Ben Baudhuin and Luke Doolan share editing credit on the film, Colossal. But unlike many of the other co-editing teams featured on Art of the Cut, they were more “serial” editors than a side-by-side team. Ben and Luke previously co-edited the movie, The Gift.
HULLFISH: So, when did you get off of Colossal?
DOOLAN: I was off sometime at the end of March of ’16. I took it from the shoot, which was in October, until March and then Ben came over and I did a handoff awhile and then he took over, finished it.
HULLFISH: Tell me a little bit about the organization of it. I’m assuming you were in Avid, correct?
DOOLAN: Definitely Avid all the way. The organization of it was pretty standard. I guess the only non-standard thing for me, was having the whole digital character thing (the digitally created monster).
HULLFISH: Tell me a little about having to deal with that, because those effects, of course, don’t come in for a while, so are you working with pre-viz or are you using your imagination or…
DOOLAN: It was kind of like a two-fold thing where there was a bunch of storyboards and carefully worked out ideas by the time I came on, but then you always refine those ideas. When we screened the first cut to one of the head producer’s he wanted a bigger ending because they really only shot the climax for one night in Vancouver when they really probably needed a week. So, they had bits of an ending, but not really a satisfying one. So, they went back and shot a whole bunch in South Korea, but in order to do that, we had to storyboard a whole new sequence. That’s where Ben, Nacho (director, Nacho Vigalondo) and I all collaborated and came up with that ending. Then we had to scale it back because we went crazy.
HULLFISH: Always good to think big first, right? Blue sky.
DOOLAN: Yeah and then face reality.
HULLFISH: Were you working on set or near set?
DOOLAN: Yeah, I went up to Vancouver for the shoot, which was six or seven weeks. That was shooting all around Vancouver; quite a ways out of town because the tax breaks get greater as you get out of town. It wasn’t a whole lot of face time with Nacho, however we did stay in the same hotel so I could show him stuff. Before that I’d never met the guy. I met him for twenty-five minutes on Skype and the next thing, I was working for him, so it was really weird and interesting. He’s a great guy.
HULLFISH: There are certain people who are really sensitive to stay up to camera when they are editing and other people don’t want to be pressured to do that. What’s your approach? If you try to stay up to camera, what are you doing to get that amount of work done?
DOOLAN: I always err on the side of it’s quality over quantity, however… I’m definitely that kind of person to try to stay up to camera. But the reality of this production was that I had to stay up to camera mainly because I didn’t know anyone and I could be fired.
HULLFISH: Trying to stay up to camera feels like a different work concept: when you’re working to stay up to camera compared to later when you’re in the iterative process of editing – refining. You almost have to put yourself in a different mindset.
DOOLAN: Definitely. And it’s not a mindset I particularly like, but the reality is that the director wants to know, “Have we got this covered? Do we need an insert? Is this clear?” For that reason if they ask me: “We’re worried about this…” I’ll take that as a priority.
HULLFISH: Ben, what’s your approach? What’s your methodology?
BAUDHUIN: When first starting the assembly I like to use the script notes, and any notes from the director as much as possible. I’ll usually watch the circled takes first. But I tend to watch everything because sometimes even though the director marks a take, there’s some part of a different one that is better. If we’re really up against it and it’s just a speed game, then I’ll just grab a circled take and use that, then watch the rest of the footage later. I tend to cut the assembly cut as tight as possible, so when I’m showing it for the first time it’s easier for them to watch and get of sense of what it is and don’t get distracted by rough editing. I try to cut it as close as I can to what I think the final product should look like.
HULLFISH: Everybody has a different kind of take on it when you’re trying to stay up to camera. How much you’re willing to say, “I just want to stay up to camera no matter what it takes weighed against how much you want to watch everything.” There’s sometimes a conflict.
BAUDHUIN: I try to go as fast as I can and do as good of a job as possible. There will be certain scenes that are finer tuned than others. For the film I’m currently cutting, Parallel, they shot some bigger effects scenes and a fairly involved opening sequence that the director really wanted to see right away, so for those I went for a more fine tuned cut so he could really get a sense of what they shot and whether they needed any additional photography to make the scenes work as he wanted them to. And then there were other scenes that were rougher because I was trying to go for speed and stay close to camera. There’s always that point where you end up thinking, “I have to come in on the weekend to really catch up.” Especially on this one, since it was a Canadian production and so they were shooting over Thanksgiving when we were off. But there’s always that thought of quality vs. speed in the back of my mind.
