Category Archives: Editing

Behind the Title: Sim LA’s VP of Post LA Greg Ciaccio

Name: Greg Ciaccio

Company: Sim

Can you describe your company?
We’re a full-service company providing studio space, lighting and grip, cameras, dailies and finishing in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Vancouver and Atlanta with outposts in New Mexico and Texas.

What’s your job title?
VP, Post Los Angeles

What does that entail?
Essentially, I’m the GM of our dailies and rentals and finishing businesses — the 2nd and 3rd floor of our building — formerly Kodak Cinesite. The first floor houses our camera rental business.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I coproduce our SimLab industry events with Bill Russell in our camera department.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Having camera, dailies, editorial and finishing under one roof — the workflows that tie them all together provide meaningful solutions for our clients.

What’s your least favorite?
Like most facility heads, business constraints. There’s not much of it, which is great, but running any successful company relies on managing the magic.

What is your favorite time of the day?
The early mornings when I can power through management work so I can spend time with staff and clients.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Probably a post sound mixer. I teach post production management one night a week at CSUN, so that provides a fresh perspective on my role in the industry.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I really started back in the 4th grade in lighting. I then ran and designed lighting in high school and college, moving into radio-TV-film halfway through. I then moved into production sound. The move from production to post came out of a desire for (fairly) regular hours and consistent employment.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
TV series: Game of Thrones, The Gifted, Krypton, The Son, Madam Secretary, Jane the Virgin. On the feature dailies and DI side: Amy Poehler’s Wine Country.

We’re also posting Netflix’ Best Worst Weekend Ever in ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) in UHD/Dolby Vision HDR.

Game of Thrones

What is the project that you are most proud of?
Game of Thrones. The quality bar which HBO has set is evident in the look of the show. It’s so well-produced — the production design, cinematography, editing and visual effects are stunning.

Name three pieces of technology that you can’t live without.
My iPhone X, my Sony Z9D HDR TV and my Apple Watch.

What social media channels do you follow?
Instagram for DP/other creative photography interests; LinkedIn for general socially/influencer-driven news; Facebook for peripheral news/personal insights; and channels, which include ETCentric — USC ETC; ACES Central for ACES-related community info; and Digital Cinema Society for industry events

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
I listen to Pandora. The Thievery Corporation station.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Getting out for lunch and walking when possible. I visit our staff and clients throughout the day. Morning yoga. And the music helps!

An editor recaps Sight, Sound & Story 2018

By Amy Leland

Manhattan Edit Workshop’s Sight, Sound & Story (SS&S) was established in June of 2013, first offering post-related events, and then those based around cinematography as well.

As a working editor always looking to learn, I attend numerous industry events throughout the year, but this one has become one of the “can’t miss” items on my list. They bring in top-notch panelists sharing their work and their insights. This year’s post event was once again a chance to hear from professionals at the top of their craft across documentary, scripted television and feature film.

Documentary Panel
First up was the panel of documentary editors, including Bryan Chang (Brasslands, Narco Cultura, A Year in Space), Ann Collins (Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, Swim Team), Matthew Hamachek (Cartel Land, The Trade, Amanda Knox, Meet the Patels) and moderator Garret Savage (My Perestroika, Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship).

Ann Collins

The panel started at a logical place — at the beginning. Savage asked each of them how they like to begin the cutting process. Both Chang and Collins described processes that involve screening the footage and pulling selects, a fairly traditional approach. While Hamachek said he used to work that way, when faced with hundreds of hours of footage, his process evolved. Now he just starts cutting. Part of his motivation is the pressures of schedule, which made sense given that his most recent project was The Fourth Estate, a documentary series rather than a feature. To cut the first 90-minute episode of the series, he had 14 weeks. He described the advantages of getting to a rough cut as fast as he can. “Editing is a process of failure. The sooner I can get to my first mistakes, the better,” he said.

The difference in his process can also be explained by working with a story producer. A good story producer provides a path through the footage. Feature editors often work as their own story producers. Both Chang and Collins talked about the need to see the footage and find those special clips and sound bites. This way when the time came in the edit where they had to fill the blank, they would know where to find them. Though they used different methods — Chang will lay out selects in a sequence, while Collins creates subclips with metadata — both create a library of moments to draw on later.

Interestingly, when asked if he might change his process if he were editing an indie feature documentary, Hamachek said no. Though his process developed in part because of working on a series, it was a process he had grown to really enjoy. And Collins pointed out that regardless of what process an editor uses, they must always be willing to go back to the footage and make changes as the story reveals itself.

The audience was shown a clip from Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, and Collins explained, “Beginnings are the hardest part of the film, and the part that changes the most often. As the film evolves, that beginning changes a lot.” She said that with the beginning, you have to establish what the world of this film is — the pace, the tone, the style, the rules, etc. All of that has to be taken care of silently and invisibly while you convince the viewer to come with you. What you may find is that as the rest of the film develops you’ll understand later what that beginning should be.

Bryan Chang

Chang addressed a different kind of documentary editing challenge in presenting a clip from Narco Cultura, about the music that glorifies the narco lifestyle, and specifically one of the musicians who traveled to Mexico to meet the narcos. Shaun Schwarz, with whom he had collaborated many times, primarily on shorts for Time, directed the film.

One challenge documentarians often face is the question of permission from the subjects in front of the camera. On their trip to Mexico, one of the narcos that was there kept saying he didn’t want to be in the movie and to not shoot him, but he also kept bragging and showing off in front of the cameras. So, ultimately, they did leave him in and didn’t blur his face. They felt he had put himself in the film. Though editors face a lot of challenges that are technical, sometimes the challenges are more abstract and the solutions are less black and white.

Scripted Television Panel
Next up was a panel of scripted television editors: Naomi Geraghty (Billions, Bloodline, Treme) and Lynne Willingham, ACE (Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, The X-Files), moderated by Michael Berenbaum, ACE (Sex & the City, The Americans, Divorce).

One of the most popular topics for the TV panel every year is the question of how to break into a scripted television edit room. This year’s panelists addressed this in two important ways. First, in talking about how each of them got their start, they made it clear that there is no one way in. Willingham did not go to film school. She was able to find her way into a studio because her brother was an assistant at Warner. She started as an apprentice, working her way up. She said, “I got my free education just working anytime I could.”

Geraghty, on the other hand, did attend film school in Ireland, which is where she discovered that she was drawn to the process of editing. There wasn’t much work in Ireland, so she got a work visa and came to New York. She eventually got her foot in the door working at Jonathan Demme’s company on a documentary. This led to an opportunity assisting on a feature back in Ireland.

