Post Production

Art of the Cut with the editors of “Hunger Games – The Mockingjay Part 2”

AlanMarkACEToday’s Art of the Cut interview is a two-fer. Co-editors of the blockbuster film, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2,” Alan Edward Bell, ACE (right) and Mark Yoshikawa, ACE (left) sit down for a fascinating discussion including the geography of editing action, the politics of the editing room, and what’s wrong with modern NLEs.  The “Hunger Games” movies are a wild cinematic ride, and you’ll discover that an interview with these two fascinating editors is almost as entertaining as the movies they cut…. and even more informative.

In addition to “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” Alan Bell edited the previous two installments in the franchise. He also edited “(500) Days of Summer, “The Green Mile” and “The Amazing Spiderman.”  Yoshikawa’s editor credits include “Mockingjay, Part 1,” “The Tree of Life” and several others, including numerous assistant editor credits.

Together they worked with director, Francis Lawrence to bring the final installments of the “Hunger Games” franchise to completion.

HULLFISH: So this is basically a continuation of “Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.”

BELL: The movies were basically shot sequentially. We started in September 2013 in Atlanta.

Final Poster (1)HULLFISH: So a pretty tight schedule to get the first one out.

BELL: Yes, which is one of the reasons Francis and I thought it would be good to have another editor because there was no way that we could shoot two movies at the same time, then have a really fast turnaround, it just made sense to bring Mark on through the whole first movie (Part 1), and then keep him on through the next movie. We couldn’t have done it without him.

HULLFISH: And how did the two of you guys get hooked up. Correct me if I’m wrong Alan, but you did the movie “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” before you did Part 1.

BELL: That’s right. Mark and I have known each other since the late 90s. We worked on a movie called “The Story of Us” back in 1999. Mark was one of the assistants. We’ve been friends ever since.

HULLFISH: For a director to choose an editor, or for one editor to choose to work with another editor or member of a post team, there needs to be talent obviously, but it’s also about “Who do I want to be stuck in a room with for six months.”

At the PremiereBELL: There are political aspects to it as well. I’ve worked on other films which I won’t mention with other editors that were very politically driven and who don’t have the movie’s best interests at heart, they’re self-serving. I knew that when Francis and I were talking about finding someone else, I needed to find somebody who was really going to be a team player and be interested in the material and I wasn’t going to have to watch my back and he wasn’t going to have to watch his back. We were going to get along and have everything be symbiotic. Talent was incredibly important, and Mark is incredibly talented, but having somebody that I can trust and who’s going to be a partner was really super important and unfortunately, that’s not always the case. This is a highly political business, so that was a predominant thing for me, which means basically I said, “Hey Francis, these are my friends, which one do you like the best?”

MarkMJsetvisit.1JPGYOSHIKAWA: That personal friendship and collaboration aspect helps creatively too, because in the cut when you have no ego and you’re not precious about your cuts and you don’t mind bouncing things back and forth, which Alan and I did constantly, it really helps the cut because then you’re just looking out for the good of the film and the material and the story and you’re not going to hold on to something just because you cut it.

HULLFISH: Both of the features I’ve cut have been dual editor, so I know how important it is.

BELL: When you have a friend and a collaborator there that you’re working with, it’s a lot easier to be honest with yourself and with them. Sometimes you do really like something and you haven’t quite cracked it and the other person steps up and says, “It’s really not working and I think you should start over. These things aren’t hitting.” And it’s a lot easier to take that information from someone you trust and be open to it, than somebody you don’t trust and you feel doesn’t have your back.

HULLFISH: But in addition to having to work well with you, you also had to evaluate whether he would work well with Francis.


Bell’s edit suite is pictured above. Note the customized Avid layout of a full left-screen bin and a large timeline on the right with super-small Composer window – since he has the projected image as a main editing viewer. The timeline monitor is a Wacom Cintiq tablet that Bell operates with a stylus.

BELL: We really tried to set up a situation where our rooms were nearly identical. We both worked with projectors and set up our rooms the same way so that Francis could go from room to room and be comfortable and not have to re-connect with his surroundings. I think for the most part Francis isn’t the kind of director that bounces from room to room all that much once we’re deep in the cut. But he was very pleased with the way we worked.

