The Editors Cut

Episode 053: In Conversation with Terilyn Shropshire, ACE

The Editors Cut - Episode 053 - In Conversation with Terilyn Shropshire, ACE

Episode 53: In Conversation with Terilyn Shropshire, ACE

Today’s episode is the online master series with Terilyn Shropshire, ACE that took place on October 13th, 2020.

This episode was Sponsored by Finalé Post: A Picture Company, Annex Pro/ Avid, Vancouver Post Alliance , IATSE 891 & Integral Artists

The Editors Cut - Episode 053 - In Conversation with Terilyn Shropshire, ACE

Terilyn Shropshire, ACE provides an in-depth look at her stellar career and her collaborations, which include a 20-year working relationship with director Gina Prince-Bythewood, as well as with notable directors Kasi Lemmon, Catherine Hardwicke, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Ava DuVernay.

From feature films (THE OLD GAURD, MISS BALA, THE SECRER LIFE OF BEES, LOVE & BASKETBALL, EVE’S BAYOU) to network television (WHEN THEY SEE US, Marvel’s CLOAK & DAGGER, SHOTS FIRED, and QUANTICO) Terilyn has had a hand in crafting some of the most revered stories on screen.


This talk was moderated by filmmaker V.T. Nayani.

Listen Here

The Editor’s Cut – Episode 053 – Terilyn Shropshire, ACE

Terilyn Shropshire:

When you think about it, we all edit everyday in our lives. We’re making decisions constantly in our lives,

whether how we move, or how we dress. I know for me, when I was in high school and English was one

of my favorite classes, and writing. And writing is rewriting, and writing is editing. And so I think in some

ways once I really understood how it applied to film, it made me realize that in some ways, I’ve been

preparing for this career.

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was sponsored by Finale Post a Picture Company, Annex Pro Avid, Vancouver Postal Lines,

IATSE 891, and Integral Artist. 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 acknowledgments are the start to a deeper action.

Today’s episode is the online Master Series that took place on October 13th 2020, in conversation with

Terilyn Shropshire, ACE. She provides an in depth look at her stellar career, and her collaborations which

include a 20 year working relationship with director Gina Prince-Bythewood, as well as with notable

directors Kasi Lemmons, Catherine Hardwicke, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Ava DuVernay. From feature films,

The Old Guard, Miss Bala, The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball, and Eve’s Bayou, to network

television. When They See Us, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Shots Fired, and Quantico, Terilyn has had a

hand in crafting some of the most revered stories on screen. This talk was moderated by filmmaker, V.T.


[show open]

V.T. Nayani:

I’m V.T. Nayani, I go by Nayani, and so grateful to be here tonight for this conversation, this necessary

conversation with Teri. I’m so glad to everyone for joining us from home, from wherever you are, and

choosing to be with us tonight. We’re so grateful to have you here in this conversation. I think as Teri said

just before we started, which you guys weren’t privy to, but obviously it’s still important to gather and

celebrate each other, and to continue to dream forward and move forward. I think this is part of a larger

practice. It’s a difficult time for all, we acknowledge that, and honor that. But it is wonderful that we can

still find ways to gather. I’m thankful to be gathering with you, and to be in this conversation, and to

have people at home join that conversation a little bit later. I’ll start with asking you how you doing

tonight? I love to do a little check in before we start. I guess for you it’s 5:00 PM in LA, right?

Terilyn Shropshire:

It is, yes. And the sun is just setting. So you’ll probably see it start to go that way.

V.T. Nayani:

You have a good glow right now, we’ll see it’s set with you. I wanted to get right into it if that’s cool with

you. Last night, we had a lovely conversation. And I’m so grateful to be moderating this, or having this

conversation with you. Really, it’s a conversation. I don’t want to look at it as a moderating a panel of one

person, but really just two artists, two people who are working in film sharing and talking. I’ve watched

your film, I mentioned it the first time we talked but I’ve spent my years watching your films growing up.

Some of them having a really deep impact on my early childhood girlhood. And still going back to them,

but also seeing your more recent work which we will speak to and have a chance to watch.

Something that stuck was me last night… And for those at home, we’re going to go more into the

storytelling aspect, we can get into the technical, and we will, but as a director, I often see the editor as

an integral part of the storytelling unit, you have the writers or the writer, the director or the directors,

and then you have your editor and without any one of them, we can’t get our job done. And it’s actually

my favorite part. I’m going to interview you or ask you questions from the perspective of a director who’s

really interested in your process, but also who you are as a storyteller.

Again, last night we spoke and the conversation still sitting with me because you spoke tenderly

about women’s empowerment, and agency, and giving characters agency through your work. And I

wanted to start there tonight. In this conversation between two of us who are two women working in

film in different capacities. What does that mean to you when you approach your work, and you’re

thinking about women’s empowerment and agency and in the editing process specifically?

Terilyn Shropshire:

Yeah. I’m really fortunate that the writer directors that I’ve worked with are people who are interested in

telling, obviously, a wide spectrum of stories and bring to the world a large spectrum of characters. I

think that part of their responsibility or choice as artists is to do that and to choose projects where they

see themselves reflected back. And in part, so do I. And so it is one of those things where when I’m on

those journeys, and I can be part of creating that reflection, and through the director’s lens, it’s always a

privilege, and it’s always appreciated. I think that as movie goers, we love to just immerse ourselves in

other worlds in other people’s worlds and cultures, lives, and in many ways our way of expanding our

world is through education, and travel, and meeting other people and experiencing other stories. I feel

really fortunate when I can be part of that.

V.T. Nayani:

I want to thank you for sharing. I wanted to ask you a question. I’m not going to get into all the reasons

why you got into editing, because we’re going to focus on your work. But I did want to start with having

this one question for you, which is, for me, I know I’m a director, but I didn’t necessarily know I was going

to be a director. I loved films and TV growing up which I think all of us who work in this industry love. We

have a love for the craft, and the stories that had a lasting impression on us as we were growing up. But

there were so many different pathways to get me to this point. And I’m wondering with you, how did

editing become an interest? How did it become something that you thought, “Oh, man, I could really go

for it, I could really explore that. That’s a thing I can do.” Do you remember that that moment, or that

inception? Or if there were multiple moments that led to you becoming that storyteller in post?

Terilyn Shropshire:

No, it’s a really good question because I didn’t grow up going… I mean, I would love to meet someone

who grows up thinking, “Oh, I want to be an editor when I grow up.” I want to be that person.

V.T. Nayani:

I know.

Terilyn Shropshire:

I really didn’t think about that while I was growing up. I was a movie watcher. Spent a lot of time in dark

theaters watching films. I also had a dad who seemed to always have a camera in his hand, or have a

Super 8mm in his hand, but as far as realizing the editing aspect of it, it wasn’t something that I focused

on. I don’t think that I really, really understood what it was about until I was in college. And I was literally

editing my first film that I shot, which was part of the requirement, that you had to both… I was a double

major, I majored both in journalism and film. So we have something in common.

And even in the journalism classes, and when you switch over to broadcast journalism, you had

to do everything. You had to write, you had to shoot and get on the studio and do all of that. And I think

it was really when I started to have to bring the material back into my personal space and figure it out,

did I really appreciate and truly understand what that meant. And yet, I have been watching it all my life,

but I’ve been watching the result of effortless storytelling in a sense. And I think that when you think

about it, we all edit everyday in our lives. We’re making decisions constantly in our lives. Whether how

we move or how we dress, or how we do. And I think even when we were… I know for me when I was in

high school and English was one of my favorite classes. And writing and writing is rewriting, and writing

is editing.

And so I think in some ways, once I really understood how it applied to film, it made me realize

that in some ways, I’ve been preparing for this career, because I love to write, and I also was a person

that when I was in school, my friends would bring me their papers and say, “Read this, and tell me what

you think.” And I would read it and I would give them suggestions, “Maybe if you move this sentence

here.” And I never thought about it as how it would relate to the career that I’m doing now. But I really

started feeling an appreciation for it when I actually had to become the problem solver, and try to figure

out how to fix the things that I had not maybe done right when I was out shooting.

And then when you’re in school, you also are working with other people. So then you start to

edit their material. And I just found that was the most organic and instinctive to me. And I could spend

hours doing it, and still want to get up the next morning and do it again. And I didn’t necessarily feel that

about directing.

V.T. Nayani:

I’ve tried my hand at editing and I definitely don’t… I feel that way about directing, but I think editing is…

I started from the roots. I’m always talking about the editors I work with, because it’s so fun to work with

the editor, I think you get… everyone says it, but when you’re in the edit, when you’re in that room with

someone you know what it feels like. You get a chance to retell the story, to reimagine it really, because

you have it on the page, and it’s one thing, and whether you wrote it or not is one thing as a director.

And then you shoot it and there’s all these questions and feelings that come up, and you don’t really

know where it’s going to go, you’re tired. You’ve got long days. You know there’s footage but you don’t

know what’s going to happen with it.

And then you get to the edit room, and there’s so much trust that you put in the editor that you

collaborate with. We’ll speak to some of the relationships that you’ve had with the directors you work

with. But I almost want to shout it from the rooftop every time that people don’t ever see the editor. It’s

not somebody you necessarily see all the time. But without them we have nothing. We actually don’t

have… and it’s like with any other role, and we can say that about an ACU for the focus, we can say that

about costume, but everybody’s integral, but the editor is a storyteller.

And when you mentioned being… I think there’s something at some point, obviously, we don’t

have to do it tonight, but to say about people who end up in film who really love writing or English. They

love their creative storytelling classes in high school, or growing up, they loved reading or writing. And I

think you’re speaking to… you doing those rewrites for friends, which I was also that person, speaks

directly to the fact that you are a storyteller in this process. So, thank you for sharing that. “When They

See Us” directed by Ava DuVernay, all of us know on Netflix, and we know the story and we’ve read the

news, and we’ve heard the stories for years, and then the weight of rewatching it on set is one thing.

There was so much content, and they filmed for quite a bit of time, a couple of months and it’s a

huge cast. I can’t imagine actually how much footage there was, especially for episode one. And I think a

lot of people that I’ve spoken to have shared that they struggled getting past episode one, because it’s

the inciting moment, is when everything happens. The journey that these men have been on. My

question for you is, being on set and seeing how it was being filmed, and then you getting all that

footage, what was your first reaction? I mean one, what brought you onto this project, I can imagine

from what you’ve already shared why you decided to come on board, that as well. But what was your

first reaction when you received this footage? How much footage did you receive? And how did you not

only start to process and move through it all as an editor, but also as a person to sit with that content?

Terilyn Shropshire:

As you know, it all starts with the script. I remember when Ava called me to ask me to be a part of this.

And then she sent me all four scripts, and I read them back to back. And I just remember being… by the

time I got to the last one, I was just completely devastated. And it’s always a privilege when you can take

a journey where you’re also learning about things. I knew the story, obviously, but to the depth that the

writers have really gotten into it, it was quite extraordinary. And so when the dailies started coming in

and the way that Ava was shooting, she was shooting multiple scenes for different parts at the same


I was responsible for part one, Spencer Averick, did part two and four, and Michelle Tesoro did

three. We came on a gradual even though Spencer was starting to receive his dailies for two, he wasn’t

quite official, he was actually working from home. And so I was looking at all the dailies and then getting

back to production and Ava just tried to send a message every day to let her know what I was seeing. I

feel that the first time you watch dailies is the most important, it should be the purest and hopefully, you

can allow yourself to take it in for the first time as the audience would take it in for the first time.

I really don’t like to take a lot of notes the first time I watch dailies, I like to just… If I have the

time to do so, I like to just be able to experience it because I will never have that experience again. And

all editors know that. And so I just remember first of all, being incredibly impressed by the young men

who were playing the characters and because I had the five men as boys, I have the actors that were

playing the younger version. And every day I just became more and more just stricken by how beautifully

they were portraying these characters. And yet I had to focus on the characters because that’s ultimately

the stories I have to tell. So, It was never an easy day on dailies. The dailies were pretty tough, and you

had to be able to take those in and then, again, I go back and then make notes about the things that

were particularly effective to me.

I started in a very broad sense, and then you narrow things down. And then the script itself, at

least part one, there’s a tremendous responsibility because in one, you have to set the stakes, you have

to set the conflict. As an audience, they have to get to know who these young men were, as well as their

parents, and what everybody was going through so that you’re invested in them enough to want to

continue on the story. And so the script itself for part one was a bit more on the linear side than what

the ultimate version of the cut ended up being. It was shot in such a way, and conceived in such a way

where you went into each voice story. At the beginning, you get a sense of them going back and forth

and getting to know them before they go into the park.

But once you’re in the interrogations, there was a lot of going into each young man’s room, and

hearing the detectives question them, and then you go back to the detectives room, and you hear them

talk. And as we started to build it, it became very apparent that even though these boys were going

through some incredibly horrific experiences in their individual rooms, collectively, they were sharing the

same thing. They were basically being pitted against each other. They were trying to get one to, to

implicate the other. And they were in those rooms for a very, very long time. And it became very

apparent in working with the material and working with Ava, that we needed to give everybody a sense

of how even though these young men did not really know each other, ultimately Yusef, and Korey knew

each other, but it was one of those things where they were all experiencing the same hell, so to speak.

How to build that, and how to make you feel as an audience that the viewer is trapped in that

sense, as they were, and also to be able to really show what the detectives were doing in order to build

their case. And that’s very much the scene that you watch, this happens towards the end of part one,

after the boys have been interrogated for hours, and most of them without their parents, and now they

finally let their parents in. And you’re seeing the weight and the gravity of what’s happening.

V.T. Nayani:

Thank you for sharing. Yeah, I know you had mentioned that it was very linear. And in the edit it becomes

what it does. And I just wanted to understand a bit more of that process. And I guess my other question

was, how long did you guys work on that particular episode? And you got your dailies they came in,

you’re determining how you’re going to tell the story. What did that process look like as it got to the end,

because I’m interested also how it is working with the different… you’ve worked with incredible

directors, what is like working with Ava to really lock that and decide, “Okay, this is what we’re going to

do.” What did that process look like near the end, having it come together?

And half of that, the men were on set a lot of the time you saw Korey, and Yusef, many of them

stopped by, did they get to see a cut before it ended? And it’s going to go into my next question as well

with the next clip, but it is their story, were they involved at any point, or was it just you and Ava, for the

most part?

Terilyn Shropshire:

Those are good questions. While Ava was shooting, I was cutting simultaneously. And again,

communicating with her. I don’t remember really sending a lot of things forward. I think I sent her a few

scenes forward, but because she was… the schedule is pretty, non-stop. But there was also the benefit of

having the other editors around, because we could work off each other. As far as the part one process,

part one was the first and I think part one was probably one of the last ones to finish. And I think part of

it was, it was again, the weight of what it had to do for the rest of the other parts. Because one is

introduction to the young characters, and you do see them, you do see them in two.

But again, you have to be able to understand what’s going on in one. We spent a lot of time in

one, and we spent a lot of time editing and re-editing and also getting a lot of feedback from the other

editors in terms of… because the other thing too, is it was really important for me to be able to

communicate to them because we were handing off the character batons to them, and so it was

important for them to see what we were doing in one, and then ultimately we ended up finding

ourselves swapping footage. Footage that maybe was intended for one, but it seemed as if it was going

to work better and two, or a flashback, or something.

There were there were images that I had fallen in love with, with just… you know when you…

you know stock footage of New York and that time of the movie where suddenly I have this great image

and Ava would be like, “Oh, no, let’s leave that for two.” And you’re like, “Okay.” There was a lot of that.

But Ava is just… she is so clear with her vision, and very, very specific. So what’s great about Ava is just

that… and she had to move around a lot. And so in some ways you had her for a certain amount of time,

but that time that you were with her, she was so laser focused. So you could have been working on

something for hours, and then Ava would come in and go, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And you’re like,

“Oh, of course. Yes. Okay, we could do that.”

That part of it was great. And figuring it out. I love the problem solving part of what I do. And

with something like this, it wasn’t as if we were running into a problem. But we were running into that

realization of as you go into each room, and you keep hearing the same young man… or a different

young man say the same thing. “I didn’t do it. Who are you talking about? I don’t know who that is.” And

so in a sense, there was a rhythm to each scene that allowed you to say, “Okay, look, if we keep going

through each room, and they keep saying the same thing, at a certain point, the audience is going to be

ahead of us.” They know that these boys are going to… they’re going to deny what’s going on, and the

police are going to press them about that. So, why not create an environment where we’re moving

where one person starting a sentence, and the other person’s answering it.

Or where we disorient you in a way that you don’t know where we’re going to take you next.

And you also needed to understand and be clear that these guys did not know each other. They lived in

the same neighborhood. And like I said, two of them, and they might’ve passed each other on the street,

but you really need to understand that they were being categorized a certain way. And this wilding, and

this mentality that they all went out together. It took time to find the right rhythms and whose room

were you going to go into next? And how to how do you build that story where you understand that even

from the standpoint of someone like Raymond, who was completely just… he was with his grandmother,

and they took her out.

And he was in that room alone with those guys. And ultimately they were forcing them to

implicate the other. To answer your question, I think one took the longest, which made complete sense

that it would, and I think that with… as far as how Ava decided to show it, at a certain point towards the

end of our process, she did screen it for the actors, the young actors to see it. And then she made a

decision to screen it for the actual men. I think she flew them in actually, to watch it because she knew it

was going to be really important for them to be able to see it a certain way, and see it privately, frankly.

She was very, very respectful because as hard as it was, for us to make it and be a part of it. We were

trying to honor what they lived and what they went through. And it was always very sensitive and strong

about the story, and protecting their right to experience it.

V.T. Nayani:

Thank you for sharing. I’m going to go to the next film, “Talk To Me” the MLK clip, I’m thinking about

both pieces, both pieces of storytelling, and they are about real people and real lives lived based on real

men’s lives and what they’ve been doing, their story and their journey, but also within the larger social

political context within bigger movements. One of the questions I had was how does that factor into

your process of preparing and editing, but I think you spoke to that earlier. And so, I would love to

discuss what we had a conversation about briefly, which is the pacing. We’re going on this journey of

emotion, feelings, and there’s so many beats in there. Was that something that was on the page, and

even if it was or it wasn’t, how did you build that? What goes into crafting something that takes us

through so much as an editor?

Terilyn Shropshire:

Thank you. Well, the thing about that clip is, it speaks to tone. And when you’re working on a particular

film, where you’re going between moments of lightness and brevity and also dealing with serious topics

within the story of somebody’s life. This was a movie about a real person, Petey Greene, who was a radio

personality at WOL at the time, and this was based on his life. And he was a character. And he was

known as such. Dewey Hughes is also a real… was a real life character, this movie is about the

relationship between these two men who actually came from the same background. And ultimately,

their lives went in different directions, and yet their lives came back together. And they became very

dear friends.

The reason why I like this clip, in a sense is it speaks to, as editors, how we have to sometimes

navigate between something that is purely slapstick, or comedy, and then be able to make that shift. And

how do you do that? How can you do it in such a way that hopefully it feels organic, and feels natural to

what really happens in life, because in one minute we can be laughing, and something tragic can happen.

And life shifts on a dime, it shifts quickly. And so within that scene, it’s not even so much, really, again,

the cutting part of it, because really, the first shot is one shot. We take you all the way in until the fight

starts to happen. But it’s really about being able to bring something so crazy happening into a place

where these people are suddenly hearing one of the most devastating pieces of news that black people

heard in their history.

And so I felt like I was helped a great deal by the music and Terence Blanchard’s score, and

Tainted Love, which is the original artist, and Gloria Jones. Yeah, actually made a note on that. And being

able to go from something like that to then have Terence be able to help bring us in to what’s really going

on, because I think even when… I remember when people first started to see this scene, when you start

to see the station manager come in played by Martin Sheen, people are still laughing in the theater. It

was one of those things where even in seeing him come in, they were still in the head space of, “What is

happening with this fight?”

And just to even feel that shift happened in the audience was palpable, really. And then

ultimately, to then go into something that’s a lot more watching these people have to work, to continue

to do their jobs amidst this horrific information. The clip is shorter because it goes into a whole… even

more of the riots and more of ultimately… it then shifts into a whole musical section. So yeah, I think

that it’s one of those things where when you’re first starting out and trying to figure out your way in

terms of storytelling, part of that muscle you try to hone in on is how to be able to make those shifts in

storytelling. And how, as an editor, can you hopefully facilitate that, the way that you juxtapose the

images and emotions and that type of thing.

V.T. Nayani:

We also have two questions that are about “The Old Guard”, usually with fight scenes, or I feel like I

especially in the pandemic where I had the opportunity to pull everything back and rewatch things

multiple times. I always feel like I’m anxious and I’m caught up, and I’m missing things. Involved action

happening so fast, the tendency to cut it that way. I’ve seen in a lot of work, and what I felt about this

was I felt I was a part of everything, I saw every part of that fight. I didn’t feel like it was rushed. I didn’t

feel like I missed anything. It’s almost like I was a pilot, I was there and playing with them. And so yeah,

what was the process of editing that? Was that intentional that way? How did you approach this

particular fight scene?

Terilyn Shropshire:

It was extremely intentional from the standpoint of how Gina, how she and the DP Tami Reiker

envisioned the fight. Her conversations with the fight coordinators and stunt coordinators, and obviously

the choreography ultimately, and the training that both actors did Kiki Layne, and Charlize Theron, did to

be able to have the scene work the way it did. Gina has always… her mantra was always that she wanted

everything to feel real, to feel authentic. And she wanted to feel these two warriors taking each other on

without a lot of bells and whistles. And they purposely even within the plane, they built the plane in such

a way that they there were no walls that you could move out. They were in the fuselage working on the


And so from my standpoint, it was just really important that I honored that. Fortunately, you had

two very committed actors who really trained hard, and worked the choreography, and really made my

ability to let them do their thing much easier. It was structured in such a way that each part of the fight…

there were different stages of the fight. And so in a sense, as they were actually shooting it, and Gina

directing the fight scenes, they were done in such a way that, “Okay, we’re going to go from here to

here.” And then ultimately work on that part until they got that particular part of the fight done. It was

very much like a dance and choreography.

And then moved on to a different part of the fight. And so it was created in such a way that at

least the actors, if you can imagine, it’s a lot for them to take on, if you were to try to do the whole thing.

It was definitely divided into sections. And then it was really about them continuing to do a particular

move. And until they felt like they had the right look of the punch being thrown or being received, or any

number of those movements. And so within a take, I would actually have a lot of resets. Ultimately was

about going through and really looking at what was working, and just picking the best of the work that

they did. But it was a fun scene to work on. And it was great because there were things that ultimately,

you get a pre-stunt piece, that’s done by two of the stunt people that shows you what the choreography

of the fight is going to be.

But it takes on a completely different life when you have two actors taking on that, because they

bring their performances and their personalities, and the characters, and what the characters are going

through. And being able to capture that. And that’s part of it too, is that the whole idea of being able to

have a fight scene is it’s got to have a purpose. There’s a reason why we’re moving through it. And when

you say yeah, it’s not just about these two women punching each other out, they both have a goal,

they’re both trying to achieve something in this fight, and not just take you down the other.

This is the beginning of this master-student relationship. Nile is a warrior, she’s a Marine. She’s

going to have a certain education, a fighting styles based on how she was trained. Andy’s lived for

millennia. She’s learned every possible fighting style, she could have taken Nile down at any point. But

that wasn’t really the point of a fight, was it? For her, she’s about to bring somebody into her family and

to her team. And she’s got to see what this person’s made of. That was a fun part, was being able to let

them both have… where you get a little bit more of a window into each person’s personality within the

scope of the fight.

V.T. Nayani:

Thank you. One of the questions that they had was how did you land that job? I know you have a

relationship with Gina, so maybe that’s… how did you get that job, how did you sign up for that job? And

what was the best, and the most negative and positive, or the best and most challenging, maybe,

takeaways from working on “The Old Guard”?

Terilyn Shropshire:

I landed the job because I’ve know I’ve worked with this director for 20 years. And as artists we have

done, I think this is our sixth project together. As artists, we’ve grown together. I’ve been fortunate

enough to have earned her trust. And so when she was going to take on this project, she asked me if I

would be her editor. And of course, it was something that I ultimately, of course wanted to be a part of.

As artists, we always love to keep moving and navigating ourselves through different stories. As people,

we love living different stories and experiencing different stories and it’s no different when you’re an

editor. I was very fortunate that Gina asked me to be a part of it. I would say that as far as, I guess, what

was it the best part of it, the journey itself and the people that I got to work with-

V.T. Nayani:

And the most challenging.

Terilyn Shropshire:

Most challenging. The most challenging was… and this is not unique to “The Old Guard”, but there was a

lot of footage. And so there was a lot of footage to get through. And for me, I watch everything. So it was

a lot of time spent in a room with a lot of footage. But I think the other thing that I would have to say,

and I’m sure there are a lot of people that can relate to this right now, was having to finish a film of this

caliber at the level that Gina and I work, and everybody else works in a pandemic. And that I found to be

the biggest gauntlet that was… we have other gauntlets, but the one that really said, “Okay, how are we

going to navigate through this and be able to continue to work and make collaborative art?” Which is

what filmmaking is, “In a place where we have… a space where we have to isolate from one another.”

