I’m sitting waiting for my Quicktime reference file to export from Avid at 1am on a Saturday morning, and am remembering how much fun it is to finish a project. I have this feeling about twice a year and it really is something special.
“Drug Court” is a Notable Pictures production and has taken 13 weeks to edit, which is a long time to make a TV hour, but I think it has been worth the time. Julia Parnell, my talented and ever patient director on this project has continued shooting right up until last week and that has given a real feeling of travelling with the characters in the film.
The documentary follows the story of 5 participants in Auckland’s Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court pilot program. It is part court-room drama, part personal journey, and editing it has given me a new appreciation for the power of addiction, and just how inevitable it is for some people, given their situation. And also for just how much determination, defeat, resignation, will-power and sheer time and hard work it takes to break out of an addiction.
With every film I edit I get a sort of baptism of fire PhD in the subject. Rehabilitation has always been something I’ve believed in, I have always seen the punitive and retributive role of the courts and prisons as something pointless, and ultimately damaging to society. But I had not appreciated what it takes to rehabilitate someone, the sort of comprehensive systems that need to be built just to help one person escape their disease.
The participants go through a number of stages in the court, intensive residential treatment, drug monitoring through a SCRAM alcohol bracelet, regular drug tests, weekly court appointments, daily support meetings, and still it is a struggle every day to beat an ever-present addiction.
On an editing note, what I’ve learned on this project is the power of sub-edits. I’ve been developing this method of editing over the last few years, but on this project it really came into its own. Sub-edits are short scenes which can be built in isolation and pieced together as blocks in your assemble. Something that was really helpful in this edit was colouring each individual subedit a different colour (a colour for each character) this enabled us to see clearly in the assemble what characters were appearing where. This meant that large structural changes could be made with an understanding of how that structural change is shaping the film overall.
Drug Court is another dense, political and heavy-hitting film, but I hope we have retained its heart, the nature of everyday struggle that is addiction.