Billy Fox certainly knows Brewer’s style. The two previously worked together on “Hustle & Flow” and are in the midst of editing “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the 1988 film that, like “Dolemite,” also stars Eddie Murphy.
When it came to editing “Dolemite Is My Name,” Fox’s approach was to feed off the rhythm and that energy to create the film’s tone. “There are many places where the timing and emotion of the music completely drives the cut, particularly in the montages,” Fox explains. “That’s one of the best things about a Craig Brewer movie, his passion for music often drives the storytelling, so of course it drives the cut as well.”
Part of Fox’s challenge was finding the right music for the temp score. It needed to be funky, but not “on the nose,” Fox explains. “The scene in the parking lot where Rudy is upset, that scene needed a cue. But I didn’t want to go into a symphonic, Disney-type cue that over-telegraphed the emotion.” As Fox tried to establish what the sound needed to be, it was Brewer who suggested the “Hustle & Flow” score. Composer Scott Bomar looked at the score and sent Fox some cues. “They dropped in like butter. It really worked to set the tone and timing,” Fox says.
Another aspect of setting the pacing was its blend of comedy and drama. Editorially, Fox was working on a hybrid style. “The cuts and the timing are not quite comedy cuts and timing, but they’re not quite drama either,” he says.
When Rudy Ray Moore walks out on to the stage as Dolemite is born for the first time, He’s never done this character. Externally, he’s oozing confidence while internally dealing with a little bit of insecurity. “There were three main arcs of emotion that I tried to balance when laying down the foundation of that scene,’ says Fox. It was about creating contrasting emotions of the audience as they watched Dolemite on stage. “I had to take into consideration how they felt: ‘Who is this guy, and what is he trying to do?’ — and the jaded club owner and his dubious reaction to Rudy on stage,” Fox says. It helped that director of photography Eric Steelberg provided Fox with an array of shots so he could easily dance between these different points of view.
Fox also had to tackle integrating a movie within a movie as Rudy films “Dolemite.” “I thought that would be challenging. I was a little worried about how would I move back and forth between being inside the movie and back out,” Fox says.
Aside from that, Fox would have to incorporate the guerrilla moviemaking feel of the actual original. “It ended up working very naturally,” says Fox. “There are times when you’re in our re-creation of the original movie for 12 seconds. Then there’s an awkward cut of Eddie playing Dolemite, but in the background, there’s a camera, or we’d cut back to Wesley Snipes watching the scene as the director.”
In the editing suite, Fox is all about the flow and maximizing it. His go-to is Adobe. ” I particularly liked Final Cut originally and now Premiere Pro, is that my timeline never stops. I’m rolling and I’m changing things, I’m trimming in the timeline, I’m adding sound effects, I’m hitting a button and it takes me back and it’s rolling again. It’s this constant rolling action. I’m constantly going and for me, that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that it just makes me very happy.”
Fox describes the movie, “A love letter to filmmaking, in a way.” That love letter, combined with the drive and passion of Rudy Ray Moore, helped Fox marry the emotional thread in the movie they were shooting and the larger story.