And I had the most amazing crew. And my crew just rose to the occasion, every single time. Even

though we were apart, we were a connected unit, obviously, Zoom, and Evercast, and Source-Connect,

and TeamViewer all of these things that kept us moving forward. And I think the thing that was also… the

thing that was hard, just at the point when I feel like sometimes as an editor, you’re still working, but

you’re starting to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ve gone through the production, and all that’s… the

drama that happens with that. And then you finally you’re close to locking. And now it’s time to work

with the sound people which I love. I love working with sound, and music, and scoring and all those

things where you get to move into other people’s rooms, instead of them coming into your room.

You get to go park to the scoring session, all of that went… we had to find a way to do all of

those things in a different way. And we did it, and I’m really proud that we got through, but that part was

hard. I love scoring, I love being part of hearing the score actually being recorded. And we did, we were

on Source-Connect. They were literally scoring in Iceland, and I was getting up at… I find myself like

falling asleep and waking up at three or four o’clock in the morning just to listen to the score being done.

But that part was challenging. And then not being able to see… I got to see it in Gina, and I got to see it

on the big screen, which was amazing just before, as we were doing our final checks. But when you saw

it finally at theater, it was extraordinary. And I keep hoping that we’ll do “The Old Guard” drive-in

because I really would love more people to have seen it on the big screen.

V.T. Nayani:

Yeah, I was watching it on my laptop, but I just don’t feel like it’s the same as being on the big screen so I

hope we all get to see that sooner than later. People that watched “Eve’s Bayou” before this, then you all

know that there’s a long history of her being in stories that explores supernatural and the mystical

forces, I guess, so to say. On your approaching… we talk about things that are about real people. And

then you have a film like this that explores family secrets, the rituals, and spirituality and other kinds of

practices. I’m always interested in that kind of stuff within my own culture. And so as an editor, as an

artist, as a storyteller, coming on board, documenting and putting together something that reflects

things that are so sacred for real communities. What’s your approach in that to edit something that does

mean something and does have a history, and indigeneity, and a sacredness to so many communities?

How was that?

Terilyn Shropshire:

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because “Eve’s Bayou” was set in a world where it’s its own ecosystem in a sense

within the film. It’s this Southern Gothic world where there’s a lot of tradition, and one of the things I

loved about the script, again, all starts with the script. And Kasi’s approach to it was the idea that if you

think about it, “Eve’s Bayou” was made, and I’m going to age myself and I look at Young Journey and I’m

watching Lovecraft now I continue to be blown away by this young lady. I was blown away the first time I

worked with her, and she carries… not carries the film, but it is her… this movie is about… it’s her story,

it’s her point of view. It’s like we journey through journey.

And so what was amazing about this was… part of this too, was just based on Kasi’s life, and

how she grew up and the people that she grew up around. And be able to reflect that back in film is

something that we’re not always able to do. And certainly was much more difficult to do it back then.

And that’s what it was so refreshing about “Eve’s Bayou”. Was that you were able to take these traditions

that our culture have grown up with, and many other cultures have grown up in different ways, but share

the same type of traditions and having parents who live at home, with grandparents who live at home

with us. And kids who were basically disciplined a certain way, and beautiful women who… and black

men who were professional doctors.

This is the way that I grew up. And these are the type of people that when I read the script, and

ultimately started to work with this movie with Kasi, we were just reflecting a part of our lives that we

were familiar with. But yet it was considered different to people who maybe had not seen this type of

family. And so the mysticism part was, what was really great about this story was is that there were

these traditions, but if you can imagine it through the eyes of a young girl who, for her, it’s all both

exciting and scary, and she doesn’t clearly quite understand what’s going on. And then ultimately, she

realizes that she has this something special that’s been passed on to her from her family.

And so it was always fun to respect the magical part of the story, and to make it feel… because it

was real to these people, it was a real thing. And to be able to do that in a non-campy way and yet to

find both humor in it, but also within Eve’s mind, it was something very serious, she feels that she killed

her father with Voodoo. Like, “How do I kill my father with Voodoo?” But yet to actually have that loss, I

don’t know what kind of therapy she went through for the rest of your life. But yeah.

V.T. Nayani:

We do have a question from someone who says “Love & Basketball” is one of their favorite film. I find

that, and I mentioned this, we always focus on the love story, which is at the height of this film, and

watching those journeys unfold together and apart. And it’s one of my favorite films growing up. And it’s

so nostalgic, it takes you back to particular moments, particular time in your life. But I often find, and I

think this also comes from Sanaa, talking about her experience, prepping for and being in this film, we

forget about the process of her getting ready for it and becoming Monica, and the journey of becoming

Monica. And her story on its own, and her journey in its own.

I picked this clip, because it focuses on her, and is not necessarily we woven together with the

story of him and them together. And he talks about giving back agency in your work, and I see it here

with this scene… even if it’s one woman in the film, it’s about her journey. It’s about her story from her

perspective. What was it like working on this scene? And how did you cut that together? It’s such a

emotional moment, there are these beats there for her, and it leads to so much. What was that like, and

how did you carve space to tell the story of the individual characters, but also focus on the lightest story

of Love & Basketball?

Terilyn Shropshire:

I know, it all starts with Monica, doesn’t it? And I think that we all have a little bit of Monica in us. It’s not

the athletic part. But it’s the part of someone who’s struggling to find her place, to prove herself, to not

be limited in a world that wants to put you in a certain box, or tell you what you can’t do. And I think

that’s why we all relate to Monica, and I think that’s why we root for her because at any given point you

can be identified if you’re strong, or if you’re overly athletic, or you move a certain way… you’re basically

pigeon-holed, or people decide who you are, when sometimes you’re still trying to figure out who you


I think that that’s why people really connect, aside from the fact that it’s a love story. And

because you’re in a situation where, again, this is centered around a young person, and it’s important

that… and Sanaa, again trained so hard for this, and she wasn’t a ball player, and she encompasses

Monica. And so I think that to Gina’s credit, it was also about trying to allow us as an audience to not

necessarily have each basketball game… yeah, each basketball game had to have a purpose. It wasn’t

just about showing that Monica could play, but also showing that Monica was vulnerable, and that she

didn’t always make the right decisions. And so what I loved about creating this game and building this

game, and Gina deciding to create it as a POV was what could I do to try to balance the time that you’re

with Monica in her head, basically going through what she was going through?

Initially, I didn’t have the voice, that was something that was recorded while that ultimately it

was… So it was trying to figure out building the actual POV part of the game, and when I was going to

take you in and out of that. At what point do you choose to step out of Monica in a way that he or she

would react. She would react to a buzzer, she’d react to a whistle. You go out in those moments, and yet,

even her stepping onto the court, it’s like… I was a swimmer in high school, and I remember when you

would come out to get ready to go off the blocks, and you’re walking to the blocks. And yet, you’re

somewhat aware of who’s in the stands, if your parents are in the stands.

And so I think that we all can connect to those feelings of what is it like. The boy that she has a

crush on is in the stands. All of that, that part of it was… it was kind of it’s always like putting yourself in

the position of where do I want to be as an audience? I think that the best thing sometimes you can do

as a technician, as an editor, is to remember go back to your roots, go back to what made you want to be

part of film. What it felt like to experience things, and try to approach your work that way. It’s hard

sometimes because you have to step in, and you have to be technical, and you have to figure it out. But

you have to sometimes get out of your own head space and become a viewer again, and re-experience.

That’s why I say forget what you know and try to allow yourself to have some degree of perspective as an

audience to what you’re working on whenever you can.

V.T. Nayani:

Thank you. There’s two audience questions. Speaking of audience, there’s two audience questions, and I

want to make sure we get to them. Again, Jennifer, I’m just going to read it word for word, “Love &

Basketball is one of my favorite films, what was the process of editing that final one-on-one screen

between Monica and Quincy? There’s so many quick little moments that were captured so perfectly.

How did you bring it all together?

Terilyn Shropshire:

That’s so funny that Jennifer asks that, because that’s usually the clip I show, actually.

V.T. Nayani:


Terilyn Shropshire:

But I felt like I should maybe show something different to this evening. Look, that game was… it was,

gosh. There was so much riding on it. I remember reading it, and I remember literally holding the script

like, “Oh, my God, what’s going to happen…” And so you want to honor that. You want to honor the first

time you experience it. That was a scene that was scheduled to be shot over two nights. And I think it fell

somewhere. I don’t know, it was somewhere… I don’t think it was toward the end of the shoot. But I do

remember… I don’t tend to always go to set. I have feelings about that, and there are some films where

I’ve been on set more than others. And it’s usually because there’s some choreography or something

going on, or playback, or something where I feel like it’s helpful for me to be there. But usually, I like to

keep a certain degree of filter, between what’s happening on set and what’s coming in to me as an


And so this was a scene where I remember seeing the early rushes of the stuff that was coming

in. And I could definitely feel that the game between Quincy and Monica. Originally, it was supposed to

be a much longer game. And then I think in the course of them choreographing that, they realized that it

was going to need to be a short… plus they were shooting this at night, and anybody who has shot at

night knows that you only have a certain amount of hours. Anyway, it came in, and I felt like both of

them by this point they both have the physicality of the game. And clearly, it had nothing to do with the

game. It was really about what was at stake at the game.

And I did feel as I was starting to put it together that I was wanting a little bit more of what the

game meant physically from an emotional standpoint, if that makes any sense. Yes, Monica would miss a

shot here, and Quincy would get a shot here. But I really wanted to feel what they were both going

through in the game. And I think that we had about 85% of it, but there was a 15% that I was missing. I

remember talking to Gina about it and saying that… because they were going to have to go back and

finish the game. It was one of those things where I did ask her, I showed her an early cut of it. That’s the

other thing. It’s like, when you suddenly have to cut something very quickly for a director, and you may…

and it may not have been a scene that I really wanted to cut right away, but I felt like I had to because,

again, there was an instinct where there was certain things I wanted to see.

I wanted to get more of the fight, get into the game of… And so what was great was is that we

looked at it together, and we found certain areas that we felt like she could go in and pick up some

things. And so when you watch it, it’s like some of this stuff is like just when they’re grabbing each other,

or he’s pushing her hand away, or a couple… I think we have like just a couple more close ups of them in

terms of relating to one another that really had nothing to do with the actual game itself. But the

internal fight that they were both going through.

And so then we put it together, and then the challenge becomes how do you take a scene like

this, and underscore it? Do you use score? Do you use source? What do you use as far as… what is going

to be the musical language of a scene like this, because so much of it’s at stake. And I remember,

because a lot of times when I’m editing, I will start to… Gina usually has a playlist when she’s writing, she

usually passes on the playlist to me, and I start listening to what she is listening to. And then I’m always

listening to a lot of different types of music. And it happened around the time that we were cutting the

scene, Meshell Ndegeocello’s album Bitter came out.

And I remember listening to it on my way in to work one day, and the song came up, Fool of Me.

And I was like, wow, this is our movie in a sense. This is what’s going on right now. And so when I got to

the cutting room, I talked to Gina about it, and we put it in. We had a cut of the scene, and I literally

dropped it in. And it was amazing. It just fell. Those happy accidents are rare. Often you have to

maneuver the music to… but it just, it was so emotional. We got so excited. I think we were running

around that editing room. It’s like we found the voice, the vocal voice of what we wanted the scene to

be. And so that was really exciting.

And yeah, it’s the scene that where you do have the cutting style of yes, the game. But then

there are times when you want to slow it down, and you want to feel what these characters are feeling.

And I think that that’s the balance of trying to have a certain momentum. But don’t lose the emotion in

the momentum. There’s a reason why this game is going on. And if they were just playing basketball, and

you were focused on the action of the game, the scene would have never worked.

V.T. Nayani:

Yeah, I saw the story of how the track was taped because that track is… I think when anyone thinks

about that movie, they think about that particular song, I think anytime they hear that song, it takes

them back to that movie, if you watch that film. Good to know the story behind you listening to the

album and suggesting it. It’s going to be my little bit of fact history that I can share with like, “Did you

know that actually, this is where the song came from?” We have two more questions, and one of them,

I’m going to… there’s one from your cousin. Your cousin Patricia. Patricia asks, “The Old Guard was so

very different…” I’m going to read her whole message. “The Old Guard was so very different it seems

from your other movies and work. Did it feel this way to you? Are there any common threads in the

movies, do you have edited you feel?” And then it says, “This silly question is from your cousin, I am so

very proud of you.”

Terilyn Shropshire:

Thank you. Oh, my goodness. Look, “The Old Guard”, what I loved about doing “The Old Guard” was it

was a perfect example of being an editor and wanting to be considered that you’re capable if you’re

really working on your craft, and you’re working on your skill, as an editor. You have lots of tools in your

toolbox, just as a director does. There’s a lot of muscles that you want to try to just stretch when you’re

an artist. And I think that sometimes when you’re working in commercial art, people want to tend to

limit you or pigeon-hole you into, again, saying what you can’t… not that they’re not saying that you

can’t do it, but they tend to want to go with what is tried and true, or the person that’s tried and true in

a particular area.

And they may be tried and true because they’ve been given the opportunity. Ultimately, us being

able to be our best selves is when people don’t try to limit us and try don’t try to tell us what we can’t

do, or don’t allow us to showcase our work. What was great about “The Old Guard” is that everything

that I’ve done before has prepared me for The Old Guard, it’s a different type of storytelling, but it’s still

storytelling, there was no reason for me to think I couldn’t do “The Old Guard”. Whereas at the same

time, I still had to go into meetings with the studio and educate them as to why wouldn’t I be able to do

“The Old Guard”. But I had to be able to do that in a way to assure them that I was the right person, even

though this was a choice of Gina’s, but there was still the necessity for them to meet me, which happens

on most films where, of course, the people that are giving you the money to make the film, are going to

want to know who have you chosen to take this journey with?

But what I would say about in terms of things that are similar, what I love about all of these films

is that they’re either telling you… they’re bringing you into a world that maybe you’ve been aware of,

maybe you haven’t certainly when you look at something like “When They See Us”, and you look at “Talk

to Me”, these were based on true stories of people you… I mean there are a fair amount of people that

knew about Central Park Five, but there are people that didn’t really know the story. With movies like

“Love & Basketball”, and “The Old Guard”, and other films that I’ve done with directors, especially the

female directors, and not to say that male directors don’t empower women, of course they do.

But being able to tell a particular story, or show a particular character through a specific lens, the

people that I’ve been fortunate to work with, really are trying to empower and show the strength of

their characters, whether they’re male or female, and vulnerability. And that especially in terms of

working with Gina, where you have women that have agency, and they’re trying to find their place in the

world. I’m just fortunate that the directors that I’ve worked with Ava, Gina, Kasi, Bob, if I start

mentioning I’m going to miss somebody. They really have a strong voice, and they want to reflect the

world that they want to see. And it’s not necessarily the world that we always are living, But I feel like

they’re trying to give us a different perspective and a different lens, and allow us to think and feel and

maybe see the world in a different way.

V.T. Nayani:

Patricia said, “Well, you knocked it out of the park.”

Terilyn Shropshire:

Thank you.

V.T. Nayani:

One last question for tonight. I know it’s getting late on the East Coast… late depending on who you are.

I tend to stay up late, I think that’s a lot of artists. And this is about “Eve’s Bayou”, we’ll wrap with this. “Is

there a part you would have cut that remained in Eve’s Bayou because the director wanted it? I read the

book a long time ago, but it was my favorite for many years. So is there anything left in that, that you

would have cut but it stayed in the film?”

Terilyn Shropshire:

That’s funny that they asked me about that “Eve’s Bayou” and none of other movies. But no, seriously,

with “Eve’s Bayou”, there was actually something that we didn’t want to cut that we had to take out. And

so it was actually the opposite happened, because in the original “Eve’s Bayou”, which you can still find

because ultimately there was a director’s cut that was released on “Eve’s Bayou”. But the original “Eve’s

Bayou” was there was a character named uncle Tommy, who lived in the house with Eve and her brother,

her family. And he was actually based on a character and a memory from Kasi’s childhood, again where

often in cultures in the past, families lived together in the same house.

Uncle Tommy was a character who had… I don’t remember whether it was cerebral palsy or

whether he had had a stroke. He was someone who was not able to speak, and he was in a wheelchair,

and they cared for him. Kasi’s memory as a young girl was having to go upstairs. Her parents say go

upstairs and say goodnight to Uncle Tommy. And for her, that that character, the idea of young kids

having to go up and say goodnight to “something” that they didn’t necessarily understand. Was a little

bit daunting to them. But yet, within Kasi’s writing and making a film, Uncle Tommy was actually a very

integral character because he ended up being the mute witness to what had happened that night that

Cisely and her dad there was a fateful evening where something happened and it changed the course of

their lives.

And that’s part of what the movie about. And yet, in the original, what you discover is, is that

you have two versions of what happened. And as we all know, again, memory is a selection of images.

That’s how we begin the movie. And our memories are different, like you and I could have an argument

and our memory of that argument is going to skew towards… But yet, within this particular movie, there

was somebody who saw what happened. But he doesn’t have the ability to say what happened. And so it

was a very layered character. And ultimately, when we… we had finished the film, and I don’t want to go

too far into it because we don’t have a lot of time. But we finished the film, and then we were told that

we had to remove that character.

And it was a big deal for Kasi, as you can imagine, as a director, to cross the finish line, and then

somebody pulls you back from the finish line and says, “No, you’re not done.” And it was the studio

decision to remove this character. And then it became my responsibility, or our responsibility together to

remove this character, and yet deliver a story and a film where you never knew the character was there.

Yeah, it wasn’t something… I don’t remember anything where I said, “Oh, this has got to go.” But I do

remember someone telling us that some character got to go.

V.T. Nayani:

Yeah, I remember Kasi being in Toronto at a screening of “Eve’s Bayou”, I guess, was last year sometime,

but I don’t know what time is anymore. But I remember her sharing that story. And I remember being an

audience. Do you remember what that feels like to be in an audience? And we were all like, “What?” And

it was a collective… especially not a filmmaking audience, in my mind that sometimes some of the

decisions it’s hard. It’s hard because we’re artists and, especially, I think for a story that’s so personal,

and comes out of your experience in some way. Yeah, I remember the collective gasp, so thank you for

sharing that story.

Thank you for tonight, thank you for making time to chat with us. Again, I was so excited to

speak with you. And I’m so glad that I know you a little bit. And I hope we can continue the conversation.

Just for making your time and being open and willing to share because this is how we learn. And this is

how we grow. We’re a community, for those who are filmmakers here and those who aren’t, and who

are just film lovers. Film never gets done. And you said it earlier, film never gets done on our own. And

we’re all integral to the process. I’m excited to see what you work on next. But it’s been a beautiful

career to watch. And I know there’s so much more to come, so thank you again.

Terilyn Shropshire:

Well, thank you. And I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next as well. And I really want to thank

you for taking the time to get my work, and ask such great questions and steer us through this. I want to

also thank the Canadian Cinema Editors for this honor of being able to talk with your group, and we’re all

in this together. So I really do appreciate it.

V.T. Nayani:

Thank you, Teri. Have a good night everyone, take good care, and I’m just wishing health and wellness for


Sarah Taylor:

Thanks so much for joining us today, and a big thanks goes to Terilyn, and V.T. for taking the time to sit

with us. Our special thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Nagham Osman. This episode was edited by Alex

Schead. 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 or you

can donate directly at 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.


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 Join our great community

of Canadian editors for more related info.

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Edited by

Alex Schead

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Sound Stripe

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by

Finalé Post: A Picture Company, Annex Pro/ Avid, Vancouver Post Alliance , IATSE 891 & Integral Artists

The Editors Cut

Episode 052 – Interview with Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir

The Editors Cut - Episode 0052 - Interview with Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir

Episode 52: Interview with Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir

In this episode Sarah Taylor sits down with Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir.

Elisabet has a killer film resume and has cut many much loved action films – Atomic Blond, John Wick and Deadpool 2 to name a few.

This month she has two new films coming out – Marvel’s latest SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS and the Netflix film KATE. Elisabet shares her career journey and so much wisdom!

Listen Here

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I have women or people of color, for example, in the cast. I try to remember that I am not raised

in a just society. So, I might have ideas that go against what these people are bringing to the

table, and I have to be aware of it. I ask myself, again, “Should I cut that dialogue out? Why am I

cutting it?” Just so I have a fighting chance to work against my possible prejudices.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

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.

Before we get into today’s episode, the CCE is excited to be involved with the Calgary

International Film Festival’s Industry Week, from Thursday September 23rd to Sunday

September 26th. No matter where you are in your career, they are inviting those in the film, TV,

and adjacent industries, to mix, mingle, celebrate, and learn. Industry Week will feature inspiring

and engaging programming, tailor-made for industry professionals. Expand your knowledge, find

your inspirational fuel, and grow your connections. Your seat is waiting at the Calgary

International Film Festival’s first ever Industry Week. And, I’ll be there, moderating a panel with

the editors from Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Join us on September 26th, online or in person. I hope

to see you there.

Today, I bring to you the lovely Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir. Elísabet has a killer film résumé.

She’s cut many much loved action films, Atomic Blonde, John Wick, and Deadpool 2, just to

name a few. This month, she has two new films coming out, Marvel’s latest, Shang-Chi and the

Legend of the Ten Rings, and the Netflix film, Kate. Elísabet shares with us her journey and so

much wisdom. I want to be like her when I grow up. Please enjoy Elísabet.

Speaker 3:

And, action.

Speaker 5:

This is The Editor’s Cut.

Speaker 4:

A CCE podcast.

Speaker 5:

Exploring, exploring, exploring, the art…

Speaker 4:

Of picture editing.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Welcome, Elísabet, to The Editor’s Cut, thank you so much for joining me today.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Thank you for having me, Sarah.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

My first question is, where are you from? And, what led you into the world of editing?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

It’s a long story. I’m born and raised in Iceland, in Reykjavík. I’ve always been fascinated my

movies. When I was young, every week we would get to go to the movie house, because we

would go with the newspapers. And, [inaudible 00:03:07], we would get a movie every week. I

would go, and I was fascinated by this world. And, obviously never ever had an idea that I would

become a part of it. But, I was fascinated by that world, and the movies, and that form of

storytelling. And, when I’m, I think I’m 19 or 20, I decided to go to a film school. So, I went to

London International Film School, in Soho, in London.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

It was a lovely experience. But, you don’t learn how to make movies. You learn to use some

equipment or get accustomed to some of the equipment. And, you get really good connections

with people who have the same interest as you. And then, it’s a lifetime of practice and doing

things over and over again. I’m still learning. I don’t think this is a form you can learn. I guess any

art form, you can’t learn it, you just have to live it, and fail, and try again.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

So, that’s how I started films. But, in London Film School, I was set on becoming a

cinematographer. That was my passion and fascination, and then, I learnt through the years, I

learnt about editing and got more and more fascinated by editing. I also ended there because I

was getting pregnant all the time, I have four children, and it looked just easier to control my

time when I’m in the editing room. It’s difficult if you have 100 people on-set waiting for you and

you have to manage children, it’s easier with the post.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What was your first job in the industry? Was it in London, or was it in Iceland, where were you?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

My first job in the industry was in Iceland. I was hired to answer telephones in a production

company that produced mainly interviews for TV and commercials. I think I stayed on the phone

for like two days and then I just dived head-first into production. Mainly as a set decorator for

the longest time, on commercials, and just assisting here and there. That’s how I started in this


Sarah Taylor (Host):

How did you make your move into editing? You had some babies and you thought, “I need to go

into the edit room,” or did you do editing prior to that?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I got pregnant and no one knew. I think I was six or seven months pregnant, and I was working

as a focus puller on a small Icelandic movie, and the DP realized suddenly I was pregnant and

they got so scared. It had to do with insurance and all kinds of stuff. But, they didn’t want to

throw me out, so they just invited me into the editing room. So, that’s how I started. I [inaudible

00:06:27] realize I’m very privileged in that way, that I just walked into an editing job. I didn’t

assist. I assisted myself, obviously, it’s small production in Iceland, so you kind of have to assist

yourself. But, I was editing from day one that I stepped into an editing room. That is a privilege.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I think it’s also just the time. Now, it’s probably more difficult because more people have learnt

about the magic of editing and want to do it. So, it’s a more difficult task to get in there. But, I

was there at the right time.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, at the right time and then also in a smaller market. Because, even for me in Alberta, I’m

based in Edmonton, and it’s a very small market, and so I do my assisting, I do my editing.

Sometimes I get an assistant and then it feels wonderful, but then you learn so much and you

get to do so many different genres, which I think is really fun too.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

So, you came from an Icelandic market, you started editing, I’m assuming you did lots of

Icelandic films?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, I did some. But, I moved to Denmark. I was going to Denmark to work on this movie for

Nordisk Film, but my parents at that point lived in Sweden. So, I actually moved to Sweden and

then I took a boat between Sweden and Denmark every day, because I needed my parents to

help me with the kids and my siblings, who all lived in Sweden. So, I moved to Sweden and took

the boat, and was working on Nordisk Film. I also did a year at a TV station in Denmark. That’s

probably the best school I’ve been to, where you have to work really fast and get to the heart of

the story in as a precise way as possible. I think that was very good training. I did a lot of Danish

movies, and documentaries, and TV, and then I moved back home to Iceland and kept doing

Icelandic movies.

