Interview with Editor Tod Modisett (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Bachelor)

crazy ex girlfriend.jpgIt was a privilege to chat with the talented editor Tod Modisett on the art of editing.

Matthew Toffolo: You have edited many television shows. Do you have a favorite experience?

Tod Modisett: The best experience is when you understand the show you’re working on. You get the director or the producer, and he or she gets you. Then interesting things can happen pretty quickly. Some editors can talk articulately when they’re working. I usually can’t.

Sometimes I mumble. It’s great when a director can hear me mumble something and he or she knows what I’m saying. It reminds me of how some dentists can understand you even when you have all kinds of crap in your mouth. Jeff Schaffer, the creator of “The League,” was like that. Once I mumbled something as I hit command-Z to put the edit back to what it was before I started messing with it and he said, “It’s okay. I know what you were going for.”

I have to ask about the “Bachelor” experience as there are tons of fans out there who want to know. What was the process like editing an episode together? Was the episode already written and you simply needed to piece together the story with the hours of footage you had? How much footage did you (or your assistant) have to go through?

I had to look this up on my calendar program. I stopped working on “The Bachelor” in December of 2008 and my last “Bachelorette” was July of 2009. So it’s been a while! Back when I was there, the story side of the show was run by Martin Hilton, who is certainly one of the smartest people I’ve met in Los Angeles. Martin always had a strong point of view about how the storylines should unfold, and he wouldn’t let the actual footage stand in the way. I learned a lot from him about how to shape the footage to achieve the desired result.

More importantly, he helped me realize that an editor needed to have a perspective when cutting a scene. There’s no point in being passive.

Martin started as an editor at Next Entertainment, so he empowered editors there to work the stories out themselves and pitch him their ideas. The story producers were there to help the editors find the interview bites the editors wanted. Not every reality company worked that way.

There was, of course, a lot of footage on those shows. But usually I didn’t watch everything. If something amazing happened in the house during a down period, a field producer would note it for us. You can’t watch every frame on that kind of schedule.

Did the TV show “Redneck Island” actually happen?

Yes! But I wasn’t on it for very long. I think I only cut one or two episodes. I don’t know why they put me down as having worked on all of them in IMDB. I left that show to cut
“Burning Love” for Ken Marino.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned working as an assistant editor early in your career that helped you grow as an editor?

Every show ends. No matter how bad it gets, it’ll be over sooner than you realize.

What makes a great editor? What skills does he/she need?

First, you need all the stuff people talk about in seminars, like sensitivity to performance, a sense of pace, etc. A lot of editors I know are former musicians, so they feel rhythm and dynamics better than other people. But that’s only half the battle. You also should understand how you come across in a room and how you’re best able to work with other people. You need to know how you can personally convince others of your ideas without being overly combative. It’s different for everyone, because what works for one guy might not work for another. In the beginning, I was too much of a push-over. I’d say, well, it’s your show, do what you want to it. I’m just the editor. But what happens is, after a couple of years directors and producers have a way of forgetting what it was they insisted on in the cutting room, and they blame the editor if the show is bad. So now I try harder to push back if I think someone is making a real mistake. I don’t always prevail.

What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

Just to be on the same wave-length. With comedies, we have to think the same general stuff is funny, otherwise it just won’t work.

Is there a type of film or TV series that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

So many! I like a lot of stuff.

What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

Through no design or intention, I’ve probably watched “The Godfather,” “Alien” and “Blackhawk Down” the most. The first two are kind of obvious. I don’t know why I find “Blackhawk Down” so watchable, but I’ve seen it five or six times.

What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

I don’t know those people. Most kids want to write and direct. Or act. Usually if they’re in high school and they’re talking about wanting to edit, it just means that they lack the confidence to say they want to direct, because very few teen-agers know what editing is all about. So my suggestion is, don’t say you want to be editor. Just go make short films of your own. Write them, shoot them and edit them. And see how you feel after doing all of that. Maybe during that process you’ll find you have a comparative advantage in one area.

Where did you grow up? Was working in the Film Industry something you always wanted to do?

I grew up in San Pedro, which is the harbor of Los Angeles. I lived with my Dad. Every Friday night, he would take me to pizza and then afterwards we’d go to the Wherehouse and he’d let me pick out a VHS movie to rent. I was maybe 12 or 13 then. He never looked at what I picked, so I got all kinds of inappropriate stuff. After watching Scorcese’s “Taxi Driver,” I thought, wow, that seems like a cool job; I’d like to do that.

