Post Production

ART OF THE CUT with Melissa Lawson-Cheung and Colby Parker, Junior, ACE on editing “Mile 22”

Today’s Art of the Cut is with the editing team for Peter Berg’s thriller Mile 22.

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Colby Parker, Junior, ACE has a long history cutting for Peter Berg, including the films Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, Hancock, Battleship, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day. He also edited Peyton Reed’s Ant-man for which he was nominated for an ACE EDDIE for Best Edited Feature – Comedy.

Melissa Lawson-Cheung first worked with Parker as First Assistant Editor on Battleship, but had edited the feature Security, and had numerous assistant editing credits prior to that. She also edited the features, Hold Still, Gutshot Straight, Last Man Club, and was an additional editor on Patriot’s Day. She has also edited 12 episodes of the TV series Outlander and 2 episodes of the TV series Unsolved.

(This interview was transcribed with SpeedScriber. Thanks to Martin Baker at Digital Heaven)

HULLFISH: I really enjoyed the pace of editing. The movie moved along at a blistering pace. What kind of direction did you guys get from the director or did you sense was necessary from the script and your idea of the movie when you started cutting?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Pete (director, Peter Berg) wanted the story to be told through the eyes of our main character, James Silva (Mark Wahlberg). We set it up early on in the film that Silva has a mind that moves more quickly than most people (he snaps a rubber band on his wrist to calm his thoughts). Silva is guiding the audience throughout the film as he is debriefed on what happened during this 22-mile mission, so the pace of the film reflects how Silva saw it all play out.

HULLFISH: The film started relatively early with a great montage which kind of explained that his brain kind of thinks faster than other people. Can you tell me a little bit about that opening montage? Was that something that was scripted that way — or in that position — or was it something that you had to build basically from a very small amount of dialogue and direction?

PARKER: It was written as a scene, and then it kind of went away. I’m glad that you asked about that because we actually farmed it out to this music video editor guy, Zuckerman, who did the initial pass of it, based on stock footage, then after a while they wanted him to fold in a little bit about the history of the ground branch, so it became a bigger project so we worked with Yu+Co. to see how much exposition we wanted and where we wanted to place it. It evolved the whole time. It’s been around the whole time, but it’s always been evolving.

Iko Uwais and Director Peter Berg behind the scenes on the set of MILE 22.

HULLFISH: Did it move in position within the film? Or did you always feel that that’s where it belonged?

PARKER: It moved around. We tried a bunch of iterations of it and it always lived somewhere, but it got moved around a lot.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: The first place it lived was at the very beginning of the film, still as the opening credits, although it was more of a background story of only James Silva. It was moved to later in the first act and became the story of Ground Branch as well, which was referred to as Overwatch in the film.

HULLFISH: The story is told a little bit non-linearly — we’re seeing things that are happening simultaneously in different locations and some is being told through an interview that takes place after the events of the movie. Can you talk about how closely the placement and intercutting of the interview segments with Silva matched with the way they were scripted and the way they ended up in the final film?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: The debriefing with James Silva had very specific areas throughout the script, although they ended up shooting it all as one full interview. While editing the film we then chose which pieces made the most sense to stay in the film. At times I would try a debrief moment as scripted to see how it fit in, and at other times I would skip it and later splice it in where it made most sense. Once we were in the directors cut there would be specific areas where Pete would call out when he felt one was necessary.

Ronda Rousey stars as Sam Snow in the STXfilms MILE 22.

PARKER: They were longer, but they got truncated and it’s just sort of a dance of how much exposition you want to give away. They were fully formed scenes that could become truncated. You have to use them strategically based on how much you want to say expositionally and how much we want to give away. It was sort of a twist ending and so it’s always a dance where you reveal certain parts of the story.

HULLFISH: There was a lot of intercutting between the Overwatch team, led by John Malkovich’s character, Bishop, and the action that’s occurring with the team on the ground. Are you sticking fairly strictly to a script on those things or are you finding it would be better to go to this at this point than where it is in the script?

