Tag Archives: editing

Black Panther editors Debbie Berman and Michael Shawver

By Amy Leland

Black Panther was a highly anticipated film that became a massive hit with audiences and critics alike. Just the fact that it’s a Marvel film would have been enough to create both anticipation and success, but this movie went beyond that, breaking barriers as well as box office records. The film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture.

Instead of being referred to as a great superhero film, it was simply called a great film. It’s also the kind of high-quality offering you would expect from director Ryan Coogler, whose prior credits include Fruitvale Station and Creed, both of which feature Michael B. Jordon, who is also in Black Panther.

Michael Shawver

I had a chance to talk with the Black Panther editing team — Debbie Berman and Michael Shawver — about the film and their process co-editing such a huge project.

How did you both end up on this project?
Michael Shawver: I’ve known Ryan since our days in film school at the University of Southern California. We met back in 2009 in a directing class, and he was making short films that were just above and beyond everybody else. They were about society, race, culture, everything, and they really made you feel and think. That’s the kind of thing that I always wanted to do, the whole reason I wanted to make movies.

One day after class I went up to him and said, “I’d love to work with you. I can edit a little bit.” Things then fell into place, and I was able to work on a short film we did in school. From there he fought to keep me and the rest of the short film team involved in Fruitvale Station. Then we worked on Creed and then Black Panther.

Debbie Berman: For me it was kind of a serendipitous backstory. I was awarded an editing fellowship to the Sundance Institute in 2012, and as part of the fellowship I went to the Sundance Film Festival and went to the awards ceremony for the first time. That was the year that Fruitvale won Sundance. So I was actually there watching Ryan’s career begin, and I remember absolutely loving the movie and really being drawn to him as a filmmaker. I thought Creed was absolutely brilliant. I ugly cried through most of Creed. I think it’s phenomenal.

Debbie Berman

When I was working on Spider-Man: Homecoming, I kept talking about Black Panther. As a South African, it was a film that really spoke to me, and really felt like it was going to be important to me. So Marvel connected us.

Shawver: When we met with Debbie, we just kind of knew. Ryan and I both knew a few minutes in that she was the right choice and that this was going to be the right fit. Between her work ethic, her worldview, her passion and what she focuses on to tell a story and to bring characters alive, I think it all just rang true with how we felt and our process.
And you never know. It’s tough when you co-edit with somebody because you kind of just go on one date and then you’re married. You never know how it’s going to work out. And there’s always creative discussion; there’s always, “What if this is better? What if that’s better?” But everybody left their egos at the door. We’re all “movies first.” We don’t take anything personally, and we help each other not take anything personally, and we support each other. It couldn’t have worked out better.

Berman: I totally agree. It’s like one day you’re married, but you’re married during a world war. You’re going through a very stressful time together. I did feel an instant kinship with Mike and Ryan the second we all met. It just felt like meeting old family. I’ve been passionate about filmmaking my entire life, and they have the same amount of passion. And as Mike said, we always put the film first, and with having that shared love of this movie in particular, it really just got us through everything.

I got to meet Ryan at a screening of Fruitvale Station, and I was struck by how humble he is. As a leader of a project, he must bring that to the environment. Did you all feel that when you were working with him?
Shawver: Oh yeah. That’s what he’s really like. I tell people that he’s a great director, but he’s a hundred times better person. He believes that people who make the movies are more important than the movie itself. That humility that he has allows him to learn. He’ll be the first one to say that he’s not the smartest person in the room, even though everybody would disagree with him. He understands that when you can admit that you don’t know everything, you can start to learn.

I think that, much like T’Challa does in the movie, Ryan feeds off of the people around him. There’s a reason we have certain members of the team that have stayed with Ryan for so long, and he would fight for us. When he brought Debbie into the fold, it was the same way. We all feel like we have so much to learn, and we’re so grateful to be in the position that we’re in. We can’t see operating any other way.

Berman: Ryan insists on honesty from his crew, and never feels that anything you say is a critique of him or his work. He understands that everything you say is just trying to make the film better. There is an open environment where it’s okay to say anything you want. It’s a safe environment to fail because out of a hundred ideas, if you get three that are great then it was worth the other 97 that maybe weren’t so great, because it’s all for the greater good of the film.

Were you both on the project from the beginning, and how did that process work with the two of you cutting the film together?
Berman: Mike started a bit before me, but the film as you see today is something we built from scratch together. We mostly worked on separate scenes. A film this big, it’s good to take ownership of certain sections, because there’s so much to track in terms of the visual effects load. But we collaborated on everything, we always watched each other’s work and we always gave input, suggestions and feedback. There were a couple of scenes we handed back and forth. If someone had an idea for something, then they would take over that scene and do a pass on it. It was basically a good mixture of complete ownership and collaboration all at the same time.

Shawver: I think the key for us was to work as organically as possible and never let anybody’s creative idea or creative juices go to waste. If Debbie came in one day just raring to go on a scene and had a dream about it, an epiphany about it or something, and wanted to dig in and explore more and see if she could elevate a moment, we would be dumb to get in the way of her doing that.

I think we understood that we had to find a balance of feeling of ownership over the scenes, the moments and the movie as a whole, but also understand that this is a story that needs to speak to everybody. We had a very diverse post team, and that’s not by accident. It’s because diversity can bring about the greatest art. Even down to some of our production assistants, who we would bring in to watch certain things just to give us thoughts, and that would always be filtered to Ryan. With a beast of a movie as big as Black Panther — what was it, like, 500 hours of footage.

As the editors, we’re the first audience. We’re the gatekeepers for everything else. So we have to focus on the details, and the movie as a whole. And with a thing that size and with that many people on a team, it helps to break it down but never be hard and fast with those boundaries.