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Advertisements

Interview with Editor Valerio Bonelli (The Martian, Philomena)

If you’re interested in storytelling, this is the interview for you. Editor Valerio Bonelli has edited over 30 films in the last 20 years, working with some of the top directors, including many collaborations with Ridley Scott (The Martian, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal, and the Oscar winner Gladiator), and Stephen Frears (Philomena, The Program). In this interview, he gives a lot of amazing insight on the art of editing a feature film and what it takes to succeed in Hollywood.

Matthew Toffolo: You’ve worked as an Assistant Editor on many big Hollywood productions. What is the role of Assistant/Associate Editor? What is the biggest thing you’ve learned doing this task to help you grow as an editor?

Valerio Bonelli: It’s now quite a while ago but what I remember of my experience working on those big movies is that I felt that I was like a kid in a candy store. I was working and learning from people I respected a lot in the industry like Ridley Scott and Pietro Scalia and at the same time I was given challenging tasks mostly to do with the organization of the cutting room. That sometimes can be seen as boring and not so creative but I believe that learning to run those big cutting rooms gave me the confidence to become a film editor and to handle very stressful situations.

MT: What film that you’ve worked on has been your most valuable experience?

VB: It’s difficult to say because every film I worked on somehow added something to my knowledge as an editor and as a person. Each film is different even if you work with the same director, but I can say that there are few films that have stayed with me for one reason or another. Recently I’ve cut a documentary feature called “Palio”, this film was particularly challenging for me because unlike most conventional documentaries the story is narrated in the present time and not retrospectively with a narration voice but with the voices of all the characters of the film. The film is about the famous ancient horse race in Siena, Italy, it did not have a script, and was ‘written’ during the editing process by me and Cosima Spender.

PHOTO: Still Shot from the documentary “Palio”:

palio_documentary.jpg

The Palio is possibly the only race in the world where in order to win you have to spend a lot of money in bribes. The story is about a young jockey that challenges his old master, who has monopolized the game for the last 16 years and won it 13 times.
In terms of feature film one of my favourite experience was cutting Philomela by Stephen Frears. For me this was a unique experience for several reasons because not only I was given a chance to work with such a great master of cinema like Frears (who by the way was one of my Teachers at the Nation Film and Television School) but I was cutting a story that was very important for me because of my upbringing in a Catholic country. Also I was cutting Judi Dench’s masterful performance. I learned a lot from looking at her performances in the rushes.

MT: What is the art to being a great DOCUMENTARY editor? How is working on this type of film different than a conventional live-action film?

VB: The most important thing you have to remember when you cut a documentary is that almost everything is possible in terms of narrative. There is no script and the way the material is cut decides the narrative of the film. As an editor I feel you have even more responsibilities.

I try to bring narrative documentary techniques of editing in the feature genre and vice versa.

One example is when I cut “The Program” for Stephen Frears. The film is about Lance Armstrong and I was given a lot of documentary footage and news reports as well as all the live coverage from all the Tour de France Lance won by Lance between 1999 and 2005. I was able to use this footage cut together with our footage of Ben Foster playing Lance mostly because the impressive physical change that Ben did in the months before shooting in order to look like Lance. Also the news footage helped us to build narrative threads of stories particularly around the media buzz that Lance’s victories generated, most of this sequences were not scripted in the original script.

PHOTO: Judi Dench in the feature film “Philomena”:

philomena_judi_dench

MT: Generally, when does the editor join the production on a feature film? Do you begin editor when the film is still in production?

VB: I always start at the start of the shooting but often I get to talk to the directors I work with in the weeks and months before the film is shot and I give my feedback and opinion on the script.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

VB: In a director I look for a relationship where I feel that I learn something new, at the same time I like to be challenge by a director, it is also important for me to know that I can contribute to his vision of the film. Probably a director feels that the editor is a collaborator but also the first audience that sees the film and so he looks for his objectivity as well as his understanding of what he’s trying to achieve.

MT: Is there a type of film that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

VB: I’m very eclectic in my taste and so I’ve switched already quite a lot of genres so far but I must say that I sometimes would like to cut a Western movie, maybe because as a kid I’ve seen so many.

But mostly I react to stories, so for me when I worked on The Martian as a co-editor with Pietro Scalia it was a dream come true to do a Sci-Fi; but for me that was not the main exiting thing, the story was what exited me, the humanity that came out of the film was relevant for me.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

VB: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Sergio Leone.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

VB: Try to cut as much as you can (Short films, Docuentaries, music videos…anything) and if you can go to a good film school like the NFTS in the UK because is a good place where you can meet talented and motivated people.

