Weekend Post-Production News Roundup!


Happy Monday! Here's a quick round-up of everything cool we saw in the post-production world this weekend.

A look at how Kubo and the Two Strings' first animated scene came together, via the people at LAIKA Animation Studio [AOTG]

VFX Supervisor Peter Chiang discusses the classic eye-candy style of Star Trek: Beyond's visual effects and building a new look for the franchise post-J.J. Abrams [Studio Daily]

VFX breakdowns aren't just for splashy genre films: here's a look at the visual effects work that went into creating the look of Woody Allen's Cafe Society [Vimeo]


We're obsessed with Stranger Things here at MEWShop, and the John Carpenter-influenced sound design is a huge factor. Here's an interview with the sound team who created it [A Sound Effect]

Seriously, we're obsessed.
Finally, it's not too late to register for the Evolution Film Festival's "See the Winners" event taking place 8/25 in Los Angeles! Free film screening, networking and more. For more details, check out Evolution Film Festival's website

VIDEO - Editor Joe Schuck on the Use of Interviews in the hit Reality T.V. show "Alaskan Bush People"




Editor Joe Schuck discusses the use of interviews in Discovery's "Alaskan Bush People." From "Sight, Sound & Story" on June 13th, 2015.

For the past two seasons, Joe Schuck has been editing Discovery Channel's hit show "Alaskan Bush People." He also served as editor on the first season of "Best Funeral Ever." Other projects that Joe served as assistant editor on include MTV's "True Life," A&E's "The First 48," Oxygen's "Jersey Couture," Discovery Life's "Facing Trauma," as well as several years at MLB.com as a Senior Game Night Editor. He is a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, where he majored in Communication Arts specializing in Film and Video. Joe is also an alumni of Manhattan Edit Workshop's Six Week Intensive workshop, as well as a former Apple certified editing instructor.


"Alaskan Bush People" is a journey deep into Alaska's bush, where naturalist and adventurer Billy Brown, along with his wife, Ami, and their seven children, chooses to live life on his own terms, connected to wild nature and bonded to each other. The family of nine strives to be self-sufficient against all odds- often shunning modern society to live off the wilderness and to walk where no man has ever walked before. After the tragic death of his parents and sister that left him orphaned at 16, Billy Brown vowed to live life on his own terms and create his own family to reclaim the love that he lost. With Ami by his side, Billy traveled the lower 48 states and eventually found home in the sprawling landscape of the last frontier, where they have spent most of the last 30 years raising their children. "Our family is doing what is natural for human beings to do. We survive on what we hunt, fish, trap and barter for," Brown says. "We explore, we wander, we live. If you think about it, it's the life we were meant to live."

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VIDEO: Manhattan Edit Workshop Six Week Workshop Student Profile: Andrea Podaski





Former Manhattan Edit Workshop Six-Week student Andrea Podaski talks about his experiences with Mewshop's Six Week Intensive Program.

For more information on Manhattan Edit Workshop's Six Week Intensive Workshop go to: http://www.mewshop.com/six_week_works....

Manhattan Edit Workshop is a New York Film Editing School offering a full range of basic to advanced manufacturer certified training courses, from the Avid, Autodesk, Assimilate and Apple products to the complete suite of Adobe applications.

Manhattan Edit Workshop's mission is to provide the highest quality education for filmmakers and editors. Focusing on both the art and technology inherent to our craft. We foster a "learn by doing" approach in an atmosphere where mistakes are encouraged as part of the process and the only "silly" question is the one that isn't asked. 

Open Call for the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship Starts Today!

The Open Call for submissions for our 2017-18 fellowship begins today! The online application must be completed by September 30, 2016. There is no fee to apply.

As you know, the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship honors the memory of our friend and gifted editor Karen Schmeer. Inspired by Karen's generous nature, the fellowship assists emerging documentary editors by developing their talent, expanding their creative community, and furthering their career aspirations. We work with American Cinema Editors (ACE), Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Manhattan Edit Workshop, SXSW, IFFBoston, Stranger than Fiction, Rooftop Films, IDA and Camden International Film Festival to offer a wide array of opportunities for promising editors.

To learn more about the amazing person that Karen was, read here.
Karen Schmeer at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival screening Mr. Death.
If you are an emerging documentary film editor who has cut between one and three films with at least one of those being a documentary, please take a look at our FAQ to see all of our eligibility rules.

If you know an editor or editors who would benefit from this opportunity, please send them to our website.
EILEEN MEYER, OUR 2016-17 FELLOW
Eileen Meyer, our 2016-17 fellow, is having a fantastic year. She’s currently in the edit room working on a feature documentary about multi-Grammy winning producer and music industry executive, Clive Davis. Earlier in the year she worked on Love, Alabama (working title), a feature documentary that follows three lesbian families in Alabama whose stories exemplify the continuing fight for full LGBTQ equality in the southern states. She’s traveled to the SXSW Film Festival; moderated a panel at “Contemplating the Cut,” an event co-hosted by KSFEF and the Sundance Institute's Documentary Film Program; and attended the Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab as a contributing editor on Cynthia Wade’sMudflow. Her first feature documentary editing effort, the extraordinary Best of Enemies, is currently streaming on Netflix. She’s been invited to be the Fall 2016 Artist-in-Residence for the Department of Film & Moving Image at Stevenson University. This is the first time they’ve invited a film editor!

