Rhys Thomas and Adam Epstein have worked together for years on the short films for the Saturday Night Live Film Unit—Rhys as the director and producer, Adam as the editor. So when Thomas got the opportunity to direct the feature film Staten Island Summer, Epstein was a natural choice to edit. The film, produced by Lorne Michaels, features many recognizable Saturday Night Live faces. While there are some clear differences between delivering content for a weekly television show and working on a movie, there were many similarities as well. One thing that remained the same was the team’s proven editing workflow, powered by Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
Adobe: Let’s start at the beginning—when was the movie shot?
Epstein: Principle photography was in June 2013 over 24 days, and then we worked on the film during the next Saturday Night Live season—jumping between the movie the first half of the week, and the show the second half. After an initial screening in February 2014, there were six days of reshoots the following summer. I was unfortunately gone for the summer on a post-production tour, so an incredibly talented editor, Steve Edwards, stepped in during those few months and did a wonderful job. After that it was a hybrid process, working on the film and the show until we finished in April 2015.
Adobe: Was it hectic working on both Saturday Night Live and a feature film at once?
Epstein: The first half of the week we would work on the film, and then on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we would turn our attention to Saturday Night Live. I came to like it in the sense that each one felt like a chaser for the other one. If you’re just working on something that doesn’t get sign off for a long time it can feel daunting and if you’re just doing shorts you might want to slow down at times. Having both things happening at once was a nice balance.
Adobe: What were the pros and cons of working on a film versus doing the Saturday Night Live shorts?
Epstein: With the film, there was more time to look at every possibility and fine-tune everything, which was great. But like in any project that goes on for a long time, that freedom can sometimes be daunting. The nice thing about the Saturday Night Live timeline is that it forces you to make decisions more quickly. With the film, we tried to stay fresh while taking advantage of having more time and remembering what the initial instinct was with a scene. There were times when we would start editing, explore some things, then come back and realize that we liked what we had from the beginning.
Adobe: What were the benefits of working with Adobe Premiere Pro CC?
Epstein: The movie was shot on 2K anamorphic Arri Alexa and Alexa Studio cameras and we edited the footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CC straight out of the camera. We didn’t have to transcode anything during the entirety of the production. We used adjustment layers so we were never looking at anything that resembled offline footage, which made the screenings and getting feedback easier. It ultimately made it easier to finish as well because we didn’t have to match back to proxies. Working with Premiere Pro, I haven’t had to work “offline” in three years.
Adobe: Were there any differences in how you and Rhys collaborated?
Epstein: The main difference was the amount of time we had to get the film done. With the show, we sometimes start cutting on set and work day and night until it is done. On the film, Rhys would be off shooting and I wouldn’t see him nearly as often, so the process was different in terms of the amount of time I would have on my own initially. But once he was in the room, we fell into a more normal routine, just drawn out over a longer time. Whenever you spend that much time with someone and it goes well, it is a lucky thing, and that’s something I never take for granted.
Adobe: Are you happy with how the film turned out?
Epstein: I think it ended up great, and is a testament to a lot of hard work from everyone involved at every level of the production.
Staten Island Summer is currently streaming on Netflix and is available for download on iTunes.
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