In this episode, I’m talking with Crispin Green, ACE about editing four seasons of Game of Thrones, including two episodes of the last season.
Green has also edited TV Series; Killing Eve, Strike Back, Upstairs Downstairs, Doctor Who, and many others.
This interview is available as a podcast.
(This interview was transcribed with SpeedScriber. Thanks to Martin Baker at Digital Heaven)
GREEN: I like your Moviola in the background. Reminds me of the old days.
HULLFISH: You started early enough to have cut on film. What was the transition like for you?
GREEN: It was a bit scary at first. I did commercials. Lightworks actually was first, before Avid.
HULLFISH: Especially in the UK.
GREEN: Yeah in the UK really. I learnt non-linear on that really, rather than Avid, and then Avid kind of took over, so I had to learn that as well. So it’s a bit frightening at first but I actually borrowed a Lightworks from someone so I could sit there and play around and wonder, “If I press that, will it all disappear?”
After a while it was fine and it is great. I love it, now.
HULLFISH: I’m going to start out with a couple of questions that I got from editing fans. I asked some people, “Hey, I got Crispin Green. What do you want me to ask him?”
Robbie Mann asked a question — that I would typically ask anyhow — which is: What kind of timeframe did they have per episode before final approval, and did that change much from season to season?
GREEN: The way they did it was a little bit different to a normal production.
When I first started working on it — season four — there were three editors and one extra editor who did the odd episode, because there was 10. So we did three each and then Jessie would do the odd episode but we all started together because of the logistics of it. They’d go to Iceland and film everything for the whole season while they were away there.
So we three editors had to be on all the time. It was usually about seven months from the first day of rushes right through to my last day. Of course, they were still working on it — doing track-laying, sound mixing, VFX were still being finished off.
HULLFISH: You’ve cut a ton of TV in the UK especially that would be unusual wouldn’t you say — a seven-month episode.
GREEN: Yeah it would (laughs). It was the longest thing that I’ve ever worked out in one hit. Usually, they’re 10 weeks. Usually, you do two episodes rather than three. Game of Thrones ended up with us doing two episodes each because each season got more and more ambitious.
There was one season where it was just overload. We were getting double amounts of rushes. We just physically couldn’t do it all ourselves. So they decided to change it. That was season 6 — Hodor and the door. We had to get Jessie to help us out because it just got to be a bit too much, because of the ambition of the episodes. They got just bigger and bigger.
HULLFISH: So one of the reasons for the long time for an episode is because of kind of a block shooting of it as you explained. You go to one location and then shoot maybe scenes for six or seven episodes but then you’re waiting for other scenes for your episodes.
GREEN: That’s right. Yeah. Because they did shoot a lot of stuff, you were never really sitting around, but some days, I might not have any rushes. That, of course, gave me time to go back over what I’d done, so it was quite nice really. It worked out pretty well.
We were cutting in Belfast, so we were away from home for quite a long time.
They had an in-house grade at Yellow Moon, which is the Post House where we cut everything in Belfast, so rushes would go through that overnight and then we’d get rushes in the morning.
We weren’t normally asked to show cuts every day. It was normally an end-of-the-week thing — depending on the director really. They were all watching it as we were going along, but not every day.
HULLFISH: Here’s a good question from Emily Drummond. Ask if he has any particular scenes that he edited that stood out to him — or that he really enjoyed the edit — and why?
GREEN: There’s many. I did the rock man attack when Jorah and Tyrion were on the boat going down the river. They get attacked by rock men in Valyria.
(Jorah and Tyrion travel through Valyria (505)
I liked the way it built because it was very calm and beautiful as they’re floating down the river and they’re all theorizing about stuff and you can see the odd ruin which were all brilliant CGI additions which you couldn’t tell. They just looked like ruins they were going past.
The closer they get, the more you feel danger — you know something’s going to happen — and it did.
HULLFISH: And why do you think that the audience felt danger at that point because of the pacing or music?
GREEN: Music, obviously, has a big part to play in it but I think it was because of the calmness. It’s because of the slow build, and you feel quite nice as they’re going down this lovely river, and then the ruins are getting more and more around them.
The audience knows that something’s gonna happen, but it was just when.
