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On Knowing When To Lock A Film

In a new piece on Medium, Evelyn Lee shares her experience on dealing with rejection from film festivals and how to keep going.

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October 27, 2019
by Evelyn Lee

How Do You Know When Your Movie Is Finished?

The truth is, no art is ever really finished.

So often, we artists get lost in our own work, obsessing over every little detail and making endless revisions. We all want things to be perfect, but what if it’s already close enough? It can be hard to pull yourself away from the project and know when to stop.

Here are some of the processes I go through to see if my film is truly done.

1. A Completed Checklist

There are times when it really is as simple as a checklist of things you feel the need to do. Whether a mental list or a real one you’ve written down, when you’ve done everything you wanted to do with the project, that’s all you need to know that you’re finally done. Have you fixed the color for that scene? Have you trimmed it down and fixed the pacing issue? Have you killed enough of your darlings? Can you sit and watch your own work all the way through without needing to fix more things?

2. It’s Best Way to Tell the Story

After having lived with the story and the project for months — maybe even years — of your life, you’re always trying to make it better. Sometimes, there is nothing wrong and the story is already solid just the way it is. If the changes and edits don’t add any value or meaning to your work and aren’t making it better, don’t be afraid to realize they’re unnecessary. Your movie is fine just the way it is.

3. Step Away From It

Working on a project every single day for a prolonged period of time can sometimes cloud your view of it. Step away from the project for a day or two, maybe even longer. I sometimes force myself to step away for a full week, and work on other smaller projects in the meantime. It allows me to return to the project with fresh eyes and a less clouded judgment. You may go back to some things that still need fixing, or you may find that you were done with your movie all along.

4. Listen to Your Subconscious, Follow Your Instinct

If your subconscious starts to shift its focus, listen to it. It could slowly start thinking about other ideas, your errands, and your dad’s birthday instead of your movie. You stop waking up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to make sure you get a certain shot, make certain edits, add or take out certain scenes. It’s telling you it’s time to move on from the project. And sometimes, you just can’t bring yourself to watch through the whole thing one more time. When you get a feeling, trust it. You are the only person who knows when the project is at its best and you’re proud to show it off.

5. Let Go

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where nothing you change will make a drastic difference. You can add or take away a frame, or cut out a line of dialogue, but ultimately, it won’t do the movie any good. Don’t dwell. That’s when it’s time to simply let go.

My next short film ‘Nox’ is being released on October 31, 2019. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe on YouTube for all the latest.

Watch ‘Recapture.’