Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 058 – Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy

Episode 058: Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy

(En anglais seulement) Today's episode is the master series that took place on January 12th, 2021, Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy.

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is about women by women. It had women in all key positions, and they took great care in creating an environment for the cult survivors who shared their stories, in which they felt supported before, during and after filming. We discussed the ins and outs of shaping such a complex and sensitive story and the challenges that Inbal and Gillian came across in the edit suite.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE is an Emmy® and Eddie-nominated editor and producer. On her latest project, ?SEDUCED: Inside the NXIVM Cult,?  which she co-created with her filmmaking partner, Director Cecilia Peck, she takes on the roles of Lead Editor, Writer and Executive Producer. This four-part documentary series, premiering on STARZ, follows one young woman?s perilous journey through the dark and criminal world of NXIVM, the notorious self-help-group-turned-sex-slave-cult. 

Inbal and Cecilia Peck?s last collaboration was the Emmy-nominated feature documentary Brave Miss World, which debuted on Netflix in 2014. It is the story of an Israeli beauty queen, who was raped seven weeks prior to her winning the Miss World pageant, and her crusade to reach out to fellow survivors while trying to keep her own rapist behind bars. 

In 2019, Inbal edited and co-produced ?The Movies: The Golden Age,? executive produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog. This was the latest in her 4-year-long collaboration with the team that produced CNN?s Emmy-nominated ?Decades? series. Inbal has edited seven episodes in the series and was nominated for an ACE Editing Award for ?The Nineties: Can We All Get Along.?

Inbal?s editing credits include ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (Netflix Original, Dir. Kelly Duane), nominated for an Outstanding Documentary NAACP Image Award, and Autism: The Sequel, (HBO, Dir. Tricia Regan), a follow-up to the Emmy-winning Autism: The Musical (2007). She edited and co-produced the internationally acclaimed, award-winning, I Have Never Forgotten You, about Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.  Inbal also directed the docudrama Night Bites and was second-unit producer on the HBO/ARTE documentary Watermarks.

Over the course of her career, Inbal has worked in the cutting rooms of directors such as Davis Guggenheim (Teach), R.J. Cutler (?American Candidate?), Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge (A Lego Brickumentary), Jeremy Simmons (?Transgeneration?), Tracy Droz Tragos (Be Good, Smile Pretty) as well as Natalie Portman?s feature directorial debut (A Tale of Love and Darkness). 

Inbal began making films when she was in high school and later produced training films for the Israeli Defense Forces.  At NYU, she was the recipient of the prestigious, merit-based, WTC Johnson Fellowship, awarded to one student filmmaker a year.  Since moving to Los Angeles, Inbal has edited hundreds of hours of non-scripted network and cable television shows. She was also a Visiting Professor at UNCSA Film School, and a mentor in the Karen Schmeer Diversity in the Edit Room Program.

Gillian McCarthy is an accomplished editor whose creative style combines compelling storytelling with a cinematic sensibility.  Her feature documentary credits include the Oscar-nominated Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Girl Rising, and Above and Beyond: 60 Years of NASA. Her television credits include work for ABC, PBS, Showtime, STARZ, Discovery and OWN.  She learned her craft working in the most precise form of visual storytelling, the television commercial, editing countless national campaigns in New York and Toronto.  A dual American and Canadian citizen, she lives in Los Angeles.

Écoutez maintenant

The Editor?s Cut – Episode 058 – Editing SEDUCED: INSIDE THE NXIVM CULT with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by IATSE Local 891, Integral Arts, and the Vancouver Post Alliance.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

We were contracted to do a four hour series, and that was a really big creative challenge of how to distill this very complex world. How much you explain, what you don’t need to explain, what you need to stay the hell away from because it’s- we would take two hours to explain.

Sarah Taylor:

Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out that the lands on which we have created this podcast, and that many of you may be listening to us from, are part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory, that is long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met and interacted. We honor, respect and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or solve an authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions and the concerns that packed indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

Today’s episode is the master series that took place on January 12th, 2021. Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner ACE and Gillian McCarthy. Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is a series about women by women. It had women in all key positions and they took great care in creating an environment for the cult survivors who shared their stories in which they felt supported before and after filming. We discussed the ins and outs of shaping such a complex and sensitive story, and the challenges that Inbal and Gillian came across in the edit suite. Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is available on Crave in Canada and on the Starz app almost everywhere else. I hope you enjoy.

 

[Show Open]

Sarah Taylor:

Welcome, welcome, welcome, thank you both for joining me today, us today, I’m very excited to talk all things Seduced. I kind of got hooked, by kind of, I really got hooked and I’m very excited to discuss this show and the making of this show. So I want to start off a little bit by just finding out a little bit of about you and where you come from and how you got into the world of editing. So whoever wants to start first dive, right-in!

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I’m Israeli. Started studying filmmaking and especially falling in love with editing in high school. And then in my military service in Israeli army and then went to film school in New York. And that’s kind of like how my American journey started. My most influential teacher in high school was a documentary editor, probably one of the leading documentary editors in Israel, and it just always fascinates me, fascinated me how to mold random footage into a story. And so while I’ve done, you know,  any kind of genre and anything from wedding videos to narratives and instructional films about explosive in the army to you name it, documentaries have been my focus of my career.

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome. And Gillian?

Gillian McCarthy:

I’m Canadian, I grew up in London, Ontario, and I also went to a high school that had a broadcasting television program and did editing in high school. And then I went to Fanshawe College in London, taking television broadcasting, and I worked at the local television station in the news department while I was there. Then after college, I moved to Toronto to assist an editor in a small commercial editing company that did, for television commercials. That was kind of my post-graduate, experience with the budgets and 35 mil filmmaking and technology that commercials did. I assisted for a while, and then I was lucky enough to help a creative team for an advertising agency, do a pitch, which turned out to be the original Molson Canadian ?I am Canadian? beer campaign.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome!

 

Gillian McCarthy:

Then I was 25 sitting doing that and did the sort of beer, cars and communications commercial work. Then I was recruited to a company in New York, and that started my American experience. I did commercials in New York and then just as I was about to get married and move to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Richard Robbins, who was a producer and writer working mostly through ABC news. We happened, I happened to be moving to his neighborhood in Los Angeles, so we became friends and he hired me to work on a television doc about Bill Bratton’s first year as the LAPD chief of police. We did a few more docs over the years. Then we did Operation Homecoming, which got nominated for an academy award. Ever since then, I’ve been doing nonfiction television and documentary features.

Sarah Taylor:

Fantastic, that’s exciting! I love that both of your stories began with a high school teacher who really had an influence in the editing world. That’s really exciting to hear. Nowadays I think kids are learning younger and younger because the technology is just, we have the capabilities, so that’s really exciting to hear. Now, let’s get onto Seduced. What led you both to this project? I know Inbal you’re the executive producer. Your story probably started much earlier than Gillian’s, but tell us how you, how this project started and how you got involved.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

My producing partner, Cecilia Peck, we’ve done a feature doc together called Brave Miss World, released in 2014 and was nominated for an Emmy. We were looking for another project to work together. In the meantime, I just work as an editor, and she called and said, she has a few ideas and a few things she was working on. One of them was NXIVM. She was actually an intern who worked on Brave Miss World, attempted to recruit her.

She sent her a lot of emails about this woman’s group, and Alison Mack, all these amazing women she must meet and come to an intro and come, there’s mentorship, and networking and women empowerment. Cecilia wasn’t interested at the time and finally said, I’m happy this is working for you, but please stop emailing me. It’s getting too much. About a year later after the emails stopped, she called her up and said, I’m sorry, I just realized I was in a cult and I was under pressure to recruit. They met and she told her her story. Then Cecilia brought that to me and said, I think we have an in. She had already, she had just shot a little reel with this former member.

This one intern introduced her to through three or four other former members. She shot a little footage for a couple hours just to get them on camera. She asked me actually to join her and cut a sizzle reel, like a little presentation. And so we- I downloaded a few things I found online. I had no idea what NXIVM was. I was not following the story in the news. It really took me I have must say months to wrap my brain around what it was and what was wrong with it. I downloaded what I could. Cut that with the footage that Cecilia shot. We were able to go into Starz and pitch it together. I helped with the pitch and in of command there, and eventually got greenlit to do a series. That’s how, kind of, how I got started.

Sarah Taylor:

What was the timeframe from the, you doing the sizzler stuff to getting to greenlit to actually start the series?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

So I think we, trying to remember, we started working on the pitch and had the first few meetings end of 2018.

Sarah Taylor:

Okay.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Then we got greenlit. We started developing, got greenlit officially April of 2019. The trial I believe started in May that year, the Keith Raniere trial, and then Starz thought and pushed us to make this plan that we would film and edit and be completely done and delivered in about six months. That was not, [crosstalk 00:09:02] a reasonable expectation. We ended up working almost two years and we locked the show in this, this past summer.

Sarah Taylor:

Then did you, you did have to open the lock when you find out the results of what his conviction and stuff, right? You were kind of waiting for, were you waiting for that?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Well, we were just putting the last finishing touches on episode four.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

It was locked, but we put it in to the end credit.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

We added that information. With couple of the cards, I think we updated them after the most up to date information.

Sarah Taylor:

We’ll get Gillian to tell us your story of being approached to do the show and what your thoughts were when you got to get into the edit suite.

Gillian McCarthy:

I had talked on, to, Cecilia Peck on the phone a bit around the time that they were doing Brave Miss World. I think you might have been making it from a feature to a series or something, but it didn’t really work out. Then she contacted me to come in to talk about this series. And so I came in and met with Inbal and Cecilia in at little edit room. They said, do you know anything about cults? I had just, I worked on the Bikram film earlier that year. I knew a bit about cults and they showed me the reel. I don’t know if reel is the same one they pitched to Starz, but they showed me the sizzle, which, and then I was wow, that’s a crazy story. Then I started in October of 2019 originally scheduled to work through the end of January 2020, but ended up going through April or May? Of 2020.

Sarah Taylor:

I noticed that you had a big importance of the team of the series is to be female led. Why was that important from the creative standpoint, and to keep this series female led. I kind of want to know the thought process behind that and how it worked out for you.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

We had experience from Brave Miss World, which is a film about rape and sexual assault. Of interviewing and working with working to tell the stories of sexual assault victims. We learned what needs to be done to create a safe environment on set, and then to tell the stories in the most respectful way honoring the trauma and not exploiting it, or sexualizing it. Cecilia, and I are both women. It happened that both our network executives were women and, definitely on set, we felt that a female, either a complete female crew or a female heavy leaning crew, was going to help these women and former members open up and feel safe to share. What we didn’t expect is that, and that’s a little anecdote, that a lot, our crew members, it was their first time working on an exclusively female crew.

It was like an unusual experience for them too. They started sharing things and they were like the vibe was just so different for them. Nobody was mansplaining. Nobody was kind of taking over. The egos were all a check. I think it was just very special environment that we created on set. Even on days that we had male crew members, we, they were carefully chosen. Everybody, male and female were carefully chosen and trained for sensitivity. We had a protocol of how to approach our subjects. What to tell them when they finish telling their story, not just like, okay, next setup, but, thank you for sharing. This is really meaningful. There’s just a way that we established to interact with these people, so they don’t shut down or they don’t, just to feel supported and comfortable. Then with, as we were hiring the production end post and post team, we certainly made sure people were, had in their heart, a place for this story. Whether they were male or female, they understood it, understood what we were trying to do with it and had the proper sensitivity to tell it.

Sarah Taylor:

You can see that in the final outcome, I feel anyway. Gillian, did you have any sort of take on seeing the footage in the end, edit suite and how that, did that come into a play, that there was a female? Could you, tell, could you feel a difference? What was your take on it?

Gillian McCarthy:

Especially in the interview dailies, you can tell it’s so hard. I can only imagine to be telling those stories in front of a bunch of people. There was, you can tell in the interviews where there’s breaks and there’s, we come back and a reset and think that it was a very respectful and gentle perspective in that way.

Sarah Taylor:

I feel like it would easily reflect into your edit when you see that care being taken in the footage and with the people that’s gonna happen in the edit as well. Now with the actual series, it’s such a complicated story with so many layers, so many things going on, and you had footage from the insider footage from NXIVM itself, you had their promotional videos, you had news clips, you were sourcing from everywhere. How could, how did you wrap your mind around how you’re going to tell this story? It’s going to be led with India’s, her story. You still need to explain what NXIVM is. You have your experts, which I love that you had experts in there explaining what cults were and what, how they were manipulating people and all that information. How did you go about, setting out to make it so concise? So we could all understand, wow, this is how it happens and how it can happen to anybody and understanding all of the ins and outs of a cult.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Well, I kept saying this story could be, if they gave me 10 hours or 20 hours, or 30 hours, I could fill those, no problem. We were, we were contracted to do a four hour series. That was a really big creative challenge of how to distill this very, as you said, complex world, very intricate web of different companies, and sub companies, and courses, and seminars and the lingo, the vocabulary and how much you explain, what you don’t need to explain, what you need to stay the hell away from. Because it’s, it would take two hours to explain. There were a lot of difficult choices in constructing it. The basic structure was there from the pitch, from the beginning, even before we had India involved. So India joined actually pretty far. India is through the process of being in a high control group like this.

Episode one was always about seduction, and getting hooked and what it feels like to join a group like this. Episode two was about, as it turned out to be about indoctrination. What happens with thought reform and what does your brain go through when you’re fed up this information over and over again? And how does it really changes your thinking? The later episode were always about, the heart of darkness kind of like, what does it mean to be in the center, of gravity of this organization? What are the worst kind of crimes and start unpeeling what the worst crimes and experiences of abuse that happen in the inner circle of the cult. Then we initially imagined it as a five episode with the last one being about recovery and healing.And so that was a lot of back and forth, but eventually when Starz insisted on keeping it down to four, which is a really brave choice and also means a lot more people actually going to commit to watching the whole thing, possibly binge it in one night or two.

Sarah Taylor:

Guilty.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

That really constricted us in telling the story a lot more economically and make more choices, but we did come to a compromise with them and had episode four, as some of you’ve seen, as a supersized episode with the kind of healing and-and what these women go through to overcome what happened to them and find their voice again, as the kind of last chapter of this saga.

Sarah Taylor:

That is a lot to put into four hours of content. There’s just a couple questions that I’ll get you to, from the audience. For Inbal. What was your experience writing and editing at the same time?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Well, if you’re a doc editor, you’re a writer always.

Sarah Taylor:

Yes.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Whether or not you’re credited for it, I’m sure Gillian, anybody will tell you, they always write. I think every single editor we had on the team, as well as any film, any documentary film I ever cut, I probably should have gotten an edit, a writer credit and part of an organization who that advocates for editors to get writer credits. Ultimately there was a lot of writing done in order to really help the audience go through the experience and understand what they needed to understand, but also not think about the thousands of questions they might have. That they shouldn’t be thinking about when they’re watching. There was a lot of choices and careful writing throughout, and I’m glad that Starz agreed to give that credit to myself and Cecilia, but it’s really, I mean, as a doc editor, you’re always writing. You’re just writing from existing warrants. Opposed to making stuff up on a clean piece of paper.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

But what was, what was your experience, Gillian, writing?

Gillian McCarthy:

I think that you might be forgetting how hard you worked. You would spend the day producing, executive producing, directly, setting up doing all that. Then, you would spend the all night editing. It was 24/7 for you [crosstalk 00:19:49]. You did a lot in that way, but I think also for me the, helping the structure, was the story editors. This is the first thing- time I’d ever worked with story editors, because I’d only done single feature docs. Where you’re the writer with the director and some series that were more discreet episodes, so they didn’t have somebody who needed to have that overall awareness of the story arc over multiple episodes. I found that Sarah and Tara were really helpful in structuring that keeping the awareness because you don’t- you dont know where you are sometimes, and everything was cut so wide. The first version of Genessee was probably 15 minutes in itself with everybody’s story. Then you’d start to distill it down. I think if for you, my perspective of Inbal’s work was that she had two jobs and worked twice as much.

Sarah Taylor:

Wow, you were two people. A question that also came for Gillian was there a piece of footage that you really loved, or part of the footage that you really loved that you had to let go? Which you mentioned the Genessee was 15 minutes long, so you did obviously have to pair back a lot of stuff to get to what we have now. Was there something that you were really upset or kind of sad that had to leave?

Gillian McCarthy:

The one thing that I was sad that had to leave was when they took India back to Silver Bay and they shot her in the winter, and she went into the auditorium and did a lot of talking when she was on the stage and talking about her experience in her promotion ceremony. We’d done some inter cutting with what we had of clips of the promotions. It didn’t really survive, but I thought that stuff was really good and she was really good in it.

Sarah Taylor:

Got to let them go. Should we look at some clips?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Cause I don’t know how many people watch the entire series, but it’s towards the end of the first episode you see in India take, the annual retreat, the annual summer camp of NXIVM and it’s in upstate New York. She really makes a decision to confront what happened to her emotionally and physically, and actually go to that place. You’ll see the beginning kind of part of it.

Sarah Taylor:

Just a warning for all of the clips, just a content warning, we are talking about assault and there’s, it’s sensitive subject, so just be warned

 

[Clip Plays]

Sarah Taylor:

Where do we start? I love how you really worked with the mood in that sequence and how it went from, “Yeah, I want to go to V week. Totally. I want to do that.” And then you’re like, “Woomph, nope.” You did a really great job of taking us on the journey, the emotional journey. So would you like to share your thoughts on that clip and why you chose it?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

It’s definitely my favorite in episode one and one of the favorite overall. I mean, this magic that happens when we start intercutting from her in present day to fragments of archival footage, inside a footage that was shot in that same space, and how that’s such an emotional manifestation of what’s happening inside her head. And it’s one of the first sequences we cut in episode one. And once you saw it, you just knew there was something there that was so special. I think the decision we made behind the scenes, in production, to go there and the fact that we couldn’t get there, that it was the dead of winter and we got a call that it was going to be snowing when we got there. And we’re like, oh, all the curse words you can think of. But then I was like, “No, this will be great.”

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, it was perfect.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Initially we were like, “Oh, it has to look the same.” But the fact that the difference between the beautiful summer images of V week in August versus what’s happening as she’s going back and it’s cold and snowy, and snow is on the ground. And it was freezing to shoot it, but it was really great that we were able to capture this dissonance that’s happening inside her brain and also visually. And then, later in the clip she goes into that auditorium where all the events and promotions and performances and speeches used to happen, and you really feel like she’s sitting there remembering what was going on on-stage while she’s in the audience. And so that was obviously, well thought out, but then it just became even better than what we could imagine in the edit.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It was very powerful. And you could really feel her emotion that you… Yeah, some of the people are saying like they felt every minute of it. It is so powerful. Gillian, did you have anything with this clip?

Gillian McCarthy:

No. I did not work on episode one at all. I was originally, came in to work on episode two only and then ended up working on two, three and four.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, excellent. Okay.

Gillian McCarthy:

And never got to one, although there’s maybe a little bit of Jness that when they rebalance the episodes that got pulled on up from two to one. And I kind of feel good about not having to work on one because openings are the hardest thing, like you could just cut forever, forever on getting that, the first 10 minutes in the first episode. There was a lot of heavy lifting in that episode to set up everything, so people could understand it, get to know all the people, not just India, all the other amazing women, understand the cults and the cult experts and that, so.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot. And effective, how it all came together. But yeah, so much that, Inbal, you mentioned earlier like even the terminology and the lingo. And here you hear one of the women saying like, “Oh, they called them objectives.” So, I liked how you incorporated in your interviews that they were explaining what it was and it just was so organic that you just kind of got it, you just understood, which is really great. So, kudos to you. Good job.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Thank you. I just wanted to quickly say, again, plans and reality collapse, but originally I was planned to cut episode one myself and have three editors hired to help with two, three and four, but it was budgeted and scheduled that I would cut episode one myself. Well, that did not happen. I was needed on set a lot. When we were supposed to be full time in editing, we had just started filming with India. It was quickly apparent that that was not going to be the case. And we hired the marvelous Caitlin Dixon to work on episode one. And then Matthew Moul. When Caitlin had to leave, Matthew Moul joined us later and really helped shape this episode.

But yes, so much to accomplish in setting up India’s story, the other women, the whole spine of this mother-daughter story, that’s in the heart of the series, and how Catherine took India to the first seminar, and how the guilt that she feels about India going deeper in. This story that wasn’t told even in Catherine’s book, that she actually went on much farther, and then that India ever planned to, and even hosted events in her home and then India followed somewhat reluctantly and then ended up really getting chosen, selected, hooked, but hooked meaning-

Sarah Taylor:

They picked her, right?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Yeah, exactly. She was targeted.

Sarah Taylor:

She was targeted, yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Yeah. She was targeted to go further in. And Sarah Edmondson actually asked her if she wanted to be a coach, she thought she would be a really good coach. So, once India goes on this coaching path is when things really start getting dangerous. And we needed to do all that and then get India out there as she starts exploring in real time, in veritae scenes, take us on this journey of unpacking and understanding what happened to her.

And Gillian and I talked earlier today and we were saying, the India we met, who we started filming with around October of 2019 is not the same India you see today in press or even the same India that was four months later. She was really going through a real time process while we were filming of understanding, as she said, the difference between what really happened and what she was made to believe happened. And that tension drives the entire narrative. And that took us a while to understand, that the whole series is about the difference between how- what the members experienced and what is really at play, the coercion tactics. And that’s why all these experts are really critical to give you that outside perspective, as the members are trying to explain you their firsthand experience.

Sarah Taylor:

Because I feel like often we’ll just, people will jump to like, oh, well they must be- something must be wrong with that person to get hooked into that. So, to hear the experts explaining it and clearly explaining like, no, no, no, this is how it works, this is how manipulation works. Because there’s other shows that have been things, other things that have been done about NXIVM, but we didn’t get that key, the expert element, to understand what’s happening in people’s minds and how they’re using the language and manipulating the people that are in the cult. Somebody asks or mentions, since India did join the project later, how did she become involved? And then, how did you make it safe for her, so she felt empowered that she could be vulnerable and do this journey on camera of healing and working through all this incredible- incredibly hard stuff?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

We always wanted to get to a story obviously as producers, investigative journalists, we wanted to get at least one member that was at the core of this cult within a cult really, of DOS. And it became apparent that nobody was going to talk to us before the trial is over. So, our goal was to get women that were in, that would feel empowered enough to, after all that power was taken from them, would feel empowered enough to share their story.

And in the meantime, we were just really working hard at getting other aspects of the story. And we realized that Catherine Oxenberg played a major role in that story. And we had planned to interview her. We did interview her just to get her perspective and kind of her perspective as a former member, as somebody who had a daughter that went really far into it. And what did she do publicly to expose and bring the cult NXIVM to an end, really. And I think once we talked to her, she saw what our team was about, what was our perspective, and she appreciated our point of view.

And India at the time was still working on her own healing and deprogramming. And I think, she was just getting ready to share her story and she wasn’t sure whether that’s going to be a book, which she also did, or a TV show or a documentary, or. I think because of our relationship, the relationship we built with her mother, she felt comfortable meeting with us. And then once she saw what we had put together up until then, she really decided to join us. She felt we would do justice for her story and treat it the way she wanted it to be told, tell it the way she wanted to be told. So, we worked with her, but we let her take it as far as she could at any given moment, meaning, the first time we flew to Belgrade and filmed with her, I personally didn’t even know that she was sexually abused, nor did I ask. So, that had to come from her and she initiated how much she wanted to share.

And then she’s the one who said to Cecilia like, “I want to show that healing and deprogramming.” And therapy is complicated. And talk therapy for example, talk therapy was very triggering for her because NXIVM was a lot about the DCMs and talk therapy. So, she invited Cecilia to film that buddy therapy session that you see in episode four. So, it was really letting her lead the way and take us on this real journey of what she was willing to share and show. But she was an open book. And she started remembering more things. I know Gillian has a story about can we learn more things from her as we were going through it.

Gillian McCarthy:

Where I was just recalling that, I think episode two or three had gone into the network, maybe, at least once and Inbal, you stopped by the edit room and said, “Well, India just told us about the situation where Keith would make her pull over and take more vulnerable picture, more vulnerable picture. And we didn’t know this and you’re not going to ask like, “Oh, how bad did he get?” She just offered that up. And it was like, okay, so we’re going to go. I mean, obviously they did multiple interviews with her to talk about things and that just opened up other paths and other memories and talking about more stuff. So I think, the first day I started involving, Cecilia weren’t even there because they were on a plane to Belgrade to go shoot with India, and that was the first time they had done that interview. And then-

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

That trip was confirmed the night before. It all happened very fast.

Sarah Taylor:

Wow. And so how much editing did you do before you made that shift where you had to change the structure of the series to really be driven by India’s story?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I started working and laying out some sequences for episode one and actually laid down sequences for the entire series, sort of things that we didn’t know where they would go yet. And you know, we had amazing scenes that we shot during the trial. We initially thought that the trial was going to be the spine, the narrative spine of the series, and that you would learn more and more about what happened inside NXIVM as the trial unfolded. And we had these other really brave former members who sat inside the courtroom and then had interesting reactions outside about what they experienced inside the courtroom, where we were obviously not allowed to film or record anything. So, we had started cutting all these scenes and started imagining what it would be like animating some of what happened inside the courtroom in order to kind of utilize it.

And then when we got India, we just thought, oh, it’s just another voice added to this chorus and we’ll just figure out how to weave her hand in. But it quickly became apparent that she had to be the narrative spine that would get you from beginning, middle and end, from the moment she joined till the time it all went down, that she was one of the last people standing, she stayed there really until the bitter end. Maybe not as far as dancing outside his bell-

Sarah Taylor:

That scene. Oh, my word. Like, what are you doing?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Not that far, but almost, very close to that. So, once we realized she had to be this spine, we had to completely take down the board, take down the storyboard, put new cards and reimagine it around her story. But there was a lot of stuff already in place and done that we just kind of started weaving around.

Gillian McCarthy:

You feel like the other women like Naomi and Tabby and Ashley, although their stories are part of it and we had that to work with too and a lot of that stayed in. But their experiences really, I think, help and support India’s. Like, how do you get into that? One of the most affecting things for me is when Naomi is talking about how if you are in a room and everybody’s saying something and you don’t feel the same way, how do you stand up to that? And are they wrong? Are you right? And that filled it out too, a lot.

Sarah Taylor:

One question here, did you have any concerns or worry about knowing other documentaries were being made about NXIVM while you were crafting this one? Did you think about that or did you just do what you needed to do?

Gillian McCarthy:

I think it was six or eight weeks after I’d started that somebody was like, “Oh, HBO’s doing a 10 part doc.” I was like, “Well, what are you going to do?” It’s a different perspective too.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I mean the most fascinating thing, we locked the show before they started airing. So, at that point we were done with the hard work and just sat down and enjoyed the show. But it’s fascinating how the approaches and the end result is so different. I mean, I was worried that it would be the same or redundant, but. We didn’t know anything, obviously with documentary, but most film productions, you sign all these you confidentiality agreements, and you’re supposed to be really tightlipped about what you’re doing. So, we didn’t share anything about what we’re doing, neither did they. So, until they dropped their trailer, we found out about their air date like everybody else. We didn’t know that they were not even going to go into the trial in season one. We really had to stick to our own lane and do our thing.

We had- we respect them as filmmakers. We were working side by side, outside the courthouse. We had an understanding that we would share some experts. Like if somebody’s an expert on a call, it’s fair game that both projects would interview them. But with former members and main characters, we try to stay away and not approach the same people that we knew were already working with them, if that makes sense. So yeah, I think, at the end of the day, there were something like 17,000 members that went through NXIVM. So, that’s 17,000 stories. And there was coercion and trauma, I think, on almost every level, even those who were involved for a short time. And I just think there’s a lot of stories to tell, and the more are told the better it is, because it just helps people understand coercion, coercive control and unpack this unbelievable story.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally, yeah. Wow. Another question here, which I think will take us into maybe the next clip. Did you have to go through all the modules to understand how NXIVM worked? Did you take the time to watch all their videos to really understand how it worked?

Gillian McCarthy:

I don’t think it would be possible.

Sarah Taylor:

There’s a lot, right?

Gillian McCarthy:

I mean, we only had what we had and we didn’t have much material. I guess people got stuff in their classes, like papers and stuff. Like Keith says in one of those interviews, he’s like,”We have thousands of modules.” But to me, the gist of it was what it was actually teaching didn’t really matter. I mean, to me it was like, it was an MLM. So it wasnt-, you weren’t ever designed to get fixed or win or develop. You might feel like you were, but they were always going to be moving the bar, so. Other than the idea that your life issue,  that you were inherently broken, that they would instill into you. What they would do to fix it, didn’t really matter to telling the story.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I remember we did take a lot of time talking to the former members. I personally, I made Tabby perform [miniem 00:45:03]. Not personally on me, but on our co-producer Morgan Poferl. And I filmed it with my phone. I was trying to figure out how that would play. I wanted to understand the hook, the draw. Because you see so many people that went so far and so you were like, wait, but what did they say? What’s the secret? What was so positive? What was the one thing that got you hooked? So yeah, there wasn’t a lot available in terms of material. NXIVM team was very protective of their copyrighted, patent pending materials. Everything was locked up. It wasn’t like people took copies of the curriculum home. Even the coaches, you were not allowed to take it out of the center, it was always locked. It’s not like there’s a ton of material available online. And frankly, we didn’t have videos of all the modules. We have very little and we did the best with the most of it.

But Cecilia and I did have, and Morgan had long conversation with the former members to understand the teachings and what the structure of the classes were and what exactly they learned or remembered, or. It’s like a word salad. It’s just that an attack and that’s part of the tactic. You get numb because all these words are just, it’s an over saturation to your brain. But I think our job as editors and that’s what Gillian is brilliant at, is to find the one line, the one moment where you’re like, okay, in that ocean of words, that’s the one thing where they hook you or where the implant is starred into your head, that will later pay off or later build into self-hatred, or this misogyny. It wasn’t as clear as it is in Seduced, right? It was veiled in a lot of other bullshit. So that was our job, to find those moments, that in five seconds you could understand what was really happening as opposed to what they thought was happening.

Gillian McCarthy:

It was also, I think, where the people involved because such a slow build. They didn’t start out saying you’re going to go to this SOP thing and have to wear a jockstrap on your head. That build. You started with the introductory courses and then they could see who would accept, how far you could go. You’d fill out the form and they’d be able to see who they could push. And just working on it for five or six months, you’re not getting that slow build, so you look at something and go, this is nuts, because you’re coming in with a perspective. And then their point is to have you have no perspective. Anything outside is not valid. It’s only what we’re telling you in here is the valid thing.

Sarah Taylor:

They get you to trust the process and trust the people. And then, yeah, totally.

Gillian McCarthy:

That said, the production did say there was people available for us to talk to if we felt like we were getting… There’s a lot of traumatic stories and to listen to that all day is difficult.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, that was one of the questions is like, did you have to take a step back? And I know Inbal mentioned when we talked before this, that you had put together supports for your team for that case. If you’re feeling triggered or you need to talk something out, here’s something to help you. So, why did you feel like that was important? I think a lot of series and documentaries probably need to have that in place.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I do think it’s an important conversation that needs to be had. And I’ll just mention quickly that I’m on a brand new mental health committee that we started at the Alliance of Documentary Editors, the ADE, which is an organization for doc editors. And we realized early on that we needed to provide a professional support for the people on camera. I mean, that was a no brainer. I can?t? I can be nice and supportive and as kind as I can be, but I’m not a mental health professional. And when somebody’s triggered or having really scary, suicidal thoughts, or really severe PTSD because of what they’re decided to share on camera, I need to make sure they have a professional standing by to help them before, during and after filming. So, that was a no brainer. The network didn’t completely understand it. So, we actually had to raise the funds ourselves to make that happen.

And then when we started editing, I just remember this one day, Roxy who used to be my film student and then was a post BA and eventually was promoted to assistant editor, but she did a lot of logging. And I remember walking the hallway and behind the closed door, I hear her yelling at her screen, like “What the hell!” And…

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:50:04]

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Screamed, like what hell? And I was like, “Roxy, what happened?” She’s like, “Why are they staying? How they’re not getting up and leaving, like what is happening?” And so in our weekly post meetings, we would try to discuss those things.

And then Cecilia and I decided to make the same services that were … mental health services that were available for the subjects, also to the crew. So if somebody felt like … Tracy Layman, who also helped with watching some of this stuff, and she said, “Sometimes I feel like I need to take a walk, because my brain is scrambled. I’m starting to not know what’s real or not.” And I was like, “Okay, we need to provide that same help to people on the editing team who are getting … ” I don’t want them to be brainwashed by Keith from watching this footage.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. No kidding. And so Gillian, did you take breaks and did you think about that? Were you mindful of that you had that option to seek assistance if you needed it or?

Gillian McCarthy:

Well, they told me. I mean, I didn’t take advantage of it, but you can’t just drive a highway all day. So you’ve got to do something else. It’s like, maybe I’m just going to take a look at somebody else’s interview you or go look at the news archive for a bit or go read the trial transcript. There’s not really a break, but it’s … Or just go to the lunchroom and get a donut.

Sarah Taylor:

Sugar always helps.

Gillian McCarthy:

Always. You can’t go wrong with a donut.

Sarah Taylor:

You also mentioned at one point an organization FACT, I think you said?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Families Against Cult Teachings. That’s the organization, the 501c3 organization we partnered with that would accept the donations. And they managed the fund of therapy for the NXIVM survivors. And Starz made a very generous donation to it, to keep supporting them through the release. Because the release became another trigger. Now they didn’t just share with our a crew, but also shared with the world.

And sometimes you have to bend the rules for when you do these difficult projects. And I remember we invited … And Gillian met them several times. We invited some of the former members and then the others to the edit room. And we would share sequences with them. We want them to feel like we really embrace them. We care about how they feel about sharing their story. We care about making sure that their perspective is represented truthfully.

It was very complicated. I think I underestimated how much of my work was caring for our subjects. Interacting with them, caring for them, considering them. All those things was quite consuming.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s so important. I think sometimes we lose sight of that in the doc world, that these people are sharing them. And we need to be very, very delicate with that. And so I hope more and more productions do things like this. And for the post crew for everybody. Because it’s heavy. Even watching it like, oh, take a break. I’m going to drink some water or whatever. Right? So I think, yeah, thank you for doing that.

Gillian McCarthy:

There was not a lot of potential to be … I mean, not exploitative, but as you could see, it really was a TMZ moment. Especially when Catherine did her- went public with it. And India had been through the ringer with that. And it was sensationalized and it needed to be looked at. Because this happened to a lot of people. Was there 150 people in DOS?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Yeah.

Gillian McCarthy:

All smart.

Sarah Taylor:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gillian McCarthy:

All of those people were super smart and driven and focused. And that’s why they were chosen.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Gillian McCarthy:

And deceived.

Sarah Taylor:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, shall we watch another clip? We have a clip from episode two, the JNESS tracks.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

This is really the heart of the indoctrination. There was a lot of stuff in NXIVM teachings that looked legit. And when we really dug into it, we decided, Cecilia and I, that the gender-based programs were really the core cause for what ended up happening in DOS. And how they changed people, perception about gender and really made the women hate themselves. This is just a little snippet of how we had to distill that down to a little tiny clip.

 

[Clip Plays]

Sarah Taylor:

In a distilled three and a half minutes, hearing them say like, “Oh, yeah, monogamy is not … ” Just all those lines that you’ve picked to explain. Yeah. Like somebody just put, it makes your blood boil. It does. And like, ugh, there’s so many elements to it that you’re like, how is this- how is this happening? Especially right now, how did this happen? Give us some insight on what you chose and how you chose to shape this.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

So we needed India by the end of episode two, to accept a membership in a slave master sorority. Now we have 90 minutes from beginning to that point. In about an episode and a half to get her there. And so we had to distill five years of her in NXIVM with all the indoctrination and many programs that we don’t even mention. With her being on the coaching path and trying to advance on the coaching path. And maybe figure out how to make it a sustainable career.

And what she’s hearing along the way. We really realized that, as I said before, the gender-based programs were the most harmful in terms of how it changed her thinking. And JNESS was in existence for years. And Naomi took JNESS classes here in LA. So they had- The curriculum was coming down from Keith and then distributed confidentially. Or like with secret kind of … Like never just emailed. But then read on conference calls or in different forums around the country. And in some places in other countries, as well.

What came from him and eventually at the end of the clip, you see where he gets to. Is like, okay, rape is not really a rape. And the victim is really the abuser. And you want to make sure that by the time you hear that, you can understand how somebody can be susceptible to accepting it.

And it’s still like, as somebody commented on the thread here, makes your blood boil. And it’s like, there’s no way. But hopefully we gave you enough clues where you could see there might be a way. Because anything that makes you jolt or want to run away, they told them that’s exactly how you need to feel. If you have the urge to bolt out of your seat, you’re doing the work. You’re doing the hard work. You are opening your mind. You’re not accepting anything as a given. You’re really fighting what they call indoctrination, which is the way you were raised, the way you were indoctrinated as a child. You challenging your perception of the world to accept this other things.

And so they kind of used their instincts against them. And that eroding of instinct is what eventually leads India to accept this membership in DOS. And so that was really important to lay it out gradually. But also very concisely.

Gillian McCarthy:

It makes you wonder if there was a huge game plan from the beginning that they … I don’t know that they were all that clever. But to start with JNESS and roll it into the tracks. Which they were called intensives for a reason. That they would take people, make you go to Albany, usually. I think most of them were in Albany. And spend 12, 15 hours a day in these rooms, listening to this stuff with minimal food.

And I know from some of those testimonials we had, in the B roll, people were talking like it’s 11:30 at night, it’s midnight. After they spent this day, they were required to go and record their thoughts on it. And be coached into what to say, as well.So It’s a physical breakdown, as well as a mental breakdown. But JNESS was a gateway, for sure.

And the last clip of Keith is government evidence, right? That was in- came from the FBI. That one I watched. And that’s hard to take from top to bottom. Nancy Salzman is there hitting record and setting it up. And they’re all sort of … The first line DOS women are, can’t really tell, are sitting around the table, nodding and agreeing.

If they did even say, like, I don’t understand, it would just be dismissed. And Kelly said that about JNESS, the tracks that she took. Where she was like, if you had anything to say, they’d be like, “No, you’re wrong.” You were supposed to discuss the curriculum, but there was no real discussion. You were told what to think.

Sarah Taylor:

Was there any challenges in putting this together, the edit of making this concise? Giving us that information on how- what they’re telling the people to believe to get to that point where we hear Keith say the victim’s the abuser? Did you find that clip and think, “Okay, this is how I’m going to … ” And this is like … How did you get to that stage of piecing it together?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I think the biggest challenge was letting go of anything that wasn’t directly informing India’s through line. There was a lot more things and stuff. And seeing a lot of the other key players kind of in moments where they’re overwhelmed or kind of this gazed look on their faces as they’re like totally brainwashed, as Gillian said. They would make them sit at the end of a really long day and be a PR machine for spelling out, again, everything they learned that day. And which I think is a really dangerous part of this, how they make all these members be PR machines for the organizations.

