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Filmcraft: Editing

Focal Press; 192 pages

Variety staffers cover the biz in new tomes excerpted here. Peter Bart’s “Infamous Players” explores the history of Mob influence in Hollywood; David Cohen’s “The Ballad of Rango” details the making of Gore Verbinski’s toon; Justin Chang’s “Filmcraft: Editing” features interviews with 17 top film editors, who share their insights into the biz.

Angus Wall began his entertainment career as an editor of musicvideos and commercials in the late 1980s before he and his wife, Linda Carlson, established Rock Paper Scissors, an editorial house based in Los Angeles. Wall’s collaboration with David Fincher began when he designed the titles for the director’s “Seven” (1995).

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Kirk Baxter co-founded a commercial editing firm, Final Cut, before moving to Los Angeles and joining Rock Paper Scissors in 2004. The duo won an editing Oscar for Fincher’s “The Social Network” this year. They are currently editing Fincher’s English-language remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”


David’s work tends to be crafted in a way that’s seamless, because he shoots enough coverage and is a big stickler for continuity, for not crossing the line unless it’s really deliberate, and so on. For a guy who’s known to be quite aggressive filmically, the laws of film are always being respected.


The coverage on “The Social Network,” for example, appears to be pretty simple. But if you look at those boardroom scenes in particular, the way they’re staged and blocked is very sophisticated. But it’s not showy. It looks like meat and potatoes, but it’s actually beef bourguignon.


I saw that come to fruition in the scene toward the end of the movie, when Mark Zuckerberg is on the phone with Sean Parker, who’s at the police station. You have Mark on one side of the frame, talking, talking, talking, and then he swings in his chair to the other side of the frame. Then Sean comes in, doing a similar dance from one side of the frame to the next. And those shots seamlessly stitch together, so that the two are always on opposite sides of the frame when they’re delivering their dialogue. It’s so helpful, because David’s blocked these things so that as soon as someone lands on one side of the frame, bang! You can cut instantly. He gives you the material. And we’re the ones who end up looking clever.


The opening scene of “Social Network” was a very, very fun scene to do, because it was just two people, and there was nowhere for me as an editor to hide. And there was no need to hide, because the performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara were so good. Plus, it was a very important scene, because it set the tone for the rest of the film — it’s a bit of a warning shot over the bow for the audience, letting them know that they’re going to have to pay attention during this movie. …


I’ve always had help from the moment we stepped into the world of Avid and Final Cut. It’s constantly changing so much, I don’t put a lot of energy into thinking about it. I just concentrate on what’s in the frame, and I’m able to be that way because I work with Angus.


Cutting movies can be such a lonely endeavor. Why not have a partner? I know when we’re on the movie together, it’s a lot more fun than when we’re working individually. There’s somebody there to share the burden, the pressure and the responsibility. And because we work together, there are times when one of us can go off and do a commercial and then come back to the film. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to do that. It’s kind of ideal.


It’s really helpful to have these two careers running, and you really have to take care of both. You can’t ignore one, because it will ignore you if you do. The fact that we can sink into commercials from time to time means we don’t have to take certain movies on. We don’t have to do the movie about huskies.


That was a good movie.

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