PARKER: It’s just the Berg style. He really likes to tell these stories and keep it moving. He doesn’t like to waste time.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Just as with the debriefing, the Overwatch team was scripted in very specific areas. Once we starting putting the film together it became clear we needed to feel out when and where we should go back to them. With some sections, it made sense to show the Overwatch team more often, as they were guiding the team, and in other areas, it made more sense to stay more connected with our main characters.

Mark Wahlberg stars in MILE 22

PARKER: It always happens. He just shoots so much stuff. He trouble-shoots a lot of ideas so we definitely go through and break them down. There’s just so many iterations and you just sort of carve out the best of the best. As Pete likes to say, “Drop the bronze and keep the gold.” You’re always adding plusses and working on it, trying new ideas. Watching it down. Seeing how it plays and how you feel.

HULLFISH: How did you organize this movie? Usually, you’d organize in scene bins, but a lot of this didn’t seem to sit in a specific scene or bin? There are big sequences of action, but it all seemed to flow together in a way that wasn’t defined by scenes almost… maybe that’s a testament to the editing. are you guys organizing that kind of stuff to be able to because it seems like a lot of that stuff.

PARKER: I’m always going into her selects.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: At first we are watching dailies while we organize by character, location, and/or key moments. It’s the only way we can get to know the dailies as well as more easily find specific footage as we edit. There are quite a bit of different choices shot for each scene. Pete is very open to trying different creative avenues; they aren’t bound by the script. Therefore we have many various paths for each scene. We are not only choosing the best performances, we are also organizing added moments and dialogue for each scene. Scriptsync can help a lot with this as well.

PARKER: Every job I always try to work out a formula of how to do it, but every job is different in how you have to make a select. So in this one, because there were the computer guys — which was Overwatch — for those, we were definitely stealing shots. Really editing in a way it wasn’t shot for because the story was evolving so much so for those we have assistants and we tell them, “Go find go find any time they look scared or excited about something.” And we just break down really detailed selects rolls: character or emotion that we’re always peeling through and going back to.

John Malkovich and CL star in MILE 22.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, with the Overwatch footage, there was a lot of dialogue we realized was interchangeable between multiple scenes. Therefore, we had our selects organized for each key performance, but we’d also utilize script sync. Especially when looking for a specific dialogue response from Malkovich or an Overwatch operator.

HULLFISH: So, you’re using ScriptSync, but it seems like a lot of this movie is action where ScriptSync wouldn’t be that useful, I would think. So ScriptSync is just for the dialogue-driven stuff and the selects are for action and reactions? Usually, selects are per scene, but it sounds like you’re almost doing them per visual or per emotion or character?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: That’s right. It was usually per character, especially with Overwatch. For example, we had the assistants help make organized bins of each of the operators. One of their hands using their computers, another of over the shoulder monitor shots, and another for each expressing a strong emotion, etc. And with something like the driving shots, they were separated by which car it was and camera angles, etc. They made bins in frame mode and KEM rolls, so we could utilize whichever made the most sense at the time.

PARKER: For us, it was organized into three huge set-ups after they leave the embassy, and for those, you’re definitely stealing shots all the time. So we’d have a selects reel of just kills for the bad guys. Chase. It was broken down by exteriors, whether they were in the car or by location, so the selects get pretty detailed.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, there were three routes and the dailies were initially separated for each of those.

PARKER: The assistants would definitely work on the villains because they’re so interchangeable — just finding a lot of death shots and chase shots.

Mark Wahlberg stars in MILE 22

HULLFISH: So you broke it down to the three big sequences or set-ups. But they were so enormous that they couldn’t possibly all go in a bin. So how did you guys organize that to find everything? Because some of those sequences are enormously complex.

PARKER: You have a dailies bin, but that might get so huge that it gets folder status. For example, one was the street war. Then all of those bins that pertain to that were in that folder. You have a folder that says selects then you have the scenes broken down by select reels for the different beats within that sequence and then you start stealing beats and moving around later, but you sketch it out in the selects bins and in your first sequence how it was scripted and blocked. Then it starts to get intercut. We’ll have a Mark (Wahlberg) pass. We’ll have a Rhonda Roussey pass, where we follow that person for the whole time. But each character is built as their own sequence.