I did a movie called Reykjavik-Rotterdam, an Icelandic movie directed by Óskar

Jónasson, and it was remade in the State as Contraband.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Oh, yeah.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I was asked to edit Contraband as well.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Baltasar Kormákur directed that movie, and it was co-production between Working Title in

London, in England, and Universal. It was a big step into the American market.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

No kidding.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

There was no [inaudible 00:09:04]. It was straight into a big production with Universal and

Working Title. That was such an amazing experience. It was actually through Contraband that I

met an Editor, Dody Dorn, who is an American editor. Amazing editor. She just did the recut of

The Snyder Cut for [inaudible 00:09:33], and she had done Memento. She’s a big editing star. I

met her in LA when I was doing Contraband, we had dinner together. We are very good friends

today. We just hit it. And, she contacted her agent and asked them to talk to me and sign me on.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

And it happened, they signed me on.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s amazing. So then, from that going forward you were now up for doing American films?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s amazing. You are in the world of action films now. Your latest movie that’s coming out

soon is the new Marvel movie, which I was very excited to find out that you’re cutting it,

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. You did John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2.

High action, high Hollywood films. Was this a genre that you were always interested in? Tell me

about this action film journey.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I think it’s just interesting and fascinating how life guides you to a certain place. There are two

things. One is, I did a lot of dance movies in Iceland with an artist Helena Jonsdottir, who works

very much in Europe with dance movies. So, I was extremely accustom to editing choreography.

Action is choregraphy. It is a dance. No one gets hurt. It doesn’t look bloody and disgusting until

they put all the visual effects on it. It’s a dance. So, I had this massive dance choreography

editing training from doing small indie art dance films with my friend Helena. Another thing, I

worked on this TV show for a year, called LazyTown, but I learnt so much about working with

blue screen and imagining how things are happening in the background, and just the workflow

of it. So, I had a massive training from there through this children’s show.

So, when I did my first big action, which was John Wick, I had all those elements already.

I wasn’t learning anything… Of course, I learnt a lot doing that movie, but I had the basis coming

in. And then, you do get pigeonholed, people decide that. But, it’s not only that you get

pigeonholed, but also I now have a great experience working with big budget movies. The

workflow of them is a bit different and it’s sometimes extremely hectic. It’s difficult with visual

effects… Not difficult, but it’s just different. Especially with really heavy visual effects movies,

you have to work so tightly with visual effects and make all the dates. It’s a lot of work.

Especially in Deadpool, where we had animated characters, and again in Shang-Chi. It takes a lot

of time to do this stuff.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What do you feel you bring that’s unique to these films?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I always try to bring a big heart. I think it’s a part of my job to be extremely critical of some stuff.

With action movies, are not just for 17 year old boys, and even if they were, there is no need to

degrade women in any way. So, I terrorized my directors talking about the male gaze [inaudible


Sarah Taylor (Host):

I love it.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

By pushing it through, trying to make a change that way. But, every movie I work on, I look at my

work… I am kind of interpreting the work of so many people. If you imagine that you have a

script, it might be based on a book, so the script is an interpretation of a book that’s written, or

it’s an original script. But then, the whole crew, it’s the director, it’s the actors, the set designer,

everyone interprets that story into their art. For me, I gather all of it and then I try to interpret the

best version of the movie from what I have. I have such a respect for what everyone else brings

to the table. But, we also live in a world that’s extremely unjust, and racist, and misogynist, etc.

So, I try to remind myself of it every time I start working on a movie. I just go through the whole

cast, I go through the whole crew, the key positions in the crew, and I just think about that.

Especially if I have women or people of color, for example, in the cast. I try to remember

that I am not raised in a just society. So, I might have ideas that go against what these people

are bringing to the table, and I have to be aware of it. I ask my self, again, “Should I cut that

dialogue out? Why am I cutting it out?” Just so I have a fighting chance to work against my

possible prejudices.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

It’s such an important thing to hear, as an editor, and I think it’s an important thing for everybody

to hear, as filmmakers. That, those little things, we have control to help shape and hopefully

change our world. Hearing you be like, “I am going to be conscious and think,”…

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Sometimes it might be better for the movie and for them that I cut this dialogue. I just need to

be aware, “Why am I cutting it? Am I cutting it because it’s best for the movie? Or, am I cutting it

because I have some hidden prejudices about, ‘A woman would never say it like that’?” Then, I

have to question myself again, now I have to take a step back, “Why would I cut if it works for

the movie?” I’m a big believer in cutting dialogue left and right, I’m like, “[inaudible 00:16:09].” A

dialogue massacre. But, that’s because a dialogue in a script can be beautiful and it works

perfectly, but then you have the actors interpret that dialogue, and sometimes a whole speech

just comes with one look, and that speech becomes redundant. You don’t need it anymore

because the actor brought that look.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, for sure.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I’m a big believer in cutting dialogue. I want to be aware why I’m doing it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What brought you to think like that?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I think that’s just how I’ve lived all my life, actually. I grew up through the feminist movement, I

was a very active young woman in the feminist second wave in Iceland. I just learnt a lot about

this stuff going through that. Just turning up in meetings, listening to talks. So, I think it came

early, this being aware that you are not living in a perfect society. It is a racist, misogynist

community we live in. Not the people, necessarily, it’s just we have built this society through

such a long time and it’s difficult to get rid of all the bad ideas we might have as a society. I’m

not talking about the individuals within it, they come in all sizes and shapes. You might grow up

just knowing that women’s voices are more annoying because they’re higher. As an editor, I have

to be aware that I might have that prejudice when I’m listening to dialogue, trying to deem which

take is best. You have to be aware that you might be… But, at the same time, you have to be

aware that the whole audience has the same prejudices. You just have to find the balance and

try not to…

What I absolutely do not want to do is step on women’s and minorities’ glory. I don’t want

to be the person that’s done that. I want people to flourish. Not that that’s in my power, I’m just

saying in my small bubble I try to do what I can.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Every small step is a good thing. You talked about how you like to cut dialogue, I liked the line, “A

dialogue massacre,” that’s great. Tell us more about your process. How do you start a film,

what’s your process of watching the dailies, when do you start cutting scenes? Just do a little

rundown of what you’re editing process is.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Usually, you turn up the day or the day before they start shooting, but you’ve read the script. I’ve

usually read it several times. Then, the shooting starts and you just get dailies every single day,

and you go through them. I watch them and try to remember what affected me watching it first

time, and I make some notes, then I start throwing the scene together. I do it very roughly. I don’t

necessarily do it with selects, I just throw the scene together like, “I want to be here, I want to go

there.” And then, I go through all the takes and see, “Do I have what it takes to fit into this form

that I’ve made?” Sometimes, it has to change a bit because of performances and how shots

were done [inaudible 00:19:55]. That’s how you eat this elephant, it’s one bite at a time. You

almost have a scene a day. And then, it strings up to a movie. That’s when it gets difficult for me

to hold back.

You have to edit this new scene that was shot today but, “Ooh, I want to dive into this.”

But, I try to stay focused and do my scenes every single day. Also, if anything is missing you can

notify the producers and the director. You might feel something’s missing or not covered well

enough. Even if you notify them, it doesn’t mean it’s shot, but at least you’ve notified them. And

then, at some point, you’ve got all the scenes and everything’s there, and then you just start.

Sometimes I work in sections. Sometimes, in the beginning especially, it’s good to work

in sections, get this section right, get that section right. I have a tendency, I just have to watch

the film again, and again, and again. I find it so important that what’s happening in scene 10 is

extremely important for what’s happening in 112, and you have to keep those connections going

the whole time. It’s one movie, it’s not 130 scenes, it’s one movie. That’s what you’re working


Which, brings me also to why I dislike working with multiple editors. That has nothing to

do with most of the beautiful people I work with, but I do dislike the lack of understanding for

the art of editing, that it’s a singular vision. When you suddenly have three visions, or four

visions, it gets really difficult, for me. Also, because I’m a control freak.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

How has it worked for you, because you’ve worked on a few films where you’ve been in a team?

What do you get and how does it work?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

It hasn’t worked like that on the movies I’ve worked with, it floats around, goes back and forth.

For me, it’s not about editing a scene, it’s about editing a movie. It’s very difficult for me to step

out of that mode and just start thinking, “This is my scene, this is my part.” But, it’s not like that,

because then we talk about stuff, and we sit down, and we watch the movie, and we talk. But, I

wish they would fix schedules and allow the art of editing to flourish as a singular vision. Always

based on the director’s vision, it’s not [inaudible 00:22:49], it’s a singular vision in connection

with the director’s vision. I think the art of it and the flow of it, I just feel it all has to come


Sarah Taylor (Host):

The films where you’ve had to work with a team, is it because of schedules, that the film needs

to get done so quickly that you need more hands-on-deck?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Some studios demand it, mainly because of schedule. It’s a lot of material for a very short time.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

But on Deadpool, for example, I just got sick. I ended up in the hospital.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Oh no.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I think I’m a method editor, because I got in such good forms when I was doing Atomic Blonde, I

was in the gym every day. That was really good. But then, I did Deadpool 2 and ended up with

stage 4 cancer, [inaudible 00:23:48].

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Oh no.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

But, I got cured. All is good.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Good, but whoa.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I had the best doctors, I was so lucky. Now, I’m working on a movie that has to do with faith and

luck, and I just lost my wallet yesterday and I’m thinking, “There’s something there,” maybe I’m a

method editor.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Other than the cancer thing, which I’m very sorry that happened, but… I find, because I do a lot of

documentary stuff, I will definitely get into… I did one about a boxer and then I was like, “I want

to take boxing.” And then, I did one for the tap dancing and I’m like, “I’m going to take tap


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Exactly. [inaudible 00:24:23].

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, you just get into it. It’s their passion and you feel the passion.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

When I did John Wick, I got suited up.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Oh yeah?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s amazing.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I had to have a good suit, that’s really, really helpful.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Do you still have that suit and do you still wear it?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Oh yeah, I do.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

I love it. I want to see the suit. That’s so fun. You said that you like to cut the film, but of the film,

what are your favorite types of scenes to edit?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I’m so fascinated by every single scene I have to tackle. Every scene brings you different

challenges and I’m just fascinated by all of them. I think they’re all just as fun. I think the easiest

scenes I edit are action scenes, actually. [inaudible 00:25:16] first, because I’ve been blessed

with amazing choreographers. Because, I don’t choreograph those fight scenes, someone else

does. I’ve just been lucky working with the best, both producers and directors that know action,

know what it takes to make action, and the choreographers and stunt people that know what

they’re doing. The best of the best. So, for me, editing action is just pure fun.

Dialogue is always more difficult because most people, I know there are exceptions, but

most people do not know how it is to end up in a shootout. Never been in a shootout. So, you

can kind of do whatever you like because who’s going to care? Who’s going to stand up and say,

“No, that’s wrong.” But, with dialogue, every single audience has had dialogue with someone, has

had discussions or arguments. Those are the trickiest scenes. I can spend hours because I

really want it to ring true, but it doesn’t take you out of the film, that this was a really [inaudible

00:26:25] dialogue scene. So, those are the trickiest scenes, but I do have fun doing all of them.

All of it is fun.

My favorite thing, is just watching it again, and again, and again. Both because you get

such a good understanding, I think I get a good understanding of the pace of it. But also, there

are just connections that you start understanding better, and then you can tighten it and make it

work so other people will notice them without watching something 400 times.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah. When you’re going through and you’re watching it again, and again, and again, are you

stepping back from the edit suite, watching it on a screen, just watching it? Or, are you still

sitting at your suite, making those adjustments as you go?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Both. I think it’s very healthy to do… My father is a painter, and when I was young and he was

painting, and sometimes he would take a mirror and look at his painting through the mirror. I

think this is what happens when you take your movie and you watch it in different settings. If it’s

in a screening room, or take it home, watch it on your computer. Which, is probably the way most

people are going to see it in the end anyway. Because, it gives you a different perspective.

Because, the painter uses the mirror to get a different perspective of the work he’s doing, and I

think for me, as an editor, getting a different perspective is… Changing scenario, changing the

format I’m looking at it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What do you do when you find that there is a challenging scene, as in you’re stumped, or it’s just

not flowing right, or the dialogue isn’t going right, is there anything that you do to make it


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, I just go away. I just go have dinner with friends. Go watch a movie, go see art somewhere,

just do everything else. Because, that problem is still going to be there when you get back, but

you’re going to have more energy. You know how it is, sometimes just doing the dishes will give

you the best ideas. You just have to disconnect from the problem. It’s not going to go away. It’s

still in the back of your mind. And suddenly, you might get a solution.

I dream my movies. I dream edits, sometimes something cooler than I can actually do

myself, but I still have dreams about my projects. Actually, solutions have come when I’m

sleeping and I wake up and I have to write it down straight away because I realize, “Yes, that’s

how we’re going to do it.”

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah. I find, for myself, it’s in the shower or if I go for a run or something. Like, “I got to get back

to the edit suite, I found the thing.”

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s awesome.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

And, I think it’s very important because, for me, editing… I can imagine writers being a bit in the

same position, because we’re a bit alone, but we have to take care of ourselves. Because, the

problem is, I could sit 20 hours without standing up. I’m just completely engulfed in what I’m

doing, and that’s not okay. I learnt it the hard way. It’s not okay. You have to set time for yourself.

Take lunch, take dinner, take a break. It’s very important because when you edit a movie, for me I

believe… I’m sure this is not true, because I have heard of a lot of blockbusters that were very

successful where people didn’t have much fun, but I do believe if you have fun… I think it’s

important. If you don’t have fun working on this movie, how do you expect the audience to have

fun? I think it’s so important because I think it shows. I think it shows on the film how people felt,

and you want people to enjoy what they’re watching. You don’t want them to feel like, “Oh, that

was weird.” You just want to ooze some heart into that movie. Enjoy. I think it’s important.

That’s why I think everyone in the production is just as important. Someone just bringing

coffee to set can bring such joy to the people working there that they actually really affect the

production, and [inaudible 00:31:06]. So, I think it’s extremely important to have a good crew and

a closely-knitted crew.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Do you have directors that you’ve with multiple times? That director-editor relationship I feel like

is really important. And, what you’re just mentioning now, having a connection with a director

and working on it as a team, that brings a heart to a film, if you have that good connection, that

good relationship.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, it does. I think it’s important. I’ve done so many movies with David Leitch, and I’m working

with him now on a new movie. I love getting to know new people, but yes, working with

someone, we know each other’s language, we know what we’re thinking. Of course it’s

important. It saves a lot of work and heartache. He knows I’m not going to go and piss off and

do something horrible. He can trust that I’m going to put the work in. We have kind of a

shorthand in dialogue as well. And, I really enjoy working with him as a director. He’s so open to

suggestions, even though he has a very clear vision of what he wants. He has the confidence to

be open to other ideas, even though he has a very strong vision of what he wants.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

I think that’s interesting to say that, because I feel like when somebody’s really, really rigid,

maybe it is this lack of confidence, or they’re not sure, or, “Maybe it won’t work, I don’t know.”

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

That’s how I feel about it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

For yourself, throughout the years, you’ve been doing this for a while, have you found that you

have your own internal confidence now? When you were younger, getting feedback from

directors or producers, was it harder? How did you handle that and how do you handle it now?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I don’t think it was harder getting feedback from others, in connection with the movie. But, in the

old days, I could not screen anything I did, I was in the bathroom throwing up. Physically

throwing up because I was so stressed. That has gone.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Oh good.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I don’t feel that stressed anymore. I think that’s just you do it so many times you stop throwing

up at some point, thankfully. I think it’s extremely important to get notes. I don’t think anything

that has to do with the film can be ego filled in any way. You have to just try to take in the notes

and realize… But, you are the professional, so when you get notes from screenings and stuff,

you have to take a step back and look at them. You’re trying to figure out what people’s

problems are with the movie. You are the professional. They might not know, they might say, “We

hated the middle,” but the problem is actually in the beginning. You know what I mean?

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, totally.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Because, if the beginning is too long, you’re going to be too tired in the middle. But, the audience

might say, “There’s a problem with the middle,” so you have to learn to take the notes and use

your own professionalism and experience to realize where is the problem. It takes a community

to make a film. I think that’s the biggest joy for me, is just the journey with that village to make

this movie, and that is the most inspiring thing about movie making, for me.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah. Being the editor, you’re often not with the crew, do you get to get to know the crew? Is that

something that you try to make an effort doing?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Sometimes, and sometimes not. It depends on so many things, like COVID. Usually you would be

in connection with the crew on set and visit regularly and stuff, but that changed this year.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

How has it been for you during COVID? Were you working on Shang-Chi during COVID?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, we were stuck in Australia, we were there for a year.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What? Tell us.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I never knew I would live in Australia, but we ended up being there a year because of COVID.

Because, we had to stall production. We still kept working in post, and when we finished it had

been a year.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Wow. Originally, before COVID, you planned to go to Australia to cut the film while they were

shooting and then come back to Iceland?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

[inaudible 00:36:06] and finish. We were supposed to premier it February 3rd, was the first

premiere day on it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Of 2021?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

2021, yeah. Last February.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Wow. At least Australia wasn’t as bad as America.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

No, that was not bad. It was just a surprise to be so far from your loved ones…

Sarah Taylor (Host):

No kidding.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

… And your routines.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, especially during a pandemic.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Australians are very pleasant people. We were in Sydney the whole time, and just some precious

people I met there.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

And, you were working with a team of editors for that film as well?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

So, were you all staying together and you’re able to really work on the process of stuff actually


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

[inaudible 00:36:54], we [inaudible 00:36:57] in and did some great work in Australia.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

I look forward to seeing that one. Now, you’re working on another film, are you working at it from

home, in Iceland?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I am working from home. We were supposed to be working in Vancouver, and COVID, so in the

end they said, “We’ll be working from home in LA.” But, I pointed out, “Home for me is Iceland,”

but they accepted and said, “Okay, take it.”

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

So, I’ve been working from home since February.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Typically, non-COVID days, would you just be going back from Iceland to LA or wherever the film

might be shooting, and you’re just always on the go?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):


Sarah Taylor (Host):

That must have been an adjustment.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I’m getting old, I’m getting tired by it. But also, I got the taste of it now, just to be home and work

from home. I like the idea. We’ll see what the future brings.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah. In the meantime, working from home, how has that been going for you, working remotely?

Has it been an easy transition?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

It’s been going really well. The biggest surprise, when COVID hit, is that all those pipelines to

work from home were already in place. They’re all in place. You just have to plug in and press

play. It was all there. So, that was probably the biggest surprise. Maybe independent movies

used it more, but the studios are very protective of their material, so usually everything is locked

inside the studios, so it was a bit of a surprise. But, a good surprise. It’s been easy, I like it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

What are some things that you need to have in your edit suite that help you do your best work?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I love to make it a bit cozy. I need to have the photos of my babies, or my children. I plaster my

wall with them, just so I can have a conversation sometimes with them. For me, it’s extremely

important that the editing is a sacred land. You cannot fight. If producers and directors want to

fight about something, let’s step outside, because it’s not a fight zone. This is a creative zone

where we talk about ideas. We can argue about ideas, but there is no fighting. That has to

happen outside the editing room. I just find it very important. It’s like the [inaudible 00:39:35] and

it has to be peaceful. I like to bring in some smells and candles and stuff.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Do you have a certain routine every day, that you get up in the morning, and you get to work at a

certain time, and you have coffee, anything like that that keeps your day going?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, always coffee and sit down. But again, it’s so different because of COVID, everything has

been different, we’re in different places, different timezones. It’s not the same. But, I do like

having our morning meetings, sit down and talk over what happened, what do we need to do. I

miss that. I miss my film community. But, I still keep the coffee routine going strong.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

It’s very important.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Very important.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Do you find that there’s a certain part of the day that you do certain activities or certain tasks at

certain times of day? Or, you just go with whatever the edit tells you to do?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Whatever the edit tell me to do. For me, I wouldn’t be able to be that organized. I just follow. But,

I do love early mornings, because usually that’s the most quiet time. So, I like that. I like early

mornings, with my coffee, few people around, if any, and just me time. I like that.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

But, it tends to be very long days anyway.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Yeah, for sure. How does it feel when you’ve finished a film? It’s locked, what are your feelings

and your thoughts when that happens?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I don’t think anyone that I’ve worked with would send anything out if we weren’t proud of the

product. It can be different genres and different movies, but this is the best version we could

come up with, and we are proud of the work we put in it, we can put it out. So, it feels good, but

you’re also nervous because you never know how anything is going to be received. Even though

you think, “This is going to be big,” and then it doesn’t become… You never know.

Sarah Taylor (Host):


Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

So, you’re kind of sending it out without knowing what’s going to happen to it. But, it always feels

good because it’s work well done. Everyone has put their best foot down. Again, it’s a group

effort, and you’re just there with a group of people that have been spending so much time on it,

and sending it off, and then it’s gone. But, that’s not how it is for the director and some of the

actors, because then they follow it to the film festivals, to whatever. But, we have to say


Sarah Taylor (Host):

Do you have one film that you’re most proud of? Can you pick one?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I’m so proud of so many movies. I am obsessive as well. Very obsessive. I do have an obsessive

character. The film I’m working on now, it has all my energy. It’s the only thing I can think about.

Favorite movie would always be the movie I’m working on.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s great. Do you have any tips for young editors or editors that are trying to make a career

transition into doing film? Scripted, as opposed to documentary? Anything like that.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

First thing, I think it’s important that there shouldn’t be a hierarchy here. Especially when it

comes to documentary, it’s such an amazing art form for me, I do love it. I’ve done some

documentaries. I wish I could do more. I think the most important thing is to always put all your

best out there, whatever you’re doing. The size of the budget doesn’t matter. You have to do your

best. I think if you always put your best foot down… Don’t write something off as bullshit,

because some things can just flourish and become something that comes back to you in the

form of a job opportunity, or something else. So, always put your best foot forward.

But again, I just find it so important that all of us understand this is work. It might be

ideal work, amazing work, so much fun work, but it’s work. We have to remember to take care of

ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves we won’t be able to make those movies. So, just

take care of yourself, be brave, and always, always, always take the dialogue. I think it’s

extremely important to be brave. I know it’s so hard right now, because there are so many people

and few opportunities. I’m sure so many people are getting, “No,” that shouldn’t be getting noes.

But, you have to remember that this is what you’re fighting against, so few opportunities. So, just

don’t give up. Or, give up. But, if you decide to not to give up, don’t give up. Just keep going with

that smile. But, it’s also okay to give up and to go to something else. That’s the beauty of life. It

just leads you to something else. Just don’t ever, ever, ever give up. Change direction if you feel

you need to, but just don’t give up.

And, I think it’s important to remember that there are so many editors out there, and

probably most of them better than I am. I’m also blessed with opportunities, but that’s one part

of being anything. You have to be able to grab the opportunity when they present themselves.

So, be open to opportunities. And again, that can be in a very small budget short film

somewhere, so do not cut corners because it’s a low budget short film. Give it all, because that

might come back to you as an opportunity. It’s tough out there, I know.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

That’s good advice. Do you have any films coming up? We’ve talked about the Shang-Chi and the

Legend of the Ten Rings, but anything else coming up that you want to tell us about?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Yeah, I’m very proud of Kate, who’s going to be in September as well on Netflix. It’s a small

movie, but I had so much fun working it. And then, I’m working on Bullet Train. That’s probably

not going to come out until Christmas. Maybe it’s going to be a Christmas movie.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. You had such great insight

and lots of good one-liners that I’m going to try to take and put them in my pocket. Eating the

elephant one scene at a time, I love it.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I didn’t know this, but maybe I’m the queen of one-liners.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

I think so.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

I’m happy you enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Thank you so much. Take care, bye.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (Guest):

Take care, bye.

Sarah Taylor (Host):

Thank you so much for joining us today, and a big thank you goes out to Jane MacRae. 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


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 at, or you can donate directly to 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


Speaker 4:

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 Join

our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

The Editors Cut

Episode 051: Interview with Kim French

The Editors Cut - Episode 051 - Interview with Kim French

Episode 51: Interview with Kim French

In this episode Sarah Taylor sits down with Kim French the creator of Edit Girls.

Kim French

Edit Girls is a collection of career stories from women working in Post-Production. It began life as an Instagram page, which was founded by Kim French, and kept going with the support of Mathew White and now has a home on it’s webpage

Edit Girls was born out of frustration at a lack of seeing these stories being told when Kim knew they were out there. She started her career as an editor back in 2006 and would have loved to have had this kind of insight into how other women started their journeys as editors, VFX artists, colourists and sound engineers.

Kim started by reaching out to editors that she knew to share their stories but it didn’t take long for women to start approaching her wanting to share how they started their careers and give insight into their working life. It quickly became clear that this was a much-needed space and the response has been so heartwarming.

Kim and Sarah discuss her career journey and how platforms like edit girls are much needed in our society and industry!