L-R: Naomi Geraghty and Lynne Willingham.

Equally important, both described helping their own assistants get opportunities to cut on the shows where they worked. Willingham’s longtime assistant on Breaking Bad was Kelley Dixon. They had been working together a long time, and Willingham encouraged her to cut whenever possible. Because of union rules, she couldn’t get her a solo credit on an episode, but was able to get her shared credit. By having her in that position, Dixon was eventually able to move up and became the lead editor on the show herself.

One caution that Willingham offered was that the workload for assistants has grown so much that it is difficult to find the time to be in the room when the cutting is happening. It isn’t the same process it used to be when assistants were in the room with their editors for much of the process. So the challenge is to balance the workload with seeing the action and being seen. But the flip side to that, Geraghty pointed out, is that there is so much work in television these days that the path to moving forward can actually be more readily available in television than in film.

A frequently popular topic when discussing television these days is the rising quality of shows, and the “cinematic” quality of the work being done. Both talked about the joys of working on shows that are more character driven and developed over a long period of time. One interesting aspect of this, said Willingham, it that with the current popularity of doing more compact seasons — 10 episodes, instead of 22 or 23 — and shooting them all at once, the work attracts higher-end talent. Actors and directors can commit to the projects, shoot all of the episodes in one concentrated period, and then move on to other projects. All of which is opening the doors to better — and more — work for everyone involved in the process.

Scripted Television Panel

Willingham shared the opening scene from the pilot of Breaking Bad. When asked if she knew, while she was working on it, how good and how popular it would be. She said, yes and no. Everyone working on it knew what they were doing was going to be brilliant simply because it was created by Vince Gilligan. She said that as much as she wanted to take credit for how great that opening scene was, everything she cut came from the script. Gilligan had such a clear plan. But even with all of that, none of them knew just how big a phenomenon it would become.

The one unplanned moment in that opening scene was the footage of Walter talking into the camera. Though that footage was shot that day in the desert, Gilligan never intended for that footage to be used until the very end of the series. But because he let Willingham work so independently, she didn’t know that. She saw the footage, saw a way to use it, and just did it. And it worked. She encouraged everyone — if you are inspired to try something while you are cutting, then try it. It could be exactly what is needed.

Geraghty showed the final scene from Season 1 of Billions. What was fascinating was that, though the scene consisted almost entirely of two men standing and talking to each other, it was filled with tension and drama. She described that sometimes, as an editor, it is your job to not get in the way of the work. The language was so rich, and the performances were so fantastic, that her job was simply to respect the performances and protect the integrity of the work being done. She could certainly help drive the scene by finding the best takes, and the moments when particular angles were the best choice, but she felt the most important thing was to let the performances shine.

Inside the Cutting Room
An ever-popular aspect of Sight Sound & Story is Inside the Cutting Room, an interview with a prominent member of the editing community, moderated by writer and film historian Bobbie O’Steen (“Cut to the Chase,” “The Invisible Cut”). Her subject this time was Kevin Tent, ACE (Sideways, Election, The Descendants, Nebraska, Blow), longtime editor for director Alexander Payne.

Kevin Tent and Bobbie O’Steen.

As with the other panels, they spoke about beginnings, and Tent’s was especially interesting. After working in educational films, he got the opportunity to work with Roger Corman. While working for the king of B-movies might seem like an inauspicious way to become an Oscar-nominated editor, it became clear what a perfect foundation this actually was. Working in a production house churning out movies at a fast pace, Tent was able to collect experience at an accelerated rate. Corman’s way of working also provided additional learning opportunities. Tent described Corman as ruthless — he would think nothing of cutting out an entire scene if it wasn’t working for him. So the challenge for all of the editors was to make every scene so interesting that Corman would leave it in the movie. They also did a lot of work that involved pulling films from the vault that hadn’t been widely seen and cutting clips from them into new movies. He wondered why the big studios don’t do this, since their vaults are also filled with movies that were rarely seen. It’s an interesting thought.

One other unexpected benefit — when his reel came across Alexander Payne’s desk, Tent’s work with Corman was one of the things Payne liked. Payne was looking for an editor for his first feature, Citizen Ruth. The studio wanted him to hire a bigger editor with more credits, but Payne wanted a partner, not a more seasoned figure telling him what to do and how to do it. And with that, a longtime creative partnership was born.

As expected from such a great partnership, there were many fascinating stories about both collaboration and conflict. One of the great moments came in cutting Election. In a pivotal scene with Matthew Broderick, Payne wanted to cut it like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, with long shots and back and forth looks. Tent didn’t. He felt it would be too drawn out and long. So he offered to pay Payne $75 to let him cut it the way he wanted, and the test audiences loved it. So it worked.

One interesting aspect of Tent’s work is his willingness to manipulate the footage for effect. Especially these days, feature editors tend to work in a more straightforward, vérité way. Tent showed two great examples of times when manipulation created iconic scenes. In their first cut of James Mangold’s Girl Interrupted, the biggest problem was that the film was way too long. One solution was to collapse some of the scenes. The example he played was a scene showing day-in-the-life moments in the institution where the girls were. They were put in montage over one another, cross-dissolved into one another, and cut in a very stylistic way over music. Ultimately it was their plan to change it for the final film, but the preview audience print cost $12K. When they told the producer they wanted to change it, the producer said no, they couldn’t print the film again. So this incredibly beautiful scene came from a moment they thought of as a temporary fix, and cut on a whim on a Saturday.

Nebraska

He also employed a fair amount of image manipulation for Nebraska. For example, he occasionally added pauses to Bruce Dern’s performance, which worked because he didn’t move around a lot. And he admitted that, yes, he was guilty of using a lot of fluid morph in order to accomplish this. Every time he did it, Payne would say, “When you do that, you’re saying I’m a bad director.” He also showed an example, near the end of the film, when he would use strategic speed changes to draw out moments in an emotional way. He likes to experiment with those tools and techniques. He said it comes from being greedy and wanting all of the best stuff, which he sometimes does by piecing things together.

Tent won the Eddie and was nominated for the Oscar for The Descendants. They hadn’t cut a feature together in seven years because Payne had been working on writing Downsizing and trying to get it off the ground. Tent said when they first got together, there was a little nervousness in the cutting room, but once they started working they fell into their good rhythm again.

A lot of their work together had been about walking the line between comedy and drama. With The Descendants, in particular, Payne was concerned about being too melodramatic. So he wrote and shot a lot of comedy elements. But when they were in the edit, those moments kept getting in the way and felt disrespectful to what the characters were going through. Eventually they stopped trying to be funny, and found that sometimes there were funny moments anyway, simply because of the humanity of the situation.