HULLFISH: The pacing was break-neck — and I mean that in a good way. Was that something that you discussed with the director ahead of time? Or was it from your previous experience working with him? Colby, you’ve worked with Pete before seven times, going back to Friday Night Lights, and Melissa, this is your fourth project with Pete, right?

PARKER: It’s definitely a product of Pete Berg’s style: keep it moving. Again, it was supposed to be seen through the eyes of Silva’s character. That’s how it was shot and we wanted to go with it.

HULLFISH: I always break pacing down to what I call the macro and the micro. The macro is the pace of the story throughout the movie and the micro is the pace of the individual edits. Both of them are fast in this movie. You’ve got some serious adrenaline and forward momentum going throughout this film.
Was Pete looking at stuff while you were cutting during dailies? When was the first time Pete was starting to see your cuts?

PARKER: Right away. Especially on the action scenes.

Mark Wahlberg and Iko Uwais star in MILE 22.

HULLFISH: Every director’s different. I just interviewed someone who said that they had to fight the director to get them to watch scenes during principal photography. I just edited for a director who sought me out nearly every lunch and dinner break to watch the cut scenes from the previous day if shooting was on a stage or if I was close enough to set. And we definitely reviewed scenes every night.

So was Pete coming into your cutting rooms or were you going on set with a laptop or delivering through PIX or something?

PARKER: I was in Atlanta with the production, so we would bring him stuff on set, more for technical reasons if they were shooting something that had to match. But he generally doesn’t want to watch cuts on set. It’s a little distracting. So he’ll come back to the office and watch and give a trillion notes.

HULLFISH: It looked like you guys must’ve been inundated with footage. What was principal photography like for you guys?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: They shot quite a bit of footage for most scenes. With the amount of footage shot compared to the length of the scenes themselves; there were so many choices and so much to get through. We would just take our time to make sure we found all of the best performances for our first cut.

PARKER: Pete’s always running at least two cameras minimum.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: 18 was the most, which includes many go-pro cameras placed throughout most scenes. Those were mostly for the Overwatch monitors, although we’d also utilize those as full frame when they caught a key action. These would sometimes capture a moment from a wider angle than you usually get to view as an audience since these cameras can get into such tight spaces. They also placed the go pro cameras at the front of the cars, which I felt was a nice touch since made it feel as though the car itself was a character.

Mark Wahlberg and Director Peter Berg behind the scenes on the set of MILE 22.

HULLFISH: There’s a lot of fight scenes in this movie. How are you building some of those really powerful kinetic fight scenes?

PARKER: I have it organized already by takes and set-ups, but then I organize by blocking. So, for example, the first punch: it’s all broken down with every set-up and every take of that move. Sometimes I’ll get so bored by that that I’ll just start putting it into a sequence, but for the most part I’ll do that and then I go back and try to eventually find a master take to work off of so I can see how long I can stay on stuff. Then it starts to get intercut, so you see where you maybe don’t have a strong transition or with pacing, where you want to go out.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: When I initially cut the fight sequence with Iko in the apartment complex, I left it all as one large scene. It was scripted to be intercut at specific moments. Assembling it all together was rewarding for me, but it also helps as a guide track for later. We can always fall back to it. It’s a long play of the best of the best edited in cohesive chronological order.

PARKER: They’re scripted to be intercut, but we’ve got to design it, because it never matches what the script is.

HULLFISH: So something like when Alice is fighting a guy by herself while two other characters are fighting to get back to her. What’s driving those decisions?

PARKER: Some is scripted. Some is instinct. Some, you try to find natural beats where you feel it’s natural to cut away you find a really good place to come back, so that’s sort of an anchor. With Alice, it gets really tricky because Silva runs into his main antagonist, Axel. For example, he makes a joke and it felt strange that he’d be joking when he was trying so hard to get back to Alice and she was in peril, so that’s one of the things that would change the way we’d cut between scenes. It’s just a lot of building it and watching it and discussing. A lot of screenings with Pete. Trying different iterations to see where it feels right. We definitely troubleshoot it. A lot of these scenes were much longer.