MT: Where did you grow up? Was working in the Film Industry something you always wanted to do?

VB: I never imagined that I was going to end up in the film industry when I was a kid, I actually dreamed of becoming an orchestra conductor!

I was born in Naples but my parents moved to Florence very early on in my life. I feel I grew up in a beauty box, surrounded by stunning hills and monuments and this beauty is for sure an element that has influenced me a lot in my choices in life and still is part of me. Sadly I had to leave my county in order to flourish but I can’t explain why otherwise I would turn this blog into a political and sociological critique of Italian life!

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Editor Allyson C. Johnson (The Get Down, The Wire, Monsoon Wedding)

allysoncjohnsonIt was an honor chatting with Emmy Nominated editor Allyson C. Johnson. She is currently editing the critically acclaimed series “The Get Down”.

Matthew Toffolo: You edited two episodes of “The Wire”. How was this working experience? Did you realize that you were a part of one of the great TV shows in history?

Allyson C. Johnson: The Wire was my first TV series so I didn’t know what to expect. I had been cutting features and docs and everyone kept telling me TV was soooo different but it was HBO so we didn’t have to deal with the commercials and other restrictions put on you by Network television. I think we all knew it was a really good series but when you’re in the trenches it’s hard to step back and actually see the bigger picture. So, no, I had no idea it was going to be as big as it is. It was a great experience because the Producers were smart, creative and trusting of the editors and it’s always a pleasure to work with a talented cast like the one on the Wire.

MT: What film that you’ve worked on has been your most valuable experience?

ACJ: I think Monsoon Wedding was my most valuable Feature experience so far. It was my first film and I learned so much from working with a great Director like Mira Nair. She has an amazing talent for making a performance as good as it can possibly and giving a film real heart.

PHOTO: Still from the film “Monsoon Wedding”:

monsoonwedding.jpg

MT: What is the art to being a great TV SHOW editor? How is working in TV different than working on a feature film?

ACJ: I really don’t think there is a difference between a “TV show editor” and a Feature or Doc editor. Now that there’s streaming and cable TV not all TV has the issue of having to stop the story every 8-12 minutes to add a commercial break. The big difference for me is that in TV it’s not a given that the editor will be at the mix. I still don’t quite understand why that is since the editor knows the show inside and out and can be a huge help during the mix. Network TV tends to want more close ups and to be on the actor’s face when they’re speaking plus having to find spots to put commercial breaks that will not be intrusive can be a challenge. Also, working on a series, although the director does the first cut, he/she doesn’t end up having the final say as they would in a Feature film because the Showrunner is the one who must make sure the series has one look and one feel.

MT: Have you ever been surprised after wrapping a production on the success or non-success of a film/TV show? I’m assuming you’ve experienced both pendulums – a film that you assumed was going to be a hit and the audience/critics didn’t respond. And a film that you assumed wasn’t going to do well and then ended up doing very well.

ACJ: I am ALWAYS surprised at the outcome. There are so many different opinions and tastes in this world. I think we just have to make sure we are working on a show or film we believe in and enjoy and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Unfortunately reviews can make or break a show and these days so can social media so I hope people will give a show a chance before they let someone else decide for them.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

ACJ: Big picture? We spend so much time in the editing room together it’s imperative that we can laugh together. More specifically? I always hope for shots to cutaway to so we are not forced into performances that might not be the best and/or continuity issues. I would imagine a director would want an editor who is open to trying new things without complaining.

MT: Is there a type of film that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

ACJ: I was a musician in college and have always been drawn to musicals. Although I’ve worked on many Rockumentaries in addition to the NBC series Smash and The Get Down for Netflix, I still haven’t cut a musical Feature Film and would love to do that.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

ACJ: Aside from the films you watch a thousand times when you’re a kid I think I have probably seen Cabaret, Broadcast News, Sleeper, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harold and Maude, Minority Report, A clockwork Orange and The Heat. Sorry, couldn’t just pick one. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other films that I loved but some films you just can’t watch over and over again even if you love them.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

ACJ: Get a job in a cutting room, any job doing anything. It’s important to be exposed to the process as much as possible and to meet people in the business. If you’re an assistant already cut scenes on your own in your spare time using the footage for the show you are working on so you can get some practice and show them to the editor and ask for pointers. Learn the AVID.

MT: Where did you grow up? Was working in the Film Industry something you always wanted to do?