O’Steen quoted Payne saying about Tent, “Our process is essentially cowriting the final draft together. Kevin is my audience, and I hunger to please him.” As we were treated to an overview of their work together, it was obvious that they wrote wonderful final drafts together and, ultimately, pleased their audiences a great deal.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

DG 7.9.18

Editor Paul Zucker on cutting Hotel Artemis

By Zack Wolder

The Drew Pearce-directed Hotel Artemis is a dark action-thriller set in a riot-torn Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future. What is the Hotel Artemis? It’s a secret members-only hospital for criminals run by Jodie Foster with the help of David Bautista. The film boasts an impressive cast that also includes Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Jennie Slate.

Hotel Artemis editor Paul Zucker, ACE, has varied credits that toggle between TV and film, including Trainwreck, This is 40, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Girls, Silicon Valley and many others.

We recently reached out to Zucker to talk about his process on the film.

Paul Zucker and adorable baby.

How did you get involved in this film?
This was kind of a blind date set-up. I wasn’t really familiar with Drew, and it was a project that came to me pretty late. I think I joined about a week, maybe two, before production began. I was told that they were in a hurry to find an editor. I read the script, I interviewed with Drew, and that was it.

How long did it take to complete the editing?
About seven months.

How involved were you throughout the whole phase of production? Were you on set at all?
I wasn’t involved in pre-production, so I wasn’t able to participate in development of the script or anything like that, but as soon as the camera started rolling I was cutting. Most of the film was shot on stages in downtown LA, so I would go to set a few times, but most of the time there was enough work to do that I was sequestered in the edit room and trying to keep up with camera.

I’m an editor who doesn’t love to go to set. I prefer to be uninfluenced by whatever tensions, or lack of tensions, are happening on set. If a director has something he needs me for, if it’s some contribution he feels I can make, I’m happy, able and willing to participate in shot listing, blocking and things like that, but on this movie I was more valuable putting together the edit.

Did you have any specific deadlines you had to meet?
On this particular movie there was a higher-than-average number of requests from director Drew Pearce. Since it was mostly shot on stages, he was able to re-shoot things a little easier than you would if we were on location. So it became important for him to see the movie sooner rather than later.

A bunch of movies ago, I adopted a workflow of sending the director whatever I had each Friday. I think it’s healthy for them to see what they’re working on. There’s always the chance that it will influence the work they’re doing, whether it’s performance of the actors or the story or the script or really anything.

As I understand it from the directors I’ve worked for, seeing the editor’s cut can be the worst day of the process for them. Not because of the quality of the editing, but because it’s hard in that first viewing to look past all the things that they didn’t get on set. Its tough to not just see the mistakes. Which is totally understandable. So I started this strategy of easing them into it. I just send scenes; I don’t send them in sequence. By the time they get to the editors cut, they’ve seen most of the scenes, so the shock is lessened and hopefully that screening is more productive

Do you ever get that sense that you may be distracting them or overwhelming them with something?
Yes, sometimes. A couple of pictures ago, I did my normal thing — sending what I had on a Friday — and the director told me he didn’t want to watch them. For him, issues of post were a distraction while he was in production. So to each his own.

Drew Pearce certainly benefitted. Drew was the type of director who, if I sent it at 9pm, he would be watching it at 9:05pm, and he would be giving me notes at 10:05pm.

Are you doing temp color and things like that?
Absolutely. I do as much as the footage I’m given requires. On this particular movie, the cinematographer, the DIT and the lab were so dialed in that these were the most perfect-looking dailies I think I’ve ever gotten. So I had to do next to nothing. I credit DP Chung-Hoon Chung for that. Generally, if I’m getting dailies that are mismatched in color tone, I’m going to do whatever it takes to smooth it out. Nothing goes in front of the director until it’s had a hardcore sound and color pass. I am always trying to leave as little to the imagination as possible. I try to present something that is as close to the experience that the audience will have when they watch the movie. That means great color, great sound, music, all of that.

Do you ever provide VFX work?
Editorial is typically always doing simple VFX work like split-screens, muzzle-flashes for guns, etc. Those are all things that we’re really comfortable doing.

On this movie, theres a large VFX component, so the temp work was more intense. We had close to 500 VFX shots, and there’s some very involved ones. For example, a helicopter crashes into a building after getting blasted out of the sky with a rocket launcher. There are multiple scenes where characters get operated on by robotic arms. There’s a 3D printer that prints organs and guns. So we had to come up with a large number of temp shots in editorial.

The assistant editors, Gardner Gould, Michael Costello and Lillian Dawson Bain, were instrumental in coming up with these shots.

What about editing before the VFX shots are delivered?
From the very beginning, we are game-planning — what are the priorities for the movie vis-a-vis VFX? Which shots do we need early for story reasons? Which shots are the most time consuming for the VFX department? All of these things are considered as the entire post production department collaborates to come up with a priorities list.

If I need temp versions of shots to help me edit the scene, the assistants help me make them. If we can do them, we’ll do them. These aid in determining final VFX shot length, tempo, action, anything. As the process goes on, they get replaced by shots we get from the VFX department.

One thing I’m always keeping in mind is that shots can be created out of thin air oftentimes. If I have a story problem, sometimes a shot can be created that will help solve it. Sometimes the entire meaning of a scene can change.

What do you expect from your assistant editors?
The first assistant had to have experience with visual effects. The management of workflow for 500 shots is a lot, and on this job, we did not have a dedicated VFX editor. That fell upon editor Gardner Gould.

I generally kick a lot of sound to the assistant, as I’m kind of rapidly moving through cutting picture. But I’m also looking for someone who’s got that storytelling bone that great editors have. Not everybody has it, not every great assistant has it.

There is so much minutiae on the technical side of being an assistant editor that you run the risk of forgetting that you’re working on a movie for an audience. And, indeed, some assistants just do the assistant work. They never cut scenes, they never do creative work, they’re not interested or they just don’t. So I’m always encouraging them to think like an editor at every point.

I ask them for their opinions. I invite them into the process, I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me what they think. You have to express yourself artistically in every decision you make. I encourage them to think critically and analytically about the movie that we’re working on.

I came up as an assistant and I had a few people who really believed in me. They invited me into the room with the director and they gave me that early exposure that really helped me learn my trade. I’m kind of looking to pay back that favor to my assistants.