Iko Uwais stars as Li Noor in the STXfilms MILE 22.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, we end up feeling out when it’s appropriate to cut away depending on the performance, movement, or emotion. It is definitely intuitive at times where you just feel it is just the right moment to get back to another character.

HULLFISH: Do you remember how long the first cut — the editor’s assembly — was compared to the length of the final movie? (Colby and Melissa look at each other and laugh) You’ve blocked it out?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: I can say that it was longer.

PARKER: Yes, It was definitely longer than the movie ended up being. (they laugh again).

HULLFISH: You guys won’t tell me? Blade Runner 2049 was four hours.

PARKER: That record is safe.

HULLFISH: Alright, I won’t go there then. So to get to the way you’re doing selects, it sounds similar to the way I break down complex action or dialogue scenes. I split the KEM roll (which is just all the takes and set-ups for a scene in order from Action to Cut) and then I break them down based on blocking or specific beats of dialogue — maybe five to nine beats per scene. I color code each of those beats inside the selects reel, so I can jump between them or visually see how long a beat lasts with every take and every set-up for each of those beats separately colored inside the selects reel.

PARKER: I kind of build this quazi-selects roll sometimes. I’ll find three good punches or hits within the blocking, then I’ll leave a black space after that. That informs me that this is a little piece that I really like, then I’ll pick up the action later. Then after that black hole, there might be five takes of a kick, but I’ll always put the one I like best at the end before a little bit of black filler.

Lauren Cohan stars as Alice in the STXfilms MILE 22.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: When I start an action sequence I focus on organizing primarily by the specific action. This allows me to edit more fluidly as time goes on. I then focus on the best moments for each hit, kick, or fall. I’ll keep repeats of certain moments back to back in the timeline so that I can play with each one and pick which ones cut more smoothly with the other best selects around it. I’ll tighten the edit with what I feel is the best possible options. Then I circle back several times and polish and still try different options.

HULLFISH: You mentioned that sometimes building those selects reels is boring, but it’s not really something you can assign to an assistant, right?

PARKER: I have to go through everything. I can’t have them build it.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, when it was time to circle back and review the footage again and again, we’d have the assistants then build the dailies differently and break them down for us. We’d get pretty specific as we came to certain sections with what our needs were.

HULLFISH: You mentioned going back to dailies again. I think that’s really an interesting point because when you look at dailies before you’ve cut something together and then when you look at dailies after you’ve edited something together, they mean something different to you, correct?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, that’s true.

PARKER: Definitely.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: You know your limitations, and what you ended up wanting to put together may not translate with what was shot. Your perspective changes to what you actually have rather than what you perceived you’d have based on the script.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Ground Branch officer Jimmy Silva in the STXfilms MILE 22.

PARKER: In the scripted version, there was a lot more exposition in there. There’s more exposition in this one. You always have to circle back. Sometimes you have to move stuff around, so you’re always going back for something you need. You’re always needing to steal reaction shots and build out the radio edit. So you build a dialogue pass and then you may need to find reaction shots.

HULLFISH: Did you do screenings?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: We did. Some of them were with just the immediate family, and other screenings had people with a more fresh perspective.

PARKER: There’s a super wide shot before the Jeep blows up in the first street war. During a screening, Pete Berg leaned over to me and said, “Take that shot out.” I just said, “No.” I just want that on record.

HULLFISH: Were there structural changes made at all?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Most of what changed structurally was how often and when we decided to come back to James Silva being debriefed and how often and when we came back to Bishop and his Overwatch team. Although we also ended up intercutting some of the scenes differently than scripted to give a sense of how Silva interpreted the events of the mission or to carefully hint at twists in the story.

HULLFISH: You mentioned that you had cut together sequences just based on the characters. Were you just figuring out who needed to stay alive or what you needed, when you needed to add those people and to keep them alive or what was the thought. What was the process of determining how to intercut those?