YOSHIKAWA: There was another additional editor on the film named Jennifer Vecchiarello. (Vecchiarello had been Bell’s assistant on several other films, including the other “Hunger Games” films “The Amazing Spiderman” and “500 Days of Summer.”) She was very heavily involved. Because we Imagine Tomorrow Postercut Mockingjay 2 while we were finishing Part 1, Alan was very busy – first he was in Europe while they were shooting, and then finishing Part 1. We needed to get a jump on Part 2, so Jennifer – who has been working with Alan for years – helped us, and she was also a part of that collaborative process.

BELL: Yes. Jennifer was instrumental.

HULLFISH: It’s interesting that you edited with projectors in the room. In my interview with Jake Roberts (who cut “Brooklyn”) we discussed how your sense of the material changes when you’re viewing it on a big screen instead of a computer screen.

YOSHIKAWA: Alan’s been doing it that way for years. It definitely gave you more of that theatrical experience.

Mark and AlanBELL: I feel like if we’re making a movie I want to look at a movie. It’s really important to me that the film I’m looking at represents what people are going to see in the theaters.  So we cut both movies in 5.1 surround and on relatively large screens.

HULLFISH: What was the division of responsibilities between you guys?

BELL: Well, we all just divvied up scenes. “This scene’s ready to cut. You wanna cut it?” Mark would say, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” It was really just, what’s next. Like Mark said, we were really not precious about anything, so everything that I cut, Mark re-cut and everything he cut, I re-cut. Eventually we started going through the movie, trying to make it more efficient and trying different versions in areas. The biggest delineation was probably a point in time when most of Mockingjay 1 was shot and there was only a few outstanding pieces. And at that time I stepped away to concentrate solely on Mockingjay 1 and Mark and Jennifer really assembled Mockingjay 2 for the most part. There are a couple of action scenes that originally I cut in Mockingjay 2, but for the most part those guys really did all the early cutting on Mockingjay 2 while I was primarily focused on Mockingjay 1. And then, once Mockingjay 1 was done, all three of us focused on Mockingjay 2 together. So early on, I shied away from the Mockingjay 2 stuff and let Mark and Jen focus on that. Somebody had to stay on top of MJ1, because that was going to be a heavy job in terms of visual effects and sound and all those things.

HULLFISH: Cutting on Avid? Using an ISIS or no? Did both movies live on the same system at the same time?

BELL: Actually, all four movies lived on the edit system at the same time. It wasn’t like we went back to the original Hunger Games for much footage, but in “Catching Fire” there was some original footage from “Hunger Games.” We had access to all of the media and Jennifer could pull it up at any given time. Actually, I may be misrepresenting. I think for the original Hunger Games we had the movie, but the dailies were off-line. “Catching Fire” was all there and so was “Mockingjay 1” and “2.” Most of “Catching Fire” might have been off-line as well, but we had it on drives and at any time I needed something, 20 minutes later it would be there.

SP1 D80 25793 RYOSHIKAWA: That happened a lot because we had to keep referencing things from past films, not just for narrative, but for sound effects and environmental feelings or even score. Or “What does that tablet sound like?” you could go back and grab a temp sound effect or an ADR line. Sometimes Alan would say, “I think Finnick says this or that in ‘Catching Fire'” and you could go grab that line temporarily if it was an off-screen thing.

HULLFISH: What was the timing of getting score done for the second part? What were you using for temp score? With a franchise you’ve at least got access to the themes and some similar sounding stuff.

BELL: There was a huge body of work that James Newton Howard (the composer) had already done on the previous films as well as just all of his enormous body of work. So we tried to pull from his stuff as much as possible. On the final Mixing stageWhen “Mockingjay 1” was just about done, he scored it, mixed it and got it in the movie. But “Mockingjay 2” was done completely separately. In fact, they were recorded in different studios. “Mockingjay 1” was recorded in AIR Studios in London and “Mockingjay 2” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. A lot of the temp stuff, Mark and I tried to go to James’ stuff as much as possible, but we pulled some of our own stuff and threw it in there wherever we weren’t getting what we needed from his score because each moment is different and requires a different sensibility. And then we had Philip Tallman who is a fantastic music editor. He came on very early on on both movies and did a lot of temp editing for us. He’s really like a composer, so he’s able to take a lot of different music tracks from completely disparate scores and change tempo and keys and get them to match and that helped us a lot.

HULLFISH: Describe the collaboration process with Francis, the director, going back and forth between two different rooms with two different editors. How did you both get his notes? And how does he like to work with editors?