Her mentors Greg Finton, ACE; Pedro Kos; and Kim Roberts, ACE, have been giving her invaluable support and guidance. She had focused conversations with Kim and Pedro which have been published on POV’s Documentary Blog. Kim’s is called A Crash Course on Structuring Social Documentary and Pedro’s is The Challenges of Being Both Director and Editor.

Past recipients were Anna Gustavi (Seymour: An Introduction), Colin Nusbaum (Tough Love, The Sheik and I), Jim Hession (Rich Hill, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present), Lindsay Utz (In CountryBully), and Erin Casper (American Promise, Our School). Read about all of them here.

Good luck to our applicants and thank you to all of our supporters and partners.
2016-17 Fellow Eileen Meyer (photo by Claire Marie Vogel)
KSFEF TEAM
Robin Hessman, Board Member
Ann Kim, Board Member
Ellie Lee, Board Member
Garret Savage, Board President
Rachel Shuman, Board Member

Maya Mumma, Website
OUR AIM
The yearlong Fellowship is designed to foster the development of an emerging documentary film editor by creating opportunities for him or her to grow creatively and expand his or her professional community. The 2017-18 fellowship benefits include: Mentorship with veteran editors; pass, badge and/or admission to: ACE EditFest Los Angeles, SXSW Film Festival, IFFBoston, Manhattan Edit Workshop’s Sight, Sound & Story summit, the KSFEF/Sundance Institute’s Contemplating the Cut workshop, Rooftop Films, Stranger than Fiction, IDA’s Getting Real conference, and the Camden International Film Festival; travel, accommodations and per diem to two of the aforementioned events; a credential to the Sundance Film Festival; an IDA one-year membership; an ACE “special” membership; a $1000 cash award; a $250 gift certificate at Powell’s Books; a portrait session with a professional photographer; and a DVD collection of all 12 of Karen’s films.
OUR PARTNERS
Thanks as always to our wonderful partners: American Cinema Editors (ACE), Sundance Institute Documentary Film ProgramManhattan Edit WorkshopSXSWIFFBoston,Rooftop FilmsStranger Than FictionIDACamden International Film Festival, and Claire Marie Vogel Photography.
IFFBOSTON'S KAREN SCHMEER AWARD
FOR EXCELLENCE IN DOCUMENTARY EDITING
In addition to all the benefits we offer the fellow, we also fund a $500 cash award for the winner of IFFBoston's annual Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing. The 2016 winner is Andrew Gersh for Real Boy.

Catching Up with Six-Week Alumn, Miguel E. Rebagliato

Miguel Esteban Rebagliato
MEWShop alumni are always popping up in new and exciting places. Case in point: Miguel Esteban Rebagliato, who completed the Six Week Intensive at MEWShop in 2012, recently worked as an assistant editor on the Emmy-nominated miniseries The Night Manager. He recently wrapped a job on the upcoming Angelina Jolie film First They Killed My Father, and is currently working as an AE on the BBC adaption of Zadie Smith’s N.W. We recently caught up with Miguel to talk about his work, his editing philosophy, and how his experiences at Manhattan Edit Workshop have shaped his career.

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Valencia, Spain. I lived there until three years ago, when I finished an undergraduate degree in media and journalism and moved to the UK. I currently live in London.

2. What kind of film education did you receive?
My parents used to take me to the cinema often, sometimes to films I wouldn't normally choose to watch myself. But I didn't have my first formal film class until I was around 15, when I took a media class in school for a year. Then I did a four-year undergraduate degree in media in Spain after I finished school.

3. How did your experiences in MEWShop’s Six Week Workshop complement the education you had before you took the workshop?
My university education in media had been very general so far. It had been mostly theoretical and not that much about filmmaking. My approach to editing was therefore quite intuitive. I knew the basics of Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere and I was capable of editing short films and other forms just by following my instincts. The course at MEWShop gave me a better understanding of editing on many levels. It made me more aware of what I was doing - of the storytelling potential of editing and its influence in pace, performance and other factors. Having footage from real projects allowed me to practice all I was learning.

The course also helped me to improve technically as an editor. My knowledge of the different applications increased a great deal. For example, I learned ways of doing things in, say, two steps whereas before it would have taken me five steps to do the same thing.

One of the most essential things I took from the course was learning Avid Media Composer, the software I mainly use now. I hadn't ever used it before and I don't think it is an intuitive software to learn. I wouldn't probably be able to use it at the professional level I need to use it nowadays if I hadn't had such good Avid lessons.

