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How Mr. Rogers Influenced the Pacing of ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’

Framing The Scene: Editor Anne McCabe on How the Show's Rhythm Influenced the Film

Fred Rogers was an icon to many. Everyone who met him and knew him says, “He really was like that.” He spoke in a soft voice and he was kind. He believed in doing good to others. He spoke to children in “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in a soft voice, helping them to process complicated emotions as he spoke directly to the camera.

In the new movie, “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” editor Anne McCabe’s biggest challenge was getting the tone of Fred Rogers right. “The challenge of pacing with the movie is Mister Rogers is someone who took his time. He allowed pauses and he allowed moments of being quiet. We wanted to embrace that and not make the movie four hours long.”

McCabe says she did go back and watch the show itself to understand how to pace the film and in revisiting the original Fred Rogers, she was able to edit the film accordingly. “He’s looking into the camera and speaking to a child. He’s taking his time. He’s talking slowly so a kid could understand. From the get-go, it takes a little while. Audiences have been responding well. They understand that we are not racing through the film.”

In this Framing The Scene, McCabe talks about cutting an important scene in the movie that relies heavily on silence, establishing its lead and how she played to get the perfect ending.

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The restaurant scene:

Tom Hanks is in the restaurant talking to Matthew’s character, and he asks for a moment of silence. It was a very unusual thing to have in a movie. It was quite a long time.

We all talked about how long will we be able to sustain this. We found that people responded so well. People were tearing up when they saw it.

It was always going to be quiet, that scene. We played around with what music should be playing and how loud it should be. We ended up playing with sound a lot. We ended up with a piece by Yo-Yo Ma playing in the background of the restaurant.

We looked at having other people in the restaurant turn their heads and how surreal should it be? We ended up with surreal and had Tom turn to the camera to look at the audience and challenge them to think about their lives.

When we pan to the patrons of the restaurant, the thing about that scene is some of those people are connected to the real Mister Rogers. Joanne Rogers is in that scene. The real Mr. McFeely is in that scene. The director of the show is in there, as well as Bill Isler. Those people were there during the shooting of that scene.

Lloyd is a good person:

Our first cut was a good hour longer than what you see. We wanted to make sure we showed Lloyd as someone who was troubled but is a good man. He loves his wife. They have chemistry. He’s a father. He’s struggling. He’s a good person, and he’s a great journalist. There were scenes in the beginning with him and other journalists and talking about that, we cut those out because we just wanted to show how good he was. We wanted to show the scenes with his wife and the little tension that existed there.

Cutting the perfect ending:

The ending was much longer. There were beautiful scenes we had to remove. There’s a moment where his stepmother has a book of photographs and all the articles that Lloyd had written over the years. We wanted it to feel that there was still this struggle. It’s incredibly emotional when he comes back, and it’s still hard. We removed that scene because it already felt there was a resolution there.

We did some reordering toward the end. In terms of the pacing, there’s this awkward pacing because it’s that whole family scene with the members there, just because he’s back, it didn’t mean it was easy for Lloyd to be there. So, we wanted to reflect that.

We played around with the very last scene a lot. We wanted to create the feeling at the end of the day where you’re feeling depleted. It’s very tiring to go through this emotional journey. For that, we did some recordings at work, and we recorded the sounds of people at the end of the workday as they were leaving to capture that.

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