HULLFISH: Audiences are becoming more and more sophisticated.
HULLFISH: You’ve got to realize — especially in a show like this with so much action and violence — for this moment, this pastoral moment to happen, this can’t be good.
GREEN: Yeah exactly. But you totally need to have that. That’s why I really enjoyed cutting all of Game of Thrones because the balance of really awful things happening and huge action sequences — but they’re all moments.
The balance was great because you really had time to invest in the characters as well. It did calm down. It wasn’t a total action-fest which was great. I think that’s its success really. You really invested in the characters.
One of the other scenes that I really enjoyed from the last season was when Brienne gets knighted by Jamie.
(Jaime Knights Brienne of Tarth | Game of Thrones S08E02)
Watching it again, I get a tear in me eye. It’s just the way she looks at him because their story runs past you and if you know it, you just remember all their story while he’s doing it and it was just really touching.
HULLFISH: I love that idea that just thinking about the scene brings a tear to your eye because I’ve definitely had that thing happen when I’m cutting where you get so involved yourself.
You’re building it. You know how fake it is because you’re constructing it yourself, yet it is so emotionally powerful.
GREEN: Yeah it’s happened to me a few times. Not all the time obviously, otherwise I’d be a bloody wreck, but it does happen and you’re right. How can it be that this affects you? It’s just a screen, but you’ve invested so much in them. They’re real to you, almost, aren’t they?
HULLFISH: I think the people who get into editing — or who become good enough that they succeed like you — is a certain sense of empathy. If you can’t feel with the characters, you can’t do your job.
GREEN: That’s right. That’s absolutely right. The characters are really the main thing for an audience. You’ve got to invest in them. You’ve got to believe in them.
It’s the teamwork. it’s the directing, the writing, and everything, but our job is to kind of bring it all together isn’t it? Katie (editor Katie Weiland) once said, “It’s a bit like a funnel.” We’re at the end of it and there are all these thousands of other people that put it all together and then it’s coming into us.
It’s no wonder it does affect us emotionally as we’re working away. I like that. I think that’s great. If it can do that to you then it’s got to be good.
HULLFISH: Does that happen for you with action sequences? Sometimes when I’m editing an action sequence, I can feel my heart start to race.
HULLFISH: I just re-watched the “Winterfell” episode — Season 8, Episode 1. That was one of yours.
GREEN: Yeah. I did episode one and two that season.
HULLFISH: In that episode, near the beginning, there’s a great scene that has subtext to it and shows — I think — a great understanding of story. You’ve been on Game of Thrones for four years. In that episode, they’ve gathered together to figure out the plan for the coming battle or attack. Everyone’s talking. Jon’s up there and a girl challenges Jon about being chosen king and NOW what is he?
I instantly wanted him to stand up and defend himself with some great oratory, right? But you didn’t do that immediately. First, he looks unsure, and then he looks to multiple people and everybody else is like, “What’s he gonna say?” Was that delay scripted or did you feel like there needed to be a delay before he spoke?
GREEN: Yeah. It was a scripted moment, but it took quite a while to get to that moment. It was about balance. Should he say it straight away? He’s got all these other things going on in his mind about Daeny and his sisters. It was a kind of a group decision really to hold that back slightly.
It was just a thing to try and get the audience to imagine what’s going through his head. He’s having flashbacks in his mind without actually showing a flashback. So the audience is doing it for him, really.
HULLFISH: The episode starts with a boy kind of running through the town to see the approaching army. There’s dialogue, but there’s space between the dialogue. It’s lingering on people’s faces and things like that.
GREEN: With episode 1, it was a big moment where all the characters have been all over the Game of Thrones world as separate things and we’ve been party to all their stories — they’re actually all coming together in one place — or nearly all of them.
A lot of them you know they haven’t seen each other, like Jon and Arya haven’t seen each other since she was a child, basically. But what we were trying to do with the first two episodes was to build that sense of doom that’s coming with the White Walkers. Episode two ends with the horse’s hoof outside Winterfell.
That’s what we were aiming to do. There’s a big set piece — of course — the dragon ride, which is great.
It was kind of a slow build over two episodes with all these characters meeting up again after such a long time. They’re building towards this huge battle that’s going to happen and they don’t think they’re going to survive it.