4. Which film/s originally inspired you to pursue editing?
I can't point out any particular films that made me decide I wanted to be an editor. For me enjoying films in general came first. When I was about 12, my parents took me to an arthouse cinema. I didn't quite like the film I watched that day, but they kept taking me to more films there and I started appreciating them more after some time. Those years I also had a few DVD collections of recent European and Spanish films that I enjoyed watching. I knew I wanted to do for a living something related to films. It was when I started university and I made some short films that I realised that editing was the part of filmmaking that I enjoyed most and I thought I was best at.

5. What do you think are some personal qualities (in yourself and others) that make editing a natural fit as a career choice?
Firstly, I think love for film and TV shows is a must. You spend hours every day watching footage and playing with it, so you definitely have to enjoy watching films. As it is a collaborative job, I also think one needs to be patient and open-minded, willing to listen and try different things.

6. What’s your favorite editing software? Which software do you have the most experience editing with?
Avid Media Composer is my favourite. It's the one I've always used working as an assistant editor and therefore it's the one I know best. I like using it to edit too.

7. What is your favorite edited scene of all time? Why?
I find choices like this very difficult. Last time I had to choose I picked a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in which Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are getting lost into different memories in Carrey’s head. I liked very much how Charlie Kaufman's script played with space and time and the possibilities that it gave to the editor, Valdís Óskarsdóttir. The continuity of that scene is deliberately far from perfect, to show it's not taking place in the real world.

I also find the final scene of Whiplash very impressive. It amazes me how the editing turns a music film into such a tense action piece.

Miguel at work
8. What other jobs in the film industry appealed to you? If you had to switch career paths, what would you pick?
When I started doing short films I thought about working in the camera department too, but now I don't think it would be the right thing for me. I find the job of the script supervisor very interesting, as we work with their paperwork closely in the cutting room. I've been told it's one of the toughest jobs, though. I would probably enjoy working on something related to VFX, too, but I wouldn't really like to do anything other than editing.

9. What is your current favorite film or television show from an editing perspective? What makes it so compelling?
A few years ago, I would have probably said that it was Sherlock, the BBC TV show with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It definitely has a very distinctive editing style. I could also say Whiplash. Both are pieces of work where the editing is very noticeable and has a very clear role that the viewer is aware of.

I am a big fan of that kind of editing, but what I really appreciate too is when I start watching a film or a TV show and I don't even think about the editing at all. That kind of invisible editing I think that deserves to be praised too. Mad Men, one of my favourite shows, for example, doesn't first come across as a piece of work where the editing is complex. However, reading some interviews with the editors of the show, one can see how many fluid morphs, split screens and other editing tricks were used to shape the pace and the performances that Mad Men is famous for.

10. What was your proudest moment as an editor?
My proudest moment as an editor was probably when I was fine-cutting my first feature film, an independent micro-budget project I did with some friends, which was called My Month with Mrs Potter. After finishing the three weeks of shooting and assembling all the scenes as they were shot, I really enjoyed turning the long and slow first assembly into a finished film that was watchable and as interesting as possible. I started doing this on my own first and after a first pass, I worked for weeks with the director. I particularly enjoyed switching from thinking how to make a scene work to thinking about the film as a whole.

11. How do you see the post-production industry evolving over the next decade or so?
I don't think I have worked in the post-production industry in London enough time for me to predict how it will evolve. What I have seen in the cutting room, though, in offline editing, is that the core of our way of working doesn't change that much. For films and TV dramas almost everyone uses Avid Media Composer here with an Avid Isis shared storage system. Maybe once cloud storage systems have been around for more years, those might replace the Avid Isis. But I tend to see that the system that usually works is kept on and on for future jobs.

When I worked as assistant editor on The Night Manager, for example, the show was shot in 4K and that involved many new things for the post production house that was doing the online and the grading. For us in the offline, though, it didn't make that much of a difference, as we were still working on DNxHD 36 1080p proxies, a system that works very smoothly.

12. What technological advancements in post-production have affected your work and process the most?
I haven't seen that many changes in the offline, but again I haven't been working for that long to be able to see those. I see from time to time new features in new versions of Avid, which make some daily tasks easier.

13. Talk about your most challenging experience as an editor.
Right now I'm focusing on working as an assistant editor, which allows me to work on bigger projects and learn from very talented editors. I also edit other projects on the side when I have the chance. On the current job I have as assistant editor, a TV movie for BBC2, the editor let me assemble during the shoot as many scenes as I wanted, as it would help him to get a first idea of the scenes and it would good for me to practise. Since assisting and editing are such different activities and require completely different mindsets, finding the time and being able to focus on assembling while so many things are going on, that has been one of my most challenging experiences as an editor.

14. What project/s are you working on now?
I'm working on N.W., a TV movie for BBC2. It's directed by Saul Dibb (Suite Française, The Duchess) and based on a book by Zadie Smith. The editor is Ben Lester, who also edited all the episodes from The Night Manager.