Why did you choose to edit this film on Avid? Are you proficient in any other NLEs?
Oh, I’d say strictly Avid. To me, a tool, a technology, should be as transparent as possible. I want to have the minimum of time in between thought and expression. Which means that if I think of an edit, I want to automatically, almost without thinking, be able to do a keystroke and have that decision appear on the monitor. I’m so comfortable with Avid that I’m at that point.

How is your creative process different when editing a film versus a TV show?
Well first, a TV show is going to have a pre-determined length. A movie does not have a pre-determined length. So in television you’re always wrangling with the runtime. The second thing that’s different is in television schedules are a little tighter and turnaround times are a little tighter. You’re constantly in pre-production, production and post at the same time.

Also, television is for a small screen. Film, generally speaking, is for the big screen. The venue matters for a lot of reasons, but it matters for pacing. You’re sitting in a movie theater and maybe you can hold shots a little bit longer because the canvas is so wide and there’s so much to look at. Whereas with the small screen, you’re sitting closer to the television, the screen itself is smaller, maybe the shots are typically not as wide or you cut a little quicker.

You’re a very experienced comedic editor. Was it difficult to be considered for a different type of film?
I guess the answer is yes. The more famous work I’ve done in the last couple of years has been for people like Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. So people say, “Well, he’s a comedy editor.” But if you look at my resume dating back to the very first thing I did in 2001, I edited my first movie — a pretty radical film for Gus Van Sant called Gerry, and it was not a comedy. Eternal Sunshine was not a comedy. Before Girls, I couldn’t get hired on comedies.

Then I got pulled on by Judd to work on some of his movies, and he’s such a brand name that people see that on your resume and they say, “Well, you must be a comedy editor.” So, yes, it does become harder to break out of that box, but that’s the box that other people put you in, I don’t put myself in that. My favorite filmmakers work across all types of genre.

Where do you find inspiration? Music? Other editors? Directors?
Good question. I mean… inspiration is everywhere. I’m a movie fan, I always have been, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m always going to the movies. I watch lots of trailers. I like to keep up with what people are doing. I go back and re-watch the things that I love. Listening to other editors or reading other editors speak about their process is inspiring to me. Listening and speaking with people who love what they do is inspiring.

For Hotel Artemis, I went back and watched some movies that were an influence on this one to get in the tone-zone. I would listen to a lot of the soundtracks that were soundtracks to those movies. As far as watching movies, I watched Assault on Precinct 13, for instance. That’s a siege movie, and Hotel Artemis is kind of a siege movie. Some editors say they don’t watch movies while they’re making a movie, they don’t want to be influenced. It doesn’t bother me. It’s all in the soup.


Zack Wolder is a video editor based in NYC. He is currently the senior video editor at Billboard Magazine.  Follow him on Instagram at @thezackwolder.


Behind the Title: Deluxe Senior Finishing Editor Samantha Uber

NAME: Samantha Uber (@samanthauber)

COMPANY: Deluxe NY

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Deluxe NY is the New York City branch of the classic film lab founded in 1915. Today, we are a huge multimedia international empire for all types of content creation and delivery. My favorite part of working for this company is that we manage to serve our clients in a personalized, boutique environment but with the support of a worldwide network of both technology and ideas.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Senior Finishing Editor

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DO?
I am a Flame finishing editor/VFX artist, and I come from an Avid online and offline editorial background. I also use Blackmagic Resolve, Adobe Premiere and Apple FCP for their various abilities for different projects. While I always fully finish (conform/online) episodic and film projects in Flame, I also always use a unique mix of those applications listed above for each project to get me to that point in the highest quality and most efficient way possible. I am very interested in the building of the computer I am working on, the specialized scripts to make data organized, the debayer/color science process and, of course, the actual editing and delivery of the project.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
In my job as a finishing editor, I am surprisingly super-involved in dailies, mainly because I know what will make the job easier on the finishing editor if certain metadata is retained and organized in dailies. Seeing how the metadata coming from the dailies process is actually implemented in finishing allows me to have a unique perspective, and I teach dailies techs about this to give them a better understanding of how their work is being used.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Everyone who knows me, knows my favorite thing is a reconform. I love them. They are challenging, like giant Tetris puzzles — my favorite game growing up was Tetris. I love getting in the zone for hours and hours, moving the pieces of the timeline around, relying on the metadata the Flame gives me to do it more efficiently, and sometimes, not even looking at the actual picture until the end.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
For me, my least favorite thing is working on something that doesn’t challenge me. I like to constantly be thinking about ways to process new camera formats and new workflows, and understanding/being involved in the entire online process from start to finish. I love the “hard” jobs… the tough ones to figure out, even if that means I lose quite a bit of sleep (she laughs). There is always a limit to that, of course, but if I’m not involved in research and development on a project, I’m not happy. For this reason, I love working in episodic television the most because I can R&D a workflow and then use it and perfect it over time, all while building a close relationship with my clients and feeling ownership of my show.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
I’d say mid-afternoon and around 9pm at night. After the morning fires are put out and everything gets going, the middle of the afternoon gets a lot of work done. Also, around 9pm I enjoy working because the formal working day has pretty much ended and I can just zero in on a project and work quietly, without distractions.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I really love restoring antiques, whether it’s furniture or the 100-year-old Victorian home I live in. I am always working with my hands — either at work or at home — building, painting, grooming dogs, veggie-gardening, cooking, sculpting, etc. I appreciate the craftsmanship that went into antique pieces. I feel that type of work is lost in today’s disposable world.

What I do for films as a finishing editor is quite like the restoration work I do at home — taking something and realizing it to its full potential and giving it a new life. For these reasons I think I could possibly be an architect/designer, specializing in the mostly period-accurate restoration of antique homes. I still may end up doing this many years from now.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I knew very early on that I wanted to be a film editor of some sort. I was 16 yrs old when the film Moulin Rouge came out, and my best friend Michelle and I saw it in the theater. We both knew we wanted to do something technical and creative from that point. She became a computer engineer, and I became a senior finishing editor. I loved the editing and pacing of that film, how it was so much like the music videos I grew up watching, and I wanted to be able to tell a story with VFX and editing. I actually practiced on the Moulin Rouge DVD extras re-editing the scenes on the ISOs of the cameras they provided.

I was 16 when I applied to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. It was my only choice for college. I initially went for a summer between my junior and senior year of high school and continued after high school for three more years until I graduated. I was working as a freelance editor for students, working at MTV as a junior editor, and teaching Avid editing at NYU during that time — always working!

