In March 2018, over 40 years after shooting wrapped on the Orson Welles' film ‘The Other Side of the Wind’, the producer Filip Jan Rymsza reported that a "locked picture" was finally in place…
"We’re now out of editorial and into dust-busting, restoration and color-timing … and the sound teams, led by supervising sound editors Scott Millan and Daniel Saxlid, have been hard at work".
In this article we chronicle the 45 year story of how this unfinished Orson Welles film ‘The Other Side Of The Wind’ was finally completed and released by Netflix in November 2018 along with a companion documentary from Oscar winner Morgan Neville.
The Backstory Of ‘The Other Side Of The Wind’
If you haven't heard of ‘The Other Side of The Wind’, it was billed to be Orson Welles' comeback film. After years spent working in Europe, Orson returned to Hollywood with a plan to make a film about filmmaking, and although he finished shooting it, he did not finish the editing and consequently the film was never released.
The film is the epic story of film director J.J. “Jake” Hannaford, played by John Huston. In the film, Jake sets out to make his own career re-defining film, also titled 'The Other Side of the Wind '. It has been reported that Orson said that the film was not autobiographical. Bizarrely, it was shot on a mix of 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm formats in both colour and black & white.
Despite not having access to the negatives, Orson Welles was able to smuggle rushes out of Paris in 1975. Before he died he cut approximately 40 minutes of the film,before his death in 1985 and all of this remained intact.
Following his death, there was 30 years of legal wrangling ensued, until 2014, when the rights issues were finally resolved by producers Filip Jan Rymsza and Frank Marshall.
The producers then set up an Indiegogo appeal to fund the work to get the film completed which included..
Acquire the original negatives
Scan the negative into 4k digital media
Edit the film based on Orson’s work-print, script and notes
Restore and color correct the locked picture
License music, produce a score and mix the sound
For decades, the negative sat in a film laboratory outside Paris. With an agreement and funding in place, the negative was flown to Los Angeles in Match 2017. A 4K scan of the negative and digitizing of sound materials then with Bob Murawski editing and Scott Millan handling the sound mix.
and this brings up to the last 12 months from picture lock to release.
On April 6th 2018 producer Frank Marshall tweeted…
Sound director for Technicolor at Paramount Studios, Scott Millan has won four Oscars for his work on Apollo 13, Gladiator, Ray and The Bourne Ultimatum. He is a also a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Other big screen credits include Schindler's List, Skyfall and Braveheart. Audio mixing of The Other Side Of The Wind followed the automated dialogue replacement (ADR), or looping, and recording of composer Michel Legrand's score in Europe. But doesn’t really tell the full story of the challenges of the audio post production.
Supervising sound editors Scott Millan and Daniel Saxlid, had a tough job. While the negative was in good condition, the soundtrack was a mess. In amongst the 96 hours of footage, it was found that many of the original sound ¼” tapes from the 1974 recording sessions were missing. The rest of the audio was only as available as second and third-hand transfers. Dialogue for several scenes was found on a Betacam tape that Sean Graver, Gary’s son, had in his garage. A few incomplete or distorted lines were fixed with sound-alike actors. One of these substitutes was spectacularly convincing: Danny Huston, the director’s son, can effortlessly fall into his father’s hoarse grandeur. Daniel spent more than three months cleaning up the dialogue, working seven days a week in a windowless room in Technicolor’s post-production facility on the Paramount lot.
Multiple transfers of the soundtrack had caused a build-up of noise and distortion. He explained…
“Usually, I apply an algorithm that distinguishes signal from noise, but here the signal was so weak that the program got confused.”
Daniel developed a workflow which he described as, “a kind of forensics,” to expand microscopic portions of the track and reduce noise while preserving the voices.
“So much of this we couldn’t have done even a few years ago. All these endless delays drove everyone crazy, but maybe the thing had to wait until we had all the right tools for it. I kept having a funny feeling that Welles had tossed all this to the future, for us to figure out.”
In this video Daniel talks about the work on this project and plays some examples of what he was able to achieve with iZotope RX…
Where there wasn’t any audio or Daniel was unable to clean up what was available to him, they turned to ADR and to surviving cast members, like Joseph McBride, who re-recorded their lines four decades later. However those same 40 years meant that Daniel also had to turn to "voicealikes" to replace a phrase or lines for the cast members that has passed away.
At the centre of the party scenes, for which they were never able to find the original production sound ¼” tapes was John Huston, who has a distinct, cigar-chewing drawl. His son, actor Danny Huston, performed an uncanny impression of his father, who passed away in 1987. Danny explained…
“It was strange to see my father projected on the screen, then say the words, and then see my father speak them back to me. All I have to do is think of my father and find the ‘Ah-ha’s’ and ‘action,’ ‘cut.’ … it was quite magical connecting with his voice and it just brought him back to life.”
On the 1st May 2018, producer Frank Marshall tweeted…
The film eventually had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on August 31st , 2018, where it won the 2018 Venice Film Festival Award and was released on November 2, 2018 by Netflix accompanied by the documentary ‘They'll Love Me When I'm Dead’, which you find on the official Netflix pages for The Other Side Of The Wind.
You can learn more about the story of this film on The Other Side Of The Wind Wikipedia page.