But to reach this stage in production also provides an opportunity for gathering opinions from outside one's own consciousness. In the case of the independent film maker, without even a production staff off whom to bounce ideas and from whom to gather opinions, the value of some more objective opinion is even more important.
I got back written reviews from just four people. That is fewer than I had hoped for but it was a good
No one hated it and they all liked at least parts of it.
Three of the four liked it a lot but had widely differing suggestions for changes, and no two people wanted to change the same exact things.
No one came up with a genius idea that allowed me to cut whole minutes while still telling the whole story.
There were several thoughtful explorations along the lines of "what if a certain character were more like this or that."
They all brought up issues that I had already struggled with and had set aside as either irrelevant or as requiring adding more or completely different scenes to the film. There were also a few instances where the character or scene existed for a logical tactical reason which my reviewer had not perceived. For example, there is a scene with two characters whose only raison d'etre is to conceal the Old Man and his trunk from the view of the gate attendant until the last possible moment.
I am grateful for all the suggestions even if I don't use many of them. But there was one objection which troubled me a lot and has made me decide to re-write two of the sequences, replacing a major character, even though that involves quite a lot of work.
I had written in a character who could be perceived as a cultural slur. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will recognize him from some posts about character design that I did a while back. He is the one for which I created a head-and-shoulders maquette out of Sculpey.
|Two drawn angles of Kevin, and his unfinished maquette.|
I was bothered not only because one reviewer strongly disliked the character but because my wife had expressed a similar dislike. (Some other reviewers did like Kevin for his strong comedy value.) And in my heart I didn't feel strongly attached to this character as I did to all the others in the film. In fact, I recognized that the character was artificial, conceived to advance the story as a person who had to provide a certain amount of resistance to letting the Old Man get past him, but who would then capitulate. He was a comic character, but comedy based too much on cultural stereotypes is unnecessary and unwise; I realized that a characterization that could be perceived as demeaning in this way would be shameful to have in my film.
And so, after much thought, I created another character who could fulfill the same purpose as Kevin had, but with different motives. He is actually better developed than the first one; he has a believable back story and a better relationship with the supervisor character with whom he interacts. It was a struggle to back myself up and re-think the two sequences that are involved, but I am now comfortable with the result.
|Examples of the facial expressions inspired my my new character, Howard.|
The lesson here is that nothing in your work should be considered immune from change if the reason for change is a strong one. Walt Disney knew this when he cut two already-animated sequences from Snow White. We should all remain open to the possibility of change even when it is painful.