N Exercise 1.11
I could have been the assistant editor on a major Canadian motion picture, directed by and starring one of the few big Canadian names. Some people know him and many don’t, of course, but that’s the struggle of the English Canada film scene, I guess. Anyway, he’d made films before, with good reviews, and now here he was, asking me point-blank to be his assistant editor.
“I don’t know what to say,” I said, stalling for time.
“You could just say yes.”
I was in a band at this point in my life, playing bass for a better musician than I ever was. I got the gig because I’d known him over a decade. We’d made video games and run online scams from my parents’ basement in our youth. The third member of the band was also a best friend of mine. The two of them wrote the music, and I struggled along with the basslines I was given. I dreamed of touring alongside these guys, recording albums of hard, progressive rock, and plus, I already had a full-time job, without glamour, true, but with a steady paycheque that would cover expenses while I practiced my craft on five thick steel strings.
Further, I didn’t feel comfortable with the material. The movie was a war movie, a contemporary piece set in Afghanistan about Canadian soldiers, and it incorporated a lot of documentary footage into the fiction of the film. I’d been in the editing studio, a cramped room strewn with electronics and loose wires, in a fancy building at Spadina and King, for about two weeks at that point, digging through each shot, tagging and labeling them so as to seem halfway competent, though inside I had next to no idea what I was doing there. The first day I was there I was given the script to read, because the star/director wasn’t on-site, and then when I was done with that I watched his previous film, which was thematically similar, on the advice of a producer or someone, who I guess wanted me to get a good feel for the type of thing I was to help create. I thought the movie was okay – it told of Canadian history, too, in a historical-fiction kinda way. The star/director looked more handsome on screen than when I met him the next day. He reminded me unshakeably of Bill Murray later in his career, somewhere around the Royal Tenenbaums, maybe. His hair was wild and he wore sweats.
When he asked me if I wanted the job I recognized its potential to help my career, and I also recognized the intense stresses that would come alongside it. All I could think of was my bass, my place in the band. I knew I wasn’t so good as a pro should, of course – the trouble was, I knew the same was true of my editorial capacities.
I said “Thanks very much, what an honour,” or something to that effect, but was careful not to say yes. I did enjoy the fancy sandwiches we had delivered into the editing suite every day, going through the extensive menu while still on the clock, making our choices. This wasn’t the type of treatment one could expect playing bass is a rock band whose members were scattered across two different cities and area codes.
Later, when my part was done and I’d turned down the position, basically by omission, by not-agreeing, I got a call from the principal editor Chris, and we discussed where the footage was stored. I was standing outside the Metro Police HQ getting a background check sorted.
I immediately feared for my professional reputation, which I realize now, of course, was already shattered. Or rather was already a wisp, a lifting fog, hardly tangible enough to be shattered. Chris and I talked for ten minutes or so discussing what he was looking for, and I offered what I could, but I was smoking a lot of pot then and my short-term memory wasn’t great. My lack of aptitude with tags and logging became apparent, I guess, and he couldn’t even find a hard drive that I’d been using. I hadn’t seen this stuff for weeks by then, and so I told him what I could, and that was that.
I still have the star/director’s obscure personal Gmail address saved in my own, but since then I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a project for his wife, which I failed at for related reasons a while later, and we’ve never been in contact. The film came out, incidentally, a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen it but I saw a few posters. Didn’t make much of a ripple, I’m afraid. Did me less good than most, though.