What it takes for an idea to “make the cut” with me – and how easily (or slowly) that can change…
Eric Stoltz was replaced by Michael J. Fox five weeks into shooting Back To The Future. Harvey Keitel was ditched for Martin Sheen weeks into production on Apocalyspe Now. Kubrick cut an entire character out of Full Metal Jacket. Imagine being that actor: you make it past the audition process; you learn your lines; you get through rehearsals; you shoot your scenes; you don’t get fired, replaced, injured, or prevented in some other way from participating in the film. And then, finally, because of the director, the editor, the producers, the studio, the censorship board, or something else that’s completely out of your hands, you end up being cut from the film.
You pan for gold in the mud.
In a former life, I trained to be a film maker. I studied in Sydney and New York. I got to work with film – shoot on it, edit it, project it. I got footage developed, and ran it through a flatbed editing machine. I literally cut film with a blade, and stuck bits together with clear tape. I got my fingerprints all over the celluloid. From the footage, I selected the bits I wanted, and hung those strips of film on a rack, where they waited until I spliced them into the edited film. The bits I cut out were swept aside, and would either land in the bin beneath the rack, or end up on the floor. Sometimes, if I changed my mind about a particular selection, I’d have to reach into that bin and rummage through the footage I’d cut out, trying to find the bit I wanted back in.
Lately, as part of my writing process, I’ve been trawling through the bins of my own raw songwriting footage. As well as exploring new ideas, I’ve been revisiting music I wrote in the past that didn’t make the cut – not because it was inferior, but simply because it didn’t fit the movie I was making at the time.
I wonder what the words “cutting room floor” even mean to people in an age of digital video (or what “mixtape” means, for that matter…).
Given that it takes only one edit to completely change the meaning or feeling of something, and given the myriad ways things can be edited, the range of possibilities and parallel-world scenarios is infinite. It means that anything, viewed from a slightly different angle, or cropped a little differently, can suddenly go from unremarkable to captivating. You pan for gold in the mud.
Iggy Pop accepted the Grammy on behalf of David Bowie for Bowie’s ‘China Girl’ – six years after Iggy had released his own version (with Bowie on backing vocals).
I never play a song the same way twice. I’m more interested in multiplicity of ideas and interpretations, of how meanings change depending on context. It’s why I opened it up to you guys to take some of my raw musical footage and have your way with it.
As part of my current writing process, I gig my works-in-progress alongside reworked versions of my already-released material. My thinking is: it’s only a “real” song if it can stand up to repeated rearrangement. If it can’t: then it ends up on the cutting room floor – but, perhaps, only for now…