HULLFISH: It’s a process. But it’s tricky for a director to have them trust you at that point.
BAUDHUIN: Luckily I haven’t worked with anybody who thought the first assembly was garbage.
HULLFISH: How do you have your assistants set up your bins? How do you like to work? Frame view or text view?
DOOLAN: I use both text and frame view for different things. Frame view mainly for the source material and text for the edits and other things flying around the screen. I don’t know how to describe my bins, I would consider it fairly standard. I’ve worked all different ways and I’m currently working on something where I’m using an entirely new way. On Colossal all of the A cameras of setup one all together, B cameras of setup one all together, and so on for set up two, three, four, so you’re comparing apples to apples.
HULLFISH: Do you always use them in the order they were shot – so it’s A and then B and then C – or sometimes do you put them in order based on a logical order for editing?
DOOLAN: The former. You’ve got Slate One A, B, C cameras and Slate Two A, B, C cameras, Three A, B. C cameras.
HULLFISH: What’s your approach dailies? Some people watch last to first, some people watch first to last, some people start with circled takes…
DOOLAN: Sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards. I like forwards just to hear the director’s comments – see what they’re going for. It develops throughout the takes, so I like to watch them in order. I’m really big on using first instincts, so I’ll try to take notes or leave little locators on things I like, or make selects of that scene of just moments not knowing how they’re going to go together yet, but knowing that these are the ingredients that need to go in.
HULLFISH: Are you making selects reels for every scene?
DOOLAN: I would like to do it for every scene, but it sort of becomes too time consuming. I get no editing done. However when I do it, I find the editing happens a lot quicker. Circumstances dictate whether I have time to really be thorough or whether I have to go back and save being thorough for later.
HULLFISH: Ben, are you a selects reel guy?
BAUDHUIN: Sometimes. I like to do them for a scene or sequence with a ton of b-roll or for montages. In this current movie I’ve been working on – Parallel – there’s some driving sequences where they went out with a b-camera and shot 20 minute takes of characters driving down roads and for something like that it is really helpful ‘cause you can break it down into sections. On Colossal, I did it with all the end footage that they picked up because there was so much to go through and it was helpful to break it into sections of selects. When you have 20-30 different shots of extras running away from a CG Monster it just makes it more manageable to break it up like that. I also really like cutting with ScriptSync because I can look at everything so easily and I find it easier to look at the footage like that than looking at a 30 minute sequence and having to jump through a bunch of edits to try to find the thing I want. But I also like to use the locators to do that too. When I’m watching dallies, as it’s playing down, I have my finger on the locator button, hit the button and make a mark on the source clip. It doesn’t even have to be a line of dialogue, it can be anything, and good reaction, a look from a character that I think is interesting. Or if the camera caught something important in the scene that we need the audience to notice, such as an important object or action that one of the actors did. I’ll then go through and change the colors of the locators to correspond to different things, i.e. black for a piece of dialogue, yellow for an action I liked, blue for a good reaction, etc…I end up using that in lieu of a lot of things, but selects reels can be super helpful as well.
HULLFISH: With Script Sync, are you using that with the director’s cut?
BAUDHUIN: For sure. There are a lot of directors that haven’t used it and I’ve found that they really love to be able to call up any performance super easily without hunting through the dailies. Even when I’m cutting the scene itself, I find it really helpful to go into the script and skim through all the takes. Even after I watched them, it’s nice to go back and re-audition things over and over again and jump to every angle easily.
HULLFISH: What was the collaboration like between the two editors on this project?
DOOLAN: It was fantastic. Ben and I had worked together previously on The Gift, which was a film Joel Edgerton directed. Ben started out as an assistant on that film and ended up co-editing with me because it was an insane schedule and it just happened that we worked really well together and Joel liked him. So, we came off the back of that onto this where it was my show. He and I get on really well. We have similar sensibilities, but different enough to be interesting. Nacho is a really open and collaborative guy, so the three of us just worked together in this dark windowless space for a long time.