Moulin Rouge is still my favorite film, and my dream is to work with director Baz Lurhmann one day.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I have worked as senior finishing editor on Paterno, High Maintenance, Girls, Vinyl and Boardwalk Empire for HBO, The Knick for Cinemax, Blue Bloods for CBS, The Americans for FX, Jesus Christ Superstar for NBC and Mr. Robot for USA. I worked on the film All These Small Moments for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the films Beasts of No Nation and Moonrise Kingdom in recent years.

YOU HAVE WORKED ON ALL SORTS OF PROJECTS. DO YOU PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT WHEN CUTTING FOR A SPECIFIC GENRE?
I certainly put on a different workflow hat for the different parts of my job. It actually feels like different jobs sometimes —  painting a visual effect, building a computer, making a finishing workflow, conforming a show, debayering footage, designing a dailies workflow, etc. I think that keeps it interesting; doing something different every day.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
The project I am most proud of is The Knick. I was involved in the process of creating the workflow of the show with Steven Soderbergh’s team for one year before it actually began. I believe it was the first show to use the Red Dragon camera at 5K, finishing at UHD. I worked intensely with the Red team to develop the software, color workflow and computer for debayering the footage.

I also worked closely with colorist Martin Zeichner and Steven’s team to retain the exact onset look of color immediately and efficiently, while also giving them the full latitude of the Red format in the DI. The result was beautiful, and I really enjoyed the show. I felt like the plot of the show — innovation in the surgical field — was being mirrored in the innovation in the actual finishing of the show, which was super awesome!

CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THE TOOLS YOU USE?
For all final finishing, I use Autodesk Flame. I am proficient in nearly all platforms, but to me, nothing is better than the unique timeline in Flame, where layers see each other and tracks do not. This allows you to have many versions of a cut in one timeline, and is ideal for finishing. Also, the VFX capability of the Flame is unparalleled in an editing system, and it allows me to start working on anything in moments at the client’s request. However, Avid will always be my favorite for metadata and database management, and I usually start every project with a peek at the metadata in the Avid, and frequently a full reorganization.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLUGIN?
My favorite and most frequently used plugin is Re:Vision’s Twixtor, for the tons and tons of timewarps I do. This plugin helps me paint less frames than most. Close runners-up are Autodesk’s Autostabilize, which is actually highly customizable, and Furnace’s F-WireRemoval for all sorts of purposes.

ARE YOU OFTEN ASKED TO DO MORE THAN EDIT? 
Being a finishing editor means you are the last person to touch the project before it airs, so you are the last stop in everything. For that reason, I am often asked to anything and everything in session — re-mix sound, creatively re-edit, give advice on VFX shots and deliverables, do VFX shots, make masters, QC masters. You name it and I do it in session. I think that’s what the job really entails; being able to give the client what they are looking for at the last possible moment, especially now that they are seeing the final product in high-resolution and color corrected.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
I could not live without my iPhone, as it connects me to the outside world as well as my job. It’s like my whole life is on my phone. I could also not live without my Wacom tablet. Finishing an edit is a whole lot easier on a tablet. Also, my super-fast cylinder Mac, outfitted so that every application and high-resolution footage can be processed extremely quickly. I still do wish my Mac was square, however, (she laughs), for more equipment compatibility, but I cannot complain about its high-speed processing ability. Engineering has kindly given me a Mac that I can play on and try new software, often before it is rolled into production throughout the facility. Th is keeps me in the know on new developments in our industry. This computer is totally separate from my super powerful Linux Flame system.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Yes, this is a high-stress job! I feel very responsible for all of the people who have put their hard work into a project to make sure it is shown in its best light and everything is as perfect as possible on often-tight deadlines. After a project leaves my hands it goes to QC, and my final work is what they see and what airs.

Because everything I do is on computers, I try to spend as little time on a computer outside of work as possible. As I mentioned before, I live in a 100-year-old house that I am restoring myself. What is nice is that I feel like I’m using the same part of my brain as I do at my job, however it is usually outdoors and involving physical labor. That is a great de-stressor from working on a computer in a windowless and darkened room all week.

I live far outside the city by the beach, and when I’m home, I’m really home and work seems a world away. I have two beautiful Afghan Hound sister dogs, Ginny and Trill, and a 1974 VW bus named Buddy. I honestly don’t like to rest. I always like to be working on my projects and pushing forward in my life, and I am just your typical Jersey girl at heart.


Nomad adds editor Jojo King to its New York roster

Editorial house Nomad has expanded its New York roster with the addition of editor Jojo King. King brings a diverse resume and has cut music videos for Janelle Monae’s new single Pynk and Moses Sumney’s Worth It, as well as films and spots for Vogue, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas Originals, Marc Jacobs and Victoria’s Secret.

He recently edited a music video for indie star Lykke Li (directed by Iconoclast’s Anton Tammi) and wrapped jobs with Droga5 and Johannes Leonardo. Adobe Premiere is his editing tool of choice.

“Jojo coming on was perfect timing,” explains Nomad executive producer/partner Jennifer Lederman. “When we expanded Nomad New York, we were determined to make it a place that focuses on the creativity of our team. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary in our new space, and we’ve grown our VFX and support staff a lot in the past year, so it was the ideal time to add on a new editor. We got so lucky that Jojo found us, as he brings a new style to our offerings. He combines this intense artistry with the narrative arc, which leads to his cuts being fun and surprising. He brings that artistic sensibility into our office every day, and his reel is something I love to show.”

Nomad also has offices in Santa Monica and London.


How being a special needs dad helps me be a better editor at Conan

By Robert James Ashe

I have been working in late night television for Conan O’Brien for nearly 10 years, currently as the lead editor for Conan on the TBS network. Late night television has an extraordinarily demanding pace. An old colleague of mine used to refer to it as the “speed chess” of editing. It demands that your first instincts when editing are the best ones. The pace also puts extraordinary pressure on your writers and producers. I like to think of editors as the pilots hired to bring the plane in for a landing that may have already lost an engine, so it’s important that you maintain balance and focus.

I am the father to three amazing kiddos with special needs. My first daughter was born with the amyoplasia form of arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. She is also nonverbal. My youngest daughter was born with amniotic banding syndrome. For her, it means she only has a few fully developed fingers and a prosthesis on one of her legs. We’ve addressed her physical challenges through surgery and she has lots of fun sprinting around with her “robot leg,” which is what we call her prosthesis. We are in the middle of adopting our son and hope to bring him home in the fall. He has similar orthopedic challenges to our second daughter.

