By Barry Goch
In late August, I attended my first American Cinema Editors’ EditFest on the Disney lot, and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I was very happy indeed to have spent the day learning from top-notch editors discussing our craft.
The day started with a presentation by Joshua Miller from C&I Studios on DaVinci Resolve. Over the past few releases, Blackmagic has added many new editor-specific and -requested features.
The first panel, “From the Cutting Room to the Red Carpet: ACE Award Nominees Discuss Their Esteemed Work,” was moderated by Margot Nack, senior manager at Adobe. The panel included Heather Capps (Portlandia); Nena Erb, ACE (Insecure); Robert Fisher, ACE (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse); Eric Kissack (The Good Place) and Cindy Mollo, ACE (Ozark). Like film school, we would watch a scene and then the editor of the scene would break it down and discuss their choices. For example, we watched a very dramatic scene from Ozark, then Mollo described how she amplified a real baby’s crying with sound design to layer on more tension. She also had the music in the scene start at a precise moment to guide the viewer’s emotional state.
The second panel, “Reality vs. Scripted Editing: Demystifying the Difference,” was moderated by Avid’s Matt Feury and featured panelists Maura Corey, ACE (Good Girls, America’s Got Talent); Tom Costantino, ACE (The Orville, Intervention); Jamie Nelsen, ACE (Black-ish, Project Runway) and Molly Shock, ACE (Naked and Afraid, RuPauls Drag Race All Stars). The consensus of the panel was that an editor can create stories from reality or from script. The panel also noted that an editor can be quickly pigeonholed by their credits — it’s often hard to look past the credits and discover the person. However, it’s way more important to be able to “gel” with an editor as a person, since the creative is going to spend many hours with the editor. As with the previous panel, we were also treated to short clips and behind-the-scenes discussions. For example, Shock told of how she crafted a dramatic scene of an improvised shelter getting washed away during a flood in the middle of a jungle at night — all while the participants were completely naked.
The next panel was “Inside the Cutting Room with Bobbie O’Steen: A Conversation with Joe Walker, ACE.” O’Steen, who authored “The Invisible Cut” and “Cut to the Chase,” moderated a discussion with Walker, whose credits include Widows, Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario and 12 Years a Slave, in which she lead Walker in a wide-ranging conversation about his career, enlivened with clips from his films. In what could be called “evolution of a scene,” Walker broke down the casino lounge scene in Blade Runner 2049, from previs to dailies, and then talked about how the VFX evolved during the edit and how he shaped the scene to final.
The final panel, “The Lean Forward Moment: A Tribute to Norman Hollyn, ACE,” was moderated by Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and featured Ashley Alizor, assistant editor; Reine-Claire Dousarkissian, associate professor of the practice of cinematic arts at USC; Saira Haider (Creed II), editor; and professor of the practice of cinema arts at USC, Thomas G. Miller, ACE.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Norm for postPerspective, and he was the kind of man you meet once and never forget — a kind and giving spirit who we lost too soon. The panelists each had a story about how wonderful Norm was and they honored his teaching by sharing a favorite scene with the audience and explaining how it impacted them through Norm’s teaching. Norm’s colleague at USC, Dousarkissian, chose a scene from the 1952 Noir film Sudden Fear, with Jack Palance and Joan Crawford. It’s amazing how much tension can be created by a simple wind-up toy.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at EditFest. So often we see VFX breakdowns, which are amazing things, but to see and hear how scenes and story beats are crafted by the best in the business was a treat. I’m looking forward to attending next year already.
Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation, as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya