IAVA 2017 – Oscar Nominated Editors


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

IAVA`
Another year and another opportunity to hear the Academy Award®-nominated editors talk about their craft. ACE’s annual Invisible Art, Visible Artists program was held Feb. 25 at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre Hollywood, where an eager crowd awaited the nominess.
`
ACE president Stephen Rivkin, ACE, introduced this year’s program. The nominated editors included Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon (Moonlight), Joe Walker, ACE (Arrival), Tom Cross, ACE (La La Land), Jake Roberts (Hell or High Water), and this year’s Oscar® winner, John Gilbert, ACE (Hacksaw Ridge). Returning to moderate the panel was ACE past president and Motion Picture Editors Guild president Alan Heim, ACE.
`
He began the conversation by asking the panelists how they deal with particularly emotional material, and how it affects them after being with it for months at a time. Gilbert said working on a film with violent scenes like Hacksaw Ridge he found that “with the blood and mayhem I’m very aware of the artifice of it. And when I’m sticking it together I’m quite dispassionate about it. But I often find myself being moved emotionally with a film’s emotional scenes even when I watch a scene 50 times.”
`
For La La Land, Cross said he emotionally connected with the footage when he first viewed the dailies and then he reconnects with it after seeing the film with an audience. “I find that I react during dailies. I watch them and I get very emotional. When I’m putting it together I get a little more distance, I don’t feel it as much, but then we start showing it to friends and family and I regain the emotion after I see it with an audience.”
`

`

Walker commented on how he considers his first viewing of the dailies as something ‘sacred’ that sparks his emotional connection to the material. “It’s where you find the things that really matter to you, that seem to lift up and sing to you and you have to preserve that reaction. The things that really strike you in the dailies should be in the film.” He then went on to say that if he’s really connecting to the material it will stay on his mind. “Then when things start to invade my personal life, actually last night when I was driving I was thinking of a tune we’d just received and I took that as an enormously good omen that this is a memorable thing.”
`
With Hell or High Water, Roberts described how when viewing dailies with violence in them, he first approaches it from a technical angle. “In answer to the more gory footage, those bits tend to be very mechanical and anyways they don’t tend to come out of organic emotional performances so you’re just looking at it very analytically.” He added that it’s in the character-driven material that he finds his emotional connection “where you’re invested in the performance, that stuff continues to move me.”
`
When commenting on the violent chair-smash scene from Moonlight, McMillon described how she became so emotionally connected to the main character she had to remind herself, jokingly, that it’s just a story.
`
“I think for me it’s both emotional scenes and very graphic scenes that stay with me. I remember the first time we saw the dailies when Chiron comes in and breaks the chair over Terrel. I was like ‘Wooh!’ because it’s such a pivotal moment in the story, and to me it was heartbreaking because I knew the repercussions he was going to face after that, but then I also have to remember it’s a story.” Sanders felt similarly while working on Moonlight, saying you need to be objective as well as subjective with the material. “That first viewing of dailies is really sacred. As the editor you’re the first eyes of the audience and that is going to be the most objective you’re going to be so you have to try to maintain and preserve that feeling throughout the next six months. Then more at the micro level you have to kind of be able to become more dispassionate and say, ‘Oh yeah, we need two less frames at the end of that heartbreaking moment.’”
`
Each editor then introduced a clip from their nominated film. Roberts selected the Hell or High Water scene during which the two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) encounter a young thug at a gas station, and then the scene transitions into them arriving at a casino. He said that he chose this clip to illustrate how dramatically a scene can change from script to final cut; he had a considerable amount of coverage for the gas station but decided to play it in a single take. The introduction and arrival at the casino was much longer, but by cutting certain bits and rearranging others, they created a more dynamic scene. “The first assembly of that scene was 12 to 15 minutes so there was a lot of distillation and simplification which is something the director, David Mackenzie, and I always try to do and I think simplicity is always the hardest thing,” he said.
`
Choosing from Moonlight, Sanders selected the scene during which Juan (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) teaches a young Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) to swim at the beach. He said director Barry Jenkins chose to shoot it like a documentary with the characters improvising, as Hibbert was really learning to swim for the first time. But with over a half hour of material, Sanders chose the moments that truly moved him to build the scene. “It definitely tapped back into my reality-TV editing experience. I watched the footage through for first impressions and the second time through to grab every moment that pops.”
`
For her clip, McMillon chose the scene during which an adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) visits Kevin (Andre Holland) at the diner. The scene plays out with great trepidation and delicacy as Chiron cautiously steps into his past to reconnect with his childhood friend. McMillon explained that she felt the opening of the scene should play out in one shot so the audience experiences the moment in real time as Chiron does and how important it was for her to find the real moment in the footage. “There was coverage on that but the reason why I love that take in particular is because ever so slightly the actor playing Chiron jumps a little bit when
Kevin comes behind him and he only did it in that one take and it felt so real, so that’s why I definitely chose that one.”
`
For Arrival, Walker picked the climactic scene during which Louise Banks (Amy Adams) gets critical information from a Chinese General in the future, while she is calling him in the present from the army base. The scene cross-cuts these two time periods to create a dramatic effect but to also show how her new consciousness works in the film. Walker explained the power of this style and how as editors anything is open to us: “This film is all about time and it plays into a superpower we have as editors, to be able to do flashbacks, flash-forwards and cross-cut time.”
`
Gilbert chose the first battle scene from Hacksaw Ridge. In the scene, blood and carnage break out as the fighting begins. The editor explained how director Mel Gibson wanted the audience to feel the horrors of war and how the assembled footage from various cameras created the effect. “It wasn’t as scripted as you’d think; we had to move a lot of things around,” he said. “A lot of little bits and pieces from lowplaced cameras were inserted in there to keep the energy going and have an assault-like feel on the audience.”
`
From La La Land, Cross chose the film’s alternative ending during which we see the lives of Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), had they stayed together as a couple. The sequence implores dramatic set changes, music transitions and tonal shifts that Cross had to finesse and time perfectly to play out correctly. “The big thing about this scene is it’s a microcosm of the rest of the film in some ways, the whole movie,” he said.
`
The event concluded with an audience Q&A. ACE wishes to thank platinum sponsor Blackmagic Design and gold sponsors Avid and Motion Picture Editors Guild.