After the very recent and tragic loss of Prince, I was moved by a powerful Facebook post penned by my friend and neighbor Annie Guidice. In it, she recalled her pivotal time working with the Prince at Paisley Park. At my request, she has kindly penned an expanded version of her powerful post.
It was tough to keep it together the day Prince died. My heart hurts that I’m not in Minneapolis right now. There are so many great stories about people who were enmeshed in the crazy tornado that was life with Prince. I guess I don’t talk about my time with him that much because it felt small by comparison. But in my life, in my heart it was everything…because truthfully, Prince changed my life.
It was 2003 and I had come to the conclusion that I couldn’t have a career in film editing. I didn’t have the temperament. I didn’t get along with directors and hated making changes to pieces I thought were already perfect. I decided I would find a new path. Maybe I’d be a lawyer. Or join the Mounted Police. Maybe I’d just work with horses in that widely known ‘horse-worker’ field. After some heavy pondering, I opted for slinging drinks at a local Irish bar. Hey, it kept me out of trouble and it paid the bills.
I still don’t know who gave me the recommendation but that fall I got a call from Lynn Anderson who was working as producer at Paisley Park. Would I like to come in and cut some web videos? Being someone that rarely says no to something that sounds like a good time, I said yes. I drove to Chanhassen one afternoon and was greeted and escorted down the quiet halls to a small but comfortable edit room. In those days the Park was not the hub of activity it had been. There was a beloved guitar tech Takumi, the engineer Scott and another general go to manager Rick. All such great, kind people. But I remember walking around the quiet midnight rooms of Paisley by myself, distractedly wondering if those were doves on a tape loop playing on a sound system or real doves (real.) It was quiet and lonely.
I was asked to cut one or two small videos from some shaky camcorders. I’d cut one song and get called back. I’d pick up the phone and hear ‘Prince has an idea…’ and off I would go. Then I started getting lists of songs. He’d leave me notes, always in the third person, about what he wanted done that day. It was at least a month before he came in to work with me one on one. There are very few people who can have the effect Prince did walking into a room. I’ll bet he could do it when he was 9. Everything just became dim and fuzzy and a spotlight seemed to be focused right on him. I wasn’t even a Prince fan per say but I was mesmerized by him. His clarity, his focus, his passion, all topped with an effortless powerful calm. And every so often a beautiful beautiful grin.
I loved working for him. He was quiet, private. He would say crazy things that would stretch my brain because my first thought was always ‘you can’t do that, that’s crazy!’ and then I would somehow get it done. He expected everything and showed disappointment if you didn’t too. I would have to pause every now and again and tell myself, yep that humming and strumming you’re hearing in the hallway is PRINCE walking around writing. I met the band when he wanted to get some inserts (‘I don’t think that’s going to match’…’You’ll make it match.’) We made dinners together, bible studied together, argued about smoking and God and music. Hundreds of stories. And not all of them easy. He wasn’t easy. The way my time with him ended wasn’t easy.
But the best day, the conversation that still shatters me. We were talking about end game and life and what we were doing. I told him I wasn’t sure, maybe I wasn’t cut out to be an editor. He shook his head, gave me that wicked grin and told me didn’t I know that the whole reason he was moving forward with this video was because of how good I was? He said it was sinful to disrespect my talents and that no matter what I should keep editing and that it was my soul’s language and if I wasn’t cutting how did I expect people to hear me? I can’t say that I’ve ever had a mentor but he did more for me in that 3 minute conversation than most. The clarity of seeing myself through his eyes for that brief moment lodged itself in my self-confidence.
We kept working until there was a full concert cut. If I watch it now I really don’t think it’s that good. It’s all consumer handheld cameras with overexposed lighting and crazy mixed in graphics and wipes. It’s pretty hodgepodge. And finishing was impossible. There were loads of technical problems I couldn’t explain or solve fast enough. I was getting requests that didn’t make any sense and were genuinely asking the impossible. I was on the phone with his guitar tech one day. There was a long pause…“So you’re not coming in?” “No…I’m not.”
I feel a great deal of shame in that choice. I had moved on to another job cutting, a real job, my mind said. And even though everyone’s time with Prince ended that way, getting fired or quitting from exhaustion, I look back and wish I had tried harder, wish I had handled things with a bit more class, kept sticking it out through the tough part. Wouldn’t that have been a small price to pay for the gift he gave me?
I know that my time with Prince firmed up drive and passion that I already had in me. He had faith in it like he did in so many things. That was one of the most magical things about Prince; when he had faith in something, even if you really did disagree…for a minute, you would believe. That small possibility of hope, that’s all he needed to keep you going. Losing him means I have to try a bit harder to hold on to my hope. All on my own.
Annie Guidice is a feature film editor living in Los Angeles. Her credits include Going in Style (first assistant editor; 2016), The Boss (Visual Effects Editor; 2016) and Pitch Perfect 2 (visual effects editor; 2015).