HULLFISH: That relationship with the director and even possibly with another editor is so long that you’ve really got to have good people skills. People have to want to hang out with you.
DOOLAN: I can’t overstate the importance of alchemy: chemistry and people. That makes or breaks the experience. The film is separate, it can go either way, but it definitely makes the experience so much more pleasurable when it’s a collaborative and somewhat fun creative environment rather than just a slugfest with producers, director, and whoever else.
HULLFISH: That was the weird thing probably, with you not having a chance to meet Nacho until much later right?
DOOLAN: We bonded a little bit in Vancouver, but obviously he’s on the shoot, so I don’t see him a whole lot. You’ve got to find a way to bond or it’s probably better that someone moves on … and it’s probably not going to be the director.
HULLFISH: Talk to me a little bit your collaboration with the director and how that kind of evolved. How did he like to work and how did you have to adapt to work in his style?
BAUDHUIN: From day one when I got on the movie he was the most pleasant guy ever. Such a nice person. It made it really easy to work with him. He’s really nice to hang out with. We’d all go out and grab a beer after work and just hang out and chat like old friends. I guess the hardest part was that this was his first larger scale movie with an American company for wide audiences, so we had to manage his expectations of the process. I think his experiences on his other films were different because they were much more independent productions. Since there were two of us, he would give notes to me and then go off and work with Luke or he would give Luke notes and come work with me. It ended up being a really great balance though.
HULLFISH: Have you worked different ways with different directors?
BAUDHUIN: Absolutely, every director is different. Some are very involved, and want to sit with you every hour you’re working. I edited a movie that William H. Macy directed and he liked to just give notes and go away for a couple of hours, then come back and look at what I had done. For the most part, in my experience it ends up being 50/50, their ideas with mine. It’s like a marriage, not a dictatorship. On my current movie, the director was in Mexico city and I was in Los Angeles for most of his director’s cut, so we worked remotely using a Sony Ipela system where he could see all the dallies remotely and playback on the Avid. That was a bit of a new experience for me, but it ended up working quite well. When they were still shooting I was sending him scenes to watch and he’d give me notes on them.He would usually say “you don’t have to show me this scene again but maybe for the full assembly if you could try to work on the notes for this scene” If I disagree with a note from a director, I’m not afraid to say why and I think any good director is open to hear that. At the end of the day you’re making a movie for everyone, not just yourself.
HULLFISH: Let’s talk about structure. Did the film undergo any structural changes from the script, moving stuff around, or removing big blocks of scenes — was there any of that in this movie and how did it happen?
BAUDHUIN: There was quite a bit. With Colossal, there were a few full scenes that were pulled out entirely, but a lot of it was bits and pieces of scenes and taking out chunks of dialog if the scene was running too long or information the audience was getting from the scene felt redundant. You want to try and come in after the scene has started and leave before it’s over, so people aren’t waiting around for something to start or finish. After we had a couple friends and family screenings – we got a lot of notes saying one of the characters, and I don’t want to give anything away, but one of the characters had a turn in the movie that felt really abrupt to a lot of people and they couldn’t wrap their head around it, so we had to really think about how to seed this idea earlier on in the movie so people didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere when it happened. I had to go into the dallies again and take parts of scenes that we cut out and sort of create these moments where the character’s having an off-hand glance or something to seed this idea. So it ended up being pulled together from pieces of scenes that we had cut from the film and luckily there’s not a ton of locations in the movie, so it made it a little easier to inject these darker beats for the character into the film even if it was a shot from a different scene, we could insert it into another scene. Also, the whole end of the movie was re-worked after we showed it to the producers and head of the company for the first time. They felt it wasn’t big enough at the end – that what they shot didn’t have enough extras, which was probably the case. They had always intended to go to Korea and shoot the VFX plates for all the monster stuff, but they ended up doing more of a reshoot for the the end of the movie with a ton more extras, and bigger more flushed out action sequences. Luke, myself and the director sat down with a storyboard artist for about a week or two and pretty much storyboarded out the entire end of the movie while we were cutting it, so then they could go shoot these storyboards and they had a really good idea of how it would be put together, even before shooting it. We also cut the storyboards into the movie so we could screen it for the producers, so they had a really good sense of what we were going to end up with after the shoot. Of course we went a little overboard and some of the action had to be dialed back a little for budget and logistics, but I think what we ended up with works great. So there was definitely a lot of crafting performances and moments in order to sell things, especially with such a wacky premise, you really have get people onboard.
