ART OF THE CUT with “Cure For Wellness” editor

Pete Beaudreau talks about editing Gore Verbinski’s thriller

Pete Beaudreau has been editing features since 2001. He’s best known for the films Beasts of No Nation, The Gambler, All is Lost, My Week with Marilyn and Margin Call. His latest film is Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness, co-edited with Lance Pereira.

HULLFISH: This was a scary psychological thriller.

BEAUDREAU: It’s an unusual movie because it takes its time in ways that psychological thrillers don’t usually take their time. And there’s something incredibly unique about that. It’s certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste. I think the idea when you say “horror movie” it’s going to do really well financially and made on the cheap with big returns. But there’s something so idiosyncratic about the story and the storytelling that makes it much more of an auteur-driven film.

HULLFISH: Gore Verbinski. Tell me a little bit more about that. How did you end up with the script and how did you get to meet or pitch him on being editor?

BEAUDREAU: I started working on it in January 2016. I had worked with David Crockett on The Gambler and he was producing Cure for Gore. I got a call from David in December. They were back from the shoot in Germany. Gore and Lance Pereira had just started on the director’s cut and Gore felt like he needed an extra set of hands and that the project was proving to be more ambitious than he thought.

I’m based in NY so I flew to LA just for a night to have a meeting with Gore and I saw him the week before Christmas. And then maybe a week or two into the New Year, I got a call saying that Gore wanted me to start.

I think I got a call on a Wednesday or Thursday and I was in LA working on Monday….. Myself, my girlfriend Erin and our 3 month old got to LA and I started working around the 18th or 19th of January. Actually, we flew on the 18th, which is Erin’s birthday. Happy Birthday! Let’s travel across country with a 3 month old! When I met with Gore in December, he had a lot of background material to show me. He had a lot of stills and tons of conceptual things he had worked out during the shoot. Lance had done the Editor’s Cut and it was running 3 1/2 hours and Gore thought it was going to take a lot of manpower to get the film into shape. Gore said he ended up shooting as much material for this film as he had shot on the Pirates films without ever intending to shoot that much. I think when you’re shooting internationally in real world locations and built sets you want to make sure you’re absolutely covered. So, we just had a lot of footage to wade through to really get the director’s cut into shape so that he could show it to the studio. I’ve worked with many great directors, but no one who has Gore’s level of experience or Gore’s incredible attention to detail, so I was totally intimidated.

HULLFISH: One of the things that I talk to a lot of editors about is that there’s an incredible level of trust that needs to be generated between an editor and the director. The director has to feel like he can trust you with his material. How do you feel like you are able to do that in those early conversations with him to land the gig?

BEAUDREAU: I don’t know how I was able to convince him when I met with him. He was a fan of Beasts of No Nation and he was a fan of Margin Call and he felt like both of those films had levels of suspense and tension that he said carried him all the way through the movie. In Margin Call, he felt like everyone sort of knew how that story was going to end before it started, but he felt like the pacing and the performances carried him all the way through it.

I think there are things about Beasts that he admired on a film-making level. Similarly on Beasts I was not the first editor. I was brought into that project essentially to help picture lock it and then ended up staying on for maybe four or five months and pretty much recut the film with Cary, and so I think that Gore felt like he liked those films, he knows Cary, he knows JC, he knows them well enough to feel comfortable with hiring someone that they worked with and I think David Crockett also had a really big part in swaying him. I worked on The Gambler and had a really strong working relationship with Rupert Wyatt. Rupert is also a very stylistic director – very specific vision – and so I feel like I had the right films on my resume. Gore did tell me his concern about hiring me was that I hadn’t worked on films that had those sort of action set piece sequences that he knew that he needed and so I think that was his hesitation. I think I was just able to communicate enough to him about how I would approach things, what I would try to do in the cutting room and he took a chance and it worked out.

HULLFISH: One of the things that you mentioned was that Margin Call and Beasts had suspense to them, and although you can say this is a horror film you could just as easily call this a suspense film. Is there a key to that suspense in editing? What’s the magic button for suspense?

BEAUDREAU: It’s tricky, I think it’s case-by-case and I think its instinctual. I think it has to do with your internal rhythm, your own internal clock. I have an incredibly difficult time watching suspenseful movies. I end up watching suspenseful movies like this (covers face with hand, looking through his fingers).