HULLFISH: I’ve heard tension described like a slingshot you’re pulling back, you’re pulling back, you’re going back, then RELEASE.
GREEN: Yeah. So the first two episodes are pulling back again and I kind of enjoy that because I do like characters. I mean, I do love cutting action as well, but I do like the granular type of thing with characters and drawing the audience in — making them believe what’s happening to them.
HULLFISH: You mentioned the dragon ride. What kind of previs are you getting? Or how are you cutting a scene like that that is so heavily visual effects?
GREEN: I’ve done quite a bit of CG and Doctor Who before, and a few other things, but never as big as Game of Thrones. They do previs them very well to be honest. They do rough animations of how the scene should play out. Obviously it changes, but they do that so you’ve got a guide.
Then when they go and shoot the shots you know where they’re going. It’s a bit like doing animation almost, but you’ve got the live-action elements where they shoot in a huge green screen studio with motion-controlled cameras and stuff, so it’s quite hard to visualize it, but when you start getting the scene together you get bits and pieces where you can add in a background.
I have a really good assistant who is great at combining bits.
HULLFISH: Let’s let’s give his name or hers….
GREEN: Stephanie McCutcheon. She was second assistant on my first block but then she was made up to first. Then she stayed with me all the way through. She’s great. Really good. It got so I didn’t have to ask her to do stuff. She just knew and did it.
She was great at compositing bits because when you show it to someone it’s hard for them to envisage it. If it’s hard for us, it’s even harder for them. Especially when it’s part of the story, so you need to have it as good as you can get it.
After a while they do animations of the dragon — basic animations — as time goes on you get more and more pieces that you could combine, so by the time the episode is completely shot you’ve got sort of a scene that you can show. It’ll have backgrounds on it and animated pieces in it. So then the producers can make a better decision on how the scene is.
HULLFISH: When you’re cutting a scene like that, do you feel the need or do you feel the ability to ask, “I wish I had a close up that wasn’t in the previs.”.
GREEN: Oh yeah. They’re very open to things like that. Absolutely. I’ve done it a few times. Not just me. The director might watch it and say, “We need something to happen there and maybe we can pick that up.” That’s a constant thing and that and that helps. The more we can put it together as a rough sequence, the more they can see things like that, or we can say, “we need something extra.”.
HULLFISH: In that opening scene in Winterfell where the boy’s watching the army coming in. He climbs a tree and the camera’s close on him and just before he turns you hear a voice from that side that motivates him.
(Game Of Thrones 8×01 | “Daenerys Arrives At Winterfell” | Season 8 Episode 1)
GREEN: Just to make him turn. Yeah. Yeah.
HULLFISH: I love that. Was that a scripted thing? Was that something where you felt like it’d be great to have it motivated so that I can cut to the army coming in?
GREEN: It wasn’t scripted. That’s a thing that happens often. You cut the scene together and somebody looks and it just needs a little something. A crack of a twig or whatever. They don’t really script things like that. If it’s written down it might be: “The boy sees the army.” But the way it’s shot always ends up different from the script really. Not hugely, but that’s a thing we would have put in because sound is a hugely important thing.
We do a lot of work on the sound before it even goes to the track layers and sound department. It all helps us build the world, doesn’t it?
HULLFISH: Audio in fantastic worlds really helps sell. Sometimes without audio, they can feel really fake.
GREEN: Yeah. Sometimes it’s even the smallest of things. Say you’ve got the dragon flying along and it does this. (turns his head to the side) If you put a little rustle or some sort of “movement sound” it suddenly becomes more real. They’re tiny little things that you wouldn’t really notice.
To give the example, if somebody slaps someone in the face and you don’t have the sound for it, it’s not so good, is it? That’s the way I look at it. Even the tiny little — like this (pokes himself in the chest with his finger) — there should be a tiny sound for it. It doesn’t have to be big. It just brings it all into focus I think.
HULLFISH: The interesting thing with that example of the dragon shoulder turn is you can’t go to a sound effects library and search for “dragon shoulder turn.”.
GREEN: That’s right, yeah.
HULLFISH: What are you looking for when you’re looking for a dragon shoulder turn?