So I think we just had to be really thoughtful about what India’s experience was and only use the pieces that informed her story and her experience and just kind of bravely let go of everything else.

Gillian McCarthy:

It was, I think originally the concept of the JNESS groups, which as Inbal said, were held. You had your friendships where you had your group of women that you would hang out with once a month, rolled straight into the tracks. And that was a longer sequence. There was this process of splitting that up and moving part of it to episode one and seeing what made sense with episode two. It went through a lot of iterations.

And then I think we watched it once and then we rolled straight into the SOP, which was the men’s group like JNESS. But at a certain point, it all just … you just become numb to it. Because it’s hard to differentiate on just if you’re just going to watch it once.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, another component that you used a lot in the series was animation of the reenactments of moments in India’s story. The next clip that we have is from episode three, and it’s the branding sequence. Which again, I’m going to give a content warning, because it is intense.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Obviously, there was no footage that we could use. It was such a tentpole- important part of the story. And to really understand how they willingly and knowingly went into that room to be branded. We wanted to make sure people understood the context, how they made that choice under coercion, but still a choice. And what actually transpired in that room.

 

[Clip Plays]

Sarah Taylor:

How was that to put together?

Gillian McCarthy:

I think that the tone and the texture that Elyse and the people at the animation brought to it, transformed it. I’d like to just recognize that.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

There’s a good story behind it. When India joined as an executive producer, she was really … her first film. And she kind of fell in love with the process and started watching and binging a lot of documentaries. And so she would say, “Oh, watch this. And what do you think about that?” And so Cecilia and India and I would start binging on the same docs over the weekends.

And she watched … One weekend, I got a text. She watched Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift documentary. And so then Cecilia watched it. So I had to watch it. And so I watched it. And it’s a beautiful doc. And there’s a little sequence in it about a court case that Taylor was involved in when she was suing for a dollar somebody who sexually harassed or assaulted her. In any case, they couldn’t shoot in that. They didn’t have footage from that court case of that courtroom. And they just used this amazing, beautiful, very subjective illustrations that looked like nothing I’ve really seen before.

And so I contacted the producer of Miss Americana, whom I worked with before. And I said, “You have to give me the contact. We need to illustrate all these court room moments.”

Sarah Taylor:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

That’s back when we thought that was going to be the through line. And she connected me with Elyse Kelly. She’s a DC-based animator. She’s just a wonderful, beautiful person and an artist. And it just became better than what we could have imagined ourselves. Every frame was very well thought out. Again, from the texture to the choice of colors, to the composition. There were key moments in the story that we didn’t have any footage or photos. Well we’re not going to do re-creations. We were really stuck with trying to figure out how to visualize that and still tell this important story.

And it wasn’t something we had budgeted for or really planned going into this project. And animation is expensive. Luckily, Starz supported once they saw what Elyse can do and they understood our vision for it and understood the necessity for it. We really had to fight almost like scene by scene. Like, we really need this illustration and this animation. They’re like, “Okay.”

The branding was number one on the list. We knew that we had to tell that story and we knew we are going to have to come up with the money to do that. But I think that the challenge was how do you show these moments that are so revealing, traumatic and not make it look like porn? Tell it really from the perspective, from the point of view of the victims and their trauma.

And the goal was we worked with Elyse to make it like a visual manifestation of India’s memories.

Sarah Taylor:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

And kind of like you saw in V Week, as she’s going through the reception area and seeing those people still there. That should have give you the same feeling like she’s remembering these shreds of images and voices.

And we had one visual reference of what that whole branding could have looked like. But we mostly flying blind. We had to just come up with this world, but from the details that India gave us. So place, it was important to place the phones recording it. Because you see later that Keith said you have to videotape it from different angles to create more collateral. We wanted to make sure that was clear. That they knew they were being filmed with multiple devices. And some of the pod mates had to hold the phones and tape and record them. And then get on the table themselves and let their friends tape them.

It’s really so wild to think somebody would willingly go through that. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to put into words, but when it all-

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:15:04]

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I know it’s hard to put into words, but when it all came together and as I’m sure people on this seminar know, you don’t get this final animation day one, right? You get a sketch and so to see the process evolving to finally both, the amazing sound design work, that was done by Snap sound, the team from Sweat Snap sound and the animation work with India’s voice on camera. So with really all the elements kind of pulling together.

The reaction on her face as she’s watching that YouTube video that they showed them, it really builds a certain feeling that we wanted to make sure you get the horror of it and relate to her and the other victim who’s anonymous. Who’s telling you, “well, they told us one thing, but then it was something else.”

So this is the whole tension between what they thought it was going to be and what it actually turned out to be, which is so horrific and I think for me personally, the fright experiment that appears in episode two, we didn’t show you that clip, but they set women in front of a screen and showed them both clips from movies and real videos of cartel beheading women, and recorded their brain reaction and, put a video camera in front of their faces to record their facial expressions as they’re watching it.

It’s like a crazy Clock Orange moment, and for me, that is the most horrible thing for various reason that I ever seen and I saw the clip of the beheading and we used it in a way, but, it took the branding to move the justice system. So that’s why this is so important. Without the branding, there could have still been NXIVM today. So that’s the line he had crossed. I feel like he crossed it a million times before, but in terms of law enforcement, that had to happen for people to pay attention. For it, to be, a front page photo on the New York Times and for people to finally take them down. The branding wasn’t a prosecutable crime, but it took that to bring down NXIVM.

Gillian McCarthy:

I mean Danielle Roberts still has her medical license, right?

 

Sarah Taylor:

What?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

There’s hearings now that have been delayed because of COVID, but she’s about to lose it. It’s under hearing now.

Gillian McCarthy:

But the branding in itself wouldn’t have brought NXIVM down if it didn’t turn out to be his initials. And at that point when they were getting branded, and from the series India, 100% believed it was even when she was told straight to her face, what it was. She simply did not believe it until she heard it from his own mouth and I think from the interviews from other people, they had no idea.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

When we did research into other sex trafficking organizations, that’s not like an unusual thing to do marking your slaves, marking the women with tattoos, with brands. That’s actually something other sexual offenders and sex trafficking organizations or men sex traffic women, they do that. They mark their women in some way and it’s incredibly shocking when it happens.

Sarah Taylor:

Wow. Somebody was asking about security. Did you have to do any special security about potential, dangerous things happening by telling the story of NXIVM? Because they are- they had been so powerful over the course of the time they were on.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Yes, it’s hard to think about it now because now Keith is in prison for a life sentence-  more than a life sentence and Clare Bronfman is finally in prison, but that was not the case when we started filming. And most people we talked to actually decided to not go on camera cause they were so afraid of retaliation. Not just what their families would say, but could they be sued by Clare Bronfman? What was going to happen?

They were in an organization that vilified anybody who tried to speak against it. So they knew firsthand or secondhand what happens to those who speak against it. So, it was complicated to get people to tell the story. And once we did, I think the security is probably typical studio security because you get that on other shows where they’re really concerned about their footage for any sitcom too, leaking out. But it was especially important on our project where, nothing was coming out and so when COVID hit in March and we had to move to editing from home, we really had to figure out how we going to translate the tight security and the editing office to everybody taking those drives home. So, it was tricky, it was complicated.

Sarah Taylor:

Another question came up of, how did you get permission to use audio from the jump drives that were taken from Allison’s house and some of the other insider footage, even any of that stuff. How did you get permission to use that?

Gillian McCarthy:

I think a lot of it was exhibits in the trial. It was released by the DEA.

Sarah Taylor:

So if it’s in the trial then that says- I don’t know the rules.

Gillian McCarthy:

Then it’s public.

Sarah Taylor:

That makes sense then, yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Anything that the prosecution releases as exhibit becomes public information cause the U.S. courthouses are like the court of the people.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

So those were in the public domain in a way and then other material was carefully reviewed by a team of lawyers to make sure we have the right to use it and that we’re not violating anybody’s rights, but still with commitment to telling the best story we can. So not everything passed legal review, but a lot of it that I didn’t think would, did. So I felt very, I mean, I remember my first ugly cry was the day that the fair use lawyer called us and told us that he thought everything we used in episode one or one and two was like clear. And I just couldn’t I was like, mind blown could not believe it.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing, yeah.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Was actually crying.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Gillian McCarthy:

I think that also informed who was obscured in the footage and who was left clear. I mean, definitely if they have the trial exhibit with the sort of circle of Keith in the middle with all the people. So if they were in there, that’s, they’re in the public, identified already. So we’re not going to secure them.

Sarah Taylor:

One more quick question here, and then we’ll show one more clip before we run out of time. Did you, either of you do any research on understanding like cult practices and learning how the coursing works and stuff like that, did you investigate, or did you just go with what the footage was or your expert said?

Gillian McCarthy:

The Canadians will know Ticket to Heaven, which is a fantastic film that you should watch and then talks a lot about how cults work. And again, I’ve done a bit of work on the Bikram, so I need about it from that. But, I think the interviews with the experts really did illuminate specifically with this cult where you could say this intake sheet means this, when they say this, if you question, it just shows how much more work you have to do. So-

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Normally I like to not educate myself or read things outside. It sounds like stupid and lazy, but I like to learn from what’s on the screen. So, I don’t want to assume things that are not actually there just because I knew them on other documentaries I’ve worked on, I usually avoid reading things and just try to learn from the material.

And so if something doesn’t make sense, I’ll maybe like go specifically to one area or look for a book or expert, or pick up the phone and ask India or an expert. But for the most part, I try to let the footage inform me as much as possible. So I don’t bring assumptions into it and I try to maintain sort of virgin clean slate perspective. So I’m as close as I can be to my audience, as opposed to like patronizing them, telling them how much I know.

I think it was really important with this series to make it feel accessible, to as many people as possible. The Def stars definitely drove us to make something that felt commercially accessible, viable, palatable to a large audience. And sometimes our instinct were not… Our storytelling style was different. We wanted to reveal things more elegantly or more slowly.

I remember the first cut we screened of episode one at the end of it. Somebody from Deborah told us, “I felt like I could join.” And I said,”yes, mission accomplished. This is exactly what we wanted you to do.” But they said, “no! We want to know that it is evil from moment one. We want to make sure we know who’s the protagonist and antagonist and set that up really clear clearly and tell you along the way.” And so that was really tough to like change our perspective and understand the value in that way of revealing it and really letting the tension between what you learn from the experts as you go along and what you don’t learn yet, to the moment they going to say that’s makes the job of the interview is the subject a lot harder.

You put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders to explain to you their perspective, despite like I’m telling you, there’s all these red flags I’m telling you that this is evil, and I still need to believe this woman that she didn’t see any of that. That She thought it was good and so that I think was super challenging.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. That’s a really hard balance because you don’t want your subjects to look like a fool where if the audience is smarter, but I could see how you could watch a cut and be like, yeah, I want to be a better human. I want to do that too. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Such a fine balance.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Yes, it was.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s tough.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Should we quickly watch the other-

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, so we have the… this is a really great sequence that Gillian is famous for I’d say. Is going to be extra famous for.

 

[Clip Plays]

Sarah Taylor:

The music. How did you decide that piano playing was going to be like, that is just, yeah.

Gillian McCarthy:

We had this footage of him playing and they recovered it and he stopped and started again. So I kind had it twice, which made it convenient. And I came across it and knew that it existed. And then when I ended up on 104 and we had this had been structured because of Tara, one of the story editors had, and they had structured it with the people gushing about him on stage with the arrests. But it… the gushing on stage had already been seen in episode one. So it was reiteration of that, and I remember talking to Inbal, cause I had this idea because I felt like the presence of Keith within that section, wasn’t there because it was the news footage and the archive clips. We hadn’t really seen him for a while too, because by this time he had been put in jail.

So I remember proposing this to Inball because it took some doing and it’s not something that I could just go and spend a couple days and doing and then be like, “no one likes it or it wasn’t a good idea.” So we talked about it. Should we use it in that sequence or somewhere else? So, and then it did take some doing because I wanted to get the reveal, that it was him playing. So I had to like back time and maybe do a little bit of music editing to get that reveal up from the piano that it wasn’t score, that it was him playing that and then to- we even and out in the right points because the person was just shooting and there was only like so many really good shots of him to use. So it took a bit and I did it and you know, it was the typical, everyone was like, “I love it.” Here are notes. That’s not okay. Its great but-

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

But we knew it was genius from the first moment. I mean, people watched a very early version of this episode after Gillian had put this together and said, “this is like the godfather, this is like, just so amazingly put together.” And I felt also like for me, how magic can happen working in a team like a store, the senior store producer had this idea of like Gillian said, inter-cutting, the professing their love as they are led to court. And then Gillian had the idea to add Keith playing the piano.

It had to take that time and all these people involved in that particular team to come at that final result. And then it had to have that, extra sound design to really make it sing and it’s most people who comment like on Twitter or friends, family, people we heard from it’s their favorite sequence of the entire series and it’s just so really beautiful, beautifully, beautifully kind.

It was one of the things they told him that he was a genius. He had the highest IQ ever and he was a Judo Champion and the concert pianist. I know piano, I’m married to a concert pianist who’s also the composer of the series like, Moonlight Sonata is something you learn in your first year of piano, but somehow like that is still impressive enough that he could like fumble through that and still impress everybody. Yeah. It’s not even a great performance of the Moonlight Sonata, but I guess it was enough for them to think it all that.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yes.

Gillian McCarthy:

I love the fumble at end. He just doesn’t care about these people.

Sarah Taylor:

Biggest challenge that you faced working on this project?

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

For me personally, was my first time as an executive producer showrunner so to balance being used to being the editor and touching everything, to trusting the amazing team we assembled to do their thing and still get the show done under very, a lot of pressure from budget, schedules, network. We had to have every single shoot pre-approved and then record it too, we had to have every week kind of accounted for. There was a lot of show running, heavy lifting that had to be done on a daily basis. And so at the very end, after COVID hit, we all disassembled and became harder to really do the kind of one-on-one interfacing communicating, and I ended up locking the show by myself.

So like, and Gillian helped me towards the end. We brought her back, after she was already wrapped to kind of help us a little, but it was a lot, it was like a lot of as Gillian said producing and managing and helping, watching cuts and giving notes and then at night I would be cutting all night. So it was… I don’t think I want to do that again. Like if I’m a showrunner, then I’m just a showrunner and like, I’m not going to commit to being an editor, full-time editor as well. Like that’s just too much to chew.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Rightly so.

Gillian McCarthy:

The challenge of wrangling this huge story over the multi episode arc, that’s always challenging. It’s much easier to do like discreet, where things stop and start. COVID was a big challenge too and I just felt like… and it happened at a time where we were getting into the point where you would be working in the room with Cecilia and Inbal in a more direct, because there was a lot of… as they were shooting, we were just cutting and not so that I missed that part of it, that we were separate. I wanted to say this though, for everybody that they interviewed, no matter what happened, So many people said, ultimately that they got something out of NXIVM and that to me was the challenge of… I found that striking. Pretty well all of them said, “it ended like in a mess and it was terrible what happened, but there was something in that that helps them, and they might do it again.”

Sarah Taylor:

Interesting. Was there anything from working on this series that you’ll take to other shows that you do? I guess we know Inbal will not do editing and executive producing at the same time, but what’s something that you’ll take with you from doing this project.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

I mean, we’ve certainly learned a lot in developing this relationship with our subjects and what, what are ethical guidelines that we will continue to follow and develop further? You know what we talked about caring for editors as they’re handling tough subject matter, kind of a long, secondhand exposure to trauma through the footage, I think is really something that we should look at very seriously across the industry. I think the response to this series has just been so positive and amazing. I was addicted to Twitter for the first few weeks to just like, see how people respond and that they really got it all and they were drawing parallels to their own lives and they understand that coercion doesn’t just happen in a crazy sex cult.

It happens everywhere. And they were able to see parallels to their romantic relationships or workplace abusive bosses or our political situation. I mean, there are people this week- last week that were tweeting about, oh, you want to understand people in Mega, you know, mega people watch seduced. I mean, people were tweeting that, making something that’s, that’s palatable to a large audience and make it educational and impactful at the same time. I think that was the biggest challenge and I really feel that we scored pretty high on that front. So I think that will continue to learn in that direction.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Thank you for taking the time to let us ask questions and explain the process and thank you both so much for taking the time today. It sounds like everybody in the chat is saying, thank you and they’ve enjoyed it and so, yes, thank you again for sharing with us and we’ll look forward to seeing more of you in the future.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE:

Thank you, Sarah. Thank you so much everybody.

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much for joining us today and a big, thank you  Goes out to Inbal and Gillian for taking time to sit with us. A special, thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Alison Dowler. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall, additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music created by Chad Blain and Soundstream this episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire, an organization that provides funding and scholarships for Indigenous post-secondary students.

We have a permanent portal on our website @cceditors.ca, or you can donate directly to indspire.ca, I-N-D-S-P-I-R-E.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. Till next time, I’m your host, Sarah Taylor,

Speaker 41:

The CCE is a nonprofit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member, please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Jane MacRae

Alison Dowler

Ryan Watson

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Monté par

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blaine

Soundstripe

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Commandité par

IATSE 891, Integral Artists, VPA

Catégories
Articles Membres

Congratulations: 2021 Emmy Award Nominations

Finalistes pour les prix Emmy 2021

2021 Emmy Award Nominations Finalistes pour les prix Emmy 2021

Félicitations à Wendy Hallam Martin, ACE, CCE, qui a été nommée aux prix Emmy, pour LA SERVANTE ÉCARLATE : LE PASSAGE.

Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 050: Animation with John Venzon, ACE

The Editors Cut - Episode 050 - Animation with John Venzon, ACE

Episode 50: Animation with John Venzon, ACE

Today?s episode is the online master series that took place on September 29th, 2020. Canadian Cinema Editors and American Cinema Editors presented a discussion with animation editor John Venzon, ACE.

John Venzon, ACE

John Venzon, ACE is a feature film editor who works primarily in Animated Feature films. He was the lead editor on “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”, DreamWorks Animation/Aardman Pictures’ “Flushed Away” Warner Animation Group’s “Storks”,?The Lego Batman Movie? and is currently editing a new animated feature for DreamWorks Animation.

Graduating with a BFA in Film Studies from The University of Colorado at Boulder, he made his way to Los Angeles learning his craft as an assistant editor on films from directors such as Oliver Stone’s ?Natural Born Killers? , Robert Redford?s ?The Horse Whisperer? and David Fincher?s ?The Game?, ?Fight Club? and ?Panic Room” before crossing over to animation with director Trey Parker. He is a member of both American Cinema Editors and The Academy. He resides in Los Angeles with his enormous music collection.

 

This event was moderated by Carolyn Jardina, Tech Editor at the Hollywood Reporter.

Écoutez maintenant

The Editor?s Cut – Episode 050 – John Venzon, ACE

Carolyn Giardina:

Favorite snack or drink while you’re editing?

John Venzon:

Movie theater popcorn and a giant Diet Coke. Don’t do that, you’ll die.

Sarah Taylor:

Hello and welcome to the Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out the lands on which we have created this podcast, and that many of you may be listening to us from, are part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that has long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met, and interacted. We honor, respect, and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions, and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

Today’s episode is the online Master Series that took place on September 29th, 2020. The Canadian Cinema Editors and the American Cinema Editors presented a discussion with animation editor, John Venzon, ACE. John is a feature film editor who primarily works in animated feature films. He was the lead editor on South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, Dreamworks Animation, Ardman Pictures, Flushed Away, Warner Animation Groups, Storks, the Lego Batman movie, and is currently editing a new animated feature for Dreamworks Animation. Graduating with a BFA in film studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder, he made his way to LA learning his craft as an Assistant Editor on films from directors such as Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer and David Finch’s The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room, before he crossed over to animation with director Trey Parker. He’s a member of both American Cinema Editors and the Academy. This event was moderated by Carolyn Giardina, Tech Editor at the Hollywood Reporter.

[show open]

Carolyn Giardina:

I’d really Like to start with animation editing. It’s often described as being different from live action editing in the sense that in live action you shoot first and then edit, and in this case, it’s almost the opposite. You’re almost edit first, and then produce if you will. 

 

So would you take us through the process and some of the key considerations that you have when you’re working on these movies?

 

John Venzon:

I find it really interesting when I talk with people who go, “What do you even do? In animation, don?t you, isn’t it you just animate it? Do they hand you the shots and you just cut off the slates and put it together?” And by the way, I never take offense at this because even fellow editors who have cut many, many movies will say to me, “What do you even do?”

And the best way I can think to describe it is to say to the fellow editors, imagine you get a phone call saying, “Oh, I want you to edit my next movie, but  you know what we’re going to do is we’re to spend the next two to three years with you, me, the director, the writer, the cinematographer, and we’re going to make the movie in the room, just us as a group, over and over and over again, making sure that we like the story and making sure we have the flow, we understand where the act breaks are, and that it has real emotion. And only after that time, do we feel like, yes, we’ve gotten the story, right, we then shoot the movie.” Which, I think, is a really wonderful way to spend a couple of years, especially when you feel a kinship with the team you’re working with.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Now, tell us a little bit about the collaborative process and also the timeline. So, as you go through these stages, who are you working most closely with on the team? You mentioned the writers, you mentioned the director and from one of these, this could be a year or more. So would you give us a little bit more of a sense of what it’s like to be in the trenches?

 

John Venzon:

Each one of these stages, I have a central partner, in addition to my director, that I’m spending the majority of my time with. The first stage being story, I typically work with the story department and they have a main storyboard artist who’s usually called the head of story. That person is kind of like a junior director for the storyboard team. Obviously, everything we’re doing is in conjunction with the director. The director in an animated movie serves the same purpose as a director in a live action feature, but just a little bit different specialized position, because they have to understand every stage of the process. Whereas I think in live action, you can tend to rely more on say your cinematographer if you don’t understand camera. But if you’re in animation, you have to know, deeply, what a 50 millimeter does to your character’s face as opposed to 150 millimeter lens.

And so, as a result, I tend to find that animation directors tend to have a broader base, not always, but that tends to be the case. But in working through the story, we go through, we put up the script, and storyboard artists are almost like co-editors with me because they’ll go through and they’ll storyboard the sequence. And by the way, just to put it in a way that that makes sense, in live action, storyboard artists really exist to help with the cinematography, whereas the storyboard artist on an animated film works as a cinematographer, as the co-editor, and as the actor, because they have to act everything out.

And from my part, when I’m in storyboard, I’ll get a sequence, and I’m sure just even in that little clip right there, it’s a very short shot. And if I were treating it as a live action editing situation, that would be one cut. But in fact, that’s five to 10 edits internally because I’m cycling between the boards to indicate movement. And those timings will then carry forward to the animators once they get it, to kind of see where I’m timing the acting change ups. And the director will work with me to say, “Oh, hey, you know what? Let’s have his face turned from happy to sad a little bit later.” So we’re actually getting to be really granular. And we’ll go through and we’ll do temp voices, which are a lot of times people who are in the editing room with us. People at the studio who are actors will come in and do voices for us, and we iterate over and over and over again because we have screenings where we’ll sit down and we’ll watch the script, full motion with the storyboards, the voices, the sound effects and the music.

And we’ll say, “Oh, well, the first act is great. That feels about right, but what is happening in the second act?” And by the time I get to the third act, I’m just way too confused. So we’ll rip it apart and go, “Okay, where is it broken?” And we’ll end up going through and redoing storyboards, maybe sometimes we’ll go through and we’ll combine characters. A lot of times, in the script, we’ll realize, like on the movie Shark Tale, there were two mafia type characters, one that was going to be voiced by Martin Scorsese, and one that was going to be voiced by one of the members of the Sopranos. And we realized watching the film that we only needed one mob character type. And so we ended up combining the characters and moving the story points onto the Martin Scorsese character. And these are things that you discover as you go through.

So what ends up happening is, I also, when I’m cutting these things, I’ll look at what the storyboard artist’s pitch is, and I’ll say, “Oh, we could use a closeup here,” or, “I’m a little confused here,” or, “I’d rather be wider here.” And so the board artists and I will kind of figure out how to adjust the timing and the composition. I’ll take it and then cut it, and we iterate over and over and over again. I like to think of the Avid as the world’s most expensive typewriter, because we’re basically just rewriting the movie as we go.

Then after we get done with that, we’ll say, “Okay, this feels good,” then we’ll bring in the actors. In the case of the Lego Batman movie, it was Will Arnett as Batman and Zach Galifianakis is the Joker, and we’ll record the movie with them. And this is the case with a lot of comedians or improv actors, you’ll end up getting stuff that was never in the script, and you’ll go, “Oh, that’s a great bit.”

And I’ll talk more about cutting improv a little bit later, but the idea is that we then look at the movie, again, and we say, “Okay, great, this scene is working and we’re going to move it into the layout” which is the stage where you saw the digital mannequins, that’s really when we shoot the movie, and it gives me the second chance to edit the movie. So I am editing the movie the first time in storyboards, and then I re-edit the movie completely because once we get in with like a real 50 millimeter lens, I’ll say, “Oh, you know what? We can’t see quite as much,” or, “The Joker, the guy was standing in front of the camera, and the little guy was way in the back doesn’t work.” So we end up having to reshoot the movie and recut it.

Sometimes we’ll combine shots, sometimes we’ll do things that are too labor intensive for a storyboard artist. Like a steady camera, [a viper] like a moving camera is really labor-intensive in storyboards, but in layout it’s much easier. Then we go through, we recut, we write new lines, so we’re still rewriting, as needed, up to that point.

And then we go into animation and that’s where the dollar values are double. It gets really expensive. So the further you go along, you want to get your story really dialed in because it gets to be really expensive. So, and the animators are, as I said, in the clip, they’re really the actors of the movie. It’s really interesting because if you think of a character, I’ll just think of Will Arnett in Lego Batman, he really had two actors. It was Will Arnett as the voice, and then you had all the animators that were working to kind of pose him and do the change ups. And the animators are looking at the timing that the director has approved and the storyboards kind of give rough timings, but that’s really where they bring it to life. And lengths will change, and we’ll kind of get it to a place where we’ll say, “Okay, that’s it, the scene, that’s exactly what we want from the scene.”

And then we go into the lighting stage, which is really where the movie is lit. And up until that point, the textures, in CG anyway, are all kind of like digital mannequin-y, they’re really kind of gray or one tone. Well, it gets into lighting, all of a sudden everyone’s skin looks like real skin and there are real lights out there. 

And we also integrate visual effects, so pretty much, and this is where it gets crazy, in order to interact with fabric or hair, that has to be treated like a visual effect. So, that’s where everything gets integrated, in the lighting, and if you change stuff in lighting, it’s really expensive. So that’s why, for me, I feel like as soon as we go into animation, that’s when we really shoot the movie.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Before you fell in love with animation editing, you actually started in live action. So would you tell us a little bit about your experiences in live action? And then how did those experiences bring you to animation?

 

John Venzon:

I went to film School at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I had a really, as one does in your early twenties, I had a really rigid idea. I’m going to Hollywood. I always wanted to be an editor, I’m going to go to Hollywood, I’m going to become editor, and then I’m going to edit the next Star Wars movie. That was kind of what I had in my mind. And so what I found was, once I got out, I wanted to find editors whose work I really admire. So I had grown up really loving the movies that Donn Cambern had cut, the Michael Tronick, the Alan Heim, the Michael Kahn, Carol Littleton, these were the editors that really inspired me. And so I decided that if I was going to be an Assistant Editor, I wanted to have a chance to work with these people.

And I just really caught a really lucky break and got hired as an Assistant Editor on Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone’s movie, Natural Born Killers. And I was hired by Brian Berdan and Hank Corwin, both with ACE. And it was the thing where I got interviewed at 9:00 o?clock at night on a Thursday, I got the job at 10:00 o?clock on a Thursday night, and I was on a plane to Gallup, New Mexico, the next morning. And I think that was the thing, I was young enough to not realize that that’s not a normal way to live your life. And thank goodness, I haven’t really been paying attention to what seems like a normal life, because it allows you to kind of follow the things that seem really exciting. And thank goodness I did that, I made lifelong friends with both Hank and Brian and the other people that I worked on that show.

But the thing that was really interesting working for Oliver Stone and that particular group of people was understanding that you have the lead editor, but they’re not the only editor. That you can actually have a really successful film that has its own unique identity because you have multiple people putting their own creative hands into the film. And I think that that was something I didn’t really understand before. I thought it was the lone editor who was making all the editing creative choices. But, and certainly there are movies that way, and I’ve done movies that way.

But it opened my eyes to realize that there’s another way to work, which is finding people that you feel that you can collaborate with and get to a really vulnerable state where you go, “This is what I think the movie should be,” or, “This is what I think the scene should be,” and being open to having someone say, “Well, have you considered exactly 180 degrees opposite from what you’ve done?” And not be hurt about that, not be upset or see that as a failure, but see it as, “Oh, wow. Well, wait a minute. Well, if we go completely other direction, what does that do?”

So that led me to, after Natural Born Killers, going to work on a movie called Little Giants, which was edited by Michael Tronick, Billy Weber, and Donn Cambern. And I got to assist for my editing idols, it was amazing. And that was kind of the beginning, my career really started to take off because I got to know more people. And I got a chance to, because of that show, it was an Amblin film, I was a known quantity to Amblin. And so when Michael Kahn needed a Digital Assistant Editor, I got the call. And I got to assist Michael Kahn, which, for me, was like being the bat boy for the Yankees as they were winning all those World Series back in the day.

And I really got a chance to watch Michael, watch his cutting, kind of learn from him, see how he handled screenings, see how he handles directors. And I think that that’s probably one of the best things that editors can do for their assistants, which is just to be open door, to observe, and in so much as you can learn by watching, that editors have more to teach than just covering a wide into a closeup, or making sure you don’t trombone, like cut in, cut out, cut in, cut out. That’s all important, but probably the more important thing is how do you handle it when your director is having a really rough day and maybe isn’t really in a space where they can be their best creative person? When is it right to give them the space they need to kind of get to a place where they’re ready to work? And when is it important to kind of help them along? And these are all things that you kind of realize and learn as you do films.

But basically what ended up happening is after working for Michael Khan, I can’t even believe I got the good fortune of getting tapped to be James Haygood’s assistant on The Game for David Fincher. And then we rolled right into Fight Club, and here I am, like an Assistant Editor, we were doing Fight Club. I’m like, “This movie is going to be amazing. It’s unlike anything, and I’m going to be an editor. I’m going to work my way up and cut for David Fincher.” When all of a sudden the phone rang and a friend of mine from college said, “Hey, John, I’ve got this low budget animated movie. Would you like to edit it for me?”

And of course, the smart thing to do would be, “What are you, nuts? I’m not going to leave a David Fincher movie to cut some no-nothing animated movie.” But I said to my friend, “It sounds amazing, but I don’t know anything about animation.” And he said, “Nah, don’t worry about it. We’ll figure it out together.” And that movie turned out to be the South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut movie. My friend was Trey Parker, and Matt Stone, who I went to film school at the University of Colorado at Boulder with. And it was one of those things where when you get an opportunity in your life where someone believes in you, to say, “I’m going to take a chance on you. You’ve never done this before, but I like working with you.” You can’t say no.

So I ended up having to go into David Fincher’s office and say, “David, I’m quitting,” which it was maybe the hardest conversation I’ve ever had. And by the way, and to David’s credit, he was so lovely about it. And so for me, I have two movies on my resume in 1999, South Park and Fight Club, and I think that pretty much the rest of my career, it’s just all downhill from that.

So yeah. So South Park, I don’t know if folks know about South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. I’ll just tell a really quick story, just to set up what it is to have worked on the South Park movie. We started out, the South Park movie, and it was originally kind of tentatively titled South Park Goes to Hell, right? And the MPA said, “You can’t call your movie South Park Goes to Hell. It’s an animated movie, absolutely not. You have to come up with a different name.” And they said, “Well, what do you want us to call it?” And they said, “Well, submit a list of names, and then we’ll tell you what ones are okay.”

So they wrote up a list of names, and on that name was South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. And they submitted to the MPA, and the MPA said, “Yeah, that’s fine. It is up on the screen, so it is bigger, and it is longer than a TV show, and it is uncut because there’s swearing in it. So, okay.” And so they approved it, and then a week later, the MPA came back and said, “You snuck a dick joke into your title. No, no that’s unacceptable.”

And they said, “Well, you approved it.” And they said, “Well, we’re unapproving it.” And they had to get Paramount involved to say, “Look, you said we had to change the title. We changed the title, and now you’re telling us we have to change it again, no, no.” And that’s why it’s called that, to this day. Just as an aside, I debated picking Blame Canada, but I didn’t want anyone to feel like that was a slight, because honestly, from everyone who was working on the movie, we love Canadians. As a matter of fact, maybe my favorite part of the whole movie is when the Canadian Prime Minister gets to tell the US military, “Hey, fuck up buddy,” which always makes me laugh. 

 

But the reason I picked that scene is because in cutting that movie, I got to cut alongside Gian Ganziano and Tom Vogt, who came from the TV show, and they came on to cut with me on the show.

But my main co-editor on that show was Trey Parker himself. He is an amazing editor. He would always cut his stuff at school, and it felt really natural to be cutting with him. But I learned so much about comic timing from him. And you’ll see in the film, he wasn’t afraid to push me to do cuts that maybe they weren’t exact match cuts, but, South Park has baked into its DNA kind of a crappy level of quality as part of its quality, at least in the early sessions, the early parts of the show. But the reason I really picked up there was, that was the first song in the first batch of songs that Trey wrote for the movie when I realized, “Oh God, we’re making a musical because…”

 

Carolyn Giardina:

What? You have to tell us about how it actually became a musical.

 

John Venzon:

Here’s the best part about Trey and Matt. At that point, they were in season two or season three of the show, and people were giving them advice, “Look, you guys have maybe two years more on the show max, and it’s going to go off the air. So you guys need to do a cash grab, get in, get as much money as you can, and get out before the house falls apart.” And Trey and Matt took a much different approach. They felt like, well, if we’re only going to be able to do this for a couple of years, let’s do a movie that we want to do, and just do something completely bonkers. They went to Paramount and they said, “Yeah, we’re making a musical, it’s going to be South Park: The Musical.”

And Paramount went, “Under no circumstances are you making a musical. No one wants to see a musical, musicals don’t make money. This is a cute, swearing, we’re going to let you swear. That’s the deal. Go make your sweary movie. We’ll make our money. We’ll get out before this thing falls apart.” So Trey basically went, “Well, we’re making a musical.” And they said, “No, you’re not.” And he said, “Yes, we are.” And the studio went, “Do we understand each other?” And Trey said, “Yeah, we do understand each other.” And then we went back and we made a musical.

And by the time the studio got a chance to see the screening, it was too late to really do much to change it. And so they’re like, “All right, fine. Just give us something that we can put in theaters.” And so Trey, they got to make the musical, and this piece of music I heard when Trey brought it in, when I was just starting to cut the scene. And it was really the first time I realized that my friend who I’d gone to college with was not only a comic genius, but he was also a musical genius. Keeping in mind that this song is being written 11 years before he wins the Tony for Book of Mormon, right?

So I’m listening to the song and I’m going, “Oh my God, this has everything that’s wonderful about Broadway musicals. It’s not some crappy knockoff.” And so I think this is an important thing to pay attention to when you’re doing comedy, because you can imagine a less talented director doing this as a parody, because clearly it’s a parody of a part of Your World from Little Mermaid. So you can imagine a version that is just like the filthy version of that. And you might get a laugh out of it, but it’s just kind of a, “Ho, ho, I see what you did there,” kind of comedy. But Trey and Matt did something really smart. They made the character of Satan not the worst person in the film. The fictional Saddam Hussein is really the bad guy in the movie. And so by taking and humanizing Satan, and realizing that he just wants to be loved and he just wants to be genuine and be himself and be with people he feels are like him up above now. Admittedly going up above fulfills the prophecy and then Armageddon happens. So it?s kind of hard to root for Armageddon, but you do, because you can completely see the character separate from Satan, but you see the character and you understand, I know what it is to want to feel accepted and loved and not mistreated by someone who should be treating me better.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

How did the character change and evolve during the process of editing? I’m sure you tried different approaches too.

 

John Venzon:

My memory of Satan and Saddam’s relationship is being pretty bedrock to the movie. That was the one thing that changed is just making, coming up with more and more, just terrible things that Saddam would do to make Satan feel bad about himself, in being ashamed of being in relationship with him, just basically everything a bad boyfriend would do in a relationship. And just, I think that was really just finding the line between, just over the top, because obviously once they get up in the prophecy is done and the world burst into flames, it’s very bad. But that the idea being that you understand emotionally what’s going on, and that’s actually one of the things that I tried to do on every single movie, because I’ll sensibly…

When you think of bad animated movies, you think of just the cheap, disposable animated movies. It’s about two friends who find out what it means to be friends, because they want to be friends. And at the end of the movie, they’re friends. There’s no, there, there. It’s just so what. But if you can always wind your character back to something that’s super relatable to you on a basic level and either relationships or just feeling you don’t have a voice in the world or not really knowing what you want and being afraid to go out make yourself vulnerable. I think anytime you can tell a story where you reveal part of your heart, that is kind of scary to say out loud, and you can put that into a character.

People respond to that. You know, South Park is such a weird example to begin as my first animated movie, because by the time I got to the end of it, basically everything I learned could not be applied to just about any other animated movie I would do for the rest of my career. Most animated movies take between two and a half to five years to make, the South Park movie was made in 11 and a half months. Like I said, the crummy jitteriness of it is baked into the DNA. And even though it appears to be

 

Carolyn Giardina:

[it?s just unheard of] in animation.

 

John Venzon:

That is, that is super fast. So the timeline is, I’m working on Fight Club. I quit Fight Club. I cut the South Park movie. I finished the South Park movie. And then I go back as an assistant and I finish Fight Club. Because David had had a year and a half to make Fight Club, I managed to squeeze another film right in the middle of it. So that was my career. I was like, well, I’m back working for David again. I’m an assistant editor again. That was a fun adventure, I guess that’s my career. I guess it’s very confusing until I get a phone call-

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Now it wasn’t your career, because then the next step was DreamWorks animation and Aardman, wonderful comedy Chicken Run, which had also fantastic characters.

 

John Venzon:

Oh yes. And actually this is a really interesting thing that… Just going back to the idea of working with multiple editors and realizing that’s a really wonderful way to work. And actually a lot of my friends like Rob Komatsu ACE, who is one of the top television editors on the planet and just a super gifted editor, he works with multiple editors. 

 

And as they’re swapping the episodes between the two of them you make something where you all figure it out together. I’m always really in awe of how those guys and men and women on TV shows make things that are as cohesive and as emotionally effective as any animated feature or any live action feature that it actually… I find myself gravitating more to TV shows these days than movies. If I’m being honest, it feels like that’s where the really interesting stuff is being made.