ACJ: I grew up in Great Neck on Long Island. I always wanted to be a musician and ended up going to college for that. However, I was very involved in Theatre at my High School too and I had a great love for film when I was growing up. Unfortunately it never occurred to me that I could do that for a living. We didn’t have phones that we could use to shoot our own movies and I didn’t know anyone who worked in the business so it seemed a little too out of reach until I got to college. I went to SUNY Purchase and it had a great film program. While I was there I took a few film classes on the side. That was the beginning for me.

_____
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go towww.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Editor Greg D’Auria (Star Trek Beyond, Fast & Furious 6)

Greg D’Auria is very modest as you’ll see when you read this interview. He’s a wealth of knowledge and an amazing storyteller – as he seems to be the last to know this! He has worked in the editorial department on over 30 productions in the last 20 years. His list of credits include: Star Trek Beyond (2016), Eloise (2016), Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Django Unchained (2012), & Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003). It was an honor to interview him:

Matthew Toffolo: You’ve worked as an Assistant Editor on many big Hollywood productions. What is the role of Assistant/Associate Editor? What is the biggest thing you’ve learned doing this task to help you grow as an editor?

Greg D’Auria: I think the main role of an Assistant is to be a traffic cop for the flow of information into and out of the cutting room. I won’t bore you with the details, but there is a massive amount of logistical and technical skill required to keep track of the hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of feet of film shot. Every single frame has to be accounted for. That’s the responsibility of the Assistant. But I’ve only just scratched the surface, because they also have to keep track of all the things that are happening in the editing room from the start of editing all the way through the final delivery of timelines to the D.I. house. Along the way to completion, a lot of departments and vendors constantly need things from editorial and it’s the Assistant’s responsibility to handle those requests. These things can and do vary depending on the size of the project. I’ve also been lucky that some editors would let me handle creative tasks like cutting temp music and sound effects for select scenes. Some were generous enough to let me take a whack at cutting a scene or two. Probably the biggest thing I took from being an Assistant is to embrace flexibility. Obviously no editor is the same and no show is the same. So you take those things into account with each project that you work on. That’s a valuable mindset to have when you dive into the unruly beast that is storytelling.

MT: What film that you’ve worked on has been your most valuable experience?

GD: I’ve taken something away from every show and every editor I’ve worked with. Sometimes it was outright theft.

MT: What is the art to being a great ACTION FILM editor? How is working on this type of film different than a conventional drama film?

GD: Oh, man, I’m not someone who can answer that question. There are so many great editors with a much longer resume who are more qualified to discuss the art of cutting action. But I will tell you a little about my approach because that’ll answer your second question. We’re telling stories. Every scene is a piece of that tapestry. Every shot is like a thread in that tapestry. How do those individual threads work best to tell the story of that scene? What are the objectives of that scene? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I hope to take an audience on a ride when I cut action. I think the best way to do that is by keeping track of the characters in the midst of whatever action is going on. What are they doing in the scene? How are they reacting? If you connect the audience to the characters, it becomes an immersive experience. I think every film, doesn’t matter what genre, succeeds when it gets to that level. So, outside of the faster tempo of an action beat, I don’t see much difference between action and drama.

PHOTO: Action in “Star Trek Beyond”:

star_trek_beyond_action.jpg

MT: How was the STAR TREK BEYOND experience? There are 3 other editors credited in the main editor credit. How did 4 people collaborate on the film?

GD: The collaboration starts with Justin. He has a clear vision, but he’s never satisfied, he’s always looking to push and explore and refine. There were lots of screenings of the film with the 5 of us. They’re thorough and the floor is always open for us to comment. Armed with new feedback we’d split up, work on our sections with Justin and then do it all over again. I read a review of BEYOND that complimented the seamless editing. The critic was a little surprised this was so given that there were 4 editors. He wouldn’t have been if he saw how expertly Justin works.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

GD: One of the first job interviews my agent sent me on took place at the director’s house. A cool place in the Silverlake area of LA, I remember guitars and photos and paintings were strewn about. It made for a relaxed vibe. The interview was more conversation than formal interview. His cat slinked around us for the first hour, then she made herself at home on my lap for the last half hour. When the interview wrapped up, the director noticed her and said she usually doesn’t take to strangers. The comfort and trust that cat had in me? Hopefully, every director I work with would feel the same. I just don’t want ’em on my lap. But seriously, I think that trust is key. Picture lock is the end of the road. Once the film is released the director has to feel that we’ve explored every avenue, chased every idea and that the finished product is the best it could be.