GREEN: Mind you, after a while, the Game of Thrones sound effects library, as you can imagine, got quite large. So there were things like that after a few seasons.
HULLFISH: That’s one of the nice things — you said you started on season 4 — by then you’ve got a huge palette of sound.
GREEN: Yeah it is great, really. It must have been much harder on season one because they didn’t have anything. Also — don’t forget — I had three seasons of Ramin Djawadi’s music. That’s what we would use as temp. We didn’t need to go hunting around in other movie soundtracks. Very occasionally you might say, “There’s nothing exactly right for this.”
I will steal something as a temp to get a feeling, but mostly the music was already in a big bank of music that Ramin had already done for previous episodes, so that saved a lot of hunting. You still have to hunt through his stuff to find the right things.
HULLFISH: On other TV shows that you’ve edited, are they largely not composed — you have pieces from the composer that they create and then you put them in and that’s the finished music? Or are you temping with the composer and then they actually compose for each episode?
GREEN: With Doctor Who, the music is all composed, but because each episode is kind of a standalone story, you had some music that was usable but mostly it would be new music that we would take from other movies or other TV programs. For instance, there was one Doctor Who I did that had a little girl in it and we used a lot of Harry Potter.
We give that as a guide. Some composers don’t really like that because we’ve already said, “this is the style we like” but most of the music helps them, especially when they don’t have much time.
It’s only when it’s a long-running series that it’s got a bank of music. I’ve done a few episodes of Strike Back — which is a long-running series in the UK — and that has a bank of music.
HULLFISH: I’ve heard of other shows that have a faster turnaround so the music is composed, but it’s done before the editing almost as custom stock music. Some of the weekly serialized shows just can’t have custom cues for every moment, so they just make a bunch of cues for various moods.
GREEN: Most of the stuff I work on is composed in the end. With Game of Thrones Ramin only composed the music after we’d lock the picture. He’d be working on it, obviously. He’d be seeing cuts, but we didn’t really get anything in advance — any new stuff in advance — from him.
On the job I’ve just done, the composer was involved quite early on which was great actually. It was very helpful. He was starting to give us some basic tracks as we were editing, so that was quite good.
HULLFISH: Taylor Brusky asks: A lot of people want to become editors but very few make it to your level. What advice do you have for people early in their careers who want to stand out amongst the competition and become successful editors?
GREEN: The main thing for me was watching lots of films and lots of TV shows. If I really like the show, I won’t be thinking about the editing while I’m watching, but if I think, “That was really good” then I’ll go back and watch for the editing.
You have to be very diplomatic as well because it’s a collaboration of people with different ideas. I always say the director — to me — is the person I’ll answer to and everything will go through him or her.
There are so many opinions coming. You’ve got to be a diplomat as well as an editor.
I think also reading books has helped me a lot. It’s construction of story. I think that’s part of being a successful editor is having that judgment. It’s basically knowing when something’s going on for too long or not enough.
It’s not really something that you can learn. You can kind of get an idea of it by watching films and reading books — anything story-based.
HULLFISH: My advice is that you edit. Find something that you can edit.
GREEN: I think another thing that is probably a good thing to do is to take a film and make a trailer that tells a story or make a teaser. Set yourself a time for it — say, two minutes.
I learned a lot of storytelling on commercials because you had 30 or 40 seconds and you had to tell the story in that time. It was very strict. You couldn’t go a frame over. That’s always a good exercise to do. You get good discipline that way.
The other thing is about music. I think editing is quite musical. If you’re a fan of music, you’ll kind of understand about rhythm.
HULLFISH: I want to kind of explore that idea creatively because some people might misunderstand that not only do you need to understand how music works in the show — or how you might use music — but that the picture cut itself is musical.
GREEN: That’s what I mean. Yeah. It’s a rhythm thing.
Even if the scene hasn’t got music on it, it still has a rhythm to it which is kind of a way of saying that it takes you along for the ride. It’s all about rhythm I think.
HULLFISH: You mentioned your assistant editor. The most common way that you would get to your position is that you — most often — work your way up as an assistant.
What are some of those things — as an assistant — that you look for or realize that that person is ready to move into your chair?