Mark Wahlberg stars as Ground Branch officer Jimmy Silva in the STXfilms MILE 22.

PARKER: Melissa and I have worked together before, she had done the first pass of the Russian safe house, as it was called, then she moved on to later reels then I was tasked to work with it, so we just passed back and forth a lot of scenes and it was just so fluid and there was no ego. It’s just great when you work with someone else and you can just keep talking to each other and passing scenes, and for that, it was a really great experience for me.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yes, It really was a benefit to have each other to lean on for feedback. Also to view how he may have put the scene together himself at one point. Both of us got to intimately know almost every single scene.

PARKER: Yeah. Sometimes Pete would ask me for another iteration of a scene, and I would say, “I can’t do this. Can you take it?” Or vice versa. Everything was just in service to the film.

HULLFISH: Was the division of labor similar during dailies?

PARKER: Dailies was just survivial, so as scenes came in, you’d just grab one.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: During production, Colby was working in Atlanta and I was in LA, we had a time difference and we weren’t able to easily discuss dailies as they came in. We ended up making an online chart of who was working on what, that would update instantly. This helped a lot when trying to avoid accidental double work.

PARKER: There was so much, so I had my assistants working on scenes because we knew we had the editor’s cut coming up and with some scenes you just need something cut of it right away. Then, when we get to reels, it’s just whoever did that scene if it falls in that reel, it’s yours. And then I’ll ask to see the selects reels that Melissa has built for a scene that might come to me. We were just bouncing between bins and all that. I was dipping into her old cuts the whole time I was getting notes. It’s a lot of going back to old edits as well as select reels.

Lauren Cohan stars as Alice in the STXfilms MILE 22.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Old edits became select reels to go back to because they were the best performances we initially found and the longest version of the cuts.

HULLFISH: That’s a ton of organizational effort just to keep track of the old edits and where all the specialized selects reels are. I assume that fell to the assistants?

PARKER: The bins were like 200,000K.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: The assistants helped a lot with organizing the selects and with organizing our old cuts. We also ended up remembering some older cuts by the significance of screenings we had with Pete. We would keep these sequences readily available and go back to them often.

PARKER: It’s tricky because you’d have to go to “Archive” and sometimes you’d be three folders or bins deep to find what you wanted. That’s where sometimes I’d just send an assistant to find something. I’d just say, “There’s an old cut of this where we went to news footage of this. Find it. That’s all I know. Good luck.”

LAWSON-CHEUNG: I am guilty of that as well.

PARKER: When I’m sending an assistant back to find some of this stuff, I called it “spedunkeling” when they had to dive down into the archives to find that stuff.

HULLFISH: Cutting on Avid, I’m assuming? You must have been if you were using ScriptSync.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: We did cut on Avid. ScriptSync also became really helpful since we had a lot of resets and sometimes dialogue that jumped around the script quite a bit while shooting. ScriptSync makes this all instantly organized. Of course, I say “instantly” but it’s only after an assistant has taken a lot of time to transcribe and complete the ScriptSync.

Iko Uwais stars in MILE 22

HULLFISH: You’ve got all these selects reels and ScriptSync together. They kind of serve the same purpose. Did you only ScriptSync certain scenes? Because some of the scenes don’t have a lot of them, and ScriptSync is really only useful for dialogue.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah. We had a chart for ScriptSync as well to track when it was complete and/or at what stage it was in; if at 50% etc.

PARKER: When scenes came in the assistants would come in and say, which ones do you want ScriptSync for, because these things take forever. And I’d say, “I definitely want this one.” For example, the interrogation scene: move that up to the top of the list. Some ScriptSyncing was done weeks into the director’s cut. For the assistants, they knew that if they had downtime, they just went into ScriptSync for scenes where it hadn’t been done yet. We’d tell them, “We don’t need it right this second, but we are going to need it when we go back in.”.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, because when Pete wants to see all the takes of a specific line, script-sync is really what makes this possible, especially with the way it was shot. Otherwise, we’d use KEM rolls separated for each line, which I feel takes more time from the assistant and the editor in the long run.