MT: Is there a type of film that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

GD: I love Slap Shot. It’s funny, ballsy and full of social insight. Can’t think of many comedies that are set against the backdrop of a blue collar world on the verge of financial collapse. I’d be damn proud to have my name attached to something like that.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

GD: The first two Godfathers, Chinatown, Joe Dirt. Alright, just kidding about that last one.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

GD: This is a do as I say not do as I did not response. Be open, be curious, if you can, travel. Read. Listen to music, immerse yourself in the arts. Embrace technology. Get your foot in the door by pursuing internships. If you’re a technological wiz, highly literate and an interesting person, you will find a place in editorial.

MT: Where did you grow up? Was working in the Film Industry something you always wanted to do?

GD: Palisades, New York, a suburb 20 minutes northwest of Manhattan. Growing up I aspired to play pro basketball, my body had other ideas. I’ve always loved movies, but who gets to do that for a living? The summer before I was going to start law school, three friends, Keith, Gregg and Peter, moved out to Hollywood. I didn’t join them. During that summer I gradually realized I had no f-cking aspirations to pursue law as a career. So, a year later I followed them out to LA. I’ve never regretted that choice.

****

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

 

Interview with Editor Tia Nolan (How to be Single, Friends with Benefits)

Chatting with Tia Nolan about the craft of editing was a pure joy. Her recent credits include: How to be Single (2016), Angie Tribeca season 2 (2016), Annie (2014), Friends with Benefits (2011), The Woman (2008), and Bewitched (2005). She is a wealth of knowledge in the art of making a great comedy – as you’ll learn in his interview. Enjoy!

Matthew Toffolo: What is the role of a TV episode editor? How is this different is comparison to working on a feature film?

Tia Nolan: The role of a TV episode editor is to assemble and fine tune the footage provided to its final broadcast ready product. I have only worked in scripted half hour comedy television. I have found that the craft is similar to feature film editing in performance and timing. The real difference lies in the schedule and who gets final cut. In television, there are usually two or three editors on the show. This means that every two or three weeks, you get a new episode to cut, even if you haven’t finished the previous episode. The schedule is very fast paced. You only spend 2 days with a director and there are usually different directors for each episode. Your real cutting room relationships are with the producers of the show. You can find yourself doing notes on multiple episodes in the same day with the producers.

In features, I am involved in every aspect of the process from dailies to final mix and color timing. In television, the AP runs the mix and color timing for each episode because the editors are needed to continue editing the episodes. In features, I get to spend more time with the director and producers finding the characters, the story and the comedy. There isn’t that luxury of time in television. That said, the shows are shorter so you don’t need as much time to massage the material. But you also have to cut each episode to a specific time, which can be maddening if you have to kill off great material to get to that time. I actually enjoy being able to go between both mediums. It keeps me on my toes.

PHOTO: Rashida Jones stars in “Angie Tribeca” TV show:

ANGIE TRIBECA

MT: What film that you’ve worked on has been your most valuable experience?

TN: That’s a hard question to answer. As an overall answer, I’d say any film I worked on with Richard Marks, my mentor, because he really taught me how to look at a film and make it great. If I were to pick one film that was the most valuable, I’d say FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.

I had only been cutting on my own for a short while when I got this job. The nature of comedy was changing and what I had learned from my years of working with Richard Marks, James L. Brooks and Nora Ephron was not what the world was craving anymore. When I started working with Will Gluck, he really pushed me to change the pace of my cutting. He wanted his actors to deliver lines fast and punchy like the old screwball comedies, but he wanted them to feel like real people as well.

Though he cowrites all of his films, he loves to go off book and throw ad libs to his actors. He rarely calls cut. FWB was the first digital film I had worked on. I found myself with 30 min. long takes.

But I watched every frame. And in doing so, I was able to listen to his direction to the actors and understand what he was going for. Will Gluck also insists on seeing a rough cut with sound design and music.

When I was coming up the ranks, the rule was to never show a rough cut with music because it changes how you view the cut. Suddenly, I was doing the opposite of what I had been taught. Now I need to perfect all of my sound and music before I can really tell if a scene is working. Working on FWB really launched me forward in my career.

Photo: Justin Timberlake & Mila Kunis star in “Friends with Benefits”:

friends_with_benefits.jpg

MT: What is the art to being a great COMEDY editor? How is working on this type of film different than a conventional drama film?

TN: Comedy editing is all about the pacing. That sounds like a dumb thing to say because all editing is about the pacing, but there is a rhythm to comedy that is very delicate. Make the space between lines too long and you’ve created drama. Make the space too short and you’ve blown the joke. But make the space really long when a ridiculous thing has just been said or done can bring on a huge wave of laughter. But there is no true rule. You just have to feel the material. I believe I have the most success when I’m able to make the characters likable and accessible, not broad caricatures. Then the audience is more open to laughing at them and with them. And watching the film with an audience informs you better than anything of if the comedy is playing.