This episode was generously sponsored by IASTE 891 


Listen Here

The Editor’s Cut – Episode 051 – Interview with Kim French

Kim French:

It was a very similar type of person that was applying to the roles. And then to be told that oh, we’ll just hire the best person for the job was really frustrating because I was always like, well, we don’t even have a starting point that is diverse enough. The likelihood is that we’re going to hire a white guy because that’s who’s applying. And I thought, hang on a minute.

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by IATSE 891.

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:

Today I sit down with Kim French, the creator of Edit Girls. Edit Girls is a collection of career stories from women working in post-production. It began its life as an Instagram page, @EditGirlsInsta, which was founded by Kim French and kept going through the support of Mathew White, and now has a home on its webpage, Edit Girls was born out of the frustration at a lack of seeing these stories being told, when Kim knew they were out there. She started her career as an editor back in 2006, and would have loved to have had this kind of insight into how other women started their journeys as editors, visual effects artist, colorists, and sound engineers. Kim started reaching out to editors she knew to share their stories, but it didn’t take long for women to start approaching her, wanting to share how they started their careers and give insight into their working life. It quickly became clear that this was a much-needed space, and the response has been so heartwarming. 


Kim and I discuss her career journey, and how platforms like Edit Girls are much needed in our society and industry.


[show open]


Sarah Taylor:

Well, Kim, thank you so much for joining us on The Editor’s Cut.

Kim French:

You’re welcome. I’m very excited to be here. 

Sarah Taylor:

As you all know, Kim French is the person behind Edit Girls, which is originally an Instagram account, and a website profiling women in editing and post-production. You do some colorists, and-

Kim French:

Yeah, that’s right. Colorists are featured, visual effects artists and post-producers as well. Majority, editors.

Sarah Taylor:

Before we dive into the Edit Girls and the process of how that started, I want to know a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, and I’m assuming that you were an editor at some point in your life. Give us a little Coles Notes of how you got to where you are now.

Kim French:

I’m from the UK, as you can probably guess. But I do have a connection to Canada, which is quite nice. When you asked me to be part of this, I was like, yeah, Canada. My career in editing started in Toronto in 2006. I’d moved over there. Basically, I’ll go back a tiny bit more. I studied television production, and within that you end up doing lots of different roles, like you direct something, you produce something, you do camera and you do editing. Kind of had a broad view of all the different aspects of TV, but I didn’t really hone in on editing there. But when I moved to Canada, which was to, at the time, follow a boyfriend, although I ended up staying and he ended up moving to New York. And that’s a whole other story. But I was always very kind of … Yeah. Just grateful, I guess, for that introduction to Canada because Toronto is like a second home. 

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, great. 

Kim French:

So, I did one of those … You know the five-day documentary challenges? Or they do 48-hour film challenges.

Sarah Taylor:


Kim French:

I ended up getting involved in one of those because at the time, I was doing lots of sound recording. I was booming on set, and I’d had documentary experience. I was doing student films. I’ve got a ton of friends who went to Ryerson. Ended up meeting lots of people through that. 

Anyway, I did the five-day documentary challenge. I was booming. It was me and two other filmmakers, Alex and Eric. And I was able to edit that. I said oh, I’d really love to edit this five-minute doc. I learnt loads from the director, Alex. And it was, I didn’t realize at the time, but my key, pivotal moment into editing.

Sarah Taylor:


Kim French:

Yeah. It was really like, special. I look back on it and the film. I would say, you know considering it is, gosh, 17 years old … umm, no, 15. It just still really holds up, and I’m really proud of it as a piece of work. It was about a female boxer. It was following her story. We found her within the five days, we created and filmed it within the five days. Yeah. Yeah. 

Sarah Taylor:

And you cut it within the five days?

Kim French:

Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:


Kim French:

And then obviously, loads of Red Bull and coffee, and you know doing that last stint of the last night. But we did it. You had to film at the end the newspaper, so that they knew that you’d sort of filmed it and done it within the time. So, I had this film. I had, I guess, the beginnings of my portfolio from that. And I ended up doing an interview which at the time, I thought was for a … Like a job interview. I thought was for more production side of things. Very random, how it came about. But it was actually an assistant editor position. And because I had this film, I was able to show that, and they could see from that that I had that sort of raw, I guess, talent for being able to edit.

And going back, actually, the film won an award for best editing at Hot Docs. At the time, it was I think a particular part of Hot Docs that was more about this particular festival. It’s not like headliners, or anything. But yeah, it was like a special little moment in time. And I got my first assisting job from it.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing. 

Kim French:

Yeah. Yeah. And then from there, the rest is history. I was an editor for, well, an assistant to an incredible editor. If I name drop people. A guy called Dave DiCarlo, who I learnt, yeah, a huge amount from. I’ve worked with lots of amazing directors. There was all the commercial world, so not like TV and film which … Again, obviously there’s lots of overlap, but they’re very different worlds, really, aren’t they? 

Sarah Taylor:

Totally, yeah. 

Kim French:

It was the commercial world that I started in and was most familiar with. And then I got very, very homesick. I was editing there and I was part of a few different post houses, and after about four years I was extremely homesick. And you know it all came to a bit of a crunch, and I just decided to go back. That was 2010. And then I got a job editing at the company I still work at now, but I’m no longer an editor. I started editing there, and then I grew as the company grew. Like as in, grew into a different role. Because I think I was more drawn to, certainly at the time, the producing side of things. And then ultimately where I am is actually in the marketing and sales side of things. So, yeah. I haven’t really cut anything for a long time. But I’ve done a few things in my spare time, but yeah. In terms of making a living out of doing it, it’s been a while. 

Sarah Taylor:

Being a commercial editor probably really did impact … Well, obviously got you the job in the company you’re at now. And that experience really led to where you are now. And obviously, that was a big interest for you, which is exciting. And I’m assuming because you are an editor, when you’re working with different teams you know how to speak the language. I’m sure it makes things so much easier for everybody in the process of creating something. That must be an added value.

Kim French:

Yeah, completely. I mean, I think when you ask someone to do something of any sort of aspect of filmmaking, having even just the slightest experience in it is so important because you just know what you’re asking. You know how much time it’s going to take. You don’t take advantage of people. I’m working on stuff at the moment where I need to make showreels and bits of marketing content, and I’m asking a lot from an editor. But I’m able to quickly get the flex, help them with the music, all of those kinds of things. Yeah. It helps, definitely. 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s fantastic. And what’s the company that you’re working for right now?

Kim French:

We’re called Preen. That’s P-R-E-E-N, for November. It’s one of those ones that kind of sounds like an M sometimes, but yeah. Preen. We were originally called Cherryduck, which is a really funny name. But for years, nearly a decade, it was Cherryduck, and then we rebranded at the end of last year for a bunch of reasons. But we’re a very different company now. You kind of grew from shooting behind-the-scenes videos, to be honest, and stuff for publishers, and then brands wanted to get in on it. And now we predominantly work direct with brands, or larger agencies.

Sarah Taylor:

Was there one job you got that made you be like, I am a real editor.

Kim French:

Yeah, so…I mean like I said, I was assisting. And I was given the opportunity through a series of events to work with … I think it was 11 or 12 animators on a music video for R.E.M. They would create individual … It was like a minefield, but it was so much fun. It was a song called Man-Sized Wreath, which is from one of their more … I guess, yeah, 2006 sort of album. And each animator had a little section of the track, and then they would create something in their own style, so it wasn’t just one style all the way through. And it was quite like trippy, in many ways. But that was the time where I was like, okay. Yeah. I’m really doing this, in that sort of sense. Because obviously, it’s a big name. But also because it was about working out what the story was with all these different parts.

And I ended up doing, from that point, more commercial work that had a lot of green screen and visual effects and cutting things for animation, which meant I was just given sketches of a storyboard and I had to cut things out and paste things. And it was very, I ended up having to be really, really tactile with editing not just from shot to shot, but within the shot itself. And I remember a piece of advice about, you’re not just cutting from shot to shot. You’re cutting within the shot. What can you manipulate and chain? And I was like, oh wow. So, yeah. So, yeah. I guess that was the moment that my career really took off within that particular time, and I was able to work on some great music videos, and some great commercials with some brilliant directors. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s really interesting that you mentioned the cutting within the shot, because I don’t know how long ago it was, but I remember watching something … I think it was Mindhunter. There was a behind the scenes of Mindhunter, and it’s very common where they deliberately shoot this way but where they will take the actor that … Take three, that was on the left side of the screen, and then put it with take five of the other actor. And I remember watching, like, oh my God. I could totally do that. It just expanded all the things that you can do and where your creativity can go in making it the best thing it can be.

Kim French:

Yeah, completely. And it’s funny, I think again within EditCon they were talking about it, and I’m trying to remember who said it. But there was a scene … There’s a series called Black-ish. Is it Black-ish? Or Black as fuck. BlackAF.

Sarah Taylor:

You can say that, yeah. 

Kim French:

We’ll just say BlackAF. Yeah. One of the editors of BlackAF was talking about how she was cutting these scene with the mobile phones, and reactions on a FaceTime, you know a FaceTime call. And how they all did that individually, but then she could manipulate the timing between them all. And I was just like, that is a perfect example of editing within the screen, and the power you have as an editor to be able to manipulate, yeah, the pacing and ultimately what the audience feels about it. And I love that. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. And the comedy in that case. What she chose to do with the reaction. It makes the laugh, right? Yeah. We have so much … Editors have so much power.

Kim French:

Yeah. They really do.

Sarah Taylor:

Did you notice a huge difference when you were coming from Canada with your beginning career as an editor in Canada, then moving back home? Did you see….Was it an easy transition to have the skills that you learnt in Canada and how Canada operates in that world as it is in the UK?

Kim French:

It’s a really good question. I remember when I was assisting, I was also helping directors pull together new films and helping them with their creative treatment. And they were always like, oh, bring some of the English. They were just obsessed with British advertising. And well, the reality was I hadn’t really worked in British advertising. Toronto was my first experience. I was like, okay. I’ll help you make it feel a bit more British. That was the golden, the gold standard for them, anyway, at the time. Although to be honest with you, Canadian advertising and the incredible talent that comes out of Canada you know is something that I think globally the commercial world can really learn a lot from. But I was also on the cusp of film to digital, so I only had a few times where I was running film from you know the grade to the sound, and like obviously all of these buildings were really close together, so all of that was possible. And then instantly was like, okay. Well, we’re final cut now and we’re going to be doing like digitally, and the footage isn’t going to be shot on film any more. It was this cusp of time. 

And then when I came to England, four years later, I moved into a really different world. And I found that I was able to apply a lot of the skills that I’d learnt in Canada from this pretty high standard of commercial world that I was in to what we now know as content, and at the time was just online video in its infancy. Yeah. I was able to transition a lot of the skills, but I couldn’t give it a direct analysis of how it’s different because it was just a really transitional time, I think, in the whole branded content, commercial world that no two companies were the same, in that sense. And everything was quite new.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. You’re just growing with it. You’re learning. You’re creating that world, really. 

Kim French:

Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s really cool. And I love that you had a Canadian connection. When you told me like that, I was like that’s so awesome. And Hot Docs, that’s great, that’s amazing. Now, Edit Girls. When I discovered Edit Girls, I was like, whoa, yes. This is what we need. I’ve missed this. And every time I’d see a post come up, I’d be like, like it, like it. And yeah, it made my heart happy, my little edit heart happy. First off, thank you for doing that. But I want to know what made you want to start Edit Girls. 

Kim French:

It’s so nice to hear you say that. Yeah. I think the reason I’ve kept it going, to be honest, is because of such amazing feedback and how I knew it was, in terms of why I started it, something that had it been around at the beginning of my career, who knows? Maybe I would have stuck it out longer in terms of editing and sound. The reality is it is very male dominated. It can be quite lonely, as a woman. There was just definitely this sense of, oh, okay … Certainly at the time. Oh, there’s one, maybe two women are part of the commercial post house of 10, 12 editors. And even though I had huge amount of support, I don’t know. The way that women are able to come together now is different. It’s just different to how it used to be. 

So, I mean the real trigger, to be honest, was the lack of women applying for roles at my company. Because we have a team of editors, a real great post department. Whenever we would try and expand the freelance pool or look for new assistants, it was really hard to be honest, to kind of make sure that the initial pool of talent was diverse enough. And that’s not just women, obviously. It’s Black women, Black men, people with different backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds. It was all a very similar type of person that was applying to the role. And then to be told that oh, we’ll just hire the best person for the job was really frustrating because I was always like, well, we don’t even have a starting point that is diverse enough. The likelihood is that we’re going to hire a white guy because that’s who’s applying.

And I thought, hang on a minute. I was an editor. I know these women are out there. Where are they? And it turns out, they’re on Instagram. In many respects, I was able to connect. I put a few posts up, I think, saying yeah, I’m looking for female editors to share their stories. And I got … I think one of the first was actually a colorist, a woman called Jen. And she was amazing. And oh God, somewhere in the States. And I was like, wow. She’s found this, and she’s resonated with it, and she wants to share her story. So, she was one of the first stories that I put up. And that was four years ago now. And I think that … I counted it earlier. There’s been 91 career stories that have been shared.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing.

Kim French:

Yeah. The reality is, because it’s a side project you know, I go through periods of doing loads, and then I have to stop for a bit because I have a four year old daughter and I have a full-time job. Yeah. It’s a lot to keep up. Even though I do have help. I have got a guy, an amazing guy. If anyone wants an assistant, he’s looking for a job. Called Matthew, who’s been amazing and like helps me with making the posts. But yeah, it’s a lot of work to keep it going.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s amazing, you being able to profile 91 women doing this work. It’s so great. Something you said earlier where you were like oh, there’s usually only one … Back in the day. Or maybe still today. One or two women in a post house. And I remember in my beginning of my career, I was always the only female editor. And I held onto that. I’m like no, there can only be me. There’s only room for one. And then obviously as I grew and I learnt stuff, I was like no. I need to be bringing more women into the fold. And it’s just interesting how just in our society and in the patriarchy where it’s like oh, there’s room for an editor that’s a woman, but just the one of you. Yeah. But no, it’s like all of us need to be. Now I want to work in a house with all women. Anyway. 

Kim French:

No, I really resonate with that. You know, I think that you’re, you’re right. It kind of felt like there was only space for one, so therefore it was harder to then understand that you should, and could bring up other women and promote other women without it being a bad thing for your career. Yeah. I mean, it’s a whole, deep conversation, isn’t it? 

Sarah Taylor:

Totally, yeah.

Kim French:

To work out these things.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s a bit of a mind fuck, where you’re like wait a minute, I don’t need to think this way. But yeah, it was something that I actually had to unpack and be like, whoa. And I was, like, 22. Back in the day, I was young and didn’t… I’m like, oh, I’m one of the guys. And now obviously we’re all learning a lot more, and especially as of late. Which is why I feel like initiatives like this and stuff like this is so important so that young girls can see all these women in this role. And I know for myself, I’m a big … I hire female assistants, I’ll always talk to grad people in school or who are about to graduate, and try to talk up editing as the best thing. Well, I think it’s the best thing. Like, yeah, be an editor. It’s awesome. So, do you find women approaching you now that you’ve done this? And maybe not even just women in editing, but women in general approaching you to talk to you about women in the industries? Especially in ad industry, because I feel like that’s not as male dominated as well. 

Kim French:

I mean, I guess in terms of the response, like you said, it was just really refreshing to see it. I’d had lots of lovely messages from women saying that they’ve been able to connect with other women that have then allowed them to … I’ve literally had messages like; “Oh, by meeting this person that you profiled I was able to contact with them, and now they’re my cheerleader and it’s kept me going.” And I’m just like, that’s amazing. I should probably keep doing this. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yes. Please keep doing it.

Kim French:

Yeah, exactly. And I have to be honest, I have a few stories that I still need to share, right now. And it is very much I get a wind of energy with it where it’s like, right. I remember a period of last year and to be honest, whenever anyone listens to this, last year was 2020. So, it was the hardest year. And it was this little bit of light for me, and I really was posting a lot. And it was something that … I started the website in that time. Turns out there’s a whole set of other work. 

Basically, I’ve got these stories across Instagram. The way that it works is I share the story and it’s like a carousel of the text, but then if it’s on the website I then need to copy all of that text within a website. It takes time to get the stories together. Takes time to get people to answer them. Some people are amazing and do it straight away. Sometimes life gets in the way. I totally get it as well. I’ll have people that I’m like, please share your story. Because I know people are going to love it, and it’s like oh, I’m so busy. And that’s fair enough. I think the reason that it works is because I’ve kept the questions the same. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, that’s good. 

Kim French:

So, it’s just formulaic. I mean, I think with Wendy, actually, I got cheeky and I was like, I’m going to ask her a couple more questions specifically, especially as the editor of…

Sarah Taylor:

A legend.

Kim French:

Handmaid’s Tale, and Queer As Folk. So, I snuck a few more questions in for Wendy. But mostly, they’re five or six standard questions. Like I said, last year it gave me so much light and hope and it was just every woman. And the reality is I share, I’m a bit undecided about how to move forward with this. But I really share any woman working in post in terms of, even if she’s been doing it for a year. I’m interested in all the different stages, and all the different stories. I don’t want to stop that, but I think on the website you can see I’ve kind of tried to section it in terms of years of experience. So, it’s one plus years, five plus years, 10 plus years. So, you can search for women with more experience, or maybe if you’re mid-level, someone of your experience if you’re searching for stuff. I have not even got a third of the stories up from Instagram on the website yet, because I’m chipping off-

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah. It’s a lot. Yeah. But it’s out there, so that’s great. How do you find these women? I know you said you found some on Instagram at the beginning, and now people are coming to you, which is awesome. 

Kim French:

I need to, I think, move away from just finding them on Instagram. What’s been great about Edit Con … And I went to EditFest, which was the American cinema editors last year. Also, the amazing thing of 2020 if we’re going to look at silver linings is the fact that these events became virtual. It was like, oh, wow. S normally, I don’t know where they would be hosted, but I wouldn’t be able to go to them. So, that’s been pretty cool. And then I plugged them, basically. I’ve been plugging it at Girls in the chat, and then people have approached me with stories. People have nominated people, which has been really nice. I’ve got a ton of like messages that I need to still send questions to. But then there are specific people that I will go out and say, okay. Like Wendy, for example, and an amazing editor called Sabrina Plisco, who edited Doctor Strange. I just like going to get those special stories with women that have cut some incredible, like really well-known stuff. It’s super inspiring.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally. It’s very similar to how I like to look for people to interview for the podcast. What are they cutting?

Kim French:

Yeah, exactly. Yes. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, yeah. And how did they get there? Yeah. There’s some really fantastic people out there. You’ve touched on this a little bit, but it gave you a lot of hope during 2020 to be able to profile these women. But how do you feel personally, creating this Instagram account/website, almost like a platform for women to feel inspired? How do you personally feel, knowing that you’ve done that?

Kim French:

I think, I mean, I’m super proud of it. Really, it’s like a pillar in things that I’ve done that I think yeah, I’m really proud of that. I’d like to do more. Like I feel as though yes, the Instagram can connect people, but … And it’s not just women, right? I mean, it is for men in the industry to be working with more women, to know that they have a space that they can read their stories, and then hire them. I feel like there’s way more to do, and it’s connecting with people like you, and thinking about how do we profile more women in the industry to make it so that … The reality is, it’s the whole you can’t be it if you don’t see it, sort of thing. For younger women to know that there is absolutely a space and a career for them in this world, which I don’t think in the past has necessarily been that obvious. It’s been seen as something like … Not that women can’t be technical, but it’s like oh, it’s a tech-y, guy thing. And it’s just really guys do it. And it’s like, first of all, it’s not about tech, right?

Sarah Taylor:

No. No.

Kim French:

It’s about the storytelling, and we all know this. But do you know what, what really excites me is the fact that content bloggers … If you want to call them influencers, whatever. There’s crazy talented editors out there. I mean, you just have to look at TikTok.

Sarah Taylor:

I know. It blows my mind. 

Kim French:

I know. It’s like, oh my God. 16 year old me would have been all over that. At the moment, I’m kind of like, okay. I need to know about it because of my job. And I do, and TikToks great. But you see a lot of women and girls, younger women, producing phenomenal, like amazing edits. Rhythm and pace and really smart transitions, and I love it. And I think that now’s the time for them to, I guess, realize that yes, TikTok’s amazing, but there’s so many other ways to express that talent and to make a career out of it.


Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. That’s totally … Because, yeah. Even maybe parents of kids who are really into TikTok would be like oh, stop doing TikTok. But yeah, you’re learning a skill that you could actually translate into a career. And how cool is that? You mentioned you have a daughter. I have a five year old, and of course she sees me at it. And then there’s moments where she’s like, we went to this winter festival. It’s an outdoor festival. And one of the films I cut was playing, which I didn’t know. And I was like, oh my … And she was like, “Mommy. Your movie on.” Which is so cool. But she will take her iPad … I have to set it to the camera. And she’ll record her Barbie dolls doing whatever they’re doing.

Kim French:

I love it.

Sarah Taylor:

And I think it’s amazing. And I push her to do that. And so…Yeah, I think if young girls are able to see you can be creative and you can take that thing that you’re doing for fun, or whatever and make it into something really … Make it into your life, your career. And for myself, I’m all about sharing stories. That’s the biggest part of editing for me, is like sharing stories that aren’t heard and stuff. Anyway, I think these young girls, especially now, who grew up with phones, and the technology, they could take over the world. 

Kim French:

100%. I mean, I could kind of hear it in your voice as well, and I think I feel the same with my four year old. It’s like, a fine line between … I remember growing up, my parents were like, “How can you watch that movie more than once?” I’m like, are you kidding? I just have movies on repeat. And then I analyze them. And it is like my daughter is the same. And it’s kind of like no, I love that. But I get it. Sometimes, it’s like oh, should they have so much screen time? Or should they be hearing this? And should they be … Actually, okay. Of course, there is a balance. But she wants to do videos on your iPad and make things and become really natively familiar with creating things that way, like it’s an art form.

And when I was 15, I was bought a video camera, which obviously at the time was like a massive brick. And I think people’s phones now, and the quality of that at the time, my God. But I filmed everything. And I’ve got all that footage, still. I’ve got in cupboards here, with all these old, skiddy tapes and stuff. Yeah. Of house parties, and I would edit videos for my friends for their birthday. I would do really fun little moments with them. And that’s what I see girls and women doing now with TikTok and with social. And I guess the frustrating and difficult thing is when it goes into this realm of comparison, and it’s no longer a creative outlet. It’s actually a really dark place, right? Well, if we can keep it creative and keep individuality, and individual stories, what it’s all about, then yeah.

That whole ability now to have, in your pocket, a camera with amazing quality that you can just … You could see something in a movie and go, oh, I want to try a horror movie, for example. And just be like, oh, let’s just see a few shots and make our own, little film. And you can do it.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally, yeah. The possibilities are amazing and endless. But you’re right to touch on the dark side of it, because yeah. But I guess that’s what hopefully, as parents, and as people in this industry, we can shed light on that.


Kim French:

I mean, our kids will be the ones telling us you know … I mean, it’s when your four year old says oh, get off your phone, or get off your computer, mummy. You’re like, okay. 

Sarah Taylor:

No, I get that all the time. 

Kim French:

They know more than we do, really. 

Sarah Taylor:

That’s it. Oh, it’s terrible. No, but I had the same conversation with my husband, because I work in TV and my husband works in entertainment. And we were like, oh, this screen time thing. I’m like, but that’s my life. I watch TV too. That’s part of my life. And I’m happy with how it … Yeah. It’s a very fine balance I suppose, yeah.

Kim French:

It’s a balancing act. But I mean at the moment, for us it’s … I don’t know if she’s too young, but I realized the other day that actually, apparently it is a U, but we’ve been watching the Labyrinth. And it’s like, she’s totally obsessed with it. We’ll watch it two times a day at the weekend. And just like, oh my God. But she loves it. And then she brings it into her play.

Sarah Taylor:

Exactly, yeah. I think it’s an interesting thing I’ve observed with my daughter, because we’ve always been like, you know movies and TV, as I said, it’s part of my life. It’s ingrained in who I am. We’re always watching shows. And yesterday, we went for a little cake date, and then we reenacted a scene from some Pokemon movie or whatever. And then she’s asking questions, like, well, why does the dad … What does that mean? And really dissecting and analyzing the film. And I’m like, I like this. Let’s keep this going.

Kim French:

That’s definitely your daughter. I love that. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Well, you touched on this earlier when you were initially thinking about how you were trying to hire more women, and you couldn’t find them. And then also people of color. And so in light of all of what’s going on in the world … Which, I think it’s even more important that we talk about this and we make space so that we can have an industry that’s equitable and diverse, and we’re hearing voices from everyone. Have you thought about that in Edit Girls, and how you can push forward even more diversity and inclusion?