PARKER: I will always use ScriptSync. I love it.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yeah, me too. For sure now, I’m stuck on it.

HULLFISH: Most editors I’ve spoken with love ScriptSync for the director’s cut when they’re trying to show options and find something that they’re being asked for.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Exactly. Yeah.

Ronda Rousey stars as Sam Snow in the STXfilms MILE 22.

HULLFISH: Were you guys temping in sound effects or having your assistants do it? Do you find that the sound effects change the rhythm or the pacing of the picture?

PARKER: I’m really good friends with our sound supervisor, so he would actually come by and help. I’m trying to get him to learn Avid, because that would be a big help, which is weird because I hear that ProTools and Avid are the same company.

HULLFISH: That is weird. I’ve heard the same rumor. I just can’t believe it could be true.

PARKER: He was actually teaching me ProTools and I would explain the kind of distortion I’d want fo the radio communications or satellite.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: And then I go in and steal it from them for my section.

PARKER: But for the most part that was a real decadent luxury, just here and there. But it was great to have him around to help us with that.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: He also gave us sound kits. And the assistants were helping a lot too, with using his kits and our SFX libraries.

HULLFISH: You mentioned that Colby was in Atlanta and Melissa was in L.A. How were you working?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: That was during production. So that was for only for a couple months. It feels like so long ago.

John Malkovich stars as Overwatch team leader, Bishop in the STXfilms MILE 22.

PARKER: It’s all a blur because of the shooting and there’s so much footage coming in. You can imagine when there are three cameras running and you have to watch them all and build the scenes. For the first few weeks, Melissa was working on the Russian safe-house scene and attacking that beast, which was the top of the film and then I was just moving on to everything else during principal photography.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: The Russian safe-house scene had quite a bit of footage to get through. We call it a scene, but with the first pass, it was actually about the length of an entire reel.

PARKER: During the production, we were really just kind of bunkered up. It was only when we got into really forming the film that we wanted to be in the same room and discuss notes.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: We needed to make sure we didn’t get behind in dailies. It was an intense process from start to finish.

HULLFISH: So you had a NEXIS or something that was in Atlanta and they were connected or updated between L.A. and Atlanta?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: They would upload dailies from Atlanta and then an assistant would come in early and download them in LA.

HULLFISH: What are some of the things that you’re looking for in a good assistant editor and what are those skills that really help you guys do your jobs better?

PARKER: Sound design. After Effects. Someone that’s very organized. Someone that technically knows their way around the Avid.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: I agree with all of that. The best assistants I’ve had are the ones who are very thorough and quick and they come to you to ask you if you need anything. Sound effects help is always great because there’s so much footage that you’re trying to keep up with. You don’t really have time to go back and do great sound. So it’s nice to have them put in a bed of sound effects, so you at least have something to work with. After Effects is also great because with a film like this one, there are so many computer screens and if you’re wanting to get the timing correct or just make sure it’s going to work, it’s great to have someone temp it out quickly.

PARKER: Obviously we have VFX editors, but you can’t present anything that’s not up to par with everyone else.

HULLFISH: How big was your post team?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: The crew grew quite a bit by the end. At first, we had one visual effects editor and three assistants. Later the VFX editor ended up getting a team of people. We ended up hiring a couple more assistants and an apprentice. We also had two post-production assistants.

PARKER: There were like 15 people. It was like a whole house. Such a great crew, though, that’s what I do remember. It was a shorter schedule than normal. It wasn’t too frantic. Everybody was really on board for the challenge. I also want to mention that we had two great additional editors that came in: Max Koepke And Elisabet Ronaldsdottir.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yes, they were wonderful.

HULLFISH: I’ve interviewed Elisabet before. She’s great. I love her.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Me too, she is truly inspiring as a person and as an editor.

HULLFISH: What was the schedule like?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: We started after Thanksgiving. So the end of November 2017. We had a two week Christmas break and it was a 43-day shoot, with a move to Columbia, so principal photography was done around the middle of February.