MT: You’ve edited two feature films in 2016 – HOW TO BE SINGLE & MIDNIGHT SUN. Two very different films. What pulled you into working on those two productions?

TN: I was very interested in working on HOW TO BE SINGLE. It was written by Dana Fox, who was the creator of BEN AND KATE, the first television show I worked on. I instantly responded to the script because it was comedy with heart and (spoiler alert) the girl doesn’t end up with the guy at the end. I had never worked with New Line before but knew that they were one of the main studios making really great comedies. Then, I met Christian Ditter, who is amazing and enthusiastic, and I was sold. Toward the end of HOW TO BE SINGLE, John Rickard, one of the film’s producers, approached me about MIDNIGHT SUN. John had been making this indie film while we were in post on HOW TO BE SINGLE. He had hit a place in the process where he wanted a new set of eyes on the film. There was something with the characters and performance that wasn’t hitting. I was happy to help John out and really happy to dive into a different genre of film.

MIDNIGHT SUN is a drama but it has comedic moments that help us get into the characters. What was important to me when I came onto the film was to make the characters real and likable early on so that when tragedy strikes, you feel so much more for them. My happiest moment on that film was making my teenage daughter cry like a baby at a screening.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

TN: I think the answer is probably different for each editor and each director, but I look for a collaborator who is a solid story teller. I like to be able to voice my opinions and discuss the film with the director.

These healthy debates are what ultimately makes the best finished product. I have been lucky to work with a group of directors who fit this category. Each one of them was looking for a collaborator and teammate. They enjoyed the debates and letting me bring ideas to the table. It made the process fun.

PHOTO: Will Ferrell & Nicole Kidman in “Bewitched”:

bewitched

MT: Is there a type of film that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

TN: I love all films so I’m just happy to be cutting. I am really excited about my next project. It is a horror comedy but really playing up the horror. I’ve never cut horror and will probably have to sleep with the lights on for months but I can’t wait!

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

TN: I have an arsenal of movies that I watch over and over again, so its impossible to say what movie I’ve seen most times in my life. One film that I’ve watched hundreds of times is a film called TWO FOR THE ROAD. It was directed by Stanley Donen and it stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a couple going through many stages of marriage. The film travels back and forth through time to explain their complex relationship, not through flashbacks but through very creative editing. My parents loved it and we used to watch it over and over again when I was a kid.

When I got to USC Film School, it was used in my Cinema 101 class as a tool to teach editing. I had seen the film countless times already, but suddenly I was seeing it in a new light.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

TN: There are so many opportunities these days for people to learn how to edit. Both my kids use Final Cut Pro at home to edit movies of their friends. But I don’t think that just knowing how to use the programs is enough. I highly encourage anyone who wants to get into editing to move their way through a cutting room, meaning start as a PA and move up. And soak up as much as you can. Editing is as much a relationship with directors and producers as it is with the material.

The more you watch editors manipulate a film or tv show, the more you will feel the rhythms.

MT: Where did you grow up? Was working in the Film Industry something you always wanted to do?

TN: I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My father was a big movie buff so movie watching was our biggest hobby in my family. We also made movies as a family. My dad was in advertising so he’d take us on commercial shoots and then to a screening room to watch Rushes at the end of the day. He worked with John Hughes and Alan Daviau when they were in advertising, so I grew up around great talents. I took my first editing class in High School and loved it. I’ve known ever since that time that I wanted to be a Film Editor. And here I am.

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Oscar Winning Editor Alan Heim (All That Jazz, Network)

Alan Heim is an Oscar & Emmy winning editor. Many will say that he’s one of the greatest editors in the history of cinema. All you need to do it watch “Network” (1976), and “All that Jazz” (1979) to see the uniqueness of his talent. If you haven’t seen those films I highly suggest you do because they are timeless in their themes and character studies. It was an honor to chat with Alan about his career. A career that’s still going strong  at 80 years of age.

alanheimMatthew Toffolo: In recent years you’ve worked with director Nick Cassavetes in collaboration (The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper, The Other Woman, Alpha Dog). How did you first meet? What makes your working relationship so strong?

Alan Heim: I believe Dede Allen (Editor: The Hustler, Bonnie & Clyde) suggested I cut “The Notebook” and Nick and I have gotten along together very well since. He likes my honesty in assessing the material and I love his rather rebel ways.

MT: You won the Oscar for the amazing “All That Jazz”. A film that still holds up today. How were your experiences working on that film? How did it feel when you went up to accept your Academy Award?