HULLFISH: Is that how you actually had to edit? (sarcastically)

BEAUDREAU: No, no, because it’s not suspenseful when you get the dailies, the dailies have no suspense. So, I would say that growing up I was really drawn to suspenseful movies and to horror movies and at some point in my twenties a switch got flipped and I couldn’t sort of tolerate them anymore. I couldn’t watch them the same way and I have no idea why that is, but I used to love watching Cronenberg movies and the really heavy horror stuff.

HULLFISH: Scanners?

BEAUDREAU: Yeah, Scanners and Videodrome and a lot of David Lynch. Just a lot of uncomfortable viewing. I gravitated towards watching that stuff that was really uncomfortable. Your basis for good suspense is strong characters. If you can’t get the audience invested in who the characters are then the situation won’t have any suspense, it doesn’t matter how sort of “tricky” you get with trying to amp tension. I feel like you need strong characters. They need to have some strong motivations and then I think it’s really just about division of information. How much you let the audience in on, when you open the door, how far you open it, what you let slip past. Just sort of looking at the movie as though you’re an audience member and trying to find those moments that are just like, “Oh that’s a little bit off. I don’t know exactly why that’s off, there’s something not right.”

When I was cutting All is Lost, I was not convinced that it was all that suspenseful as I was putting it together. It wasn’t until we had our first public friends and family screening that I was like looking around the room and watching people squirm, watching people incredibly uncomfortable. So, I think there’s something for me about that steady diet of watching difficult movies, sort of internalizing how those movies function and sort of internalizing it so much that I can’t even see it anymore. I know it’s all a manipulation, I know it’s all fake, but I still feel movies very intensely when I watch them.

HULLFISH: One of the things that you mentioned was having a character that you kind of liked or rooted for. But the main character in this movie is kind of set up as a guy you don’t like, so how does that flip from: “Get rid of this guy, kill him off,” and then you are with him for the rest of the movie? How does that happen?

BEAUDREAU: There’s something typically villainous about him in his setup: he’s cold, he’s very distant.

HULLFISH: Young and cocky.

BEAUDREAU: Yeah. But, I think the switch is easier if you start out in a more extreme place. You know, I think, I suspect it’s probably not until maybe around the time that he first has that conversation with Hannah that we start to feel like he’s a little more three-dimensional. Even when he first sees Pembroke in the sauna…you can sort of see Pembroke chipping away some of his armor. You know, Pembroke has been doing that job, the job that Lockhart is trying to do. He has been doing that job for forty years so he knows the ins and outs of what he is being set up for. In those scenes, it was trying to find those moments, those little human moments where Pembroke could say something that could maybe make Lockhart’s imagination drift a little bit or give him some time to think. A big part of just having convincing characters is being able to see them process information and it has nothing to do with talking. It’s a very internal performance, which you get mostly from reactions and thinking and listening.

In those scenes I wanted to have enough time in there for you to see Lockhart try to process those things. There’s something fun about having the cocky guy get the rug pulled out from under him. There’s something satisfying about that. We had hoped that we would sort of be able to get the audience onto his side. We certainly torture him enough to get the audience to still be with it. They should start feeling some level of concern for him because the further he gets, the harder things get for him.

On Beasts of No Nation we had a tough job of trying to get those kids to be really sympathetic when they are performing atrocities in a war: Trying to make sure that the audience knows that they are still children. That in many ways was really challenging because the kids were non-actors and the kids had pretty strong accents and just not a lot of experience. I think that there is a thread in some of the films that I’ve worked on of having some not so likable characters and trying to make them likable. There’s not really anybody all that likable in Margin Call. They’re a bunch of bad bankers. I would say the most sympathetic characters – the Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey characters – are most sympathetic, but they’re as sympathetic as they can be. They’re not good people. I think JC very smartly has a dog dying towards the beginning of the movie to say, “Oh this guy’s not so bad.”

HULLFISH: A “Save the Cat” moment. The original cut of the movie was quite long, so obviously to get it down to a watchable length you can shorten the front, you can shorten the end, you can shorten a little bit all the way through. You can really determine overall the macro pacing of the movie with that much material. So did you find that there were certain places that you needed to get to, like “we got to get this guy likable,” or “We need him to finally find Pembroke. When do we reveal that?”  Tell me a little bit about those determinations and when you felt you needed to be at certain big tent pole moments in the film.