Berman: One thing that was really important to me was all of the strong female characters in the film. I really focused on the ladies, and just making sure they were the most spectacular, powerful representations they could be. And, of course, we both worked on everything, but I think Mike probably took a bit more of T’Challa. It was such a difficult mix to have our central character surrounded by all of these other strong characters, but still make him feel like the strong and central presence. We both worked quite a lot on Killmonger, because we had to try creating an empathetic villain. It would have been easy to veer in either direction too far. We just had to keep the balance of, you can empathize with the point he’s making, but he’s going about it in the wrong way.

Shawver: With anything you do as an editor, these things are hard. I’m not going to lie. You’re second-guessing yourself. We all need to find our story in it, but also how we can share ourselves in each of these characters. What we focused on a lot, in our own ways, were the relationships in the movie. Because if you boil it down, the relationships make that world go upwards, downwards, leftward, rightwards. My son had just turned one at the time, so the theme of fathers and sons that’s achieved in the movie really resonated with me. Just like Debbie with the female characters. Female characters often don’t get what they deserve on screen, but we made sure that they did. Debbie really took guardianship of that, shepherding it through. I think those are some of the strongest points in the movie.

Berman: Mike was really incredible at putting emotion into scenes. The fight scenes, for example. There are these amazing Warrior Falls scenes, which are action scenes, but they’re so emotional. Most of that is the work Mike put in, like folding it around the characters watching the action, and how you’re filtering your own audience reaction through what they’re experiencing.

I remember there was a lot of talk in the press when the movie came out about representation and inclusion in the film, especially for an action or superhero film. As a woman, I really felt like, “Wow this is an action movie that’s showing people I can relate to on screen.”
Berman: Every time I watched a scene, I would do a pass where I would try to watch it through the female gaze. One of the examples of that editorially is right at the end, when the Dora Milaje are surrounded and the Jabari save them. Originally the Jabari warriors were all male. So I had a conversation with Ryan and I said, “You know, we go through this entire movie with these absolutely spectacular female warriors and then at the end of the film the men save them. I think that it undercuts a lot of what we have built up with them over the course of the film.” But I didn’t know what the solution was.

Ryan, in his brilliance, was like, “Well, what if we make some of the Jabari warriors female?” Which I thought was amazing. But, of course, they’d already shot this massive, complicated action sequence. Luckily, in additional photography, Marvel supported that idea, and they created Jabari female warriors. The very first warrior to break through the force field and save them is this absolutely kick-ass Jabari female warrior. It really made such a difference, not only to that moment, which is one of the coolest moments in the film to me, but just throughout the entire film with what we’re trying to say.

When you first started working, was there any sense of, “Okay, Michael, you’ve been working on the indie film side, so you start with some of the dialogue scenes. Debbie you just came from another Marvel film, so work on the action scenes”? How did you decide who was working on what scenes?

Shawver: We didn’t want to keep it separate in that way. I know for myself, and Debbie as well, if there’s something that we’re not as strong at as an editor, we use the opportunity to be able to edit and get better at those things.

Debbie was on Spider-Man, and I went to Atlanta a little early to start on Panther because I’d never done one of these before, and I was terrified. Every morning I woke up having to pinch myself that I was working on a movie like this. But then the whole rest of the day was, “Don’t screw this up. Don’t screw this up.” Then, when Debbie came in, and said, “This would be a good idea if we did it this way. Here’s what you can do to help this process move along faster. Here’s what you can do to have more specific discussions with the effects teams.” Just those in and outs of having gone through a process like that with Spider-Man helped us immensely. Debbie and I are strong editors. We have our strengths and we have a couple of weaknesses, but I feel like we’re both pretty well rounded. In certain ways, Debbie is stronger than I am, and she would critique certain things and give me notes.

We had a discussion early on. Ryan said he felt better when both of his editors touched a scene, because that way both of our stories could be told. He’d also say that if both of us agreed on something and he didn’t, he’d go with our idea because, “You guys are smart. If you guys say this is better and you both agree on it, then we’re going to do it.”

Berman: We actually pushed each other to go further, because there might be a point where you’re like, “Yeah, I’m happy with the scene” and then someone comes in and prompts you and questions things, and it forces you to re-evaluate and see if you can make every single moment just a little bit better.

I had just done Spider-Man, but I’d also done some indie films. I wasn’t too far removed from understanding what the knowledge gaps would be, ‘because I’d only filled those knowledge gaps myself about five seconds earlier. So I felt like I came from the same world, and I understood what they needed to know based on what I had just learned from my past experience.

Were you in edit rooms next to each other?
Berman: We had separate edit suites. But every time someone was finished with a scene we would sit together, either just the two of us or if Ryan was around sometimes the three of us together. We were on the same floor, a few doors away from each other, but we’re working on our own systems pretty much most of the day, and then checking in with each other. We also sat in the effects reviews together, making sure that the visual effects were serving the story and serving the way we created the scenes. We were also in the sound mix together.

Shawver: One of the things that I learned from Ryan, and about Ryan, is you just have to trust him. There are times as an editor, especially when you have a team of dozens and dozens of people, when they are looking at you and needing a scene to be done or a decision to be made, but we haven’t fully gotten it there yet. Ryan said to me, I think it was an Abraham Lincoln quote, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.” He told me that right after I was getting very nervous about a deadline we had, because he had to go to a bunch of other meetings and stuff like that, and that really put things into perspective.

There were times that we’d just sit and talk for an hour or two. The days are long — 10-, 12-hour days, sometimes longer. But we would have conversations; they’d be conversations about specific scenes, current events, our daily lives, how we feel, if one of us is going through something. First of all, if someone’s not having a good day, Ryan’s going to notice as soon as they step foot in the building, and he’s going to drop everything to make sure that that person is okay and find out if they need to go home. Whether it’s a personal tragedy, national tragedy, anything like that.

