It’s 6 a.m. and I’m laying on the hard, cold wood of my bedroom floor, legs above me on a chair, flanked by an icy glass of bourbon and Howard Stern. I’ve been editing video since yesterday morning with my only break being a trip to the chiropractor who informed me that sitting for 18 hours a day, 16 days in a row was a streak that needed to end immediately. The only other option was to edit from a standing position. As I lay here staring at the ceiling, my body is folded into ergonomically-correct 90-degree angles as he instructed. My feet are shaking. My back is spasming. My mind is racing. This may be the happiest moment of my life.
I’ve just finished editing the segment that begins at 18:55 of my latest episode of Jeff Waful +1. While some of the scenes took 11 months of obsessive editing, this particular scene basically edited itself. It’s quite apropos given the subject matter. Earlier today I was stumped. I had no idea what to do with this scene. And then, as the music swelled, the ideas just flowed out of me. I didn’t second-guess. I didn’t obsess. I just created. Who would have thought that using slow motion footage of musicians playing would be effective? I certainly wouldn’t have ever planned that.
Those moments are rare. And that is the point of this newfound delight this cold, autumn dawn. My whole life I’ve dreamed of being a journalist of some sort, whether it was on 60 Minutes or MTV, but I was never quite sure how to connect the dots after my life was sidetracked in the music industry for a decade. During college, I’d wear a suit and tie to class every day, as was the protocol for senior broadcast journalism students, but I was also learning about the burgeoning jam band world through a college radio show I hosted. Before I knew it, I was a fulltime lighting designer and 15 years had passed. It’s a great creative outlet and I love it, but I sure did miss video.
When I began Jeff Waful +1, I didn’t really know what I wanted the tone to be. If you’ve seen my Twitter avitar – a photo from my first episode – you can tell I was going for the Charlie Rose vibe. It’s a funny photo and I continue to use it because it’s this ridiculous image, a parody of my former self. In my head, I always associated reporting with a suit and tie. It was not until this episode that I finally found the intersection of rock and roll and journalism.
The act of editing video is quite the opposite of improvisational concert lighting. They both are closely related conceptually, but the process is carried out in two very different parts of the brain. For a musician it is the difference between studio recording vs. performing live. For me, editing – by definition – is constantly thinking and changing and trying to perfect the final product. For live performance art to really work, you strive to reach a point where you are no longer thinking. There are merits to both. Thankfully for all of us, I cannot obsess over real-time lighting cues with Umphrey’s McGee. The light show would take 11 months. I only get 3.5 hours and it is what it is. Warts and all. When I mess up – which happens at 100% of all shows – it’s gone in an instant. There’s no going back and fixing it. On the flip side, that risky high-wire act can be tremendously rewarding when you stumble upon magic. It leads to those moments.
I experience them a couple times per tour as a lighting designer, but I have never experienced one as an editor.
Here is my latest episode of Jeff Waful +1, a special report on Jam Cruise 11. But first, here is a fun look at some of what wound up on the cutting room floor.