‘District 9’ editors made sci-fi feel like news

Documentary editing style gave movie gritty feel

We are used to seeing sci-fi in a highly polished way, not the way you would on CNN,” points out editor Julian Clarke, describing how “District 9” used a doculike style to create the movie’s authentic feel.

“It was like making a documentary with a fictitious story,” he says. “We had a rough idea of the plot, but it was shot loosely. Actors were improvising, and real people talked about things that were peripherally related to the movie.”

Clarke says this resulted in an estimated 200 hours of material. “So boiling that down to tell a coherent, fast-paced story was the real editing challenge,” he explains. “There was all this specific stuff about aliens living in Johannesburg that was very detailed and made the story feel very real. That had to be communicated without losing the audience.”

For instance, Clarke cut out a long sequence of aliens being evicted from District 9. “Even though it was compelling, it was a liability in keeping the audience engaged. Certain threads were abandoned and others were fleshed out.”