Berman: Whether it’s one of his key crew, or one of the PAs, he’ll notice.

Shawver: Yeah, it doesn’t matter who you are. The movie is a political movie. T’Challa’s a politician, and it has to do with world events and current events, and I think we’d be mistaken to not discuss those and see how we feel. But not just discuss, because the three of us probably agree on a lot of things that maybe a good amount of viewers in the world wouldn’t agree on. We talked from all different sides. That’s where that diversity comes in, and that love for making this movie that really is about bringing people together.

Berman: Yeah, that was very interesting to me, because I’m not used to sitting and talking so much. I’m used to like, “Editing! Editing! Editing!” It worked its way into the film. You spend a few hours chatting and you get to know each other, but it’s all working its way into the film. You’re connecting to each other as human beings and making this piece of art together, so it all works its way in… and it all makes the film better.

What’s up next for both of you?
Shawver: I’m working on a movie called Honest Thief. It’s starring Liam Neeson. It’s about a bank robber looking for redemption. It’s nice to be back on a movie just about relationships and small interpersonal drama to help sharpen those skills. It’s directed by Mark Williams, a really talented director.

Berman: I’m working on Captain Marvel, at the moment, sort of the final sprint to the finish line right now.


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.

Sundance Videos: Watch our editor interviews

postPerspective traveled to Sundance for the first time this year, and it was great. In addition to attending some parties, brunches and panels, we had the opportunity to interview a number of editors who were in Park City to help promote their various projects. (Watch here.)

Billy McMillin

We caught up with the editors on the comedy docu-series Documentary Now!, Michah Gardner and Jordan Kim. We spoke to Courtney Ware about cutting the film Light From Light, as well as Billy McMillin, editor on the documentary Mike Wallace is Here. We also chatted with Phyllis Housen, the editor on director Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency and Kent Kincannon who cut Hannah Pearl Utt’s comedy, Before you Know It. Finally, we sat down with Bryan Mason, who had the dual roles of cinematographer and editor on Animals.

We hope you enjoy watching these interviews as much as we enjoyed shooting them.

Don’t forget, click here to view!

Oh, and a big shout out to Twain Richardson from Jamaica’s Frame of Reference, who edited and color graded the videos. Thanks Twain!

ACE celebrates editing, names Eddie Award winners

By Dayna McCallum

On Friday evening, the 69th Annual ACE Eddie Awards were presented at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with over 1,000 in attendance. ACE president Stephen Rivkin, ACE, presided over the evening’s festivities with comedian Tom Kenny serving as the evening’s host (SpongeBob!).

(L-R) Director Peter Farrelly, Bohemian Rhapsody’s John Ottman, ACE

Bohemian Rhapsody, edited by John Ottman, ACE, and The Favourite, edited by Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE, won Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic) and Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy) respectively. Ottman and Mavropsaridis, who are also nominated for the Oscar in film editing, were both first time Eddie winners.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, edited by Robert Fisher, Jr., won Best Edited Animated Feature Film and Free Solo, edited by Bob Eisenhardt, ACE, won Best Edited Documentary (Feature).

Television winners included Kyle Reiter for Atlanta – “Teddy Perkins” (Best Edited Comedy Series for Commercial Television), Kate Sanford, ACE for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Simone” (Best Edited Comedy Series for Non-Commercial Television), Gary Dollner, ACE for Killing Eve – “Nice Face” (Best Edited Drama Series for Commercial Television), Steve Singleton for Bodyguard – Episode 1 (Best Edited Drama Series for Non-Commercial Television), Malcolm Jamieson and Geoffrey Richman, ACE for Escape at Dannemora – Episode Seven (Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television), Greg Finton, ACE and Poppy Das, ACE for Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (Best Edited Documentary, Non-Theatrical), and Hunter Gross, ACE for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – “West Virginia” (Best Edited Non-Scripted Series), who delivered a very moving acceptance speech in tribute to the late Bourdain.

The Anne V. Coates Student Editing Award went to Boston University’s Marco Gonzalez, who beat out hundreds of competitors from film schools and universities around the country. The Student Editing honor was re-named in honor of the legendary editor who passed away this past year. In another emotional moment, the award was presented by Coates daughter, Emma Hickox, ACE (What Men Want).

Jerrold Ludwig, ACE and Craig McKay, ACE received Career Achievement awards.  Their work was highlighted with clip reels exhibiting their tremendous contributions to film and television throughout their careers.

(L-R) Octavia Spencer, Golden Eddie Honoree Guillermo del Toro

ACE’s prestigious Golden Eddie honor was presented to artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. He received the award from his friend and collaborator Octavia Spencer, who starred in del Toro’s The Shape of Water last year.

Other presenters at the show included Oscar nominated director Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman); Oscar nominated director and ACE Eddie Award nominee for Roma, Alfonso Cuarón; director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians); director Peter Farrelly (Green Book); D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place); Jennifer Lewis (Black-ish); Angela Sarafyan (Westworld); Harry Shum, Jr. (Crazy Rich Asians); Paul Walter Hauser (BlacKkKlansman); and film editor Carol Littleton, ACE.

Here is the full list of winners:

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (DRAMATIC):
Bohemian Rhapsody
John Ottman, ACE

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (COMEDY):
The Favourite
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE

BEST EDITED ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Robert Fisher, Jr.

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE):
Free Solo
Bob Eisenhardt, ACE

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (NON-THEATRICAL):
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
Greg Finton, ACE & Poppy Das, ACE

Killing Eve Editor Gary Dollner, ACE

BEST EDITED COMEDY SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
Atlanta – “Teddy Perkins”
Kyle Reiter

BEST EDITED COMEDY SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Simone”
Kate Sanford, ACE

BEST EDITED DRAMA SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
Killing Eve – “Nice Face”
Gary Dollner, ACE

BEST EDITED DRAMA SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
Bodyguard – “Episode 1”
Steve Singleton

BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR TELEVISION:
Escape at Dannemora – “Episode Seven”
Malcolm Jamieson & Geoffrey Richman ACE

BEST EDITED NON-SCRIPTED SERIES:
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – “West Virginia”
Hunter Gross, ACE

STUDENT WINNER
Marco Gonzalez – Boston University

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Tatiana S. Riegel, ACE, The Favourite’s Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE, Paul Walter Hauser.

