Oh, how I hate screening my unfinished films. It’s always a jungle out there, you’ll never know what kind of a monsters it hides, but my late editor Suresh Ayyar, may that cynical Indian intelligent deadpan bastard rest in peace, said that the rule is that every second screening is a success. The other one, well, not so much. This was one of the “second ones”.
We’ve screened Iron Sky The Coming Race in different development stages to different audiences of fans and friends for feedback maybe ten times and a number of times to a selected financiers, buyers and so forth who need to see what they’re buying into. In addition to this, we’ve of course watched it probably a hundred times internally, but yesterday was the last time I was to screen it for editing purposes with a real audience.
There was four of us, in addition to me and my consulting editor Jan Hameeuw: a programmer, a colorist, a film director and an assistant editor. None of them had seen the film before, but they all are film professionals – some of them are known to be extremely critical, so I was relatively nervous. Not because I wanted them to like it, but because I don’t have a lot of time to do changes anymore.
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Walking out of the screening into bright sunlight of Brussels, I was feeling relaxed – probably for the first time in a long while. Since we had made the first edits of the movie, I had always enjoyed the fact that the damn thing works like the proverbial train toilet, as we say here in Finland, meaning the pacing and characters are good, the story works and the biggest plot holes have been either covered or at least hidden nicely. But doing an edit after edit – and this goes to all the films I’ve worked on – the flow becomes more and more serious and it loses the loose, crazy fun. When added with semi-finished visuals and proto music, there’s always a moment when the edit looks like it could be finished and the visuals are a bit disappointing because they are not there yet, and the whole film starts to feel like it’s a slow, draggy straight-to-DVD crap.
But now, we seem to have finally solved the issue of seriousness with the movie and found the flow that suddenly sets the whole story loose in all its’ crazyness. It’s surprising how small changes in edit can do that – tightening some lines, glances, reactions and cutting away a frame earlier or a frame later can make a world of difference. And I was happy to hear the audience felt the same way: the colorist said the film is great, worthy sequel for the first one. This is of course very important. Also, it was good to hear that everyone agreed it’s “better” than the first one, which is of course very subjective and in no way is it supposed to be a competition of any kind, and for sure there are people who are attached to the first one so heavily they’ll find nr. 2 to be not as unique, not as nazi or not as dark in humour as the first one, but for the wider audience, it’s clear that Iron Sky The Coming Race is much more accessible and much more enjoyable film.
Of course there were points which were brought up which we agreed that we have to improve – but luckily, those are things like transition from one place to another, or slightly slow sequence, or debate of reveal of certain characters at one point or possibly another in the movie. The important factor is: the story works, and the characters work. Each had their favorite and nobody thought anyone of them is redundant, or bad – the three main characters and two main villains all stand on their own, solid ground.
So, to celebrate a successful screening we launched into a cozy little pub close to my hotel and had a few laughs, discussed black metal and drank one too many La Chouffes (if La Chouffe fits, drink it, as the old Belgian saying goes). Walking home from the bar I felt pretty damn good about the film and the whole process we are in, and even the rain shower couldn’t get my mood down, nor did the fact that the my beloved Metropole-hotel had lost the electricity when I arrived, so I had to hike up to fourth floor then through a labyrinth of service stairwells to find my room, and devour my kebab with the door open to the hallway to see anything. We talked with my wife on the phone – she has a tendency to wake up always when I’m heading home, no matter where in the world I am – and finally I fell to bed, exhausted and still drenched but feeling mighty fine.