HULLFISH: When you reveal stuff to an audience, is obviously a critical thing. With a big reveal like Colossal I would think that’s an important moment. Can you kind of talk to me about the macro-pacing. Did you feel, “Oh man, we have to get to the first reveal of the monster or we have to get to where she realizes she’s in control” or whatever the big turn is for this secondary character that you were talking about. What were the discussions around the larger pacing of the movie? … like when you needed to get to a certain moment or maybe you get to a certain moment too fast. What were some of those big pacing questions with this movie.
DOOLAN: It was a never a question for more time on this film, that’s for sure. It was always, “How do we arrive here sooner?” Nacho has a very specific sense of pace, which took a long time for me to come around on. He shoots everything really long. The actors are given a lot of space. While that’s great for performances it doesn’t necessarily create a compelling scene, so you kind of condense it where you can. He shot it kind of wide lens and sort of Spielbergy, which you don’t get a lot of these days. It made the condensing a little bit harder than it normally would. I guess the main challenge on it was that the monster doesn’t really appear until the end, but you see lots of glimpses of it through news footage and internet media and how to sort of have the promise of something to come without blowing the wad. In a weird way it’s the opposite of these tent pole monster movies where the priority is the monster and the property and they shoehorn in some human story, which usually feels shoehorned and doesn’t really lift it. He wanted to do the opposite of this where it’s a human movie with a monster movie shoehorned in, so it’s more like a Sundance, sort of indie. Set in upstate New York; girl goes back to her home town for the weekend or to put her life back together.
BAUDHUIN: We definitely felt like we needed to have the first incident of the monster appear within the first 15-17 minutes of the movie to really get people hooked in. Once that happens, the whole dynamic of the movie changes and you really know what movie you’re watching at that point, so we felt: the sooner the better. But we also wanted to get a sense of Anne’s character for the first 10-15 minutes because that’s really important for her character’s journey throughout the movie. Balancing that was tricky at times. We also would look at the wall cards or make a chart of what point in the movie you’re seeing the monster, how many times, and we’d look at this timeline and mark off points in the film where these events were happening and then figure out what’s the cleanest way between those two points. There’s a montage in the middle of the movie where she’s figuring out the whole thing and determining that she’s in control of the monster and the pacing of that went through a lot of different versions.
I think I cut 15-20 versions of that montage before it was done. It was a lot of information to get across and it was the one place in the film where you’re really explaining the rules of how this thing works. For a movie like this or a movie like Being John Malkovic where it’s a very “out there” premise. If you can make the rules really simple and people can easily follow them then it doesn’t matter how “out there” it is ‘cause they’ll still buy it. Even if it’s crazy it doesn’t matter as long as it’s clearly explained and people can wrap their heads around it. That required pacing things carefully especially during this montage because it had to feel quick but it also had to feel like it took some effort for the character to figure it out. There were versions of it where the pacing was faster and it felt more dynamic, but it also felt like the character figured the whole thing out too quickly. It was a delicate balance of not making it feel boring and too long, but also feeling like there had been a passage of time. That it took her a bit of time to figure out what was going on. So that was the trickiest one. Then of course, the macro-pacing at the end was also tricky. They shot so much great stuff when they did the pick ups for the sequences at the end of the film. We had a lot of these amazing moments, to make it feel more like a big action movie. But you also didn’t want to milk that too much because then the end of your movie becomes 45 minutes long and that’s just ridiculous.
HULLFISH: Switching from indie to monster movie, was that difficult in the editing?
DOOLAN: We’re laying the seeds of the sort of oddness to come quite early on, so the tonal shift is happening throughout the body of the film. It’s not really a monster movie about giant monsters. It’s about monsters inside everyday people. I quite like the sort of philosophical parallels.