I take my jobs as editor and as a father very seriously, but it is also important to note that I am happy. Here are some things that I have learned over the years. I have made mistakes in every one of these rules, but I try every day to be better.

1. You will reach a new normal
I like to think of an editor’s job as a client’s spirit guide of sorts. A guardian of the story you are helping to tell. Once you get all of the footage, and you have a good idea of what you are dealing with, your job is to advocate for the story your client is trying to tell while handling various tech issues so you can remain creative. It took me a long time to make this adjustment. Now I try every day to make it my new normal.

Once we got through the first few weeks of my first daughter’s life and received a diagnosis, we decided to not live our lives with a cloud over our heads and to instead look for the sunshine. We refused to consider our lives to be a tragedy. My job is to advocate for my children while making sure they can remain kids throughout the doctor’s appointments and surgeries. I want them to feel happy about their lives.

2. Know Your Role
It’s important to know that the story you are being hired to tell for your client is not yours. I am very trusted at my job to work on pieces with little supervision. I have earned this trust because the writers (my client) know that I will put together segments based on their sensibilities. I am there to help tell their story and to solve any tech problems that may arise in doing so. I am not reinterpreting the story to fit my own sensibilities (plus, I’m not very funny so it works out).

I am a player in my children’s life story. I deal with insurance. My wife takes them to appointments on workdays. But, we are not the ones receiving the therapy or medical services, so our story is different than our children’s. You must know how to separate the two. I am there to guide them. I am there to protect them but it is their story.

Rob (center) with his co-editors Chris Heller and Matt Shaw.

3. Attitude monitors everything
I have to be mindful of my attitude. I am a large, intimidating looking man. The slightest expression of negativity is read to be much larger because of my size. Your attitude can affect an entire workspace. People will recommend a decent editor who is nice over a grumpy “professional” any day of the week. I’ve made this mistake many times. I would start on a new project so passionate and personally invested in the story that I was hired to tell I would be arrogantly offended if I felt that anyone I was working with didn’t give their absolute best. The truth of it is most people try to do their best with the circumstances they have been given, and the more I’d complain the more I’d become the real problem. Give people more credit. You don’t know the kinds of things they have had to deal with.

Dealing with the medical industry can be daunting. It’s easy to feel frustrated on calls with insurance or scheduling appointments. I try to have empathy for the other person I am dealing with as they have to deal with frustrated and frightened people all day. You don’t know the kinds of things they have to deal with. I also have to be very mindful of my attitude around my kids. My wife figured out quickly that if our lives were going to revolve around going to the Children’s Hospital that we were going to make it fun. Our kids actually love going. They have a playground and so many things for the kids to enjoy. If we acted depressed around our children, it would affect them. Before my youngest daughter’s prosthesis, we would talk about all the things she would be able to do and all the fun she’d be able to have once she got her robot leg.

4. The world isn’t fair
Not everyone is going to recognize what you contribute, even when you are at your absolute best. You must try to not take it personally. I try to remind myself that often we are working for people who have their own issues to worry about and don’t always understand the technical challenges of what we do. I have seen hundreds of all sorts of people passed over for promotions they deserve or recognition that they have earned. As someone who has been in charge of other editors, I have also received credit for work that is their own. That is why I insist at the end of every project sending a private post mortem to my clients so people can understand everyone’s contribution.

I get way more credit than I deserve for being a father of my children, and it’s not fair. One time my wife and I brought the kids to a party. My oldest daughter doesn’t have the muscle strength to feed herself, so I spent time feeding her while my wife talked with her friends. After leaving the party, my wife remarked how impressed they were that I fed my child. My wife is an amazing mom. I married Mary Poppins. Our family does deal with a fair amount of challenges, but I have met many single mothers over the years that are worthy of so much more admiration for what they take on than anything we’ve ever accomplished.

5. Take care of yourself
You will never be the best editor you can be unless you take care of yourself. Eating correctly, sleeping enough and moderating drinking or drug use is just the tip of the iceberg. The most high-profile jobs will demand that you be at your best 100% of the time.

My oldest daughter cannot walk without the use of braces, so we need to remain strong enough to lift her upstairs or into the shower. I am getting older, so I’m really starting to make a concentrated effort to eat better, exercise and drink less. The most challenging times we have faced have demanded that we be at our absolute best mentally and physically as long nights during surgeries can be draining.

6. A job is a job; family is everything
I like to park my car on the far side of the studio that I work at. It gives me a 20-minute walk to my trailer that allows me to look at all the other shoots happening that day and reflect on how I used to dream as a kid to one day work in Hollywood. It also gives me a chance to get some exercise.

Hollywood has been very kind to me, but my job doesn’t define my happiness. It’s not who I am. One of the best things that has ever happened to me in Hollywood was to figure out that once you take all the glitz and glamor away, it is a job like any other. A job I enjoy that allows me to provide for my family.

When I’m gone from this world, my most meaningful accomplishments will have nothing to do with my job and everything to do with my family and friends. The greatest thing I have done with my life is adopting my (soon to be) two children. My job demands long hours, so I have to miss some things, but I take comfort in knowing that it is to provide for their future.

7. You are capable of much more than you know
When I became an editor, I really didn’t know what my career would have in store. I just found it fun and decided that I could make money doing it. When I started in late night television almost 10 years ago, delivering a 42-minute show in 90 minutes used to make my hands shake. Now, it is one of the easiest points of my day. I went from freelancing on side projects for little money to helping plan international media transfers and deliveries for network primetime specials supported by an amazing and capable team. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.

When my first child was born. I didn’t know what life was going to have in store. We just decided to go all in and be the best we could be at it, and now we are parents to (soon to be) three wonderful kiddos with an amazing orthopedic medical team. Our children are part of case studies that will advance medical science. They’ve been filmed and photographed for others to learn how to properly treat joint contractures and prosthesis adaptations. Their presence is going to help future kids get the treatment they need. When something like this happens in your life, you find out what you are really made of.

8. Finally, please remember to have fun. It’s fun.
I wish you nothing but the best.


Robert James Ashe is the four-time Emmy-nominated lead editor of Conan on TBS. You can follow him on Twitter at @robertjamesashe and read more pieces from him on The Mighty.


LACPUG hosting FCP and Premiere creator Randy Ubillos

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group (LACPUG) is celebrating its 18th anniversary on June 27 by presenting the official debut of Bradley Olsen’s Off the Tracks, a documentary about Final Cut Pro X. Also on the night’s agenda is a trip down memory lane with Randy Ubillos, the creator of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Aperture, iMovie 08 and Final Cut Pro X.