PARKER: And then we finished August 1st.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: And it was released August 17th.

HULLFISH: I talk a lot about the art and the cutting and sometimes the technology, but there is a whole psychological aspect and social engineering aspect to being an editor. What to say. When to say it. Who to say it to. And how to get that next job because people love working with you. Can you talk a little bit about how important you think just your social skill set is?

PARKER: I’ve known a lot of great editors along the way that for personality reasons, didn’t move forward like they should have based on their editing skill. It’s definitely more than half. As an editor, it’s your job to get the director’s vision on screen and you have to be able to work with him first of all. There’s a lot of sacrifices for the greater good. There’s a lot of political waters you have to navigate when you’re getting notes from the studio and other producers and being respectful of everybody and being respectful of your crew and everyone who is working for you. You have to deal with a lot of personalities and talk with a lot of different people and everyone’s going through so you have to be considerate as well and you have to be there for people too. You’re with these people. It’s a family for whatever amount of time it is. So definitely your personality and the way you treat people and talk to them and the way you ask for things is very important.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: I also think it’s tough to learn how to pick your battles. If you have an opinion about something, you have to remember to stay a team player and make sure that you are also collaborating. We all may have our own artistic ideas, although we need to work together as a team. Colby and I have known each other for so long that I think it makes it a little easier. We’ve known each other for about 10 years. So I think we can tell when the other person may want to talk or may need a break.

HULLFISH: Something I’ve heard over and over — but also from learning from my own editing situations — is that because editing is a lengthy process, you don’t have to fight that battle today.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Yes, I’ve learned that throughout the years. My gut reaction is to react. I want to say something right away, and I’ve learned it’s best not to do that. And Colby is also helpful with that, he tends to be very chill. He knows when it’s best to wait things out.

PARKER: I sort of know the grapevine through to Pete. I know, “He’ll get sick of that. Don’t worry.” I can predict some things… just with Pete though.

HULLFISH: That’s the advantage of working with the same director, right? You know those buttons to push and not to push it.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: (laughs). Do you know how to push Pete’s buttons, Colby?

PARKER: You could say that.

HULLFISH: Could you guys walk me through some of the creative challenges or things that you had to consider or even the evolution of the cut on the following scenes?

LAWSON-CHEUNG: With this scene, we learn that Alice’s asset, Li Noor, is now in the US Embassy with a device that has pertinent information locked within it. We had a lot of nuances with each character to establish here. This is the first time we really connect with Li and see him interact with the CIA team we’ve already met. We wanted to express the sense of urgency of the CIA team, explain Li’s intentions, show Silva as the leader, as well as also showcase a relationship Alice has with Li.

LAWSON-CHEUNG

Here we explain the gravity of what would happen if they don’t succeed in finding the stolen cesium (nuclear powder). We also wanted to make sure the audience was aware that Alice was distracted by her personal life and Silva still had her back. Alice was also unsettled since it was her asset who failed to locate the cesium. I wanted to make sure we saw each of our main characters listening to this key information since it was all on each of them to make it go smoothly.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: This is one of those sequences that we both worked on quite a bit. There were so many paths to take with a variety of different dialogue choices to use. And what felt like an endless amount of driving footage. Colby ended up finding a great solution and took it to the final stage.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Colby did such an amazing job with this fight sequence.

LAWSON-CHEUNG: We ended up with a few different iterations with the dialogue from the debriefing voice over here. We wanted to explain why became to an Overwatch mission as well as lightly foreshadow the doom ahead.

HULLFISH: Thanks so much for talking with me today.

COLBY: Thanks for including us in Art of the Cut!

LAWSON-CHEUNG: Thank you, Steve. It was great to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

To read more interviews in the Art of the Cut series, check out THIS LINK and follow me on Twitter @stevehullfish

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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Steve Hullfish has been producing and editing award-winning television since the mid-1980s. He has written six books, and edited four theatrical feature films (including two Number One New Movies in the US). He has lectured…

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