I'm also finishing the last edits on an independent feature film called A Day in May. It was shot last summer during 72 hours and we finished the main editing last September. They've done a few pickup shoots later this year, mainly for some GVs to use as transitions between scenes. Recently I had to edit an opening titles sequence using stock footage as a temp placeholder. They shot an extra day later on and I edited a new opening titles sequence with those new rushes. Now I need to discuss a few changes with the director, but it's not so easy to find the time when I'm busy working in London and he lives in France, so hopefully we'll be able to talk about it one of this weekends, I'll send him a new version and we'll eventually lock it.

15. Is there anything you do outside of editing that has helped you sharpen your storytelling skills?
Obviously watching films and TV shows. I also like reading fiction very much. The last three projects I've worked on as an assistant (The Night Manager, First They Killed My Father and N.W.) were based on books, so I decided to read them before starting. I was recently discussing with the editor I'm working with whether having read the book helps or makes things more complicated when the film is based on it. It definitely helped me as an assistant, as I knew the story well since the beginning. I'm not quite sure it would help me as an editor, as it might condition me and would make me compare the book and the film constantly, but it would also give me a better understanding of the characters and the story. That's something I still have to find out.

Weekend Post-Production News Roundup


Happy Monday and happy August! Here's a taste of post-production news and current events for the last weekend of July '16.

Video: Fabienne Bouville, ACE talks about taking edit notes for Masters of Sex at Sight, Sound & Story 2015 [MEWTube]

Oliver Peters offers 12 tips for film editors - an interesting piece for discussion, agree or disagree on all of them [DigiMedia Pros]

Speaking of useful tips, Screenlight has compiled a list of five major mistakes editors make while freelancing. [Screenlight]

Supervising sound editor Benjamin Cook talks about creating the sound of sensory overload for the new Cinemax series Outcast [Post Perspective]

Martín Hernández, sound designer on The Revenant, discusses his career and sound philosophy and shares exclusive looks at his process [Avid Blogs]

Finally, Steve Hullfish at Pro Video Coalition talked to the editing team on Star Trek: Beyond (Steven Sprung, ACE, Kelly Matsumoto and Dylan Highsmith) as part of his "Art of the Cut" series [Pro Video]

That's all for now!


VIDEO: Fabienne Bouville, ACE on Editing Notes for "Masters of Sex"



Editor Fabienne Bouville, ACE discusses studio notes for "Masters of Sex."

Fabienne Bouville, ACE, grew up in a suburb of Paris until age 16 when she moved to Manhattan, where she attended high school, college, and grad school, as well as getting a separate degree in photojournalism. When she was done getting an education and it was time to face the mountain of debt she accumulated, she moved to Los Angeles in hot pursuit of the mighty dollar. This is where she honed her skills as an editor, starting as an assistant on reality shows and slowly finding her way through editing for all different kinds of formats. She was lucky when she landed her first job on a Ryan Murphy TV show, "Nip/Tuck," 7 years ago, giving her an entrée into the scripted world and among an exceedingly talented and dedicated group of editors. She received two Emmy nominations for her work on American Horror Story.

"Masters of Sex" is an American period drama television series that premiered on September 29, 2013, on Showtime. It was developed by Michelle Ashford and loosely based on Thomas Maier's biography Masters of Sex. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the series tells the story of Masters and Johnson (Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson) who are portrayed by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. The series has received critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Drama Series in 2013.

Master Storyteller Sponsor: Sony Corporation is the electronics business unit and the parent company of the Sony Group, which is engaged in business through its four operating segments – electronics (including video games, network services and medical business), motion pictures, music and financial services. These make Sony one of the most comprehensive entertainment companies in the world. Sony's principal business operations include Sony Corporation (Sony Electronics in the U.S.), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Mobile Communications (formerly Sony Ericsson) and Sony Financial. Sony is among the Worldwide Top 20 Semiconductor Sales Leaders and as of 2013, the fourth-largest television manufacturer in the world, after Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and TCL. http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com

Five Lessons from Bill Pankow, ACE



Each six-week intensive class at MEWShop welcomes its own individual Artist in Residence -- an accomplished editor who sits in with the class for two sessions to screen student footage, offer constructive feedback, and share stories and wisdom from their own, often long and storied careers. For the six week class ending today, July 29, that editor was Bill Pankow, ACE. Pankow’s career spans decades and genres, beginning with assistant editor positions on Kramer vs. Kramer, Scarface, and Wise Guys, all the way up to recent action comedies like American Ultra and Let’s Be Cops. His other credits include The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, and The Money Train.

