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‘Tailor’s’ tinkerers savor the nuances

Helmer, editor shuffled elements as they dig to pic's core

If “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” leaves you feeling perplexed, you won’t be alone — and the filmmakers won’t be surprised.

The Cold War spy pic — adapted from John Le Carre’s 1974 best-seller and set for release by Focus Features on Friday — delves into the layered and paranoid world of Britain’s intelligence service, where intrigue, suspicion and betrayal are the stuff of everyday life. Transparency is the least of its concerns.

Instead, the convoluted story offers up endless subplots and red herrings, daring viewers them to sort it all out — which is exactly what director Thomas Alfredson wants them to do.

“Too many films today make you passive,” Alfredson said. “They decide everything for you. I try to invite the audience to participate as much as possible.”

“Complexity is the foundation of the film,” said editor Dino Jonsater, who had the task of cutting the Byzantine story. “If you clarify things too much you’ll lose the magic.” Following completion of principal photography on 35mm film in London, he and Alfredson — both Swedes — spent the first half of this year in an Avid suite in Stockholm, where they gave the 128-minute, headscratcher its final shape.

It was an arduous process.

“We moved things around so many times during that period,” said Jonsater. “The more complex a story, the more things you have to try. It’s like taming a beast.”

He also had to fight editor’s block just about every day, said Jonsater. “But that is how the work gets done. You get into a hole, pull back, and then find a new way. You can’t let yourself get tired out by that, and you can’t be afraid of dead ends because you learn so much from them.”

In Jonsater’s view, every film has an underlying structure that determines how it’s edited, and the editor’s task is to unlock it.

“You close yourself in a room with the story and its emotions and discover what it needs,” he said. “The director has a vision, the producer has ideas, I might have an idea. But the bottom line is that you have to find out how the film wants to be edited.”

All this can take a lot of time.

“You can’t rush editing,” said Alfredson. “You’ve got to get the narration right. Sometimes you need to take a break to get a new perspective on the material. Of course, eventually you have to give it up.”

Jonsater said he never reaches a stage when he’s entirely happy with a cut, but he does find the one where he says to himself, “OK, this is good enough, it’s going to work — and that’s probably at the point where the producer is screaming at you. As soon as it’s locked, I’m shit-scared because all the possibilities of what we could have done differently come to mind.”

But when he screened the final cut of ‘Tinker’ he was relieved.

“I saw that we had made the right decisions.”

Bookings & Signings

WME signed d.p. Lawrence Sher (“Hangover 2”) and production designer Nathan Crowley (“The Dark Knight Rises”).

Claire Best & Assoc. signed production designers Tony Fanning (“Butter”) and Aaron Haye (art director on “Man of Steel”); d.p. Sean Stiegmeier (“Chapman”); editors Michele Conroy (“Silent Hill Revelation 3D”), Michael Flores (“Sarah Palin: You Betcha”) and Tom Lewis (“Jonah Hex”); and costume designer Lizzy Gardiner (“Ghost Rider”).

Agency booked Anna J. Foerster as director on CBS’ “Unforgettable”; producers J. Miles Dale on Andres Muschietti’s “Mama, Donall McCusker on Omid Nooshin’s “The Last Passenger,” Lila Yacoub on Noah Baumbach’s “The Corrections” and Joanna Burn as UPM on John Moore’s “Die Hard V”; 1st SD Chris Carreras on Paul Greengrass’ “Maersk Alabama”; d.p.’s Patrick Murguia on Scott Walker’s “The Frozen Ground” and Tim Wooster on Andrew Douglas’ “You Want Me to Kill Him”; vfx supervisor Nick Brooks on Louis Leterrier’s “Now You See Me”; production designer Carlos Conti on Sally Potter’s “Bomb”; costume designers Ngila Dickson on Peter Webber’s “The Emperor,” Lizzy Gardner on Anne Fontaine’s “Grandmothers” and Ruth Myers on Richard Laxton’s “Effie”; editors Andi Armaganian on TNT’s “Perception,” Michele Conroy on “Mama,” Stan Saflas on Bradley Parker’s “The Diary of Lawson Oxford” and Rick Shaine on Philippe Caland’s “Vipaka.”

Sound re-recording mixer Terry Porter joined Technicolor’s new sound post-production operation on the Paramount lot, becoming part of the team that includes Anna Behlmer, Scott Millan and Greg Russell.

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