In terms of Dreamworks, I get a call from Marty Cohen, rest in peace, Marty. He was the head of post for Amblin and he was head of post for Dreamworks. I worked with him on two shows and he said, “Jeffrey Katzenberg saw the South Park movie. He thinks it’s really funny and wants to know are you an animation editor?” And I said, “Is there money?” And he said, “Oh yes.” And I said, “Well, that is exactly what I am.” And I’d never really thought of myself as an animation editor. I’d wanted to be an animator kind of for a while because Looney Tunes when I was a little kid. Because I couldn’t draw, I just gave up on it. So then in realizing, oh my God, I could actually work on animated movies, as a thing, as a regular thing.

And so Jeffrey started me out on a directive video sequel to Prince of Egypt called Joseph King of Dreams, which makes sense. I do an R-rated animated movie. And then I do a Bible picture as a palette cleanser. Once they saw that I wasn’t a complete maniac, they said they needed help on Chicken Run because they had discovered that the two rats, Nick and Fetcher, were feeling like something that they wanted to have as a runner through the film. And they were working over in Bristol. Mark Solomon, the lead editor, very talented editor, along with his coeditors, Robert Francis, and Tamsin Parry. They said, “Hey, we could use some help. And we heard good things about you and why don’t you come work on it?” And so I was in Glendale, working on beats while they were in Bristol, where they were actually shooting the film.

Now, one thing I want to say about Aardman, it was a lifelong dream of mine. Well, when I say lifelong, since I saw the very first Wallace and Gromit short to be able to work with Aardman, I mean, oh my God, they’re one of the best animated studios, animation studios it’s ever been. And so for me it was again another one of those, “I can’t believe I’m getting the chance to do this.” And so I had to storyboard artists that would send me the boards, David Bowers and David Soren. And so what I would do is I would work in Los Angeles with the scratch voices. We would bring people with English accents in and they would do the characters and I would cut it together. And then once I cut the scene, I would send it over to Mark who would then integrate it into the film. And then he and Nick and Peter Lorde, the directors would work the sequences and they would give me notes and I would make changes.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Nick made up the core team and the editorial team on that one.

 

John Venzon:

Mark Solomon, he was the lead editor. So he was the main person who was integrating everything and making sure that Nick and Pete were happy with everything. And then Robert and Tamsin, who I really hope I’m pronouncing Tamsin’s name correctly. They were working over at Aardman. This is an interesting thing when you’re working on… The scene I’m about to show you is the section that I cut, but of course it goes through the process of the lead editor to make sure that I wasn?t, that my timing… And I might’ve cut it a bit more aggressive than perhaps the rest of the film. And I think that that’s… Just like a conductor doesn’t play the music but they determine the pace and to make sure that everyone is cohesive. That’s really the role of the lead editor. And so when I come onto a show, helping out, I’m always really respectful of the fact that the lead editor is determining the overall pace and tone of the film and you really want to get in and just help them out.

 

And I think that being an animation editor and maybe being a live action as well, it’s really about getting in and supporting the lead and doing good work. But always asking yourself, What’s the emotional point of the scene? What’s going on and making sure that is done in conjunction. So then that way you’re not throwing out a bunch of, “Hey, how about these jobs wakka, wakka, wakka.” And then they get it and they go, “This is pointless. None of this is on theme. These characters are doing things that they don’t do in the rest of the movie.” You have to, you have to really be cognizant of how your pieces are fitting into the larger hole.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

I was trying to get to this with the team, is you were also working with the director who was also one of the founder’s of Aardman-

 

John Venzon:

Yes.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

… So that played a big role in a lot of the creative decisions as well.

 

John Venzon:

Yes, absolutely. And Nick and Pete were both full time because this was getting close to the end of the film. So they were frantically shooting up… By the way, just as a thing about Aardman and all stop motion animation, that’s like, Corpse Bride, any stop motion animated movie, you can think of. It’s like someone said, I want to take everything that’s miserable and difficult about live action filmmaking and everything that’s difficult and miserable about animation and make one misery sandwich. Because you have to build everything and actually really build everything in real. If there’s a tiny fork in that scene, someone has to carve a tiny fork. You can’t go down to the grocery store and say, “I need a pinata, I need a fruit bowl.” Someone has to physically make those things.

And then if that wasn’t bad enough having to build sets, then you have to painstakingly make it one frame at a time. So I think that it takes a really special type of animator to really excel in stop motion. And God bless them. They make the best. I love stop motion movies. But that’s… And another thing about stop motion is you go from storyboard to finished animation. There’s no like weird middle step because you’re actually on a set with a camera and you shoot it. So you still work the film in storyboards, but you really, you go from storyboards to that’s it, you’ve got the movie and you color time it. Getting to cut something for Nick Park it was absolutely on my bucket list. It’s a thing where you just end up doing something where you think how many puns can I fit into the smallest space area?

And the storyboard artists just were reeling them off. I think that those two characters really work as kind a Greek chorus to give the audience a sense of where Ginger and Roger are in terms of their development and whether or not they’re actually going to be able to escape in time. But I think that it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t always get too bogged down in story, that sometimes you want to make sure you have fun.

And I think that that’s a good example of just getting in and really having fun. I think the other thing I wanted to say is, is that sometimes when you do jobs, you’re helping out, but it can lead to wonderful diversions in your career. Because of my work on that I ended up doing two more features with Aardman one called A Tortoise versus the Hare, and then Flushed Away, which was produced by Pete Lord, who was a co-director and one of the founding members of Aardman.

 

This pretty much this leads into the stage of my career where I call it, learn by doing. Which, when I was given the amazing opportunity to cut the South Park movie, not only was I beginning editor, but I was also a beginning animation person. And then I really needed to get in and start cutting and honing my craft and learning what, how far you could push timings. Because when you’re in storyboards that times it a little bit different than the layout, things tend to expand and slow down. And you only learn these things by cutting. And so I was at Dreamworks for another eight years after that. And then I thought to myself, I bet the world’s economy is going to collapse in 2008. I should probably leave Dreamworks and go start working in independent studios, which by the way, you can never control your career that way.

The world as we all know, can change on a dime and you just have to do what feels right. During, after leaving Dreamworks I ended up working for a number of independent studios. I got to work for Illumination. I got to cut over at paramount for a while. But the main thing was, is just getting to work with the different variety of directors, that sometimes come from storyboarding, sometimes come from animation, sometimes come from writing. And you really learn how… The person will usually direct from their strength of where they come from. And so you kind of learn the animator might not be able to communicate as well in storyboards as they do in the animation process. But sometimes you end up getting an experience with someone who comes from a writer, director, point of view, that you don’t expect. And that’s what happened when I landed at Warner Brothers to edit the movie Storks.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

John, I would really love you to talk about the use of improv in animation, because this is a fantastic example of what improv can really bring to a story.

 

John Venzon:

Thank you for bringing that up. Because the main thing you need to know about this, was the Warner brothers decided to try a different process of making films. What they decided to do was to pair a really talented live action comedy person, a director with a really talented animation director. And so I got my two dads, the amazing team of Doug Sweetland, who was one of the star Pixar animators. He animated so much of Woody in the Toy Story films, along with Nick Stoller, who was the writer director behind, Get him to the Greek, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors. And so as a result, they had two very different ways of working. Typically when we do scratch temp voices and when we record the actors, we record them in isolation. And then that gives us 100% control over overlapping dialogue. And what ended up happening is Nick said, “Well, Hey, can’t we get a couple of microphones and get the actors in and record everyone in the room together.” Which by the way, saying that to an animation person is like…. What?

We don’t have complete control over everything. And so what Nick did is he chucked the standard way of working out the window. Basically, it’s the story of Junior, who’s a stork and Tulip, who is a young woman, and they have to deliver a baby, which Junior basically just wants to get the baby delivered and go back to his life. That’s the basic storyline and Tulip wants nothing more than to deliver this baby. And Junior’s going to cut corners because he just wants this baby out of his life so he can get back to it. The thing that I love the most about that movie and the thing that was amazing about cutting it, was two things. One Nick decided to make that movie because of a really genuine life experience that he had. He and his wife were having trouble conceiving their daughter, and they were going to fertility clinics.

And it was, it was really difficult on both of them. And he remembered he had a thought that wouldn’t it be great if you’d just write a letter to the storks and they could bring you a baby, that would be so much easier. And so that inspired him to create the story of the baby and kind of getting a family a brand new baby, because it’s such a primal thing.

 

And also the fact is, is that when a baby smiles, I defy you as a human, you can be an ex-con. You can be a MMA fighter, but if a baby smiles at you, it melts your heart. There’s no defense against a smiling baby. So that was number one, that was Nick’s superpower, number one, Nick’s superpower number two is, that he loves improv. And so in getting into the room, he would get… That was Katie Crown as Tulip, Andy Samberg as Junior.

And then the wolves. And I say the wolves, all of the wolves were voiced by Key and Peele. So Michael Key and Jordan Peele came in and recorded the voices for every single one of those wolves. And basically what would happen is Nick being the writer director would write the scene and then we would get into a room with all four of them together with four microphones. And then we would read through the script as written. So we would have a pass of the script and then Nick would start shouting out improv prompts. So he would just randomly say things like, “Okay, Andy, pretend that you can’t hear Tulip. And let’s just do a pass where you go through and go, no, I can’t hear you. I’m not listening.” And then Katie would respond to that.

Or they would just turn Jordan and Keegan loose and they would just improv. And what would happen was, is that I would be in the room with Nick, with the script and I would be lining it and going, “Okay, that’s a funny thing. And Nick laughed at that.” And then we would get done with a run and I would have to turn to Nick and say, “Okay, Nick, we need to write some dialogue. So we can get from seeing the baby and fighting and then kind of getting back into the aah section.” And he would write the script on the fly and give the actors prompts. And then I would get back to the cutting room with literally five or six different versions of the scene. And it was just a matter of going, okay, not only what was the funniest, but what was also the most on theme for what’s going on with Junior and Tulip.

But the other thing is that it allowed me to exercise a philosophy. I have of instant karma for characters who are undeveloped, when I say undeveloped, I don’t mean they’re not well drawn. I mean, underdeveloped in the sense that they are not, they’ve not come to the self realization that they’re going to come through over the film. So Junior was a jerk and was mean to Tulip when, Tulip was just trying to help this baby and be a good person.

And so much of the comedy is watching Junior get hit over and over and over again until he starts realizing, oh wow, the world is bigger than just me and what I want, and actually this baby is maybe the most important thing in the world. And that actually is more important. And that’s drawing upon my experiences as a parent and realizing that at three in the morning, when your kid is really sick, it doesn’t matter that you love vinyl records or that you how to parasail or whatever it is.

All that matters is that, you know, instantly what pharmacy is open right now. So you can go get medicine, so your kid can feel better. And that those are the things that you really look for in characters. And you know, when you’re working on an animated movie, what characters don’t feel like they could be real humans. I spend most of my time, when I’m editing an animated movie, imagining those characters are people that I would see in the world rather than talking birds. And then it allows you to relate to it. And it allows you to say to the director, “I’m having a problem because when juniors coming in, I don’t believe what he’s saying because he would…” And if he’s going to say something exactly opposite, what he should be saying, I need to understand why he’s pushing. Is he saying it because he doesn’t want to deal with something or is he just unaware? And that’s really how you and the director and the writer in this case, director and writer figure out the story as you’re going through storyboards.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Could you also talk about how the voice casting went for Tulip? Because, I think that also gives you an interesting-

 

John Venzon:

Oh Yeah.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

… Perspective on the behind the scenes process.

 

John Venzon:

Typically, what you’ll go through, as I talked about the scratch voices, you’ll get either an actor or just a normal human being, who happens to be working on the film and you’ll do temporary voices. And every once in a while, you’ll find someone who is so unique and has such a… It’s so hard to point, but when you hear their voices, you go, “This is the character.” Because I think that they had always thought, “Well, We’ll get Katie Crown in, she’s a standup comedian, she’s a writer and she’ll help us flesh things out, but clearly we’ll replace her with Melissa McCarthy.” Or with whoever, whatever actress that fits the role. But we realized about halfway through the storyboarding process that she is, that Tulip is so heartfelt and wonderful.

And if we bring someone in, maybe they can replicate it, but we won’t get this specific thing. So Nick went to the studio, went to the head of the studio and said, “I want to cast this complete unknown woman because she is doing this magical thing with the film. And we really should hire her to be the lead voice” And to Warner Brothers credit they said, “Well, all right. As long as we have other people to do marketing. We had Jennifer Aniston in the film and we had Andy Samberg. And as long as we have people that can do the marketing push, yeah, we can cast her.” And it also helped that everyone really liked her in terms of her performance. Also, she’s a wonderful person. And to this day, she’s the head writer on Bob’s Burgers now. And she does voices on the show and she is, she’s a wonderful and wonderful to edit and super lovely as a human.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

And because they creative process is so collaborative it’s really not unusual to have even a director or a member of the crew end up voicing a character in these movies.

 

John Venzon:

That is correct. Improv because of the strength of what happened on… Oh, and by the way I need to mention is vitally important, that when I was cutting Storks, I was the lead editor. And just when I was working as an additional editor, helping out Mark Solomon on Chicken Run, I had Chris Cartagena and Steve Liu, who are both wonderful editors and lead editors in their own right. Came and helped me out on the show. And so it allows you to focus on one area of the film while they’re getting, say something in the second act cut together. So Jesse Averna and Christine Haslett are my current fellow editors on the film that I’m cutting right now. And I would be dead without them. And that’s the thing where you give your all, when you’re not the lead editor, because you know, the lead editor appreciates it.

And then you give your all as the lead editor, because you’ve got people who are fearlessly cutting with you. It’s wonderful when you find people that you feel that connection with. That’s how these animated movies really get made and wonderfully. Because I had done all of this editing, all this improv editing, it was about eight months towards the end of the Lego Batman movie. And they needed help working on the second and third act. And so they said, “Hey, this guy knows how to cut improv and he’s in house. Let’s have him come help out.” And that’s how I ended up getting hired onto the Lego Batman film. So basically all you need to know is this is the big finale scene. Batman and Joker have been battling through the whole film and Joker has finally decided to blow Gotham up with a giant bomb that Batman isn’t able to diffuse. The thing that’s really interesting about the way the Lego projects are done is that they have very large editing crews because at least for when we were making the Lego Batman film that we had the team in Los Angeles, and we had the animation team along with the main editors over in Sydney, Australia at [Animal Logic]

 

Carolyn Giardina:

[Do you want to give a shout out] to the main team?

 

John Venzon:

Yes, I absolutely want to give a shout out to the main team. We had so many talented editors working on that and I had to write everyone’s name down. So I made sure not to miss anyone. Well, first of all, the main editor, the lead editor was David Burrows, who was the co-lead editor on the first Lego film, really talented editor, along with Matt Villa, also an amazing editor. Garret Elkins, who was cutting on this. He also cut Anomalisa, just a [mwah], such a wonderful animated movie. [Vanara Taing], John Tappin, Doug Nicholas, and Todd Hansen, who are by the way, a team, they’re working together at, I think over at Sony right now, working with Phil and Chris on their next project over there. Along with Ryan Boucher and our director, Chris McKay, who was the main editor on the first Lego film, in addition to directing, he was also another one of the editors on this film.

And so this was really a whirlwind thing because we had to get the second and third act really up on its feet and iterate over and over and over again in a fairly short amount of time. And boy, I’ll tell you, David had his hands full along with Matt over in Sydney, just trying to get the film finished. I picked that scene because it was the culmination of something that I think Chris was so smart to do, which was how do you do a new version of the Batman and Joker story? Because it’s, I mean, 70 years or 80 years, or however many years those two have been going at it. How do you do a new version? Well, I think the way you do it is you make it a super relatable story and you borrow the arc of a romantic comedy that you have the Joker who just wants to be heard and just wants to hear, “You matter to me.”

And Batman, who is, of course, the Dark Knight in this film, is very much, “I’m a lone wolf. I talk to my low voice because I have to be by myself.” And for him, the growth in that film, which by the way, I think it’s super relatable. You can’t reinvent Batman, but you can certainly take him from a person who is isolated and only cares about himself because he has to do the superhero job, to expanding his circle, to include Robin and Alfred and Batgirl and the Joker. And for the Joker, his arc is literally similar to the Satan and the Saddam storyline from the South Park movie that if you’re in a relationship with someone who takes you for granted and doesn’t hear you, it’s really relatable because you want to be heard.

You don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who treats you poorly and just takes you for granted. And so by looking at the romantic comedy arc, it allowed us to do, to plot it. Basically, Batman in the first act saying, “I like to fight around, I didn’t say you were the only villain I was fighting. We never agreed to be exclusive.” And then kind of seeing Joker realized, well, maybe I should try and make him want me more and then finally turning his back. Yeah, I did say Matt Villa, by the way, Jenny McCormick says, Matt is, I did mention him and he’s wonderful.

Anyway, the idea being that the arc is that he has to then say, “I’m breaking up with you, Batman.” And then Batman has to get to [the point in the] story he realizes, I don’t want to live a life without having the Joker in my life, because he pushes me to be a better superhero by him being a better villain. So I think that once we got that arc in, it allowed us to really shape it. 

 

And I cut so many versions of that scene, where we protracted the breakout, the bit where the conversation kind of changed. But ultimately, in these cases, is you always have to keep reminding yourself what is the core emotion? And the core emotion is, is that Joker has turned his back and in the scene, he literally turns his back on Batman and then Batman has to win the Joker back.

And that the point is, is that he is genuine and sincere about what he says. So at any rate, that was such a wonderful experience, mostly because I was such a big fan of the Lego movie. It is cut so aggressively and I remember seeing it for the first time, I was cutting Storks when they released it, when I was at Warner Brothers, and I just saw it and went, “Oh, that is everything I want.” The jokes are furious, they come right on top of one another, and it’s probably more my taste to be a bit more aggressive in the cutting. And that’s the Lego Batman movie.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Let’s bring us to where you are now. You are busy working from home. You have [a remote] set up in your house.

 

John Venzon:

Behind my evil layer poster, you would see a giant continuity bar with all the scenes from the movie I’m editing, which I had to hide. But yes, I’m back at Dreamworks and I’m editing a movie that I often realize that when you get a project that you work on you care so much about, you really draw upon everything you’ve learned and this movie is pushing me to cut in a way that informs. Every single clip that I showed you guys now funnels into the movie I’m editing now, it is what I’m considering to be the pinnacle of my editing career. And I can’t tell you anything about it because Dreamworks will shoot me. They have snipers outside my window waiting to make sure that I’m not breaking my non-disclosure agreement.

But I can tell you it’s called The Bad Guys. It’s based on a book series from Australia by an author by the name of Aaron Blabey. And if you are a 10-year-old or know a 10-year-old, you know all about this book, it is a big hit and is really funny. And it comes out in the mysterious future. So look for it in the next a year or two.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

We look forward to it. We’re going to go to Q and A. I’m going to ask one quick question first, before we go. And there are a lot of questions that we’re going to try and get through as many as possible.

 

John Venzon:

All right.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

But real quickly, before we go to the ones from the audience. You often hear about writer’s block, but what happens when you get editor’s block? You have to get it at some point.

 

John Venzon:

Yeah. This is actually one of the real big advantage of being in animation, because when you’re cutting a scene and you feel like, ah, nothing is working and it feels like you’re pressing wet newspaper together, and nothing is sticking. I can stand up and walk to the storyboard artists, so Matt Flynn, who is one of my favorite storyboard artists who’s ever lived, he was the head of story along with Craig Berry on the Storks movie, and I’m working with him on my current movie. I can walk into his room and go, “This scene is kicking my butt. I can’t figure out, I’m doing the scene and the character is doing this, but none of the jokes are landing, and it feels like something is wrong in the movie.” 

And so [to kind of combat] what feels like writer’s block is, is that a lot of times Matt will say, “Well, okay, what’s happening in the scene?”

And I’ll say, I’m just going to make something up. The guy comes in and he says, I want everyone to listen to me, right? And it’s basically, I say, it’s driving me nuts because the audience is expecting him to walk in. And then nothing is a surprise and nothing is funny. And Matt will suggest, well, what if he does the opposite? What if we flip the scene and we make it he’s already there and he doesn’t want to talk, and everyone is expecting him to talk. The audience and the characters in the scene, what would happen if we did that? And then all of a sudden he goes, “Oh, oh, oh, that’s great.” And then we’ll hash out a basic pitch and then this is my microphone right here. I don’t know if you guys can see, this is I record all my voice stuff for the movies I’m cutting on that microphone. And we’ll get in and we’ll record the voices and we’ll cut it together using the existing storyboards.

And then we’ll call the director in and say, “Hey, we had a thought, what if we did this?” And then we’ll play the scene. And a lot of times, the director will go, “Oh my God, that’s it. That’s the problem. The audience is expecting this and they’re bored when we give them exactly what they’re expecting.” So I think that kind of inverting what you’re doing in so much as you can, inverting it and then trying it again. The other thing I do is I find work that inspires me. If I have an editor’s block, I think my friend, Melissa, who’s cutting the Ted Lasso Show, she’s wonderful. And Ted Lasso, if you guys haven’t seen it, is the best show on TV right now. It’s on Apple TV and it’s the best mix of comedy and heart. It is everything that I want. Most of the quite really talented editor or I watched The Good Place, the editors of The Good Place or the editors of 30 Rock. That’s also how I get over writer’s block or editor’s block.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Okay. Next question. You’ve been asked, if you could share a few tips on comic timing, what works and what doesn?t?

 

John Venzon:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. One of the things that I focus on when I’m cutting a scene, is I’ll try to stay as true as possible to the script, right? Or the way it’s been boarded by the storyboard artist. And I’ll go through it and feel my way through it and try and make myself laugh. I think that a lot of editors talk about how we editors are the first audience. And so I think that you have to always remind yourself that you’re the first person to see the movie and react to it. And so you have to really remember that your honest reaction, the first time you saw it, either in [dailies] or, or in my case, the first pass assemble. But a lot of times, I’ll watch the scene and I’ll shape it and I’ll shape it and I’ll shape it and still, it feels loose or flabby, or the jokes aren’t landing. And I’ll think to myself, “[ugh], this scene would be so much better if we lost that shot.”

Then I’ll remind myself, “Well, hold on. Why don’t you just try losing that shot and see if that works,” and invariably, I’ll do that and go, “Oh my God, the scene is so much funnier now,” because it’s sharper and you’re paying attention to the setup for the joke and the payoff for the joke are much closer together. And so you have to give yourself permission to go through and do the good version.

And I know this sounds really lame, but I’m just going to say it out loud. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself, hey, why don’t I do a version where I just take out the bad stuff and just use the good stuff? Because sometimes, you get really caught up in, this is the way the scene has always been. And it’s been this way a while. And I think someone liked it, but I can’t remember who and you have to go, “No, no, no, no. Set it aside because,” good Lord, we have Avids or Premiere or whatever we have copies. We can always revert back, but give yourself permission to do the version you think is really funny. And invariably, you’ll find the comic timing that way.



Carolyn Giardina:

Next question, does the storyboard timing for jokes or [inaudible] jokes stay the same into final animation?

 

John Venzon:

Sometimes it will. It usually will, if the joke is a big facial change up. So like if a person is like, oh, talking about Junior, the scene from Storks where Tulip goes, “Hey, I just realized this baby and I have the same birthday and Junior’s like, “Oh really? I don’t care.” That change up that I used, the storyboard is going from I’m really interested in what you have to say. I don’t care what you’re saying. That timing stayed very specific of the timing of the board there into animation.

But I tend to pay attention to change ups, big change ups like that or the change up gets a laugh. And I tend to be a bit more less uptight about other elements that the animator is going to do a much better performance because they have the full range of motion of the body of the character. So I tend to remind myself to stay open and not be too rigid about mandating, “Hey, you didn’t do it exactly in the [boards].” Only do that when you get to a place where you’re like this used to get a laugh and now it’s not getting a laugh.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

As an editor, do you ever struggle with the director to get your point across? I think the question is, how do you explain, convey a decision to a director?

 

John Venzon:

The interesting thing is the question under that question is how can I make sure the director hears me? That I want to make sure… I think because that’s the thing that we’re all creative people, and when we do a cut of a scene, we’re really putting ourselves out there. I mean, we’re really taking a risk and maybe we’re thinking, “I know the writer wanted this, but I feel like the movie has changed. And actually this actor or this voice has changed the nature of the film. And actually, I really want the director to hear me when I say the old way that everyone has been holding onto doesn’t work anymore.” That’s an old version of the movie. And that happens a lot in animation because we’re throwing things out and reinventing things. And a lot of times, we call it vestigial organs that stay in the film, we’re like, we don’t need that placenta anymore.

That placenta was for an earlier version, we don’t need it anymore. And sometimes, you can really be nervous about stepping forward and saying, “Hey, we don’t really need it.” Or maybe it’s a thing where you have a director that has a really specific idea about something and then they don’t really want to be open to it. There are two ways that I approach it myself. And again, this is just John [Venzon] and ACE, your mileage may vary. My feeling is do the version they’re asking for always. Always do the version they’re asking for, because here’s the deal. Let’s say I have a really rigid view on something and I’m like, “No, that guy’s wrong. He’s super wrong. When I play the scene, he’s going to see how wrong he is.” Because the thing is then you put the director in a position where the director has to go, “Come on, stop being a jerk. Just please show me the version I’m asking for.”

And then you’re like, “”All right, fine.” And you do it, right? And it works. Oh, oh, you’re an asshole. That’s terrible. Or that’s option number one or option number two, you do it and it works, and you’re the genius who made the director happy, or the director sees it and goes, “Oh, oh, that didn’t work.” I had an idea that didn’t work and then you say, “Well, hey, here’s what I was thinking; another way we can go or options.

 I tend to use language like options or suggestions or what if we tried, because the idea is, is that we’re not like this warring state, we’re a team. And I mean, there’s diplomacy. And I think that’s a big part of it. I tend to think of the director and editor as the mother and father of the film, that the film is our baby.

And that sometimes, the dad is completely right and sometimes, the mom’s completely right. But the truth is, is that you both want to have a voice in how your child is coming along. And I think that it’s a matter of if you say to the director, “Hey, I’m going to totally do the version you’re talking about. I’m super onboard with this, but what if we tried this as an alt?” Use words like alt, so then that way, you understand that the director hears you say, “I’m super on board with what you want to do. I just want to give you options.” Because that’s ultimately what we do as editors.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

We have a question about the difference in assisting for animation vs live action. How [are they] same or different?

 

John Venzon:

I was only ever a live action assistant. And so my whole experience of seeing animation assistance is from the editor’s point of view, but I can tell you what the… The assistance that I’ve seen that have been since gone on to editing. I can kind of tell you the things that are consistent with them instead of loading dailies, you’re loading individual storyboards. And I mean, tens of thousands of drawings go in to make a movie. So you have to basically import and keep track of all of that. The scratch that you’re recording is like hours and hours and hours and hours of voices that you’re going to throw away. And then hours and hours and hours of voices that you have to track. So I think that consistency and strong organization is consistent across the two. It’s just your media management is a little bit different, but turnovers to sound are the same, turnovers to composer, prepping for screenings.

You’re seeing cuts. By the way, one of the big advantages of working in animation as an assistant is that our films tend to be shorter, so your QC time is less. So that’s a plus to me, as a person who worked on The Horse Whisperer as an assistant editor, having to QC a four-and-a-half hour cut of a movie is a real bummer. I tend to give the assistance more to cut in animation because you’re building the scenes. The first pass at the assemble is usually the storyboard artist’s cut of the sequence. And so I think it’s important to let the assistants get a chance to cut that way, because it’s fairly organized and the shots are in the order.

Because just as I’ll take it and I’ll go through and I’ll say, okay, that’s the first pass as pitched by the board artist, but I know that we don’t want to be in a closeup that quickly, or there are three shots when we could do this in one. And that’s something I can do once the assistant has done an assemble pass on sometimes. You get to listen to a lot more music as an assistant editor in animation because we’re cooler. Maybe that’s… We have Fridays, we drink on Fridays, we have cocktails. It’s much cooler. I’m sorry. The answer is it’s way cooler to be an assistant editor [laughs].

 

Carolyn Giardina:

We have so many great questions. Next one is, does your temp music and effects play a big part in storyboards?

 

John Venzon:

Yes. Oh my God. That is a brilliant question. Yes. The answer is a lot of times because our visuals are so threadbare because they’re just black and white drawings, we have to really let the sound effects and the music do a lot of heavy lifting. 

And a lot of times also, we’ll record lines that we know we’ll take out once we get into animation, because you might have a character say, “I’m so scared,” that when you get into animation and you see the scared look on their face, you go, “Oh, we don’t need to say it because we completely see it.”

But I mean, we always fall prey the same way in live action that you can get into a temp love situation, where you go, “Oh, I love that piece of music,” or “Those sound effects were amazing,” And then you ended up mandating to you’re a very talented composer, or you’re a very talented sound designer. Look, just do a better version of the thing we already did. You have to realize that those sound effects and those pieces of music are just the boat you take to get to the new world. And when you get to the new world, you got to burn those boats and commit to being in the new world with the composer and the sound designer. Otherwise, you’re going to make them miserable, and you’re going to get a lamer version of the movie.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

And a related question, at what point does the composer get involved and, or do you ever use temp music tracks?

 

John Venzon:

If you look at what we call needle drop music, like songs that are going to make it in into the show, those songs might be picked and that might be in the temp version, and it might be in the final version. It’s a matter of sometimes, the composer a lot of times will come on an animated movie typically, eight months before the release of the movie. The movie I’m on right now, I just had my first meeting with the composer and I’m so excited. This particular composer started playing themes and the director and the producer and I were all just giddy with anticipation.

But so in animation, the composer like on Flushed Away, Harry Gregson Williams, started a year-and-a-half before our movie, starting to play themes. Again, animated movie released animation, the animated movie release dates tend to be a bit more flexible because they’re so complicated to make, that a lot of times, that can push the release date out and then the composer is on for a lot longer. But sooner than usual, it isn’t a thing where three months before the release or four months, you have your composer come on. It’s composer really gets to live with the movie quite a bit.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Other than the nonlinear editing system, what software must animation editors be well-versed in?

 

John Venzon:

I will tell you what extra programs I use, Pro Tools for sound design. Although you could use Garage Band, anything where you want to have a design work, if that is your side thing or After Effects. After Effects is wonderful because the storyboard artists are all drawing in Photoshop. And so you’ll have layers and you’ll be able to… Like, for example, if there’s a shot where the camera flies into the room and goes past a bunch of people to end up on a character, if a storyboard artist was drawing it, it would be like kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick.

But if you get the storyboard artists to give you the layers, you can actually fly the camera in 3D past. So it’s kind of like two-and-a-half D rather than 3D flying through up to the character. And so you can do basic animation. And I try to use those for shots where jokes aren’t landing, because sometimes, change up on the boards allows you to sell the joke. But sometimes, if it’s a gradual thing, like watching something rise, I think it’s helpful to have After Effects to be able to do basic animation to sell the boards.

Carolyn Giardina:

Next one, do you ever try to assume a particular mindset to help you edit? I’ve heard of editors that try to assume the mindset of the character in the scene they’re cutting or the mindset of the viewer, basically like method acting. Have you ever tried this or do you have your own method to help you edit?

 

John Venzon:

Yeah. To tell you the truth, the mindset I get into is reminding myself no matter what scene I’m cutting, pretending that they’re real people, that I’m in the room that that scene is taking place. And if I’m in the room, I try to listen to my own internal voice of what am I paying attention to? Do I believe what this person is saying? In other words, like if I was in the room with them, would I be looking over at the person who’s not speaking? Would I want to see them react like, oh, this guy or whatever. And then that will lead me towards how to cut that scene because it might not have been boarded that way, and it allows me to go back to the storyboard artists to say, “Hey, what would be great is if you could have this character getting more and more frustrated and annoyed as the blowhard keeps talking.” So I think that the mind state is just pretending that they’re real people and if they don’t, and I know it sounds like a crazy thing to say because I’m imagining myself in a cave with hundreds of wolves and a woman and a talking bird. But the truth is if I imagine that that is a young guy and this is a woman who is totally wonderful and not being listened to and these wolves are people that want the baby, and they want the baby, I’m imagining, what am I paying attention to?

I’m wanting to clock the baby. I want to know if… Want to know how the… In that scene, I found myself cutting it going. I want to check in with the baby to let the audience know that the baby is in no danger because that was when the scene was pitched; my instant reaction was, “Well, no mother will ever let their children watch this film because they’re saying they want to eat the baby?” How do you sell that? Well, then I imagined myself in the scene going, “Oh, if I see that the baby is okay and happy and that the wolves are doing basically the bare minimum of taking care of the baby, like putting the baby on a blanket that you feel, okay, okay, the baby’s not in any harm.” If the baby is happy, then I’m happy, and I can enjoy the scene, but that’s really about making sure that you treat everything like it’s really happening.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Do you play a musical instrument? And if so, do you find this has an impact on your editing? I can help answer that question. Yes. He is a fantastic bass player. John, how does that impact your editing?

 

John Venzon:

I’ll tell you that is a really good question. I think in so much as any one of us editors if there’s ever been a time in your life where you were like, “I really wish I’d stuck with the piano,” or “God, I always wanted to play the guitar,” or in my case, play the bass, do it because it will make your editing so much better. Just on a very practical level playing music allows you to feel change-ups in the song so you’ll know, “oh, I need to, I need to slide up the neck, and now I really need to come in hard on this beat in the song,” because then when you’re cutting music, you’ll go, “Oh, oh, oh my God I hear the change-up in the ride of the song, I’m going to sync that up with when the character does this flourish.”

And those are things that I didn’t really pay as much attention to before I started playing the bass. I’ve been playing for about six years now, but understanding tempo and being able to listen and play at the same time will help your editing immensely because it is all rhythm. It is all rhythm. Sometimes it’s visual, sometimes it’s in music, and sometimes it’s the sound of a person’s voice.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Do you start working on a film before panels or drawing? I think that means storyboards. If you get[so], what are you doing at that stage?

 

John Venzon:

That’s a good question. The answer is typically… I start on the movie, right… Probably a week before the storyboards come up. So this is where it is analogous to a live-action show where you’ll come on, maybe a week or two weeks, most before dailies start coming in because storyboards are effectively dailies. I’ll come on a little bit before the boards because I’ll need to record all the temp voices for the script. So the storyboard artists might still be drawing, but I’ll have the script, and I’ll be able to go through and say, “Oh, we need to cast a female lead and a male lead.” And then we’ll go through, and we’ll actually audition temporary voices because those temp voices have to sell the movie until we can get to a place where we have our real actors come in. And if you have temporary voices that are terrible, it will sink your movie, and you will never get your movie made.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Do you feel more connected to the story when you’re working on animation, as opposed to working in live-action? It seems like the editor or editors are involved basically from the start to finish as opposed to live-action.

 

John Venzon:

Yeah. And I’ll tell you the answer to that is a resounding yes. I feel so much more connected. When I was… And I’ve edited four or five live-action movies in my career. And in each of those films, I always felt like it was all about trying to get what was on the page implemented as best as possible because obviously, that’s what’s been shot. So I’ve always felt like these are the pieces, I can make a truck, or I can make a car, but it has to be a vehicle. In animation, I can say, “All right, we tried the truck, we tried the car, what if it’s a plane? Or what if it’s a cheeseburger?”. The idea is that because I’m there talking with the director and sometimes the writer and the story team, and we’re all working together, it allows us to go, “What’s really important about this?”, and I’ve worked on so many animated movies, including Storks, where we started out with one idea, and it changed very drastically.

 

The original version of storks was about the military. The storks were an emotionless military organization, and it was a father and son story. And we did two screenings, and we realized no one wants to see another father and son story. This military thing where the storks are all emotionless is a stone-cold bummer. And that’s when we realized, “Wait a minute, hold on, what if instead of the military, it was corporate?”. So the idea is that it was emotionless, but kind of a phony bottom-line emotionless. And once we realized that was the way to go, it allowed us to reframe the movie completely, and that’s what I’m talking about, where you have to kind of let go of the old idea, burn those ships. You’re in the new world; commit to the new idea.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Two-part question one: you ever miss working in live-action? And part two of that question is: would you recommend trying to focus your career on one genre that you love or being open to anything?

 

John Venzon:

I think I’ll answer the last part first. I think you should really be open to anything because I think anytime you have a rigid view of your career, the career you end up having will end up feeling like a disappointment because it went in a different direction. And ultimately, we never really know. I never thought 20 some years ago that I would be an animation editor, but thank God I am. I love it so much. And to answer the second part of the question is I think you… Once you start doing something, then you have that kind of spark of, “Ooh, oh, I like doing jokes this way,” or “I really like more emotional stories,” or “I like quieter things or more contemplative scenes.” You’ll gravitate towards your strengths because you’ll have success at it. And whether or not you actually get to do the thing you want to do, I still haven’t ever edited a Star Wars film.

You kind of just say, “Okay, well, that if that ever happens, great, but I’m not going to kill myself.” But I think the idea is to be open to anything and pay attention to the voice inside you, as you’re building something going, “Oh, oh, oh, this feels right.” I tend to think of the metaphor of if my hands get grabby, then I know I should do more of that. And then the ultimate thing is I do really miss a live-action from time to time, mostly because you ultimately can say, “Look, I have 10 shots, which take would you like”? The character still needs to walk into the room. There’s some kind of… Cutting a live-action film is very much like cutting the animation on a film that you’ve been working on because unless you want to go re-shoot it at a great expense, this is what we’ve got. But if the idea of working on the same film for three years terrifies you, then animations probably not for you, but it is the thing we always say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And if you can imagine, an animated movie is an enormous… Enormous marathon, a live-action feature is maybe like a 5k and a commercial is like a hundred-yard dash. So that’s… pay attention to your temperament.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

How do you find work-life balance?

 

John Venzon:

I think it’s tough for editors. I mean, I’ll be completely honest. I do my best with work-life balance, but the truth is when we have screenings, it consumes my life. I mean, I just have to go, “Well, I really would’ve liked to have gone out to dinner, but unfortunately, the director needs to see this tomorrow morning,” and you push back when you can. And you try to find people who respect the fact that you have a family or that you’re a human being with bodies that break. I will tell you that has been a big, a big surprise, a positive surprise on the animation side is that because we’re making movies for families, most people in animation have families. And so when you say, “Hey, I have to cut out early tonight because my daughter has a concert recital or I have to pick up my son from the airport,” that people tend to be a lot cooler than they would be if they were all people in their mid-twenties with no children.

And, and ultimately I ended up crossing over into animation right around the time I became a parent, and sort of working at Dreamworks for almost 10 years was great because it was stable work, it wasn’t far from my house. And so I think that… I think the idea is that you always have to be vigilant about making sure that A you work with people in so much as you can, that aren’t maniacs, and that don’t have kids. And if a parent… If you have a director that has a kid, you’ve won the lottery, because then you know when I say I need to do this for my daughter, the director is going to go, “Well, I don’t understand why I thought why you’re doing that.” So it’s, you have to… it’s difficult. Sometimes you get… Sometimes it’s a bad balance. Sometimes it’s a good balance, but we always have to keep trying.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

You mentioned television?