This time around, the students screened two of his more recent films, American Ultra and Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1. Here are five things we learned during his time at MEWShop:

  1. Cutting film in another language, as he did on Mesrine, isn’t easy. French wasn’t his first language - “I’m barely conversational,” he said - but Pankow had English translation script and a bilingual assistant. Despite his loose handle on French as a language, he didn’t know idioms and colloquialisms, and two particular scenes (the courtroom scene and kitchen scene) were so nuanced that they necessitated hiring another editor.
  2. “Pictures have to tell the story first,” according to Pankow. As an editor, he relies heavily on visual storytelling, and only delves into dailies for the best performances from each actor once he’s confident the story has been adequately communicated through images alone.
  3. When asked for a crash course on editing action films, this was his advice: First, get the audience engaged. It’s nice to start with a close-up shot (a gunshot, a single person) and then go wider to communicate the scope of the scene. The audience must understand the geography of the scene above all else -- they have to know where the characters are at all time and be able to follow the storyline as well as the action. Movement is key, and Pankow advises on keeping the camera moving in the POV of the main character. Fast cutting serves the energy of the picture, but it can’t be too fast or too random. Finally, keeping the object of interest in the same part of the frame and maintaining that frame position through longer shots or fast cuts makes an action sequence feel cohesive.
  4. One student asked for advice on working closely with directors. Pankow’s take: Lay scenes out in order according to the script, and don't move them around until after sitting with the director and working it out. Directors will give you room to work if you establish a creative flow with them.
  5. You do better work if you take a lunch break and actually leave the edit bay.

Pankow also shared a look at his line script from Snake Eyes:



Truly fascinating to see the annotations provided by the script coordinator and supervisors so as to hasten and ease the process of translating the director’s decisions on set to the editing room.

Our next Six Week Workshop starts September 12. You can find out more here.

VIDEO: How to Add a Media Browser Shortcut in Adobe Premiere Pro





Manhattan Edit Workshop Instructor Kiri Roberts shows how to add a shortcut in your Media Browser in Adobe Premiere Pro (CC15).

Manhattan Edit Workshop is a New York Film Editing School offering a full range of basic to advanced manufacturer certified training courses, from the Avid, Autodesk, Assimilate and Apple products to the complete suite of Adobe applications.

Manhattan Edit Workshop's mission is to provide the highest quality education for filmmakers and editors. Focusing on both the art and technology inherent to our craft. We foster a "learn by doing" approach in an atmosphere where mistakes are encouraged as part of the process and the only "silly" question is the one that isn't asked.

FULL VIDEO!! Editor Conversations V2: A Conversation with Legendary Film Editor Susan E. Morse, ACE



Susan E. Morse ACE, known as “Sandy,” graduated Yale with a degree in History before going to Film School at NYU. She never graduated film school, though, because she took an internship that turned into a job and she never looked back.

Early in her career she was an Assistant Editor, working on "Annie Hall" and Interiors. After assisting on a handful of films, she became Woody Allen’s film editor, across the 22-year height of his filmmaking career.

But her career isn’t all Woody. In 1980, Sandy was Associate Editor alongside Thelma Schoonmaker on "Raging Bull," worked on Marc Lawrence’s "Two Week’s Notice," "Music and Lyrics" and "Did You Hear About The Morgans?," and cut episodes of "Louie" and "Billions". Right now, she’s working down the hall here at Light Iron on a feature called "Novitiate."

She has been nominated for an Oscar, 5 BAFTAs and an Emmy. When she was honored with a Muse Award in 2005, she publicly thanked every one of her Assistant Editors as part of her presentation.

About Blue Collar Post Collective (BCPC):
The Blue Collar Post Collective is an accessible and focused grassroots non-profit, supporting emerging talent in post production.

The BCPC is FREE and welcomes all post production professionals. Join us on Facebook to become an official member. Facebook is the main hub for events, information and support. Also follow us on Twitter for up to the minute tech and industry news and insights, as well as livetweets from important events and seminars. Follow us on instagram (and twitter) to keep up with our daily photo themes, like #workstationwednesday and #timelinetuesday. If you are not on facebook message us below and we will add you to a list for our upcoming mailing list.

For more information go to: http://www.bluecollarpostcollective.com/

Manhattan Edit Workshop is a New York Film Editing School offering a full range of basic to advanced manufacturer certified training courses, from the Avid, Autodesk, Assimilate and Apple products to the complete suite of Adobe applications.

Manhattan Edit Workshop's mission is to provide the highest quality education for filmmakers and editors. Focusing on both the art and technology inherent to our craft.  We foster a "learn by doing" approach in an atmosphere where mistakes are encouraged as part of the process and the only "silly" question is the one that isn't asked. 

More information about Manhattan Edit Workshop and the classes offered visit: http://www.mewshop.com/ 

Weekend Post-Production News Roundup


What's the difference between Boris Complete Continuum and the Mocha Pro plug-in? Here's a demonstration that breaks it down. [Avid Blogs]

The BCPC and MEWTube present Editor Conversations V2: A conversation with legendary film editor Susan E. Morse, ACE [MEWTube]

Oscar-winning editor Conrad Buff IV, ACE talks about cutting The Huntsman: Winter's War and the challenges of studio notes and screening groups [Pro Video Coalition]

Forming a narrative for the imaginative independent feature Captain Fantastic [Creative Planet Network]

Zac Hogle on editing philosophies: "The editor's only job is to serve the story" [Digi Media Pros]

Editor Josh Beal on cutting Netflix's slow-burning family drama Bloodline [Post Perspective]

Interview with Joseph Krings, Editor of "Captain Fantastic"



The cast of Captain Fantastic
In Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen plays a survivalist father raising a brood of six kids off the grid in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, whose life is thrown into disarray after his wife commits suicide. The film, written and directed by veteran character actor Matt Ross (Silicon Valley, Big Love) earned major praise at Sundance and Cannes, and for good reason: it's by turns intense, funny, and genuinely moving. I recently caught up with editor Joseph Krings to talk about his career and the process of cutting the film.