GREEN: When they’re comfortable cutting scenes on their own. Steph, in fact, has moved up. She’s editing now. I used to give her scenes to cut just to see how they are.
Another good indicator is how good they are putting sound in. That was another thing that Steph was great at. I’d often give her a scene and say, “Could you finish that off and put the sound on it?”
It doesn’t sound like a very creative job but it really is. We’ve just talked about how important the sound is. If the assistant is good at that they’re going to move on. It’s not just about editing the scene.
HULLFISH: Talk to me a little bit about notes and the process of revision from that first cut — either from your standpoint or from when you’re trying to help Steph or another assistant.
It’s not just cutting the scene. It’s taking the criticism of what’s wrong. You were talking about being a diplomat. How do you deal with the director’s notes? How do you deal with their desire to use a different take, for example?
GREEN: Normally, there’s a reason why I’d choose it, so I just say, “I chose it because of that.” Sometimes they ask to try your luck with their choice. A lot of times it can be a negligible difference because of the rest of the scene.
It’s something that I don’t think you can hold to your heart. It’s not a hill to die on really, for me. If they really want another take, then that’s fine. Sometimes the director’s got a vision of how a scene should be going. I’m the first one to say I might have missed that. “That little look there that you wanted, that wasn’t in this take, has made this scene different.” It’s not just diplomatic. It’s having a bit of humility as well.
HULLFISH: That’s one of my big things as an editor is “ego.” You have to set your ego aside.
GREEN: You always have to be ready and willing to say, “Actually that is really good.”
HULLFISH: The other idea is that even bad ideas sometimes lead you to good outcomes.
GREEN: Yeah. And happy accidents as well. That’s always another big thing is being ready to accept those as well.
HULLFISH: One of the things you mentioned was about directors: that you always feel like the director is “the guy.” Is that a difference between UK TV and American TV? Because in the United States, the director’s really kind of a hired gun that’s only there for a couple of days in post.
GREEN: That was quite an eye-opener to me — when I first started on Game of Thrones. The only close-to-American show I got was called House of Saddam, which was an HBO BBC co-production.
Although it was American part-financed, it was run in the British way. The director would stay on until the end. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me to see the director have eight days and then they’re gone.
HULLFISH: And then you’re switching over to the showrunner. But that’s not the way Game of Thrones worked?
GREEN: Not really. You had Frank Doelger who’s an executive producer. He was also in charge of all the post-production. So the director would go. Before he would go, he’d present his cut obviously. Frank would come into the cutting room after the director had gone and worked on it some more before handing it over to David and Dan, the showrunners.
Frank was also a lovely man and really knowledgeable about post-production so you didn’t think, “Oh God! Here he comes! He doesn’t know anything about editing.” He knows it inside-out. He’s was on the show from day one. So he knew the whole show.
When he’s looking at your episode, he’s not just looking at that episode. He’s looking at it with other episodes in mind as well — what happened before and what’s coming after. Some of his requests for cuts might leave you wondering, but he explains that it’s because of some plot turn that happened four seasons earlier.
HULLFISH: So he’s looking at the macro level.
GREEN: Yeah. He would do his cut and it would then go to David and Dan (David Bernioff and D.B. Weiss). They would dissect it and there would be that be more notes from other executives. That was quite a long process as well. They are obviously giving notes on other episodes that are happening as well, so sometimes you wouldn’t get them back straight away.
HULLFISH: What kind of collaboration did you do with the other editors on the show? Were you chatting? Was there any sharing?
GREEN: Yeah, occasionally. Not a huge amount. Occasionally we would have a look at scenes or even an episode. Mainly it was the director who would say, “Let’s have a fresh eye on something.”
We would chat, but not a huge amount. Unless there was something like an outgoing scene might carry on into the next episode. Then, of course, we’d have discussions about the transitions — to make sure that everything would flow from one episode to another. So we would talk about that, but not all the time.
HULLFISH: When you’re cutting a scene that has that nice build up — like the beginning scene from a Winterfell. How do you know — when you’re building that and there’s not dialogue that you can base your pacing off of and there’s not action. It’s all just shots that don’t seem scripted. How do you know how long that should go? How do you know that it should be six minutes or two minutes?