Kim French:

Yeah. I mean, on this I’m very aware that I am a white woman with a huge amount of privilege in terms of how I’ve been brought up, and the opportunities that I’ve been given. I think that fundamentally, it is about unpacking a lot of personal bias. You know, I’m not going to pretend I don’t have experience in the past that maybe I would look at something in a certain way and think oh, I understand. You know, make an assumption about people, right? And think that you understand who they are and where they’re coming from. But actually, until you truly get to know them, you don’t. And I think that what I love is seeing so many more platforms now. It’s not … 

Yes, I think Edit Girls in many respects is obviously niche because it’s post-production, rather like filmmaking as a whole. But certainly in the UK, there’s lots of platforms now where it’s like, Black creatives, and different talent that no longer is the excuse; “Oh, I can’t find the talent.” People have to … And when I say people, I mean senior people who are responsible for the hiring, who are responsible for making the structures of employees in these companies, whether it is commercial, advertising, which is obviously the world that I’m familiar with, or TV, you know and film. To not make the excuse that they can’t find the people, because the reality is, that’s really the worst excuse, you know. The talent is there. There’s no question. You just have to try and open up all the other doors that are being closed for so long and let them in.

And it is not just about beings at the very beginning of people’s careers. It’s about giving the opportunities higher up, like truly just encouraging progression in people that have been systemically oppressed within the system. And I think that until we look at it like truly, and like I said, it’s a personal bias thing, and you have to be willing to make mistakes. And you know I’ve made mistakes. You have to be willing to learn from them, and yeah. Just appreciate that it’s going to take work. But the talent is there, I guess is what I’m getting at. 

And I’m very conscious of making sure that who I profile within Edit Girls, that they don’t all look the same. And it will come to a point where I think, yeah, I’ve featured a lot of a particular type of woman. Even if it’s actually within the niche of what they’re working in. I want the stories to be different. I guess that’s a bit of an editing role from my perspective, the order in which I share things and where they appear on the site in making sure that it feels really accessible for every type of woman looking their way through it. 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally. Yeah. That’s really great. If you had all the time in the world and resources, what would you want Edit Girls to become?

Kim French:

So, I had this conversation with my husband, actually. And I hadn’t realized … Because again, I’ve been doing this myself in the evenings. We’ll have dinner, and then I’ll sit and do an hour with Edit Girls stuff and chip away at it. And all of a sudden yesterday, he became very … He’s always been interested and supportive, but he was throwing these ideas around of what we could do with it. I was like, okay. That’s a huge amount of work, but okay. I like the vision. I like the vision. But I guess the space that I’m really comfortable is putting together teams of people. So, if I was able to do it full time, like you said, I would love to be in a position where I can really … I guess an agency, of sorts. Where it’s like really understanding the individual talents of the women, and then putting them when a project comes along and someone says oh, I’m looking for talent for this … Whatever it may be. For me to be able to go, I know the perfect person for that. So, I guess, an agency. 

But then other things that could … I guess I’m very aware of my own … Not even limitations, but boundaries. I’ve had-

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. It’s huge.

Kim French:

Yeah, it’s huge. And it’s really hard. And I’m 36, and it’s like, okay. It’s taken me this long to get it. And as passionate as I am about it, I almost don’t want to take on the world because of my own life. I don’t know. We’re talking nitty gritty here, right? But I’m just very aware of all the things that I sometimes say yes to. But if, for example … And I actually have been approached you know5569

 by people who run courses, asking for help in sourcing people that are more diverse. So, I know there’s a space for training as well. There’s something where we could use it as a platform for younger women wanting to get into the industry. Maybe it’s about mentorship and pairing them up. I mean, I’d love that. Yeah. 

And then there’s the whole line around brands. I mean, I’m a brand person in marketing and I’m thinking, okay. Could there be a sponsorship level where Avid, or Final Cut, or Adobe want to get involved and say they sponsor this particular series of these stories, and then put the money back into it so that we could do more, like on the platform? Yeah. Those are some thoughts.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Oh, there’s so much that could be done. I’m in Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada. And we have a group that I’ve been mentoring called GIFT. It’s Girls In Film and Television. And they focus on young women, 13 to 20, in some cases. We did a pilot where it was a week crash course in filmmaking, with high school students. And that went really well, and then they got funding to do a summer where it was like a week in different, smaller cities in Alberta. So, I got to fly to Lethbridge, which is very exciting. And then this summer, they did a feature film. And it was obviously very tricky because of COVID. So, they had a very, very small crew. It was all women. And they made this feature film that had mostly women in the film. There’s a couple of male roles. And I’m cutting that film.

But to see that there’s been a few of the girls who started at the very beginning in the pilot and they’re already working in camera crews on actual shows. So, like these things work. And it’s so cool. And those women are now in the industry, and then they could see things like Edit Girls, or they could see whatever other things are out there and be like, yeah. I can see it. And we see ourselves, and here’s an example of it. And it’s just by … You know there’s two women producers in Alberta that took that initiative to start this program. Seeing Edit Girls really did make me feel a lot like how GIFT is, and how if we’re just showing young women at the age where they have to … What are you going to be when you grow up? You have to decide. In high school, all of a sudden you’ve got to pick everything. But that that’s an option, this creative role. You don’t have to just be a teacher. You don’t just have to be a nurse, like the typical things that women are often shown. There’s way more. Anyway. That was a little tangent.

Kim French:

No, I love that. And I love the acronym as well. Is acronym the right word? 

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, I think so. 

Kim French:

GIFT. Perfect. 

Sarah Taylor:

GIFT, yeah.

Kim French:

But I really believe in mentorship, and the stuff that you’re doing sounds like yeah, perfect. You could already see from the glimmer of these young women being interested in something to then be like, yeah, given the opportunity to get that foot in the door. So often, this whole industry is built on nepotism and that feeling of oh, my friend’s niece would love, nephew or … Yeah. Would love a job. And that’s good to a degree. I get it. But it puts such a big wall up against a whole section of society that do not know someone who works in TV. Those are the ones we need to give the opportunities to, because from a selfish perspective, there’s so much wasted talent, you know if you don’t make it accessible to other people. 

Sarah Taylor:

Totally, yeah. Yeah. Is there anything else that you’re working on right now, or doing right now that you want to share?

Kim French:

Lots of going on with my company. With Preen, we’ve recently got a new MD, and a new business director. And bearing in mind this is a company that I’ve been a part of for over a decade, in its many different forms, it’s actually given me, certainly, a new sort of lease of life within it. And I’m excited about the future of what we can do, and incorporating the things that I’ve learnt through Edit Girls in terms of how we put teams together, in terms of the kinds of … Because we’re working with brands to make branded content. And okay, it is not brain surgery and we’re not saving people’s lives, but there is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground in terms of like what we produce, and how that can be a positive influence on society, basically. We can do that with the people that we show on screen or behind the camera. Yeah. I guess, check Preen out. It’s early days in terms of we’re going for lots of social changes, but yeah. 

But with Edit Girls, I guess you asked me to do this. It’s also just given me that kind of focus again to go, okay. How can I do this so that I make it as consistent as possible? Because that’s how you build it, right? I mean, we’ve got 3,400 followers now. And over the last month and a half where I’ve not been able to give it much attention, it still ticked over and got another 100 followers. Amazing. And really relevant people, I can see from the people that are following it that if I was able to give it that other 10% again and share even more stories, that who knows where I could go? I’m open for being open to doing things and to spreading the message and getting people’s input on what they think it could be, you know.

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome. Well, if anybody wants to reach you, obviously you need to set your boundaries. But if someone wants to nominate an editor, or they’re like, “Hey, I have a great story, can they reach you on Instagram?”

Kim French:

Yeah. The handle is, if I remember correctly, EditGirlsInsta. You can message me there. Obviously, sometimes when I’m not following people back I don’t see it straight away, but the best thing to do is actually email my personal email, which is … I don’t know if I give it here. It’s Kim, K-I-M, and then Laoni, L-A-O-N, for November, I-, French, But then maybe you can, I don’t know, share it somewhere. But that’s the best way to get me straight away. And I will be able to send the questions to people or to you if there’s someone that wants to share their story. But yeah, definitely get in touch.

Sarah Taylor:

Awesome. Well, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. I could talk about this kind of stuff forever. 

Kim French:

Yeah, well, you’re next. You’re going to share your career story and we’ll get you on the website ASAP. 

Sarah Taylor:

Thank you so much. Yeah, thanks again for sharing. And thank you so much for doing this. I understand, I run this podcast as a volunteer. I understand you have a passion for something but you only have so much time in your life and your days, especially having a young child. So, thank you for taking the time, for doing this work. It’s so, so important. And you are impacting many, many lives, so thank you so much. 

Kim French:

Oh, that’s great. And thank you. 

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks so much for joining me today. And a big thank you goes out to Kim for taking the time to sit with me, and for creating Edit Girls. Be sure to follow Edit Girls on Instagram, @EditGirlsInsta. And check them out online, And special thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Nagham Osman. 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 or you can donate directly at 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.



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 Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Andrea Regan

Hosted, Produced and Edited by

Sarah Taylor

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by


The Editors Cut

Episode 049: Interview with Jane Tattersall

The Editors Cut - Episode 049 - Interview with Jane Tattersall

Episode 49: Interview with Jane Tattersall

Today’s episode is an interview with the recipient of the CCE Career Achievement Award for 2021 — Jane Tattersall.

This episode was generously sponsored by IATSE 891

This award is presented to a non-editor who has shown great support for Canadian editors and the editorial profession over the course of their career. Jane has been a fixture in the Canadian post-production industry for over 30 years. Her enormous support for Canadian filmmakers, from our most recognized artists to first-time storytellers, has fostered incredible growth of talent across our industry. 

Jane’s sound work has taken her to studios beyond Canada, including stints in Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, London, LA, Skywalker, and New York. Numerous credits, nominations and awards followed and today Jane counts over 170 credits (film and television), and over 100 nominations and awards. Jane’s recent sound supervising includes THE HANDMAID’S TALE, THE NORTH WATER and 13 MINUTES.

Listen Here

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Alison Dowler

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain


Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by


The Editors Cut

Episode 048: In Conversation with Madison Thomas

The Editors Cut - Episode 048 - In Conversation with Madison Thomas

Episode 48: In Conversation with Madison Thomas

Today’s episode is the online master series that took place on August 27th, 2020. In Conversation with Madison Thomas.

This episode is sponsored by Annex Pro/Avid

Named one of Playback’s 2019 Five to Watch, Madison Thomas is a Writer, Director and Editor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her work reflects her mixed cultural roots, Ojibwe, Saulteax, Russian and Ukrainian. Thomas draws inspiration from experiences growing up in the inner city and has committed herself to diverse representation in her work.

This episode offers a look at a unique and impressive career in which Thomas has often taken on multiple roles and frequently edits her own work.

This experience includes being a Senior Editor- as well as Researcher and Director – on four seasons of the CSA-nominated CBC / APTN series Taken, which shares the true stories of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. Thomas also wrote, directed, and edited her feature film Ruthless Souls, which was selected as part of Telefilm’s inaugural Talent to Watch program, as well as her web series The Colour of Scar Tissue.  

Also a rising star in scripted television, Thomas was a writer on season 3 of the CBC/CW series Burden of Truth. 


This conversation was moderated by award winning filmmaker Cazhhmere.

Listen Here

The Editor’s Cut – Episode 048 – Interview with Madison Thomas

Madison Thomas:

One of my tricks is, especially if I’m struggling with an edit, I’ll go in and I’ll cut a scene that I’m very

confident about and I know I can bang it out.

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 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 acknowledgments are the start to a deeper action.

This episode is the Master Series that took place on August 27, 2020. In conversation with Madison

Thomas. Named one of Playback’s 2019, 5 to Watch. Madison Thomas is a writer, director, and editor

from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her work reflects her mixed cultural roots, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Russian and

Ukrainian. Thomas draws inspiration from experiences growing up in the inner city and has committed

herself to diverse representation in her work. Today’s episode offers a look at a unique and impressive

career in which Thomas has often taken on multiple roles and frequently edits her own work. This event

was moderated by award-winning filmmaker, Cazhhmere.

[show open]


Hi everybody. My name is Cazhhmere. I’m a filmmaker. I tell stories of many, many different formats.

Everything from music videos to commercials, documentaries, short films, long-form narratives, and

anything and everything in between. And I am today joined with my lovely friend and co-creator on

some projects, my friend Madison Thomas, filmmaker extraordinaire. I like using big words like that.

Madison Thomas:

I like it.


Yeah, so we’re here today as part of the Master Series. We’re going to be talking about editing, but it’s

going to be a little different because Madison and I we are both directors first, editors second, I guess we

will say, but we’ll get into the story of how we became editors. I won’t necessarily say we became editors

by necessity, but part of it does have to do with that, but before we get into that, I’m going to let

Madison introduce yourself.

Madison Thomas:

Right on. Thanks Cazh. Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me today. Super, super happy to be

here. So my name is Madison Thomas. Like Cazh mentioned, I am both a director and editor. I also write.

[foreign language 00:02:52]. And yeah, I’m a filmmaker. First and foremost I would say storyteller, really

because film’s the medium I use the most. But storytelling is very much how I describe myself and how I

like to carry myself through the world and what I think my gift is, in theory, but yeah. So like Cazh

mentioned, I am a director first. Writing and directing are both loves of mine, but a bit of my journey,

editing has become a big part of it, so.

Cazh, I know that’s been your journey as well. I know we chatted a little bit about this before, but

chicken before the egg. Which one came first for you? For me, my first paid gigs were editing and I was

doing directing alongside, so the journeys were the same for me. And I got a little bit of background

during high school, I was lucky enough to attend Sisler High School in Winnipeg’s North End. Which is a

pretty large school, even though we were in inner-city with a lot of low-income kids. We did have a

pretty robust program and an amazing teacher that came in, in my Grade 10 year named Jamie Leduc,

who really built a film program from scratch. Gave me my first exposure that way. My first paid gigs were

editing, so I had dual entry. Was it the same for you?


Me? No, actually. My first paid gigs were music videos.I sort of became a filmmaker by fate, I guess. You

know what I mean? Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was make music videos. That was it. That was

the end-all, be-all for me. Music videos, music videos. That’s a whole long story of how I got there, but

dream came true. I ended up being very fortunate enough to make music videos.

I was born in Halifax so when I came here to Toronto after a long journey, working with music

and stuff, I was able to start making music videos gratefully to Much Fat, which was called Video Fat at

the time.

I started editing simply because it first started as a suggestion through a mentor of mine and

another fellow Canadian director by the name of R.T. Thorne. Shout out to R.T. We had a music video

company together, and he and a friend of his, and I was a director on their roster. We were, I would say

in hindsight, at the height of our music video careers or just on the brink of it, I should say, but I wasn’t

getting what I wanted out of my music videos.

I just didn’t like them for some reason. I knew how I wanted them to look, but when I saw them

on TV, this is when they were still playing videos on TV, I wasn’t proud of them. People saw them. Looked

great, had great cinematographers, were shooting on film, all that sort of stuff at the time. Everything

was there. I had all the tools that you needed to make a great video. I just wasn’t pleasing myself.

R.T. said, “You should try cutting your music video. Editing gives you a different eye, a different

perspective. You know how to cut it. I sit in every session through hours and hours with my editor,

saying, ‘No, do this, do this, do this, let’s try this.'” He’s like, “You know what you want, so how about

you try and physically do it yourself and see what happens?”

He’s like, “You might try to see your stuff differently on set. You’ll start to see your edits while

you’re on set. All that sort of stuff.” And he was right. I started to get what I wanted out of my videos for

a number of reasons.

A lot of it was because, even as I was writing treatments, I could see it playing from start to finish

in my head and know exactly how it was going to be, so from the treatment to the shot list to the

storyboard to being on set and executing the shots. By the time I’m in the edit room, I already knew. The

video could just edit itself because there was some magic button. You know the auto button? If there

was just auto edit, it could do it. So that’s when it started.

And then it became a consistent thing out of necessity just because, especially in the music

world, we all know as the internet started to dominate the world, it affected a lot of things. Particularly

music industry, film industry, budgets, and stuff. People were spending less money on things, and in the

totem pole of filmmaking, music videos sits very low, and naturally their budgets suffered the most.

So there just wasn’t any money for editors. If I still wanted to make music videos look big and

grand and feel … We’re in Canada, so budgets were already small. But at a time, like I said, much music,

if you want your videos to play against other US artists, it’s going to look a certain caliber. It takes a lot of

going through corners and bending over backwards and cutting corners to make that stuff happen.

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, it’s like you mentioned, caliber because that was a big part of it. So mine wasn’t very much focused

on visuals. Yes, I wanted to control how the visuals were communicated. But for me, because I come

from a bit of a narrative background, especially my Indie days really making something out of nothing. As

you know, having to work in both narrative and documentary, it’s a little easier to do that with



For sure, yeah.

Madison Thomas:

Low budget is a little more accepted. So, for me, the caliber was, okay, the little budgets that I do have,

the little arts grants that I do have, I want to put all that on the screen.



Madison Thomas:

Why I’m going to learn how to edit and why I’m going to make that such a big part of my skill set, is that I

don’t have to spend money on someone else doing that then.


Yeah, that’s what it was. Now that I knew how to edit my videos and get what I want out of it, when it

came time to money like you said, you want to put all of that on screen. So honestly, it was like I’ll just do

it myself. Fine, I’ll cut it myself. Take whatever amount it was out the budget for the editor, cut it out. I’ll

do it. It still sucks, because I’m still now doing twice the work for one check as opposed to the work of

two checks. But that’s really how it came about.

Madison Thomas:

That’s what you do when you’re an artist, I feel.


But I feel like that was our transition because especially in filmmaking now, that was maybe at least 10

years ago, probably more that that transition started. But we’re in an era of filmmaking where it’s very

much a do it yourself era.

Madison Thomas:

A hundred percent.


Until you get to the big budgets. So I feel like we look at it as a necessity then, but it was setting us up for

what’s now become the norm in a sense.

Madison Thomas:



So I want to ask you a question. We’re talking about how learning to edit as a necessity was also a step

into learning more about the storytelling process. So explain how that statement is true for you in your

experience of becoming an editor?

Madison Thomas:

For sure. With a lot of my early editing gigs, they were generally like assistant editor or eventually

moving up to junior and senior editor for documentary films. I think my first love as an artist was to make

narrative films. Then that whole process of writing, casting, that whole thing. Because I think that’s also

very much the classic story of filmmaking, like the general populace is sold, that’s what they’re told. The

glitz and glamor of it, so obviously I was very attracted to that especially coming from a poorer


I had no family in film. I had no family in the arts, period. I am by far the black sheep of the

family. I have a couple of younger cousins finally being weird and artsy, finally. So I had zero idea of what

this industry was other than what this high school teacher had taught me.

So getting into editing via documentary was super interesting because it’s so not the form of

storytelling you’re told. But I’ve found I took to it really naturally, actually. Telling things non-linear,

abstract representations and ideas that were being presented from the interviews.

One of my very first gigs and one I’m very thankful for, I think was fundamental to my journey as

a filmmaker, was working on the TV series Taken. It was a docu-drama series and it explored the missing

and murdered indigenous women and girls here in Canada. And in our final season we actually looked at

two-spirited men as well.

And with sharing their stories, both in a documentary format with their families sharing their

stories both of their case, the disappearance, or their murder. But also who they were as a person, who

they were when they were a kid and who they were going into adulthood if they got that far. But it was

really interesting being able to work on a hybrid show like that, where we had the classic documentary

storytelling but we also had recreations. They were told but in non-classic, where we did a lot of that

abstract work and stuff.

And for a long time I didn’t really understand why that came so naturally. It was one of those

interesting things as an artist’s journey, you can realize things in retrospect. But I realized that going to

Prague actually. So I was lucky enough to attend Prague Film School in 2011 while I was going to

university. That same high school film teacher actually was like-


Fancy place to be going to school.

Madison Thomas:

Pretty fancy place. I got very, very fortunate. I was the first Canadian Indigenous person ever to attend.



Madison Thomas:

My first high school film teacher, Jamie Leduc … I was going through my first year at the University of

Winnipeg. And not knocking UW by any means. It’s got a special place in my heart and I did learn a lot

there, but he saw that I clearly wasn’t getting out of the film program what I was looking for. Which was I

think at that time just looking to who I was as a storyteller and how I was different and molding that

part. So I think he saw. He’s like, “You need to go somewhere where they’re going to focus on that.”

And Prague had a Summer intensive program. You basically did a year of film school in a

condensed three months. And my editing professor there was actually the senior editor of Friends for

eight seasons. And so a very interesting person to be teaching at this very prestigious arts film school.

However, he went on after Friends to edit some very, very prominent European films. And he really

talked about his process just in terms of how he stayed sane editing a sitcom with fixed cameras and

fixed angles all the time. And it was all about his philosophy in editing.

I mean we chatted about this a little bit briefly in some of our collaborations, Cazh, but the idea

of the ghost in the room. So his philosophy and I’ve definitely brought this forward into my editing. I find

it very useful because I think especially if you come from a more of a technical background when it

comes to editing, you can get very bogged down by the 180 rule. Cutting from a wide down to a

medium. Those conventions that were taught.


Things as a director I don’t understand. This is a math class, I like the shot, put it there!

Madison Thomas:

Exactly. If it feels right, it feels right. And that was a big part of his philosophy. Imagine you’re a ghost in

the room and I think this gets a little bit more complex when you get into perspectives and different

styles of editing which I really worked on with Ruthless.

But his concept was when in doubt, if you’re the ghost in the room, what is your eye drawn to?

That’s what your next cut should be. So his example was always someone walks into a room holding a

book. Well, I’m interested in the room at first. Where is this person? What are they walking into? Is it

dark, is it warm? Is it inviting? Do they know this place, do they not? I think even if you’re a technical

editor you have to ask yourself those storytelling questions, because that’s what the audience is going to

be asking.

And so a person walks into a room with a book. They put the book down and they open the

book. Well, I’m very curious what the hell this book is. Got to a cut of the book if it’s interesting. Now I’m

actually curious about what that girl feels about the book. Is she curios about it, is she scared by it, any

of those things? So a lot of his philosophy had to do with focusing on the emotion. And that was how he

stayed sane editing Friends was as long as he could focus on that, it didn’t matter that it was the same

cuts and shots. He can always make it interesting and alive because there was always feelings.


I want to talk about Taken again. So through editing on the show Taken, you ended up directing on this

show as well, right?

Madison Thomas:



Tell me about that and how editing on the show beforehand prepares you for this new task now as

director on the same show and just as a director in general?

Madison Thomas:

Totally. So as I was saying before while I was getting these, while I was my paid gigs were editing

documentaries and stuff. I was also doing a lot of narrative, Indie, no-budget, very low-budget stuff at

the same time. So it was like exercising both muscles quite a bit. So my co-workers knew that I was also a

director, that was a big part of it. I told them I was a director, that’s also I think a thing a lot of young

filmmakers really struggle with is actually voicing what they want to do in this industry. Because your first

job is very generally not where you want to end up, unless you’re lucky or have a lot of money I guess.

I made it very known that I was a director and I wanted to direct narrative as well as

documentary. So first of all, my producers and bosses knew that. But in terms of as a storyteller within

Taken because I was editing it when you’re a senior editor especially and you’re overseeing all the

episodes. That was 13 per season. I worked with 13 different directors. I learnt a bunch of different

styles. It was actually incredibly good training. You see what they pick, you see how if they did cover

something properly they had enough material to cut the scene together. If they didn’t, you were

struggling as the editor, you had to find creative decisions. So it was actually very interesting backwards

training that way in terms of what material to get.

But when the opportunity came up and funnily enough, this is how a lot of opportunities come

up in film, I think is someone unfortunately got fired from one of the directors, mid season. With the

show having such sensitive topics, they were hesitant to bring on someone who completely didn’t know

because they were interviewing with the family members, that relationship had already been established

with the other director. However having been part of the show and very familiar with the episode and

what the story we already had, the producers felt confident in asking me to just take on the second-half

of directing that.


Sure, who’s more familiar with the show then the editor who’s seen everything?

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, all the episodes, not even just a particular episode.


Yeah, actually speaking of which, there’s a question from the audience that while we’re talking about

editing, you being an editor on a TV show before working as a director on a TV show. So I just want to

answer this question because it will tie into … The question is, what is the role of an editor in

pre-production? So given that you were an editor on Taken on the show, what involvement did you have

if any in the pre-production of Taken? Or if not, just what is the role of an editor in pre-production on any

project really?

Madison Thomas:

For sure. So I would say from the documentary point-of-view, generally the only person from

post-production that will come on, really early in the process will be … In narrative film they’re called the

DIT, the digital imaging technician. We usually say editing assistant or something along those lines, or

media manager in documentary. So they’ll generally come on very early on because the way a

documentary is filmed is generally in huge chunks.

In Taken, we would film a season over eight months because we would do interviews spread

over the year because we are going across Canada getting interviews. And then we would do recreations

of classical film shoot all in one week. We did a shoot in Winnipeg, we did a shoot in Victoria. So it was

all very interspersed so collecting that footage was a really fundamental job from day one of

development. That would generally come on then.

However, after season one because I was such a big part of both editing and directing I would

generally stay on from early days of development until the end. So on that particular show, I as the editor

had a say in certain things from early on. I would say, and Cazh, tell me if you had a different experience,

generally in post-production isn’t super involved until generally footage starts really rolling in.


