Baby Driver


IN THIS ISSUE – 2nd
 Qtr, 2017
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
BACK ISSUES

Edgar Wright’s bank heist thriller, Baby Driver, from TriStar Pictures tells the story of a talented young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort), who choreographs his life to the beat of his own personal soundtrack. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Lily James), he has a chance to abandon a life of crime, but only after being coerced into pulling off one last heist. The film, which premiered at South by Southwest to great reviews, winning the Audience Award, was edited by longtime collaborator Paul Machliss, ACE, along with Jonathan Amos, ACE. Machliss’ association with Wright goes back to 1999 when he onlined the first season of a series called Spaced for the U.K.’s Channel 4. Shortly after that, he decided to transition from online to offline editing. “I started finding being an online editor a little bit limiting,” says Machliss. “I think I started really enjoying more the art of pure cutting rather than finishing.”

`
As fate would have it, the offline editor for Spaced wasn’t available to complete season two, so Machliss landed the role and
cut the remainder of the season with Wright. Later, he went on to cut Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and The World’s End (2013). Machliss explains that he’s developed a close working relationship with Wright over the years, starting with Scott Pilgrim when Wright asked him to edit on set during the period of additional photography to make sure the reshoots would fit into the parts of the film that had already been more or less locked. Back then, having the editor on set was still a somewhat novel approach. “Then for The World’s End, Edgar said, ‘I’d like you there most of the time,’ which ended up probably being about 90 percent of the shoot period. Even though there was a cutting room available I was probably in there only 10 percent of the time.” He explained that Baby Driver had a long gestation period that started as early as 2011, when the two started assembling songs and building an audio timeline. “It ended up being a full-blown audio radio play,” he says. “We basically put the whole thing together with a table read, and all the songs Edgar had chosen for the film, because music is very important in his film.
`

It drives the whole film.” “I’d been involved with the project for many years before we actually shot a frame,” he adds. The original animatics for the film were cut by Evan Schiff, who spent a big chunk of 2015 working with the director to develop the major action sequences of the film. The actual filming took place between February and May last year in Atlanta and Machliss explained that he was on set throughout the shoot, followed by another nine months in post-production back in London. “Back in the U.K., [co-editor] Jonathan Amos came on board a few weeks into the director’s cut and worked on the film with Edgar and myself up until the director’s cut screening,” says Machliss. “He then returned sporadically up until picture lock to help us get the film into its final shape.” He estimated that 95 percent of Baby Driver was shot on 35mm film, with the remaining parts shot with an Arri Alexa. The film had to be shipped to FotoKem in Los Angeles every day to be developed and scanned. But Machliss didn’t have to wait for the dailies to start cutting. He explains that on set, he was networked into the QTAKE video assist system, which generated ProRes files that he could use in the Avid. “I could see all the QTAKE clips as they were being recorded,” he says. “I basically used the video assist storage as my own.
`
As soon as Edgar yelled, ‘Cut,’ I could have access to materials and drop it into the sequence and let Edgar know how it was going. It was a weird scenario. There were times when Edgar would yell cut and then he would yell out, ‘How does that look, Paul?’ and everyone was standing around, the crew 60 or 70, and producers watching, and when it worked, more often than not, I’d say, ‘Yeah, it worked fine.’ He would reply ‘Great, we’re moving on.’”
`
He explains that knowing that the material worked editorially on set gave them the confidence that they weren’t going to encounter any unforeseen issues six months down the road. First assistant editor Jerry Ramsbottom was based in the cutting rooms in Atlanta. He helped overcut the on-set sequences using the scanned 35mm media. Second assistant editor Madelaine Jereczek and editorial assistant Jenny Lindamood assisted Ramsbottom in Atlanta. In the U.K., James Panting handled all the editorial VFX requirements, assisted by Jessica Medlycott, who also doubled-up on some assistant duties for Ramsbottom.
`
“Certainly, because music is so integrated into the action and the dialogue and everything, it was very important that we knew all the various elements were going to work correctly at the moment of shooting the take rather than trying to put it together fully afterwards and hoping it was going to come together,” he says. “So it was an interesting project for the fact that the art of post-production was just as important as the art of production. If the take was good and the edit was good, you would move on.” The premise of the film is that when Baby was a child, he was in a car accident that left him with tinnitus – a continuous ringing in the ear. In order to drown out the tinnitus, he carries around a number of iPods and listens to music 24/7.
`
“What begins to happen is that he basically ends up choosing music for whatever mood he’s in, whether he’s relaxing, whether he’s actually in the middle of a getaway, in almost any environment, as long as there’s some music playing, he’s comfortable,” explains Machliss. “More often than not, when he’s with his iPod, he chooses the music for the moment. What sort of happens is actually the whole environment that he’s in tends to fall in sync with the music.” “It’s not choreographed. It’s not a musical, but it’s a film that is basically completely driven by music,” Machliss elaborates.
`
“You sort of realize it in the action scenes. There’s a lot of action that happens to fall on the beats. Now that becomes a big challenge, because you want to try and make that happen, and actually have things fall on the beat, but you don’t want it to look clinical and choreographed. You can watch this film without knowing any of this, and just enjoy it for the kind of good adventure that it is. But then you can just watch and see how almost
every element was preplanned to fall on certain bars of music – car crashes, and even things like opening doors or opening curtains, or answering phones.” “Of course, the challenge is then how do you make this look like it works accidentally on purpose, so to speak,” he adds. “This is why this isn’t some standard kind of car-chase action film with a bit of comedy and a bit of drama. There’s a whole other element underneath.” With the music track already in place, it was important that the shots fit the timeline, “because you can’t just extend the song to fit the shot.”
`
babydriver3
`
This required a complicated setup during the shoot, where the soundtrack was fed to the actors’ earpieces. The director also needed to hear the music in one ear and the dialogue in another. “We didn’t want to spend a long time in post vari-speeding shots,” explains Machliss. “Edgar was very keen to keep almost all the work in camera. In fact, that extends to all the driving shots you see. Almost all the driving shots are practical. There’s almost no green screen work when it came to the driving. We were literally blocking off streets, and on a couple of occasions, the I-85, the big downtown connector freeway which cuts right through Atlanta.” Overall, the editor says that this is probably Wright’s best film, to date. “I’m incredibly proud of it, and I really hope a lot of people get enjoyment out of it, because there’s a lot of work that went into this film.

`
“Edgar is always challenging you and pushing you, and himself and others, while thinking every film should go one better than the one before,” says Machliss. “Edgar was there basically every step of the way, and we sort of went through it together. That’s the nice thing. There’s a symbiosis there – a sort of shorthand. When you do work with someone for that long, you know what they want. You know what they’re after, what makes them happy, and their method of working. They know your method of working, and together it actually helps to create a fantastic finished product.”