Tell me a little about your schedule for cutting “Captain Fantastic.” How long did it take? What did you cut on? Give me the nuts and bolts of it.
The editing schedule for this film was actually somewhat long and luxurious for a film of this size. Matt Ross and I have worked together before on 28 Hotel Rooms and we knew from our previous effort that Matt is most comfortable having ample time to make major decisions. He really likes to try every version and variation conceivable. The plan for this film with distribution already in place and knowing when and how they wanted to roll out the film with certain festivals allowed us that kind of time. 

Production started in July of 2014. They shot in Washington State and New Mexico for 40 days while I received the dailies over Aspera and put together my first cut in New York City where I live with my wife. In September of 2014 I traveled to California to start the directors cut. After a couple of days in the typical dark closet of an editing room, Matt and I decided to go back to way we cut 28 Hotel Rooms, which was in a sun-filled Venice Beach loft, so we picked up the editing gear and headed for the beach. With both of us being away from our wives and families we pretty much lived the film everyday. We would not keep tidy hours... we would work, break, work, eat, work, break, work, sleep, eat, work, etc. Oh and of course, call our wives! We kept this schedule up until about April 2015 at which point the film was more or less “locked.” Then we spent the rest of the summer unlocking the picture and making it better and better while I worked on another project. We had some expert advice from my friend Kevin Tent, ACE on how to improve some key moments of the film and make it even more heartfelt which we attempted to incorporate during this time. This also allowed plenty of time for Alex Somers to really create a magnificent score. We finally finished with everything in December 2015 in time for Sundance.

As for software, this was my first feature cut on Avid Media Composer believe it or not. When I started in editing I used Avid all of the time but I was an early adopter of Final Cut Pro and cut all of my previous features with it. But when Apple sold the version I knew and loved down the river it was time to come back home to Avid. I made sure to hire an expert Assistant Editor in Rob G. Wilson who could remind me where everything was hidden and fill me in on everything I had missed over the previous 10 years of Avid, which honestly was not a lot. It was kind of like riding a bike. I suppose someday I’ll get into Premiere or whatever is the right tool for the time, but for now I couldn’t be more happy cutting in Avid again.
Something I found really great about the film was how much of it hinged on the performances of these child actors playing extremely precocious characters, and how none of them ever felt too precious or overstayed their welcome onscreen. Was there a conversation that took place in the editing room about cutting in a way that reinforced that kind of natural style from the kids? What were the challenges there versus cutting a performance from someone like Viggo, who is obviously very established and experienced?
Well, I am certainly happy to hear you felt that way about their performance because that was obviously one of our biggest tasks in the editing room. Each kid brought their own unique personality and skill set to the film and really what we had to was just make sure they all meshed together and really felt like a family. While George MacKay (Bodevan) is a classic, highly trained British actor Shree Crooks (Zaja) is an amazing free spirit and gifted improviser who just sparks on the screen. Each one of them brought something singular to the table. They couldn’t be more different, but they had to feel like they all came from the same place. The challenge was using the best skills of everyone and creating a cohesion while never losing a delicate balance where everyone felt like an equal member of the family even if some of them had more complex story lines. In the end it just comes down to feel more than a specific conversation. The edit (and sometimes some very loud voices at feedback screenings) will let you know when someone has gotten out of balance or become “precious."
When it comes to cutting an effortless master like Viggo Mortensen, what can I say besides you’re just trying to pick the best of the best and make sure it all hangs together in the right way. He makes it look easy. He also comes to the role with such fierce dedication and so many ideas. We invited him into the editing room later in the process and he had a very complete memory of what he had done and what had been shot and asked us very challenging questions about why we had chosen one approach over the other. He was a very good extra eye in the editing room and I was glad we were able to spend some time with him there.

I also thought the use of music was really effective. How much of a role did you have in shaping those musical sequences, especially the kind of impromptu-feeling one near the beginning?
Well music is always so much fun to cut! I like to think I had a pretty big role in that. The impromptu family jam around the fire was exactly that impromptu. In the script they were going to start to play a little music and once they started to all gel together of course we would cut to the next scene and use it as score. While the cast were rehearsing together and figuring out how to play a piece of music together they improvised a little story on the spot where Nicholas Hamilton’s character Rellian, who was the rebellious middle child would actually disrupt the nice family happy family jam with a vicious and aggressive beat, but then the family adapts to his new beat and they create a whole new song together. When I saw that material in the dailies I knew it had to go in the film and stay in as complete as possible. It cut against the sappiness and told a complex story without dialogue. It allowed me to cut other parts of scenes where this idea was told more explicitly and tell the story in a more sophisticated way without a single line of dialogue. That was one of those magical scenes where you don’t really touch it that much after your first cut. We made it shorter and shorter and added a few different inserts, but the core of that scene hardly changed from day one including how we used it to propel us into the next scene of them training physically.

