Blog Post #147: Re-Editing 'Float'!
Updated: May 22
DISCLAIMER: I neither own nor possess the rights to the original or re-edited short film Float under discussion in this blog post. My re-editing of the short film and writing about this experimental exercise is intended exclusively for private and/or educational purposes.
Float is a 2011 short film written, produced and directed by the eminently talented Barbara Garofalo, a Venezuelan actress, dancer and former teen idol. Presently, she is a regular cast member on the Spanish-language Telemundo series Juego de Mentiras (or Game of Lies). I had the pleasure of seeing Float and briefly meeting Barbara, then a film student at University of Miami, on the occasion of the 2012 edition of 'Canes Film Festival, the prestigious university's annual film school showcase. Additionally, Float was edited by my friend Richard Snyder, a wickedly witty screenwriting talent who was a classmate of Barbara's at the time of the short film's production.
You can view the original version of Float here:
On the evening of its premiere among so many other works of tyro filmmakers, I found Float a particularly charming and memorable short film. It wove a simple story of a young woman lovingly handing out balloons with various bayside pedestrians until a particularly callous young man abruptly ends her charitable gift-giving. I was particularly impressed with several formal features of the short film: its lack of dialogue, its use of three symbolic inserts (i.e., the snapping of a pencil, the shattering of a porcelain flower and the wringing of a wet towel), its general visual variety and its fantastical final shot.
Not too long after my first exposure to the short film, I found it posted online by Richard to his personal YouTube channel. I would revisit it often over the years, pondering both its overall construction and its editorial approach more acutely. Beguiling is the right word.
Then, last week. I had an idea.
Given to occasional experimental editing projects intended for my own personal edification, I decided to attempt a re-edit of Float guided by my own film editing principles, crystallized over two decades' worth of application. While I'd never assail Float for its reasonable emphasis on its actors' performances, this particular characteristic of the work would facilitate the ability to work within the bounds of the established edits to enable an alternate version more akin to my relatively austere sensibility.
So, without much delay, I loaded a copy of the short film (downloaded from YouTube) into Adobe Premiere Pro and obliged my inner mad scientist. The process began swiftly enough as I began reconstituting the piece in a strictly linear fashion accompanied by no small amount of doubt that my bold experiment would bear any fruit. But before I knew it, I entered a familiar, evergreen state of creative flow guided by an instinctual orchestration of in-and-out points, insertions, re-orderings, slidings, trims, dilations, frame-by-frame analyses, playbacks, etc.
After several hours glued to my NLE with nary a moment of downtime, I had completed a top-to-toe re-edit of Float (available for viewing below):
The most significant changes and their motivation are as follows:
Removal of approximately one minute worth of footage
Very few of the original editing choices were preserved in my re-edit. Each individual shot and edit was examined and evaluated based on whether they sped the narrative along its basic steps in a manner befitting to my personal preference. My shot selection and manipulation process was admittedly less bound by rhythms defined by performance and more so by narrative propulsion. For that reason, I was able to reduce the amount of screentime devoted to many of the characters' expressions and reactions. Several other shots were removed out of redundancy despite their aesthetic appeal and allotment of not valueless breathing room. Howevever, leanness was an overriding consideration for me.
Removal of musical soundtrack
Since starting out as a filmmaker, I adopted the unsurprisingly unwelcome view that music has a habit of overpowering the more purely cinematic cornerstones of the artform: cinematography, editing and the unique potential of their intensive interplay. Consistent with this long-held view of mine, I decided to nix the musical score which is so pervasive in the original edit. While this choice may mitigate some degree of audience relish, my characteristic intent was to emphasize the film medium's most distinctive effects.
Repositioning of symbolic inserts
One of the most appealing elements at play in Float are its three Soviet montage-styled inserts (i.e., the pencil, the porcelain flower and the wet towel). The act of intercutting seemingly unrelated visuals to produce a new idea is part of a montage approach to cinema originally codified by Soviet filmmaker and film theorist Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein's ideas are undoubtedly the inspiration here. In the original edit, these three inserts occur in close proximity to each other. However, I decided to place them at three distinct moments to lend a differing associative effect to their varied contexts.
Addition of new sound effects and ambience
In lieu of the dropped musical score, I decided to give the aural dimension of the film some additional character. So, I added sound effects logically related to the aforementioned symbolic inserts and applied a surfside ambience track to the majority of the film. However, the effect of the temporary drop-out of the music in the original version of the short film was replicated in the re-edit by having the ambience track dramatically cut out, resulting in absolute silence. But the ambience gradually returns at a later, critical juncture in the presented narrative.
Addition of cityscape drone footage
The choice to add drone footage of the cityscape to the short film was intended to once more dip into inviting Soviet montage waters. The drone footage's use at the start of the film conveys the impression that our cheerful protagonist is overlooking her fair city from above. And at the end of the film, the drone footage's implementation unambiguously illustrates the idea of floating.
Addition of dissolves between final three shots
Combining the three final shots into a three-way dissolve was done to create the impression of delicate reprieve from the earlier balloon-bursting turning point and the overall unremitting formal nature of the film up to that point. Given the narrative's closing note of romantic possibility, the choice to relax the hard edge cutting at this stage felt more than appropriate.
In conclusion, I found re-editing Float a worthwhile and illuminating exercise. It prompted me to consider the possibilities of cinematic narrative form under different circumstances than I'm accustomed to. Moreover, the experience of taking apart and rebuilding a short film to conform it to my personal predilections reiterated my unquenchable desire as a filmmaker to derive fresh experiences by a creative arrangement of imagery and sound. But what I found most endearing about this hours-long editing excursion was a sense of time travel back to 2011 to an area of downtown Miami by the bay on a breezy afternoon where this cast and crew of young people assembled to create something new on the banks of endless possibility. That has all my appreciation and respect.