More Than Just Words: Lucky Post helps bring Jeep’s viral piece to life


Jeep’s More Than Words commercial, out of agency The Richards Group, premiered online just prior to this year’s Super Bowl as part of its Big Game Blitz, which saw numerous projects launched leading up to the Super Bowl.

Quickly earning millions of views, the piece features a version of our national anthem by One Republic, as well as images of the band. The two-minute spot is made up of images of small, everyday moments that add up to something big and evoke a feeling of America.

There is a father and his infant son, people gathered in front of a barn, a football thrown through a hanging tire swing. We see bits of cities and suburbs, football, stock images of Marilyn Monroe and soldiers training for battle — and every once in a while, an image of a Jeep is in view.

The spot ends as it began, with images of One Republic in the studio before the screen goes black and text appears reading: More Than Just Words. Then the Jeep logo appears.

The production Company was Zoom USA with partner Mark Toia directing. Lucky Post in Dallas contributed editorial, color, sounds design and finish to the piece.

Editor Sai Selvarajan used Adobe’s Premiere. Neil Anderson provided the color grade in Blackmagic Resolve, while Scottie Richardson performed the sound design and mix using Avid Pro Tools. Online finishing and effects were via Tim Nagle, who worked in Autodesk Flame.

“The concept is genius in its simplicity; a tribute to faith in our country’s patchwork with our anthem’s words reinforced and represented in image,” says Lucky Post’s Selvarajan. “Behind the scenes, everyone provided collective energy and creativity to bring it to life. It was the product of many, just like the message of the film, and I was so excited to see the groundswell of positive reaction.”

 

 

 

Industry vets open editorial, post studio Made-SF

Made-SF, a creative studio offering editorial and other services, has been launched by executive producer Jon Ettinger, editor/director Doug Walker and editors Brian Lagerhausen and Connor McDonald, all formerly of Beast Editorial. Along with creative editorial (Adobe Premiere), the company will provide motion graphic design (After Effects, Mocha), color correction and editorial finishing (likely Flame and Resolve). Eventually, it plans to add concept development, directing and production to its mix.

“Clients today are looking for creative partners who can help them across the entire production chain,” says Ettinger. “They need to tell stories and they have limited budgets available to tell them. We know how to do both, and we are gathering the resources to do so under one roof.”

Made is currently set up in interim quarters while completing construction of permanent studio space. The latter will be housed in a century-old structure in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood and will feature five editorial suites, two motion graphics suites, and two post production finishing suites with room for further expansion.

The four Made partners bring deep experience in traditional advertising and branded content, working both with agencies and directly with clients. Ettinger and Walker have worked together for more than 20 years and originally teamed up to launch FilmCore, San Francisco. Both joined Beast Editorial in 2012. Similarly, Lagerhausen and McDonald have been editing in the Bay Area for more than two decades. Collectively, their credits include work for agencies in San Francisco and nationwide. They’ve also helped to create content directly for Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce and other corporate clients.

Made is indicative of a trend where companies engaged in content development are adopting fluid business models to address a diversifying media landscapes and where individual talent is no longer confined to a single job title. Walker, for example, has recently served as director on several projects, including a series of short films for Kelly Services, conceived by agency Erich & Kallman and produced by Caruso Co.

“People used to go to great pains to make a distinction about what they do,” Ettinger observes. “You were a director or an editor or a colorist. Today, those lines have blurred. We are taking advantage of that flattening out to offer clients a better way to create content.”

Main Image Caption: (L-R) Doug Walker, Brian Lagerhausen, Jon Ettinger and Connor McDonald.

The Colonie ups Graham Chapman to editor

Graham Chapman has been promoted to editor at Chicago’s The Colonie. Chapman joined The Colonie in 2013 as an assistant editor, advanced to senior assistant editor in 2017 and began 2019 as editor. For the past five years, he has worked under veteran editor Bob Ackerman strengthening his skills on a wide range of commercials, social media campaigns and long-format projects.

He works on both Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere.

“Working with Bob was truly a game-changer,” says Chapman. “I think one of the most important skills I picked up working aside him over the years is to always challenge yourself. Never settle on something if it doesn’t feel right and \ keep pushing to get more imaginative. Remembering these things while cutting is what’s brought out some of my best work.”

Chapman has worked on a long roster of high-profile spots and digital content for global brands such as McDonald’s, Walmart, Marshalls, Kraft and Aleve. Even before his promotion, Chapman edited elements of a number of projects, such as campaigns for the 2018 Toyota Highlander and Nissan’s Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as the television documentary Iron 5: Story of the 1963 Loyola Ramblers.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with Graham on both traditional and digitally-driven campaigns,” says Carlo Treviso, senior digital production at Burrell Communications. “He’s a fantastic creative partner and storyteller and always finds ways to plus up the edit. His grasp of social media best practices and aspect ratios is incredibly helpful as clients are asking for more social deliverables with every campaign. He’s also a pretty awesome human being.”

Chapman attended Columbia College Chicago, majoring in filmmaking, with a concentration in editing.

Patrick J. Don Vito on editing Green Book

By Randi Altman

Universal Pictures’ Green Book tells the tale of an African-American piano virtuoso and his white driver. Based on a true story, this unlikely pair must navigate the Deep South in 1962 for a concert tour during a time most places to eat and sleep were segregated.