 

John Venzon:

Oh yeah.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Inspire to do more television. And what are the separate challenges to each?

 

John Venzon:

Television animation work is very different than live-action animation work. I would say, I would say that if you talk to Robert or to Melissa, that they would tell you that the schedules are more compressed, but you’re effectively working on a nine-hour feature film that it’s spread out over however many episodes. In animation, television animation is difficult because the compressed schedules means that you have to cut corners. Sometimes you can still do good work. By the way I’m not condemning all television.

If you look at… look at films like Avatar: The Last Airbender, or you look at The Legend of Korra, you look at like any number of animated TV series. You can do great work, but by and large feature animation work tends to be three to five years on a project. You’ll do six or seven series in the amount of time it takes me to do a feature. So I tend to like to stay in feature land just because I like to have the time to expand. But I do think the appeal of being able to get it onto something and finish it and move onto something new that has its appeal.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Do you have dreams of cutting any particular style of animated film? Is there a story you’d love to see animated with you as the editor? Also, have you ever cut a documentary, or would you like to?

 

John Venzon:

I have cut a documentary. My senior thesis for film school was an hour-long documentary I made about selling my family home. And actually, the thing that you’ll find is animation editors, and documentary editors have a lot of weird crossover in our jobs. We’re trying to figure out the story. We’re Kind of trying things and throwing things away and trying to manufacture the structure of the film out of things of disparate parts that maybe weren’t meant to go together. So I have a feeling if you’re a documentary editor and you feel like you have an aptitude, you probably would do really well in animation.

And in terms of style, Brad Bird, his films are wonderful. I would love to cut a film for Brad Bird. If I ever can. The Incredibles is one of my, if not my favorite animated movie of all time, one of boy… Anyway, so like a superheroy, Brad Birdy, Pixary thing, that sounds like something… That sounds all right for me. And also, the other style that I would love to do would be a heist movie. I would love to cut a heist movie. I’m such a big fan of film noir and heist movies. I would love to do that would make me really happy.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Speed round. We’re going to try to do a couple more before we wrap up.

 

John Venzon:

Oh yes, here we go. Give them to me, give them to me.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Will we ever see another South Park movie?

 

John Venzon:

I wonder the same thing about Trey and Matt. I mean, maybe I think tonight is the premiere of their quarantine episode. So the thing I find with Trey and Matt is that the stuff like Imagination Land was originally meant to be a feature, but they ended up doing it as a multi-part thing on the show. And so maybe they’ll never do another movie. I think that Trey has aspirations greater than South Park someday. I mean, Book of Mormon is brilliant. I can’t wait for him to write more musicals.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Favorite snack or drink while you’re editing.

 

John Venzon:

Oh, well, okay. I’m going to… I’m going to do a category. Favorite snack or drink, things that I should be eating and things that I shouldn’t be eating, things I should be eating our water, more water. My favorite snack is of course, movie theater popcorn and a giant diet Coke that, but again, don’t do that. You’ll die, but I’m trying to figure out how much I can do and not die.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Favorite actor you worked with on a film.

 

John Venzon:

This is going to sound really strange. Martin Scorsese. Martin Scorsese was my favorite actor I’ve ever worked with on the film, just because he was like, “I’m not an actor. I’m just going to talk like myself”. I could listen to Martin Scorsese for hours. So weirdly Martin Scorsese in Shark Tale.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

What are some of your favorite animated movies that you would recommend everyone watch?

 

John Venzon:

Oh, wow. This is good. Storks. Number one top of the list Storks full-stop. Well, of course, Storks, but if you haven’t seen Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, rent that it is a wonderful film. And it’s an amazing film because it’s actually really mature in the sense that it deals with conflicting emotions. You actually have characters where the villain, you see the villainy, and you’re like, “Well, actually the villain has a good point and she’s actually doing really good things for people. So she’s kind of not the villain, but she’s also doing terrible things”. And so you see everyone’s point of view in that movie.

I would say Akira, if you haven’t seen Akira, it is one of the best animes ever created. If you haven’t seen Anomalisa, which is Charlie Kaufman’s film that my friend Garret cut. It’s wonderful. It’s a movie that really sneaks up on you because it’s really about depression. It has a really relatable thing. And of all the Pixar movies, this is going to sound really crazy, my favorite thing that Pixar has ever done is the short Presto, which Doug Sweetland directed. I think that’s the best thing Pixar has ever done. And I wish they would do more stuff like that.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Someone asked if you’d clarify the difference between a co-editor and an associate editor.

 

John Venzon:

You’ll hear the expression associate editor, and then you’ll hear co-editor. I think that it really depends on how the lead editor wants to organize the show. There are some editors, and I was certainly this way on Storks, where I wanted to have my hand in every single scene because I wanted the specific execution because of the immense amount of improv and the fact is there was no script to follow. So I had to be the point person for all of it, but now the movie I’m working on right now, I have an associate editor, and the associate editor tends to be more like a junior editor, but they are, let’s make no mistake. They are editors. My associate editor, Christine, is an editor. She edits on the movie, and my co-editor, which is Jesse Averna. He is also an editor, and I’m just the lead.

So they tend to be… it tends to be however the lead editor wants to organize the show. Sometimes the associate editor will just do music and sound effects or basic assemblies. Sometimes they’re actually working with the director. The way we were organizing the show right now, Jesse works with the director, Christine doesn’t tend to work with the director as much, basically by virtue of the fact that we have to set up remote connections to be able to drive the avid in sections. But if we were all together in the same room, Christine would probably be working with the director from time to time, as opposed to not at all because of internet connections and Evercast licenses.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Do you have any personal projects you aspire to create?

 

John Venzon:

I do have a movie. I have a movie that I have a pitch for, but I think part of me stops doing it because I don’t want to appear like, “This guy talking about his movie.” the best to kill a friendship is to say, “Hey would you read my script”? you really have to be good friends with someone. Maybe you’ve bought them a car, and then you can ask them to read their script. But I do have a comedy that I think would be fun.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

And if you could only be involved in one part of the editing process, would you choose cutting the storyboard or taking over in the animation phase?

 

John Venzon:

I have to tell you, I think my favorite part of the process is the story processes, storyboards because the way I like to work is to work with the storyboard artists because you are really, you are joined at the hip because they are co-editors they’re cinematographers, and you’re making the movie together, and you’re discovering what your film is becoming together. So if I had to pick one, it would be storyboards with layout being a very close second because then you get to re-shoot and recut the movie a second time. But this time with actually achievable shots.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

We’re done. Would-

 

John Venzon:

Yay. Thank you, everyone. This was really nice. That’s all I’ll say. I’ll say one last thing. And then you say one last thing. My last thing is I deeply appreciate everyone in CCE and in ACE coming to hear this talk. We’re weird people that work in dark rooms. And so it’s really lovely to come see my fellow editors in a discussion. And I’m really humbled and deeply appreciative that you want to hear what my experiences have been. So thank you. Thank you all for coming. I really appreciate it.

 

Carolyn Giardina:

Thank you to both organizations, and thank you, John, for being such a fantastic guest and sharing so much information and everyone; thank you for great questions. Have a safe evening.

 

John Venzon:

Thanks, everyone. Goodbye.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks so much for joining us today, and a big thank you goes to John and Carolyn for taking the time to sit with us. Special thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Nagham Osman. This episode was edited by Jana Spinola. The main title sound was created by Jane Tattersall, additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain and Soundstripe. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. 

 

The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.



Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Edited By

Jana Spinola

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blain

Soundstripe

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Commandité par

ACE and CCE

Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 047: In Conversation with Nena Erb, ACE

The Editors Cut - Episode 047 - In Conversation with Nena Erb, ACE

Episode 47: In Conversation with Nena Erb, ACE

This episode is the online master series that took place on August 25th, 2020. In Conversation with Nena Erb, ACE.

This episode is sponsored by Annex Pro/AVID

The Editors Cut - Episode 047 - In Conversation with Nena Erb, ACE

We discuss Nena’s television career which started as a PA in the art department of MADtv and has progressed to being an Emmy winning editor on HBO’s documentary series Project Greenlight and Insecure. She has also worked on Crazy Ex Girlfriend and the Apple series Little America. We talked about her work on Insecure which landed her an Emmy win in 2020 and most recently an Eddie award nomination.

This master class was moderated by Sarah Taylor.

Écoutez maintenant

The Editor?s Cut – Episode 047 – Interview with Nena Erb, ACE

 

Nena Erb:

I have a really weird method of cutting. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, tell us, tell us! 

Sarah Taylor:

Hello, and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out the lands on which we have created this podcast, and that many of you may be listening to us from, are part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that has long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met, and interacted. We honor, respect, and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions, and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Today’s episode is the online master series that took place on August 25th, 2020 in conversation with Nena Erb ACE. We discussed her television career, which started as a PA in the art department of Mad TV and has progressed to being an Emmy-winning editor on HBO’s documentary series, Project Greenlight and Insecure. She’s also worked on Crazy Ex-girlfriend and the Apple series, Little America. We’ll talk about her work on Insecure, which landed her an Emmy win in 2020 and most recently, and Eddie award nomination. This event was moderated by me. 

 

This podcast contains language and content that some may find disturbing or offensive. Listener discretion is advised. 

 

[show open]

 

Sarah Taylor:

Welcome Nena Erb ACE. We’ve got to add the ACE. It’s very exciting. 

 

Nena Erb:

I don’t know, CCE sounds kind of interesting too.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Well you’d have to move to Canada, but that’s okay. You can have both. Thanks so much for joining us today. We do have lots to cover. We have some clips to show, lots of questions to ask. But first I’m going to give a little bit of a bio on Nena. She is an Emmy winning editor based in Los Angeles. She has edited projects for HBO, Apple, Universal, Killer Films, and many others. In 2016, she received an Emmy award for her work on HBO documentary series, Project Greenlight. In addition, she has received two ACE Eddie nominations for her work on season three of HBO’s comedy drama series Insecure, which is what we’re going to talk about today. Well, season four.

And the other would be for CW’s acclaimed, a series Crazy Ex-girlfriend. Nena’s received her second Emmy nomination in 2020 for her work on season four of Insecure, which I was really excited that I had got to know Nena through back and forth about doing this event. Then I saw that she was nominated for an Emmy and I got really excited, and I was like, I emailed her in the middle of the night, “Congratulations.” So congratulations to you.

 

Nena Erb:

Thank you so much, and thank you for having me. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yes. I’m so glad that you could Join us today. So to get things going, tell us where you’re from and how you ended up in this world of film, television, and specifically editing?

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I’m originally from Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan but we pretty much grew up in South L.A. and I’ve been there ever since. I didn’t go to film school. I went to art school and ended up being a PA in the art department on Mad TV and did that for a while and bounced around production. Nothing felt the right fit, so I just kept trying different things. It wasn’t until I was working as an associate producer that I really understood what editing was about, because the editor I was working with he completely opened my eyes and then showed me how you can shape characters and change the tone, and how much control you have over the story. 

Of course after that, I was like, I was hooked. There was no turning back. So I learned the software and he was kind enough to hire me as his assistant, and here I am many, many years later. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What was one of the first jobs you had that made you be like, “I am an editor now. This is it. I’m a real editor.”?

 

Nena Erb:

Gosh, it’s so hard to say because honestly there are days when I’m not sure that I’m an editor on a show for the first time, whether it’s a pilot or if I’m in a first season show or even my first season on Insecure, which is last season, I wanted to make sure that I did a really good job. When you’re new, you want to make sure you fit in. You want to make sure you’re getting the tone right, the pacing right, the look right. All of it has to be … You have to blend in seamlessly with the team and your work has to be seamless. 

And so yeah, whatever I’m in those environments, I don’t feel I’ve made it until the first screening, and until I know that the producers are happy. Then it’s like, okay, I’m okay. I’m good. I can keep editing.

 

Sarah Taylor:

I feel that’s a really common thing that happens is like, because every project has a whole … Because everything’s different. You have different people to work with, different stories to tell, and then once you get the ball rolling, you’re like, “Wait a minute, I got this. It’s okay. I know what I’m doing. This is great.” First I want to ask, because you started doing more work in unscripted, is that right? And then moved to scripted. How did that process work from being an assistant or an editor in the unscripted world and then making that jump to be in scripted? Because I feel a lot of people will want to make those transitions, and so how did yours work?

 

Nena Erb:

Well it took a long time, easily a span of like 10 years. What happened was I had started in non-fiction and there’s a show called Curb Your Enthusiasm that came around, they were looking for an assistant. I thought this is the perfect chance for me to get into scripted television. I interviewed. Didn’t get the job.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Darn it.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

I was like, “I didn’t see that one. That was exciting.” Anyway …

 

Nena Erb:

Didn’t get that job at all. But the interesting thing is I befriended the editor. His name is Steve Rasch ACE, and I became friends with the associate producer whose name was Megan Murphy. And we just kept in touch, and at one point in the season they needed some extra help for a short, very short term. I went in there and helped him out, and that kind of took my friendship with them to a different direction. Steve became my mentor, Megan became a really good friend and a champion. After that I think Curb wrapped, she took a job on a reality show, and I happened to be on that show.

I didn’t know that she was … I knew that she worked there, but I didn’t know she was keeping an eye on my work. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh wow.

 

Nena Erb:

She was just secretly watching my cuts and evaluating me, I guess. After that she had a show that also included improv comedy, and she knew that I could handle copious amounts of dailies with different lines and the camera everywhere else, so she brought me on and that was my very first scripted credit. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What was that show? 

 

Nena Erb:

Lovespring International. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Then have you worked with her since then? Have you kept that relationship going through the years? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, definitely. She’s hired me to do music editing for one of Jeff Berlin’s movies. Then later on she hired me to do some editing for one of his movies as well. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

I think that’s something to be said about our industry too, is that you make those connections with people and you become their friends or you just you’re friendly with people and they want to work with you because they like you right? And they want to keep bringing you back because they want to spend time with you and you do good at your work and all that stuff so, something to be said about making sure we keep our relationships good with people in the world in the industry. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, definitely.

 

Sarah Taylor:

So, I?m curious as every editor I think has slightly different processes on how they handle dailies, and when they get to look at scripts, or how they look at the notes and all that kind of stuff. Do you get to have a look at the scripts before you start? Do you have any input in scripts, or the scripts before you get to start post? It’s probably different in TV because it’s a pretty fast turn around and the writer’s room is happening now for Insecure, but you’re not part of that. So yeah. What is your process with that? Do you get to be part of the table read, like that kind of thing? Then what happens once you get in the edit suite and you start cutting?

 

Nena Erb:

Typically I’m usually getting the scripts a day or two before the table read. Unless it’s something really, really glaring, we don’t really chime in about the scripts. There’s a whole team of people that get paid to do that, so I’m just happy to read it and show up with a table read, show up at their tone meetings, and then once the dailies come in, what I’ll do is I’ll watch everything including just the nothingness in between resets, because I’ve found reaction shots that have bailed me out many times in those moments. I watch it from the first frame to the last frame. As I’m watching it, I’m cutting it in my head too. And of course, if I love a performance, I’ll just make a note of that or I’ll put a locator on it. After that I start cutting. I have a really weird method of cutting. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Ooh tell us, tell us.

 

Nena Erb:

I like to do multiple versions of every scene. Because sometimes there might be two or three performances of a certain line that I like, so I’ll have different versions with different performances, different ways to get into the scene, out of a scene. My first pass is not perfect. I’m just trying to put it all together, put the bones together and then I’ll move on. The next morning while my assistant’s prepping dailies, I’ll come in and I’ll watch all those different various scenes. And it always happens that there’s one version that’s going to jump out, or maybe parts of one version end up another. Once I pick those versions, then I clean it up and polish it and make sure it’s perfect. 

Usually by then dailies are ready for the next day and it all starts over again.

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a really great way of doing it, because then you have those fresh eyes on it in the morning time where you’re like, in the heavy of it during the afternoon or whatever the day before, and then you get those fresh eyes and yeah things do pop out right?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Have you ever found that with doing that process where you have all these different variations of the same scene that you have been able to audition them for the director if they’re like, “Oh, something doesn’t feel right.” Do you bring those other versions up and say, “Oh, I tried it this way.” or is it just go away because you’ve already picked your favorite? 

 

Nena Erb:

Sometimes. Very rarely, but sometimes I’ll have two versions that are just like, I can’t pick. Either one works. If that’s the case, I’ll pick one that might reflect the script more, and just so … because I know that writers want to see their words on it, so it’s kind of important to present that. And then as you know when you’re cutting, there’s always things where like, “Hmm, that’s got a bull’s eye on it. I know that people are going to bump on that,” or those parts kind of like, “It’d be better if those lines are switched.” I have a log of all the scenes, and there’ll be a version of that. And if they’re in the room and they’re like, “I’m not so sure about this area right here.” I will say, “You know what? Let me show you this other version I was working on. And that’s when I show it to them. Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

What’s your typical schedule for, like I say for Insecure?

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I usually start cutting the next day so I can stay up to camera and make sure that nothing is missing or that there’s no issues with the dailies. Then after the last two dailies, we have three days to finish our editors cut, typically like two days for editing, the last day’s reserved for music, because music is a huge thing and it takes a long time. After all the songs.

 

Sarah Taylor:

How is your relationship with your assistant? What stuff do you rely on them for in your process? 

 

Nena Erb:

Oh my gosh. My assistant is amazing. She’s my teammate. I bounce things off of her often and especially with music because sometimes you’re like, I love all three of these songs, but I know I can’t put three right there, so I’ll play them for her and she’ll usually help me narrow it down. And sometimes I’ll realize once we’re narrowing it down, like, “Oh wait, this song would actually work great in another scene or another episode.” I trust her opinion and I’m always … We have an open door policy. She cuts whatever she is drawn to. We work on it and yeah and once she cuts something, I’m very open to putting it in the episode and screening it with the producers and directors.

Sometimes I’ve been able to convince directors to let her jump in and get a little practice in to do notes. Because it’s easy for me and her to work because it’s very … we have a relationship, a friendship. I think when you’re on the hot seat with a director who’s breathing down your neck, it’s a whole different experience. It’s something that I think it’s important for them to go through, and so I’ve done that to her a few times and she’s done amazing all those times. So yeah, I definitely treat my assistant like a number of the team. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Have you used the same assistant for a long time, or is it depending on the show that you’re on?

 

Nena Erb:

I’ve been working with Lynarion for about three years going on four, I think. Prior to that I had an assistant for, I think one season, it was … I walked into a pre established show that had an assistant that they wanted me to use. Then prior to that, I had an assistant for about five years. I try to work with the same people.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Now when also comes to your process and stuff. Is there anything that you need to have in your edit suite or that is a must have shortcut or something that you do all the time that if you didn’t have, you’d be like, “I need that thing,”?

 

Nena Erb:

I mean there are so many things.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Well, tell us the things. I have many too. 

 

Nena Erb:

I like to have my tea there. I like to stand, I like to have my bench a certain way so that people aren’t behind me. I have it setup, so I’m able to talk to them face to face. It sounds really strange, but it works great. I highly recommend it. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Do you have a monitor behind you for them to screen …? How does that set up work? That sounds really good. I’m curious.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. Pretend your desk right now is your [inaudible] right? And I’m the producer. I’m actually sitting this way, but I can talk to you and then he’d be right there. For them it’s like a living room area you know?

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah.

 

Nena Erb:

For me, I can … Once I do something, I can poke my head out and talk to them about stuff. I just think that it’s better when they can see your face. But I just think that it’s … when you can see someone’s face when you’re working on notes and stuff, I feel you can establish a rapport quicker. Trust is built quicker too so …

 

Sarah Taylor:

And then can you watch them when they’re watching easier that way? Like you could see their reactions and be like, “Oh yeah, I was right. That’s not working.”?

Nena Erb:

Yeah. I try to watch them, but I don’t want to be like … You know? Because then they’ll feel very self-conscious. But I always like sneaking a little peak, and especially in areas where I’m not 100% sure that it’s working, so…

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a good technique, and you’re usually always cutting in AVID. Is that your main software? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yes definitely. Yep. I wanted to teach myself Premiere during COVID, but I kinda never got around to it.

 

Sarah Taylor:

There’s a lot of things that we have to sort through during COVID so I can understand that. Is there a project that’s been maybe stood out to you either because it was super challenging and then you had to overcome something to make it be whatever it ended up being, or it was like, “Hey, this works really good. It’s smooth sailing.”? I don’t know if that ever happens, but has there been one thing that’s really stood out to you? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, yeah. It was last year, I worked on a series called Little America. It’s a series that I don’t think would have gotten made even five years ago. It’s a series about the immigrant experience. Each episode is completely different one could be comedy, another one could be drama, and so as an editor, it’s really nice to have all those different genres to stretch your creative muscle. For that, I mean that I loved just the ability to be able to jump between the two genres, and also I’m an immigrant and I never thought that I would be working on a show that’s about the immigrant experience, something that I’ve actually gone through and I can relate to. 

I love that the show runners, they didn’t want to paint them as stereotypes that you normally see, you know? So that was great. It was great to be able to humanize them and show them as normal people. It was?I think there’s a lot of criticism about the show because we didn’t involve politics, but I think that it was important for them not to do that, because it’s not about an agenda for us. It’s just about showing immigrants as normal human beings. Someone that might be related to you. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I really enjoyed the series. I think if you did include the political side of it, then people who might not have watched it and then might have realized, wait a minute, that person is like me, or made it relatable. I, of course, watched year two shows episodes, which I loved. Do you want to talk a little bit about, was it called The Silence? That was the episode title, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

For people who haven’t seen it, it’s an episode where basically the whole thing takes place at a silent meditation retreat, so really there’s no dialogue. But Nena did a brilliant job, and it was funny, and there was … It was so good. I was laughing then I was crying. It was great. Anybody who hasn’t seen it yet, please go watch Little America, The Silent. And then the other one was called The Sun?

 

Nena Erb:

The Sun yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Which was heartbreaking, but also very good. How did that work for you, to cut almost … They were 30 minute episodes, right?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

With really no dialogue. Did you add sound effects? Were you shaping the soundscape and all that stuff? Because man, it was good. There was lots of good moments. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever edited so far. I’m sure there’s going to be harder things coming up. But up until now, that’s probably the hardest one, because there is no dialogue. Certain times the performance can be really subjective when there isn’t dialogue surrounding it, propping it up. The first cut came in a little along, it had a lot of different storylines, and watching it felt like you’re just watching a documentary. Not really sure who the main characters are, or who you’re supposed to be following, because you’re following multiple people. We slowly chipped away at it, chipped away at it. Because in the beginning there was a scene with dialogue that set up everything. 

Then in the middle there was a little more dialogue, and then there’s all the dialogue in the back. Through experimentation we got rid of all the dialogue in post, and we had to get rid of many, many different characters stories so that Sylviane’s can rise and you end up realizing, “Oh, I’m supposed to be following her. This is her journey as a seeker. She’s here, she’s looking for love, she’s looking to belong. That story finally bubbled up to the top after 50 some odd versions. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Wow. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, it was … We did a lot of different versions. I think I did like 10 one night. It was ridiculous. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Wow. Well you wouldn’t tell by watching it. It looks great. I liked that there was no setup. Right? I feel like you guys … Yeah, you did a great job of … Everybody kind of has … Maybe not everybody, but there’s a vision of what a silent meditation looks and there’s like … You’re like, “Oh, okay. They’re not talking. Okay. Yup. That’s how it goes. Yep. This makes sense.”

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. Lynarion, my assistant, she did a phenomenal job with the sound design. She really did. It was so good that when we got to the stage, I think we had to go back to what she had a lot of times.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Nice. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. That was an interesting mixed day. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

You’re like, “Actually it was better before, sorry.”

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. They were great with it though. Cool, very, very understanding of it. They were able to still add their own little touches, but yeah, she knocked that out of the park. The sound design was so great. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It was really good. Did you want to talk about The Sun and how that came together, that episode?

 

Nena Erb:

That one came together more traditionally I think. But of course, anything compared to The Silence and all those versions that we did seem easier. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but … But yeah, that one was … It was interesting for me because I didn’t want to demonize Syrians. It’s about a Syrian man who seeks asylum because his father discovered he was gay and is trying to kill him. It’s a heartbreaking story. At the same time it was very important to the director and to myself and producers to make sure that we didn’t shamed him into that, “Oh, you should be more accepting,” kind of a role. We tried to explain why these mercy killings or whatever they’re called are done in that culture. That was, I think, probably the most eyeopening experience for me to be able to really scrutinize all the different performances to make sure like, “Okay, this is emotional, but not too sappies.” Because you don’t want to like … anything too syrupy. 

When the guy’s explaining why the father is hunting him. And also we couldn’t be too angry either. Then now you’re demonizing the father and the whole culture, religious reasoning behind it. For the tone it was really tough to find the right balance, but I think we did okay. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I think that’s such an important thing to talk about and that you have those discussions because it’s so easy and in a lot of media, it’s so easy for that to be … Well, you’re just, you’re the bad guy period. But he’s a whole human and there’s reasons why he believes a certain thing, and there’s culture, and there’s religion, and there’s … We all have good and evil. It’s good to have stories that where you see, well that’s really crappy, but also I can see where he’s coming from right?

 

Nena Erb:

Right.

 

Sarah Taylor:

I think we definitely, as editors can help shape those things. And yeah, you’re right. The fact that you took that time to really look at all the reactions or all of the takes and say to you know … To be thinking about that while you’re cutting, because that could be lost on … Other people might not, or if that’s not brought up in whatever you might miss it and then we’re telling a completely different story. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. Definitely.

 

Sarah Taylor:

It’s a reminder to all the editors out there that we do have a lot of control in the edit suite. We can really shape things to be impactful, I think right?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, I think you did a fantastic job on that one. 

 

Nena Erb:

Oh thank you. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

So yes, everybody, please go watch Little America. It was a really great series. Highly recommend it. Apple TV. Well, speaking of things to watch, so Insecure. This was season four. Yes. We’re watching clips from season four. I’m a huge fan of Insecure, and when I was looking to see who we could bring on for the master series, I discovered that Nena had cut Insecure and I got very excited. I was like, “We must interview Nena.” Then I saw all of her other credits and I was like, yes, she’s got lots of good stuff. This is great. I’m a fan of, and familiar of your work and a fan of your work. We have a few clips to watch. Do you want to maybe set up the series and we’re going to watch self-care Sunday as the first clip, just so in case people haven’t seen it or…?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. This is episode six. It’s basically the first few scenes of the episode. It comes after the block party episode where Issa and Molly, her best friend, they have the big blow out. Of course neither wants to apologize to the other, because they all feel like they’re right. Even though the block party was a huge success in this episode, Issa’s feeling a little empty, and she’s missing her friend. And so throughout the entire episode, she’s constantly checking to see if Molly’s called and Molly hasn’t. This is her kind of … We’re not going to show this part, but the episode’s all about her trying to prove that she’s not a selfish bitch. What we’re about to see is the aftermath of a fight that happened between her and her best friend.

 

[clip plays]

Bitch, do you hear yourself? Nobody has more drama than you, Issa. You still the same selfish bitch you always been. You need to figure out your shit and stop using people.

Last night was lit. 

When’s the next one? 

Where were those bomb tacos from? 

Thought that shit was going to be whack.

But that shit was tight. 

The most fun I had an Inglewood in a minute. 

I can’t believe Vince Staples was there.

We need more events like this. Even my grandma was out there dancing.

Tonight in the South L.A. niggas gathered for fried chicken, cocoa butter, and violence. But as always, you can count on Shannon on the scene.

Yo, just checking in on you. Don’t let that Molly fuckshit ruin how well you did today, you killed it Iss. By the way, did you invite mom, because she keep blowing my-

Hey, morning after update. It looks we are waiting on deposit returns from four vendors. But in the meantime, I did have a few questions about something that you was telling me that-

You okay girl. What was that last night? What happened with y’all. Okay this baby won’t stop crying. Why you reaching for my titty, ain’t nothing in there. Is that a Wheat Thin? That’s a Wheat Thin.

So what am I supposed to do now? 

That’s a good question. You fucked up.

I didn’t fuck up. She fucked up. 

And she got you fucked up.

Fucking right.

That’s what the fuck I’m saying. 

I should probably reach out though. 

Reach out? Have you noticed that you’re always the one reaching out and apologizing.

The fuck.

Yeah. Let her reach out to you. She’s wrong too. Effortless bars.

Okay. Yeah. But what do I do while I wait? 

Relax, relate, release. Take care of you. 

Self-care Sunday. 

I’m sorry, what? Speak up.

I said self-care Sunday. It’s when you take care of yourself on a Sunday. 

I know what that means. I read too. 

Okay. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I love the mirror talks always. They’re my favorite scenes. Tell us about this scene and why you chose it to talk about.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. I feel like every season there’s always an outlier episode. I had that in season three as well, and I feel this is very similar. There’s a lot of use of the graphics from social media, and the whole concept of the half of the screen being taken up by her brother, her assistant and social media stuff, the YouTube clip. It’s always taken up by somebody else but never Molly. It’s like the two halves and half of one’s gone. That was kind of the idea for me anyways. I wasn’t in the writers room so I don’t know what they had. But for me, cutting, I was always, I had that in mind. The amazing thing was we never discussed what any of the graphics would look, or whether it would be picture and picture or exactly 50/50 split. It went back and forth multiple times.

Knowing that that could be very, very challenging, the notes process and it could change a million times. I just decided, I made a decision, let’s just do half and half and Lynarion made all those graphics which are phenomenal.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. I think it presented well, and so there wasn’t a single note. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Nice. 

 

Nena Erb:

And all the graphics.  I had a lot of notes from the VFX team.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

 

Nena Erb:

[crosstalk 00:29:47] put that together, but yeah, I was relieved and amazed that Lynarion did such a great job with that, that we just sailed through. There’s a phone conversation that we’ll probably take a look at later, but that was also a continuation of … Originally it was supposed to be a split-screen conversation, and we tried it that way but it … I don’t know. I didn’t feel like we still needed to use a 50/50 visual language that we used earlier, because it comes from after she had her chat with her mom. So maybe she’s starting to feel whole, so I didn’t feel like we needed to split the screen. That was just a crazy, crazy concept that I ran with. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I hear you. Well, it worked, and I think, yeah, it had lots of good, good … Well, there was lots of good things of what was on the other screen. The graphics or that YouTube lady. Like [laughs]. Do you want to touch on music for this series and why music is such a big part of the series, and what that process is like in the edit suite? 

 

Nena Erb:

Sure. Yeah. Music is a huge character. Issa’s a big fan of music. She’s always said that she wants a great show, but she wants the music to be dope. We’re always trying to use artists that are unreleased or about to release when the episode drops. It’s a whole timing thing that our music supervisor Kier Lehman has to deal with. He’s been able to find all these incredible artists that I had never heard before. So yeah. We have like thousands and thousands of songs to choose from. 

Sarah Taylor:

Wow.

 

Nena Erb:

It’s got to be West coast, it’s got to be the right vibe. It’s got to sound great. It’s got to have lyrics that fit the scene. There’s a lot of different boxes that we need to tick, and so that’s why it takes forever. But I feel like we’re doing okay with the choices that we’re making. Yeah. Issa always has ideas too, because maybe she’ll be driving into work and she’ll hear a song and she’ll say, “Oh, let’s try that there.”

 

Sarah Taylor:

One question that popped up in the thing was does she ever come to the edit suite and work with you?

 

Nena Erb:

Yes.

 

Sarah Taylor:

What is it like working with her? I think she’d be really fine but …

 

Nena Erb:

She’s great. She’s super smart. She’s able to look at herself and be very objective. I know that that can be really hard sometimes for producers who are also acting in the episodes, but she’s great. The first time I worked with her, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, within minutes it felt I was hanging out with a friend criticizing what’s on TV. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. Do think that growing up … Because when did you move to L.A.? You were a young child when you moved to L.A.?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Do you think that growing up in L.A. is helped you work on the show because you are from L.A.? Do you feel that’s a benefit for you? 

 

Nena Erb:

I think so. I feel it has … South L.A. in particular that whole neighborhood that the show is based on, or based out of, was where we settled when my family and I immigrated here. So yeah. So that community has always been very, very special to me because it was our first experience in a whole new country. It could have gone south really bad but it didn’t, because like … It was incredible. Our neighbors embraced us and just helped us along. I had friends almost immediately.

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, so growing up in that area, it’s always been very special so … I love featuring South L.A. so…

 

Sarah Taylor:

I feel like that’s a really special part of the show, is that you have these really great drone shots and just street shots of the space, and it’s like a character in itself I feel like. And … So yeah, I was curious to know if there’s … what you felt there was that connection. Thinking back to when you were your young self, did you ever think that one day you’d be making a show based in that community? That must be pretty wild to think about. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, definitely. I did not think that would happen and I made it a point not to say anything in my interview because I didn’t want that to be … I didn’t want that to sound fake because it’s not.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah for sure.

 

Nena Erb:

For sure, people have like, “Oh yeah, I love that city,” and stuff, like using it in the interview. But for me it was a very personal thing so I didn’t tell Issa until we were done with season three. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, she must’ve felt … That must’ve been a special connection there-

 

Nena Erb:

Oh yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

… to talk about that yeah.

 

Nena Erb:

It’s so interesting because South L.A. changes. It’s always changing, constantly evolving. From season to season, we have to shoot new exterior’s. Things are just different. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Do you want to show the next clip? I guess it would be the phone call. 

 

Nena Erb:

This comes after an entire episode of her giving an older man a ride. He’s this prickly old man who’s making her life miserable, but she’s just trying to prove that she’s not a selfish bitch.

 

[clip plays]

Hey.

This is Kelli, may I ask who’s calling?

Kelli it’s Issa. You called me. 

I know I called your ass, but you’re ignoring me like you’re my biological father. Where you been? Are you okay? 

Yeah. I’m okay. I’ve just been busy. 

Okay. Well have you called Molly yet? 

Uh-uh (negative).

Why not? 

Because she hasn’t called me. 

So that’s it. That’s a wrap? Issa, come on. I know you’re upset right now, but maybe if y’all sat down and talk face to face, you could work it out. 

Are you giving Molly the same energy? 

Yes. I’ve been calling that bitch too. Look when me and Tiff let our shit sit too long, we almost didn’t come back from it. 

I just don’t want to be the one to reach out this time. 

Okay. So what? If she doesn’t call, y’all just never going to speak again. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I really liked the pacing in that one, and them walking and stopping and …

 

Nena Erb:

Oh yeah, yeah. That was a very deliberate choice. I wanted to make it seem like they were going to potentially meet in the middle. As a symbolism of them coming to accord and she’s going to go call Molly. But they never do meet in the middle so … and she never calls Molly. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Nothing is solved.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.  I had a little fun cutting that once I didn?t like what it looked like as a split-screen. I tried that other concept of trying to make it seem like they’re mirroring each other as they’re getting closer and closer together only they really weren’t. I’m glad that in the end Issa likes this version better. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Yeah. I think it worked really well. When you’re in this show, because the framing is very … a specific style of framing for a lot of the shots and stuff. Are you at all ever helping with that process? Where like, if it’s in the suite you’re maybe punching in a little bit or shaping things differently to make sure it fits into that vibe I guess is … I don’t know?

 

Nena Erb:

No, no. I think that look was established since the pilot, and all of our DPs and our directors have honed in on it, and they’re very aware of when to shoot these short-sighted shots and when not to. Because we don’t use them a lot. We use them sparingly. There might be one potentially two in an episode, but not … It’s typically just one. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. But it’s still like, to me when I see it just … I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s the style of the show.” It’s interesting, I’ve never actually thought to count how many shots are like that, but that there’s only one shot like that in an episode or maybe two that it still is something that I’m like, yeah. That’s part of the show. That’s fun.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

What is it when you’re hiring an assistant? Is there certain types of skills that you expect from your assistants? 

 

Nena Erb:

I have to get along with them. That’s the most important one, and hopefully they want to be a teammate. I like assistance that want to cut, because I like having someone to bounce certain things off of. That only comes with someone who wants to be an editor, right? 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

 

Nena Erb:

Skills, they’re always evolving. Right? Because I feel like our digital media is constantly changing, so as long as they can do the normal things prep dailies, and maybe script sync scenes, that’s kind of it. Sound design is very important, but I feel like both of the assistants on Insecure this past season are Louis and Lynarion. However they have spoiled me because they’re both so good at everything. Like everything. The effects, temp effects, sound design. Like all of it. It’s going to be hard to replace Lynarion, it really will be. But she’s on her way to editing so I’m pretty excited for her. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. You’ll have to get her to be like, who’s the next person like you come my way?

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. She’ll have to do the first round of interviews.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Have you ever had moments of creative differences with the director and had to stand your ground to get the approval for the cut that you knew was the right creative direction? 

 

Nena Erb:

No. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, that’s good. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah.

 

Sarah Taylor:

You lucked out.

 

Nena Erb:

I pick my battles. I try to see it from their point of view, and I know that the director’s cut is a director’s vision and I try to make sure that I’m able to provide that for him or her. If it’s completely off the mark, I know it’s going to get changed. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

There’s no reason to get into it with them. There’s no reason. I just want to make sure that they’re comfortable and they are happy with what we’re turning in, and putting their names on. So, yeah, I don’t get into it. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I think that’s the biggest difference between a film and television, is that the producers always have the final round. So, if something doesn’t make pass the producers, it doesn’t matter if you fought with the director about it, the producer is going to change it or vice versa, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Do you have any techniques or things that you’ve learnt over the years on how to deal with different personality types in the edit suite? Because every director coming in, every producer coming in, they’re all different. They all have their own quirks and stuff. So, how do you navigate it for yourself in the edit suite, and how do you communicate with all the different people? 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, if it’s a director I haven’t worked with before, I usually try to introduce myself either at the table read or at the tone meeting, make sure they have my contact information. I always … I offer this to every director. I always tell them …I go, “Hey, if you have a scene that you’re a little nervous about, that you’re not sure about, let me know. Shoot me an email, shoot me a text, whatever it is, and I’ll make sure that I cut that first the next day, so you can take a look at it and see if your concerns were valid, or if it was just something that you just weren’t sure, but now that you see it, it’s fine. I find that that really calms them down a lot, and it starts us off on a good foot. So, that’s typically what I do, and I always let them know like my job is to make sure their vision is realized, especially in TV. I think that means a lot to them because they don’t usually get that. 