BEAUDREAU: Yeah, the pacing was always designed to be deliberate. It was designed to sort of lull the audience into a false sense of security. There’s something meditative about the pacing in certain parts of the movie. In terms of the structure of the movie, it’s very similar to the structure of the script: not a lot of reshuffling, definitely some beginnings and ends of scenes got cut. Definitely parts of the beginning were a little more montaged to try to get to. There were sign posts that we were trying to hit at certain times: “get him through the gates and get him onto the grounds.” How much time does it take to get him from that office building into the institute. That was something where there was a lot of give and take in how much we could take out to sort of accelerate that process. How long until we can see Pembroke? How long until the car crash?

Once we get to the car crash and he is laid up with that cast on his leg the urgency shifts to a slow burn reveal. So there is a pacing shift after he gets that leg broken and it sort of starts with camera pulling back from the window after the deer dies and this longish sequence of Lockhart waking up – being in this new place and this very clean and very antiseptic place and then hearing Volmer’s voice. There were times when we felt like we weren’t setting ourselves up gracefully enough. There was an earlier iteration of the film, where the  flashbacks to Lockhart’s father on the bridge used to come much earlier. When they were coming earlier we didn’t really sort of know enough about Lockhart for those to really register.

Once we placed them in the tank during his isolation tank treatment we had spent enough time with Lockhart to at least have a little bit more of an indication of who he was. We had gone through the sequence with Pembroke. Pembroke is talking about his father and talks about the horrible things that they did to him and Volmer himself says “this could stir primal memories and hallucinations,” and so it was sort of this great opportunity to place it in that sequence and also to tip to the audience that perhaps this treatment is working. It has brought up some stuff that Volmer said it was going to bring up, so maybe there’s something to it. So we had some flexibility as we moved things around.

HULLFISH: That’s interesting that you mention that because that’s exactly the concept that I was thinking of when I was thinking about this overall pacing. What do you tell the audience and when do you tell the audience something and that’s a big moment where you reveal the incident with his father.

BEAUDREAU: Yeah. It has a lot to do with his character. He’s not going to be a loser. Lockhart’s not the loser. He’s not weak, he’s strong. I feel like it was within the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie where we had originally had the reveal about his father, or where it had been scripted, but when we moved it, it was able to serve all these purposes and really illuminate who he was and then from that point on we sort of have a slight different look at who he is and I think it buys us some time for him to be able to do more investigating. The scenes with Hannah are really about showing Lockhart’s connection to another person. The Lockhart and Hannah relationship is interesting. I wouldn’t say there’s any real sexual attraction with them. What I liked about it is that it doesn’t feel like “Oh young guy, young girl, clearly they are going to hit it off.” There’s something about the setup of their relationship that’s really subversive to how a Hollywood movie would deal with them… I feel like in a more mainstream movie they would have been sleeping together halfway through the movie. There’s something about taking the time to want to flesh these characters that I think is risky. I think there’s sort of a richness to those characters and their situation because there isn’t anything all that typical about them.

HULLFISH: So you had to be sensitive to the fact that “hey look this is a really interesting relationship, so while these are not propulsive scenes to the plot, we still need them for the emotional context? I’m just trying to think through the thought process, trying to cull three and a half hours to two and a half.

BEAUDREAU: Yeah. There’s a lot of condensing some of the search: searching through the hallways and a lot of that was condensed smartly. It doesn’t feel like things were taken out, but there were lots of additional rooms, additional places that were wandered through that we were able to take time out of. There were some scenes where things were over-explained. From the time we finished the director’s cut until we picture locked the movie we sort of hovered at the same run time. Scenes would come out, whole scenes would go back in, and a different set of scenes would go in. We tried many, many combinations. At some point we sort of just did an exercise of just “Let’s just try to take time out. Let’s see how much time we can take out.” We ended up sort of having spun our wheels for a little while. We really weren’t able to take the time down. Earlier films I’d worked on that were all very tight, very much on the shorter side: Ninety-minute movies, ninety-five minute movies and so my instinct had always been just make it tight, keep the audience interested, keep things short and sweet. Let the audience have just enough, but then take it away so they don’t get bored. I don’t know if the storytelling is just changing or if… I would say that if I look at Beasts and Cure for Wellness it’s sort of like the scope of those projects are a little expansive. Beasts is clearly an epic of child soldiers so it didn’t feel like this is too long by twenty minutes. I’m always up for suggestions of where to take time out.