GREEN: To me that’s an instinctual thing. Also sometimes you don’t really find out until you’ve built — not necessarily the whole episode — some other scenes around it. I don’t think you can ever tell.
Funnily enough, I think that was the first scene that I had. The first scene they shot. Scene One, which is weird. I had the script, so I knew what was going to be happening but I think you need other scenes around it to know ultimately how long or short it should be.
But I just go on instinct at first. Make the narrative work. Make sure the story and the heart of the scene is there so you understand what it’s about.
I’ll put that together first and even then you might decide “This is too long. You don’t need all this explanation, really.” So I’ll keep that as the long version and then I’ll chip away at it a bit and make it a bit more streamlined and then I’ll probably leave it until I’ve got more scenes around it and then look at it again and notice “that scene goes on far too long” — which, in fact, is what happened. There was so much footage for that scene as you can imagine. There were so many shots — so many characters involved.
When we put it together in the cut, it was way too long — miles too long.
HULLFISH: I remember cutting an action scene that — as I was cutting it and feeling good about cutting it as its own little thing — it was 12 minutes long. (Crispin laughs) “Oh! That’s a pretty good action scene” and then you see it in the context of the story and it needs to be two minutes.
GREEN: Yeah yeah.
HULLFISH: Talk to me about doing something like that.
That 12-minute cut is still useful. It’s still a valuable exercise.
GREEN: Yeah, it is, because these things change all the time. The more input you’re getting — especially when the director comes in the room with you. The scenes can lengthen and shorten and anything can happen. But if you’ve got that original long 12-minute piece or however long it is there might be pieces in it.
Somebody might say, “Well, I’m not quite sure what they’re doing over there.” And then I would look at the original cut, and there’s a little piece in it that explains what they’re doing. So take a small piece of that idea of an explanation and cut it in. I’m always going back to original things and taking pieces out of it.
HULLFISH: I don’t mean this in a bad way because I think that opening scene was beautifully paced but you could have cut that in half easily. If the producers had said the episode is two minutes long….
GREEN: Right. If they’d have said we need to. That scene was cut down quite considerably from what it was. But if they’d have said, “we need another two minutes out” you could have taken more.
HULLFISH: It would have hurt because there were lovely moments — and as you said, the pacing.
GREEN: It’s all about the build, isn’t it?
Especially since it’s the opening scene of the new season, you want to take it in.
HULLFISH: The fans want those moments in the first episode of a new season to see their old friends and how the relationships are happening.
GREEN: Maybe if it had been too fast, people would have felt a bit shortchanged, I think. It all looked great anyway.
HULLFISH: It looked fantastic. Absolutely.
How do you have your assistants organize your material for you when you get rushes in?
GREEN: It’s fairly straightforward. I just have each scene put in a bin in frame view (tiles or thumbnails). I get them to roll the thumbnail image to be the first recognizable piece of action. Sometimes an assistant who doesn’t know will just move it past the clapper board and that might be just a shot of the door.
They put the slate and take, scene number underneath. episode number and then I can see each take of each setup — whether it’s a grouped clip — because some of them are shot with three cameras — that way, I know that there are other cameras in there.
HULLFISH: In your process of approaching a blank timeline for a scene like that opening scene, for example, do you do selects reels?
GREEN: I don’t. I take the scene bin and watch all the rushes. As I’m watching them I might put a marker — a locator — and just say “good bit,” “nice reaction.”
I’ll see things that might be quite nice. Or I might write them on the continuity reports that the script supervisor sends which I keep next to me. He or she will give good information about those scenes and if the director had any comments. So, I just add my own comments to those as well.
Once I’ve seen them all then I’ll cut that scene because it’s fresh in my mind. Some people watch all the rushes of the day first, but I can’t wait to start cutting. So I’ll watch just that scene and then I’ll cut that scene and then I’ll move on to the next one.
HULLFISH: How do you wrap your brain around that much footage before you start cutting?
GREEN: It’s scary sometimes and you think, “What am I going to do?” Well, I’ve got to start somewhere. Also, they shoot many different openings to a scene. So you could start with any of them. So, the first thing I’m going to do is decide which of those eight openings I’m gonna start with, and that sets me off. Sometimes, halfway through the scene, I’ll say, “This is rubbish.” Chuck it away and I’ll start with one of the other choices.