HULLFISH: You’ve got the text of what you’re editing and then there’s the subtext. So was that something that you needed to play with to reveal the subtext of what’s really going on in her head?
DOOLAN: The subtext of it was always built in. I just wasn’t sure how it would resonate. I find it really hard to work on films that don’t have something going on beneath the surface. You can ask a director, “What’s the film about?” He can either tell you the story or he can tell you what it’s all about. To me that’s the subtext. What element of the human condition are we trying to explore? It doesn’t have to be mentioned once in the movie and often it’s best when it’s not. To me that’s what the audience sort of goes home and thinks about if it’s a thinking movie; and this potentially is. This has a lot of those elements if you’re looking for them. To me, movies are subtext. Without knowing that, like when you get lost and it’s dark and you’re exhausted you need to pull out a compass, that’s what always tells me where to go.
HULLFISH: From what I’m able to gather, this is a quirky idea in film. When you were temping music did that make it a problem?
BAUDHUIN: It was tricky to get the tone. There’s comedy in it and I would say the first 15-20 minutes of the movie play more like an indie small-town dramedy than a sci-fi movie. The assembly was done for the most part by Luke, because he started the movie in Vancouver. I came on when they got back to L.A. and then both of us started cutting a director’s cut. But the assembly had no music. The director wanted to start it with no music and go from there, which I like to do as well.
There were certain things that I did first passes on that just felt like they were dying for some music, so I put some stuff in just to let him see it. Nacho’s taste was sometimes different from ours. But I think at the end of the day we found a happy medium. The music he likes sometimes tended to be a little bit wackier. He’s got a European sensibility and his previous movies were made more for European audiences than American audiences. So I think you can stretch a little bit more when you’re going for a non-American audience. Sometimes with American audiences, I think it’s got to be a little bit more literal. We sort of ran a gamut from Sci-fi to comedy to emotional music temp. We used a lot of score from Super 8, but we also used a lot of stuff from the composer Dan Romer who did Beasts of the Southern Wild because some of his stuff has got a really big and triumphant sound even though it’s made with a very small arrangement of musicians. We especially leaned on that kind of sound towards the end of the movie where you wanted it to feel triumphant and epic. In the end the composer, Bear McCreary made it cohesive and did a fantastic job with the score.
HULLFISH: You mentioned the first 15-20 minutes was more of an “indie/dramedy type thing.” Did you try temping it with anything?
BAUDHUIN: In certain screenings, people felt like they were missing hints of the Sci-Fi stuff to come. So there were certain moments we created and made the music a little bit more eerie or Sci-Fi sounding. Little short bursts injected in there in the midst of more comedic or light hearted score. Nacho also wanted to use some source music that was really cool, so we used some of that. He had a friend from Spain who did this electronic dance music, and we used that for one of the opening scenes of the movie.
HULLFISH: I really love mining and crafting performance. Because it’s psychological indie stuff, that’s more about what’s not said than what’s said. So then you’re really trying to craft and mine performance.
DOOLAN: We had some fantastic actors. Hathaway is a force to be reckoned with, but Sudeikis to me was the real revelation on this film because it was somewhat darker than he’d done and it was kind of using his wheelhouse to subvert the audience, because it’s about male toxicity in small towns and I guess in life. We had to really hone it down. Nacho was the driving force behind shaping the performances. One performance had to be massively toned down in order to make it part of the same movie that everyone else was in. There’s always one performance that for one reason or another, just doesn’t quite hit and the function of that character doesn’t quite work as a result, but then the whole machine works when you get all the pieces functioning correctly.
HULLFISH: Talk to me a little bit about Comedy and crafting a performance and were the performances bracketed? That way you can control “when do we get her from this part of her personality arc to a different part.”