This unlikely pairing of the well-educated and sophisticated Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and the blue-collar Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) ends up teaching both men a lesson in understanding and acceptance, and turns into a life-long friendship.

L-R: Viggo Mortensen, Patrick Don Vito and Peter Farrelly

The film was nominated for five Golden Globes and won three: Best Screenplay, Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. The work of the film’s editor, Patrick J. Don Vito, has also been noticed, receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing, in addition to an ACE Eddie nomination in the Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy) category.

We recently spoke to Don Vito, who had previously collaborated with the film’s director, Peter Farrelly, known for unapologetic comedy films such as There’s Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber and Hall Pass. Don Vito, whose resume includes other comedies such as Walk of Shame and My Life in Ruins, really enjoyed walking the line between comedy and drama in this film, which he says made for a fun but challenging edit.

Let’s find out more…

How early did you get involved in Green Book?
I got the script back in August of 2017, expressed a lot of interest to Pete and got hired! The movie started shooting right after Thanksgiving, and I began a few days before that. We set up shop in New Orleans, near where they were shooting.

So you were keeping up with camera?
Yes, I would get dailies every day and try to keep up with the footage. I’d cut during the week when Pete was shooting and he would come in on the weekend to look at cuts. We would discuss ideas, and I’d show him alternate cuts. We did that throughout the shoot, and when we were done shooting, we went to Ojai, where Pete lives, and cut there for six weeks. We then came back to Los Angeles to finish — we set up rooms at EPS-Cineworks.

So you were not on set but you were near set.
Yes. I popped in like the first day of shooting and said hello. I don’t think I ever went to the set again.

Do you prefer it that way?
I’m an editor. I like to tell the story. The set is a lot of sitting around, waiting and planning; you shoot for a couple minutes, then you stop and wait. I like to keep working, and in the cutting room it never stops. You’re always trying new things, looking at different takes and seeing what you can create out of something. It’s that process of always being engaged that I like. Every minute I spend on the set, I feel like I am falling behind. It’s different if you’re directing the film. I’ve directed some shorts, and that is fun because you are always busy and engaged.

Were there times when you realized a scene was close, but still needed something additional?
Yes, every once in a while something would come up and I’d say, “It would be great if we had an insert of this so I can bridge these shots together.” Or I’d say, “If there is time, can you get a shot of this?”

They had a second unit go out and get a bunch of insert shots to fill in gaps — driving shots and various things that we needed. That happened out of our discussions and asking, “What if we did that?”

How do you approach editing? Do you watch everything up front and then build selects?
Usually, but It depends on the scene and how I feel that day. I’ll watch everything and get a feel for what the scene is about and what I have available, and I’ll try to keep that in my head. Once the scenes are placed in the bin, it’s easier for me to visually remember where things are.

I’ll break down selects. Then if a scene is for some reason particularly difficult or causing me problems, I may jump around. I may start at the end of a scene and work backwards, or start in the middle and work out from there. It depends. I like switching it up and making my brain work a little differently each time. I try different tricks to kind of keep it fresh for me in my head.

What would an example of a trick be? Are there any scenes within the film that you can point to?
When Tony Lip’s wife, Delores, is reading the letter to her family and the guys are playing poker in the background — that scene was a little long. We had the entire letter being read on camera in the original cut. Then we went back to the table in the kitchen where the guys are playing poker and talking about Tony’s letters. “They’re not bad. You know? Oh, we had an artsy family.”

Originally, the joke was when the female family member says, “I want a letter,” and her husband answers, “Yeah, as soon as you make a meal.” That used to be in the middle of the scene. What I did was have Tony’s wife start the letter then cut over to the table and she’s now off-camera. You’re hearing her continue to read the letter while we are watching the guys play poker. Then we go back for the end of Delores reading the letter and the joke. It became a much better scene, and thanks to the joke it punched you right out into the next scene.

Essentially, it was just a little reorder, which we do once in a while. One thing I try to do with comedy is look at it as a mathematical equation. Say you have three jokes in a scene. You have A, B and C jokes. A is the funniest, B is not as funny and C is the least funny. You may have an idea of what the funniest joke is, but you don’t necessarily know which one it is until you play it for people. Once you have some screenings you know. You don’t want to end a scene on a B or C joke. You want to end on an A joke. So you can try to either remove a joke or try to reorder the scene so that it ends on the A joke. You want to build it from funny, funnier to funniest.

L-R: Patrick Don Vito and Mahershala Ali

This is such a serious topic, but the film’s got funny moments as well. How did you walk that line?
That was probably the most difficult thing about it. You don’t want the jokes to seem like a joke. You want them to come out of a scene naturally — out of the drama, characters or the emotion of the scene. There were a lot of options as far as jokes. At first I cut everything in to see what was working and what seemed too jokey. You start eliminating things that take it to a different type of comedy and you try to keep it more real. That was always the mantra from Pete: “Let’s keep it real. All the comedy needs to come out of the scenes and not seem like it’s too much of a joke.”

Had you worked with Pete before?
Yes, a couple of times. I worked on Movie 43 with him, which was a very different kind of comedy. I also worked on a pilot for him a few years ago called Cuckoo, which was a remake of a British series. It didn’t get picked up.

Do you find that you tend to get pigeonholed as an editor? You are either a comedy editor or an action editor, etc.?
I think that happens to everyone. Absolutely, and it can be tough. Even with this movie, the studio asked for a reference list of people. I think that was because they looked at my resume and saw a lot of comedies.

The movie I did right before this, but isn’t out yet, is a drama called Three Christs. It has some comedic elements but it’s pretty much a drama. I think that gave me a better chance at Green Book. It’s directed by Jon Avnet and stars Peter Dinklage, Richard Gere, Walton Goggins, Bradley Whitford and Julianna Margulies. It’s a true story, also from the ’60s, about a psychiatrist who has three patients who all think they’re Jesus Christ. He decides to put them in a room together while they are in a psych ward to see what happens. Will they give up their delusions? Will they fight over it? I’ve known Jon Avnet since I was an assistant editor on Up Close and Personal in 1996.