Yeah, until footage starts really rolling in or I guess especially because having the editing experience and

directing experience if I’m thinking of some crazy stuff especially coming from a music video where we’re

all about aesthetics. So the crazier the shot, the crazier the angle, the better. My mind can tend to go

there with narrative stuff because I’m a storyteller but I’m also visual so I want it to look pretty and nice

too. So if I’m thinking of a crazy shot and especially if my producer or my DP or both are giving me some

push on it. I might go ask my editor, to be like, “Am I crazy? Tell them this shot works. Tell them, tell them

this works. Tell them it’s going to make sense.” It’s going to cut seamlessly and I’m not just being abstract

for the sake of being abstract or whatever the hell. You know what I mean?

Madison Thomas:



So if it’s something more intricate like that. And if it’s just some straight forward documentary or just a

straightforward narrative or anything, yeah, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to involve my editor too

much. We’ve had some discussions, because I’d be like my shooting style and pasting and all that still

takes a part in it,right? So I’ll probably just have some conversations, preliminary chats with the editor

because obviously I’m not just going to pick any editor to cut whatever it is.

So I’ve obviously picked them for a reason because of our styles and where I see things going in

lines whatever that may be. So we’ve already had chats. And then I may pick their brain a little bit as I’m

planning out different shot lists and things like that. But it’s pretty much conversation, it’s not like they’re

involved in full on pre and pro-meetings or things like that.

But there are some cases where they are. When you’re dealing with something that’s a lot of CGI

and effects going on, that’s a whole different ball game. Then the editors are very much involved in the

pre-, pro-process.

Madison Thomas:

Totally. But yeah. I mean I think that’s just good practice no matter what end of things you are on, if

you’re a director hiring an editor or if you’re an editor working with the director. Or if your case like me,

it’s where I edit most of my own work. I’ve had a couple instances as the director where someone else

has edited my work, generally, more director-for-hire gigs. But generally the things that are made by me,

developed by me to fruition, I generally edit.

I’ll get into a little bit more when we get to Ruthless, but I think I’ve realized my line with that is

features. For my next feature I will have a big hand at editing it however I do want to bring on a second

person just for those fresh eyes and fresh creative part of it. As my stories get bigger, I’m finding I’m

going to need that extra creative person.


For sure. Absolutely. Since we’re talking about all this visual stuff and everything, I want to talk about

some of your work, your actual work. We’ve seen you reel, but let’s dive into all this experience that

we’re talking about and let’s see it in action.

Madison Thomas:

This is my narrative web series, released in 2018. It’s called Color of Scar Tissue. We made this under the

funding with the Imaginative and APTN Web Series Pitch Contest. I’ve had to say that so many times in

interviews that I’m good at it now. On the day when I was trying to thank the sponsors, I had the biggest

queue card ever because it’s such a mouthful.

But it was wonderful funding that basically was made available through a pitch contest to myself

and my producer, Darcy Waite. Won that contest in 2017 and we were able to go on and create this four

episode web series that follows three sisters that are from mixed-indigenous ancestry, Ojibwe and

Finnish. And range from looking completely indigenous to completely white-passing.

And as after the death of their parents, their oldest sister Bow gets custody of the younger two

and they have to move from rural Manitoba to Winnipeg’s North End which is the neighborhood I grew

up in. And the series just looks at their relationship as sisters. The social context that come with basically

colorism within a family as well as their new dynamics now that one is taking on the mom role.

So this is the first few scenes of the whole series. The whole series is available on YouTube on

APTN if you want to check it out and see where they end up. But one thing editing-wise that I really

wanted to play with this was the disconnect between the sisters. I really wanted to play on that.

And so earlier we were talking about the 180 rule and editors sometimes getting bogged down

by that. I was like you know what I feel like we can do some interesting stuff with artfully breaking that

rule in this. And use it in a way to showcase the fact that they’re literally not seeing eye-to-eye at this


Particularly the oldest sister and a youngest sister. Obviously, classic story of the middle sister

really caught in the middle, so you actually see her catch the right eye line once in a while, and she acts

as our anchor. And so we were able to do this with just a very clear cut pathway of the environment of

their new home. We settle in this wide for quite a while so you really get the layout. So the different eye

lines are more of a stylistic thing versus confusing to look at.

So that’s what we went for with this. I always like to do with my edits, think about instead of the

classic shape of the story, the classic arch of the story because a lot of my work is very cynical in nature

which has a lot to do with indigenous storytelling and just what I’m drawn to. Comes from documentary

as well. I really think about films with a pulse versus an arch. I think you come from music Cazh, I think

you really understand what I mean by that.


That feeling of rhythm, I get it.

Madison Thomas:

It’s a rhythm. So you’ll notice with this for the first couple of minutes with this clip it’s very much … It

starts with this very, very long drawn out uninterrupted 360 clip that suddenly goes into these altered

eye lines stuff. So there’s a really interesting off rhythm of this first episode but I really wanted to use the

editing to basically show how off their whole life is right now.

Yeah, using it as an extension of the storytelling versus just technical laying out as it’s scripted.

What is the best way to learn editing?


I have a quick answer to that. Just edit. That’s literally how I learned when I first started because of music

videos. When R.T. suggested cutting it. He was like, “You know what you want so just figure out how to

do it.” And so I knew how to cut, in, out, grab the clip, put it on the timeline. And I just started going

from there.

If there was something I wanted to do music videos, sappy songs, there’s a lot of cross dissolves

going on. So I was like right here needs a cross dissolve. How do I do that? Just call my editor and be like,

“I’m going to ask you a lot of questions throughout this.” It’s like, “No problem Cazh. If you need to figure

out how to do something just ask me, I’ll show you how.”

Sometimes he don’t know the answer. I’m like how do you do that dreamy dissolve is what I

called it. He like, “You mean a cross dissolve?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He’d be like, “Oh, here. There’s a function

for it right there.”

I learned to edit by editing. That’s the easiest way. And especially YouTube tutorials if you don’t

have an instructor or an editor to help you do that, are your best friend. When I started doing it wasn’t

as evolved as it is now. But even still now, when I’m editing something if I’m like, oh, you know what?

This would be cool. How do I do that? I’ll just, how to YouTube, how to blah blah blah. That’s the best


What’s your answer to that? What do you think the best way to learn editing?

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, I think I’d echo all that. Especially when it comes to technical little things like that. I’m not in any

way saying don’t go to film school or all that. But if the thing that’s hindering you is the technical stuff,

there is a YouTube tutorial for all of it.

What I think you really need to develop in terms of editing is what is your personal story telling

style and what is the current project you’re cutting. The ability to be able to recognize what it calls for,

what rhythm it should have, how the story should unfold, that all just comes to experience.


Anyone can put it in and out, grab the clip drag it down to the timeline, repeat, repeat, repeat until you

have whatever it is. Whether it’s a music video, a short film, whatever. But is it good? That’s the thing

that comes with time and experience. And the more experience and trial and error, and doing it again

and doing it again until you figure out what your oomph is.

Madison Thomas:

And I would say really, really early, as early as you can, and I mean this as a writer, as a director, as an

editor, as a creative in general, you’ve got to show people your stuff. And you have to go through the

grilling experience of sitting there and watching it with them. Which is awful, I still hate doing it. I’ve only

actually sat through my feature at a public screening a handful of times now and it never gets easier. But

you need to be in the moment with your audience as any step of story telling and see how your story is

getting received. See in the moment how it’s making people feel.


That’s a good [inaudible 00:27:43] if it’s good.

Madison Thomas:

Is it good? Are people walk away talking about it? Talking about how it made them feel? What it brought

up for them? That to me is the marker of a good film, not a perfectly well-pasted piece of art.

I feel like… When you get into the mainstream films, and especially TV, I write and direct a lot

for TV. And there’s a set rhythm and way stories are told. If you get into the writing world in TV, it’s like,

end of act three, something big and exciting has to happen. So you have to artificially get to that because

that’s what audiences are familiar with. But for the type of stuff I like to make, I don’t want to be bound

to that per se.


Where are some of the best places you go to when you need to learn something editorial-wise?

Madison Thomas:

Like technical or artistic, do you think?


Both. What are some of your tools that you use?

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, music is a huge one for me. Really early on both writing, directing, editing. Editing

specifically I’ll usually make a playlist and some of it will end up being tent music that I’ll use in my cuts.

But some of it is literally just to get me into that sense, into that mode.

I always like to step back. And this comes from that ghost in the room philosophy, it’s just my

extension of it that I’ve felt as a filmmaker because a lot of my work in the narrative side. And I think this

stems from documentary world, is really character focused and character driven. In my opinion all stories

should be, regardless of genre but some people don’t agree with me on that. Some people are like,

action, big set pieces, that’s enough. But who’s in that action and the big set pieces? Whose perspective

are we actually seeing the story through?

And so whenever I’m doubt about you know, what an edit should be or how a story should be

told, I try to pull back to, okay, whoever’s perspective I’m in, what are they feeling right now? What in

this current moment I’m in and the story, how are they doing?

So with Color of Scar Tissue with that clip there, each episode that follows, follows a different

sister. So they all feel very different. The younger sister’s is a lot more snappy-cuts and a lot more frantic

because she’s a young teenager in a brand new environment and she doesn’t have anything to ground

herself to.

And the second episode, it starts with the middle sister smoking a lot of weed. So that’s the state

she’s in, so the cuts are very long and leg weighted and a little awkward. She immediately gets high and

immediately has this interaction with this woman. And this is actually… When I played with the dialogue

in terms of I didn’t cut to the other person when you would normally think you would. I would stay on

the sister because I wanted to know how she was feeling.

So that’s one of my go to. That’s my pistol in my holster that’s right there. I have some other

weapons hidden here and there but that’s my go to, is just whose perspective are we in, what are they

feeling, does that dictate the edit?


The edit has a personality.

Madison Thomas:

Edit has personality. I also like to say if you’re editing good, editing should be empathy as well. I think it’s

incredibly important that even if you are just purely an editor and you’re not the person who crafted the

story or directed the story or got to know the actors, I understand that for me personally I’m so involved

and it’s so easy to be involved. Only because I’ve been ingrained since the first word on the paper, so

obviously if I need to edit it, it’s a no-brainer that I’m still that involved.

But if even if you’re just a pure editor, I think you do need to fall in love with the story a little bit,

I think if you’re going to be effective in the emotional storytelling part of it. Or at least be able to reflect

what the director wanted. Because you’ve got to remember, the director is going to have that feeling

with it. So I think if you can lock in with that with your director. And I know you’ve worked with other

editors more than I have, Cazh. So I think that those early conversations in pre-production, you better

make sure you’re jelling there.


I’m all about a relationship and vibe to me. And I’m a feeling creator in all aspects of it. And I don’t need

the world’s most awarded editor. I need somebody that I can sit in a room with for 90 hours or for 3

months, whatever the format.

Madison Thomas:

Totally. I feel like there’s that conception too that if you’re an editor you can just be like … Because we do

spend so much time alone, you just be not a people person and stuff. I’m not saying you have to be the

most extroverted person. Editing is a brilliant place for introverts and introverts are my favorite people in

the world. However, you are going to be with a director or with someone for long cuts and you’re going

to be a big part of that person’s creative process. So at least make sure you gel with that person. That’s

what I would say.


Why I like the gel and the vibe is because the editor, I’m obviously going to choose somebody that knows

what they’re doing. I’ve seen their work, resume, all of that. So I know that you know what you’re doing.

So you’ve got technical on lock. And me being the vibe, mood creator that I am, I’ve got the feeling on

lock. So together, we should be able to come up with some magic. You know what I mean? So, that’s my


Because I’m not questioning. I don’t question your skill. I know you can click, click, cut grab and

tell me what shot’s working, all the technical 180s and all those rules. I know that because I’ve seen your

work. I know it. I’ve read your resume, I know you can do that. But if we can do this, then it’s going to

turn out like smooth butter. You know?

Madison Thomas:

Totally. In terms of that, collaborators in general, where I don’t work with a lot of other picture editors,

period, just because I do proxy edit a lot of my own work, although that is slowly, slowly shifting. I do

work with very prominently the same post production sound team for a lot of my work. Obviously there

are instances where I have been hired purely as an editor where I can’t really bring them on. But I try real

hard because they make my work look better and I really do feel films live and die on the sound design.

In can really make or break a movie.

I think a film like Blair Witch, that film is 80% just shaky black screen, but the sound sells it and

gets you into that vibe and that perspective. And so you can make a brilliant picture, edit it, that can be

just butchered by a bad sound edit.

So when I found my collaborators really early on in my career, which was really fortunate to find

two guys that were very aligned with the types of projects I wanted to make, my style. And now we just

have that short hand. We have fifty projects together amongst the three of us.

So now when they come on to do my sound edit, there’s not really too much of a pre-production

meeting anymore because they know what I need and what I want, and I know if something is different

than the other fifty projects we’ve done, that’s the only thing I really need to communicate to them.

That’s like Danny Chodirker and Justin Gorm for me. Danny Chodirker’s done a lot of my post

production sound and Justin Gorm is an absolute brilliant composer. That’s the music part as well. I try to

get good temp music in there to give him an idea of what I’m looking for and stuff, but there’s always a

bit of an assurity to me that Justin’s going to do the composing at the end, and it’s going to be brilliant,

so I don’t need to worry about the temp music that’s in so much.


I want to talk about your film, Ruthless Souls that you wrote, direct and edited. Three hats. Three hats,

right? Jack of all trades, just like the main character, Jackie, in the film. Who reminds me of you to be

honest with you, I’m not going to lie. I’m like oh, Madison wrote a movie about herself. An alternate

version of herself.

Madison Thomas:

An alternate version for sure. It’s funny you mentioned that because someone in the media had asked

me that at film festival once. I was like am I? Because it feels so hard to separate yourself as a writer

some times from a character, especially when they have similar attributes to you just in terms of Jackie’s

background and stuff. What I settled on I think is Jackie could very well have been me had certain

supports in my life not been there, or had I made certain choices. Which goes to tell you a lot about who

she is as a character. She was super fun to write.

Yeah, this is my feature film, Ruthless Souls. This is the Talent to Watch with Telefilm Canada

which is a great program for first and second time feature film makers, teams. So again, Darcy Waite, the

same producer as my web series. And yeah, just in terms of team, Cazh you were saying earlier,

cinematographers, I had the same cinematographers from the web series do this feature. Because we

had that short hand. I knew they could get me what I wanted with this.

But this was actually a really interesting film editing wise. This was where wearing all three of

those hats became a very interesting thing but I really pretty much wrote the script for the edit knowing

that it was going to be quite complex in terms of being this interwoven, more art house film that had

these three distinct editing styles that came along with them.

But I actually three different DOP’s in the project. So Tyler Funk shot the modern, the present

day life of Jackie. Which for the most part, we see unfolds in real time. That’s one linear aspect of the


We also see several flashbacks or more abstract scenes some of which are a little bit prompted

by drug use. That was done by Jordan Popowich who’s a bit more an abstract shooter that I used. And

throughout the film, we also see Jackie talk direct to confessional cameras. So Andrew Luczenczyn built

hand-held rig that our actor could actually manipulate along with him. It was a bit of a dance doing that


But knowing that those three styles were going to have very distinct different rhythms and very

distinct different pieces, we kinda worked into the script. The montage beats were written much more

how they’re actually seen in the film versus in the more safe script version. So it’s all very connected

from the very beginning.

This first clip is actually just the first three minutes of basically the intro of the film. And it

introduces the two main elements, the modern and the flashback. The confessional follows directly after

where this clip ends, and that’s setting that up.

And again, focusing on the emotion of where the character’s at in this very first scene that she’s

in. The way we’ve set it up is that this character very rarely drinks heavily. It’s a.. thing she knows is not

very healthy for her to do, but this is the one year anniversary of her partner passing away. So it’s a night

where she makes an exception for that. So she’s in a bit of an altered state, she is trying to keep

memories at bay. The memory specifically of the day he died in the hospital. So that’s where you see

these flashbacks come up in a bit more quite literally flashes that she’s trying to keep at bay and trying to

distract herself with her work. So kinda motivating the cutting back and forth versus just crazy cutting

just for crazy cutting.

Also for the earlier question of how do you learn editing, I’m not going to lie, every year when I

teach, I teach film as well for young people and youth. I think I was part of that very first generation that

had a bit of editing technology in schools. Now all schools have editing technology from elementary it

seems. So my students come in and technically they’re way better editors than I am, so I feel like I learn

something from them every year.


My teacher had to bring in, and I… in hindsight, I don’t know where he got the money for it, but… he

brought in a whole Avid system when I was in high school. This was like-

Madison Thomas:

And it [inaudible 00:40:03] Cazh?


It was the late ’90s. Yeah, he brought it in. That was my English media class. I’m actually just realizing

now that that was a whole Avid system that he brought in. I mean where’d he get the money for that?

You’re an English teacher and guidance counselor in a downtown high school. Why do you have the iMac

with the colorful back and the whole system? I have questions now….

Madison Thomas:

He hooked up. This question here. “How many hours are you editing a day?”

For me, it’s totally flux. It has a lot to do with timeline projects. There’s definitely been days

where I’ve absolutely edited 10 hours plus and it sucks. But TV editing, that’s a very common timeline is

cutting an episode in a day. That was usually our schedule was cutting a half hour rough cut in a day and

then prior cuts. So it fluxes. In an ideal world, I generally would like to not do more than four hours

straight just for my eyes, but that’s just me.


Pretty much the same. I mean it depends on project turnaround time.You know? When’s the delivery, all

that stuff. I could spend two hours editing or I could spend 13 hours.

Madison Thomas:



I’ve turned around a music video in a day. Back when I was actually actively doing music videos as my

sole format of filmmaking. You know?

I remember it was shot on film. We shot film. In house flats. Flew this back to Toronto. Send the

film for processing. And then because it was film, we color corrected because it’s film so we color

corrected everything. Then I went to edit. Turned it around in a day. Delivered the rough edit to

management and the label.

Madison Thomas:

That’s wild. I will say I would never do it again. I absolutely never-


No, I would never do it again.

Madison Thomas:

I would never cut a whole film on it, but I did a workshop once where we actually edited on scene back.



Madison Thomas:

Old big machines and actually cut film, taped it back together. I was so happy to experience it just to a

little bit experience what … Because a lot of the first early editors were all women. Like, it’s really post

production has been the one non-feminine job, like hair, make-up that has always been very prominently

women. But, like I remember learning that in film school that a lot of the early film editors were women.

That’s dope. That’s super cool. It’s like we’ve always been that really fundamental part of story telling.


My theory, this is the nice theory, it’s because they could just keep them locked in the room to keep

them. So when they watch editor, it’s just a name on the screen. And if the lady’s got a name like Syd,

that could be anybody. You know what I mean?

Madison Thomas:

You got it in there Cazh, that’s the important thing.


I know. But we got it in there. I don’t know what happened. Listen. Open the door and we’ll take it. I’m

not mad at it. I’m just saying my theory at the time, well of course they would allow us to do that,

because they don’t have to see us. I’m locked in the room. Nobody knows any better.

Madison Thomas:

Not no more. We’re on the Zoom world. We’re being broadcast across.


Exactly. We’re here.

Madison Thomas:

Yeah. So that’s interesting. We’re talking about the first Ruthless clip. This was actually a really

interesting and totally out of character thing for me. I usually edit everything super out of order. Ahh..

but with this project, because it was such an amalgamation of these three different styles and I really

wanted to make sure they were inter-cutting the way that they were in my head, on the script, I was

editing this opening sequence while we were filming. Because I knew this opening sequence was going

to.. like, encompass all three styles? I was like ‘Hey, if I can nail this, then I know the rest of the film

would work.’


Okay, I get you.

Madison Thomas:

But for the most part, my process is usually… Like… Stab and go. One of my tricks especially if I’m

struggling with an edit, I’ll go in and I’ll cut a scene and I’m very confident about it. I know I can just bang

it out, [snapping fingers sound] real quick, just get my confidence up and get me into editing mode. And

then I’ll go to a scene I’m like… Not worried about.. Or just not looking forward to cutting… Or.. You

know, those scenes where you didn’t get the coverage you wanted per se. It’s like, its going to be tough

to cut together. That was how we did that with Ruthless.


Awesome. I have another question here. “How to save your eyes in a dark room editing.”

Madison Thomas:

So this was actually a trick that I learned from our post supervisor on Taken. Linda Nelson who’s totally

brilliant and has been and editor forever, she would make us put a timer on our phone, usually every half

hour or so. And if you go to the window and you focus on something really far away, it can’t be within 20

feet of you. It expands your irises and basically flexes that muscle so your eyes don’t get stuck on just the

computer screen perspective. Does that make sense?



Madison Thomas:

I might also just be one of the very lucky people who doesn’t feel eye strain a ton when it comes

to screens, but I do that pretty religiously. So, maybe it’s helping. Hey, worth a try.


Wait another five more years and then ask me if you feel that eye strain… Because I used to think the

same thing. And now, I’m a lot older than I look, just in case anybody’s wondering why I keep talking like

those old days. Anyways, neither here nor there. I’m starting to feel the affects of spending the greater

part of the last 15-16 years in front of screens. On set, in front of screens. Post production, front of

screens. And as a director, it’s a lot more screens because it’s not just the post editing screens. Then

you’ve got to color correct, color grade. It’s screen, screen, screens on top of screens. Lights, bright

lights, everything. Yeah, it’s all starting to take a toll on my eyes.

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, dark mode wherever you can as well. I don’t know if there’s any truth to this. I don’t wear glasses,

but an editor I worked with on a documentary had those lenses that apparently cut out the blue light.

Apparently there’s also some backwards to that though like you can’t wear those outside because it cuts

the blue of the sky which is a big thing that makes you happy.


Oh, that would beMadison


So you’ve got to be careful. You can only wear them for the screen. But he does say they do help. So I

would say if you’re in a position where you’re staff editor or something and you’re doing those eight

hour days straight at a screen, like, anything you can do to help.

I think you’ve got to also take care of your posture and your neck. I’m finally necessarily in a

proper chair. I knew that could really with headaches and those sorts of things. I’m feeling a difference

with that. So..If you’re going to be sitting a desk, you might as well invest in it. We’re all in Zoom world

right now so we’re all here a lot more.


Yeah. I worked with a cinematographer once who he always wore shades. The only time he didn’t wear

shades was when he looked into the lens. Like when he put into the view finder. You know?

Madison Thomas:



I always asked him why. He said, “I’ve got to protect my eyes. This is my money makers.”

Madison Thomas:

And sure, for editors the same.


Same thing, yeah. You need your eyes as an editor, definitely.

Madison Thomas:

Totally. Should we set up this next clip?


Yeah, set up this next clip for us from Ruthless.

[play clip]

Madison Thomas:

This is actually the end of act two. So Ruthless is sectioned into three different parts because Jackie is

basically struggling with three different things. She’s struggling with basically the break up of her two

best friends who have been her only closest support her whole life. So one section focuses on her

dealing with the fracture and friendship on one side. And then the second part deals with the fracture

and friendship on the other side. The third part is Jackie coming into her own end, sorting out her grief

and the guilt she’s feeling around her partner’s death.

Basically this second clip is the end of act two. And it’s essentially her again, really focusing in.

The whole film, the editing style really follows Jackie’s emotional state. But also, she’s altered. She’s a

character who is smoking weed pretty constantly so there’s a bit of a languidness to the cuts at certain


At this point in the film, her and her friend Rini have gone to a party and taken some

mushrooms. The editing has gotten quite trippy. But in the midst of her little drug trip, of course her

friend has decided this is a great time to have an emotional heart to heart as you do.



Madison Thomas:

Typical. So she basically is in her altered state and through this conversation has to finally deal with a few

of the memories that she was actually pushing back at the very start of the film in the earlier clip we saw.

A lot of having to deal with that her partner, Tony, died and the memory of being in that hospital and

learning that news.

So at the very end of this clip, we actually see Jackie in real time get the news of his death.

Again, this is being writer, director and editor on this project, I always knew this moment was going to be

a very long held moment, mostly because I knew my actor could do this. Editing can also be a way you

can both highlight and cover performances, both ways on the narrative side. Thankfully in this film that

was not a case I had to do with anyone. I wasn’t cutting around any performances. I was more torn

between beautiful choices. It’s a great problem to have. Very thankful to my actors for that.

But I always knew this was going to be a very intense moment and a moment we really need to

be right there with Jackie, thus her looking directly into the camera. So with her being in this altered

state and her not really being able to escape these memories because of the drugs, it feels drastically

different than the opening sequence where she was actively fighting it back. That’s what dictated the


And again, playing with music. It’s a song that triggers the memory. But with this one again, I

wrote very much to the edit. But I also knew that there would be extreme flexibility after with two of the

main elements, the flashback and the confessionals really could go in any order.

We actually tried an insane amount of different options with the edit just to see if there was any

different flows we wanted to organize. Obviously there were certain sequences that were tied together,

but there were some that we tried in a bunch of different places.