With producers, it just comes from being in the room with them and trying to read their vibe, and understanding what their internal pacing is and what they respond to in terms of jokes or performances, and really observing them, I think. For a lot of editors, myself included, it can be a little frustrating after you’ve explored all the different avenues of what the scene could be from the dailies, and then they want to like dig into it and start from scratch because they haven’t seen all the things, but it occurred to me that they want to do that, not because they don’t trust me, but because they haven’t gone through all the different avenues that I have. I think of myself as a little tour guide at that point, and we always typically come back to the version that I had or some form of that, because I think once you get to know all the material, I mean, everyone kind of agrees on what’s working and what’s not, or at least I hope so, because you should be a good fit with your show runners. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

For sure, that helps. But that’s a good point of … I feel like maybe early on in careers or yeah, the more experience you have, the more you realize like, okay, no, I’m here as part of the team. Yeah, you do trust me, that I’m providing you with the cut that I think is right, but it’s okay for you to look at other scenes, or other takes. It doesn’t mean that I sucked at my whatever, right? I feel like it takes some time to realize that we can all … or we’re creating something together, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

And maybe, luckily … being fortunate to work with directors and producers that you can collaborate with, I think that’s a huge thing to get that confidence up for young editors or new editors, that they can work together to make the thing. 

 

Nena Erb:

Definitely. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What are your current thoughts or ideas on what you think the future of post is, now that we’re living in a different world right now? What are your feelings on where things might go in L.A. and for you in the future? 

 

Nena Erb:

Everything is uncertain. I imagine we’ll be working from home a lot more with the potential going into an edit bay, if there’s a tough scene that the director or the producer wants to work with you on in person. There’s been shows that have a protocol in place where if that is to happen, they’ll have an edit bay set up. If you’re going to go in, you’re both going to get tested. It has to happen like a week from the time that you have to in or something. Then of course, you’re sitting far apart with the mask, but honestly, I’m happy to work from home, if it means that my family and I stay safe. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah. But it’s pretty amazing how much you can do from home and how … even just Zoom, like right now. I have Zoom calls with my directors and stuff, and I was doing that before COVID, just because we were in different places. So, it is handy how our technology works. But do you feel like you’ll miss that face to face, or to have those conversations in person, or in the same room? 

 

Nena Erb:

Absolutely. Yeah. I think the rapport will be there, if you’re working with someone you’ve worked with before, but I think if you’re doing a new show with a new team, it might take a little longer for you to establish trust and get on the same page, I guess, with the other person. So, that’s going to be really interesting. I am curious to see how that’s going to go. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. As we all are. And every location is different, right? Every place that … yeah. I know more films are coming up to Canada to shoot because we have less numbers, but then it’s like, yeah, it’s just a wild. The new world. What are your thoughts about making the post-world more equitable, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and all these other things coming to light. What are your thoughts on how we can make the post-world more equitable and how we can have a different looking people behind the computer shaping these stories, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. This is so interesting. I was just actually talking to Netflix about this.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, good.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. I had just a general meeting with them and someone asked me like what I thought of including apprentice editors again, and I thought that was a great idea because apprentice editors, it used to be a thing that they would have on films. Someone that comes in that’s the entry level assistant, the apprentice, and they would learn from the two … the first and second assistants and be involved in the environment without a lot of risk. I feel like they should bring that back. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Totally. Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

That would help a lot of people build credits and have a resume, so that they can be up for jobs and be considered, because I feel like you can have diversity programs all you want, but if they’re coming out without credits, I don’t know that they’re going to get a chance. You know? I mean, everybody’s always going to say, “Oh, well, here’s two candidates. This person has a lot more credits and you’ve got none.” I think if there are apprentices and they can have like a list of credits on projects, I think it’ll be a lot more helpful. It’s similar to the DGA training program. 

I don’t know if you guys saw that up in Canada, DGA, they pick I think two or three … I don’t remember how many people they pick, but they basically put them on a feature film for a month, put them on another one for a month, put another one for a month, and then they do TV shows. By the time they’re done, they have a tremendous resume and they know how all the different genres work and they can run the set on anything. So, I think if we can do that, I think that’ll make a big difference. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’ll be huge. I think that’s something that’s just missing for a long time now, that we have come to the digital world where we don’t need to be in this expensive cutting film. We’ve lost that, where we’re passing our knowledge down as much, right? Especially in our smaller industries, like within Canada. I hardly ever have an assistant, let alone am I able to help somebody as much as maybe somewhere like in L.A. where you can have assistants. Then if we can do this apprentice thing, so many doors I think would open for people, and I think it’s so important. 

And it’s just to share our craft so that people can learn, and they’re not flailing. People are flailing trying to figure it out on their own. They could learn from somebody who has great experience. So yeah, I think that would be fantastic. I know the DGC has trainee programs, but I don’t know … I don’t think I’ve ever seen it for editing. I don’t think it’s in the editing realm, but that would be fantastic. Do you have a story of your own authorship that you may want to tell one day? 

 

Nena Erb:

No. I don’t … 

 

Sarah Taylor:

You like to help others tell stories. That’s fair. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yes. I mean, honestly, I don’t think my life is that interesting. So, I’d rather tell other people’s stories. Yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. Keith asks … his question’s about the speed of editing. Do you or any of your assistants ever take time to pick up visibility? Is it something you allow your assistants some time to acquire, or do you expect it to be right away … how fast they edit? 

 

Nena Erb:

I don’t really expect my assistants to edit fast. I know that takes time. It took time for me. I think a large part of it comes with practice, but also the ability to really understand the material that you’re working with. If you know where all the bodies are buried, so to say, I think you can solve problems quicker, and I think that’s the perception of speed. When someone’s giving your note and you’re like, oh, right, okay. I can do this, this, this, and this. It’s because you’re accessing what you know, the tools that you have to work with. Because I feel like once you’re … a quick type of … I mean, it’s all the same, right? I think really, the speed comes from how quickly you’re able to solve a problem rather than the actual physical act of executing it. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What advice would you have for a new learning film student who wants to become an editor? 

 

Nena Erb:

Oh, wow, there’s so many. Let’s see. Gosh. Well, American ACE. They have an internship program that is hugely valuable and it introduces you to all kinds of different genres, puts you in rooms. I mean, now everything’s virtual, but back when you can send someone to an edit bay, they would have you in a feature film room for a week. They would have you in an episodic TV room for a week. They would have you in a documentary reality room for a week, so you understand the workflow, and then they do a week in your mix house, your sound houses, your online facilities, so that you can understand, okay, all these things that you’re doing when you’re assisting, that’s where it goes and you understand why it has to be a certain way. So, I think it’s just such a great program that recent graduates should definitely apply. I don’t know if you guys have something similar. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

We have a mentorship program, yeah, and for the CCE that we just started this year … 2019, so last year, but going through this year, and we had a pilot project in Toronto. So, eventually we’re going to try to do it across Canada, but so, yeah, right now in Toronto it’s happening. Of course, it started pre COVID. So, we had all these things set up where people were getting to go into edit suite. So, they’re doing it virtually and stuff now, too, but it’s very similar. But more, they’ve been paired with an editor or an assistant that they’re … So, then they get to be mentored with that editor or assistant that they’re paired with. Yeah, we’re definitely trying to get that going more as a program, similar to what ACE is offering, because I think that’s huge. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. And also, I think the interesting thing is, with everybody being home because of COVID, you can reach out to people whose work you admire because chances are they’re hanging out. They might be open to just having a Zoom coffee with you. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

I think so much of this business is about relationships. I would just make it a point to reach out to someone new once a week or once a day, if you’re really ambitious, and yeah. Get to know a lot of people, establish and foster the friendships, and eventually they’ll become your network and they’re going to be able to help you move up, move around. So, all that, in addition to trying to cut as much as you can for practice, those are all things that I would suggest. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome. Can you speak more about the interview process? How do you prepare and what’s the best piece of advice you would give to put your best foot forward in an interview? 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I typically try to get the script, if it’s a new project or a pilot, and I’ll read it a couple of times. I always try to think, okay, for this scene … if I have questions, I write them down. If there’s something that I really connect with, I write it down. If I can think of music that would go great with the scene, I write that down. You want to come in with questions about the characters, the story. You want to bring something to it as well. So, maybe that’s a music thing, maybe it’s something else that you’re envisioning, or maybe you read the scene and you suddenly have a concept of how they can shoot it. That might be worth bringing up, just to spitball. But yeah, it’s really just doing your prep, and when it’s possible … because sometimes I’ll get a script and I’m meeting them in the … the meeting’s next morning, so I don’t have time to watch other programs or other movies that the producers have done before, because it helps to know some of their work, too. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Keith says he’s been teaching himself for the past six months and he’s been waiting to pick up freelance jobs to build his portfolio, and he wants to become assistant editor. So, he’s wondering how he should approach that. Is it more important to meet and make friends, which is kind of what you just said, with post-production people, or have a demo reel? Do you also have any good advice on how he can reach that goal of becoming an editor? 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I don’t think you need a reel, if you want to be an assistant editor. I think it’s more important to meet people and connect with editors that you get along with, that will potentially need an assistant. That would be probably the quickest way to get a job as an assistant, but if you want to edit, then a reel is important because it helps to be able to show people what you’re capable of. And in terms of being an editor, I think for most people, they work their way up from being an assistant, so then it’s just finding an editor that will mentor you. And I would just try to do my job as best as possible, as fast as possible, so that I can cut something every day, you know? And I think sometimes, if your time allows and if your editor is cool with it, I would just try to cut something every day and then see at the end of the week, okay, how many minutes is that? Is it three minutes? Is it five minutes? And then if it’s five, the next week you aim to do seven- 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

 … and the next week 10, you know? So, that’s how you build up your speed and how quickly you solve problems, right? Yeah, I think making sure that you can keep up is going to be really, really important on your first editing job, because you don’t want to not be able to deliver on that deadline. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

For sure. Yeah. And if you are in Canada … Keith, I don’t know if you’re in Canada … we, pre-COVID, had lots of gatherings with editors. We’d have pub nights and stuff like that, but we are … as you know like events like this … yes, so he’s in Canada. Yeah. So, events like this, you can connect and learn from editors. Then also, we have Edit Con every year in Canada, where it’s like a full day of chatting with editors. Again, this year it’s probably … it’s going to be online, but those moments, getting out and going to networking events where you’re just connecting with editors and talking edit … because we all get excited and we all want to talk about it … is huge. So, yes, keep up with the CCE and hopefully when we have in-person events again, you can make some of those in-person connections. Another question from Sabrina. She says, as an editor, do you feel having a reel or series of reels put together as important? Or do you only provide examples of your work upon request from specific productions? 

 

Nena Erb:

It’s funny. When I first got an agent, she said to do a reel. I never got around to it, but I said, “Hey, I don’t have time to cut a reel, but here’s what I can do. I can do a website, and I’ll just put certain scenes up,” and she’s like, “That’s fine.” So, that’s been that, and honestly, I don’t know how many people have looked at it, if at all, but I imagine that if I was starting out, I imagine people would want to see something. So, I think that would be a helpful thing to do. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I feel like it’s more, now, examples of a piece of work or, yeah like a scene or something is really important because you … well, I can’t say anybody can put together a montage of the cool music track and a bunch of clips, but to get your story sense or your pacing sense or whatever, the actual pieces of work is important. Do you have any tips for people who want to make the move to Hollywood or to L.A., and try to get into that world? Because yes, I feel like it would be daunting, but what are your ideas on that? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, I think it’s definitely possible. Absolutely. I would save money, a lot of money. because you want to make sure that you have a nice cushion, because there are times when you’re not working and it might be a month or two, and you don’t want to … It’s really stressful if you don’t have that financial cushion. So, I would plan and save as much as you can. I would … and as you’re saving, reach out to editors and assistants, depending on wherever you are level-wise in terms of your career. Reach out to people whose work, I guess, you admire or assistants who you know that have done really difficult V effects, movies. Whatever skill that you want and whatever job that you want, reach out to those people and try to make a connection. 

Again, when you’re meeting people, I would try to find out what they like as a person, rather than just all talk about working. And definitely don’t ask for a job. Get to know them first, because it becomes very awkward when you meet someone for the first time and then they hit you up for a job, and it’s like you want to help them, but you just met them. So, it’s a little difficult to know what their skill sets are, to know what their personality is like, and who they’re going to fit with. So, it just puts the other person at a very awkward position. So, I would definitely reach out, try to foster a genuine friendship, and maybe by the time you save up your money, you’ll know many, many people, and you move here and they can help you out. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. Are there any groups or things … like, there’s ACE, but is there anything else in L.A. specific that editors connect on or events that they go to, or anything like that? 

 

Nena Erb:

I think Blue Collar Post Collective. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. I think they’re pretty big and they’re great with welcoming people that are coming into L.A. or California. I believe it’s based in L.A., but I’m not 100% sure. They’re phenomenal. They’ve been very helpful. They sponsor people to go to EditFest every year. Yeah, I think that’s a great organization to connect with. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

So, Derek is asking, are there any techniques to use to build pacing in your edits? 

 

Nena Erb:

No. I rely on my gut. It’s always … it’s an internal thing. I can’t really explain it, but yeah, it’s all just up here. And I think it’ll come to you with practice … come to anybody with practice, I think. You’ll know what the pacing for a certain scene is, if you want it to be comedic versus dramatic. I think after … it just comes with practice. You’ll learn to trust your gut. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What are your thoughts on temp music and cutting with music when you’re assembling? What is your ideas on … 

 

Nena Erb:

I don’t work with temp music when I’m assembling. I don’t do music until after I’m done, because I want to make sure that the scene can stand on its own without dressing it up with music. So, yeah, I don’t do that. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What editors would you advise people to study their techniques and style? Do you have any favorite editors? 

 

Nena Erb:

I love Anne V. Coates and how throughout the years, her work is always changing and growing, and she experiments and she wasn’t afraid to try different things. I’m a big fan of her work, and other editors … it’s really just whatever you gravitate towards. I think it’s going to be tough to emulate and to copy another person’s style. I think you have to find your own because I think it has to feel natural to you, right? if you’re always trying to do something that someone else did, and if it doesn’t feel right to you, I don’t think that that would be a good fit. 

So, for me, yeah there’s lots of editors whose work I admire, but at the end of the day, I don’t ever approach a scene and go, oh, Anne Coates would cut it like this. It’s really just what I find in the dailies that speaks to me. And there are times when I’m like, I don’t like the scene. I know that I can do more, and then I’ll think of the crazy stuff that she did, in Out of Sight, and now it’s like, okay. I’m going to step away, kind of free my mind up, so I can think outside the box. So, there’s been times like that, where something she’s done has reminded me to take a risk. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally. I think that’s really interesting when you start to hear other editors techniques, and I think I watched something with a Mindhunter and how they were using lots of picture to picture takes of one actor from another scene, and then … and that was one of the first times I heard that and I never really thought about that. I was like, oh, my god, that’s such a great idea. We can do that. The technology’s there, and of course they shot it in a way that it would be also easier to do those things, but yeah, when you start hearing how people break apart things and put things back together, and then you just have that … It’s not even that it’s their specific technique. It’s how they accomplished something for that specific show, because every show has its own style. So, as an editor, our style is dictated by what the show is or what the film is, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

But to learn how people craft something with what they have and within that style, you can … yeah, you have those little things in your pocket, which I think is really fun. Do you think it’s necessary for somebody to go to film school … which you did not, but you went to art school … or is it better to find a mentor? 

 

Nena Erb:

I didn’t go to film school, so I can’t really speak to that part of it. I think mentors are very important. I’ve definitely had many throughout my career and I don’t know that I would have the same path without them. So, I highly suggest getting a mentor and film school is not bad. I’ve always wondered if I would have liked film school. If I had the time, I’d probably do it, but is it necessary, I don’t know that it is because I know so many people that didn’t go to film school and they have phenomenal careers. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What is the role of an editor in pre-production? We touched on you get the script before the table read, but maybe tell us that. You get the script, you read through it. When you’re at the table read, what are you looking for? What are you there to get when you’re watching the table read? 

 

Nena Erb:

If it’s a comedy, I try to pay attention to which jokes are getting the biggest laugh and which jokes aren’t. I think the only show where I’ve been more involved with pre-production has really been Crazy Ex-girlfriend, because of all the musical numbers. They have dance, concept meetings, they have different … There was just a lot of different meetings to go into the prep of it, and sometimes they’ll want to do something that’s really out of the box and they want to make sure that the editor is there to make sure that they can do it and have it be cut together. So, that’s really the only show where I was involved from the pre-production standpoint, I guess. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. What was it like working on My Crazy Ex-girlfriend, having to be a musical and having all those major dance numbers? Did you love that? Was it fun or was it challenging? What did you like about that show? 

 

Nena Erb:

I loved it. It was so fun because every episode has at least two, if not … I think eight is the most we’ve had in an episode, and it can range so wildly in terms of genre. You can have an episode where you’re doing Simon and Garfunkel, and then the next piece is an ’80s hip hop song, and then the next piece … and we’re still in the same episode, could be hard rock. So, yeah, it definitely … I think, as an editor, you have a wide palette to choose from, and I think that’s always exciting, and it’s fun. It’s fun. The lyrics are great. They’re hilarious. The visuals are fun to cut and because they’re not the same genre, I enjoy doing the research for it because that sometimes will always inspire something else, too. So, I really enjoy that. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

What would you recommend people do when it comes to researching things about what they’re going to get into in the edit suite? 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I think there’s a wealth of information on the internet now. I think if it’s a first season show, I would definitely research the creator, because chances are, they did a pilot somewhere, provided it’s a 

TV show. Yeah. So, there’ll be articles about it, I think, because pilots, when they get picked up, it’s always in the trades, and they’ll interview them. Or maybe they’ve given interviews on other projects they’ve done. See what their creative viewpoint is, if possible, if there’s articles about that. And if they’ve done a show before that, take a look at an episode or two, because I think that’ll really inform what they like and that’ll help you. As you’re starting to cut dailies, you’ll have their taste in your mind, so you can try to give them something that you think they’re going to like. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Charmaine says, do you ever find that your first cuts are super cutty? What’s your protocol for resolving that and pacing it out? 

 

Nena Erb:

I’m not a person that likes to cut a lot. I cut when it’s necessary. I don’t find that my first cuts are super cutty. I find that they might be … they should be more cutty. Yeah. But also, I think it … so much is dictated by the story that you’re telling, right? If it’s a moment that was kind of frenetic, yeah, I’m going to do more cuts. But if it’s a moment where they’re … there’s an episode in season three where Issa is walking down the street with Nathan, and the entire thing is like a very before sunrise episode. For that one, their chemistry was so good. I just let it play. I had some really, really long takes that just … unless the story dictated a cut, I just let it go. I really let the story dictate how often I cut, when I cut, if I cut. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Totally. Yeah. Curious about … so, Andrea is curious about what mouse you use. 

 

Nena Erb:

I have it right here. I’ll show. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Excellent. 

 

Nena Erb:

It’s one with a track ball, but I’ve mounted it so it’s vertical. Your elbows will thank you. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That makes total sense. Yeah. Any other pieces of equipment, gear that you … You said you like to do standing … a standing desk, 

 

Nena Erb:

There’s a new piece of equipment that I’ve recently discovered and think it’s the best in the world. It’s the cube tab. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

And what is that? I don’t know what that is. 

 

Nena Erb:

I’m pretty sure Ruben introduced us to that. It’s basically a little cube, electrical outlet that basically, you plug it in and it has different prongs. So, you can plug different things into this cube that is now plugged into your outlet. Does that makes sense? 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. 

 

Nena Erb:

You can put all kinds of stuff on it. You used to have one outlet and now you have three.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Is it USB things that you can put in, or is it other plugs, just like another …

 

Nena Erb:

I think it’s just more electrical plugs. It’s really ever used on set, because they have  lots of things to plug into it. 





Sarah Taylor:

For sure. Yeah. Well, I know for myself, I get a lot of hard drives, so there’s definitely a lot of things to plug in and I only have so much room on my backup generator thingy. Yeah. Did you have a home system set up and have you been working at home during this time? 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, we finished the final episodes of Insecure at the beginning of lockdown. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Okay. 

 

Nena Erb:

The cuts were mostly done, so it was just a matter of approving mixes and doing VFX shots, but I had a laptop and one extra monitor that was always set up. I wouldn’t call it a full system by any stretch of the imagination, but I imagine that my next job, we’ll probably set one in there and we’ll see. Personally, I don’t want to use my own system, even if I had one. I would rather the show rent me one, because I don’t want to be responsible for getting it back up if it crashes.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yup. 

 

Nena Erb:

I’m not a technical, so … I turn it on and that’s about it. So, yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Do you find that your assistants are super technical? I wonder, there’s a special skillset where I find some editors are like, “No, I don’t want to do the technology,” but then the assistants seemed to be really, really good with the technology. 

 

Nena Erb:

I’ve met many assistants that were phenomenal and they were very tech savvy, which is great, because I’m not, and they can just help troubleshoot much better than I can. I find that very interesting because it’s got to be such a different frame of mind to do your work as an assistant, and then have to switch so that you’re thinking with the creative part of it for editing. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

That’s got to be a tough thing to juggle on a daily basis, if you’re trying to cut after your assistant duties, but … 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I find … because I often have to do both. So, I find for myself, when I’m sinking and stuff, I’m turning off a certain part of the brain, right? Then when it comes to creativity you’re turning it back on, it’s almost like folding laundry, so you can just do it. It’s like you’re doing the motions or whatever, and then when it comes to the … sometimes it feels harder, like you’re working harder, because your brain is working harder to do the actual editing, if that makes sense.

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah totally.

 

Sarah Taylor:

So, sometimes it’s nice to take that break. If I’m feeling stuck on a cut, I’ll be like, go sync to the next 

whatever I need to sink or whatever I need to prep. I can go do that to take a break from the story issue or whatever it might be. So, if you’re able to do that … maybe I just do that because I have to do that. Derek is asking, do you think … does age come into play when you’re hiring an assistant? 

 

Nena Erb:

For me personally? No. No. I’ve just got to make sure I get along with the person and that this person is a team player. If my assistant isn’t great, we’re both going to go down. Yeah, not just him and not just me. We’re both going to go down. So, yeah, it has to be someone who’s going to have my back and do the work, and someone that I want to have a drink with and hang out with. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Having a connection is … yeah. But then you can trust each other, right? You have each other’s back, right? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Sarah Taylor:

We have a question from Sabrina. She’s going to talk. I’m going to allow you to speak. Go ahead, Sabrina. 

 

Sabrina:

Hello. Thank you so much for doing this. Anyways, my question was about cutting different genres. Do you find … is there a genre that you really, really want to cut, that you have yet to? Or do you find you can jump around fairly easily, or was it difficult to switch around? Do you find you get pigeonholed very easily if you stick to a certain genre and you’re not able to move around as easily? 

 

Nena Erb:

Oh, gosh. A few years ago, I was very deliberate in terms of picking a drama and picking comedy, and then in the last few years, there’s this new blend of comedy that has a lot of drama in it, like Insecure and similar to Crazy Ex, and something like a Little America, too. So, I’ve been trying to do that more, but I’ll tell you, I think it’s … even though it has both comedy and drama, I don’t know that a true drama, like something like Game of Thrones, would even look my way. And actually, I don’t really … I enjoy the Game of Thrones, but I don’t know if I would want to cut that, to be honest. But yeah, so a true drama, I don’t think, would come my way, which is unfortunate. So, yeah, I think people do get pigeonholed. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

How long are you in the edit suite, usually? 

 

Nena Erb:

It’s usually … I try to not go past 12, because then I’m just fried, but there are times when you have to do more than 12, depending on the deadline, if you have a shorter amount of time to turn in an episode or a scene over, but yeah, I try not to go past 12. It’s usually about 10, 11-ish, somewhere around there. Again, a lot of it’s going to depend on how many dailies you get. I’ve had directors that shoot nine hours of dailies. So, for someone like me that wants to watch everything, my days are going to be long. But then you have other directors that shoot three hours a day, then it’s like, oh, it’s perfect. I can watch it all. I can cut it, and I can be home for dinner. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yay! 

 

Nena Erb:

You know.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Do you do any color correcting when you edit? If so, do you have any tips for how someone new to that process should go about it? 

 

Nena Erb:

I don’t really do a lot of it. I will, if a scene … if the dailies come back and it’s not quite right, if it’s too dark, or I’ll probably just drop a color effect on it and up the gamma, just so you can see the image better. But yeah, typically I don’t do color correcting. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Are you typically involved in the color timing when it comes to it at the end? Are you in for that, or just for sound? 

 

Nena Erb:

Just for sound, yeah. I’ve been invited to color sessions on other shows, but on this show, it’s very much the TPs domain. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

That was a big … when I first started talking to editors down in L.A., it was a surprise that you were included in even the sound. That wasn’t something that often … sometimes you’re invited. Well, in my experience anyway. It wasn’t something that was part of the process. You just handed it off and then you were onto the next thing. It wasn’t part of the contract or anything like that. Then I heard editors getting to do that and I was like, well, that makes so much sense. Then now, there’s been a few times where I’ve gotten to and then, yeah, it’s been huge. So, I’m glad that that’s part of the process down in the States, but I’d be curious to hear what other editors in Canada have experienced, because yeah, I don’t think it’s as common. 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, I think it’s so important because there’s a few times where they’ll drop dialogue lines. I will often replace dialogue from another take, but put it in the mouth of … so, the videos from audio, and then in the mix, I’m like, wait a minute. That’s not the one I put in there. I think it’s important for editors to be able to mix because no one’s going to know, other than you. You’re the one that knows it the most.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally. When you’re in those sessions, are they taking your direction? Are you in control? Like, you and the director are in control of what’s happening? Can you say, “No, that’s wrong,” and like be okay with that? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, we usually screen it and then I jot down time code and notes, and then we go through the list of notes and we go to the time code, and they play it and they’re like, “Oh, okay. I see what you mean.” Then you know address it. Some people do it after I leave. Some people do it during. It just depends on how much time you have and all of the mixer. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

I think, also, sometimes … often things get like lost in the translation to the sound system, right? So, you’re like, “How did you … why did you change that?” And it’s like, oh, it just didn’t connect properly, or whatever, right? It’s a simple thing to change, but if you’re not there to do it … Do you have anything on the goal coming up in the future that you know of yet? 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah, potentially. Potentially. I’m not sure if I should talk about it just yet.

 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s fair. That’s fair. That’s good to hear that things are coming. That’s good. 

 

Nena Erb:

Yeah. Yeah, there’s production that’s slowly trickling back in. Of course, no one wants to be the first, so there’s always a show that’s going to be the first early adopter. So, we’ll see what happens. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. 

 

Nena Erb:

And hoping that no one gets sick and we can all go back to work, and yeah. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s definitely … yeah. It’s been a long time. So, hopefully it all works out. It’s been really great. You’ve given us a lot of great advice and insight on your workflow and your process, and your mouse, which these are important things. We need to hear these things, and I’m looking forward to keeping my eyes open for the Emmy’s, to find out if you win. I’ll be cheering for you, regardless. Do you have any last advice, or any other last tips that you want to share with us before we call it a night? 

 

Nena Erb:

You know, I just think, yeah, just keep meeting people. This is such a great time right now, just to meet whoever you want. I would take advantage because I don’t know that we’re going to ever have such access to people that would normally be not within reach at all. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally, because they’d be in their edit suite for 12 hours a day, not able to talk to us on Zoom. So, thank you for letting me reach out to you and talk to you about one of my favorite shows, and for taking the time to chat, all things editing. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I hope that everything gets picked up. 

 

Nena Erb:

Thank you so much. 

 

Sarah Taylor:

And I’m so grateful that you took the time to spend with us today. So, thank you again, Nena. 

 

Nena Erb:

Well, thank you so much for having me, and thank you all for coming.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Good night, everybody. 

 

Nena Erb:

Bye.

 

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much for joining us today and a big thank you. goes to Nena for taking the time to sit with us. A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae, Jenni McCormick and Ruben Lim. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall, additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain and Soundstripe. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. 

 

The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

 

Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Jenni McCormick

Reuben Lim

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blain

Soundstripe

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Commandité par

Annex Pro/AVID

Catégories
Articles

Gagnant du prix ACE Eddie Award 2021

Gagnant du prix ACE Eddie Award 2021

Félicitations à Trevor Ambrose, CCE, qui a remporté un prix Eddie de l’ACE hier!

BEST EDITED COMEDY SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION

SCHITT'S CREEK: HAPPY ENDING

À regarder sur CBC GEM

Catégories
Membres

ACE Eddie Award Tickets – Discount for CCE Members

This content is for members only.
Devenez membre
Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 044: In Conversation with Tom Cross, ACE

The Editors Cut - Episode 044

Episode 44: In Conversation with Tom Cross, ACE

Today?s episode is the online master series that took place on August 4th, 2021.

This episode was generously sponsored by Annex Pro/AVID

TomCrossMasterSeries

Tom Cross, ACE and Sarah Taylor discuss his career journey from video store clerk to assistant editor to Oscar awarding winning editor. As well as his collaboration with director Damien Chazelle on the films WHIPLASH, LA LA LAND and FIRST MAN. They also talked about the anticipated release of NO TIME TO DIE and what it was like working on the James Bond series.

 

Tom Cross, ACE is a BAFTA and Academy Award winning film editor for his work on WHIPLASH. He received his B.F.A. in Visual Arts from Purchase College and began working on commercials in NYC before transitioning to independent films.

He edited Michel Negroponte’s sci-fi documentary W.I.S.O.R. and then was an Additional Editor on James Gray’s WE OWN THE NIGHT and TWO LOVERS.  For director Travis Fine he edited THE SPACE BETWEEN and ANY DAY NOW. Cross subsequently edited the short film version of WHIPLASH, for Director Damien Chazelle. Later, they collaborated on the feature film version which won the 2014 Sundance Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize.

In addition to the best editing Oscar and BAFTA, Cross’s work on the feature also received an Independent Spirit Award. Cross received his second Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for Damien Chazelle’s musical LA LA LAND. He went on to win the Critics Choice Award and ACE Eddie award for best editing. Other credits include the comedy-drama JOY for David O. Russell, Scott Cooper’s western HOSTILES, starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike and the 20th Century Fox musical THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Directed by Michael Gracey). Prior to working on NO TIME TO DIE with Editor Elliot Graham, he cut Damien Chazelle’s FIRST MAN for Universal Pictures and Dreamworks. Cross’s work on the Neil Armstrong movie received ACE Eddie and BAFTA nominations and eventually a Critics Choice Award for Best Film Editing.

Écoutez maintenant

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by Annex Pro Avid. Hello and welcome to the Editor’s Cut. I’m

your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out that the lands on which we have created this

podcast and that many of you may be listening to us from are part of ancestral territory. It is important

for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that has long served as a place

where indigenous peoples have lived, met, and interacted. We honour, respect, and recognize these

nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on

which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many

contributions, and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land

acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

Sarah Taylor:

Today’s episode is the online master series that took place on August 4th, 2020 in conversation with

Tom cross ACE. Tom and I discussed his career journey from video store clerk, to assistant editor, to

Oscar award-winning editor, as well as his collaboration with director Damien Chazelle on the films,

Whiplash, Lala Land and First Man. We also talked about the much anticipated release of no time to die

and what it was like working on the James Bond series. This podcast contains language and content that

some may find disturbing or offensive. Listener discretion is advised.

[show open]

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Tom Cross:

Thanks for having me.

Sarah Taylor:

I’m sure that you all know that Tom Cross is an Oscar award-winning editor and he’s worked on many

films, but notably whiplash, Lala land, First Man, and no time to die that we’re all waiting to see. But we

have lots to talk about today. So we’re just going to get into the first question, which is, tell us where

you’re from and why editing. What got you to pursue editing?

Tom Cross:

Yes, well, I was born in Wisconsin… Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but very quickly, I basically moved to

Rochester, New York where I primarily grew up. I mentioned Wisconsin because it’s both Rochester and

Wisconsin have these heavy, brutal winters. And so I always think of that as being a large part of my kind

of upbringing and stuff like that. The changing seasons and stuff I grew up in Upstate New York and my

mother was an artist. She painted sculpture. My dad was… Did administrative work for organizations

such as the Red Cross. He was an early peace core member. So my mom was an artist, but my dad was

not an artist, but he was a movie lover.

Tom Cross:

And so I grew up, watching a lot of movies and, I can remember early on him taking me to a movie.

Some movies at the public library. And one of them was this French film Wages of fear, which was

amazing to see because I… It had subtitles. It was a French film. I didn’t speak the language and I don’t

really remember the subtitles. I just remember understanding it. I remember understanding the

characters and their emotions, and it was this thrilling story. And so I just remember being really

affected by it. And the thing that was… That I remember about my parents is that they always made

space for me to watch movies, to enjoy them. And there was nothing overtly highbrow about that. It

was just this acceptance that movies were fun to watch. They were great. They were great stories. And

so we went to the movies a lot. We went to… There was a movie series at the university of Rochester. So

even when I was a kid and getting into high school, my parents would take me to these college

screenings of movies and all kinds of movies.

Tom Cross:

So I don’t know. I kind of grew up loving movies and for some people, it’s like they have a passion for

literature and books and they just sort of devour all these books. For me it was movies. So, I grew up at a

time when videotape and video stores started getting big. And so I would go out to the movie theater to

watch movies, but I would also like rent videos all the time, seeing all these movies. And then, my

parents… My dad in particular lovingly kind of encouraged it and he would buy me books about movies.

Like the art of watching movies and things.

Tom Cross:

And he would just kind of encourage it. And somehow I decided with the help of my parents, that I

would try to go to film school. And at that time I thought I wanted to make my own films. I thought I

wanted to be a director. So I went… I ended up going to this very small art school that had this film

conservatory. It was a school called, now it’s called Purchase college. When I went, it was known as the

State University of New York at Purchase SUNY Purchase. And it was a small film conservatory. And I

went to school there thinking that I wanted to do my own films.

Tom Cross:

And as the school and the curriculum took me through the different steps of the process, acting, writing,

producing, directing, editing. I found that I really gravitated towards editing after I graduated, and my

friends and I from film school had to start looking for work. I kind of knew that I wanted to get into

editing. That was the thing that kind of, I don’t know, it kind of attracted me. I think early on when I

started really getting to know movies and watch movies. I mean, I loved certain things about it. I love the

performances. I love the photography, but I… But it was the editing that I really kind of… I don’t know if

that sparked my imagination. I remember watching… Early on watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. And so

many of his movies are full of these sort of very visual set pieces, the shower scene in psycho or any

number of scenes and the birds, the end of strangers on a train. I mean, they’re all these things that now

I look at and think of as editing masterpieces. And so, I don’t know, I think that always kind of sparked

my imagination.

Tom Cross:

So when I got out of college, I eventually got a job as kind of an apprentice editor or low guy on the

totem pole at a commercial editing company. And I think that was kind of key for me because at the

time technology was evolving and nonlinear editing was coming in. It was just getting introduced. Avid

was new. And I got into commercials. I didn’t know anything about advertising, but I knew I wanted to

get into an editing room. And commercials were the ones… We are the only places at the time that

really had Avids. And so that was kind of a big deal to get a job where you had an… You had access to

this amazing new technology. And so there were a lot of things that I think suited me. I mean, it was

something that I could sink my teeth into. I remember editing in college and really just the time would

go by and I’d be editing all night. And it was something that suited me more than directing actors or

producing.

Sarah Taylor:

I bet a lot of editors can relate to that idea that time flying by in the edit suite. And you’re like, Oh, wait a

minute, 12 hours just passed. I guess this is something I should do. It feels good.

Tom Cross:

The [crosstalk 00:07:45] coming up.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Like, Oh wait! I haven’t gone to sleep yet. What was the first job… Your first job in the industry

that really made you feel like I am an editor, I’m a real editor.

Tom Cross:

It’s funny because every job I… And I feel like I pass it some sort of benchmark where I say, okay, now

this job. Like I remember when I got Whiplash and no one… I really had no idea how, where that movie

was going to take me. All I knew was that it was a brilliant script. And I was just in sync with this director

but one of my first thoughts was, Oh, good, it’s a union job. That means that my… I’ll get a certain wage

and my health insurance will be paid for. So when I got that job, I was like, okay, now I’m a real… This is

a real thing. My first real editing job, a union job. And so I think all along the way, I still do that. I still like,

I don’t know. I remember.

Tom Cross:

So my very first job working at the commercial editing company, I remember I was on salary. I worked at

this company that had 30 employees or something. And of all different ages. I mean I was the young kid

whereas a lot of other people, the editors were much older. And I remember being aware that that was

my first adult job. Before that I had worked in video stores. I did that in high school as my first job ever

working in a video store. And even when I got to college, I got a job in New York, just at a video store.

And that was certainly amazing because I was around movies. I love movies. But the commercial editing

job was like, Oh wow! I get a salary. I get paid vacation. I get sick days. And I get health insurance. And

meanwhile, I’m learning from all these grownups who are around me. And so that, I remember being

aware that, wow! This is my first professional job. And what’s ironic is now, I’ve worked freelance ever

since. So I don’t have sick days. I don’t have paid vacation. We’re not in the same wave.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, exactly.

Tom Cross:

So that’s the only straight job I’ve ever held that way. Even the bond movie now, it’s like, Oh! Now I’m

cutting like a bonafide, franchise blockbuster. So with each movie, there’s something that becomes…

that’s real about each one of them, if that makes sense.

Sarah Taylor:

No, that totally makes sense for sure. Yeah. That’s the also… The joy of the work that we get to do is that

every project is different and is exciting, and there’s something… Usually there’s something that we can

learn from and take away from, which is awesome. I’m thinking we will talk a little bit about your

process. Like, when do you get the scripts? And do you get to have input in the script? And how do you

watch your dailies? Like all that kind of stuff. Just give us a little Coles note of your process.

Tom Cross:

I think like many of us, or all of us, I’m eager to get the script and eager to sort of see if there’s

something I latch onto. How do I respond to what… That’s the starting point. So like in the case of

Whiplash, that was one of the best scripts I’d ever. And so when I got that, it just got me so excited and

because it’s such an intense story and the intensity and the emotion is just, if anyone’s out there and

you can find the script online, if you read it, I mean, to me, all that intensity, so much of that is baked

into the writing… Into Damien Chazelle’s writing. And he’s not afraid to embellish in a certain way to

kind of enhance that. Just enough to I think, give you the ideas that you need. You can… I mean, when I

read the script, I could picture the cutting in my head.

Tom Cross:

So that’s an example of a script where I thought it was so perfect. I mean, I got different drafts and he

would change things, but I didn’t really have much to say about that one. What’s really funny though, is

that the script… I mean, the order of scenes and things change quite a bit, once we got into the cutting

room… So it’s not like the script was the final draft or the final order on everything. Once we got the

footage and once we got into the cutting room. Once I was with Damien, then I did have opinions and I

had things to say. And it’s almost like it was better. I was more comfortable and in a better place to react

once I had it in the building blocks and the form that I could work with.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally.

Tom Cross:

I mean, I thought the script and I’ve said this before, no pun intended. And I thought the script was tight

as a drum. Like I didn’t need to do anything to it. So I didn’t really comment on that one. I mean, on

other projects, I can remember if something doesn’t make sense, like on the bond project and No time

to die. If that was a script that was written at… A lot of it was written and continued to be written as

they were shooting. And a lot of that had to do with the change in directors. Danny Boyle was going to

direct it until he dropped out and Cary Fukunaga came on. And it went through a lot of different phases,

creatively, script wise.

