be Mom of the Year! Jesus loves you! Over here, look at me, look at me! – that I suddenly registered how the kindness of strangers could be even scarier to Jack than his captor had been.)
There may already be a temp score in place so the rough cuts of the film will have music to help guide the viewer, but it’s now that the final soundtrack is added. There are also processes such as grading that remain mysteries to me (‘They, uh, fiddle with the color,’ I tell my friends uncertainly). Basically both the visuals and the soundscape are altered and polished in ways that might not be obvious to the audience, but that contribute enormously to the film’s realism and emotional effect. I may be vague on the details, but I understand the process from my two and a half decades of publishing books: you make it the nearest you can to perfect, and then a bit more perfect, and then a bit more, until the final deadline rears up like a wall.
After the first screening of a rough cut of ROOM, for about twenty people involved in the financing or distribution of the film, one of them asked me how I liked it. I burst into tears. And then was horrified as it occurred to me he might think I meant I was bitterly disappointed. All I could do was point at my flooded face and sob ‘Crying in a good way! In a good way!’