Ok, let’s turn to tools. You use Avid Media Composer. Do you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share?
It’s not a trick, but when I start a movie I have one of the assistants set up Script Sync, which is really helpful for when you’re in the room with the director and the producers and want to quickly get to different line readings.

Basically, you put the clips on the script itself and you can click on a line and hear every single line reading of that line. I know editors sometimes take every single line reading of dialogue and cut them next to each other in a sequence. I prefer to use Scrypt Sync and make select rolls.

Speaking of assistants, how did you work with yours on Green Book?
Petra Demas was my first assistant, and she was great. She would help organize my room, and when I needed help I could throw her a scene. So she would help me cut scenes now and again when she wasn’t busy.

I had another great assistant named Bart Breve’. He did all the Script Sync work and helped out with dailies with Petra. They would keep me up-to-date with footage to make sure I always had something to work on. Bart was a local in New Orleans, so when I came back to LA, we hired Aleigh Lewis who handled all the visual effects — there are over 400 in the movie.

You assume because it’s a period piece there will be some visual effects, but that’s a lot of shots.
Absolutely. Aleigh helped keep all the visual effects organized. I relied on her to organize the visual effects and show me the new ones as they came in, so I could give notes. Pixel Magic did the visual effects, including the piano playing.

I was wondering about that!
Mahershala Ali is a good actor, but that’s virtuoso piano playing! He did take lessons for a few months from the composer Kris Bowers, who played the piano in the movie. Mahershala learned where to put his hands and how to sit like a classical pianist. Kris would play the music and they’d shoot that, then Mahershala would sit and he would play. Then we’d combine the two into a take. It was mostly head replacement kind of stuff.

What were some of the other VFX shots?
A ton of them were getting rid of modern things in the shots… modern cars, signs, cameras on buildings … that kind of thing. On top of that, the car they were in had a tear in the roof inside the car and it’s supposed to be a brand new 1962 Cadillac. About 85% of the car scenes are visual effects shots. There is an amazing bridge shot where the Cadillacs are leaving NY on the George Washington Bridge. In that shot the blacktop and all the cars are CGI. Pixel Magic took a modern stock shot and created that. It’s pretty impressive.

Fotokem, who processed dailies for us and provided the color correction, even did a few visual effects. When we saw the film in such high resolution during the color correction, we noticed modern elements in some shots that we missed and needed to remove. They took care of that.

Were most of the driving shot greenscreen?
No. It was almost all practical. We drove in and around New Orleans. The only ones that were green screened were when they’re driving in the snow, and still some of them are practical because we actually did get some snow just outside of New Orleans. It started snowing, so they got the camera crew together and went out and shot. Who knew it was going to snow in New Orleans?!

Assistant Editor’s Bootcamp coming up with focus on reality TV

The Assistant Editor’s Bootcamp returns on Saturday and Sunday, January 19-20 with their third installment of Bootcamp training. This month’s courses are geared to those interested in editing for reality television. Assistant Editing for Reality Television will be taught by founders Noah Chamow (The Voice) and Conor Burke (America’s Got Talent).

Day 1 of the class will cover the essential skills needed to be a reality television assistant editor. Topics covered will include project organization, importing, linking to media and transcoding, exporting cuts and a demo on how to use ScriptSync. Day 2 will give an in-depth overview and practice session on multi-grouping that will cover how to create a day stack, syncing and multi-grouping footage in Avid as well as troubleshooting multi-groups.

Students can take one or both classes. Those who sign up for the online webinar will have access to class videos for 10 days after the presentation. Pricing for each day is $149.99 in person, $124.99 via webinar. Both take place from 10am-4pm in Burbank.

The Assistant Editors’ Bootcamp was founded on the premise of giving students practical real-world experience with classes taught by professional working editors in a collaborative low-stakes environment. “Students walk away with knowledge they can apply immediately in the edit bay to become more efficient and better at their craft overall,” says Chamow. “Having worked as assistant editors, Conor and I understand the day-to-day pitfalls and challenges that can slow down workflows. It’s our goal to give our peers better knowledge of their work to give them the confidence they need to take their careers to the next level.”

Editor Wyatt Smith talks Mary Poppins Returns, Marvel Universe

By Amy Leland

Wyatt Smith’s career as an editor is the kind that makes for a great story. His unintended path began with an unusual opportunity to work with Mariah Carey and a chance meeting with director Rob Marshall. He has since collaborated on big musicals and action films with Marshall, which opened the door to superhero movies. His latest project — in which he was reunited with Marshall — saw him editing a big musical with a title character who is, in her own Disney way, also a superhero.

Smith’s resume is impressive: Doctor Strange, Into the Woods, 300: Rise of an Empire, Thor: The Dark World, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. When I had a chance to talk with him about Mary Poppins Returns, I first had to ask him how his fascinating journey began.

Wyatt Smith at the Mary Poppins Returns premiere.

Can you talk about what led you to editing?
Some things just happen unexpectedly. Opportunities arise and you just have to hear the knock and not be afraid to open the door. When they were building the now-closed Sony Music Studios in New York City, I knew a lot about computers. Avid was first coming in, and there were all these video engineers who weren’t as savvy with Macs and things like that because they were used to linear, old-school tape editing. I worked in the maintenance department at the studio, servicing online editing suites, as well as setting up their first Avid Media Composer and giving people some tutorials on how to use that.