AH: All That Jazz was wonderful to work on because the material was so unusual and Fosse and I had a wonderful collaboration. Every day was a challenge and filled with discovery. Bob had written many of the structural things we had found in the cutting room on ‘Lenny’ into the script of “Jazz” but we discovered that we still had to struggle with certain areas to make the film work as planned.

As far as the Oscar, I was thrilled, as any winner should be. I even forgot to kiss my wife when they called my name. It was also very rewarding to share the stage with so many of my coworkers on the film.

PHOTO: All that Jazz starring Roy Scheider:

allthatjazz

MT: What is the key to editing a musical?

AH: The key to editing a musical is to always keep an eye on the story and always try to make the audience follow the flow of the dance. A good script keeps the musical numbers integrated into the structure of the film.

MT: You also worked with Bob Fosse on “Lenny”. How was your working relationship with the iconic musical Choreographer/Movie Director? “Lenny” also appears in “All that Jazz” too! It’s almost like you edited “Lenny” twice!

AH: Bob and I worked together well because we both wanted the very best we could get out of the film. I love working with directors who won’t settle and always want to reach for perfection. I feel the same way about Nick Casavettes.

As far as editing “Lenny” twice….I always like my films to be an adventure of discovery and I’ve been pretty lucky this far.

MT: The film “Network” is a masterpiece that really was ahead of its time. It’s a film with themes and settings that still ring true to today’s world and situations. What are you feelings and memories working on the film as it approaches its 40th anniversary?

AH: “Network” has always been one of my favorites. Paddy Chayefsky was a brilliant, prescient polemicist and wrote a near flawless script, beautifully acted and directed perfectly by Sydney Lumet. What more colds an editor want? Except for some unfortunate clothing choices and sideburns, the film could be released today with great pride and timeliness.

PHOTO: Peter Finch is “Mad as Hell” in Network:

network

MT: You also edited (and won the Emmy for) the landmark TV mini-series “Holocaust”, which premiered in 1978. It stars a young Meryl Streep and James Woods. Were you aware when editing this series how important it was going to be for the education of many people watching?

AH: I only worked on one of the four episodes and I had to re-edit it. It was the first time I ever “doctored” a film and basically put it back in dailies form and totally recut it. It was very meaningful for me and I’m happy for whatever it has done to retain the Holocaust in peopleès memories.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director? What is a director looking for in their editor?

AH: I think the answer is the same to both questions. Editors and directors should both try to find a person that they can spend a LOT of time with in close quarters working to get a vision on the screen. One hopes for it to be the same vision or herd will be a lot of tension in those close quarters.

MT: Is there a type of film that you would love to edit that you haven’t edited yet?

AH: I’m very happy to have worked on the type of film I’ve worked on, mostly films with emotional reality on a fairly small scale. Few fights and those mostly with fists, not lasers.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

AH: Probably “Citizen Kane”, “Casablanca” and lots of older comedies.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

AH: If you really are devoted to becoming an editor try to hang around cutting rooms, look at lots of movies and practice cutting wherever you can.

Don’t neglect reading, listening to all kinds of music, seeing plays and art shows and generally opening your mind to all things cultural. It all helps whe you’re trying to tell a story and that’s what editing is all about..

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Emmy Winning Editor Geoffrey Rowland (Path to 911, The Young Messiah)

Geoffrey Rowland has worked in the film and television industry for over 50 years. We chatted on the phone for 2 hours with topics ranging from our mutual love for baseball, life lessons, being Canadian, and of course film and editing. He was a pure joy to chat with. Enclosed are the highlights of our conversation:

Matthew: “The Young Messiah” is set to hit the theatres this week. Can you give us a sneak peak as to what to expect? How was your experience working on the film?

Geoffrey Rowland: Terrific experience. I worked 77 straight days editing that film. It became a part of me. I gave it my all and I think it’s a very good film.

PHOTO: Still from “The Young Messiah” with actress Sara Lazzaro. Geoffrey called her one of the finest actresses he has ever edited. “Amazing eyes”. He praised. 

girl_young_messiah.jpg

MT: You’ve worked on over 80 productions as an editor in the last 40 years. Do you have a favorite experience? What film/TV episode are you most proud of?

GR: There was a “Cagney & Lacey” episode in 1984 called “Heat”. It was about a hostage situation. The producer of the show called it a movie that was also a TV episode. I’m very proud of that episode because the director Karen Arthur won an Emmy for it. The first time a female won a Best Directing Emmy.