Then if it’s all flowing and all happening then that must be good. Once you’ve got a skeleton of the scene, then you go back and embellish.
HULLFISH: Watching that first scene and the first shot of the first scene from the Winterfell episode, it seemed like it HAD to be the first shot in the sequence… but it doesn’t.
GREEN: Little boy jumps over an icy river.
HULLFISH: But you had multiple choices for that opening shot, but choosing that first shot leads you in a different direction.
GREEN: That’s how it works for me. That’s the instinctual thing, I think, You go with the flow and then there are points where you say, “That isn’t right. It’s just not right.” So then you go back and work something round it or do something else.
But once you’ve started, it’s not so scary.
HULLFISH: I like doing these interviews because everyone has a different process and yet they all work out. For me, I am a selects reel kind of guy because I need to condense the amount of massive material so that I can think about it better.
Lots of people are really good at remembering 90 minutes of material that might be for a scene. I need to get it so it’s like twenty-five.
GREEN: The way I do it is just with me little markers and I remind myself with the continuity notes sometimes. Also, I like to whizz through — grabbing the timeline indicator and just scrolling through really fast backward and forward and seeing, “Oh yeah! I can remember that part.”
But that’s just the way I do it. There’s no real right or wrong way.
HULLFISH: Absolutely. And have you ever changed your style or do you keep an approach that’s fairly similar through the years?
GREEN: I would say the only time I’ve changed it is when there have been better tools. Like dragging backward and forwards, which you could never really do with film.
I’m also not so worried about doing so many versions anymore. You couldn’t do versions on film — not easily. You had to undo and unpick joins. Now you can try things out that may be rubbish but it’s easier to try them. But my main approach to it has not really changed.
HULLFISH: You mentioned the continuity notes. How much do you pay attention to them before you start cutting? Do you read them or do you wait until you’ve got a cut and then you go back in look?
GREEN: I will look at the rushes first and that’s when I read them. So I’ll look at what continuity says about a slate, then I’ll watch them. I don’t really go back to them after I cut it. Unless it’s for some sort of technical reason or if there is a particular director’s note. Mainly while I’m watching the rushes is when I pay attention to them.
HULLFISH: When you’re joining scene to scene — all of the scenes get delivered out of order, of course — so it may be a while before you get two or finally get two or three scenes in a row. What are some of the things that you’re looking at those joins of scenes?
GREEN: So it doesn’t bump. So you don’t think, “Oh, this is another scene.” Unless it’s meant to do that. Transitions are all-important because you need to feel like you are going along with the story. So say I’ve got 10 scenes that are all different, and then, as they start coming together, when you get more and more scenes around them, that first shot that I was talking about agonizing over to start a scene, you might say, “Actually, now that I’ve joined it onto the scene before it, it doesn’t work.”
Then I’ll gonna go back and look at those alternative openings. And you might have to adjust the first few cuts or the other way around. So it can be handy that they did those eight different versions of the first shot of the scene because of the transitions.
So that’s one of the things I look for: making sure it’s not obviously a transition. It’s NOT “one scene ends another one starts.”.
HULLFISH: I seem to remember in that Winterfell episode, at least one pre-lap.
GREEN: They do help sometimes.
HULLFISH: I could talk to you all day but I don’t want to impose on your time anymore. Thank you so much for talking to us.
GREEN: My pleasure. It’s been enjoyable.
To read more interviews in the Art of the Cut series, check out THIS LINK and follow me on Twitter @stevehullfish or on imdb.
The first 50 interviews in the series provided the material for the book, “Art of the Cut: Conversations with Film and TV Editors.” This is a unique book that breaks down interviews with many of the world’s best editors and organizes it into a virtual roundtable discussion centering on the topics editors care about. It is a powerful tool for experienced and aspiring editors alike. Cinemontage and CinemaEditor magazine both gave it rave reviews. No other book provides the breadth of opinion and experience. Combined, the editors featured in the book have edited for over 1,000 years on many of the most iconic, critically acclaimed, and biggest box office hits in the history of cinema.
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