YOSHIKAWA: As an outsider coming in to this, since Alan and Francis had worked together on two or three films by that point (“Water for Elephants” and “Catching Fire”), so I figured I would be a cog in the machine, just trying to work into their system. What was great about Francis is that he was very open immediately to another perspective and sitting in my room and working on sequence, but because of the comfort with Alan and their history together, when the cut was really coming together, Francis would sit in Alan’s room and I would come sit in the front and Alan would do all the work sitting at the Avid. Francis really appreciated the big screen projection because he could sit in the back elevated behind Alan and it really felt like a movie theater, very theatrical.

Alan in the trailerBELL: We also built a screening room in a trailer, so during production I was actually on set most of the time in a trailer cutting for seven months.

HULLFISH: What’s a quick timeline for the two movies?

YOSHIKAWA: “Mockingjay 1” started shooting September 2013. Then you and Francis went to Europe to continue shooting in April of 2014.

BELL: Shortly before Europe, while we were still in Atlanta, we were shooting “Mockingjay 2” stuff at that time. Aside from the lizard sequence, which I was really focusing on for “MJ2” I left everything else to Mark and Jennifer and really tried to focus on “MJ1.” Then, when I went to Europe, there were some scenes we were going to shoot early on in Europe, but Liam sprained his ankle, so we had to push him to the very end of the schedule in Berlin. So that just meant that I really had to be Johnny-on-the-Spot with some of the scenes in “MJ1” in order to get our VFX turnovers in time. It was one of those things that required enormous set turnovers. And then the end sequence in “MJ1” is a compound of elements and some of that was shot early on in Atlanta, some was shot in Paris, some of it we shot in Berlin. That sequence Mark and I bounced back and forth and focused on a lot while I was in Paris to try to nail it down because we were trying to find out what it was supposed to be, because it was scripted one way, but it couldn’t be a 22 minute scene, it had to be eight minutes or six minutes. The scene I’m talking about is where they’re going to rescue Peeta. There was a period of time when I was in France and Mark and I were just throwing that back and forth and Jen was solely on “MJ2.” And then, I would say by the time we got back, once we got back to LA, then Mark put down “MJ2” and he and I totally focused on “MJ1” until it was done. Then we had enough time in our schedule to do an editor’s pass, which we actually cheated and brought Francis in for our editor’s pass, so we had a real leg up. Jen had a really nice assembly. And in fact, Francis and I – while we were in Germany – watched a lot of “Mockingjay 2” before we were done shooting. We saw huge, huge sections of it.  So he was really confident about “MJ2” even before we went into deep, deep post on “MJ1.” So we kind of let “MJ2” sit. We focused on “MJ1” and I think Jen did a little bit of “MJ2” work while Mark and I were busy with “Mockingjay 1” but November of 2014 we took a little time off – a couple weeks off – and then came back right before Christmas and all of us focused on “Mockingjay 2.”

Set CuttingRoomYOSHIKAWA: I think you got back from Europe at the beginning of July. And we had to lock it by the end of August. That was really the crunch time. And then on “Mockingjay 2” because we were ahead of the game, we had almost a year to finish it, it wasn’t quite as hectic.

BELL: We locked “Mockingjay 2” about 4 months ago. A film is never really locked. I’m going to master the HD master right now, the 1.78 version. We stopped cutting in August (of 2015).

HULLFISH: So with edit systems in Atlanta, France, Germany, and L.A., how did you do all that collaboration?

SP1 D74 23733 RBELL: We had an ISIS in Atlanta. The whole cutting room was in Atlanta. When I went to Europe, the cutting room with the ISIS was moved to L.A. And because I had a remote trailer system in Atlanta, we had duplicate media. I had a set of drives that were inside an HPZ820. So all of my media was local inside this one box. I was able to bring that to Europe. We also had another box for my assistant with a SAN RAID 5 box with all the same media that I had locally. So that’s how we went to Europe. All that media was encrypted. They would send over digital deliveries of the material every day and that would get copied on to my system and we’d just make sure everything was up to date.

SP1 D82 26229 RHULLFISH: Tell me about the extreme amount of VFX that make up this movie. How do you cope with that while you’re editing early on? Do you have to use your imagination? Or do you have pretty solid pre-viz or post-viz while you’re cutting.

BELL: We have solid pre-viz versions as we’re cutting, which we utilize when we can. For the most part, because this is a world-building exercise, we just let the greenscreen be greenscreen. It’s not like Mark and I are going to be matte painters and stick a bunch of stuff back there. It always looks bad. If it doesn’t look great, then it just takes you out of the movie. And all the character animation, we had live actors performing the characters, so that was pretty easy to cut, because even though they may not have looked like lizards, they behaved like lizards, so you could cut the action scene that way. I would say the hardest thing was probably the oil sequence, and Mark can talk about that because he and Jennifer cut most of that sequence. That was hard because there was no oil.