It was a really interesting post process. My producers were very creatively involved because like I

said, going forward as an editor I think on features at least, I will very much not step back, but bring on

another creative eyes and mind just because there was definitely times in the edit where I definitely felt

like I was losing track of the story, just with how malleable it was and how many options we did have in

front of us.

So having the producer be able to step back and be like oh, this is working. Okay, this section

feels a little muddy now. Let’s put this back over here. Having that involved was great.

Oh, “How to understand the [inner/ limited 00:51:01] space.” Great question.


What do you say to that, Madison?

Madison Thomas:

Yeah. It has to do a lot with your internal clock and internal style and pace and rhythm. As an editor,

getting to read the script really early is a good way to get a sense of that, especially if it’s not your

project. I guess it’s how fast you think the story’s going based off the script. And then when you see the

footage, is that reflected?

And in terms of space, I think it’s pretty easy to catch what the person’s intent was based on

what they covered. I know for Ruthless, the reason you see so many big wide shots and you see that loft

in it’s entirety, it’s that we built that loft in it’s entirety so we knew we could shoot 360 no matter what

we were doing.

But a lot of space, physical space has to do with logistics of the film and style of it. That being

said, on the flip side… Like to counter act those big wides in the environment, we’re also in with Jackie

quite a bit, physically close. Because we’re right there along for her emotional journey, so we played

kinda with both of those sides of things.

But yeah, with rhythm, I think it’s a lot of also trial and error. Just trying a lot of different type

music. And then I would also say do a few passes of your cut without any temp music. Obviously this is

something I had the luxury of doing because I have a composer who’s going to be cutting in later. But I’m

always cognizant of the idea of not getting locked into what a temp music track is doing. Just because it’s

swelling to a certain point doesn’t mean my editor and composer has to hit the same point. You know?

He can make it whatever he wants. I think once you understand time signatures and those sorts of

things, as the editor, you can make those calls. But nothing wrong with learning a little music theory for

those I think.


I agree.

Madison Thomas:

A question from Maureen here. “Did you do test screenings with the film? How did watching with an

audience affect the edit?”

Yeah, so we didn’t do a full blown test screening. Just in terms of budget we didn’t have that in

the post production budget to be able to do a full test audience. But we showed it to a crazy amount of

people. So we got both notes formally, just typed up notes. They watched it separately.

We did watch it with small groups of people just to again get that live action moment. Actually

by the time we got it to that point for this project … For other projects I’ve done, test audiences have

changed the rhythm of the edit significantly. For this one, it really didn’t. By the time we were showing it

to people, a lot of things were hitting where we wanted them to, so it was more tweaking certain things

or a scene that we were holding onto because we all liked it, wasn’t landing ever with an audience. So

we’re like okay it. Fine.


Wow. [inaudible 00:53:52] “Can you say your editing process A to Z?”

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, as best as I can. If I have it my way, I have an assistant who does all the really, really boring parts of

syncing the footage and organizing the footage and labeling it. If I don’t have to do that, I don’t want to.

You know? That’s generally what assistants are for anyways, but if I have to, that’s usually your first day.

Depending on if it was a project I wrote and directed or not, if it’s something that I’m coming on

as purely as an editor, I watch everything first and foremost. I do apply the same philosophy I do with

reading a script for the first time as a director. I always have a notebook. And when I’m screening the

footage, I always write down first impressions or thoughts just because I actually find those first gut

feelings are generally the right ones. And if you watch things too many times, you’ll start second guessing

yourself. So I generally try to stay pretty, not lost to those first gut things, but I always keep that list really

close by. That has a lot to do with performance pics and angles and shots and those sorts of things in

narrative. But in doc, it’s also sound bites and those sorts of things.

And then yeah, like I said before, I don’t generally ever edit beginning to end. I usually just start

usually somewhere in the middle.


You start somewhere.

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, I’ll piecemeal my cut together that way. And I usually don’t put in temp music until full sequences

are cut. I’ll usually leave that pretty quiet for a while until I really like there is a rhythm to the scene. You

do have to just get your assembly down. I think as much as I’ve said, focus on perspective and emotional

arcs and all those things. That’s more of a fine cut thing. That you just cut to have to get your assembly

down. So..

Following that philosophy of not getting too bogged down with is this the right moment, like.. Or

the rhythm of the cutting and all that kind of stuff. I think you need to see your piece as a whole.


Absolutely. We have the last question here. “When you are only an editor on a project, your salary

depends on footage time or any other?”

It doesn’t really depend on footage time. Usually everything is different. Sometimes it’s hourly,

the number of hours put in. Or just a rate that’s negotiated before the project begins between editor and


Madison Thomas:

Yep. My preference to be honest when I’m quoting people, and everyone’s a little bit different on this in

terms of what their rates are and those kinds of things. I don’t like to do hourly because I actually feel

like my strengths as an editor is how fast I am. Coming from doc world, coming from TV world, it’s pretty

common practice to cut half an hour of TV in a day. That said, if my wage is hourly, it’s actually a

disservice to myself to go fast.


It is, yeah. I remember back in the day some editors used to do that hourly thing. Now it’s pretty much a

negotiated rate that’s agreed upon before the project starts.

Madison Thomas:

Yeah, so for me, it’s either a daily rate and we decide on the amount of days that we think this is going to

take. And we understand that there might be some fluctuation if I get into a project and like ‘Oh, we

need an extra day or.. actually can I get this done in a few less days.’ Or, in a preferred world, I like just

doing a flat fee, whole project. Then I can go at the speed I want. My speed is actually a gift that way. I’m

also just to be totally honest, not great at negotiating and money and all that kind of stuff. I understand

we all need to pay rent, but that’s not why I do film.


I hear you.

Madison Thomas:

Always been a challenge for me.


Me too! But it comes with the territory. You know? Those things I don’t like that have forced me as a

filmmaker is talking about money. And to be honest, talking to people. I’m an introvert. I’d rather just be

in my cape and create. But when you’re also the director, it involves talking to a lot of people. And with

that being said, I’ve had fun talking to you, Madison.

Madison Thomas:

Oh my God, yeah. Always a blast.


Just like our writing sessions. During COVID, Madison and I are working on a project together. We are

co-writers on a project and we were supposed to be in the same room and have our writer’s room. And

unfortunately our writer’s room has been Zoom for the past five months.

Madison Thomas:

Our writer’s room looks like this. Every writer’s room I’m in looks like this. That means that obviously

what this time has allowed us all to do is connect on a different level. I don’t know if we would have

chatted with Maureen and all the great people at this organization otherwise. So, you know as tough as

all these times are, I think it’s all bringing us together. And hey, we’re all post nerds here. Our workflow is

largely not affected.


[Exactly! crosstalk 00:58:26] anyway.

Madison Thomas:

Start sharpening those editing tools. Now’s the time!


Yeah. And I’m the glass is always half full type person, so it’s a little different, but it’s also brought some

really dope and amazing things like us having this massive series this evening. And it’s been fun. And I

got a chance to finally watch your film which I was excited about and I loved.

So thank you. Thank you all so much. Maureen, thank you. It’s so great to connect with both of

you. Thank you so much. Yes, so great to connect with all of you and I’m glad that we got a chance to

connect now that Madison and I are working together. And I’m going to be calling Maureen’s phone

again some time, you know?! As well… So this is all great. This brings us, like I said, COVID has kept us

connected in ways we normally wouldn’t have, so it’s been pretty awesome. I thank you all for having me

and I thank you for having Madison.

Any last words before we go?

Madison Thomas:

No, just thanks so much everyone. Miigwetch. Much love to you all. Take care of yourselves out there

and keep nerdy. That’s all we can do at this point.


I’m born a nerd, going to die a nerd. Take care everybody, bye, bye.

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks so much for listening today and a big thank you goes to Madison and Cazhhmere for taking the

time to chat with us.

A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae. This episode was edited by Danny Santana. 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 or you

can donate directly at 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.


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 Join our great community

of Canadian editors for more related info.

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Jana Spinola

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Edited by

Danny Santa Ana

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain


Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by

Annex Pro/Avid

The Editors Cut

Episode 046 : In Conversation with Sonia Godding-Togobo

The Editors Cut - Episode 046 - In Conversation with Sonia Godding-Togobo

Episode 46: In Conversation with Sonia Godding-Togobo

Today’s episode is the online master series that took place on August 18th, 2020: In Conversation with Sonia Godding-Togobo.

This episode is sponsored by Jaxx: A Creative House & Annex Pro/Avid

Sonia is a film and television editor to know. Her rise in the industry is nothing short of prolific. After 20 years, she has acquired an assortment of credits including editing television programs for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Channel 4, The Discovery Channel, HGTV and the BBC. In this episode we discuss the award-winning CBC POV documentary Mr. Jane and Finch, a portrait of long-standing community activist and amateur documentarian, Winston LaRose.


This talk was moderated by Sedina Fiati, a performer, producer, creator and activist for stage and screen. She holds a BFA in Music Theatre from the University of Windsor and is also a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts. Sedina is very active in the Toronto media arts scene advocating for increased representation of people of colour, LGBTQ+, D/deaf and disabled artists on camera and in all creative and crew roles.

Listen Here

The Editor’s Cut – Episode 046 – “In Conversation with Sonia Godding-Togobo”

Sarah Taylor:
This episode was generously sponsored by JAX:A Creative House, and Annex Pro/Avid.

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 18th, 2020 in conversation with
Sonia Godding-Togobo. Sonia is a film and television editor to know. Her rise in the industry is nothing
short of prolific. After 20 years, she’s acquired an assortment of credits, including editing television
programs for the Oprah Winfrey network, Channel 4, the Discovery Channel, HGTV and BBC. In this
episode, we discuss the award-winning CBC POV documentary Mr. Jane and Finch, a portrait of a
long-standing community activist, and amateur documentarian, Winston LaRose .

Sarah Taylor:
This talk was moderated by Sedina Fiati, a performer, producer, creator and activist for stage and screen.
She yields a BFA in music theater from the University of Windsor. Sedina is was very active in the Toronto
media art scene, advocating for increased representation of people of color, LGBTQ+, deaf and disabled
artists on camera and in all creative and crew roles.

[show open]

Sedina Fiati:
Welcome everybody. Sonia, tell us right off the top, Mr. Jane and Finch won a CSA. This is amazing. Like
what, a Canadian Screen award. This is a year for black people. I mean every year is a year for black
people to see this film when speaks so much to this moment and what you need to know. Just to start
back, tell us how you became an editor. Why were you attracted to it?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Okay. I kind of became an editor officially, I think in 2003, but I wanted to become an editor when I was
in film school, I went to Humber. And while I was there, it was clear that everyone wanted to produce,
everyone wanted to direct, which I liked those departments and those crafts, but I was , “Well, first of all,
if we leave this place and everyone wants to direct and produce, none of us are going to be doing that.
So none of us are going to be working in that field.” And I quickly learned that editing is where the magic
happened. When I would work on my film projects, I quickly learned that editing is where it actually
happens. You don’t have a film until it’s edited.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And so for me, it was while I was in school, I was just if I can master this craft, then I can really learn the
art of storytelling via editing. And so, yeah, I quickly was attracted to editing while at school and
everyone would give me their projects. I was dating somebody at the time who was like, “Oh, you’re a
really good editor.” So my friends wanted to direct they would send me their projects and I would edit
their projects. And I liked the isolation of it. I liked the fact that I was left alone to just create something
that blew people’s minds. My goal was always to sort of enhance directors visions or producers visions.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I always wanted to create something that felt magical and better than their own expectations. So out of
film school, my first gig was with a post house called Post Producers Digital. I learned to assisting editing
there. And from there quickly moved around the city. I worked in animation, I was working as an
assistant editor. At that time we were hooking up decks, right? Instead of knowing codecs and all that,
that assistants have to know now I was literally physically hooking up super beta decks and digital beta

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I mean, I’m sure there’s some young people in here that don’t even know what that means. Really
showing my age, but it’s cool. So yeah, I really learned the chops of assisting editing, and I was always
lucky enough to work with folks who let me edit stuff while I was assisting in editing. And so I remember
the first film that I worked on was for my mentor, Alison Duke. She worked on a film called Deathly
Silence for the CBC. I literally was working at Nelvana at that time. So I would go to Nelvana and I would
assist to edit there and then I’d go and work on Alison’s film afterwards. That’s when I fell in love with
documentary and I knew I wanted to work in documentary as an editor and director. And so the rest is

Sedina Fiati:
Amazing. Okay. What was the name of the production house you worked at as assistant editor?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Post Producers Digital, which it does not exist anymore.

Sedina Fiati:
Which is what I thought.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I mean, there’s still post houses, of course, but there was tons of posts houses at that time. There was so
many of them because commercials were big in the city at the time and obviously series where the big
King street was the Mecca for post houses. So we had tons of them on and off King and queen street at
the time. And so I gained ground at Post Producers digital.

Sedina Fiati:
So further question to that, you just marked such an important moment in film and television. In that
move from analog to digital. And what were the big differences? Because I know now you can edit from
home quite easily without needing thousands and thousands of dollars of equipment and the freedom
that gives people. I’m so interested, and even just going from all of that to now, everyone can edit not as
well as professionals, mind you, not at all, but everyone is learning that craft. I even feel like 10 year olds
are learning it.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
My daughter doing TikToK videos. Right?

Sedina Fiati:
Right? Yeah.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
It’s literally an editing app for sure. Absolutely.

Sedina Fiati:
Totally. Yeah. Tell me about that trajectory and that was for you moving from this analog world to this
digital world where things are a lot different. And even then needing to go in editing studios. You don’t
even need to do that as much anymore. So yeah. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
One of the things that I keep telling folks timing is everything and I was at the right place at the right
time in terms of where I was in my career and also where I was physically, right? So I was at a place
called Nelvana, like I mentioned, and they literally just started going through the transition. And so they
were editing on avid and they had to get a dongle and they had these big part drive systems that you had
to buy. They were hundreds of thousands of dollars and the editors there were used to working on avid
and suddenly this thing called Final Cut Pro came out. Final Cut Pro also with those first digital cameras,
which I’m going to butcher because my memory. I think it was the Panasonic camera. I can’t remember
which one it was, but there was a Panasonic camera that everybody started using and it was still tape at
the time, but it had that look.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And so after that period they went to DSLR. And I think Final Cut Pro was really what made the digital era
along with Canon and Panasonic and Sony sort of come to where we are now. Instead of using these big
cameras with these big tapes, it just, everything started becoming smaller. And then the editing software
became more comprehensible in terms of being able to digitize this footage and use this footage. And in
a way that was more comprehensible, right? And you didn’t need a dongle, you could edit from your
laptop. I remember the day, literally one of the editors who I was assisting for say, “Wow, I can edit on my
laptop. I can edit my pitch down.” He was so ecstatic about that, right? And so that shift changed a lot. It
changed the industry hugely. As an editor it allowed you to access more genres, right?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
For me anyway, I was at the time, like I said, working in animation, but I was really into drama and I was
really into short films. And so my friends, because of the medium changing they had access to these
cameras. So they were like, “Oh, we need someone to edit it. Sonia edits. Let me send her my stuff.” And
why that was good is that I was able to practice the craft, learning the craft, and then also just develop a
little demo reel. And so would I be here if the digital era didn’t happen? Who knows? Right? I know that
it allowed me access and it enabled me to be able to afford to be in this medium. Let’s keep it real.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I remember buying my first Mac and being able to install Final Cut and work my friend’s music videos
from home. Right? Opposed to having to be hired by somebody else to do that.

Sedina Fiati:
Another followup question to that though, do you feel there’s a sense of community that was a little lost
from having to physically leave your house and go places? You know what I mean? As opposed to you
could edit it in your pajamas, as you said, it’s now become an even more solitary art form?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Right? That’s a good question. I think even at that time, everybody was still especially is expected to be
in the office at work. Right? So you could edit from your Pj’s, people weren’t. Even now I think literally
it’s because of COVID that we’ll see a big shift in terms of editing from home. But prior to that last year, I
was in edit suites all the time. All the time. It was more independents that I would edit from home. But
most production companies, they want you in office because of that face-to-face collaboration, which is
a crucial part to editing when you’re working with somebody directly. Even right now I’m working on a
project and I have my junior editor here because it’s much easier to collaborate face to face than it is via
virtually. Right? So I think there’s something to being sad about being in isolation and working from
home. But I still think it’s much more efficient to work Face-To-Face. I say that and everyone going to
look at me like, “No, don’t say that. I work from home.”

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Well I do too. There’s something about, I think that face to face collaboration that you can’t replicate
virtually. I’ll say it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry y’all.

Sedina Fiati:
No, it’s true though. It’s true. It’s that collaboration piece, right? That instead of writing a bunch of
emails or a bunch of notes, or even chatting back and forth on this kind of chat. To see someone to hear
them and understand what they’re saying is way different. You know what I mean?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Listen, we can do 90% of our job here. My thing is, I think there’s still should be space for seeing each
other [inaudible 00:10:08]. I think we can do [inaudible 00:10:10] job. I’m not trying to be in the office
for no reason y’all [crosstalk 00:10:13].

Sedina Fiati:
No, but when you do have that time, let it be valuable. You know what I mean? We’re not meeting just
for the sake of meeting. It’s just, this is going to be valuable time for us to really dig deep into the work
and we have done the preliminaries. So, okay. All right. Who are some editors that you look up to? Or
even just overall mentors in the possibility models within the industry?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
The first editor who unofficially took me under their wing was this woman named Susan Maggi. She’s old
school. She cut a lot of Clement Virgos films, and we would have phone calls where she would just kind
of let me ask her questions. I’d ask her about how do I move into the industry? What’s it like? What kind
of stuff should I start doing? And she was very generous with her time and very generous with her
advice. And she wasn’t a possibility model. But let me be honest, I didn’t have many because only black
woman I knew who was editing.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I remember when I mentioned to another mentor, I said to her, I want to get into editing. And she was
like, “Oh my God, you’re the first black woman I’ve ever heard say that.” Right? So do it, but just know
that there’s not many of you. So there’s lots of folks that of course inspired me from an editing
perspective but just to seeing somebody that looks like you, we all know how important that is. I didn’t
really have that. And so when I think about mentors, all my mentors, they came from other parts of the
industry. Somebody like Alison Duke, who I mentioned earlier, the first black woman who let me work on
a project directly, right? Who let me put my hands on her documentary film, A Deathly Silence.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
There were others but I was really inspired by a lot of American filmmakers. I was really inspired Kasi
Lemmons, Spike Lee of course. Those are the big two that but I remember literally seeing Eve’s Bayou.
Oh, of course John Singleton, rest in peace with Poetic Justice. When I saw Poetic Justice, I was like, oh
my God, I want to do this. I want to make these films. I want to be able to tell the stories that are
important to me.

Sedina Fiati:
I have another question I was going to ask you later on but I’ll ask you now and then maybe we’ll show a
clip. So how does your eye as a black woman affect the work that you do and how you edit, how you
direct? Why is it important to have a black editor?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Right now? You just go it in. Okay.

Sedina Fiati:
I know there are so few black women, black people period, doing editing. I’m sure there’s more now
especially with a younger generation with more accessible technology, but still it’s still just this is one of
the overlooked positions that is actually so important. Why isn’t it important to have the black women’s
eyes, especially if it’s a black project?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Well, this is the thing, right? There’s two ways to answer that question. The way that feels authentic to
me is I can’t separate myself from being a black woman, right? How I view the world. And so I think what
I bring is a sense of compassion, a sense of storytelling that really lends to a certain level of uniqueness.
And so I think in terms of my own personal sensibilities, I kind of came up through music television and
worked much back in the day. So I know music sensibilities are a big part of the work that I do and the
projects that I even am attracted to. But at the end of the day, storytelling is storytelling.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I do hear that. I don’t only have to edit black projects, I love them because really rare, but that’s an
ingrained number one. And two, I think there’s universal realities, right? There’s universal themes that
obviously crossover race, gender, class, sexuality, and for me is good storytelling is good storytelling. I
just think I bring myself to every project and I bring a lot of heart and compassion and honesty. I feel I
bring a lot of honesty to my storytelling. So I hope that comes across in the work that I do.

Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. And it’s interesting, you talking about your lens on storytelling, right? That is unique to you and
give a project to different editors and they’re all going to see different things. But it’s important for me if
I could have a black woman’s eye I would want that. Even for a project that isn’t necessarily about black
people because I’m interested in that eye because that storytelling eye hasn’t been given enough voice.
Has not been given enough space. So we don’t even know what that means. We’re still deciding it. I think
we have a lot of clues because I think as black storytellers, storytelling is actually in our DNA. It’s an
important part of who we are as people is to be able to tell stories, period.

Sedina Fiati:
And be able to tell engaging stories. Not even just stories, engaging stories. Because black people are just
like, if you’re boring I’m not going to listen to you.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Did you see that meme that came out a few weeks ago about black people?

Sedina Fiati:
Which one?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
It was about black storytelling. And it was like, when somebody says this person right here showed up. It
was little points that we use to emphasize our stories. Mind you, when this is mind you, listen to this part
right here. [laughter]. Yeah. I just thought it was really cute because there is definitely vernacular. And
there’s a way that we tell stories that I think. Yeah.

Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. I don’t know if you remember this thread last year on Twitter, that was the black dissertation
thread. It gave me life. I don’t know if-

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
That was brilliant.

Sedina Fiati:
Wasn’t it so good? What did someone say? It was such a great prompt on Twitter she just be like, “What
is your real black dissertation?” And just the storytelling that came through. I’m going to be there in 10
minutes. Meditations on blackness and relationship time. They actually told so many stories just within a
made up dissertation title. So in general black Twitter gives me life. But yeah. Okay. Speaking of your
storytelling eye and such, tell us about Shella Record. I think this is such a cool project. When I read
about it at hot docs, I just was like, what is this? This genre bending? Yeah.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So cool filmmaker approached me and actually I was [inaudible 00:16:04] again timing, right? I was
coming out of a lot of reality, and if you know its cool, but I wanted to take from that. And [inaudible
00:16:13] time that I wanted to edit documentary because Flanagan who was the director of Shella
Record approached me about this film. And he had gotten my contact, I think, he said from Leah Marin,
which was pretty cool because I had never worked with Leah. We had the talk, I’ve met Chris on my
vibed with Chris, I liked what he wanted to do. I think he said it early on in our conversations that he
wanted a black woman or a woman of color to be on the project.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
He knew he was making a film about a Jamaican woman. And so I said, cool. Yeah. I like that fact that you
had that awareness. Part of the intro, there’s kind of two interests to this film, the second intro to Shella
Record where it’s really setting up Chris’s mission, who he is as an artist. And with this, I think it was cool
because we went back and forth on it a bit and we were structurally trying to figure out how the film was
going to work. I always big up Chris, because he would come up with these ideas and I’d be like, “Okay,
I’ll try it.” and then they would work. So. Yeah, I remember us talking about the intro and he’s a really
strong writer and he came up with this idea about linking the earlier opening or I think we did this part
first. It was his sort of final section.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And so, yeah, this is a little bit about him and his love of music and the whole mission of the film. And I
think we did it in maybe two minutes. I’ll preface the second clip when Chris showed me a really loose
assembly of his film, I don’t even know if I told Chris this, but this part here is the part that I was like, “Oh
my God, we have a film. This is magic.” And so I love this second clip. A little change we tightened the
scene or whatever, but I just love the organic-ness of the second clip.

Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. Where can we watch it?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Okay. So the timing is amazing because Shella Record actually has its premier television slot. Isn’t that

Sedina Fiati:
And then do you think it’s going to be on Gem?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yes. It’s going to be on Gem.

Sedina Fiati:

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Amazing. Congrats to you Chris, once again, it’s not easy to make an independent film and then get that
acquisition afterwards so it’s a big deal. I’m really happy that that happened because it’s such a cool

Sedina Fiati:
A quick note about it. Tell us a little bit about this decision to use subtitles

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yeah, Chris and I went back and forth about it. I personally don’t think we needed subtitles with the IDs,
but I get it, for him his audience needed that. Right? My audience wouldn’t need that.

Sedina Fiati:

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So I get it. And you’ll see in another film that we’ll go to later, we purposely did not put subtitles on
anyone who had accents. And so yeah, it’s a decision that has to be made. And so, yeah, I mean, Chris
felt he need the clarity. Listen, my patois isn’t the greatest. So at the times.

Sedina Fiati:

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
But yeah, I mean that was a choice that Chris made.

Sedina Fiati:
You know what? It’s so familiar to my ear. I know I’m not Jamaican but I’ve been around so many
Jamaicans and my sister is Jamaican so it was so familiar but I hear you. Sometimes, especially some
folks who are very immersed in Jamaican culture, the way that one of the gentlemen was, it’s just, yeah,
maybe it would make sense to have them on there.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Right, right, right, right. Right. Exactly.

Sedina Fiati:
And then this segues right into talking about Mr. Jane and Finch. But yeah, tell us how do you choose
projects? What’s important? I feel it at the beginning of your career, I’m sure you were just, for the most
part, you had to say yes to a lot of things. And then now you’re at the point where you’re like, okay, what
am I going to choose to do? And so how do you make those choices?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I don’t think I’m quite there. I’m en route to that. There was a few things that since COVID happened,
Black Lives Matter resurgence happened.