Other great music sequences include the grocery store robbery [cut to Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl"] which cutting and music wise was inspired partially, believe it or not, by the shootout scene in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic. For the final family singing showpiece that was like a traditional performance based music video. I think we had 30 angles grouped together and just cut it like that. Matt and I just worked that one over together trying to make it feel as natural as possible and less like a music video.

Another musical sequence I am particularly proud of is the moment when they take off from the mountain to the blaring of bagpipes and enter society for the first time in a long while. All of the material of them hitting the road and seeing the big box store and commercialized America for the first time was purely an invention stealing a scene that actually happened much later in the film where the bus was actually stationary and stuck in traffic and mixing it with moving footage from a Second Unit Camera trip into Portland. I simply put the reflection from that B-Unit material in the windows while Ben and the kids witness the ugly sprawl of strip mall America and magically the bus was hurtling down the highway! This kind of scene needed to be propelled by music and for a long time it was some very expensive classic rock. When Matt finally drilled down on the bagpipes idea it was complete.

Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, George MacKay, Nicholas Hamilton, Samantha Isler, and Annalise Basso in Captain Fantastic
Was there a scene or sequence in the film that proved particularly challenging to cut? Tell me a little bit about one of those.
I think perhaps the most challenging scene overall was one late in the movie where Ben has a very emotionally vulnerable conversation with his children out on the lawn of the grandparents place. I don’t want to say specifically what they discuss, but Viggo’s performance here was so fragile and distraught it was exceptionally difficult to find just the right balance between what he was doing and how the six children were each individually reacting to it. It was one of those scene where we tried it every which way searching for the right mixture of storytelling and poetry. We had versions with practically minutes of strained silence and versions that were short and abrupt. to complicate matters we decided to tell another important storyline here with only looks and no dialogue so that we could cut another expository scene elsewhere. I’m sure we cut over 100 versions of that particular scene alone. Watching it now it seems like one of the most special scenes not only for it’s emotional content but for it’s unique approach unlike anything else in the film.
What is your basic approach to cutting a scene? How do you begin to attack it? What gives you the sense that you’re done working on a first pass at a scene and that you’re ready to show it to a director or move on to the next thing?
So my process depends on how badly I’m freaking out about how far behind I am! Ideally though, I’ve seen all of the footage and then I try to very quickly cut together at least two, but ideally three, versions of the scene in which I never use the same shot or take of a line more than once between them. So in one I open wide in the second I open on an extreme closeup and in the third I cut off the top of the scene entirely. Similarly each one ends completely differently. In the middle I use different mediums, overs and closeups each time. If there is a clear opportunity for a oner I single that out as its own “cut.” Now the result of those early cuts usually none of them is any good or cohesive on their own. But from that variety I can see my preferred path and I make a hybrid cut of those three which usually is what makes it into my first cut. 

I have to credit the genius Tim Squyres, who was a mentor to me through my Sally Menke Fellowship with teaching me that process. He takes it even further at times and cuts entire versions of scenes entirely out of mediums and then again entirely out of closeups. The idea being that you are trying to make the perfect cut right away, but instead you are trying to really know all of the footage inside and out so that when you start tearing it all apart again with the director you’ve already tried certain approaches and know how it does or does not work.
What got you interested in editing? How did you originally get into the industry?
Growing up in small town Nebraska I only ever had two broadcast channels and we did not get a VHS player until well after most families had them. We did have a one screen theater that re-opened by the time I got to high school, but really movies were not a thing for me. I was going to be a print journalist. Right before I went to college my parents got a satellite and I saw IFC for the first time. Two films I saw the summer before I left for college on IFC were Husbands and Johnny Suede. The seed was planted there because I finally learned there were actually smart, cool films out there. It wasn’t all Hollywood. I honestly didn’t know that. So when I got to college at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln and saw they had film studies classes through the English department I was all over that. There I really got my education and formed my tastes. There was no film major at the time so I basically devised my own by being a Broadcast Journalism major with minors in Film Studies and Theater.

My first job was at the local CBS affiliate in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was hired as a Writer/Producer in the Creative Services department. This meant I wrote, directed and edited the promos for the news and super cheap commercials for local businesses. It was amazing experience because I really did everything myself. It was there I learned my absolute favorite part of the process was editing where I could just lock myself away in a little room until I really finally made something work. 