Then a very odd circumstance came up — they were working on a Mariah Carey concert video and needed an additional editor to work at her house at night (she was working during the day with another editor). My father is in the music business and had ties to Mariah — we had met before — so they thought it would be a comfortable situation. It came out of nowhere, and while I certainly knew, technically, how to edit, creatively I had no idea.

That was my first opportunity to edit, and I never went back to anything else. That was the day. That was it. I started to edit music videos and concerts and little music documentaries. Years and years later that led me to work with Rob Marshall on a music project.

The Tony Bennett American Classic special?
Exactly. I had known the Bennett family and worked with them since Tony Bennett’s “Unplugged.” When Rob was brought on to direct an NBC special celebrating Tony’s career, he wanted to bring his whole film team with him, but the TV network and the Bennett family wanted somebody who knew the music world, and that style of deadline, which is quite different from film.

I was brought in to interview with Rob, and we had a wonderful experience making that show. When it was done, he said, “Next time I make a film, I want you to come along.” To be completely honest, I didn’t believe him. I thought it was very kind of him, and he is a very nice man, but I was like, yeah, sure. In 2008, I think it was the Friday before they started shooting Nine, he called and said, “You gotta get to London.” I immediately quit my job and got on a plane.

I’m guessing the music world was a heavy influence on you, but were you drawn toward movies as well?
I have always been a movie junkie. At an early age, I saw a lot of the big epics, including David Lean’s films — Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India — which just transported me to another place and another culture. I loved that.

That was back in the early VHS days, and I had just about every Bond film that had been released. I watched them obsessively. In high school, my closest friend worked in a video rental store, so we constantly had movies. It was always a huge thing for me, but never in my life did I dream of pursuing it. The language of film was never anything I studied or thought about until I was kind of thrust into it.

What was it like coming into this film with Rob Marshall, after so many years of working with him? Do your collaborations now feel different from when you first started working together?
The most important part is trust. When I first met Rob, aside from just not having any confidence, I didn’t remotely know what I was doing. We all know that when you have your actors and your sets if something’s not quite right that’s the time to bring it up. But 12 years ago, the thought of me going to Rob and saying, “I don’t know if that really works, maybe you should grab a shot like…” I’d never, ever. But over the years we’ve developed that trust. I’m still very cautious with things like that, but I now know I can talk to him. And if he has a question, he’ll call me to set and say, “Quickly put this together,” or, “Stay here and watch this with me,” and he’ll explain to me exactly what he’s going for.

Then, once we reach post, unquestionably that relationship changes. We used to cut everything from scratch and start re-watching all the material and rebuilding the film again. Now we can work through existing cuts because I kind of know his intentions. It’s easier for me to see in the scene work what he’s going for, and that only comes from collaborating. Now I’m able to get the movie that’s in his head on screen a lot faster.

Mary Poppins Returns

You were working with complex animations and effects, and also combining those with elaborate choreography and live action. Was there more preplanning for this than you might normally have done?
I wasn’t really involved in the preplanning. I came in about a month before shooting to mostly to catch up with the schedules of the second unit, because I’m always going to work closely with them. I also went through all the storyboards and worked with visual effects and caught up on their look development. We did have a previz team, but we only really needed to previz two of the sequences in the film — the underwater bath time and the balloon sequence.

While previz gives you methodology, shot count, rough lenses and things, it’s missing the real emotion of the story because it is a video game and often cut like a music video. This is no disrespect to previz editors — they’re very good — but I always want to come in and do a pass before we start shooting because I find the timings are very different.

Doctor Strange

Take a film like Marvel’s Doctor Strange. So much of it had been prevized to figure out how to do it. When I came into the Doctor Strange previz cuts early on, they were exciting, psychedelic, wild and really imaginative, but I was losing actors. I found that something that was running at four minutes wasn’t representing any of the dialogue or the emotional content of the actors. So I asked them to give me stills of close-ups to cut them in. After putting in the dialogue, that four-minute sequence becomes seven minutes and you realize it’s too long. Before we go shoot it, how do we make it something that’s more manageable for the ultimate film?

Were you on set during most of the filming?
There were days where Rob would pull me onto set, and then days or weeks where I wouldn’t even see him. I did the traditional assembly process. Even the film I’m cutting right now, which has a very short schedule, four days after they were done shooting I had a cut of the film. It’s the only way for me to know that it’s working. It’s not a great cut, but I know that the movie’s all there. And, most importantly, I need to know, barring the last day of shooting, that I’ve seen every single frame of every take before they wrap. I need the confidence of knowing where it’s all going. I don’t want to discover any of that with a director in post.

On a project this complex, I imagine you must work with multiple assistants?
When I worked on the second Thor movie, The Dark World, I had a friend who was my first assistant, Meagan Costello. She has worked on many Marvel films. When Doctor Strange came up — I think it was almost a year before shooting that I got the call from the director saying I was in —within five seconds, I called Meagan because of her experience, her personality and her incredible skill set. Toward the end of Doctor Strange, when the schedule for Poppins was starting to lock in, she said, “I’ve always wanted to live in New York, and I’ve always wanted to work in a music hall.” I said, “We can make that happen.”

Thor: The Dark World

She is great at running the cutting room, taking care of all of my little, and many, prima donna bugaboos — how things are set up and working, technically, cutting in surround, having the right types of monitors, etc. What’s also important is having someone spiritually and emotionally connected into the film… someone I can talk to and trust.

We had two second assistant editors on Mary Poppins once we were in post — two in the US and two in London. It’s always interesting when you have two different teams. I try to keep as much consistency as I can, so we had Meagan all the way through London and New York. For second assistants in London, we had Gemma Bourne, Ben Renton and Tom Lane. Here in the states we had Alexander Johnson and Christa Haley. Christa is my first assistant on the film I’m currently doing for Focus Features, called Harriet.