Tom Cross:

And so, there were often questions about that. That I, and my brilliant co-editor Elliot Graham, like we

would bring up these questions to the director and often we bring them up if there was a curve. We had

a really good relationship with the producers and we could all communicate about what made sense and

what didn’t make sense or… So that was something where we could chime in and actually we were

expected to chime in, which was great.

Tom Cross:

There are other situations like when I worked on Joy with Teva Russell. The script was extremely

ambitious and had brilliant things in it, but it was also very, very big. And I think we all knew that it

would really go through immense changes in the editing room and part of why we knew that it was

because, I was working with three editors who had worked with David before. I had never worked with

David. So Jay cast and Alan Baumgarten Chris Tellefsen, they… J especially could tell me, what this is

going to change. So we ha… When I asked like, how’s the script and he was like, well, in a sense, there

isn’t one, because it’s going to be rewritten heavily.

Tom Cross:

So that’s an example of where there might’ve been things to comment on in the script, but it was…

That’s one where I kind of, I would listen a little bit of wait and see mode. Let’s… Like, I love the stuff I’m

seeing. It’s brilliant. I don’t know how it’s going to flow, but what I’m getting from these other editors

who’ve worked with them before that this is part of the process and that we’re going to revisit this and

discover this in the cutting room. And what’s really funny too is, initially when I was approached to work

on Joy, this was shortly after Whiplash came out. When I was approached to do that, I was beside myself

because I’m such a fan of David’s movies. And I was just so excited to do it.

Tom Cross:

And I was called up a friend, an older friend. I said, Hey, it looks like I’m going to work on David O

Russell’s next picture. And he was like, and I’m really excited. And he was like, great, how’s the script?

And I was like, I have no idea. I haven’t seen it yet. But that’s one of those things where it’s like, normally

the script is so important to what we do and it is, but that was something where it’s just a dream to

work with that filmmaker and everything else will follow. So that’s my roundabout rambling way of

talking about my input on script.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, no, I like it. Some editors don’t even get to read it until it’s about to be shot. So you’re there,

they’re shooting, you’re getting dailies. Do you have a technique? Do you have a way of doing it?

Tom Cross:

It differs and it evolves. I found that it evolves with every project. I learned stuff from every project. So

early on, I really would kind of replicate… Try to replicate what some of my mentors had done. Tim

Squires an editor I worked with early on and John Axelrad. I would just try to follow a lot of the steps

that they take. And with each of my projects I kind of make it my own because the challenges are

different than the challenges they had and the challenges that I saw that they had.

Tom Cross:

So, I mean, basically what I tend to do is I like to have… I cut an avid and I like to have everything as

visual as possible. So I’m not really a text person. I know some editors I’ve worked with in the past really

are deeply into text and descriptions. I’m a frame view guy. I like to see everything arranged in the little

tiles and the setups in a certain way. And basically, I… When I open up a bin that my assistants have

arranged, I’ll look at the last take of every setup just to kind of get a feel for what the parameters of the

coverage are. And then I’ll go back.

Tom Cross:

Once I do that, once I get a feel for where everything goes, what are the angles, how deep is the

coverage, then I’ll go back to the beginning and starting with, take one for setup, I’ll watch everything.

So I’m one of those guys that doesn’t really dig into cutting until I watch everything. Who knows maybe

that may, with the next movie, maybe I’ll be buried and that’ll change. But that’s what I’ve been doing

now for the past several movies. And I like to kind of make select roles. And so I will, if it’s a simple

dialogue scene, I will start kind of either dropping local caters on little things. I like, or in the case of First

Man, I kind of developed a different way for myself to work. Because that had… First Man had a lot of

cinema verite and improv footage, almost like documentary type footage. So every take was often

different. So that was much harder.

Tom Cross:

So for example, my simple idea of like, Oh! Let me look at the last take of every set up to see where it

goes. That often didn’t work because every take was different. So, and by the way, that’s the way it was

kind of on David O Russell’s picture as well. Like you’d only get a partial idea of where things would go

because they would… The camera would do any number of things-

Sarah Taylor:

Right.

Tom Cross:

In each take, lot of takes within takes. That’s the same with First Man. So in the case of something like

First Man, I mean, I’ll… My assistants always will build all the footage. I have all the tiles, but they’ll also

build little camera rolls or daily rolls. That… A little sequence I’ll have at the bottom of the bin. And so in

that case, I’ll take the camera and I’ll duplicate it and then I’ll just start watching it, like from start to

finish. So I’ve got all the footage and I’ll start dropping locators that represent, in points and out points.

And then I’ll go through the footage that way.

Tom Cross:

And depending on the footage, if it’s not dialogue, if it’s visual, I can even double speed, double time,

depending on what it is. And I can still drop my end points and out points. And I try to be exact when I’m

doing my end points and outpoints, because I figured now is the time to really… I can save myself in the

decision-making later if I do it now. And so I’ve got like a keyboard Maestro macro that will go through

and kind of use my end points of my own outpoints and cut up the daily roll to just a little select role.

And then if it’s a massive… Like on First Man, if it would be this massive select role, I’ll hand it over to

one of my assistants who will then I’ll asK to put it into script order. So that’s a whole other big task. And

one that I’m lucky I can do.

Tom Cross:

I have people to hand it over to. Because in that movie I had a big enough crew. But put in script order

and then they’ll hand it back. And depending on the scene, sometimes it’s almost like based on my cuts.

The screen almost begins to cut itself-

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great.

Tom Cross:

because all the pieces are now together. And then I start just going through it.

Tom Cross:

But my process in general, whether it’s a dialogue scene or verite footage is to really just sketch it out

quickly. And if I can sometimes just work silently, because I can cut faster without the… With the sound

turned down and I’m just try to get a shape for it, and I will… I think sometimes in a way that probably

scares some of my editing cohorts that I’ve worked with… I’ll leave this really rough thing. Like I’ll put it

on the shelf and I’ll move on to something else. And if they look at it or if I show it to them or something,

they’ll be like, Oh my God! This is so rough. And it’s like awful or whatever, but I’ll go back to it. And I

find that like, just by putting… Just getting away from it, move on to something else and then come

back. I feel like I’ve almost like softened up the footage a little bit and even just being away from it for a

couple hours or half a day.

Tom Cross:

I returned to being much more objective and then I can dive into it and start finessing it. So that’s a little

bit of my internal process in terms of showing when I get to showing the director, I really try never to

show them anything that is that rough. I always really try to polish it. Polish the dialogue. I like to do a

lot of that myself. If I have the time, if I don’t have the time I give it to my assistants, but I love to polish

dialogue, add in sound effects, hard effects. I love to put it in that stuff backgrounds and the music. So

that’s the stuff. So what I’m presenting is definitely something I think of as polished. But internally I

don’t have any qualms about roughing something together just to get an impression just to move on.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. So does it gets you to your pile of dailies, right? Like sometimes you can get hung up on something

and then you’re like, Oh! The day’s gone. And I have all these other scenes to attack.

Tom Cross:

Yeah, I’m very guilty of getting stuck in the weeds on something. And so I really try to remind myself just

to bang these things out and come back to it. That’s the same with alternate versions. I mean, if I have

ideas to do them, I’ll do them, but I really try to get through something fast. I mean, look, I’ll… On First

Man, I would tell my assistants, what do we have? Give me the oners to do, so as Martin Carver, my

great first assistant who I worked with on No time to die. I mean, he would just say, here’s another one

for you to top and tail, meaning cut off the head and tail of it, that’s it.

Sarah Taylor:

But then you feel I’ve done some, something it’s off the list I can get onto the next thing. Yeah.

Tom Cross:

And even though there’s not much cutting to do. What’s the big deal about that? I mean, I had to look at

the footage. I had to organize it. I had to really note where everything is and so I have accomplished

work. So that is a value. So I was trying to get, I try to like, especially if I’m getting buried in footage, I try

to do the easy stuff first just to get it off my plate. And so it also warms me up.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a great technique. You mentioned your assistant. Is there anything specific, like how you like to

work with your assistant?

Tom Cross:

It’s almost like when you work with filmmakers and directors. I think you want to be really… You just

want to be really comfortable with your assistants. You know, I really, and maybe this comes from my

many years assisting and stuff like that, but I just love the… I love the camaraderie of the crew. I love

having… I love working with a crew and I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic people.

My first assistant John Tau is someone who I’ve been with since before Whiplash. He started with me on

this movie any day now. And as we’ve gone on and Damien Chazelle’s movies, Damian’s become

comfortable with them too. And like some, a lot. And we do.

Tom Cross:

We give them a lot of creative work to do. So like John would… I’d like to give my assistant scenes to cut.

And I was lucky to work for some editors who would do the same with me. But part of it is that it’s kind

of win-win because, I need the help. That’s a big part of it is that. Like, wow! I’m getting buried on

perfect cases. First Man, I’m getting buried in footage. I need the help. So I’ll give John. John take these

scenes. Take a stab at these. So I like to work creatively that way. But even when I’m not doing that in

general, I mean, I like to… I trust them. And so, like on No time to die. I was… These are my… These are

the first eyes and ears on stuff that I’m working on. So I would often tell my assistants to come in and

can you take a look at this? What do you think? They could look at the somewhat objectively.

Tom Cross:

That’s how I like to work. And of course, a lot of editors like to do that too. And I think that’s a benefit of

working with great people, is that you can get these other point of views and you can… They can see

something that I’m missing. And just… I like to not only have people to bounce ideas off, but I like having

people that I like to have lunch with too.

Sarah Taylor:

So that’s a bonus, yes?

Tom Cross:

That’s that’s huge for me. I mean, I’m… I remember talking with one editor about a certain no-nonsense

or like, nothing bad, a good editor. But the comment was like, Oh yeah, so-and-so yeah. He… He’s a

great editor, but he’s not there to make friend meaning he’s all business, he’s there to cut. There’s

nothing wrong with that at all. Because that’s the job and that’s what we do. But in a way, I am there, I

am there to make friends because I consider my crew, we become like a family. And it sounds like a

cliche, but-

Sarah Taylor:

It’s true though.

Tom Cross:

But it is true. And those are… So that’s my goal is to work with people that I will consider a family. So I

don’t… If I can help it, I don’t like to have drama. I don’t like to have… It’s not what I’m looking for. It’s

not in my… I just think,… Don’t think it’s in my personality. I like to spend time with crew people that I

want to spend time with.

Sarah Taylor:

Speaking of spending lots of time with people, you and Damien have worked together a lot. So how did

that relationship get started? Like you… Did the short film of Whiplash. Is that when you first connected

with him?

Tom Cross:

Yeah. Well, my relationship with Damien really kind of sprung out of the seeds that were planted during

my assistant editor years. When I was assistant editor I met and worked with this producer named

Cooper Samuelson and we kept in touch. He remembered me and I also reminded him of myself

because every time I had a little project or if I cut an indie film I would email him and he was on my list.

“Hey, I worked on this movie. I want to invite you to the screening.” He was always very supportive, had

words of support.

Tom Cross:

But he didn’t call me for a lot of jobs that much but there was one thing he did call me for and it was the

Whiplash short, which at the time we didn’t think of it as a short film. He called me and said, “Hey, I’ve

got this little,” it was almost like a sizzle reel that he needed cut. And we’re doing this sizzle reel so that

we can get financing for this feature film and it’s a great script and all this stuff. So I said, “Wow, yeah, I’d

love to do this. It sounds great. Send me the script.” And he sent me the script, which I mentioned

before, was one of the best thing I’d ever read and I said, “Wow, I would love to do this. It just feels like

this would be a great project to do.” And it was weird. It was a story about a jazz musician but somehow

it felt all intense. It felt very subjective and I could, in that way, when I read the script I’m like oh in the

right hands this could be very cinematic.

Tom Cross:

And so I did some research on the director and the director had done one film, an Indie film called Guy

in Madeline on a Park Bench. A black and white, 60 millimeter cinema verite musical that the director

made as his thesis film and he cut it himself and I watched this film and I was just like this is so brilliant.

This is so beautiful. And it was very exciting. It was nothing like Whiplash but it was so beautifully cut, so

beautifully executed. It was poetic, it was lyrical, it was musical, it was great. So I was into it. And then

Damien is a fan of James Gray’s films and I had worked as an assistant editor/additional editor on two

movies for James Gray, We Own the Night and Two Lovers. So I had some credentials that Damien was

interested in and we reached out to each other and we met up and had coffee and we started talking

movies and editing and we found that we had a lot in common in terms of what we really loved from

Hitchcock, Scorsese, Fincher, things like that. And we really hit it off.

Tom Cross:

And so we decided let’s do this sizzle reel together and the sizzle reel kind of evolved into this short film.

I mean it was really always a short in that it had a beginning, middle and end. It kind of functioned as

this self contained thing and then very quickly the short won an award at Sundance and the financing

came through and then the idea all along was that whoever worked on the short film would be able to

work on the feature. And once the financier came in, they had their own ideas about who they wanted

to work on the movie and I was not part of those ideas. And so Damien wanted me to do it and luckily

Cooper and [inaudible 00:29:46], one of the other producers, they fought for me.

Tom Cross:

I was only allowed to cut it after Cooper came up with this plan where he said, “Look, if it doesn’t work

out with Tom, we’ve got this other, more experienced editor waiting in the wings.”

Sarah Taylor:

No pressure.

Tom Cross:

Yeah. And it was a friend of mine, someone I had assisted before so he was doing me a favor by lending

his name. But it didn’t end up coming down to that. That wasn’t needed. So in that way I was very lucky

but there’s been a couple movies where I hadn’t done a movie, Whiplash is a small movie, but I hadn’t

done a $3 million movie before on my own so I was not the first choice to do it. And similarly, La La Land,

that was, at the time, a $20 million, I think it ended up being a $30 million movie. But I hadn’t cut a

movie of that size before. So initially, I think I was very vulnerable in terms of getting picked to do it and

I think the deal was only sealed because I think Damien, I think he insisted by that point. I can’t

remember if he had editor approval. He may have at that point, I’m not sure. But then all the success

from Whiplash helped that. But it’s been more precarious than it would seem sometimes.

Sarah Taylor:

Well yeah you have that relationship with the director but then yeah, the director doesn’t always have

the control to pick who they get to work with. But clearly your relationship is strong enough that he’s

able to fight for you or get the right people to fight for you so that’s a great thing to have.

Tom Cross:

And certainly at this point now, he exerts a lot of creative control over his productions now. But

Whiplash, he did not have the final stand in that at all. So I was very lucky.

Sarah Taylor:

It turned out really good for you in the end.

Tom Cross:

Very, very lucky.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, let’s jump into, maybe, a Whiplash clip and then we can talk a little bit more about Whiplash.

[clip plays]

Sarah Taylor:

So, Whiplash is an intense film. Are you a drummer?

Tom Cross:

I’m not a drummer. I used to play piano and violin when I was a kid but I am definitely not a, don’t

consider myself a musician. I probably would have a hard time to read sheet music now to save my life.

So I’m not a musician. Damien Chazelle was a drummer, competitive jazz drummer, and so he is a

musician. In terms of cotting Whiplash, I always saw it as it’s so much about music but I always really

saw it more about just emotion and I saw it transcending just being a technical music movie. All that

being said, it was important to Damien that it really feel authentic, that it really speak to the musicians

in the world who were interested in jazz music and would appreciate this.

Tom Cross:

So it was very important to him that the drumming look realistic. Miles Teller is not a jazz drummer. I

think he had done some rock drumming in his time but they had to tutor him and train him, which they

did before and during the shoot. So all the big numbers, the big musical numbers, they had a

pre-recorded track with professional musicians playing on a pre-recorded track. But it was Miles, for the

most part, doing the drumming visually, pantomiming. There’s only a handful of shots here and there

where we might use an insert shot or a double. And I think there’s a couple of shots where it’s actually

Damien’s hands drumming. But most of it is Miles Teller doing it.

Tom Cross:

It’s another way that I think Damien wanted to make it feel realistic and make it really feel like this world

that these characters are living in. One way of doing that was to show all these little details and so he

used inter photography to really put the viewer in that place, really revel in these closeups of musical

instruments and part drum keys, tightening snare drums and things like that. So number one that helps

create the texture of this world that these characters are living and breathing. But at the same time, he

knew that we would use these pieces, these insert shots, these closeups, we would use those for stylistic

purpose, we’d use them for rhythm, we’d use them for transitions. We would use them to help the

energy.

Tom Cross:

So in a way, how do you make something exciting where characters are just sitting in chairs? They’re not

even rock musicians running around a stage. Literally they have to stay put. One way Damien figured out

was through these little details and he came up with the most amazing coverage of that stuff. Because

Damien always wanted to have the movie feel like a war movie. He wanted it to be intense like the

stakes are life and death and so it was like how do you do that? This is kind of, the way he shot it and the

way he wanted it put together is kind of an execution of that idea.

Sarah Taylor:

Did you guys sit together in the edit suite a lot to make sure that the drumming was right and to get that

back and forth or were you still able to do a lot of it? What was your working style?

Tom Cross:

So Damien’s style in general is he loves the editing process so once he’s done shooting, he’s always

there. We’re locked together in this editing room for hours and hours and hours. And Whiplash, we had

a very accelerated schedule. They started shooting the movie early September, like September 3 I

remember is when they started shooting. We had to send a cut to Sundance in the first week of

November and we had to lock picture or we locked picture for Sundance December 6. So started

shooting September 3, locked December 6 and then played in Sundance in January.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah that’s tight.

Tom Cross:

It was very fast. So we were in the cutting room not 24 hours a day but close to that. 20 hours a day. We

did these all night sessions and it was very intense but he’s a great collaborator. And even within being

together and even with him being a perfectionist and his brilliance touches all of our work and when I

say all of our work I mean Justin Hurwitz, the composer, me, [inaudible 00:41:48] the photographer, et

cetera, et cetera, everyone. He’s a great collaborator. So when it came to my input and my suggestions,

that’s why he wants me there. That’s what I’m there for. And so he has very clear ideas what he wants

but he wants a creative partner to be the sounding board or to tell him when something’s not working

and how do we make it work? And so the section we looked at, those are some of the scenes that

comprised the short film, that are the short film. So we worked out a lot of the stylistic things and the

way we wanted to establish the tension in the short film. And we got that to a place where both of us

were really, really happy with it.

Tom Cross:

And so when it came time to do the feature, Damien, who is always very well prepared going into these

things, he had drawn himself these crude story boards for the entire movie and he even had created

these crude animatics for the musical scenes and he would draw these stick figures and he would shoot

them with his phone and he would throw them into iMovie or Final Cut or whatever and he’d put them

together in this way and it was great. But for that section we just watched, he said, for this section, his

instruction to me, was let’s just rip off the short, just follow the short exactly. And so when I put

together this scene, the rushing and dragging, all of that stuff, I just said, “That’s great. All we have to do

is just copy ourselves.” So I just literally cut it exactly like that. And what we found is when we watched

the first cut when Damien was done shooting, that was the section that was the biggest problem. It

didn’t work at all. It did not work at all. And we spent more time working on that section you just saw

and the surrounding scenes than on the end of the movie. It was much harder.

Tom Cross:

And a big problem with it was that it just did not cut. It didn’t cut the same way. This sounds kind of

obviously now in retrospect but our editing concepts were based on other footage. It was based on the

footage from the short, which was different. Even though he tried to replicate the shots and you have

different performances, even the actor who played Andrew in the short film, it’s a different actor, it’s

Johnny Simmons who is brilliant in his own way in the short, but it’s different for Miles Teller who’s in

the feature.

Tom Cross:

So what we found was that we had to cut it, a lot of it, cut it very differently to make the tension, to

make the character of Fletcher scary because in our first cut of it it just seemed sort of mechanical. It

didn’t seem very intrinsic. Fletcher didn’t seem very scary, Miles Teller played it differently than Johnny

Simmons. They both played it brilliantly but in different ways and so I had to cut it differently. If you look

at the short film, when he’s slapping Andrew, that’s cut very differently than the way it’s cut in the

feature. So we had to almost just use the short as a starting point and toss out our preconceived notions

and just approach it on it’s own merits.

Tom Cross:

I always think of it as us using every trick in the book just to get that emotion out because there are a lot

of stolen moments, there’s little moments, both visually and a lot of audio that’s stolen from the short

film. We took different pieces of JK Simmons’s performance when he’s berating Andrew, we took some

of those audio pieces from the short film because we liked that performance better. There’s a like that

JK said almost by accident. He flubbed it in the short. He was supposed to say, “I’m going to gut you like

a pig,” or something like that and then he accidentally said, “I’m going to fuck you like a pig.” That was

more vulgar and intense and scary and so we used that in the short and JK didn’t do the take for the

feature but then Damien liked the audio so we took it from the short.

Tom Cross:

And there’s close up insert shots of instruments. I’m not sure if they were in this scene but in the

surrounding scenes there’s close ups of insert shots of tightening drum keys and things like that in the

short film. There’s a lot of split screens that we ended up using to combine performance pieces so when

JK is berating Andrew and Andrew starts crying and he says, “Is that a tear?” There was only one take of

a tear going down and it didn’t happen at the moment we wanted so we did a split screen and timed

different takes. Actually JK and Andrew. And then we recycled it. The tear is we used one tear for raking

and it comes down and then at the very end when you have a two shot and JK is berating him and you

see another tear go down, that’s the same tear.

Sarah Taylor:

Nice.

Tom Cross:

Every trick in the book, whatever it takes to get the emotion out of it. So that section, the scene you

played, was very hard. The other thing I’ll mention about it, and this really speaks to Damien’s, I think,

his brilliance as a story teller is that the section, the rushing and dragging section appears the way

Damien really designed it and that is that he wanted it to play as a back and forth where the coverage

and the pieces don’t really change that much. There’s other places in the story where you need an

abundance of coverage, you need different pieces and angles and that’s what helps make it exciting and

that’s what helps make it, in some cases, feel overwhelming and feel like abundance. Whereas in a scene

like this, the rushing and dragging, the whole point is to feel uncomfortable. And so he insisted that we

cut it in a very simple back and forth way and really stick to the same angles. We’re really cutting just

back end shot, counter shot. And the angles, the sizes don’t change really, JK starts moving in closer, he

walks closer as he approaches he gets closer and closer. But the camera angles aren’t really changing.

Tom Cross:

And that’s really a Damien strategy where he knew that if you don’t vary up the coverage, the audience

is going to start feeling more and more uncomfortable. You’re really going to start holding your breath

and you’re like when is this going to end? And as a viewer, you’re waiting for that angle change and

normally, when we cut stuff as editors, that’s part of our repertoire, we know to keep people interested

and invested, we need to place emphasis. We need to change the size, we have to change it up because

otherwise it gets boring. Well this is part of Damien’s point is it needs to be uncomfortable. So that’s

something that I learned by doing this with Damien. I never really thought of it that way but when there

are times where there’s power in redundancy, if that makes sense.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally. I don’t really like Fletcher at all.

Tom Cross:

Nor I.

Sarah Taylor:

Terrible. Do you want to touch a little bit on what it was like riding the wave of Whiplash? It made it to

Sundance and then you made it to the Oscars.

Tom Cross:

That was all, just to do the movie, like I said before, just to get a script like that and to be able to cut the

movie, that was already a win for me as an editor. I had been an assistant editor for many years kicking

around in different genres. I worked in reality, episodic TV, commercials, fashion videos, industrial

documentary, et cetera, et cetera. And so by the time I really decided I wanted to just cut full time, I was

just chomping at the bit to cut anything. And like many editors, at some point you reach the end of your

rope and you say I’m so desperate to cut I’ll cut anything. And I was at that place and I said yes to a lot of

different things. I went on interviews for jobs that had less than stellar scripts, had a lot of problems and

most of these things are jobs that I didn’t get. But I would have shown up to do them. That’s something I

always remind myself is that I have to be … I was at a point where I was so desperate to cut that I was

not picky. But when this came along, I knew enough to know that this was a fantastic opportunity, I just

didn’t know how fantastic it was going to be. I just knew it was a great story and had a lot of potential.

Tom Cross:

And so like I said before too, I was very lucky that I was not superseded or replaced along the way. There

were a couple points where I could have been pushed out and even when the movie went to Sundance

and was a big hit, Sony Classics bought the movie, I was just crossing my fingers that they would not

have studio changes that they would want to execute. And Sony Classics, I don’t think they do that so

much but other studios when they buy a movie, they buy an Indie, often they have things they want to

do to it. And I’ve been on movies that that’s happened with, movies where I was an assistant. And so I

was kind of waiting for that shoe to drop. And I’m convinced that the movie was so modest and small,

I’m convinced that it just went under the radar and people just loved it on it’s own merits and didn’t feel

the need to tinker with it. So I dodged bullets a couple times there.

Tom Cross:

And being a movie lover and having grown up as a kid watching, with my parents watching

Tom Cross:

Watching the Academy Awards on TV, that was part of this almost mythic Hollywood existence that I

could only dream of. Getting all those awards is a dream come true. I think the best thing that has

happened out of all of that is that because of the work, I get to meet and be connected with other

editors. I got to meet editors who I idolize, and it’s because they know the work, they’re familiar with

the work. So in terms of the awards and all that stuff, I don’t take any of that lightly and it literally has

been life-changing for me. If all that stuff with Whiplash didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have cut James Bond,

which was another lifelong dream to do.

Tom Cross:

So all that stuff, I’m just very grateful for. And again, the best part is it’s allowed me to connect to other

editors and especially editors whose work I admire. I’m an editor buff so I am always… If I learn that Joe

Hutshing is somewhere and I want to go say hi to Joe Hutshing, or I want to go… At the last ACE Eddies I

went to, I’d never met this editor, Frank Urioste who cut Die Hard and Basic Instinct and RoboCop. I

idolized his work so I’m like, “I got to go meet Frank Urioste.” And what’s great is I could meet him and

say, hey and it could come out that I worked on La La Land or Whiplash and he knows the work. And so I

think as a total movie geek editor buff, I think that’s probably the biggest plus that’s come out of all of

this.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. Speaking of La La Land, we have a clip. It’s the opening of the movie. Did you want to

intro it at all or have anything to say before we watch it?

Tom Cross:

I’ll mention the beginning of La La Land changed quite a bit from what it originally was, the way it was

originally shot, and the way it was originally conceived. But what I will say about this section is that it’s

supposed to be one unbroken take and it’s made up of, I forget whether it’s three or four interlocking

pieces, I have to watch it and remember. So it’s made up of these interlocking pieces that have these

specific join points, a la Birdman, a la 1917, a la Hitchcock’s Rope, that are supposed to make it seem like

one unbroken take. What I will say is that as originally conceived, the piece that we end up with, the last

piece used to be the first piece. That’s how it was conceived. And so what you see now in the movie, we

moved things around and it’s executed differently. And we did that for a bunch of reasons, which I can

talk about after, but I’ll set the table by saying that.

[clip plays]

Sarah Taylor:

Tell us about cutting that scene.

Tom Cross:

Well, so the original idea that Damien had for the beginning of the movie was it was always going to

start with a vintage logo that would segue into like a cinema scope logo, 20th century Fox, 1950s cinema

scope, widescreen logo. And then it was supposed to go to a main title sequence, which was just going

to be basically old fashioned title cards, beautifully done, but done in the style of an old Hollywood

movie. And it was going to have as a backdrop, a palm tree, and the background colors were going to go

from day to night. It was going to go through this whole cycle of colors and no image, other than that.

And then the palm tree, it was going to segue to the final card directed by Damien Chazelle. It was going

to have this palm tree over this blue sky.

Tom Cross:

And then the title would come up that would say winter. And then it would pan down to this wide shot

we have where you see that all the traffic on the freeway going off into infinity toward downtown Los

Angeles. So the idea was this main title sequence was going to serve as an old fashioned overture in the

way that if you ever watch any of these old roadshow musicals, like West Side Story. And I think

Tarantino replicated that for Hateful Eight, where you basically have music play, you might have a still

image and then we would have titles changing over it. But he wanted to musically go through all the

different melodies that you would hear later on in the movie. And so in that way, it would serve as an

overture.

Tom Cross:

Then we were going to go to the traffic number. But the difference is, as I mentioned, we changed the

order of some of the events. The way it originally was shot and intended was that we were going to start

on this wide shot, where you were looking down on the traffic and the freeway goes off to infinity and

the joke was that it would say winter, and this is winter in Los Angeles. It basically doesn’t look like

winter at all. There’s no snow. It’s just the sun beating down. And the camera was going to move down

and discover Ryan Gosling, playing, monkeying around the tape deck. Then the camera was going to go

to Emma Stone and she was going to be reading her sides in her car and then the camera from there.

Tom Cross:

So basically the original idea was to introduce Ryan and Emma first. Then the camera was going to pan

from Emma, rotate 180 degrees and start panning past these cars where all these people are singing

different songs or humming different pieces of music to the different car radios and that’s… There was

going to be a stitch there. So that’s the shot that the number begins on now, but it was going to be

preceded by… And so the reason we had a problem with it is because the way it was in its original

configuration, we meet Emma and Ryan. Then we pan away from them. Then we go to this musical

number where people are humming in their own cars. And then a woman gets out of her car and starts

the whole number. We go to this whole number and it was supposed to end with people closing their

doors.

Tom Cross:

At that point, there was no title card there because the title had happened already in the title sequence.

So they would slam the doors. Then you’d start hearing honking. And then we would cut for the first

time. And we’d cut to Emma in her car being honked at by Ryan. Then we’d go back to Ryan. So when we

did it originally, it always seemed a little weird that we met our main movie stars and then we went

away from them because Emma and Ryan were not part of the musical number. And then when we

would go back to them and something always felt a little strange about that. It didn’t sit well. And so

while we were cutting… We actually for several months, we lived with the movie, a version of the movie

without the traffic scene. We cut that musical section out. So the movie would start with the main title

sequence. And then I think it just went to Emma and Ryan honking at each other or something like that.

Yeah. And that’s it, no musical number.

Tom Cross:

And then we went on with the movie and we even previewed that version for an audience once. And

that version didn’t work at all. It was completely weird. We thought we were solving a problem because

the traffic thing was so weird, but what became really bad is that in that version, we didn’t have the

musical number. The first musical number where people break into song is with the roommates, with

Emma’s roommates later on. And that’s like 15… Yeah. It’s a while away, like 15 minutes into the movie.

And when they start singing, it’s weird because it’s like, “Wait a minute. Is this movie we’re watching?.

Oh, okay. What’s going on?” Yeah.

Tom Cross:

So it really reminded us that we needed to create a roadmap for the audience to understand that they

were going to be in this musical. So we were scratching our heads and went back to the drawing board

and we’re like, “Okay, well, what do we do? How do we fix this?” And also by the way, when we had the

main title sequence, which we thought was very important to establish a tone and sound and music and

the traffic sequence, the movie was way too long. It’s already a very hefty movie because you have the

whole story and then you have an epilogue at the end of the story. So it was just way too long. So we

had these problems on our hands.

Tom Cross:

And so somewhere along the way, we came up with this solution where we got rid of the main title

sequence, dropped that. And we started with the traffic number and we figured… And we had to take, it

was a risk. We took a leap of faith that visual effects could make the stitch, make this join between these

two shots because basically when the people slam the doors, when they close the doors at the end of

the sequence where the title La La Land comes up, when they close the doors, there’s a visual effects

transition that transitions to the first opening shot, which by the way, was shot on different days and

actually has different cars in them. So they were able to do… It’s still a little bit of magic to me.

Tom Cross:

When Damien and I did it in the cutting room, we just put like a dissolve, which totally did not work. You

could see the dissolve. Cars are different. Where the scene ended up on that shot and where that shot

started, if that makes sense, the end of the last piece, the beginning of the first piece, the composition is

pretty much the same. But again, they were shot on different days and there are different cars there. It’s

not exact, it’s not identical. So we just put a dissolve to do the transition. And we tried to come up with

like, “Do we do a trick where when the title La La Land comes up, that’s where you do your transition?”

But that didn’t work either.

Tom Cross:

So we left it to our visual effects company to work on. And I think they ended up doing basically a CG

takeover of some sorts where they just held and did a CG takeover of this traffic. And if you really

examine it, when the camera comes around behind Ryan, when you’re close, you can see when the

camera, if you look for it, there are cars in front of him. When the camera comes down and then the

camera’s in the cars in front of Ryan disappear for a moment. When the camera moves to a point where

they come back in they’re different cars.

Sarah Taylor:

I’ll rewatch it.

Tom Cross:

If you really scrutinize it, you’ll see. Anyway, they made that work. I think what is always a great lesson

for me from working on that scene is to think outside of the box for solutions. I think for the longest

time we kept telling ourselves, “Well, this is designed to be a one or all this stuff stitches together in a

very specific way. There’s no way you can change it. You can’t get out of it. You’re stuck. We don’t have

any coverage. You don’t want to cut. Even if we did, it’d be weird to cut to. We don’t have any.” But it’s

just a reminder to think outside of the box. And we somehow came up with this idea. Well maybe if we

move the first piece to the end and somehow make this transition work, stitch it together, we can

actually make this make sense.

Tom Cross:

And so what we ended up with was something that I think we found worked for the story, which was set

up the world. We don’t know the characters yet. Set up wide. Set up the world like here’s LA, here are

people in cars, traffic. We don’t know who these people are, but it’s okay. They kind of become the

Greek chorus of the movie. And then when the musical number’s done punctuated by coming on with

the title saying, this is La La Land, and then the title disappears. Now we focus in on specific characters.

Now we meet Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone. That makes more sense. But it took some outside of the box

thinking for us to arrive at that.

Sarah Taylor:

Now, where are the three points that you cut?

Tom Cross:

They were basically the first, I think when the woman comes out of the car and she’s dressed in yellow.

We’ve just panned past all these cars, that’s all a single take. And when she gets to the car, she starts

singing. At some point we whip pan around and it’s really on these whips that usually the transitions

happen. So yeah, that’s an easy transition there. So it’s on one of those whips. And then there’s a couple

of whips later where that happens. And those are basically the standards.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally.

Tom Cross:

I will say that there’s additional composite work within even those pieces. There were a couple points

where we wanted to, I think change the parkour guy into an [inaudible 01:09:54], is a different piece.

And then there’s a different piece when we were panning past the cars in the beginning of the

sequence, there was one extra in the background who fell asleep in his car because they shot this on

location. Obviously, hours and hours of shooting.

Sarah Taylor:

In the hot sun.

Tom Cross:

Yeah. If we want to change out a performance. So that’s a comp we comped in. So there’s a little point.

And then there’re speed changes all over to sync up the music more perfectly with the pre-recorded

music. And there’s also some moments where in the background, you see some dancers standing up on

the cars. There were a couple of dancers that were comped in later to add some symmetry that wasn’t

there on the scene on the day. It was intended, the way they shot it, was intended to be all pretty much

in camera, knowing that they’d have to clean up some of the crew trucks in the background, but

everything was as much as possible and tended to be in camera. But we did end up doing some

embellishing later.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a fun one. You saying in camera work brings me to First Man, because from my understanding

there wasn’t very much visual effects. A lot of it was in camera for the space stuff.

Tom Cross:

Yeah. A lot of in-camera for… That’s the way Damien wanted to do it. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I was surprised to hear that. That’s really cool. So I’m sure that there’s maybe challenges with that,

or maybe there wasn’t challenges with that. But we have one more, the last clip. Do you want to say

anything about the clip before we jump to that?

Tom Cross:

Only to say that with this movie, Damien really wanted to do something, he was hoping to do something

that people hadn’t seen in terms of space movies. And the classic space movies, there are so many giant

movies that loom really large in the Pantheon of sci-fi and space movies, the biggest one being 2001: A

Space Odyssey, which is shot in large format, is very much about the futuristic look. It’s very minimal. It’s

very clean. It’s almost antiseptic.

Tom Cross:

And so with First Man, he wanted to go away from what had been done so well before in 2001, in

Interstellar, in Gravity, he wanted really to make a movie that felt like the astronauts were filming it

themselves. He wanted something very gritty and very documentary like because he felt like… Very

machine age was his big thing because I think something he and Josh Singer, the screenwriter, learned

when they were doing the research was these space capsules are really more like tanks and more like

these machine age things, as opposed to these futuristic space age crafts. And so he wanted to highlight

the low-fi quality of what the astronauts had to deal with. And he figured a great complimentary way of

doing that would be to also go with this more low-fi cinematic approach.

[clip plays]

Sarah Taylor:

Does that bring back memories of the edit suite?

Tom Cross:

It does. I had a lot of help working on that movie. I mentioned my first assistant John To, who did

additional editing on the movie. I also brought in a friend, Harry Yoon an editor, a friend to do some

additional cutting. And then my whole crew was just stellar. That was the hardest movie I ever worked

on. That was just to… The footage was amazing. The footage was beautiful. I remember every time my

assistants would be

Tom Cross:

Prepping the footage, they would call us in the room. And someone would call us in the room and say,

“Take a look at this,” and they point out some amazing stunt that was done in camera or something like

that. Like Neil Armstrong ejecting from this lunar landing training vehicle. And so it was very beautiful,

but there was so much of it. There was so much footage. And you can see by this scene, not only was

there a lot of footage, it’s done in this verite, very scrappy sort of style. So it’s very challenging to

organize and piece together. And there are, also, you can see by this clip, there’s an enormous amount

of insert photography too. There was tons of insert photography.

Tom Cross:

And when you’re doing something like First Man, you are also somewhat responsible for the technical

authenticity part of things. And that’s something that Damien was very sensitive to. And we were

constantly checking with experts. And this happened during the script phase, that happened during the

shooting, happened during the editing phase. And it happened after we were done with kind of rough

cuts of it. We really had to make sure we were doing [inaudible 01:19:22]. Are we being true to things

on a technical level? So the scene in the craft, that’s a scene again, Damien is very prepared when he

goes into shoot these things. And that’s a scene that he had previs for, but what we ended up with was

entirely different from what was visualized. Some of the essence is the same, where you end up. And

some of the building blocks like the shot of the craft mounted camera, where the earth seems toSarah

Taylor:

Spinning, yeah.

Tom Cross:

… be spinning around that, we knew that was going to be a building block. But where we use it and how

often we use it, that’s the sort of thing that organically would change when Damien and I were cutting

the scene. With Damien and all his movies, he doesn’t like to start at the beginning. When he comes in

after filming is wrapped, we don’t really start at the beginning. He likes to start at the end. So we start at

the last scene, and we start cutting that together. And part of it is that usually the last scene, I mean, the

way he looks at it often is that the last scene should be maybe the best scene of your movie, or basically

should be your best scene. And so it’s going to be a big one. And it was that way for Whiplash, it was

that way for La La Land, and it was that way for First Man in a lot of ways. And when I say the last scene,

with First Man it was really the entire Apollo 11 landing on the moon. And so the last section.