The event will take place at the Gallery Theater in Hollywood. Start time is 6:45pm. Scheduled to be in the audience and perhaps on stage, depending on availability, will be members of the original FCP team: Michael Wohl, Tim Serda and Paul Saccone. Also on hand will be Ramy Katrib of DigitalFilm Tree and editor and digital consultant Dan Fort. “Many other invites to the ‘superstars’ of the digital revolution and FCP have been sent out,” says Michael Horton, founder and head of LACPUG.

The night will also include food and drinks, time for questions and the group’s “World Famous Raffle.”
Tickets are on sale now on the LACPUG website for $10 each, plus a ticket fee of $2.24.

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group, formerly the LA Final Cut Pro User Group, was established in June of 2000 and hosts a membership of over 6,000 worldwide.


EditFest London sets lineup

The American Cinema Editors (ACE) have set its lineup of editors for EditFest London, which takes place on June 30 at BFI Southbank. In addition to film panels, this year’s event will feature editors drilling down on their experiences editing television crime dramas, followed by a panel discussion focusing on the jump from assistant editor to editor.

EditFest, which was launched in Los Angeles in 2008, allows attendees to talk with panelists and colleagues throughout the day, over lunch, and then during a post-event reception.

The editors at EditFest will share experiences and insights from their work on a variety of feature films, documentaries and broadcast and streaming content. The day’s schedule includes:

Cutting for Crime / Editing Crime Dramas for Television
Moderated by Adrian Pennington, International Editor, American Cinema Editor magazine
• Andrew John McClelland – Line of Duty, In Plain Sight
• Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Three Girls, The Missing
• Stephen O’Connell – The Name of the Rose, Howard’s End
• Elen Pierce Lewis – Rellik, Luther, Marcella

Making the Jump/Assistant to Editor
Moderated by Robbie Gibbon (Assistant Editor, Mission Impossible-Fallout, Dr. Strange)
• Eve Doherty – Hang Ups (Assistant, Game of Thrones)
• Adam Gough – Roma (Assistant, X-Men First Class)
• Charlene Short – Dagenham (Assistant, Peaky Blinders)
• John Venzon, ACE – The South Park Movie, Storks (Assistant, Fight Club, The Game)
• Steven Worsley – Jamestown, War & Peace (Assistant, War Book, War & Peace)

From Dailies to Delivery/ Editing Features
Moderated by Stephen Rivkin, ACE (ACE President; Editor, Avatar)
• Eddie Hamilton, ACE – Mission Impossible: Fallout
• Alex Mackie, ACE – Out of Blue
• Tania Redden – Denmark, Cordelia
• Martin Walsh, ACE – Wonder Woman
• Joe Walker, ACE – Blade Runner 2049, Arrival

One on One/A Conversation with Chris Lebenzon, ACE
Chris will be joined in conversation by journalist Carolyn Giardina

Award-winning editor Chris Lebenzon, ACE, (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood, Top Gun, Armageddon) will talk about his work, collaborations and perceptions from his career. He is currently in London working on Dumbo with his long-time collaborator Tim Burton.

EditFest takes place during one day at BFI Southbank. Panels, box lunch and a cocktail reception at the end of the day are included. EditFest LA will take place in Los Angeles on 25 August at the Walt Disney Studios.


Combining 3D and 360 VR for The Cabiri: Anubis film

Whether you are using 360 VR or 3D, both allow audiences to feel in on the action and emotion of a film narrative or performance, but combine the two together and you can create a highly immersive experience that brings the audience directly into the “reality” of the scenes.

This is exactly what film producers and directors Fred Beahm and Bogdan Darev have done in The Cabiri: Anubis, a 3D/360VR performance art film showing at the Seattle International Film Festival’s (SIFF) VR Zone on May 18 through June 10.

The Cabiri is a Seattle-based performance art group that creates stylistic and athletic dance and entertainment routines at theater venues throughout North America. The 3D/360VR film can now be streamed from the Pixvana app to the new Oculus Go headset, which is specifically designed for 3D and 360 streaming and viewing.

“As a director working in cinema to create worlds where reality is presented in highly stylized stories, VR seemed the perfect medium to explore. What took me by complete surprise was the emotional impact, the intimacy and immediacy the immersive experience allows,” says Darev. “VR is truly a medium that highlights our collective responsibility to create original and diverse content through the power of emerging technologies that foster curiosity and the imagination.”

“Other than a live show, 3D/360VR is the ideal medium for viewers to experience the rhythmic movement in The Cabiri’s performances. Because they have the feeling of being within the scene, the viewers become so engaged in the experience that they feel the emotional and dramatic impact,” explains Beahm, who is also the cinematographer, editor and post talent for The Cabiri film.

Beahm has a long list of credits to his name, and a strong affinity for the post process that requires a keen sense of the look and feel a director or producer is striving to achieve in a film. “The artistic and technical functions of the post process take a film from raw footage to a good result, and with the right post artist and software tools to a great film,” he says. “This is why I put a strong emphasis on the post process, because along with a great story and cinematography, it’s a key component of creating a noteworthy film. VR and 3D require several complex steps, and you want to use tools that simplify the process so you can save time, create high-quality results and stay within budget.”

For The Cabiri film, he used the Kandao Obsidian S camera, filming in 6K 3D360, then SGO’s Mistika VR for their stereo 3D optical-flow stitching. He edited in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC 2018 and finished in Assimilate’s Scratch VR, using their 3D/360VR painting, tracking and color grading tools. He then delivered in 4K 3D360 to Pixvana’s Spin Studio.”

“Scratch VR is fast. For example, with the VR transform-and-vector paint tools I can quickly paint out the nadir, or easily delete unwanted artifacts like portions of a camera rig and wires, or even a person. It’s also easy to add in graphics and visual effects with the built-in tracker and compositing tools. It’s also the only software I use that renders content in the background while you continue working on your project. Another advantage is that Scratch VR will automatically connect to an Oculus headset for viewing 3D and 360,” he continues. “During our color grading session, Bogdan would wear an Oculus Rift headset and give me suggestions about changes I should make, such as saturation and hues, and I could quickly do these on the fly and save the versions for comparison.”

Prolific writer/director Paul Schrader on his latest, First Reformed

By Iain Blair

With his latest film in theaters now, a look back at director and screenwriter Paul Schrader’s movie credits shows just what a force he has been over the years in Hollywood — and especially in the ambitious, serious and hugely influential cinema of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

He wrote Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, which was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. He reteamed with Robert De Niro and Scorsese on 1980’s boxing saga Raging Bull. That same year saw the release of American Gigolo, starring Richard Gere as a high-priced male escort, which he wrote and directed.