HULLFISH: I’m working on a film right now and the producer said, “I think we can kill this scene,” and that’s exactly what I said! “Any time you suggest cutting the time, I’m all in favor – you’re not going to get a fight from me.”

BEAUDREAU: Yeah. I’m always interested in seeing if you can get more with less. I always want to see if you can do it, but I think on certain projects the drum is just getting beaten, and you have to take time out. If there’s a clear path to getting that time out then I think you can do it. The danger of taking time out is that you end up taking little pieces here and there all through the course of the movie. You end up sort of spoiling the pacing and it ends up making the movie feel twice as long. It’s like music, you need rest. You need to have dynamics. You have loud parts and you have quiet parts, you have parts where you really want the audience to be two steps behind and then you want to give the audience a couple minutes to catch their breath. You always need to be looking at pacing in those terms. You always need to know where’s your brake and where are you hitting the accelerator? There’s a tendency to say, “Oh you should just be on the accelerator.” I think that to take twenty minutes out of either Beasts or Cure for Wellness would just mean that you were on the accelerator for longer stretches of time and I don’t think that’s an answer. I don’t think that that’s the right answer. It’s difficult; it’s a great problem to have. It’s great to have a sort of wealth of strong material and then figure out the best way to fasten it.

Lance and Gore had sort of jumped from his assembly and jumped to a couple of key sequences that were going to require a lot of visual effects work and they just spent a lot of time getting a handful of long sequences into really good shape so they could start turning over those shots to the VFX houses. When I started, I primarily worked on dialogue scenes. I was doing the long talks.

The first scene I worked on was the scene with Lockhart in the transfusion room when he gets tubed. You were talking a little bit about trust and I think that, you know, how we proceeded with that first sequence for me was that, you know, Gore’s really hands on, he’s super detail oriented. He’s got a really strong memory for what’s in his dailies and what he shot and so we watched almost all of the dailies for that sequence, took pretty thorough notes, lots of markers just dropping lots of markers in timelines and Gore has a very specific keywords that I learned after a couple of weeks of working with him that he has a sort of shorthand and so it was important for me to hear when he was giving a note, what is the keyword of that note so I can get that in.

HULLFISH: Can you give me an example of that?

BEAUDREAU: Part of the dailies was that tube being put into a dummy. All of the shots in the film are the tube being forced into Dane and Dane is doing like an incredible sort of physical acting job of like trying to fight back against that tube. But, they had shot a full dummy and so you could take the tube and sort of get the tube in. Volmer had these latex gloves on that were rubbing against the pipe and the pipe was rubbing against the latex inside the dummy’s throat, it was making this horrible sound, horrible snappy, clicky sound and Gore would say “That’s a good snap click. I think that you could use that when his head jerks back and that can be when the tube goes in,” and he would describe what each click could be for, and as we went through the dailies he would say, “Do you remember the selects we pulled for the snaps?” So, anytime he said “snap” over the course of the five hours that we sat and watched those dailies I would build a little database out of markers and then in the Avid I would open up the markers. I had never worked with a director that wanted to sit and watch all of the dailies and give notes on all of the dailies for an entire scene.

Gore Verbinski, Photo by: Patrick Lewis/Starpix

On other projects I’d worked on maybe it’s the mediums and the close-ups that a director wants to see for performance and they give you general feedback about “This I like, this I’m not so fond of,” that kind of stuff. But this was incredibly thorough and for me, I’m a pretty organized guy, but the sort of level of organization  that you need to maintain to keep all of those notes at the tips of your fingers so when he comes in and he watches your first pass on something, he says “Hey do you remember that shot?” And you actually have to remember that shot.  You can’t fake it with him. It took me a couple of weeks to get my own internal system to the point where I could really go with him.

It was a difficult process and also just a different way of working where I would take a lot of notes. I had my script. I didn’t know the material as well as Gore did or Lance did because those guys had been on the project for months at that point.