Tom Cross:

And so with Damien, we knew that if we got through the end of the movie, we would check a huge thing

off our list in terms of our to-do list. But we could also, if we got it to a place where we were happy with,

it would help inform how we kind of feather everything into that last section. But then also we could feel

good about accomplishing something.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s always the best.

Tom Cross:

That’s always a good thing, right? But in some ways, this section with Gemini 8 spinning, that whole

section was a monster. We knew that if that whole section, if that doesn’t work, then the movie’s not

going to work. So yes, Apollo 11 was obviously, we’re leading up to that. Everyone is going to see the

movie because of that. But Gemini 8 is the thing that in some ways people know the least about. And in

some ways it’s harrowing because it was a mission that almost turned into a disaster. And so anyways, it

was very daunting to work on.

Tom Cross:

But it was kind of breaking it up into, into several sections. So we had mission control, which was all this

verite footage of all these technicians and mission control. And that was all shot in this verite style. And

then there was the footage at home with Janet Armstrong played by Claire Foy with her sons, and all

these interactions that she has with this little squawk box that she’s trying to listen in on the mission.

Tom Cross:

And then there’s the mission itself in the Gemini 8 capsule. And so again, I feel lucky as an editor

because with Damien I got to go on these very different journeys. I got to cut Whiplash, which has a

certain sort of editorial style. La La Land is also a very different style in a lot of ways, one with a lot of

long takes and montages and stuff like that, but it’s much more lyrical and slow. And then this movie,

which is very scrappy. I mean, I think he liked to do things rhythmically. You can see it when they’re

getting into the space capsule, not in this clip, but before when they’re getting in the space capsule and

their getting buckled in. There are a lot of pieces that Damien wanted to use that we tried to cut in a

way that would create a certain sort of rhythm with these buckles and doors closing.

Tom Cross:

But it’s not the same rhythmic precision that you have with Whiplash. With whiplash, he wanted cuts to

be kind of, as he put it, done at right angles. To be very, almost mathematical. But this, it’s much more of

a scrappy sort of feel. And you can see it more in the mission control scenes, and also the press

conferences that happened later on where he wanted it to really feel like a 1960s or 70s cinema verite

movie, like by the Maysles or by D.A. Pennebaker. He wanted it to feel very documentary in theory,

jagged in a way, if that makes sense.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally. A lot of people are commenting on the sound cues, the audio cues you used for the space

spinning. And did that stuff happen with you in the suite?

Tom Cross:

Yes. Well, and that happened very transparently with Ai-Ling Lee, our sound designer. She started early

on in the process. During the process when I was in dailies, she would kind of start creating a whole

library that I could use of sound design and sound effects. So space launches, things like that. So she

would build us a library. And sometimes along the way we would request things. I remember my friend

Harry Yoon did a first cut of the multi-access trainer, where the astronauts are strapped into this

gyroscope thing and they spin it around. Well, he did an early cut of that and a first cut of it. And he had

Ai-Ling, to give to Ai-Ling to sort of fill it out with some sound.

Tom Cross:

And so once Damien came in, and we started working with Damien, we already had a lot of this temp

sound figured out. And then it was further embellished when I worked with Damien. So we added

things. We added animal sounds. So in Gemini 8 spinning, there’s a lot of animal sounds in there that

Damien and I laid in and we started working with. And then Ai-Ling embellished those, and then she

added her own, things like that. So that’s one that it was meant to be very overwhelming and very

subjective.

Tom Cross:

And if you see the section where they’re in the capsule, for example, when they’re being buckled into

the capsule, and we just see Ryan Gosling’s eyes, so much of that is just sound. Because pictorially, at

some point you’re just seeing a bunch of eyes, and maybe you’re seeing a POV of some gauges, but

there’s not much. It’s very minimal pictorially. We really lean on Ai-Ling’s sound to kind of tell the story

with all the creeks and stuff. And so in terms of cutting, very different from La La Land, very different

from Whiplash. We had to cut it in a way where we were kind of, picture wise, it would get very spare,

but we would leave room for Ai-Ling’s sound. And we would put sounds in ourselves or get sounds from

her to do it while we were picture cutting. But then we’d hand it over to her and she would embellish,

and then she’d hand it back and we would embellish again. So we had a little sort of back and forth with

her. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

One other question I was wondering, since Ryan Gosling was in two, in La La Land, and then in First Men,

was that a benefit that you’d already seen how he works, and did that help you in editing First Man? Or

was it just so different that it didn’t really matter?

Tom Cross:

I mean, a little bit of both. First of all, he doesn’t really have any things, bits or ticks, or anything. So he’s

such a talented… He’s a movie star who’s a great actor. He’s both.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s good.

Tom Cross:

He holds the screen like a movie star, but then he is a great actor. And so the performances are just

stellar. So they are obviously very different. But I think the thing that was nice about it being Ryan and

having that history is that I like to think that he trusted us in terms of the work we were doing. So Ryan

came in, he came in on La La Land to give his opinion on some things. And he definitely did that on First

Man.

Tom Cross:

And contrary to what might be the stereotype or the cliche about actors wanting you to show them

more, Ryan was the opposite in a lot of ways. Often he would say, “You know what? I think we’re on my

face for too long here, and we’re not getting anything.” So he’d be the harshest critic in some ways like

that. But also there were many scenes where he would really have some ideas. We’d go through takes

with him. And he would say, “What about this take? Should we try this?: And a lot of times he would

help us take it to that next level. In the scene where Neil Armstrong is telling his boys that he might not

come back alive before he goes on Apollo 11, I mean, there are a lot of pieces that Ryan helped us kind

of mine and put in. So he was a great collaborator.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, that’s awesome to hear. I want to ask you about how you got onto No Time To Die and what that

was like for probably young Tom Cross, who I’m assuming watched a lot of the James Bond films.

Tom Cross:

I grew up a total Bond geek. I mean, I saw, when I was a kid, it was Roger Moore in the movie theater. I

would see Sean Connery Bond movies on TV. I just loved it. So out of all the success and all the heat that

happened with Whiplash, I said to my agents, I’m like, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this. I

don’t have any instructions or requests other than if there’s any way you can get me on a James Bond

movie, I would love to.” I don’t have a soft spot. I mean, I grew up with the Star Wars movies and stuff,

and of course it’d be a dream to work on that, but I didn’t really have any overt sort of a bucket list

things in that way, but the franchise that I really had a soft spot for was Bond.

Tom Cross:

And so I said, “Get me on a Bond movie.” I didn’t know any sort of organic way that that was going to

happen. And so I think it really came about because they were looking for two editors. And Elliot

Graham, whose work I completely admire. He did brilliant work on the movie Milk and Steve Jobs,

amongst many other movies. He was already going to cut the movie for director Danny Boyle, when

Danny Boyle was going to direct it. And so I think they knew that they had him. And he had worked with

Cary Fukunaga before who ended up being chosen for the director.

Tom Cross:

But I think they had a very ambitious schedule. And I think they knew that they would need two people.

And so my name somehow got thrown into the hat. And they were considering Linus Sandgren, the

cinematographer of First Man, Damien’s collaborator, for No Time To Die. And so they set up a special

screening of First Man before it came out. They screened for Cary Fukunaga and Barbara Broccoli. And

they were looking at Linus’s work. And I think somewhere in there, they probably also thought about

me. And so I think that’s how it came about. And so I just obviously jumped at the chance to do this. It’s

kind not a lot of people get to do this, and I certainly am a fan. So it was amazing.

Sarah Taylor:

And did it meet your expectations working on it?

Tom Cross:

I mean, more than met my expectations. I had a lot of great things that satisfied the inner child. But it’s

great also do it, collaborate with another editor so I didn’t have to bear the whole weight of the movie,

neither did Elliot. I mean, the two of us could do it together. We’d show scenes to each other all the

time. We bounced off each other all the time. And we had an amazing crew. It was an all British crew

who were incredible. And my first assistant, Martin Corbett actually had worked on Quantum of Solace.

So it was actually his second Bond movie. And our visual effects editor, Billy Campbell had worked on a

couple of Bond movies before that too. So we had kind of had a veteran crew to a certain extent.

Tom Cross:

I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie on that movie, on No Time To Die. When we had to

go to Matera, Italy to film some of the opening sequences for No Time To Die, that was some of the

most fun I’ve ever had on a movie. We got to go to this beautiful place in Italy that I brought my family

along. And I got to edit action scenes with Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. So to see that car which I grew up

seeing in old movies, right? So it was cool.

Sarah Taylor:

Well I had more questions, but I feel like I should let people ask you questions too. So I’m going to open

it up to the audience.

Audience Question:

Hey, Tom, I’m big fan of all the Damien Chazelle movies.

Tom Cross:

Thank you.

Audience Question:

I had a question about editing styles, and whether editors have certain cutting styles, or do they just

serve the story at the end of the day?

Tom Cross:

That’s a great question. There’s a big part of me that thinks that editors should not have their own style.

By the way I’m saying this, and I don’t think it’s black and white. I don’t want to be completist about this.

But I usually think that editors aren’t supposed to have your own style, that the style and your cutting is

supposed to be informed by the project, and by the dailies, by the footage, by the performances you’re

getting. All that being said, I think if you look at people’s work, I think you do often see a style. And it

might be one that maybe the editors themselves are aware of. They might not be aware of it at all.

Tom Cross:

But I think there is an organic thing that just happens with people. I mean, we all approach editing and

working on movies, we all approach it with our own different experiences. I have a family, I have two

children. I have my own life experiences. Those are different from everyone else’s. And so every person

brings their own life and their own selves to the table. And that can’t help but be informed how you cut

it. And so I think there is probably an inherent thing, an inherent something within each person.

Tom Cross:

I know that when I was starting out, or when I was getting into being a film lover, I would watch movies

edited by Jerry Greenberg who edited The French Connection and Apocalypse Now. And he used to be

Brian De Palma’s editor. And his movies were filled with these amazing set pieces, these little almost

self-contained action sequences that would be cut in a certain way that I would look at these things and

start to recognize things that I thought were stylistic choices. And I don’t know if that was intentional. I

never really got to speak with him about that.

Tom Cross:

But I think there’s a way that you can look at others and say, “Oh, that’s kind of like this person.” I think

if you look at the work by Hank Corwin, I think he has this brilliant style, that his cutting is really

amazing. And he does apply it to most of the movies that he works on. But again, I think he would also

say that what he applies and what he does is informed by the footage. And so the reason, my first thing

out of the gate was I don’t think an editor should have a style is just that I think the most important

thing is to really follow what your film is and follow what the footage is.

Tom Cross:

So since Whiplash, I’ve done little work on little projects where some people have said, “Well, I want it

to be like Whiplash.” But if it’s shot differently, if the intent is different, then you have something that

might feel forced, or something you might not be able to accomplish. Because it is so dependent on how

it’s shot and what it really wants to be organically, if that makes sense.

Audience Question:

First of all, I’d like to thank both of you for doing this. This is a very fascinating talk.

Tom Cross:

Thank you for listening.

Audience Question:

I was just wondering if Tom, you could speak a little bit about what specific values or qualities that you

look for in assistant editors.

Tom Cross:

Okay. Sure. I look for people who ideally love what they do. I mean, I love editing. I love what I do. When

I show up with filmmakers, I go to work shot from a gun in the morning. And I want to work with people

who want to be there. I want to work with people who are passionate, who love movies. And I want to

work with people who want to spend time with me because invariably they’ll have to. And so like I said, I

like to have lunch with my crew. It gets very different when the directors come in, because then often

it’s just me and the director. With Damien, he loves getting to know the crew, but then when we’re

working together, it’s often just us. So it’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or maybe not breakfast, but it’s

us together.

Tom Cross:

But when I’m in dailies, it’s just all about me and the crew. And so when I worked on First Man, every

day I would say to the crew, “Let’s go for a walk on the backlot.” And we’d go for a long walk, probably

too long, but we’d walk in the backlot of the studio, and look at all the standing sets and facades, and we

would just chat along the way. And I would get to know people. But I think it’s similar to probably, what

you want to project as an editor to filmmakers, you want to bring your passion to it. And you want to be

someone who people are going to want to spend time with.

Tom Cross:

So I think I look for that in the people that I hire for my crew, if that makes sense. And of course, above

all else, I assume that they are good at what they do. In other words, they know how to work with crew.

I like people who are good with people, who can work with crew, where there’s not any drama. But I

look for people who can kind of run the cutting room in a way, take care of all of that stuff. But definitely

personable. Personable and passionate.

Audience Question:

Hey. I was curious if you could speak to your experience co-editing on the Bond film. I guess when you

mentioned a bit how you came onto the project, but did you meet with your co-editor a little bit

beforehand to see if you guys got on? Was the chemistry there necessary in terms of bringing you on

board? How did you guys work out differences in your opinions on edits, and how’d the process go?

Tom Cross:

It went really well. It went great. But I will say that when you work with editors, I think it’s all about

casting. I think editors have to be cast well, because not all editors are the same. People have different

personalities. And I think Elliot and I were cast very well. I think that a lot of times we found,

aesthetically, we were on the same side of the coin. I think sometimes where we differed was just

different approaches in terms of process. Like, “Hmm. I don’t think this scene works here, but maybe we

should wait for a screening before we really make the decision.” Whereas Elliot might say, “You know

what? I don’t think it works either. I think we should cut it out sooner than later,” or vice versa.

Tom Cross:

I mean, I think where we differed was more the process in some ways. But differed, not so much that we

couldn’t get along. We always came back to the same place. We always were very unified as a team. And

I think that’s an important thing. And I’ve done this on Greatest Showman, I did this on David O. Russel’s

Joy. To a certain extent, you have to kind of check your ego at the door. And it also requires a lot of

restraint and self-discipline in terms of not being too precious about your work. You have to be

passionate. That’s the biggest thing you bring to this in some ways. You got to be passionate about what

you’re doing. But at the same time a director, like on other movies, I’ve worked on David O. Russell,

worked with Michael Gracey on Greatest Showman and Cary on this.

Tom Cross:

I mean, a director might say, “Look, I want this other editor to take a crack at something,” and you have

to be okay with that, or not okay with it. But if you’re not okay with it, maybe that means then these are

the scenarios where you want to try to avoid them. But I always try to approach it still as a passionate

storyteller. But at the same time, I try not to be too precious about it. It’s very different because you

realize that you’re not the only one sort of steering this vehicle.

Sarah Taylor:

Two things that you need to have in your edit suite to keep you safe during your edit.

Tom Cross:

This will sound like a cop-out. But to do my work, I really need a scene picture wall cards. I’d like to have

scene cards on the wall that illustrate all the scenes in the movie. I need that because I tend to lose track

of what scene comes after what scene. It’s another way of, for me, to kind of look at the blueprint of the

movie. So that’s one. Everything else is either a must or disposable.

Sarah Taylor:

Maybe like a plant, a special plant or something.

Tom Cross:

Assistants have put plants in my room, and that’s been great. I always forget about it. I mean, I guess,

again, it’s another cop out. It sounds so boring, but I mean an electric desk. I mean, I stand and I sit, and

to be able to change that up and moving it up and down. It sounds so geeky. I feel like I should have

something a little more Zen.

Sarah Taylor:

No, I think that’s important. That’s good for your body. So yeah why not?

Tom Cross:

That’s a good thing. I mean, I guess, I don’t know. I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great. Well Tom, thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us.

Tom Cross:

Thank you so much. I love doing this. And thank you to all the Canadian cinema editors. Thank you.

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome. Okay, bye everybody.

Tom Cross:

Bye-bye.

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much for joining us today, and a big thank you goes to Tom for taking the time to sit with

us. Special thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Jenni McCormick. The main title sound design was created

by Jane Tattersall, additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain.

This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao.

The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to

Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you

can donate directly at indspire.ca . The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within

our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune

in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If

you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community

of Canadian editors for more related info.

Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Jenni McCormick

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Commandité par

Annex Pro/AVID

Catégories
Événements passés

Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy

Editing Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult with Inbal B. Lessner, ACE and Gillian McCarthy
le 12 janvier, 2021

Cet événement a eu lieu le 12 janvier 2021

Presented in English / Présenté en anglais

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult chronicles the extraordinary and harrowing journey of India Oxenberg – the daughter of Hollywood actress Catherine Oxenberg and a descendant of European royalty – who was seduced into the modern-day sex-slave cult NXIVM. More than 17,000 people, including India, enrolled in NXIVM?s “Executive Success Programs,” a front for the cult and a hunting ground for its leader, master predator Keith Raniere. Women in DOS, a secret master-slave society within NXIVM, were sex-trafficked and branded with a cauterizing iron. Both about a mother trying to save her daughter and recovery from trauma, the series follows India’s seduction, indoctrination, enslavement, escape – and her role as “co-conspirator” in assisting the U.S. government with bringing down Raniere and his criminal enterprise. In addition to being a rigorous and unsparing examination of India’s abuse and her own culpability, it explores how India and a chorus of other women are still grappling to make sense of their experience. The series also showcases extensive insider footage and exposes the inner circle of enablers around Keith Raniere.

This series is about women by women. It had women in all key positions, and they took great care in creating an environment for the cult survivors who shared their stories, in which they felt supported before, during and after filming. We will discuss the ins and outs of shaping such a complex and sensitive story and the challenges that Inbal and Gillian came across in the edit suite.

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult is available on Crave in Canada and on the Starz app almost anywhere else, a secure link will also be shared with people who RSVP! This talk will be moderated by Sarah Taylor.

Sarah Taylor is award-winning editor with over eighteen years of experience. She has a passion for storytelling and has cut a wide range of documentaries, corporate videos, television programs, and full length feature films. Her work has been seen in festivals around the world including Sundance. She is a member of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) and is the host of the CCE podcast The Editor?s Cut.

Inbal B. Lessner, ACE, is an Emmy® and Eddie-nominated editor and producer. On her latest project, ?SEDUCED: Inside the NXIVM Cult,?  which she co-created with her filmmaking partner, Director Cecilia Peck, she takes on the roles of Lead Editor, Writer and Executive Producer. This four-part documentary series, premiering on STARZ, follows one young woman?s perilous journey through the dark and criminal world of NXIVM, the notorious self-help-group-turned-sex-slave-cult. 

Inbal and Cecilia Peck?s last collaboration was the Emmy-nominated feature documentary Brave Miss World, which debuted on Netflix in 2014. It is the story of an Israeli beauty queen, who was raped seven weeks prior to her winning the Miss World pageant, and her crusade to reach out to fellow survivors while trying to keep her own rapist behind bars. 

In 2019, Inbal edited and co-produced ?The Movies: The Golden Age,? executive produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog. This was the latest in her 4-year-long collaboration with the team that produced CNN’s Emmy-nominated “Decades? series. Inbal has edited seven episodes in the series and was nominated for an ACE Editing Award for ?The Nineties: Can We All Get Along.?

Inbal?s editing credits include ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (Netflix Original, Dir. Kelly Duane), nominated for an Outstanding Documentary NAACP Image Award, and Autism: The Sequel, (HBO, Dir. Tricia Regan), a follow-up to the Emmy-winning Autism: The Musical (2007). She edited and co-produced the internationally acclaimed, award-winning, I Have Never Forgotten You, about Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.  Inbal also directed the docudrama Night Bites and was second-unit producer on the HBO/ARTE documentary Watermarks.

Over the course of her career, Inbal has worked in the cutting rooms of directors such as Davis Guggenheim (Teach), R.J. Cutler (?American Candidate?), Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge (A Lego Brickumentary), Jeremy Simmons (?Transgeneration?), Tracy Droz Tragos (Be Good, Smile Pretty) as well as Natalie Portman’s feature directorial debut (A Tale of Love and Darkness). 

Inbal began making films when she was in high school and later produced training films for the Israeli Defense Forces.  At NYU, she was the recipient of the prestigious, merit-based, WTC Johnson Fellowship, awarded to one student filmmaker a year.  Since moving to Los Angeles, Inbal has edited hundreds of hours of non-scripted network and cable television shows. She was also a Visiting Professor at UNCSA Film School, and a mentor in the Karen Schmeer Diversity in the Edit Room Program.

Gillian McCarthy is an accomplished editor whose creative style combines compelling storytelling with a cinematic sensibility.  Her feature documentary credits include the Oscar nominated Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Girl Rising, and Above and Beyond: 60 Years of NASA. Her television credits include work for ABC, PBS, Showtime, STARZ, Discovery and OWN.  She learned her craft working in the most precise form of visual storytelling, the television commercial, editing countless national campaigns in New York and Toronto.  A dual American and Canadian citizen, she lives in Los Angeles.

Merci à nos commanditaires

À propos de l'événement

janvier 2021

17h HC

Canada

Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 040: Interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE

The Editors Cut - Episode 040 - Interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE

Episode 040: Interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE

Today's episode is an interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE.

Liza Cardinale, ACE is a television editor based in Los Angeles, CA. Her work spans many genres from comedy to fantasy and often features stories with complex female characters. Some of her credits include Outlander, Dead To Me which earned her an Eddie nomination, and the upcoming dramedy On The Verge. We chat about Liza?s editing journey from New York to LA and what life is like during the pandemic.

The Editors Cut - Episode 040 - Interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE

Écoutez maintenant

The Editor?s Cut – Episode 040 – Interview with Liza Cardinale

Sarah Taylor:

Hello, and welcome to the Editor’s Cut, I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out that the lands on which we have created this podcast, and that many of you may be listening to us from, are part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that has long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met and interacted. We honor, respect, and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions, and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

Sarah Taylor:

Before we begin today’s episode, I have a message from the Vancouver short Film Festival. The Vancouver Short Film festival is committed to celebrating the vibrant community of short film, video, and animation artists in British Columbia. Watching together while staying apart, this year, VSFF will take place January 22nd to 24th, 2021 in an online format. Visit vsff.com for more information.

Sarah Taylor:

Today, I bring to you an interview with Liza Cardinale, ACE. Liza is a television editor based in Los Angeles, California. Her work spans many genres, from comedy to fantasy, and often features stories with complex female characters. Some of her credits include Outlander, Dead to Me, which earned her an Eddie nomination, and the upcoming dramedy, On the Verge. We chat about Liza’s editing journey from New York to LA and what life is like during the pandemic. I hope you enjoy getting to know Liza as much as I did.

 

[show open]

Sarah Taylor:

Liza, thank you so much for joining me today on The Editor’s Cut. I’m really excited to sit down and pick your brain about all things editing.

Liza Cardinale:

Sure. My pleasure to be here.

Sarah Taylor:

Excellent. Where I like to start is, where are you from and what led you to the world of editing?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I grew up in the Bay Area, which is around San Francisco in California. I think it all began because I was a latchkey kid, which in generation X, where the people who like I had a single mom who was working, so a lot of times I’d get home and I would just watch TV. That was part of my routine. So, I watched a lot of shows like Three’s Company and Laverne & Shirley, and I mean, tons of really fun eighties sitcoms.

Sarah Taylor:

Excellent.

Liza Cardinale:

If they weren’t appropriate for children, a lot of things were definitely going over my head, but I think I just got caught with the bug of entertainment really young because of that. Because that was like my friend, my companion, my TV, my joy, my entertainment, so much fun. Then my dad, he moved to LA to become a writer on Family Ties, because he was never a writer when I was a kid. He was an accountant and then he built houses.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a big shift. That’s awesome.

Liza Cardinale:

Huge shift, yeah. The way he kept changing careers, I think showed me that wow, anything’s possible. When you’re a grownup, you don’t have to settle into one thing. You should always follow your passion. His really good friend from growing up was Gary David Goldberg, who had created Family Ties and really hit it big as a writer, but they were just little scrappy kids running around Brooklyn in the ’50s. But Gary really wanted his friends to join him in his success, so he taught them how to write from afar. I just remember my dad writing all these spec scripts of cheers and whatnot.

Liza Cardinale:

I would read them, and he would say, “Read this script and put a red check mark by anything that’s funny.”

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome.

Liza Cardinale:

To make sure that the humor was coming across. I’d say that, that was my early training, was in reading. Reading his scripts and seeing him evolve as a writer. He still writes to this day. You cannot get this guy to stop writing. He loves it. No one’s paying him for it, but he loves it. That’s something you can do forever. That was a happy thing. Then when I would visit him in LA, I could sometimes visit the set of Family Ties because they had a live audience, so that was super exciting to me, as like an awkward tween from suburban Marin County, where nothing exciting was really going on.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Liza Cardinale:

Getting that peek behind the curtain made a big difference. Sadly, I never got to work with Gary, or even talk to him really, professionally, because by the time I had a strong career, he had already retired and sadly he’s passed away now. But interestingly, sidebar, he is one of the main reasons that Liz Feldman became a showrunner and a writer. She’s the showrunner of Dead to Me. She also grew up in Brooklyn, like my father did, like Gary, and she said that, when she was a kid, she was in her parent’s chiropractor office, and they got all the magazines for the clients to read in the waiting room.

Liza Cardinale:

She read People Magazine. They had a huge profile on Gary David Goldberg, the showrunner of Family Ties, and he was talking about his life story growing up in Brooklyn. Liz said that that was her light bulb moment, where she’s like, that’s what I want to do.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing.

Liza Cardinale:

She didn’t know showrunners existed, but the fact that he came from Brooklyn and he ascended to those heights showed her that she could. So, it’s been cool. Sometimes Liz and I talk Brooklyn stuff.

Sarah Taylor:

What a wild connection that, that ended up being. How cool is that?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. The last time my dad visited me, I took a picture of him, because I gave him like a Dead to Me hat or something with a baseball cap. She said, “Oh, it looks like your dad and my dad should be friends,” and then she sent me a picture of him, and they’re like the exact same type of cute Brooklyn dude. I don’t know how to explain them [crosstalk 00:06:01].

Sarah Taylor:

Dude from Brooklyn.

Liza Cardinale:

Adorable. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, that’s fantastic. So, your dad was a big influence on you for even just storytelling, getting into that world, knowing that, that’s a possibility. How did you end up then … Did you just decide to go to film school? What was your next step knowing that you wanted to do that too?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I didn’t know much about it, and my dad didn’t know much about behind the scenes people, so I just thought there are directors, there are writers, and there are actors. That’s about the extent of what I knew about filmmaking. I thought, I know I don’t want to be in front of a camera. I could be into writing, but I think I should direct. I think I want to be a director. That was initially what got me into really studying different directors’ work. I would rent all their movies and go down the rabbit hole of Hitchcock or John Waters. I got really obsessed with them, and David Lynch. I liked the weird stuff.

Liza Cardinale:

I still like weird stuff. I went to UC Berkeley and it didn’t really have a film department. I was doing like theater. I was just sort of dabbling at that point in various art forms, but I made some films instead of writing papers because I was lazy about writing papers sometimes. The teachers would accept that, even though there was no production department, so I just had to make my own movies and use my own camera. Then they had one VHS tape to tape kind of editing system, so I got in there. You could not tear me out of that room. I just wanted to stay for hours and hours, and the sun went down and the time flew by.

Sarah Taylor:

It sounds very familiar.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, that’s a very common early editor story. You get in there, you’re like, I’ve never done this before, but I can’t stop. [crosstalk 00:07:45].

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s been … What? 12 hours just passed? What? Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. It was so rewarding. That’s when I realized that this is my happy place. I don’t really want to be in charge of everything, and I definitely don’t want to get up at five in the morning every day and run to set. I think this is a much better fit.

Sarah Taylor:

Then what led you to your first job? How did you get your first job in the industry, or even learn the craft?

Liza Cardinale:

I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was doing random jobs. I went to New York thinking I wanted to move to New York, so I was pretty much homeless at that point. I was just like subletting an apartment. September 11th happened the day after I arrived in New York City, and that completely shut the city down. So, any like job hunting, house hunting, Mary Tyler Moore fantasies I was having of taking over Manhattan, that definitely was halted in its tracks. Instead, I just had the experience of being there for that.

Liza Cardinale:

One of my best friends in the city was an assistant editor. I knew I liked editing. I still hadn’t committed to that as a craft, but she let me come to work with her every day because I had nothing to do and nowhere to go, and the city was kind of shut down. She was working in Nyack on a Jonathan Demme movie called The Truth About Charlie. She was an old school film assistant that doesn’t really exist anymore where she was conforming the print. But the main editor, Carol Littleton was working on an Avid, and she had one assistant who was working on an Avid.

Liza Cardinale:

I’d sometimes sit behind that one. Her name’s Suzanne Spangler, she’s an editor now. She would just to look over her shoulder and be like, “So, here’s what I’m doing. Here’s how you get the dailies, you get the bin, you get the ALE file. I just like accidentally shadowed some really great, top tier professional editors. Then went to a trade school right after that. I went to a school that just taught editing in Portland, like an Avid certified whatever kind of place. Somebody I met there … I was still homeless at this point, by the way, because I moved from New York to Portland.

Liza Cardinale:

That school, they get a director to bring footage in to let the students play with it. The director was named Billy Logue, and he said, “Why don’t you move to LA after this is done and recut my movie. I want you to cut the whole thing. I can’t really pay you, but I’ll get you a job at the Playboy channel.” Which is where he worked.

Sarah Taylor:

Interesting. Yeah.

Liza Cardinale:

But I’d said, “Sure.” It’s very open at that point, and then what’s the next door that’s opening I’m going to walk through it? I moved into my dad’s garage, where I had a little twin size bed and got to work night shift assistant editor. My first job, I just learned from the people. I learned the Avid, but I had no idea about workflow and scripts and all the things, outputs that I had to do, but people are so friendly. They taught me everything I needed to know, the other assistant editors.

Sarah Taylor:

Then that led you to assistant editing, right?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. I assistant edited for a very long time. It felt like an eternity.

Sarah Taylor:

Did it feel like an eternity because you felt like you’re trying to get to the next step and it just wasn’t happening, or how did it work for you to get from assistant to now then be like, okay, I don’t want to be labeled that anymore, I want to be the editor?

Liza Cardinale:

That was a very tough leap. I think it might be a bit easier for ladies now because people are so hungry to find lady editors. But I did notice in my time, which is not that many years ago, that all my male counterparts had been promoted long before I was. I don’t think it was because I had less skills. I just think people just tended to trust guys more. The way it’s changing, it’s great. For me, I met this editor named Jonathan Schwartz on the Big C.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s such a great show.

Liza Cardinale:

Oh yeah, it was a great show. I loved it so much so I always made sure I went back to it. I couldn’t make the last season, but I did three seasons of it. We would kind of share … It was a weird setup, so I think I had to assist a few different editors and they’d shuffle us around. I just really liked John. I had been working on The Walking Dead, but it was giving me so many nightmares.

Sarah Taylor:

Can’t even imagine.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, it was pretty gross to work on that. It was with a good friend of mine. I was assisting someone from college actually, from UC Berkeley. Lovely guy, but I just called him and I said, I don’t think it’s a good fit for me. I’m dreaming about putting axes in zombies heads and blood spurting is just really not my style. I told John, “John, I like you. I like assisting you. Wherever you go next, you can have me if you want me.” He said, “Oh, okay. You’re not going back to The Walking Dead. Okay.” He took me to a show called The Neighbors for ABC, which was a sitcom.

Liza Cardinale:

He really wanted to cut features, so he didn’t want to stay there for very long. He did stay the whole first season, but then the second season, he decided to leave to do a feature that he recommended that they promote me instead of finding an outside editor.

Sarah Taylor:

That was great.

Liza Cardinale:

So, I was very lucky to have that assist. Then the showrunner, Dan Fogelman, knew me, trusted me. I had cut some stuff for him, so he went to bat for me. I think that the hard thing is that you need somebody in a position of great power to go to bat for you with the studio because they don’t want to risk it.

Sarah Taylor:

Was that your first sitcom? You watched the sitcoms as a young kid in the ’80s, and then now you’re cutting a sitcom. Were you like, “Wow, I’m here.”

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. It wasn’t the kind of sitcom that those were. There was no live audience or anything, but it had that sensibility. I think, because it was very wholesome and sweet and family based. As my dad would tell me, you always have to end with a quiet scene between two people. You have to get to this intimate, true heartwarming moment at the end, and I pretty much followed that formula. It did feel pretty good. It was definitely weird too, but it got canceled. But still, it was such a great first job because I knew everybody on the crew. I even knew the actors because they shot right there and I had so much support.

Liza Cardinale:

My first day, I had people coming into my room saying, “Liza, we’re so happy for you. You’re going to do great. Congratulations.” Because they knew it was such a big deal too. I felt like, oh, I’m so supported. I don’t have to prove myself. I still do, but I don’t have to do it in a unfriendly environment.

Sarah Taylor:

Exactly. That makes all the difference.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

You ended up being the one of main editors of Outlander, which is a huge series that has a huge following. People love it. I giggled when I heard that your first job was with Playboy and you’re working on Outlander, which some people say is soft core for women. I was like, that’s fun.

Liza Cardinale:

Definitely is. Yes, there’s enough soft core for men. It’s time to make some for women. I fully support that.

Sarah Taylor:

Yes, amen. I think that is great. Getting onto Outlander, did you read the books? Were you interested in that series before you got onto it? What was the story of Outlander, and when you started working on it, did you have a feeling that it was going to become this big?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I knew it was a huge romance, novel community. I knew it was huge in that community as a book series, so I suspected. Just like Game of Thrones, that whenever you have multi-million human beings already in love with these characters and waiting for it, I figured it would be pretty big, especially once the casting was good, because that’s where I guess it could have sunk if people didn’t love their Jamie because they love their Jamie so much. That would have been like a personal affront. I love that it has such a big fan base because I like to read their comments on episodes that I’ve done and see on Facebook.

Liza Cardinale:

I just love to know that it’s connecting with people and to see which are the moments that they really connect to, what makes them cry, what disappoints them too, I’m curious about, which is usually any time it diverts from the book, which is like the Bible.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, no kidding.

Liza Cardinale:

Even before I had my interview for that show, I read the entire first book, which was hard to get through all of it really fast, but I didn’t really know about it before. I got the audio book, I would read it, I would get it in my car whenever I was driving through Los Angeles. It was really fresh in my mind when I talked to Merrill, who was an executive producer and she was in Scotland. She was like calling me from the set to interview me.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, so cool.

Liza Cardinale:

The crazy time zone difference. But I could just talk about the characters in the story and that was basically the interview. It was so easy to latch onto that, especially in that first book. It’s so exciting because it’s the falling in love and the time travel. Yeah, all the hot steaminess of it. I’m someone who’s been to a lot of conventions like Comic-Con or KublaCon, various kind of nerdy things. I just like that environment. Super fans are not new to me. That’s a very comfortable crowd. I remember when it premiered and I went to the … A lot of us went down to Comic-Con for the premiere, and they had it in a big movie theater. Bear McCreary, the composer debuted the Jamie and Claire theme music live on stage.

Sarah Taylor:

Amazing.

Liza Cardinale:

Then they played the first episode of cut outs and all these ladies in the audience just screaming, screaming throughout. It was really fun. It’s so fun as a TV editor to get to see things in the theater anyway, because usually you have such a distance from your audience.

Sarah Taylor:

That must’ve been really interesting, you’re getting feedback from your audience all the time. As you went forward to the second season, to the next seasons, were you taking some of that knowing how the audience was reacting to things? Were you thinking about that in the edit, or were you just still doing your thing going with your instinct?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I would always read the book before the season started for me. That was mainly because I could see how important accuracy was to the fans. I had to just become a fan of the books myself in order to deliver that, so it’s very clear in the books what are big moments and what a character is supposed to be like. Sometimes that changes based on casting and stuff, but I could tell … I could just see what were the important moments that needed to land and needed to be really emotional and heartfelt, so then I made sure I gave them a lot of extra time in the edit. I spent a whole day, and this is not even actually something from the book.

Liza Cardinale:

This is a bad example, but I spent at least a full day on a one minute scene where Jamie goes into a blacksmith place, and Murtagh’s there, and he doesn’t know Murtagh’s there. They’re seeing each other for the first time in years, but I understand how important that relationship is and how huge that moment needed to be an epic reveal moment. I spend the time by trying it a hundred different ways until I find the best one.

Sarah Taylor:

It might not have been in the book, but you knew those characters and you knew how important those moments were for the audience, which I think probably made a huge impact for the people watching that [crosstalk 00:20:02].

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. A later episode in that season, I also got to cut the scene where Jamie sees Brianna for the first time, because she traveled back in time to find him. That also was a very tough scene, and I spent days and days on it trying a hundred different pieces of music and different close-ups, different timing, who, what. In the end, it got to a place where everybody would cry when they watched it.

Sarah Taylor:

Because you’re like, I win. I did it.

Liza Cardinale:

I did it.

Sarah Taylor:

When you’re in those moments where you’re going and you’re auditioning all these different takes or you’re playing with the different music, are you bringing, in your workflow, do you bring somebody else in to watch your edits with you or do you watch it on a different screen? How do you navigate that world when you’re trying to see if a scene is working?

Liza Cardinale:

I usually don’t bring anyone in. I think, because I’m the hardest to please person that I know. If I can please myself, I kind of assume that other people will like it, which may be a weird thing to say, but sometimes I’ll play it later, or I’ll let my assistant, of course, watch it when they need to do some sound work on it or something. That’s usually my first audience I’d say. I love when assistant tells me if the scene is working for them or not. I really respect their opinion. But yeah, I usually don’t like get a crowd in or anything. I sometimes sit back, I try to watch it without touching the keyboard, but I usually fail.

Sarah Taylor:

It’s really hard. I’ve tried that too. I’m like, maybe if I watch it on my TV where it’s not in my editing, but I still haven’t tried it.

Liza Cardinale:

Well, this is advice that Michael Ruscio, another ACE member, he told me that it was really important to take it home and to watch it on your TV, especially when you’re talking about a full episode, because that’s the only way you cannot touch it. It’s the only way you can get in the head of an actual audience member.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, for sure.

Liza Cardinale:

I still have not done that though. I don’t know why. I don’t have the patience to do it that way.

Sarah Taylor:

I know. I feel very much the same, but I think it’s great advice. We just need to take it.

Liza Cardinale:

It’s great advice. I’m just such an obsessive changer. I’m just such a noodler.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. That sounds very similar to my style. Were there any challenges that came with Outlander, you jumping between time? It sounds like it could be very complicated. Did you run across any challenges in the edit?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. Well, I’d say the most challenging thing sometimes was the camera work, because it was a tough … We were in this weird gray zone where they wanted to be beautiful, but not very composed, like a typical period piece would be. They wanted it to feel real and grounded. That’s what was special and unique about the show. Sometimes when you have a handheld camera that’s moving around and shifting focus, and there’s a lot of times when it’s just ugly unusable stuff, because cameras, then sometimes they miss the moment that I really, really wanted.

Liza Cardinale:

That’s a challenge that I’d say is not my favorite challenge to deal with, but I just worked hard to preserve the beauty as best I could. Sometimes I’d have to stabilize shots that were a little too loosey goosey. The other challenge would be that the showrunner, at the time when I worked there, was Ron Moore, Ronald D. Moore. He likes to rewrite in the edit. Not all showrunners do that, for sure, but he is definitely the type. He’s not restricted by what he’s seeing on the screen. He’s like, Oh, let’s just change the entire theme and vibe of this theme.” Or like, let’s end it here, or take the whole middle out.

