We completed the first assembly of Mission just a few days shy of the 2012 Christmas holly bags. Like all first assemblies, it was painful. The film was too long [32 minutes] and the pacing was horrendous. That said, ALL first assemblies are like this. Putting those concerns to one side, it gave us a structure to fashion Mission into something better.
Silver linings, I suppose.
Chris ‘Hot Lips’ Newcombe was my editor on the film. We’d worked together previously on a couple of music videos and I found him to be a mighty collaborator - honest and ruthless, which are important qualities for anyone in his role. He has a brain for story and is a great guy to spend hours alone with in a dark room.
Over the Christmas break, I requested feedback on the assembly cut from 10 compadres, largely other filmmakers whose opinion I’ve come to trust and value down the years. Armed with feedback [theirs and mine], we went back into the edit and over the course of 5 months, gradually fashioned the version of Mission that will be released on October 21, minus sound mix, music, visual effects and grade.
Mission has the most complex sound mix of any film I’ve worked on. Nick Olsouzidas was the beautiful Greek man whose life I made a misery, day and night [mostly night], as he compiled multiples layers of audio to create the complex soundscape for the film. Sound is very important to me and I to tend to obsess over every detail. Sorry, Nick!
Having worked with them on all my projects since The Great Outdoors, Gregor Barclay [who also wrote the film] and Gavin Thomson [Flying Matchstick Men] composed the original score for the film. I’m a bit of soundtrack nut and usually know the sort of thing I’m looking for. I also passionately respect the composer’s right to a ‘blank scoretrack’. I never use a temporary score at any point in post-production. In a way, this helps me find a more natural emotional connection in the edit, that the music can augment later.
That’s not to say I wasn’t listening to stuff and throwing G&G references. Music’s an important feature in my life, and even more so when I’m in the midst of creating. For Mission - Main Titles for ET and Close Encounters, The Master ['Alethia'], Dan Deacon, Brasstronaut [‘Bounce’], Ran, Grouper [‘Cover the Long Way’], Bat for Lashes [‘Lilies’], Nick Drake [‘River Man’] The National [‘Humiliation’] The Belle Game [‘Keeps Me Up At Night’] to name a few. My brief to G&G - films tend to build their themes over the duration of the narrative, pulling together melodies developed to create one final musical statement to sign the film off on. I almost imagined Mission being the opposite of this; begin with a 'hero' theme which by the end has been completely deconstructed. I think this is the best score Barclay and Thomson have produced.
With sound and score mixed, we had some final visual tweaks to implement. Hot Lips pitched in on the visual effects shots. We have a number of screens/monitors in the film and because I love moving the camera, Chris had a bit of a nightmare making the required enhancements.
The grade/colour correction was handled by Zeb Chadfield, a London-based Kiwi who has established a post-production company in Eddie Izzard’s old house.
Yes, Chateau Izzard!
Working remotely with cinematographer David Liddell, Zeb twinkled his digits to give Mission a substantial lack of warmth, combining a compelling interplay between light and shadow. The emotional power grading can possess to align emotion is something I’ve always underestimated. Zeb is a zen master and knocked it out the park for this one.
And with that we were done and Mission receives a worldwide release from tomorrow.
I feel a bit like Seth Brundle right now. I’ve created this thing and, after ironing out a few kinks, am finally ready to test it out on humans. I’m nervous, I’m emotional, I’m ready. Ready to push the button and step through. Will I emerge victorious?
Watch this space.