Paul Schrader with writer Iain Blair.

Schrader has also written and/or directed The Last Temptation of Christ (reteaming again with Scorsese), The Mosquito Coast, Cat People, The Comfort of Strangers, Affliction, Bringing Out The Dead (yet another Scorsese collaboration) and Dog Eat Dog.

In his new film, First Reformed (his 21st feature and 12th as writer/director), Schrader examines a crisis of faith centered around a former military chaplain devastated by the death of his son in the Iraq War. Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York about to celebrate its 250th anniversary.

Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church is now a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, eclipsed by its nearby parent church, Abundant Life, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 5,000-strong flock. When a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband, a radical environmentalist, the clergyman finds himself plunged into his own tormented past, and equally despairing future, until he finds redemption in an act of violence.

I talked recently with Schrader about making the film and his workflow.

Why did you want to make this type of film?
When I first began my career as a critic in the early ‘70s, I wrote a book, “Transcendental Style in Film,” about spirituality. It looked at various theological concepts in the work of such auteurs as Robert Bresson, who was a big influence on this film, Yasujiro Ozu and Carl Theodor Dreyer. While I liked those films, I never thought I’d make one myself. It just wasn’t me. I was too intoxicated with action and violence, empathy and emotion back then, and these are not really parts of the spiritual tool kit.

When people tried to make connections with my films and the book, which is now coming out in a new updated edition by University of California Press, I’d just say, “No, that’s not me at all.” But then three years ago I started thinking, maybe it’s time for me to do one of these films.

What did Ethan and Amanda bring to their roles?
I cast Ethan for several reasons. He’s the right age, for one thing, and he also looks the part — and by that I mean that his face and the way he carries himself were right for the character. Toller has a sickness of the soul, what Kierkegaard called sickness unto death, or “angst” in German and despair in English.

He tries to deal with his struggle with faith in various ways: by following all the rituals of the church, writing in his journal every day and drinking. But when he tries to counsel Amanda’s husband, who doesn’t feel there’s any future or any reason to keep going, he catches his virus in a way. This manifests itself in despair about the future of human life on the planet. So I told Ethan, “This is a role to lean back from. As the audience moves in, you have to recede. Don’t come to the viewer. Keep leaning back.” And he understood that completely. He’s very smart. He’s a writer, director, playwright and musician and instinctively knew what to do.

With Amanda, we got very lucky because she’s not only a great actor, but she was pregnant in real life, and that’s actually quite hard to fake on film. So often, women who play pregnant women have the stomach, but the face isn’t any different, and of course that changes too. She was on hiatus, because of her pregnancy, but we managed to make the schedule work for her.

You shot on location. How tough was it?
It was fast — just three weeks — and no big problems. With all the new technology, shoots are so much faster, and actors like it much better. In the old days, you’d spend hours lighting and blocking, and they’d spend most of the day in their trailers. Now, there’s hardly any waiting around in between scenes and setups, and it’s better for everyone.

Where did you post?
At The Post Factory (now Sim Post) in New York.

Do you like post?
I love it. It’s very collegial and relaxing after the shoot. I love editing, even when things go wrong. About five years ago I made this film Dying of the Light, a psychological thriller with Nic Cage. It was a bit of a debacle, and the film was taken away from me. While I was doing the next film, Dog Eat Dog, I realized what I should have done with editing Dying. So I said to Ben Rodriguez, the editor on Dog, who was trained by the great Hank Corwin, ‘I don’t need you on First Reformed, since it’s a very sedate film, but we should be able to re-cut Dying while we’re also working on this.

I had permission to do this, and if you Google “Schrader Rotterdam Dark,” you’ll see a lecture I gave earlier this year detailing how and why I decided to do the re-cut, which is now titled Dark. So we were editing both the glacially paced First Reformed and the completely over-the-top Dying at the same time, and it was a lot of fun.

What were the main editing challenges on this?
Keeping the right tone and pace, and I actually thought it was going to be slower than it is, as I’d decided to make slower films. So when I first showed it, I warned people that it was slow, but then people disagreed with me. The thing with slow cinema is that you have to modulate when you withhold from an audience, and if you withhold all the time, it becomes sort of monotonous. So you have to withhold a little, and the pacing becomes critical. In the end, there was very little left on the cutting room floor. We shot very close to the bone and hardly wasted anything.

This is obviously a performance-driven piece, but there are some impressive VFX sequences — notably where the two leads begin to levitate and then fly off through all these fantastic environments. Do you enjoy working on VFX like that?
No, I don’t. They were all done by Cloak & Dagger VFX and Atomic Art. Cloak & Dagger’s Brian Houlihan was the VFX supervisor. They did wonderful work and I’m very happy with the results. The great thing about VFX today is you can do all the cleanup so easily, and you don’t do signage anymore. You do it all in post. But I don’t enjoy the long process involved and all the waiting.

You’ve always had great music in your films, like David Bowie in Cat People and Blondie in American Gigolo. Can you talk about the importance of sound and music in this and to you as a filmmaker.
It’s so important… if you get it right. But when you start to work on the quiet side, on the contemplative side, music becomes very tricky, as it’s the easiest way to dictate emotion and feelings — happy, sad, frightened, angry — to the audience. You’ll get them coming towards you by telling them how to feel all the time. But you should let them wonder how they should feel.

So a lot of films in this style don’t use music, or very little. They only use sound effects. That’s what I started doing on this, for about two-thirds of the film. But then I started working with Lustmord, a composer who works in ambient sound and who’s basically a sound designer, and now I think the two disciplines — composer and sound designer — have combined.

What about the DI?
We did it at Company 3 in New York with colorist Tim Masick (who used Blackmagic Resolve), and I love the process. It’s fun and not at all stressful compared with the shoot, and I’m pretty involved with it. We chose not to go with the usual film look on this one. It’s so easy now to apply an algorithm in the DI and make your movie look like it has film grain. But the DP, Alexander Dynan, and I both felt it didn’t need that, and I love the cool, austere look we ended up with. (Check out our interview with Tim Masick here.)

It’s interesting how that aspect of post has really changed. When I first began, you’d shoot for 10, 12 weeks and do just three or four days of color. Now, you shoot for three weeks and do color for three weeks, and that change has helped lower costs all around.

Did it all turn out the way you pictured?
It did, and I’m very happy with it. In many ways it’s a kind of high-wire act, making this kind of film, as there’s very little room for failure when you deal with spiritual matters and such serious subjects.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.