SP1 D125 37570 RYOSHIKAWA: That sequence and the attack on the capitol with Gale and Katniss. There was a lot of just greenscreen, or nothing back there in the case of the oil sequence. There was pre-viz that was very laid out, but it was a matter of timing and Francis had this idea of how the oil would be flowing and the viscosity and the speed and all of that, then it was a matter of doing temp wire-frame versions to get a quick motion test. Then it was worked out from there. It was tricky because you had to use your imagination.

HULLFISH: I’ve done animation editing and you’re editing with just storyboards, so you have to use your imagination about what the motion will be while you’re looking at a still storyboard drawing to come up with the timing for the cut.  So I was thinking about that same thing with the oil scenes you’re describing. How do you know when to cut if so much of the motion in a scene isn’t really there?

YOSHIKAWA: Yeah. That scene specifically, because the oil is supposed to be right on their heels in order to enhance the danger of course, you want it as threatening and as close as possible. The timing and the geography is also important. You can’t get confused with screen direction and all of that, because as soon as that happens, you’re lost.

BELL: And we played around with the timing of the oil right up to the very, very last final. It was constantly “When is it running after them? Where is it supposed to be? When does it drain? How fast does it drain?” Even though we’d locked the sequence, you’re still playing with things as the effects are coming in and giving notes to the effects department, “Hey, this is happnening too fast or this is not happening fast enough or the splashes are too big, or they’re too small.”

Fallen Snow BannerHULLFISH: Talk to me about editing action. When you cut action, there’s a need, not only to make it urgent and exciting and fun and have great pacing, but there’s also a critical – probably MORE important sense – that the audience needs to understand the geography and the physical relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist so that the story works within the action. You need to know where everybody is. How do you fine-tune “geography” in an edit?

BELL: Well, it’s less about fine-tuning geography and more about making sure that it’s very clear. I think that you can really get lost when you’re cutting action. I remember when I first started cutting action, I thought it meant having a lot of cuts. And cutting quick. And there are certainly a lot of action scenes with very short cuts. I’m guilty of that as much as anyone. But I don’t think that’s a primary aspect of what action is about. You have to look at the intent of the scene. Where’s the antagonist? Where’s the protagonist? Where do they travel throughout the scene? Is it clear to the audience who’s who at any given time and if I cut from one place to the next, is that disorienting? Do I WANT it to be disorienting? And then, pacing happens in the cut, but it also happens inter-frame (the motion within the frame) and I think that’s where people make a lot of mistakes. They see something and it doesn’t seem fast enough for them, so they choose to cut. But sometimes there are other ways to speed up portions of the frame to keep the pace up and not have your action scenes seem cutty.

HULLFISH: How would you do that inter-frame?

BELL: Split screens and time warps. I actually use them a lot. So, I’ll timewarp one character and not the other, or the whole piece so I don’t have to cut away.

HULLFISH: Sure. That allows you to maintain the relationship in timing and in space between the antagonist and the protagonist.

BELL: Exactly.

HULLFISH: Mark, your thoughts?

MarkATLeditroom1YOSHIKAWA: All that inter-frame manipulation is something I really learned from Alan. He’s really good at it. He has his own visual effects company, so he’s very skilled at doing a lot of those comps within the Avid. A lot of them end up practically going right to the screen. Of course they get cleaned up. If somebody needs to spin with a gun and somebody else needs to be in position at the same moment, but they aren’t, there’s a lot of that re-timing and re-positioning within the frame. I learned early on that Francis wants to cut as little as possible. If something can play, let it play. Let it play out so you can see the action and that the actors are really doing the stunts. The idea of manipulating within that same frame is really helpful. One thing about screen direction and geography – and Alan touched on it – but that you can use it to BE disorienting. In the “mutt” sequence in the tunnels, it’s very clear and linear when they’re running away, but sometimes you want something to feel like it’s jumping out of nowhere. And then it is a little disorienting in a good way and that’s something you can use to your advantage in an action scene. The element of surprise.

HULLFISH: You’d mentioned some structural changes in the story of the movie. Did stuff get shifted, or just shortened? You mentioned a 22 minute sequence that got shortened to 8.

