An uncanny commonality ties together the five pics nominated for editing in the dramatic feature film category of the ACE Eddie Awards.
Whether it’s the raw tale of a rock star who really lived (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) or two who didn’t (“A Star Is Born,” pictured above), the intimate life of an astronaut (“First Man”), an undercover cop battling racism (“BlacKkKlansman”) or the reimagined memories of a filmmaker’s own childhood (“Roma”), all these films approach their storytelling with a modern cinema verite style.
“Damien [Chazelle] always knew that audiences would come to the theaters with knowledge of Neil Armstrong the icon, and the best thing we could do would be to try to shed some light on Neil Armstrong the person,” says Tom Cross, editor of “First Man.” “We shot a lot of rehearsal footage with Ryan [Gosling] and Claire [Foy] and the young actors who played the kids because we wanted them to feel comfortable with each other when we started, and we ended up using a lot of that rehearsal footage because it was so natural and honest.”
Adam Gough, who edited “Roma” along with helmer Alfonso Cuaron, also focused on an editing style that would guide the audience in a natural, seamless way. Gough began editing without a script and was immediately struck by the honesty of the footage. Indeed, as he was reviewing the material, there were moments when fights on screen reminded him of his own relationship with his brother. The editor hoped he could bring that realism into play for viewers.
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“I think there’s an advantage to telling these kinds of original stories, having fresh ideas and not being on the back of something else,” says Gough. “I also think there’s an advantage when you have your own personal, real emotional reaction to the footage. We had to trust the emotion in the selection of the footage and the rhythm and the tempo that we used to carry the audience to the real emotions of the story.”
John Ottman, editor on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” was also working with biographical material that also needed to work as a filmic narrative. Though some of the concert history details were changed to fit the film with the blessing of the surviving members of “Queen,” Ottman still included the rough edges of frontman Freddie Mercury in the film.
“It was important that you get a full picture of Freddie Mercury as a person aside from the myth of Freddie Mercury that he created on stage,” says Ottman. “We wanted to be as honest as possible about what happens when someone becomes a rock star and show some of the darker things that happened to him even while we maintained a PG-13 rating so the movie would be accessible to audiences, and the band really wanted us to see Freddie for who he was.”
For “A Star Is Born,” editor Jay Cassidy was focused on telling a love story that was as raw as it was magical — and it was a story that would only work if the characters were allowed to be flawed. The editor also created a pacing that allowed the narrative to unfold in a more natural style, allowing the audience to spend more time in intimate moments with characters.
“[Director and co-star] Bradley Cooper knew exactly what he wanted in terms of seeing how these characters struggled with their relationship and with themselves,” says Cassidy. “[Co-star] Lady Gaga and Bradley also wanted to preserve the live vocals because they wanted it to feel and sound real, which also kept the sense of the place where they were singing. They didn’t want what happens in many musicals where you have a sense of disconnect between the picture on the screen and what you’re hearing.”
Barry Alexander Brown, editor of “BlacKkKlansman” and longtime collaborator of helmer Spike Lee, focused on telling the history of racism by using classic narrative techniques that also incorporated documentary style footage. It’s something he and Lee have done on a number of films such as “Malcolm X.” On this film, Brown also utilized outtakes from Alec Baldwin’s narration at the beginning of the film.
“One of the things that I think this film does so beautifully is meld all these deceptions about racism that makes them seem separate but are really part of the same problem in American culture,” says Brown. “We use footage from today in a documentary way to show that the problems of today are the problems of the past.”