On huge films like these, so much of the assistant editor’s time is dealing with the vast deliveries for the studio, the needs of a huge sound and music team as well as a lot of visual effects. In the end, we had about 1,300 hundred visual effect shots. That means a lot of turnovers, screenings and quality control so that nothing is ever coming in or going out without being meticulously watched and listened to.

The first assistant runs the cutting room and the stuff I shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s not stuff I would do well either. I want to be solely focusing on the edit, and when I’m lost in the movie, that’s the greatest thing. Having a strong editorial team allows me to be in a place where I’m not thinking about anything but the cut.

Mary Poppins Returns

That’s always good to hear. Most editors I talk to also care about making sure their assistants are getting opportunities.
When I started out, I had assistants in the room with me. It was very much film-style — the assistant was in the room helping me out with the director and the producers every day. If I had to run out of the room, the assistant could step in.

Unfortunately, the way the world has evolved, with digital post, the assistant editor and editor positions have diverged massively. The skill sets are very different. I don’t think I could do a first assistant editor’s job, but I know they could do my job. Also, the extra level of material keeps them very busy, so they’re not with me in the room. That makes for a much harder path, and that bothers me. I don’t quite know how to fix that yet, but I want to.

This industry started with apprentices, and it was very guild-like. Assistants were very hands on with the editor, so it was very natural to become an editor. Right now, that jump is a little tricky, and I wish I knew how to fix it.

Even if the assistants cut something together for you, it doesn’t necessarily evolve into them getting to work with a director or producer. With Poppins, there’s certainly a scene or two in the film that I asked Meagan to put together for that purpose. Rob works very closely in the cutting room each day, along with John DeLuca, our producer and choreographer. I was wondering if there would be that moment when maybe they’d split off, like, “Oh, go with Meagan and work on this, while I work on this with Rob.” But those opportunities never really arose. It’s hard to figure out how to get that door open.

Do you have any advice for editors who are just starting out?
I love the material I’m working on, and that’s the most important part. Even if something’s not for you, your job is not to make it what you want it to be. The job is to figure out who the audience is and how you make it great for them. There’s an audience for everything, you just have to tap into who that audience is.


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.

ACE celebrates editing with 69th Eddie Award noms

The American Cinema Editors (ACE) has announced the nominations for its 69th Annual ACE Eddie Awards, which recognize outstanding editing in 11 categories of film, television and documentaries.

Winners will be revealed during ACE’s annual black-tie awards ceremony on February 1.  ACE president, Stephen Rivkin, ACE, will host. Final ballots open January 11 and close on January 21.   

Here are the nominees:

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (DRAMATIC):

BlacKkKlansman

Barry Alexander Brown 

Tom Cross, ACE

Bohemian Rhapsody

John Ottman, ACE 

First Man

Tom Cross, ACE

Roma

Alfonso Cuarón & Adam Gough 

A Star is Born

Jay Cassidy, ACE

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (COMEDY):

Crazy Rich Asians

Myron Kerstein

Deadpool 2

Craig Alpert, ACE, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir and Dirk Westervelt

The Favourite

Yorgos Mavropsaridis, ACE

Green Book

Patrick J. Don Vito

Vice

Hank Corwin, ACE 

BEST EDITED ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

Incredibles 2

Stephen Schaffer, ACE

Isle of Dogs

Andrew Weisblum, ACE, Ralph Foster and  Edward Bursch

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Robert Fisher, Jr.

 

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE):

Free Solo

Bob Eisenhardt, ACE

Carla Gutierrez

RBG

Carla Gutierrez

Three Identical Strangers

Michael Harte

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Jeff Malmberg & Aaron Wickenden, ACE

 

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (NON-THEATRICAL):

A Final Cut for Orson: 40 Years in the Making

Martin Singer

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

Greg Finton, ACE and Poppy Das, ACE

Wild Wild Country, Part 3

Neil Meiklejohn

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

Joe Beshenkovsky, ACE 

 

BEST EDITED COMEDY SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Atlanta: Teddy Perkins

Atlanta: “Alligator Man”

Isaac Hagy

Atlanta: “Teddy Perkins”

Kyle Reiter

The Good Place: “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” 

Eric Kissack

Portlandia: “Rose Route” 

Jordan Kim, Ali Greer, Heather Capps & Stacy Moon

 

BEST EDITED COMEDY SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Barry: “Make Your Mark” 

Jeff Buchanan

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Insecure: “Obsessed-Like”

Nena Erb, ACE 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: “Simone”

Kate Sanford, ACE

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: “We’re Going to the Catskills!”

Tim Streeto, ACE

 

BEST EDITED DRAMA SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION

The Americans: “Start”

Daniel Valverde 

Better Call Saul: “Something Stupid”

Skip Macdonald, ACE 

Better Call Saul: “Winner”

Chris McCaleb 

Killing Eve: “Nice Face”

Gary Dollner, ACE

 

BEST EDITED DRAMA SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Bodyguard: “Episode 1”

Steve Singleton

Ozark

Homecoming: “Redwood”

Rosanne Tan

Ozark: “One Way Out”

Cindy Mollo, ACE & Heather Goodwin Floyd 

Westworld: “The Passenger”

Andrew Seklir, ACE, Anna Hauger and Mako Kamitsuna

 

BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR TELEVISION:

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story: “A Random Killing”

Emily Greene

Escape at Dannemora: “Better Days”

Malcolm Jamieson & Geoffrey Richman ACE 

Sharp Objects: “Milk”

Véronique Barbe, Dominique Champagne, Justin Lachance, Maxime Lahaie, Émile Vallée and Jai M. Vee

 

BEST EDITED NON-SCRIPTED SERIES:

Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown: “West Virginia”

Hunter Gross, ACE

Deadliest Catch: “Storm Surge”

Rob Butler, ACE

Naked & Afraid: “Fire and Fury”

Molly Shock, ACE and Jnani Butler