×

Oscar Editing Nominees Reveal Their Cutting Edge

Ask people to highlight great film editing and they’ll often point to a blockbuster with fast cuts set against a big action backdrop. But this year the list of Academy Award nominees in this category are mostly indie films, with one notable exception, that run at their own unique pace.

“Baby Driver” (Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss), “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Jon Gregory), “The Shape of Water” (Sidney Wolinsky) and “I, Tonya” (Tatiana S. Riegel) are all lower-budget, character-driven stories. Only “Dunkirk” (Lee Smith) focuses on a specific historic event, drawing the audience into a WWII evacuation.

“Baby Driver” and “I, Tonya” both followed action-oriented characters: the first centered on a professional driver and the latter focused on an ice skater. They balanced their quieter moments with some of the most challenging editing tasks imaginable. Amos and Machliss had to time their driving sequences to the music listened to by the main character on headphones, and Riegel had to integrate performances by Margot Robbie, a stunt double and visual-effects work to cut together their ice skating big scenes.

“You’re trying to balance the amazing performance by Margot Robbie with showing these turns and spins that made Tonya Harding who she was as a skater,” Riegel says. “When Tonya would skate you would see on her face exactly how she felt about her performance.”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water” both allowed longer cuts to reveal their characters and amplify their stories. Wolinsky, who talked with helmer Guillermo del Toro as the project was coming together, knew the story would closely follow the lives of a janitor and her friends. Gregory was also prepared to focus on performances after reading the script.

“You know, you look at Frances McDormand’s face in these scenes and you don’t want to cut away because she’s telling you everything you need to know,” says Gregory. “Your job as an editor there is to know that you have it and stay with the actors.”

Whether the films were small or big budget, editors are becoming more embedded with the film crew during every stage of production. Helmers often bring them on as early as pre-production to consult so they can avoid costly reshoots later and so they can hand off shots to the visual-effects department as early as possible.

Machliss was on set and had his editing equipment strapped into a vehicle so he could see if the incoming footage was cutting together the right way on “Baby Driver.” It was the only way for him to be sure he could time the action to the music in post. Riegel was consulting with the visual-effects department on “I, Tonya” so that they were sure face replacements for the skating sequences looked right. And Smith came onto “Dunkirk” early to talk with helmer Christopher Nolan about land and battle sequences since reshooting them could prove nearly impossible.

“Chris [Nolan] is meticulous in everything he does, and it’s part of what makes him a great filmmaker, so he wanted me there to help so we knew we had everything we needed and that everything would cut together the way he planned, the way he imagined,” says Smith. “It means as an editor you’re now getting dirty in the trenches with the crew. I like it because you can work more closely with them so all that work will be part of the story you put together later.”

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content