I remember when I first sat down to work with Gore, printing out just the scene that we were going to work on and saying, “Here’s a copy for you, a copy for me. Do you mind if we just talk about the scene, tell me what’s important about this. Why is this line important?” We would go through all of the scenes that I worked on with Gore. I have my copies with his notes that I took on them because he’s really articulate and so I could get almost everything off of those conversations. Then by referring back to my notes I would say “He did say that this is really crucial,” and I would sort of rack my brain and be like “Alright, where do I find that?” because if he doesn’t see this, we’re going to have to scrub this and start all over” because that’s how he is. He’s super thorough. So it really took me a couple of weeks to get my bearings.  It was a really challenging way of working with someone. Also Gore felt like he was “behind” the whole time, schedule wise. He just felt really pressured, so you don’t want to be the slow guy who’s clogging up the works.

HULLFISH: You’re asking him what he wants and were you also providing what you thought was important in that scene? Or did you feel like, “I’m just going to shut up and let him tell me?”

BEAUDREAU: There’s a real conversation that happens between editors and directors that I think – if you’re not putting yourself into it – then they don’t even need you, they just need your hands if you’re not going to do anything.

HULLFISH: I was asking because you were describing his level of specificity in choosing every single detail, but you’ve been doing this a long time and you got chosen to work on this film and there’s a reason for that and it wasn’t just because you knew how to push the buttons.

BEAUDREAU: Right, right. I think when I was first getting started with him, because I was feeling so far behind, I didn’t have that purity of assembling the whole movie. When you assemble the whole movie you make those decisions for yourself all the way through. You know what’s important in the script from the degree to which certain things are really hit hard in the dailies, so that is important and then you take your intuition about what you’re getting from the dailies with what’s in the script and then with how you think you can best tell the story and you put that together and you have that time, and that evolves.

The difference between how you cut on day one to how you cut on day fifteen to how you cut on day thirty. It’s always evolving. I’ll cut something and I’m four weeks in and I cut something and I’m like “Oh man! That’s it! That’s what I should have been doing. That’s what I should have been doing since day one, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t have that insight into the characters yet.”

So, part of the reason why I was very explicit with him is because the first scene I cut was scene a hundred and seven or whatever it was and it’s maybe an hour and forty-five minutes into the movie and so he would say “These are the important things,” for him and I wouldn’t push back, but I would say “Well, is this more important that this? Do you think that we can push this harder…” and so on. On Margin Call I was trying to find some lighter moments, trying to find some levity – to let the audience have a nervous laugh and break the tension.

I remember when we were talking about the scene where Volmer tortures Lockhart with the tube, Gore wanted Volmer to be delicious. It was a word he used a bunch of times. It gave me the idea to mine the selects for some of those nervous laugh moments. It’s a torture scene and what’s happening is graphic but there’s an absurd humor there and when I showed Gore my first pass he laughed at all those moments. I don’t think he had intended the scene to be darkly humorous but he embraced it and after that I had earned his trust.

HULLFISH: You’re trying to negotiate the temperature of the performance for a purpose.

BEAUDREAU: Right, right.  We would have those conversations. We would have all these notes and then that’s where I could actually say, “Hey, this is what I think we should do.” So how I put it together was taking the things I know… I know this is important, I know this is important, but then I find the way to sort of weave those moments together and give them some life. What’s great about that scene is that Lockhart has basically no dialogue. It’s all Volmer and Lockhart just whimpers. That’s all he can do in that scene. He has a couple of lines and then it’s all Volmer. For me it all felt theoretical until I had a scene to show Gore.

When I had a scene to show him then there’s all kinds of back and forth. Then you can sort of take a stronger stand against something and sort of push character a certain way. What I thought was so challenging about this was within a few days you were going from watching dailies to assembling your rough cut, your second rough cut and then basically within a few hours, picture lock on a given scene because you had to sort of explore all those options with Gore for him to say “That’s good, move on.” Then you could move on and tackle the next round of stuff.

Gore is really sound-design focused. We do a lot of sound in the Avid, I would say roughly half of the time of the edit was sound editorial. We were cutting in sort of a simulated 5.1 and so making those decisions about what sound is in what speaker and making your decisions about panning and what’s in the background and where does the music start? Does the music start behind you or is the music already there? Is it just like a wash over everything? That’s just like hours and hours of thinking about the sound and then the man hours to execute it and so you would literally go from what is this scene about to now it’s mixed in like a week and then you would move on to the next thing and get every scene up to that level and then you put the whole movie together and watched the whole movie. Totally different way of how I’m used to working or how I have worked in the past.