SP1 D109 33537 RBELL: That specific sequence was actually in “Mockingjay 1” in the sequence where they’re rescuing Peeta. There wasn’t a lot of restructuring. A lot of times things read really well, but when you play them all out, you see that “Maybe we don’t need to go to Snow’s mansion and see it from his perspective all the time.” One of the things about these movies is that they’re very “point-of-view.” And it’s usually Katniss’ point of view all the time and there’s very few places where we step away from her point of view. But when we have sequences where they’re intercutting on a ship and then landing and then you’re going to the President’s house, and he’s seeing it on a monitor and then you’re going back to her, all of a sudden it can feel very languid. So we had to find the balance in that. I wouldn’t call it a re-structuring. It’s more like finding out what the real meat of the scene is about and then making it as best as we could. In “MJ2” there’s very little re-structuring. It’s very close to the script. A lot of stuff we cut out, we ended up putting back in. We did cut a couple of scenes out where Katniss and Gale are discussing how they’re going to get the Holo and how the Holo worked, which is this GPS-style device, that and a bunch of other scenes with expositional dialog we cut out and re-cut this scene in the tent before they go in to the capitol where Boggs is telling them about the dangers of the capitol and this is the Holo, so we gave Boggs a whole bunch of new dialog which – rather than have over his back, we went out and shot Boggs and replaced him within the scene saying it to everybody, so that it’s on camera and doesn’t feel like we cheated a bunch of over the shoulder dialogue, which can happen a lot in movies. But other than that, the movie’s pretty close to the way it was scripted.

HULLFISH: Do you think that’s a result of coming from a well-known book. Or was it just a well-written script that was well-developed?

SP1 D107 32619 RYOSHIKAWA: One of the things – scenes were removed certainly, but that’s one of those things I realized on “Mockingjay 1” was that certain lines or scenes that were beloved and certainly characters that are beloved by the fans and those fans are really looking foward to seeing those lines and those scenes on screen. I had to become even more familiar with the books. I was already a fan of the books, but to know which scenes had an even weightier meaning than the particular film meant studying the books.

BELL: When you have a script that works and directors and actors that are at the top of their game, re-structuring doesn’t happen that much. You’re just making it more efficient. When something’s broken you have to go in and say “What’s not working and how can we fix it?” Fortunately for these movies, the books are so solid, I think we did more re-structuring on “Catching Fire” than we did on either “Mockingjay 1” or “2.” And that was just because “Catching Fire” had that big training sequence at the beginning of that and everybody already knew that and how were we going to explain everything that we needed and not have as much training. It was like, “I’ve already been through this. Didn’t we just do this on the last movie?” Good script. Good acting. Good DP. Good director: means you don’t generally have to re-build it in the editing room. You just have to make it as good as you can.

HULLFISH: How do you like to have your Avid projects and your bins set up? In some of the previous “Art of the Cut” interviews, there’s some interesting discussion of how people like a bin set up to begin working on a scene. Also, did you both work in the same manner in the bins, or did you do it differently?

Trailor HarlanBELL: Mark had his bins and I had my bins and Jennifer had her bins. I use Frame view and I have all my clips grouped together as clips. So the top row will be A camera. The bottom row will be B camera and then my grouped clips will be sort of in between over to the right. I have multiple bins for a scene because I never want to scroll down the bin. So when I open up the bin full screen on one monitor I can see all the material in that bin, and I can see it kind of like a film-strip, so if there’s eight takes, the first clip’s thumbnail is of a frame early in the take and the last clip is parked somewhere near the end, so I can look at all the clips for the scene and see “Oh, that’s where she walks from the desk to the hovercraft. Or, that’s the medium shot that turns into a 2-shot.” I can look at it there, because I am very visual. And I have another bin that just has a bunch of still-frame JPEGs that are all color coded and have words and arrows and things, and as I take notes and watch the dailies in the bin, I’ll throw these cards underneath the clips that I like, so when I look at the clip, I can see the green one, take 3 is the one I like the best, or maybe it’s a card where the right side of the card is green and the left side of the card is black so when I look at that I can see that it’s a sequence where I like the second half of the take. And that’s kind of how I do it.

HULLFISH: By putting JPEGs in the bin underneath the thumbnails of the clips?

BELL: Yes. I put JPEGs underneath the Frames (thumbnails). The JPEGs are clips and I put them underneath.

HULLFISH: And the JPEGs are defining or giving you visual notes that help define the clips above them?