BAUDHUIN: For some of the characters it was really organic in the way it was scripted and the way it was shot. The biggest amount of performance crafting came with one of the characters to try and get their turn to feel organic and “earned.” So that was where the biggest crafting went into it and that was mainly done by creating these little two or three moments that seemed to really help the audience understand it better when we screened it the final time. With Anne Hathaway’s character her performance was amazing, so it was good stuff to work with. With comedy in general I find that the jokes that land and are the funniest to an audience are the ones that feel the most organic to the scene/movie. When you have a “ta-da” kind of joke it almost always feels forced or doesn’t land with the audience very well. So there were some of those moments that had to be toned down or taken out entirely.
HULLFISH: Any thoughts on temp music or sound design?
DOOLAN: I’ve done it both ways in the past where you don’t use music at all or where you can overuse it and everywhere in between, but on this the music was interesting because Nacho has very strong views on music and he really wants to explore some pretty “out there” music ideas including European dance music and Eurotrash type of stuff for comedic effect. I kind of steered it towards more of that indie music like Dan Romer Beasts of the Southern Wild sort of thing because there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface for these characters, so I kind of wanted to fill that out with music, but instead of a full orchestra, I like these small quintets – it’s four or five pieces. So, we kind of got hooked on that for a long time and that stayed throughout most of the picture and then Bear McCreary who came in and did the final music took it in a whole new direction again, which I thought was great. He really balances sort of intimate and epic in just the right ways, so I thought he did fantastic.
In terms of sound design on this thing, obviously there’s a lot of crossover monster sounds with the real world and vice versa so we went to town a lot more with our library effects and things that we normally do – purely out of necessity, because the story couldn’t be conveyed without human footsteps sounding like a monster for example, which again reinforces the subtext of it which I love.
HULLFISH: You said the movie is kind of about male toxicity. Keeping that in your head, was there anything you were doing with edits that you were trying to help further that theme in your editing?
DOOLAN: Only in subtle ways. It’s about male toxic relationships and how that affects women and men. There was a lot of nipping through scenes where Jason Sudeikis would suddenly turn nasty and then back to sort of nice again where we were having to take out the nasty piece because it was too early or leave a nasty piece in early so it sort of seeded its way to the inevitable outcome. You had to pick it scene to scene, moment to moment where we tip our hat to where this character might be going. That’s the balancing act we did in the cut. I hope that we modulated it in a more effective way than maybe it was originally.
HULLFISH: That’s kind of hard to do right when you’re trying to cut up to camera. You’re getting scene 14 and scene 23 and scene 97 and so that’s the one thing you can’t really do very well when you’re just kind of cutting at that early stage. You’ve gotta wait until you’ve got a larger assembly of all the scenes to know how to modulate those performances, right?…
DOOLAN: One-hundred percent correct, but also I think you do get a sense of it and your Spidey-senses start tingling and you think, “This guy is gonna need a bit of work” and you can generally have that conversation with the director, hoping it’s not too early to say that but hopefully it’s not too late to adjust as well on set. That comes down to the security they feel with you. You’ve got to earn that trust and in this instance I hadn’t had the chance to earn it, so he put a lot of faith in me, too.
HULLFISH: That’s nice. I was talking to my assistant the other day when I sent something out, and as I was sending out a scene to be looked at, I kind of talked him through how I felt about the scene and I said, “I’m sending it out like this because I know there’re gonna be issues, but if I try to correct them before the director sees them uncorrected and I just do it, he’s gonna wonder what happened to his scene.”
DOOLAN: Yeah and he’s gonna get back up and ask questions and it’s gonna cause a lack of flow between you guys, so you gotta pick your battles.
HULLFISH: Right. That’s what I was talking about with being good politically and in human communications and reading human nature. That’s one of those things that I am learning a little bit better as I get older. I always tend to want to just jump into the solution that I felt was correct, but a lot of times you gotta wait for somebody else to catch up to you in the process.
DOOLAN: In the worst cases you’ve gotta kinda say you’re right yeah, otherwise it won’t happen. The number of times I’ve pitched something, hit a brick wall, and then two weeks later come back and pitch my idea again and then they love it.
HULLFISH: Exactly. The editor has to have both a lot of ego: because you have to have enough ideas and artistic sense yourself to be able to make a contribution – but then you have to have no ego, because as long as it works for the picture, that’s all you care about.
DOOLAN: It’s interesting talking to you about this ’cause you’ve gotta be one part filmic storyteller and one part artist, one part technician, and a large part psychoanalyst.