Normally, when I read a script I’m trying to think ahead and see if there’s anything that looks like it can be cut. I try to keep those scenes flagged in my head so that when the dailies come in I still cut, still do all the things that I want to do with it, but I don’t really make a meal out of it. If I watch it in the context of the  assembly and it’s working and I need that scene, then I revise and continue working it. If it’s not working and it sort of backs up what my gut says, then I talk to the director and say, “Hey do you think we really need this? Do you want to do one more pass on it and then see how you feel about it?” On Cure I think everything that was shot was fine cut before we made any decisions about it being in the movie or not.

HULLFISH: And was it also completely fine cut before you even tried to assemble it in to a reel or a sequence?

BEAUDREAU: Sure, sure. I mean there were sequences that were reel-length and maybe once in awhile you could string five or six scenes along and show it to Gore.

HULLFISH: I’ve talked to, at this point, eighty editors probably and there’s a good mix of people who say, “I want to get through every single scene before I put anything together,” and there’s other people that say, “As soon as I can get two scenes together I do it.”

BEAUDREAU: I like to get a run, I like to have a run of scenes together. I think because the order of how a film is shot is based on an actor’s availability or when you can get the location, it’s not terribly common that you have all that many scenes in a row that you get to work with.

HULLFISH: But you didn’t come in until after everything was shot, right? Or am I wrong about that?

BEAUDREAU: That’s correct. But we might watch two scenes from the assembly and Gore might say, “Out of those two scenes I like this and I like this.” He might like two things out of the ten minutes, so you can’t really hang anything on that and then build up from there. Every scene I worked on was starting from scratch. We started from dailies and so we didn’t slot my scenes back into the assembly.

All assemblies are painful, all assemblies are really hard to watch. There’s nothing great about sitting and watching your assembly. Most of the time you’re just watching a director be upset when you’re watching an assembly.

HULLFISH: You’re not the first person that’s said that.

BEAUDREAU: And so you want to minimize that pain and you want to minimize your own pain because if you work with a director for the first time and they see the assembly and they’re weeping through it and you’re like, “Is it me? Is it his own material? Is it a mix and how do I quickly turn the ship around so he starts liking stuff?” You have to get the director to be really super into what you are doing and you have to do that quickly.

HULLFISH: I think it was Martin Scorsese that said, “No film is ever as good as the dailies or as bad as the first cut.”

BEAUDREAU: Yeah, yeah. That’s true.

HULLFISH: You started talking about sound design and obviously on a film with this much horror and suspense, sound design is really critical. Can you tell me a little bit about sound design and what you did and how you were tweaking that?

BEAUDREAU: Sure. One of the strong things about the assembly was that Lance had put a lot of time into sound, and so there were places where I was able to just kind of steal his backgrounds and then could build off of his backgrounds. I’m basically used to cutting in stereo, not cutting for more than left and right and so it took me a couple of weeks to even get my head around the track assignments. The first six tracks were mono tracks and those mono tracks were dialogue and effects and production effect, then sound effects. Then seven and eight were panned left and right for sound effects and then nine, ten was a stereo pair. That stereo was for your front effects and so we had four stereo tracks that were just for music and surround music and for full music. We were working out of Gore’s space and Gore had a pretty good amount of material to work with from the beginning. Gore had Ben Wallfisch, the composer, who was working out of our office and so he was right there and he can turn around something incredibly fast. So Gore would run into his office and say “Hey I need something that does this. Don’t worry about the length, but it does this and it should sound like this and just give us like two minutes of that,” and then Ben would get that over to us. We had just an incredible amount of material and Dave Farmer was our sound supervisor and he was back and forth between Skywalker and Gore’s office and he had Doug Murray who is a dialogue editor pretty much in Gore’s office all the time and so we had a nice setup for sound. Dave and Doug were doing a really good job of just getting us material.

HULLFISH: And was that something that you were requesting from the sound team – you know, “I need a dripping sound or I need this scream or…”

BEAUDREAU: Or the crutch squeak.

HULLFISH: Right, the crutch squeak. I noticed the crutch squeak for sure.

BEAUDREAU: The crutch squeak was a lot of iterations and a lot of elements went into making that squeak.

