High water marks

A handful of pros weigh in on challenges of editing some of year's top pics

Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker
Platform: Lightworks (Version 1.5)
Background: Schoonmaker is director Martin Scorsese’s longtime collaborator, editing all his films since “Raging Bull” (1980), a film for which she earned an Oscar. She also has won two ACE Eddie Awards.
Aesthetic: “Marty wanted to give the first half of the film the two-color look, which he remembered from his childhood. A great deal of pre-production went into choosing colors for the costumes and sets that would reproduce properly in the two-color process. Marty also wanted to achieve rapid-fire delivery from the actors in the early part of the film, evoking period films like ‘Front Page’ (1931), when the style was for actors to talk fast.”
Key Cuts: “For the Sunday lunch scene at the home of Katharine Hepburn’s family Marty wanted to cut it tighter and tighter to give the overlapping rapid-fire dialogue an amusing texture to increase Howard’s feeling of isolation while still allowing us to focus on the lines that were important to be clearly heard. In spite of my initial fears that overlapping dialogue would be hard to edit, it all worked out really well, with only a few lines needing to be looped.”

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Editors: Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson
Platform: Avid Media Composer
Background: “Supremacy” is both men’s first project with director Paul Greengrass, but Rouse worked on “The Bourne Identity” in 2002 with co-editor Saar Klein and director Doug Liman.
Aesthetic: According to Rouse, “there was a language of expression developed in the first ‘Bourne’ film that we not only wanted to acknowledge, but also expand upon in this one. This is a different story with different dynamics, and a different director. Paul Greengrass’ desire was to make this film as subjective as possible — not a formal, conventional film. Bourne takes a tumultuous journey, and so the editing is meant to mirror that. .”
Key Cuts: Pearson, who cut the film’s climactic car-chase, says “we wanted the feel of being in the car, out of control, but with enough sense of geography to keep the audience hooked in the story, and not just battered by the style. It was also important to keep it grounded in the film’s reality, and so we kept honing it down, until it still seemed both believable and chaotic — almost like being in a giant paint shaker careening through Moscow.”

Editors: Paul Rubell and Jim Miller
Platform: Avid Media Composer
Background: Rubell previously served as one of three editors on Mann’s “The Insider,” for which he received an Oscar nomination.
Aesthetic: “It was important to Michael Mann to capture those hot, glowing backgrounds of Los Angeles at night, which led him to shoot most of the movie with digital cameras,” Rubell says. “Our challenge was to balance between using material from when the backgrounds and light hit the camera just right, and making sure we had the emotional impact of the best performances.”
Key Cuts: “In the first scene in which the character, Max, converses with Vincent for the first time, there is great sub-text to what Max is saying. But there is another sub-text about what is going on in Vincent’s brain, at the time, in the context of his own ulterior motives,” says Rubell. “We worked hard to find a balance between playing the scene on Jamie (Foxx) and playing the scene on Tom Cruise. The final version basically walked a tightrope.”

Editor: Matt Chesse
Platform: Avid Media Composer
Background: “Neverland” is the second of three films Chesse is editing for director Marc Forster, following “Monster’s Ball” and preceding the upcoming “Stay.”
Aesthetic: “Marc, (d.p. Roberto Schaefer), and I had hours of discussions about how to cut between fantasy elements and reality elements. While they were shooting in England and I was in Santa Monica prepping, I had opportunities to play around with how we step out of reality and into fantasy and come back again-to figure out what the toggle switch was between the two.”
Key Cuts: “The effects shots were challenging because we needed to use economy in crafting them. In the pirate ship sequence, for example, any time we cut to the ship, we had to spend money on effects, so economically, we wanted to stay on dry land as much as we could. In the end, though, we did get in more pirate footage than we originally budgeted, because overall, I let the performance lead my edit, seeking out the best line delivery, and it just happened that the best fun stuff came from the pirate ship. .”

Editor: Virginia Katz
Platform: Avid Media Composer
Background: Katz has collaborated with “Kinsey” director Bill Condon for 15 years on his TV work, and also cut 1998’s “Gods and Monsters” for Condon.
Aesthetic: “There were lots of issues regarding how to tell a story that took many years, chronologically, while letting the audience experience things like the interviews Kinsey conducts. For that reason, we relied on the montage in several places — the publishing montage, the interviews, the travel montage. I’m also pleased with the job we did illustrating the sexual material. We tried hard to choreograph those scenes so that it is not gratuitous, but simply moves the story forward. Bill wanted us to have fun with the material, like when Kinsey is teaching a class and shows a photo of a penis. The gasp the actors in his class give is very much how the real movie audience reacts.”
Key Cuts: “We took the black-and-white interviews further into the film initially, but we eventually felt they broke up the rhythm and we therefore lost some of them. That was one of the bigger changes.”

Editor: Joel Cox
Platform: Avid Film Composer
Background: Cox is a longtime member of director Clint Eastwood’s core team, having taken over as Eastwood’s editor on “Sudden Impact” (1983). He won an Oscar and ACE Eddie award in 1993 for cutting “Unforgiven” and was nominated for an Eddie last year for “Mystic River.”
Aesthetic: “It’s a typical Clint film — simple, with no fat. We used more half-shadowed faces than Clint has done before, and we have done lots of them. He’s a big fan of very low-light films, natural lighting. We spent a lot of time working to create emotion and transition moments from one scene to another. It’s a balance to make sure you don’t go too far.”
Key Cuts: “For tempo, I put everything into the first cut, to make sure Clint sees everything he shot. We trimmed the original cut down by about a half hour. There is a key montage where the lead character is learning to box, for instance. It was a little longer than five minutes when we started; in the final movie, it’s about three minutes.”

Editor: Kevin Tent
Platform: Avid Film Composer
Background: Tent has edited all of director Alexander Payne’s features, following “About Schmidt” (2002), “Election” (1999) and “Citizen Ruth” (1996).
Aesthetic: “This movie’s style has more pizzazz than ‘About Schmidt,’ especially with the use of split screens and dissolves. We were influenced by the split-screen sequences in the original ‘Thomas Crown Affair.'”
Key Cuts: “The dinner montage had been scripted as a number of different scenes, all related, but each with their own beginning, middle, and end. But it didn’t flow and didn’t seem to have any emotional impact. During editing, we eventually came up with having just one big dinner montage. It’s a long sequence, about 5-6 minutes, but originally it was about 15 minutes long. The condensed sequence with the dissolves, music, and sound mixing allowed us to tell a much more interesting and emotional story.”