Sedina Fiati:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I got a lot of phone calls, which is interesting. But for me perspective is really important. What’s the
perspective and why is the perspective that? And so I’m really interested in people who have boundaries,
I’m really interested in folks challenging stereotypes. I’m really interested in folks giving us something like
with Mr. Jane and Finch. Jane and Finch, hello you had this stigma and one of the things that Ngardy was
really big on was getting rid of that stigma and helping us dissect that stigma. And so I’m interested in
things that kind of push the envelope truth be told. I’m really interested in illuminating a brilliance, the
complexity of black folks. I am. So projects that have that I’m like yay, I’m in. And then obviously timing,

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I’ve gotta be available first of all. And it’s got to feel relevant. And then also I think there’s something
about the collaboration process that I’m learning about. How important it is. We can’t always know how
well you’ll collaborate with somebody, right? And so figuring that out, I’ve started to learn how to figure
that out, right? Can we vibe? Can we work together? Is this something that we can collaborate well on?
Because the collaboration process in post is everything. It really is. In these two projects I was really
lucky. It wasn’t to say that we agreed on everything, but we had a mutual respect whereby we could
hear each other out when there were disagreements or different points of view.

Sedina Fiati:
Oh, very cool. Okay. Mr. Jane and Finch, let’s talk about this. Another amazing project that you’re part of.
How did you come to be involved with it?

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Alison who’s the producer on the film, Ngardy, who’s the director producer on the film and myself, we
worked on [inaudible 00:21:15] films called The Akua Benjamin legacy project, which was about profiling
and pioneering black activists and individuals. And so we worked on that project and we got on really
well. Ngardy had me look at one of her films and it was brilliant. And I gave her a little bit of notes. At
that time Ngardy just had a baby. So I know she was really busy and she was looking for someone to help
her with the vision. It was such a good film in the end and [inaudible 00:21:44] reading process was
pretty smooth. And so I think from there, she felt like [inaudible 00:21:49] Mr. Jane and Finch and it was
a pleasure because I hadn’t worked with Alison since maybe six or seven years prior to that.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And so working with her again was pretty smooth. It just felt really good. And so when they joined
forces, Alison and Ngardy, and brought me in and it was like a trifecta. It was just really good to have
three sort of strong women working together on a project. And we just had a nice synergy and I think it
shows, I hope, in the project.

Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. What are we looking for in this film? And just tell us a little bit what it’s about.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So, similar to Chris’s film, I picked the introduction and you actually see some similarities. You’ll see in
the introduction of our main protagonist, who in this film is Winston LaRose. And he just kind of gives
the bio in terms of who he is as an elder in our community. I just love everything about it because he’s
80 and in this sequence, you see him running on a track, you see him doing a plank. It was mind blowing
when I saw that stuff. And so I felt really good starting the film with that footage because it set it up like
this is not your average 80 year olds, right? This is not your average granddad.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So that was cool. And then you see him walking through the mall, which is where his community office
was. And he’s just got so much swag. He’s just so cool. Well, I do love that opening sequence. Oh my
God, the second clip it’s heavy, but I picked that part because it’s relevant. It’s Mr. LaRose, Winston
LaRose interviewing Mr. Ubowo, Isaac Ubowo. So whose son went through some traumatic stuff and
who ends up dying? And so there’s this really intimate conversation that’s happening between the two
of them. It’s actually probably my favorite part of that film because when we think about activism, it’s
usually people protesting, aggressive, fist in the air.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And yeah, that’s good, right? I think that’s generally good for young people, but I feel like seeing Mr.
LaRose in this role, it just really reminds us that activism can look different and how it evolves as you get
older. Such a strong intimate conversation. And then it’s just the history of police brutality in our
community, right? It’s implied. And some folks might see it as paranoia, but it’s just such our lived
experience. And I feel this clip really speaks to that.

Sedina Fiati:
Thank you for sharing. Yeah. That was such a beautiful film. And using Mr. Jane and Finch as an entry
point for understanding a much maligned and misunderstood community, it was just brilliant. It still had
so much hope personally. Personally I’m always looking for hope and joy. Well, we need the sorrow, we
need what’s difficult. I’m interested in black joy and I’m interested in black progression as well.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I’m so glad you said that Sedna because two things Patty was really clear about when we started this, she
did not want to re-trigger, re traumatize, re stigmatize people from Jane and Finch and the community.
Really clear about that. And so we were really clear about when we’re choosing footage, how we chose
footage and even at the end he lost, but we wanted to end it up on the up because you know what?
Man, he’s 80. So we just felt that piece around black joy, it’s just so needed. And so that’s important to
me too.

Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. I’m so interested as to how the vision of the film evolves from this idea that you all had to this final

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yeah. But as you know like in docs, right? It happens all the time because you really find the story in the edit. And so initially the film about a elder filmmaker who had been filming the black community in Toronto for close to 25, 30 years. And so initially Ngardy had wanted to really profile him as a, sort of an archivist documentarian. This man who had been documenting black Canada, literally, the greats in our community. And so while she was in development, he announced that he was going to run for city council. So I was like, okay. And so we were committed when we started the film to tell these stories alongside each other, but then it became clear that essentially we had to choose. And so we chose the
story of him running for city council, which was brilliant because it was such a momentous year with our
city council.

Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So that was pretty cool because we also got to tell that story. Right? And so we did get his archive in the
film, we got that little history section. I call it a philosophy section because we really understand
Winston’s headspace as to why activism is important to him. And so we got to see sort of his evolution
as an archivist. And that’s where we got to put his archive in the film. It was a little bit of the broadcaster,
it was a little bit of, hey guys, choose one story here, and so that made it easier for us. When the
broadcaster was like this is the story I want you guys to focus on.
Sedina Fiati:
How do you think just politically as well, Mr. Jane and Finch is a part of this moment of reckoning,
uprising for black lives. And what a triumph for all of you to make this. We were like as black people, I
feel we’re ready. We’ve been ready, we done been ready. And for you to make this. Yeah. So what are
you thinking of it in terms of sort of given the timeline, because so interesting your initial impetus was a
film was to document his documentary, but then it just actually became about him. So just tell me about
what is going through all y’all’s minds, as you think about this moment that we’re having and what the
role that Mr. Jane and Finch plays within that?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I think it’s crucial. I think if the timing is so crucial because, number one, I have not seen a story like this
told about any black person in Canada ever. We don’t get to see our elders on screen and we know what
elders are in our community, but I don’t think folks outside of the community really necessarily get that.
And so for me it really gave window to this whole idea of eldership. And then again, like I said before,
this idea about what activism looks, there’s a very narrow perspective of what activism means. And I feel
he just represents a more nuanced version, a different version that folks are not necessarily familiar with.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
There’s people literally who sit down and just talk to folks who need help with reading their mail. There’s
a scene where he’s reading an elderly woman’s mail for her. What? Their scenes, where he’s talking to
parents whose kids need help. If that’s not activism, I don’t really know what is. And so I feel it serves of
reminder that there’s not one way to do things. It serves as a reminder that we need all of these
multi-pronged approaches to solving problems. Yeah. That’s what I love about the film, that’s why I think
it’s timely. And I just have so much reverence for elders. There’s so much to learn from them and so I just
love the fact that we were able to give space to somebody who dedicated 30 years of his life to a
community that he wasn’t even from.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
He used to travel in from Hamilton every day to go be in that community because he was like this
community needs help. It’s been stigmatized and I’m going to help change the stigma. I don’t know if
that’s not commitment. I don’t know what is it? So I just find him so inspiring.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. You bring up such good points that your editors, I picked up on it, in terms of what is activism? And
what people think it is versus what it actually is in practice.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sedina Fiati:
And I think immediately images come to your head about when you heard the word activism was
marching in the streets, protesting writing letters, standing up the city council. You think about all those
things, but from Mr. Jane and Finch, for Winston, it’’s also, as you said for you to capture those moments
of tenderness, of caring, that is hugely a part of what the revolution is about. It isn’t always about
running for city council, which is great too, but what led him to that point was so many moments of
caring. For those to be captured and then for you of course, to be able to draw that out in the
storytelling, I think is so beautiful. And speaks to the eye that you have and the lens that you have on the
work. So.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I want to give props to the producers and the director. It was a journey to get there. When the story got
turned on its head, we had to turn ourselves in our heads and just kind of approach it differently. I
always tell folks, there’s always a point where you’re like, what is this about? What is the film about?
What are we doing here? And so it’s part of the process. I always big up Ngardy because there was one
point where we were in that and Ngardy was just like, no, we got to tell a little bit about who he is as a
man and his motivations, because it’s consistent. Why he’s running for city council is the same reason
why he documented black Canadians. It’s about uplifting us. It’s about us knowing who we really are. It’s
the same motivation. And so once we were able to connect those dots, it changed everything.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. That’s amazing. Talk to me a little bit about that moment when you said, if they ask what is this
about? And it’s a really scary moment, right? There’s from production to post, it’s scary. Because in
production everyone has a sense of what they’re doing. You’re like we’re doing this thing, we have a
thing and there’s suddenly what are we doing again? Whoever directors, producers, everyone’s like do
we have faith in and what was done? That this is actually going to come together? And it could be, as
you said, a scary and confusing moment. So what are some ways you navigate through that with folks
who are, what’s going on? I’m not sure.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yeah. You just got to breathe through. I literally repeat to myself, everything is, figureoutable. Literally
those are the things that I say to myself. It’s always coming back to the intention but then at the same
time letting go of that. It’s a weird dance that you do, right? Because footage tells the story. The footage
tells the story, you just have to lean into it. I’m old school in that way. I’m willing to surrender to what the
footage shows, right? You’ve got to be able to obviously craft it, but the footage of itself has its own
story. And so leaning into that and finding that, I feel like that’s really what my job is. And then being able
to represent the audience in the edit suite in terms of clarity and emotional potency, that’s what my job
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
My job is to say, hey, yeah, this is what hits, this is what misses. Just leaning into the mess, leaning into it.
It’s okay. Honestly, that advice was given to me by some editors that I worked with years ago, it’s a puzzle
and it’s going to change and you’re not going to know where you’re going sometimes, but just lean into
the processes and trust it.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. I feel like also as a producer, I’m now asking the editors to perform miracles. You’re just, “Okay, I
have a thing I’m unsure about what this is going to be, or I am sure.” Which is rare. And then it’s, “okay,
work some magic here.” And you know what else is magical? It is, it sounds so cheesy but it just is, does
all these disparate parts and then you get first cut. Right? And you’re like, “Oh, okay. Okay.”
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And I also will say this too, right? The format helps, right? For us, we were part of a series of
documentary films that has a particular format. And there’s times where you fight the format. Right?
There’s times where you’re just like, “Oh, this is the form.” And there’s times where you’re grateful for
the format.
Sedina Fiati:
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Because it helps you make decisions, right? So I think that’s, there’s something about editing a television
documentary versus editing a documentary for trickle release, right. They’re different. And so I think just
understanding the format is a big part of the decision-making too. I just cut something for a young
filmmaker in the NFP. And first of all this film maker, her name is Olivia Combs, it’s one of those places
you see this talent you say, Oh my God, she’s gonna blow up. She’s just so talented. And it was really
smooth. It was really smooth to the very end and Leah who was the executive producer on it was like,
“Yep. See, it always happens, it always happens. The edit is smooth there’s things like legal, you have to
think about, right?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
This ability to be flexible and not rigid. I don’t even know if I was born that way, but I definitely became
that way as a result of being an editor, right? There’s something about being flexible that I think lends
itself to good storytelling. Or if you’re okay with being flexible, I think that helps. I don’t know, that’s me.
Some people may disagree with that, but I think that helps myself my storytelling.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah, sure. I hear you. As you said, everything is solvable. You know what I mean? Before It’s just like,
“No, we didn’t get the sound, but we got something,” You know what I mean? Something was messed up
with the picture but okay. Okay. I hear you as a constant problem solving that you have to do creative to
tell that story the way it should be told. And it also, I’ve always found that I always use challenges as
opportunities. Are there opportunities to learn, opportunities to try something new, opportunity to be
more creative. I always view them that way. So yeah. You were born flexible.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yoga. Yo, it’s the yoga!
Sedina Fiati:
Okay. All right. Let’s get to some questions. We’ve got a few here so Let’s get to them. Okay. Any post
houses you would recommend for an up and comer here in Toronto, specifically Urban Post.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Recommend for an up and comer. Okay. Urban Post. Yeah, Urban Post. Is that the post house we worked
with Ngardy? I think that was where we worked. I can’t remember. I’m not the one to answer that
question because I work in post houses. And so I feel I shouldn’t necessarily recommend one, but I would
say, do your research, talk to the people that work there. If you can get your hands on one of the editors
that worked there, because they’ll give you the in. And more so than a post house find an editor that you
like their work, you’ve seen their work, you’ve seen their credits or whatever, and find one that will be
willing to mentor you and bring you in.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I don’t know, someone correct me, but I feel the post house model is different now because there aren’t
that many and a lot of us are working as freelancers. And so if you can find an editor who’s willing to sort
of train you a bit and then recommend you out, I think that’s a good look. A company that has a lot of
shows that you can work your way up in is where you want to be. So somewhere like a CineFlix or Cream
would be good. Oh yeah, media group, Hello, they’ve got a whole youth training program called
pathways to industry and maybe that’s something we need to look at in terms of assistant editing. I think
that’s a good idea actually, because that’s a whole other beast. But I would say find an editor more so
than a post house.
Sedina Fiati:
Well, that segues to another question about, as someone who is searching for a mentor, what steps did
you find worked for you to find one that fit?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I think you ask around. You talk to people that you know and you network. I was pretty good at
networking at a young age. Talk to people that you whose work you admire, if you can get in contact
with them drop an email and drop a LinkedIn, but then that personal face-to-face, which is hard,
obviously during COVID always helps too. When you go to those networking events, I feel like that’s a
good entry point. But then also I think just in terms of mentorship and you want to make sure that the
person that whose work you like has the capacity to be a mentor because mentorship, that’s a serious
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Somebody may be a very good editor, but they may not be a good mentor. Right? Or even have the
capacity to mentor. Right? And so I think you just got to have an honest conversation about what your
expectations are both ways and hope that it works out. I don’t know, mentorship, I feel , it’s like a dying
thing. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. There’s people who’ve asked me to mentor them and I’m very
particular because I’ve got to see that you’re committed if I’m going to spend time mentoring somebody.
And in the past, that was really hard. Seeing folks who had the commitment to the gig because editing is
not an easy gig. Let me just say that. Editing is not easy. Right?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And so it takes a certain amount of commitment and stick-to-it ness that I struggled to find in a lot of
mentees. I found one, she’s literally in the hallway right now and I’m going to work with her because I
see that she’s got that. I think if you can prove that you’re committed and you can prove that you’re
willing to learn most folks who have the capacity, we’ll bring you in.
Sedina Fiati:
How was it working editing animation? What experience did you have with animation to know how to
work with it?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Okay. So animation. So I was working for this company that was producing all the big animated shows.
And so Nelvana then they did all these big animated series. It was cool because literally shows that I was
grew up watching, they had produced. It is so different than what I thought. From an assistant editing
perspective what you would do is you would edit together the drawings, the storyboards of stuff before
it got animated. That was a lot of what I did was called animatics at that point. And so you would edit
that together with sound effects and sort of create the vibe. And then the animators would take that and
then create the animation. Right?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
And then the senior editors would take that footage and trim it down and give them notes on if things
needed to be corrected in terms of color and whatnot. So it’s its own beast but if that’s something you
want to learn, you definitely need to hook up with an animated producer or an animation house if you
want to learn animation as well. And you’d have to go through that whole process. Right? Look for the
animation studios. So Nelvana is one and there’s another one that’s I don’t know the name of it, If it
comes to me, I’ll mention it. But look for those places and see if you can get in. See if you can get an
Sedina Fiati:
That’s the way it is. I mean, from my perspective, as a producer and an actor, editors, there’s not that
many of you. It’s a smaller pool of people, because of that mentorship is really key as you said, and it
probably won’t be terribly hard to find somebody. It’s not there’s tons and tons and tons of people who
want to be editors. I feel I could be wrong, but my impression of it is it’s a small community of people
who do this and a lot of you know each other.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yeah. And the hard thing is that we’re always busy. That’s the hard-
Sedina Fiati:
Yes, right?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Just busy. Editing the full-on gig. It’s really full on. You know, it’s just the time capacity that’s hard for
folks. It’s not about sitting in the edit suite. I don’t think that’s what mentorship looks like for editors, but
it’s really is the time piece.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah. Just finding that time and yeah, whatever you can avail yourself in terms of any funding as well. If
there’s funding that you can find and CTE has a mentorship program. Oh, great. CCE is offering a one
year free associate membership to new members, identify as BIPOC. That’s amazing. Some thoughts
from my end, just to give you some my for some newcomers, which I suspect are also on this call,
definitely check out ACTRA Toronto. I used to be the co-chair of the diversity committee and still a
member and ACTRA has two programs. They have the Yap program, which is a partnership with real
world. So if you’re looking for projects to edit that will actually be seen in a festival that is one way. Just
go and network with Yap. And then also they have talk, which is the Toronto ACTRA committee.
Sedina Fiati:
They do one project every year that there’s funded and supported by ACTRA. So that too is another way.
Just wedge yourself in. And also for folks who identify as black, indigenous, or people of color, there’s
Bipoc TV and film, who’s been doing all kinds of work. They’ve been staggering. I don’t know how they
do it all. It’s just been a lot. They have a great Facebook group, which is probably another place you
might even be able to find a mentor as well. If you posted in there and say, hey, I’m looking for a mentor.
Who’s out there? Who has some time to take me on?
Sedina Fiati:
No matter what aspect of the industry you’re in, you will do better if you network and make
relationships really be out there attending things like this. This is how the inroads happen, there’s no
magic. It just is a lot of relationship building and a lot of work. It’s worth it in the end. Another question,
but have a few more…
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I thought you would have asked if Sonia get nominated for CCE? Yes. I got nominated for Mr. Jane and
Finch, which is-
Sedina Fiati:
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So, y’know…
Sedina Fiati:
That’s amazing. Congratulations, very much deserved. As you said for docs the story is made in the
editing, so much of it. So congratulations. All very well deserved. I remember when I watched it at the
Toronto Black Film Festival, it was a full theater, which is great. People from Jane and Finch were there,
which was great and there was so many wonderful reactions. That’s something I clocked. People were
really invested in it. I was invested of course. There was a big emotional investment to what was
happening. Laughter and gasps and tears so this is such a wonderful offering. You’re just hitting it out of
the park for a Stella Record.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Thank you. Timing, right? Timing is everything in this business. If I don’t know if that’s luck or being
prepared or whatever, but the timing just worked out.
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah, very much so. How do we nurture this next generation of editors and specifically black editors?
What do you think needs to happen? So that there’s more people. And there’s more black women doing
it, more black men doing it, do you know what I mean?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I think mentorship is huge. I think folks who are outside of the black community, it’s a hard business to
get into, but there’s lots of programs that are popping up that are really good and I think creating that
portal or pipeline is really important. I think reaching outside the film schools, I think a lot of the film
schools are good and listen, I will always recommend a film school. For me I did well with it. But there’s
programs like Pathways To the Industry that OEM media group is running.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Programs that are around the city, Centre for Young Black Professionals runs a film program as well.
Right? Getting post-production programs in those types of environments. I don’t know, I just think being
here and having a commitment to bringing somebody in, that’s something that I’m committed to. And I
think as people who work in the industry yourself, when you see that young talent or if you see
something in somebody who may not have even tried post, maybe it’s something that you recommend. I
think it’s just even like, “Hey, you should try this. Do you know that this career exists too?” Right?
Because I think a lot of the times folks might run to the producing of the directing because that’s what
people know, but there’s not knowing that editing is such a big part of a business as well.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
I feel like the younger generation, I just see them, right? They’re so amazing first of all, I would like to big
of gen Z because-
Sedina Fiati:
Me too. Big up Gen Z, big time.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
They are so dope, right? They’re so smart. They’re so on-point. There’s such a efficiency, a go get it-ness
that I really admire. The fact that they do so much, Right? I think that’s dope. So I was big up that
generation for their ability to just get it done. I think it’s been really encouraging to the next generation
and letting them know what the challenges are, being authentic about what those challenges are really
allows for things to be made and [inaudible 00:45:22] had like, “Oh, I can do this too.”
Sedina Fiati:
Yeah, for sure. What is on tap for you? What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Listen, there’s so much happening. Can’t really speak about some of them, but there’s a series that’s
coming out in October called Enslaved: Stories From The Ocean Floor. That was produced with CBC and
Channel 4 in the UK and Epics in the States. And that’s a pretty big series. I worked on it for about two
months. It’s a huge series. It’s with Samuel Jackson and a Afua Hirsch and Simca, oh my God, whose
name I’m just going to butcher so I’m not going to try right now. It’s a pretty amazing series that’s coming
out in October. So I’m looking forward to that, seeing that on air. Got to touch it a little bit.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Yeah. There’s a few things that are just kind of in development, floating around. I’m hoping to be working
on my first feature drama in January of next year. That’s it for now really.
Sedina Fiati:
That’s great. That’s amazing. Good luck on October 2nd is when the virtual CCE awards are going to be so
fingers crossed, say your prayers. It would be amazing if you won and I’ll just steal a question from
amazing podcast that I’ve listened to called Here To Slay with Roxanne Gay and Tracie McMillan Cottom,
they’re two amazing women and they just sit down and talk about all kinds of thoughts. How can we
support you?
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Can you all become editors so that I can give some of this workload? What about that? You know what?
Honestly, for me, it’s really a personal thing. Those one line texts like, “Hey, you good?” That means so
much to me. During COVID when folks were doing that, coworkers, friends who just dropped that line
and be like, “Hey, you good? What’s up?” Because editing is such an isolating field.
Sedina Fiati:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
A lot of editors are introverts, but some of us aren’t and we appreciate the face to face and the
interaction with folks. I think just staying connected, you can reach it out and that’s important to me and
just remind me that it’s okay to promote myself. I even feel bad, I think I promoted this three hours
before it started, you know what I mean? It was just so busy. So the support is tell me to take time for
myself, tell me to rest, it’s okay to rest. I don’t always have to be so busy. But I think from a more just
professional standpoint or just drop me a line, send me a DM. A thing I always tell folks, let me know if
there’s anything you want me to take a look at and I’m always happy to do that with folks.
Sedina Fiati:
That’s wonderful. Okay. A couple things actually. Where are you at in terms of programs that you’re
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
So I still love Avid, Avid is my best friend. I love Avid. I love it, that’s how excited I am. Because every time
I go on something else, when I go and premier I’m like ughhh.. That’s how I feel. I literally feel, okay, I can
use this, but I don’t love it, right? FCP 10, nobody uses, I still use that sometimes.
Sedina Fiati:
The way you said it. You’re [crosstalk 00:48:23].
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Quick projects. There’s some things that I do like about it, but generally nobody uses it. They mess that
program up when they went to the 10, when they went to the X. Premier is the one that everyone loves.
I use it now. Actually Chris and I had to migrate our project from Final Cut to Premiere and that’s when I
was forced to become familiar with it and since then I’ve make myself do projects in premiere just to
continue to learn. And so, yeah, I’m pretty good at it now, but I could be better. But Avid is for me. Yeah.
That’s the one that I always use it.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
There’s this whole thing of the younger generation not sure about, or being told that Avid’s no longer
industry standard, it’s a lie. Avid is still industry standard for sure. So you can get your on a version do it
it’s worth.
Sedina Fiati:
It’s lasted, It sounds like. Because Avid’s the one you said you started at, you know what I mean? And
that FCP, I bet you’re like, you know what? It’s spinach is to kales, spinach is still good.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Sedina Fiati:
Kale shouldn’t get all of the attention. It’s good too, but spinach is the OG super food and Avid is the OG
editing suite. It still is solid. Even if it isn’t as fancy or as well-marketed as Adobe.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:
Exactly good analogy. For sure. Thank you so much Sonia, you are such an amazing woman and juggling
Parenthood and juggling this really extensive editing career and directing and activism. I know you do
activism as well, so I’m in awe of you. So thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us today.
Sedina Fiati:
Thanks everyone.
Sonia Godding-Togobo:

Sarah Taylor:
Thank you so much for joining us today. And a big, thanks goes to Sonia and Sedina for taking the time to
sit with us. A special thanks goes to Jane McCray. This episode was edited by Charlotte Pang. 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 or you
can donate directly at 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.


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 Join our great community
of Canadian editors for more related info

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Edited by

Charlotte Pang

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by

Jaxx: A Creative House & Annex Pro/Avid

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


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.

Listen Here

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


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:


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


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:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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:


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 or you

can donate directly at . 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.


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 Join our great community

of Canadian editors for more related info.

Subscribe Wherever You Get Your Podcasts

What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut?

Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from:


A special thanks goes to

Jane MacRae

Nagham Osman

Jenni McCormick

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

Andrea Rusch

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Sponsor Narration by

Paul Winestock

Sponsored by

Annex Pro/AVID


stay connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to
receive updates, news and offers

Skip to content