HULLFISH: It’s a distinct sound. It’s not just a single squeak it was like a multi-layered… it had a percussion to it almost.

BEAUDREAU: Yeah, yeah because there’s a scuff, an impact, and a squeak. So that was something that went back and forth between picture editorial and sound editorial. They would give us stuff, we would cut it together to sort of give it some shape. We would give it back to the sound editorial so they could see what we were doing, so that process just kept cycling through.

HULLFISH: But you weren’t actually working in surround – I know you were talking about stereo pairs and mono pairs – were you in true 5.1 in the Avid. I mean, the Avid certainly has tools to manipulate 5.1 inside of Media Composer…

BEAUDREAU: We had done sort of a poor man’s Avid. The version of Avid we were using didn’t allow you to do a full 5.1.

HULLFISH: Wow. Avid’s had 5.1 surround panning and tracks for awhile… maybe 2011?

BEAUDREAU: We were a couple of versions back. What we wanted to do and what Gore wants to do on his future projects is get a bunch of ProTools boxes and just slave those to the Avid, the Avid does all the driving and then all the sound is built in ProTools as picture is being built in the Avid because the sound work is so intricate that it takes the sound department weeks to replicate it and then there’s a lot of room for where that stuff can go missing. A lot of the time on the mix stage they would play something and you would listen to it and go “Uh, I think there’s something missing from this background…”

HULLFISH: And you could feel that in the rhythm of the scene? Obviously, the visual cut has its own rhythm, but the audio elements provide a lot of rhythm in the scene, so did you feel like the rhythm was off when something was missing?

BEAUDREAU: Yeah. There were times when it was just off. Gore also has incredible ears, and so he would say “Uh, I don’t think that’s right,” and there were times where I would listen to it and be like “No I think it’s right,” and he’d be like “No, no listen, do you hear this?,” and I’m like “No, I don’t hear that.” It’s amazing his recall and also there was a constant battle of getting the cutting rooms to sound like the sound designers room and to sound like the screening room and just that sort of back and forth between whose room is calibrated and who’s got the most accurate room.

You’d have to figure out who’s room was most accurate and then cut your scene together and say, “Hey, can you go take a break for five minutes so I can watch the scene in your room?” and I’ll see how it sounds in your room and then I can bring it back to my room and try to get my room to sound like your room.”

I’m excited with how much I learned from Gore about sound design because it was something I took for granted with a lot of other projects I’ve done. I would get things to a level where the sound tells the story and a little bit here and there to sweeten it. But, I never went so far as to fully design a room or a space, so it was a real awakening to work with Gore and to see the level that you can work at when you’re given the opportunity.

HULLFISH: I’m trying to remember what part of the movie had quite a bit of intercutting, but you’ve got an A story and B story and instead of telling it A, B you’re telling it A,B,A,B,A,B. Talk to me a little bit about making those decisions of how long you could be away from one story and how you’re making that determination to cut to another or did you stay really close to the script?

BEAUDREAU: The most obvious is Dane discovering Volmer’s underground lab and Hannah in the pool, Hannah getting her period and then the eels coming out. So the eels come out into the pool and then Lockhart fights with the caretaker. There was this very smart cross cutting of Dane’s feet going down the stairs and Hannah’s feet going down the stairs into the pool and so there are certain ways in that cross cutting… I don’t want to speak too much about it because that sequence was Lance’s baby, like that was one of the things where Lance and Gore had jumped ahead to get some real progress on some of these bigger sequences. So, Lance and Gore really worked for a long time on getting those cross cuts correct and I saw many iterations on those and gave notes on them, but I wasn’t a real driver of those sections. I think in general you look for sort of common action between the two stories. That kind of cross cutting is easier to make the determination of how far that you’re off of either A or B because you’re not letting so much action develop on either side so that when you return to one you’re sort of lost. The idea of continuing a journey on both sides, they are just moving through different spaces. They are both learning something, they are both about a discovery.

HULLFISH: A lot of the time the intercutting is not like the script because the script has a rhythm to it that when you’re reading it you’re like, “Oh I want to make sure this is interesting to the reader,” but when it’s shot you go, “When the script says we need to cut is not where it needs to go now because what’s shot is different than what the script was.”