There was a scene where someone gets shot in the episode and instead of showing them get shot down, I focused on the reaction of the husband and let the sound of the gun and his face tell us what happened. That’s editing!

PHOTO: Tyne Daly in “Cagey & Lacey”. Geoffrey edited multiple episodes of the series and considers working with director Karen Arthur as one of his finest working experiences:

cagney_and_lacey.jpg

MT: I have to ask about your experience working on “Rocky” early in your career as an assistant editor. The film ended up winning the Oscar for Best Picture. What are you memories working on the film?

GR: I was an apprentice editor for Richard Halsey on the TV series “Peyton Place”. One day as I was driving home from work on a show I was assisting for, I realized I forgot my wallet and had to go back to the Production Lot. I ran into Richard who was looking for an assistant editor for this film called “Rocky”. The only reason I got the job was because and I was lucky to run into Richard at the exact time he was going to hire someone. I wasn’t his first choice, but because I was eager to do it, he went with me. That’s faith! If I remembered my wallet my career could have gone in a different direction.

MT: You then moved onto “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. You worked on an Oscar winner to Steven Spielberg! What were your duties working on that production?

GR: I watched, assembled the dailies, and organized the footage. From Memorial Day 1977 to the fall of that year, I had two days off. We worked tirelessly on that film.

Steven was a terrific guy. It was all about the film. That’s what made the working relationship great. No one needs to know anything about you except what you know about the film. A sole focus always leads to the best relationships.

MT: You won an Emmy for the “Path to 911” mini-series. I had a few friends working on that production in Toronto, so I visited the set for a few days. Every shot, no matter what, had at least three cameras rolling, sometimes 4-5 cameras. I remember thinking that the editor and his team are going to have SO much footage – it’s going to be a nightmare. What were your experiences working on that film? You must have had a big team of assistant editors to go over all that footage.

GR: There was almost 3 million feet of film shot on that production. Yes there was a lot of coverage – which is amazing for an editor because you have choice and can really dig into the story.

We had 5-7 editors at a time working on the project editing scenes. The trick on that film was to make it look like it was edited by just one person when it came all together. That was my job. The director David L. Cunningham is a brilliant guy. Shoots the film like it’s a documentary in a very unique style. He reminded me of a young Spielberg.

We were proud to receive the Emmy but it wasn’t us who won it, but the entire production and people who worked on the show.

PHOTO: Still Shot from the mini-series “Path to 911”. A controversial series when it premiered in September 2006. Geoffrey wins his first Emmy after 5 previous nominations: 

path_to_911.jpg

MT: What’s the key difference between working on a TV episode in comparison to working on a feature film?

GR: TV is a Producer’s medium. That’s who you’re working with. They know the show and how the episode needs to fit into the context of the entire season and series. Film is a director’s medium. The director knows the film better than anyone else. In TV, it’s a faster process versus working on a film.

MT: What is an editor looking for in their director?

GR: Hand ons. Hands off. Instense. Casual. They are all different and you always learn a ton from them. As long as they are passionate, that’s all that matters.

MT: What is a director looking for in their editor?

GR: Do the job and don’t bring your ego to the film. A director has one focus (to finish the film) and has a 1000 things going on in their head. They want you to be professional. Don’t cross boundaries and tell them your life story or anything for that matter that’s not about the film. When you finish working with them they’ll know whether they want to work with you again and vice/versa. You don’t have to say anything more about it.

In professional situations and when putting a film together, less is always more.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?

GR: The Immortal Beloved. Probably seen it 2 to 3 dozen times. When I want a good cry, I watch it.

Great films leave an impression. My daughter Brooke was 15 years old when we went to see the film together. She just quit the piano weeks before, but went right back to it after she saw the film because she was so inspired. And stayed at it. When Gary Oldman (who played Beethoven) heard that story, he wept.

Stories like that is the reason why most of us get into the business. It’s all about leaving an impression in this world.

MT: What type of film would you love to edit that you haven’t worked on yet?

GR: The next project. Whatever the next project is.

MT: What suggestions would you have for people in high school and university who would like to get into the industry as an editor?

GR: Learn subtext. A great way to do learn is to listen to classical music. Listen to the instruments and how it all comes together. It’s the same way when editing a film.

Get your foot in the door and be a sponge. You have to be obsessed with editing. Nothing else matters.

Also, buy the book: http://www.CUTTINGITINHOLLYWOOD.com

And remember when editing – it’s all in the eyes!

PHOTO: Banner of the book “Cutting it in Hollywood”, where author Mitchell Danton interviews the great film editors, including Geoffrey Rowland. 

cuttingitinhollywood

____
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.