SP1 D125 37566 R CROPBELL: Yeah. Sometimes I’ll have JPEGs like on a huge sequence, it will say “Gale” or “Katniss” and I’ll have all of Katniss’ stuff. Some of the big action sequences, I like to have them in the order of how the takes appear in the script, but in big action scenes it’s non-sensical. So I’ll divide them up by character or acts of scenes and part of how I get familiar with the footage is that my assistants set it up for me and then I re-arrange it to my liking and that’s how I get to know the footage.

HULLFISH: And your assistants make these JPEGs from your notes from the dailies screenings?

BELL: No. I make them myself. I have a big bin of JPEGs that I’ve made and I use. The JPEGs are just color coded symbols. The notes actually appear on locators inside the takes or just on my Evernotes notepad.

HULLFISH: So you keep an Evernote notepad as well? Fascinating.

BELL: Yeah. I also have audio. I did this for Mark too. If I was in Europe and Francis was giving me notes, I would record the conversation and send it back to Mark, so a lot of times I’ll have audio from when we’re watching dailies in my Evernotes pad that I can go back and listen to. Mark, your bins are similar but they’re not exactly the same, are they?

YOSHIKAWA: I also work in Frame view. Prior to working with Alan I worked in a very similar way. It was very easy to adapt to that system with the grouped clips and with them all laid out in Frame view, usually in shooting order. I don’t use the JPEGs as Alan does. I guess I rely more on Markers inside the clips of the film, but I’m very visual. The way the assistants lay it out they’ll put the five takes with different thumbnails, so you can see how the shot develops throughout the take itself. So it was very similar and easy to jump back and forth, but we kept our own bins so Alan didn’t see all my crazy markers everywhere.

SP1 D97 29964 RHULLFISH: That’s so interesting, because the last two interviews I did, “The Martian” they liked to make all of the thumbnails for the shots within a setup look identical and “Brooklyn” they liked to do it the way you guys are doing it.

BELL: My big pet peeve about editing systems is that none of them are really set up for people that like to work in a visual way the way I would like to see them. The whole thing where you have to type in metadata and all these systems besides Avid – and I have a lot of criticism about the way Avid handles their bins – there are a lot of features I’d like to see them add that go way beyond searching metadata. Unfortunately, my brain does not work that way. I’m not interested in typing in a search string for all the clips of Katniss and then have them propogate in some fashion that’s based on timecode and then the minute you add another take it changes everything so that it’s no longer the third one down that you’re looking for, it’s take 83. I’m very visual and I want my tools to support that human nature that I have. Unfortunately none of the NLEs are doing it the way I think they should. Avid’s a little better because they pioneered Frame view. But the fact that all your Frame views have to be the same size, that’s just stupid. The fact that you can’t make ten markers on one clip and have the thumbnail be an animated GIF based on those markers? The fact that you can’t take all of your clips and fold them down to a group clip that shows that it’s 12 clips and hover over it and see “Here are the three you like.” There’s so many things that you should be able to do but you can’t, and they’d be so easy to implement, it almost makes my head explode. We could do a whole interview just based on how messed up editing systems are when it comes to visual organization.

HULLFISH: Any time you want to do that interview, give me a call!  That would be fascinating. I’d love that. And then we get an Avid person and a Premiere person and an FCP-X person on the line at the same time … that would be a fascinating big roundtable discussion.

BELL: It probably would. I can certainly pontificate. Mark can attest to that.

HULLFISH: Creative collaboration fascinates me too. Care to wrap this up with a discussion of how the collaboration process worked with two editors and a director?

SP1 D142 42131 RBELL: It works like this: Francis and Mark and I and Jennifer and Cam, Francis’ assistant, we sit in a room and we watch a scene and we watch a reel and we talk about it. And sometimes we argue and sometimes we don’t and basically, we’re just very honest about how we feel about something. And Francis may agree or disagree, but we leave our egos at the door. He is, fortunately, a very kind, egalitarian person who recognizes that sometimes you have to do stuff to see if it works or you have to do stuff to see that it doesn’t work. Instead of taking notes that people are critical of him, he takes notes understanding that they’re to make the film better. Everybody’s feelings are valid. That’s what collaboration is about: it’s finding the best position the movie should take. I don’t know that it could work any other way, really. Francis is the filter because he is the director. Then Nina (Jacobson, producer) and Jon Kilik (producer) and the studio comes in to play and the collaboration and the net becomes wider and we continue to make it better.

HULLFISH: Thank you both so much for your generosity in sharing with me and the “Art of the Cut” readers.

If you’re interested in reading more interviews in the “Art of the Cut” series, check out this link or follow me on Twitter @stevehullfish.


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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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