BEAUDREAU: Also I think that there’s so much more detail in the material you actually have versus the cross cutting suggested in the script. Like Lockhart walks down the stairs, Hannah enters the pool, in those cross cuts, there’s five shots on each side in order to communicate that and a script isn’t going to say Lockhart left foot enter frame, cut. So there’s that sort of leeway you take in trying to get that right. One of the things that was important for Gore was the reveal of Watkin’s body and Hannah’s reaction to the pain in the pool. That felt like it was always going to be there. I believe it was in the script and it was always designed to be that way.

HULLFISH: There’s also the intercutting between when Dane leaves Hannah in the bar in town while he talks to the veterinarian. You’re jumping back and forth between those two simultaneous situations. Can you tell me about that cross-cutting?

BEAUDREAU: This is an area where the A, B intercuts just feel right. We leave Hannah at the table and end on the shot of the punk leering at her. It puts a little threat in the audiences mind. Cut to CU of the Cow and it’s like an animal to a slaughter. Gore wanted the bar to be a dangerous place. It was important for Hannah to feel like she was seeing a world she had literally never seen before. We used the German metal music in the bar to heighten that effect. When Lockhart is at the vet its like a sonic relief to be out of that space. Lockhart is discovering the story of the Baron’s wife and her infertility as Hannah enters the bathroom and finds the girl having her period. She sees the menstrual blood in the garbage pail and finds the lipstick at the mirror. Something in her is awakening. Narratively the cross cuts in this sequence are filling in details of the story for both Hannah and Lockhart and information in the A side informs the B side and so it builds until the cow is euthanized. See, I told you this wasn’t going to everyone’s cup of tea!

HULLFISH: Do you remember anything you temped with? You mentioned being in the same office with the composer which is great…

BEAUDREAU: There was some temp music that had been sort of grandfathered in from the assembly, but I think everything I worked with was from Ben. The goal was to try to get out of temp world and get into Ben’s score as fast as possible. So we didn’t get too locked into those rhythms or that timing. There are a handful of scenes that I don’t think I really ever touched that were like sort of Lance and Gore’s babies and then there were a handful of scenes that Lance never touched that I had done and then there’s like this overlapping area where we were sort of like all over everything and Gore had this very, very friendly, non precious environment. Gore would say “Hey would you just take a look at…”

We would go into each other’s rooms, we would give notes, Gore would say “Now that we’ve got these ten scenes strung together, why don’t you do a pass and see if you can take some time out, just do a pass and watch these scenes for performance,” and so we were able to… and it was always very easy, it wasn’t like hurt feelings. We felt really strongly that we needed each other or else we were not going to make the deadline. There was so much to get through and so I would go into the room and I would hear what Lance and Gore were doing and it’s like “Oh what is that music? Because this scene I’m working on should have that music,” and then we’d go over to Ben and Ben would give us a variation of it. He would come in and I could work with it because I pretty much started every scene from scratch there wasn’t a lot of temping because if we’re going to build it from the ground up, Gore would just prefer we use Ben’s music anyway. So that’s what we did.

HULLFISH: Pete, thank you so much for such a great interview.

BEAUDREAU: (SAY ANYTHING YOU WANT HERE TO WRAP UP) Thanks so much for the opportunity to discuss the movie. Working with Gore was an incredible experience.

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

Thanks to Moviola’s Noah Adams for transcribing this interview.

The first 50 Art of the Cut interviews have been compiled into a book. It is a fascinating “virtual roundtable discussion.” Included in the discussion are the winners of more than a dozen Oscars for Best Editing and the nominees of more than forty, plus numerous Emmy winners and nominees. Together they have over a thousand years of editing experience and have edited more than a thousand movies and TV shows. Curated into topics critical to editors everywhere, the interviews are broken down and organized to generate an extended conversation among colleagues. The discussions provide a broad spectrum of opinions that illustrate both similarities and differences in techniques and artistic approaches. Topics include rhythm, pacing, structure, storytelling and collaboration.


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Steve Hullfish

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 at NAB, DVExpo and the Master Editor seminars. He has edited on Avid since 1992 and was named to Avid’s first group of Master Editors. His client list includes: Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, NBC, PBS, Turner Networks, The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Investigative Reports” and “Cold Cases” with Bill Kurtis for A&E, Jim Henson Home Entertainment, Major League Soccer, The Chicago Cubs, Wilson Sporting Goods and Exxon/Mobil.

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