It’s pilot season here in Los Angeles. If you are married to an editor who isn’t working on something else, that often means, he or she will be gone for seven to nine weeks seven days a week 15 hours a day (not counting the commute) and you will feel like there’s a war going on. Or the spouse has sailed off 18th Century style in a boat with fellow sailors, lime juice to prevent scurvy, and perhaps Captain Bly at the helm.
It’s not a pretty sight, once it gets going. My husband who has the stamina of five horses, two oxen and eight goats, loves these death marches. Me, I wouldn’t last half an hour. I visited him once years ago in one of his cutting rooms during pilot season because I hadn’t seen him in a few days. He was happily at the helm of the Avid, arms out like a concert pianist, with a frazzled writer/producer nearby, running the scene forward, backward, sideways. He hadn’t slept in a couple of days and the bags under his eyes looked like suitcases. But he was happy as a clam. (Have you ever wondered how a clam feels happiness? Let me be the first to say, this is the first time I have wondered….)
That’s the thing editors do: they run the scene (any scene, in real life or in screen time) forward, backwards, sideways, and they try different music and they jump cut. This is, for better or worse, their approach to reality.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower, is far different than viewing the world through the Avid screen. In the old days editors wore white gloves and actually handled film. But the approach was identical. You run the scene forwards, backwards, sideways. You splice this. You put that there. You sync up a little music and you show the scene to someone and then if they don’t like it, you try it another way.
It’s actually quite a lot like being a writer. But the hours are much, much worse and if you live in LA, there’s usually an awful commute.
I have mixed feelings about pilot season. On the one hand, it’s good for the husband to be working, because he loves working, but on the other hand, it’s really an ordeal. And I wonder how we are going to survive pilot season.
I only know one two-editor household, and when she wanted to have kids, she had to quit. You couldn’t possibly raise a family if both parents are editors. It’s hard enough if one of the parents is an editor. It’s hard when the kids grow up and leave home and there’s only you and editor and the Avid screen left.
It took me many years to get it. I always swallowed the cool aid: “this is just a fluke! It’s insane. I’ve never been on such a freak show.”
Gentle readers: they are all freak shows.
But I hope the footage is good.
I hope the people he is going to be living with– more or less– will be congenial. And I’m grateful that pilot season, like the Jewish holidays, is only once a year.
The great poet James Tate’s father was an actual pilot. Not a show hoping to attract a viewer-ship and syndication. When I heard my husband was doing another pilot, I reached for poetry to console me. And I remembered The Lost Pilot.
From the end of the poem:
My head cocked toward the sky,
I cannot get off the ground,
and, you, passing over again,
fast, perfect, and unwilling
to tell me that you are doing
well, or that it was mistake
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune
placed these worlds in us.