Liza Cardinale:

He’s very outside the box thinker, which is great. I find it really exciting to work for people like that, but sometimes it feels like, what? You want me to do what? That’s not at all what they shot, that’s not at all what was written, that’s not how it was played. But there’s actually a ton you can do in the edit when you have to. It was a great learning experience. For example, there’s a scene in season one, episode five, which was my very first episode that I cut, where she’s going on the road in Scotland. It’s a love letter to Scotland episode.

Liza Cardinale:

It shows the world beyond just her, and she’s starting to connect with these people almost against her better judgment. She’s just starting to like them and feel like part of the part of the crowd. They were supposed to be on the road for like months and months, but it felt like it was three days because I don’t know, it was just a failure of the script or whatever. It didn’t come through that there was time passing. Ron said, “I need to feel the passage of time. Let’s just make a montage somewhere in the middle there and we’ll add some video.” Then he said, “Okay, make a montage out of footage. Shop for other scenes.” I had to dig through now, luckily there were some things that I hadn’t used at other campsites or whatever, so I could pretend like it was … This is a whole new campsite.

Liza Cardinale:

This is a whole different … This is the same river, but I’m going to flop the shot and pretend that’s a different river. The view certainly helped, but I think people completely bought it that this was a legitimately planned time passage montage. It helps that everybody’s wearing the same clothing. From episode to episode, they’re just never changing their clothing because to be like time period realistic.

Sarah Taylor:

Exactly.

Liza Cardinale:

You can really steal stuff. You could steal stuff from anywhere. I could steal things sometimes I’d have to steal from other episodes to make a montage. Because this is not the only time I had to do that. I had to do that probably every season, make up a montage that wasn’t there.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Yep, that sounds like a challenge, but great that there’s the opportunity that you have those extra elements that you can just harvest from, right?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, and that was nice about being there for so long, so I was there for the first four seasons, so I had a pretty good baseline knowledge of …

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. You can remember what came from before or whatever. That’s cool.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Do you have a highlight from Outlander?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, my favorite episode was definitely the witch trial episode, which was season one, episode 11, and I loved it because it was when Claire confesses to Jamie she’s a time traveler. I knew that also from the book was a huge, huge, huge, huge deal. There was so much anticipation leading up to that moment. It felt … Yeah, I liked being able to cut that. Then I loved the friendship with Geillis, and the craziness of the witch trial and everyone’s shouting. It was just such a visceral episode that went so many places. From beginning to end, you really feel like you’ve been through something. It’s an experience. Yeah, I loved getting to be that.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s awesome. Are there types of scenes that you prefer to edit? Do you like editing elaborate scenes with lots of people? What is your ideal scene to cut that you’re like, “Yes, I can’t wait to cut the scene?”

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I don’t love cutting scenes with lots of people in them because they’re so hard. They’re so hard. I love any scene that has emotional undercurrents going on, like falling in love is my favorite kind of scene to cut, I guess, building up to kisses, or good friendship, or intimacy when something feels really real and connected. That’s my favorite. Then hopefully the performances are good.

Sarah Taylor:

I feel like you’ve got to do a lot of that in your work on Dead to Me, there’s a lot of those kinds of moments.

Liza Cardinale:

Yes.

Sarah Taylor:

You’ve worked a lot on a lot of Netflix series as of late, Dead to Me being one, and Insatiable, which I loved. I thought that was a great series. Then Teenage Bounty Hunters, which I sadly heard was not renewed.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, that really surprised me.

Sarah Taylor:

With Dead to Me and Insatiable, it’s comedy, but it’s dark comedy. Is that something that you were wanting to get into?

Liza Cardinale:

Not consciously. I think it just sort of happened. I think I have enough of a slightly morbid sense of humor that it’s a good fit, and I understand it, and I get it. I’m grateful to be in that place, but yeah, I didn’t actively pursue it. If anything, I keep telling my agent, I want to do a romcom. I want to do a romcom. I think they’re making them again. Just get me on some, like you’ve got mailed [inaudible 00:28:55] in Seattle type movie. That still might happen. Those usually are not dark comedy, but they’re sweet. But yeah, I like to go between the two. I like to balance my light and my darkness.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing. Let’s talk about Dead to Me. How did you end up getting that job? How did that work out for you?

Liza Cardinale:

That was a matter of me sending my resume to the right person at the exact right moment. I was wrapping up on Orange is the New Black. I was hired to just cut one episode because the editor had to start late, and I had no idea what I was doing next. I heard about Dickinson for Apple, and that this woman, Darlene Hunt, who was the creator of The Big C, I heard she was involved. So, I sent her my resume and said, “Hey, do you need anyone, Dickinson? She said, “No, we’re cutting in New York, but I’m sending your resume to a friend who’s looking for an editor.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh great.

Liza Cardinale:

That was Liz Feldman. Liz got it. Within an hour, she had her post producer call me and say, can you come in and interview? I mean, they were desperate. They had already started shooting, and they didn’t have their pilot editor.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh wow.

Liza Cardinale:

I think they had just started shooting that day. Liz is just … She’s very picky. She had interviewed a lot of people and she hadn’t felt that click, that magic that she was looking for. I basically packed up my office at Orange is the New Black and drove right over to the interview with her at Raleigh Studios. I hadn’t read the script because I really had just gotten the phone call about it. I didn’t even know about the show. She told me, ?I like Christina Applegate?. I love her. Oh my God, she’s a goddess. Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to love the show. Yes. I had already been hired to cut another dark comedy about a widow called Widow.

Sarah Taylor:

Interesting.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. Then that was going to happen the year before and then it got killed, whatever. Happens to pilots. They never ended up shooting it. It was for YouTube Red. I think that that disappeared, whatever happened. I felt like I had unfinished business in widow comedies.

Sarah Taylor:

You needed that.

Liza Cardinale:

I needed to do a widow pilot. I even told her about that one. She said, “Yeah, I read that script. That was pretty good.” I said, “Yeah, it’s really sad that didn’t happen, but please can I do this one?” She sent me the script and on Saturday I read it. Then we talked again. I said, I loved it, whatever. We talked about the script. She said, “It’s between you and one other person.” I don’t know who that was. She was really agonizing over it. Then Monday I found out she had chosen me. Yay.

Sarah Taylor:

Yay.

Liza Cardinale:

Then I had to get to work. I had to wait for Netflix to approve me, which took a couple of days. I started on Tuesday or Wednesday, right after the interview and I was already so behind, whatever, because they started shooting on Friday. Then there was that panic that I think you know about, where they were concerned about a particular scene [crosstalk 00:31:58].

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, tell us about that scene.

Liza Cardinale:

Okay, so my first day there was very intense. They were shooting down the hall. They were shooting using part of my … The editing office as a location. So, there were like a million people thumping around the line producer, and Liz, and the director kept coming into my room and saying, “Have you cut the scene yet? Have you cut the scene yet? We might need to do a pickup. We might need to do a rewrite. I don’t know. We have to get this location, it’s really complicated. You just need to show us the scene right now.”

Sarah Taylor:

No pressure, no pressure.

Liza Cardinale:

I said, ?Oh my God?, I just got here. I don’t even know what this show is. This is really stressing me out, to have to show something on my first day. This is definitely not standard operating procedure. I cut something together and showed them, and they were like doing this kind of woo pensive watching. They’re like, yes, we need to pick something or we need to shoot something differently. I said, “Well, Liz, what is it that you want from the scene? Because maybe I can tell you if it’s somewhere in the dailies, maybe I just need to change the cut.”

Liza Cardinale:

She said, “Well, I don’t think you’re keyed into Judy’s story enough and I think it needs to be a closeup. I think we need a closeup of her and we need to have more of an emotional moment with her telling the story of her miscarriages.” I said, “Yeah, that would really help. To be honest, I don’t believe her because she’s just been exposed as a liar, so I don’t even know if she’s telling the truth about these miscarriages.” Liz said, “Mm.” She wrote a lot of new dialogue and shot a new scene and it became abundantly clear she’s not lying. This is a super earnest, sad, raw moment for her. That’s what was missing in the original version of the scene.

Sarah Taylor:

Wasn’t this one of the first scenes that they actually shot too?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. They shot all that whole grief circle. Everything at the grief circle, which was the beginning and the end, they shot that the first day.

Sarah Taylor:

Even for the actors to get into it, that’s such a big scene to do at the beginning?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. That’s wild.

Sarah Taylor:

Those scenes where you’re like … It’s almost like a dinner table scene or a fight scene, or like your pen. You’re in the scene and there’s lots of different direction and it’s a circle, that must’ve been a huge challenge in itself just cutting a scene like that. How did you approach that? Especially under the gun of, I need to put something together now. How do you do that? What did you do?

Liza Cardinale:

Oh God, I think I was having an out of body experience. I can’t really remember. I liked the take where Jen … The thing about Christina Applegate, she doesn’t like to do a lot of takes, so you kind of have what you have. I liked the one where she came in really hot and was yelling and really angry. I just went with that vibe and then tried to find some funny reactions, but I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer the question because it was such a frightening experience. I just tried to like block out everything that was going on around me and say, okay, what do I like? What do I like?

Liza Cardinale:

I don’t know the tone of the show. I don’t know what the showrunner wants. I’ll just try to do something I think is interesting and hope that, that translates.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I feel like that’s a really common. It’s sometimes hard to articulate how the process is working in our heads, as editors. Like, we’re doing what feels right. We’re doing what our instincts tell us to do. You brought up not really knowing the tone of the show, and as a pilot editor, that’s what you’re helping shape. How do you approach that with the director, the showrunner, and getting the right tone? Especially in a dark comedy, because I feel like if it’s too much joke, then there’s not enough drama, how do you balance that?

Liza Cardinale:

That was super tough on the Dead to Me Pilot. We spent a lot of time, a lot, a lot of time. Finding the tone for one thing was finding the right temp music. That was so hard. I basically gave up because everything I tried, Liz would reject. Eventually, we hired a music editor to come work with us for a few days. He had a huge library of soundtracks and he found one thing that she liked, one thing. It was the soundtrack to a movie called Barry, about Obama. It wasn’t the Barry … At first, I started cutting with it thinking this is Barry, the TV.

Sarah Taylor:

The TV show.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. But no, it’s the movie called Barry. For some reason, she responded to that. It wasn’t too sappy. It wasn’t too comedic. It just had a little lift of energy to it that helped you feel like it wasn’t … because we were trying the leftovers. All she had told us was that she liked piano and she liked a bit of orchestration, which sounded like we were going down a path of way too heavy handed, dark sadness. Because especially if I ever put in a comedy film score, she would say, “That’s too jokey. That sounds too jokey. No, no, no, no.”

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, it was very hard to get there. But once I found Barry, we just used that for everything. We used every track of that throughout the first season. I mean, now we have actual score from Adam Plouff, which is beautiful and he hit that tone nicely. Yeah, I think music is a big part of the tone. Then we had to shave out a lot. Basically this tone was found by cutting out scenes, and part of that … Or cutting scenes in half. Too much was being played, very earnestly, in dramatic, and so it didn’t feel like a comedy at all. I would say it’s still is not huge comedy forward, but you at least know that you have permission to laugh at stuff that it’s not taken too seriously.

Liza Cardinale:

There were scenes like the beach scene where they talk Jen and Judy and they’re really bonding there. There was at least two more minutes of that, for example. That was something we could trim down, keep it intimate, keep it sweet and important, but not linger too long on these heavy stories they’re telling each other. There’s another time when they go to a cliff and they do this primal scream together, and we just took it out. I don’t know. It just felt a little too Indie movie moment scene moment, or something.

Sarah Taylor:

I’ve seen that scene before.

Liza Cardinale:

Exactly. It was an iconic moment. We didn’t need to repeat. The grief circle in the beginning also went maybe five minutes longer than what you see today, which is still pretty long, but that’s the shortest I can make it happen. I tried to cut that scene down for, days, days and days.

Sarah Taylor:

How much time did you have to get the pilot to be ready for … Were you on a tight deadline to cut the pilot or did you have some space to actually try?

Liza Cardinale:

We had space because they didn’t do the pilot separately. They just started the series, so I had basically the entire run of the series to keep tweaking it, and we did keep tweaking it for a very long time. I can’t even remember what episode we were up to shooting when we finally said, it’s locked, but it took a while. Yeah, we just had to, whatever time she needed.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

With Outlander, was that a scenario where, because it was for a broadcaster, were you doing it where you had, like you had your 10 days of, or whatever it might’ve been to get to an editor’s cut, then you had a director’s cut, and then you had lock-in stuff to meet deadlines, air date deadlines?

Liza Cardinale:

No, no. I think the air dates were so typically so far away that they really did not influence our time. We had as much time as we needed.

Sarah Taylor:

With Netflix stuff, is that kind of how it’s going? Because you basically delivered the whole season at once.

Liza Cardinale:

I mean, Dead to Me season two was very intense delivering because they wanted to … They had a launch date in mind so we did have to get every episode done by whatever, April or something. It was a lot of weekend work and late nights to make that happen. That was not an ideal creative scenario. I’m not sure what season three is going to be like, but I’ll find out soon enough. They’re gonna start shooting in January is the plan right now.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s exciting. Cross our fingers.

Liza Cardinale:

Hopefully that works out. With other Netflix shows, we tend to stay on a schedule. Like Teenage Bounty Hunters, I think I would get … They’re pretty generous. I would have four days for an editor’s cut, which was very helpful, because I always say at least one day to just catch up on dailies that I was behind on. Then doing my music usually takes a couple of days, and then like recuts and polish. I use all four of those days pretty intensely. A lot of shows don’t even give you that. Then director’s cut, whatever that was, I guess they get four days, two, three or four. Then producers would get four or five days. We really kept that moving along pretty snappily.

Sarah Taylor:

Are you doing alternating kind of you’re maybe episode two and then episode four, and then kind of bouncing back and forth between other editors?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. But we at least, on Teenage Bounty Hunters, it was nice because they shot one episode at a time. So many people are cross boarding now and that makes it a little trickier to figure out editing schedules.

Sarah Taylor:

Now, I know that you have been giving back to the editing community by doing lots of interviews like this one. You’re also an artist in residence at the Manhattan Edit Workshop. How did you get involved with that? And why did you feel like it was important to do that?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, that was just Janet Dalton was her name, she’s an instructor there. She reached out to me via Jenni McCormick, who’s the director of ACE who is oftentimes my-

Sarah Taylor:

Yay, Jenni. We love Jenni.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, she’s 100% my fairy godmother in all ways of my career. That was just, yeah. Jenny sends me an email saying you should do this. I said, okay, I don’t know what this is, but sure. Jenni told me to do it. I’m doing it. Then I connected with Janet. Really, I just sat in with her students a couple of times and I’d watch some of their work and let them ask me questions. They were people trying to make a career shift into editing. I’m not sure if any of them were even fresh out of college, maybe one of them, but they knew nothing about the world professionally.

Liza Cardinale:

So, they needed to know I could help them a lot with understanding how it works, politically, how you job hunt and what kind of first jobs you might need to take, like mine. Just take whatever you can. You might have to do night shift, you have to take the jobs that no one else wants to do, that is how you begin. I think it just comes naturally to give back because I don’t know, I’m just that kind of friend. I see other editors as my friends. If I can help them, of course I want to, and I’m always so grateful to get advice and help too, I just think it’s a really great community that way, where we … Usually, we’re not huge ego people. Usually, we’re like happy behind the scenes, supportive type people. We work best when we’re helping each other get ahead. I don’t feel competition with my fellow editors.

Sarah Taylor:

You mentioned when you first started, you got to shadow two women, which back then was a big deal, that you had the editor and the assistant editor were two women. You mentioned, touched on like, you might’ve become an editor quicker if maybe you were a man. What are your thoughts on like, how do we make the post-world more equitable and how we bring more diversity into the edit suite and help shape what’s behind helping create the stories with people that are actually in the world and it’s not just homogenized as it has been for a long time?

Liza Cardinale:

It just seems like it’s 100% happening right now. I’m not sure all the mechanisms of that, but showrunners and studios are making a huge effort to increase their diversity. I know that because, for one thing, I get offered a lot more jobs because they’re very often looking for female editors, or I recently interviewed with studio executive at 20th Century Studios. It’s not Fox anymore, it’s just called 20th Century Studios. He had called my agent saying, I need to meet some non-white guys, so send me. I just need more. I need more diversity in my Rolodex. I just need people, so he sent me and a couple African-American editors over to meet with him. I think that’s what it takes. It takes outreach. It takes it being a priority from the people who have the hiring power to do it.

Liza Cardinale:

I’m not sure why, but I think there’s a lot of inclusion writers going on so they need to get to that 50% mark. I’m so grateful for that. I think it’s excellent. Now, a lot of people in socio-economic lower kind of poverty world, they don’t know about a lot of these jobs that we have. A lot of people don’t know what editing is, or how to be a PA, or any of these. It’s just not around their world a lot. That divide, I don’t know how to bridge exactly, except for something like a podcast is accessible to anyone. Hopefully, people will listen to that or try to get information to schools. Yeah, that I think is something that’s an important next step is just trying to get the word out there that these kinds of jobs exist and that you might have a talent for this kind of work and you just don’t even know it because you’ve never heard of it.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I think in our industry, it’s very much like, oh, so-and-so says there’s this job, and so we’re kind of all sort of getting work from somebody we know. It is opening up that world to everybody. There’s programs I know in Canada where they are offering internships to BIPOC people and people that wouldn’t typically be invited to the table, which is what we need to do. I feel like, in some cases, I don’t know what it’s like, maybe in the States, maybe you can touch on this, but up in Canada, we often have the choice to who we get to choose as our assistant. There’s one editor that I … Cathy Gulkin, she’s a documentary editor here in Canada.

Sarah Taylor:

She is so brilliant. She said, “Whenever I hire, I always try to hire somebody that doesn’t look like me.” I think that’s like a huge thing that we can take forward if we have the ability to hire, to not keep filling our spots with people that look like everybody else, because then we’ll have more voices in the room. I’m wondering how it’s like in the States for you, or in Hollywood, if you have any say in that sort of stuff.

Liza Cardinale:

I do have say in who my assistant is. Now, I’m very attached to my current assistant.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s fair too, yeah.

Liza Cardinale:

I’m not going to quit her until she quits me, but she is also … She doesn’t look like me. She’s younger. She’s half Mexican immigrant, but I do think that I would certainly make a push to hire somebody who was having a hard time getting opportunities who I felt like they had the enthusiasm and the drive to learn. It’s a really hard thing to take a risk on somebody when you’re doing remote work, because then you can’t be in the room educating them. I think that’s what it takes is, if somebody doesn’t have the experience, which is very common for a lot of these people trying to break into the business that they’re not in it yet, they’re going to have experience that’s not necessarily relevant.

Liza Cardinale:

But if they have intelligence and drive and a generous person in the office, then they can learn anything the way I learned at the Playboy channel.

Sarah Taylor:

Everybody needs to work at the Play ? I’m just kidding.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, and then I learned in time, my next bigger job as an assistant was the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Full of visual effects, but I had to learn all about like Anna Max. Such great people there helped me out too. But you do have to be a quick study. It’s okay to know nothing, but you have to be able to pick things up pretty quickly, because nobody can stop their work and just teach you all day long.

Sarah Taylor:

But I think hearing somebody, like you say that, to say, you don’t have to know everything, and that as long as you’re willing to learn, you will figure it out. Where I feel like, maybe it’s typical, or it’s been said before, but often, I think women will be like, well, I don’t know all the things so I might not take that job. Or a man will typically be like, well, that’s fine. I don’t know the system. I’ll just do it. I’ll just do it.

Liza Cardinale:

[crosstalk 00:49:10]. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

To hear women who are successful, say, “I didn’t know everything, but I figured it out. I learned, and it was part of my job and it was amazing.” I think young people in the industry need to hear those kind of stories and know that you don’t have to know everything because you’re starting and every show is going to be different and it’s going to have its own thing that you’re going to learn and figure out, right?

Liza Cardinale:

Exactly. Yeah. You just have to be friendly. You just have to have a good attitude and be open, and do not be afraid to ask questions, because all of us will say this. We’d rather you ask the question than do it wrong and make it up. You know what I’m saying? You don’t know how to do something, there is no shame in that. Usually, it can be taught pretty quickly.

Sarah Taylor:

You mentioned remote working. As we all know, amidst of COVID, you had just wrapped up Dead to Me when you got the lockdown, but you did get back in the edit suite because you recently … Well, the show Social Distance, which just was released. Well, when we’re recording this, yesterday, I watched the first three episodes. Quite enjoyed it. How did you get onto that show? What was the process like working remotely, I’m assuming, on a show all about the pandemic?

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. I was three months into safer at home with just being trapped in a house with my husband and child. Her school had closed down. She’s, she’s five. So, I was still a bit in that shocked frame of mind of like, how vigilant do we have to be? How big is this threat? There’s just a little bit of stress going on all the time. When they contacted me from Tilted, the production company that does Jenji Kohan’s production company that did Orange is the New Black and Teenage Bounty Hunters. That’s why they called me because I had already worked for them.

Liza Cardinale:

When they contacted me, I was thrilled to get back to work, but also a little concerned about, how am I going to rewire my brain to focus on something else. Maybe it was good in a sense that it was commenting on the pandemic itself because that’s where all of our thoughts were anyway, but it was enough of an escape from my own internal anxiety about it, to just be able to work, to get into some normalcy of a routine. It felt really good. I don’t have a space to work at my home, so it’s a bit complicated for me. My place is just really small.

Liza Cardinale:

I had to rent a little room for my friend who has a photo studio. I just locked myself away. There were no windows, no furniture, no comfy couch, like you usually get in an editor’s room. But it worked out. It was great. They rented me the Avid. It was just like my little workstation. We decided to get on Slack. We just said that pretty quickly. That’s not something I’ve ever used on a job before, but I think it’s actually quite brilliant because then your own email doesn’t get clogged up with all this little chatter, and it was great.

Liza Cardinale:

We’d have different channels based on the episode number, and then we’d have general channel, so we could all connect about things we all needed to know, so incredibly helpful to have that. We felt a bit of connection was going on between the whole team all the time. I had my assistant far away. We had a VFX editor. We had a lot of media coming and going in and out. The visual effects were extremely complicated and a lot of things in my script there’d be no coverage for. The editors had to generate the content from scratch. I’d have Hannah, my assistant, doing like screen recordings of Google searches and screen grabs of all these different apps. It was tough. It was definitely not the easiest job.

Sarah Taylor:

Because I knew you cut the first episode, as I watched it, I was like, oh, this looks very complicated, but it worked great. Can you give just a brief synopsis of what Social Distance is about?

Liza Cardinale:

It’s an anthology series. So, every episode is its own unique story with its own cast. They don’t fit together in any way except the timeline, I suppose. It starts as quarantine pretty much is new. It starts in New York City with my episode where he is a recovering alcoholic who’s going to AA meetings. That’s the thing that pops up throughout the episode is AA meetings are on Zoom now. Are they as effective? Are they feeling connected? It’s hard to know. Then he goes down a rabbit hole of his own version of doom, scrolling, just looking at his ex-girlfriend’s Instagram page and seeing that she has a new boyfriend and all these things that drive him a little crazy.

Liza Cardinale:

It was a tough episode because most of it is just one guy alone, not a ton of dialogue, unless he’s talking to somebody on a video chat. Usually, he’s just the lonely dude scrolling the internet. I just have shots of his face that they recorded. All the actors had to record themselves with iPhones. I think they used iPhones for everything, but they somehow patched to a SD card. I don’t know how that worked, but so they recorded all their own stuff. Maybe a PA came to their house. I’m not sure. All the actors lived different places.

Liza Cardinale:

It wasn’t all shot in LA or anything. It was shot all over the country so that there was a lot of severe coordination going on behind the scenes that I was not privy to. For me, the process was fairly simple and that I just downloaded my dailies every morning and they were sunk up and they looked like normal dailies, so I didn’t have to figure out how to get things off an iPhone or anything.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. That’s good.

Liza Cardinale:

But yeah, it was unique figuring out the tone of that too, and how strict we had to be about, what were the rules of it? A lot of these things were worked out as we went that you had to always … All right, I didn’t say the most important thing about it, which is the entire thing is in screen genre. The movie, Searching, was done, which I watched for research. That entire movie takes place like you’re watching a laptop screen. You sometimes see the person if their camera is on, but otherwise, you’re not going to see them, and you’re just going to see the stuff they’re typing or the things they’re looking at on their desktop.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah, that was the genre that we were locked into. We used a lot of different apps. Every script had different apps written into it and you can show them as long as it represents accurately what the app does, then you don’t get into legal trouble with it.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s good to know.

Liza Cardinale:

I don’t even know if they had to pay, to say Instagram, as long as it looked like a real Instagram, but don’t quote me on that. I’m actually not sure, but I know that we had to be very careful about accuracy, like with Zoom and all that stuff. Many meetings about all those tiny details.

Sarah Taylor:

There’s so, so many details. Because even in the one, the first AA meeting, there is what? You probably know how many people were in the meeting.

Liza Cardinale:

I think there were maybe just 24 in the first one, something like that. It was a lot of those squares.

Sarah Taylor:

There was a lot of squares. It was great because I think a lot of people would probably feel as like, that is exactly, I didn’t go to an AA meeting, but I’ve had many different meetings, different conferences I’ve gone to where you see … That’s what we saw. We’ve been seeing for the last nine months. I think you did a really great job of merging all those different elements together. Yeah, him with his laptop on and you see him recording in photo booth. There were just so many elements where I was like, wow, there’s so many things. I can only imagine what your script was and like what you had.

Liza Cardinale:

I think I had 12 video layers, at least. If they tell me to change something, I’d be like, this could take me three hours and 20 minutes of render time, so I’ll just make a note of that.

Sarah Taylor:

Are you sure you want me to do that right now? Okay.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. You’re not going to sit here on my ever cast stream while I make changes.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. How did that go for you? Not getting to be with the director in the room. Was that something that was hard for you or was that an easy transition?

Liza Cardinale:

It was okay doing the video streaming. It’s just awkward and there were a lot of technical problems. I would just get booted out spontaneously or their picture would freeze. There’s just a lot of like, stop, stop, wait, refresh, change your bandwidth, turn your video off, mute your microphone. It over-complicates the situation. I think video chatting with five people is always a little awkward because you never know when it’s your turn to talk, and no one’s really looking at each other. It’s definitely not ideal, but it worked.

Liza Cardinale:

It helps that I knew everybody. I didn’t know the showrunner, Hillary, but I knew the rest of the people, the producers that were in the rooms. They were the same people I had just worked with in Teenage Bounty Hunters. That helped a lot, because like my current show, I’m doing a show called On The Verge with Julie Delpy, French actress. I’ve never been in a room with her at all. We had the job interview on Zoom. We’ve done some streaming sessions with her, like always full of huge technical glitches. She’s a super scatterbrained creative individual, so I never even know when she wants to talk to me. She’ll just say, “Let’s do a session, 10 minutes. I’m ready.”

Liza Cardinale:

I’ll be like, okay. I go to make sure everything’s plugged in right, and my microphone is muted. There’s always new challenges with remote work. It’s just not as organic as someone dropping into your room to have a moment of realness, like a human connection moment that’s not just business. No, every moment you’re interacting with someone, it is scheduled, it is limited timeframe. It is all business, no chit chat. Plus, there’ll be other people listening.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, which you kind of miss that intimacy of … Sometimes there’s an intimacy with director-editor moments, where you’re kind of playing therapist sometimes. You’re learning about whatever happened the night before, or whatever happened on set and probably don’t get to do some of that stuff.

Liza Cardinale:

Find those little moments of connection and relationship. They matter a lot in the editing room and on the screen, they matter just as much that I’m feeling connected to the people making the show, so that I understand what they’re looking for so I can deliberate. You know what I mean?

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Liza Cardinale:

What their values are, who they are as a person, what’s their sensibility, what’s their sense of humor? It’s all information to channel into editing.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Have you figured out any tricks on how to find some of that stuff now that you’ve done your second show now in this world?

Liza Cardinale:

No, I’m basically just in survival mode, just get through it until life can be normal again. This is never going to be my favorite way to work. I’m in a slightly better environment now because the other editor of the show I’m doing, she had an extra little room in her backyard that I can rent from her. We have a bit of communion between us, which is great. Yeah, we can show each other stuff, and she can translate all the French stuff to me because I don’t fully understand it. She’s a native French speaker as well. That’s really great.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s perfect. Have you done other shows in other languages?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, there was a bit of Gallic in Outlander, but I highly doubt that any of those actors were really speaking it correctly. We didn’t quite worry about it too much. I think there was a Gallic consultant guy who’d be on set and he had really weird hair and he would sometimes watch cuts and try to get us to ADR things that they were really off. We would get them to pronounce, to repeat their performance, so they pronounce things right. But most of the audience is not really Gallic.

Sarah Taylor:

Probably not that many people.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. They’re just reading the subtitles. But the French people, this show is made for the French audience, so the French has to be correct.

Sarah Taylor:

How are you finding that work? I’m working on a French show right now as well, and I don’t speak French. But it’s a docuseries, but yeah. It definitely takes, for me, it’s like a whole other … my brain is working so much harder because I’m like … You’re trying to make sure the translation, but get the body language and get the right sense. Yeah, it’s definitely a little more challenging, that’s for sure.

Liza Cardinale:

I find it almost impossible to judge if somebody’s being funny, or even good acting, I find it a lot harder to judge, because I barely understand. I know a bit. I’ve studied French, but the way people actually speak is slang. They’re mumbling and throwing things around. It’s going right over my head. I’m just going to have to rely on Julie for that. She actually has her own Avid so she can watch tapes, and maybe she’s even going to cut some stuff. I’m not sure, but she has all the dailies, and so she can maybe make selects. I don’t know. It’s all very new in the process, but she will definitely tell me if there’s a better French read. She didn’t expect me to be fluent, so it’s okay.

Sarah Taylor:

You’ll pick up some stuff, I’m sure.

Liza Cardinale:

It’s kind of fun. Yeah, exactly.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, it is fun.

Liza Cardinale:

I think I’m learning some. French people are so passionate and shouty when they [crosstalk 01:02:43]. It’s fun.

Sarah Taylor:

I have a couple more questions and one of them I think is very important. What are the things that you need to have in your edit suite that make you feel like a normal human being?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I always have nice little dim lights. I have essential oils and a diffuser. I like to pretend that my workplace could be a spa.

Sarah Taylor:

Is there a specific smell that is like you use certain scenes? Do you have like a moon one?

Liza Cardinale:

Well, I only have lavender and eucalyptus, just because they’re both universally appealing. So, if somebody else is coming in …

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, and they’re very calming.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. They’re calming, they’re soothing, they’re cleansing of the environment. I like for my room to be a place that people enjoy entering, and I’m talking more normal editing life, not COVID editing life. I try to keep it peaceful. I don’t have a lot of stuff in here. I keep lighting kind of dim and all over the room if I can. I have little spritz of sage spray. As you know, you can’t really like burn a sage stick if somebody comes in and acts all crazy and then leaves your room, and you want to just clear out juju. I use this little sage spray. That’s it. Usually, I have a picture of my daughter up.

Sarah Taylor:

Nice. Do you have a set routine of how you like to work? Do you take walking breaks? Do you eat lunch at your desk or do you make sure you eat lunch elsewhere? What is your sort of editing day routine?

Liza Cardinale:

The most exercise I get is switching from a sitting to a standing desk. I try to do that a few times a day. I don’t do a ton of walking, but I just got a Fitbit to try to encourage myself to get away from the desk. I think that I usually just get so engrossed in my work that I forget about my body and how to take care of it. But I think quarantine taught me that there are lots of great exercise videos on YouTube, and I should just take a break and do a half hour Pilates thing or yoga thing. And it’s not in my routine yet, sadly, but I have a yoga mat here. That’s another thing I always keep an edit room is a yoga mat and some foam rollers for trying to stretch out the shoulders that get a little too tense sometimes.

Sarah Taylor:

Yes. Do you have any tips for editors who are making maybe a career transition into, coming from documentary and to television or assisting into editing?

Liza Cardinale:

My tips would be to have a great attitude to everybody that you meet so that they want to hire you later. Because even if they don’t have a job for you right now, they might have a job for you in three months. That timing is a big part of it. But if you show consistency and genuine enthusiasm and a work ethic, that will go so far, even more than actual skills, I think, because we’ve all come across people who bring unpleasant vibe to the office and then everybody’s a bit uncomfortable. I think that a lot of we’ll make allowances for somebody who’s just … You’re just going to play well with others, you’re going to fit in here. My husband is actually making a career transition. It has nothing to do with editing, but he was a software engineer for 20 years and now he’s studying to become an architect.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh wow.

Liza Cardinale:

It’s totally different than what he’s been doing, but he is such a knack for it. It’s clearly what he should have been doing all along, but that’s okay. I don’t think it’s ever too late to make a switch, especially if you have a passion, but I do think you need to also have a knack for it or else it’s going to be pretty hard to do a career transition later in life. So, you want to feel like it has to feel kind of easy and right when you’re doing it. I don’t think editing is something that’s very easy to teach, especially when it comes to just the instincts of it. That way that you just have to keep changing things till it feels right.

Liza Cardinale:

I don’t know how to teach that to a person, but I think if you have that, you probably know it, just because people watch your work and they’ll connect to it and they’ll get it and they’ll feel something when you want them to feel something. Yeah, I’d say don’t attempt it if you’re finding it a huge challenge because it is a pretty tough gig even when you’re good at it. But I want to encourage people for sure, if you love it, if you’ve tried it and you love it and the hours fly by and the sun goes down, that’s what you’re looking for, that’s the sweet spot. Anyone who feels that way about editing should absolutely pursue it as a career because it pays well. There’s tons of jobs. There really are tons of jobs once you’re in the flow of it.

Sarah Taylor:

During COVID, we’ve definitely seen it, people want content. We’ve always wanted content, and we always want it … We need it. Now more than ever, yeah, it’s not going to stop. How we do it is changing, but we always need to tell stories.

Liza Cardinale:

Right. There are like what? Four more streaming services just started in the last year.

Sarah Taylor:

It’s wild.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. A lot more, a lot of opportunity there.

Sarah Taylor:

I feel like you’ve given us a lot of great information and lots of, I don’t know, exciting tips for the young editors out there or people wanting to be an editor. Yeah.

Liza Cardinale:

Yeah. I guess the only tip I would give is just to keep meeting people and keep asking questions. Not only do you learn from asking a question, but the person you’re asking will come to trust you based on your questions, because they’ll see, oh, this person has a really active interest and a curiosity, and they’re asking the right questions. They’re really getting to the heart of this and they care. I find that, as far as who I help get a leg up, it’s always the people who just wanted to come into my room and hang out. Maybe it’s a PA wanting to come in and just see what I do and ask me once in a while without intruding.

Liza Cardinale:

But when they see a moment, they could ask me, “Well, why did you make that choice?” Then it’s kind of fun to talk about that. Because usually, we’re just so in our internal brain. I think you’ll find a lot of editors love to talk about why they do the things that they do.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, thank you so much for joining me today. It was so great chatting with you.

Liza Cardinale:

Oh yeah, you too.

Sarah Taylor:

Good luck with your French series. I hope it all goes well. I look forward to seeing it in the future. Stay safe, stay well.

Liza Cardinale:

Thank you.

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much for joining us today, and a big, thanks goes to Liza. A special, thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Jenni McCormick. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall, additional EDR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can. 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Jane MacRae

Jenni McCormick

Animé, produit et monté par

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Commandité par

Vancouver Short Film Festival

Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 013: The Bigger Picture – Editing & Mental Health

Episode 013: The Bigger Picture: Editing & Mental Healthon Animation Editingson


Episode 013: The Bigger Picture - Editing & Mental Health

In this episode we are taking some time to focus on the mental and overall health of editors. Laura Di Vilio a registered psychotherapist and Zack Arnold, ACE, offer us a wealth of information on how we can live happier and more productive lives both in and out of the edit suite.

Laura Di Vilio a registered psychotherapist

Laura Di Vilio

Laura has been working as a psychotherapist for over 25 years and her experience has taught her how best to help clients gain insight, healing and inspiration. She uses a relational approach to depth-oriented psychotherapy which facilitates deep, lasting change. Laura is based in Toronto, Ontario.

Zack Arnold, ACE

Zack Arnold, ACE

Zack Arnold, ACE, is an award-winning Hollywood film and television editor based in LA. You can see his work on Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Shooter and Glee, just to name a few. He is also a documentary director, and creator of the Optimize Yourself program and podcast. He helps editors work smarter and not harder so they can do the best creative work they?re capable of… without sacrificing their sanity in the process.

Laura has been working as a psychotherapist for over 25 years and her experience has taught her how best to help clients gain insight, healing and inspiration. She uses a relational approach to depth-oriented psychotherapy which facilitates deep, lasting change. Laura is based in Toronto, Ontario.

Resources from Laura: Apps to help with depression and anxiety

SuperBetter & SuperBetter at Work were developed by a game designer Jane McGonigal to help with her concussion symptoms. She uses games to improve psychological well- being. See her Ted Talk. She also has a book by the same name.

Headspace meditation app that makes meditating easy. They provide really good meditation instructions as well as meditations that are as short as one minute.

Happify claims that its games can help increase your happiness and reduce stress while teaching you life-changing habits.

Sanvello provides space for you to track your moods, health, and habits, offering relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises tailored to your specific needs. It also offers curated audio exercises to deploy if you are having a panic attack.

Worry Watch helps you track your mental state over time by asking you first to write down the cause of your stress, and later asks you to return to the app to reflect on the worry and note whether the ultimate outcome was good or bad.

TalkSpace matches users with licensed therapists in their area almost instantly.

In its own words, the goal of brain.fm, an app developed in consultation with neuroscientists, is ?unlocking music?s potential to influence cognitive states.?

Books for dealing with anxiety and depression:

Books for dealing with work drama:

The School of Life is a global organization helping people lead more fulfilled lives. A resource for helping people understand themselves, for improving relationships, careers and social lives. They do this through films, workshops, books and gifts – as well as through a warm and supportive community which you can connect to on their app.

Resources from Zack:

Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout)

Écoutez maintenant

Abonnez-vous là où vous écoutez vos balados

Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

Veuillez nous envoyer un courriel en mentionnant les sujets que vous aimeriez que nous abordions, ou les monteurs.euses dont vous aimeriez entendre parler, à :

Crédits

Un grand Merci à

Bryan Atkinson

James Vandewater

Katie Chipperfield

Krysia Szyszlo

Alison Dowler

Jane MacRae

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixé et masterisé par

Tony Bao

Musique originale par

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

fr_CAFR

stay connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to
receive updates, news and offers

Aller au contenu