HULLFISH: I completely agree. Switching topics, have you ever had editor’s block? Does that happen to you? What is the solution?
DOOLAN: Sometimes. I’ve often wondered that and I can’t say I’ve ever had block, but I was talking to Dody Dorn, and her response was that cutting something is better than cutting nothing. You’ve got to start somewhere, even if it’s total dog shit. I’ll often just come back and start all over again. It’s like dropping a needle onto a record. It’s either going to hit the groove straight up or it’s gonna bounce around. And for me, if you’re not hitting the grooves from the beginning, something’s wrong, so that’s telling you something, but I still think it’s good to see it through and then discard it rather than discard it early, ’cause you learn things.
HULLFISH: That’s a great point. But if you’re struggling, one of the things I believe is: don’t try to fix that later on. You just start from scratch again, knowing what you know about the scene from the first take, right?
DOOLAN: The worst thing you can do is kick your own ass. When you’re having trouble, it’s telling you something. There might be something wrong with the scene, there may be something wrong with you, but at least if you listen, it’ll reveal itself. And don’t forget, editors are often looked at as the people who fix everything, but we don’t have all the answers. It’s a process. Directors and producers and writers – it’s a big melting pot. Creativity comes from all over the place. You can’t see your own blind spots so you need help. Everyone needs help.
HULLFISH: Wisely spoken. Do you find sometimes with those rough scenes that it’s good to show them to an assistant editor or someone else and see what they think?
DOOLAN: Oh yeah. As long as I can gauge that they’re responding honestly. But even then, people don’t know how to articulate themselves, especially non-film people. When you’re showing someone, it’s important to be able to read between the lines and hear what they’re trying to say or what they’re not saying, and generally encourage and open that up. Create space for chatting about the thing that they may have an issue with or you might have an issue with.
HULLFISH: You’ve done some assisting. What were some of the things you took away with some of the editors you worked with?
BAUDHUIN: One of the biggest things I learned from every editor I assisted with was how everybody organizes differently and picked and chose different parts of organizations that I really liked. For example, John Axelrad, who I assisted on a few shows has got a really cool system of locators for everything (FX shot, DI, ADR) and resets within takes and I really liked that. His is a bit more involved and I thought some of it was too much for me. I kind of picked and chose the parts of it that I liked. Also, for me just seeing how different personalities work I think is really cool. You end up spending so much time in the same room with somebody for 6mo to a year, you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches and get along with people. So for me, seeing how they’ve dealt with the politics or when things get difficult or where the producers are pushing for one thing and the director doesn’t want that thing and seeing how they navigate those moments its really valuable as well. I’ve certainly had that happen on movies that I’ve been cutting where there’s a difference of opinion and you’re kind of in the middle and you have to do your job, cause at the end of the day, the producers are also in control of the movie with the director, so you kind of have to please everybody which is difficult. So seeing how they dealt with that kind of stuff was really interesting. Also, just watching how they approach scenes was really cool. How John would cut a scene vs. how Steve Mirkovich would do it or how Luke would approach it. It’s really interesting to see the ways that people do the job differently as well as how they do things in similar ways. So I would also pick and choose things that I liked that each of them did.
HULLFISH: That’s one of the big reasons why I do this Art of the Cut series. So many people work differently and exposing editors to these different methods is just a great way to allow people to learn about and adopt “best-practices” that work for them.
BAUDHUIN: Before I go, I have to thank our assistant editor on Colossal, Jeff Cummings. He did an amazing job and was immensely helpful when it came to temping VFX and sound. He also had great ideas for trims and lifts of scenes while we were cutting. I can’t stress enough how important that relationship between the editor and assistant is. We as editors couldn’t do the job without them and I think their contribution often gets overlooked because people just assume that all they’re doing is dealing with technical things and turnovers, etc…
HULLFISH: Thank you both for sharing.
The first 50 Art of the Cut interviews have been curated into a book that reads like a virtual roundtable with some of the world’s best editors, each discussing topics like storytelling, pacing, project organization, structure, music and sound design.
Special thanks to Abraham Contreras for transcribing this interview.