So then I packed my bags and headed for New York City and pounded the pavement until I got a job. That job happened to be at a small post-production boutique called Refinery which serviced the advertising industry. Over 8 years I went from the machine room to assistant to editing national ad campaigns for MTV and Hertz. Then I realized I came to New York to do films and not advertising so I quit and started over scrapping together freelance work and trying to get into features. Finally Matt Ross, entrusted me with his first film 28 Hotel Rooms, partially because I was cheap and I was blessed to find a great loyal partner who brought me along for the ride with Captain Fantastic.
What is your process of watching dailies or raw material? Do you take notes or place markers or just let it flow over you? What are you looking for? What ideas are formulating as you watch?
Again it depends on how much I am freaking out. Sometime I severely truncate this process but I usually only watch one Master shot uninterrupted. I don’t have the kind of memory that allows me to watch all of the dailies first and then proceed. After that one master I am simultaneously marking pieces and throwing them into a Pulls sequence. I title only the first marker for a section and then throw all the pieces I like into its proper bucket in the pulls sequence. Sometimes I’ll watch all the takes of a setup other times I’ll watch only one take of each setup and then circle back through everything else. In the end I have a good sequence of solid material from which to carve out versions of the scene. I also love to shuttle through this jumbled sequence or just jump from cut to cut to make accidental associations between angles I might not otherwise make.

While screening dailies I’m really trying to simultaneously see all the different ways the sequence can come together as well as be open to anything that really breaks through to me as a viewer. I’m waiting for the kind of footage that even though I am sitting there analytically viewing it makes me forget I am watching make believe and is effortlessly pulling me into the story. If I get lost in a piece of footage and am not tempted to stop it then I know it is probably special. There are usually only a handful of those for every film but they always seem to make the cut.
How do you use music? What do you temp with? How do you determine what needs music and what you’ll use for temp?
Every films requires its own music approach so I temp with what is appropriate. I go into every film hoping it is Dog Day Afternoon and needs no score at all. A film with no score is my Holy Grail as an editor. Still I know the importance of music in a film and I am constantly temping. I just keep all kinds of music on hand and in mind. Early in a film I put tons of scores and instrumental music on my phone to listen to while commuting and search for the what sounds right for the film. For Captain Fantastic I always knew because I have worked with the director before it was likely going to be Sigur Ros and their related projects. In the end we hired Alex Somers who has very strong Sigur Ros connections to create the score because who else could do it so effectively. He really created something special that improved upon our temp and supported the film even better. Plus we got to have some vocals from Jonsi to boot!

Also I try to immerse myself in the proper source music for the film. I make playlists upon playlists and listen to them endlessly as well. Right now I’m listening to a lot of early 1940s big band music for instance.

Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic
Talk to me about the importance of sound editing and sound design in helping to sell the visual cuts.
The old adage is sound is 50% of the picture right? It’s absolutely true. I have learned the hard way to take great care in editing and designing sound in the rough cut phase because if the movie doesn’t sound good in early feedback screenings you are going to have a far less responsive audience. But beyond that there is so much room there to enhance and enrich the story and there are no boundaries. With picture they only had so much time to get the shot and there are only so many takes but with sound you can practically do anything and make those decisions well after the fact. You can tell a story that never existed before. It’s one of the best places to create from scratch once editing. then hopefully a real sound designer comes in takes it to even new levels you never previously thought of. 
Tell me a little about how you can help shape and guide an actor’s performance from the editing chair.
This is a tough one because it is so much like alchemy. Or perhaps it’s like baking without a recipe. I think ultimately it is the actor’s performance that is guiding my decisions as an editor. I can only work with what they give me from behind a two dimensional wall of light. What I find is that only after weeks do I even begin to truly understand just how deeply an actor is embodying their character. They are doing things, very purposefully, which I don’t even recognize at first but are on the whole essential to creating a believable four dimensional human being as opposed to a character. The thing is each actor does it very differently and requires a different approach to find the best of them, not take to take but as a whole person within a story. So you jut have to be open and try different things until either a eureka moment hits or you eventually stumble upon it. But once you are there, it lets you know you got it right.
What affects your sense of the micro-pacing or shot-to-shot rhythm of a scene? How do you know you’re “in the rhythm,” so to speak?
More alchemy really. The footage is speaking to you and you are trying to hear it correctly and again you just have to work it and work it until it feels right. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. But again, you know it when you see it. It’s a tangible feeling when something is working. But then, you might be feeling it and then put it a room with 100 people and it becomes painfully obvious your idea of the correct rhythm wasn’t really correct at all because you can feel those people not feeling it. When you get the tangible feeling something is working in that room, well then you are almost done.

I can tell you I always pace slow to start because it’s so much easier to trim away and begin to speed a scene up when it becomes necessary for the sake of the film as a whole.
Finally, do you have any editing wisdom? What are some of the concepts that have stuck with you over the course of your career?
If I have any wisdom it’s the bits and pieces I’ve picked up from the mentors and friends I have been lucky enough to have over the years combined with the many films I’ve watched. The main thing is it’s hard work and you can never stop until you are completely satisfied even if it means tearing everything you worked so hard to do back apart and starting from scratch. Also, it’s always important to me to remember every director is different and my number one job is to see to it that their vision is realized to its maximum potential. 


Captain Fantastic is in theaters now. Joseph is on Twitter at @josephkrings