Editor Dylan Tichenor grew up watching movies with his father, a
wannabe filmmaker with his own 16mm camera. His first lesson in editing
took place when, as a child, he held a strip of film from an 8mm reel
of The Magnificent Ambersons to the light
and realized how the scene was composed of different shots. His first
professional break was as a P.A. on John Sayles’
City of Hope. Since then, he’s
Boogie Nights,
Magnolia, Unbreakable,
and The Royal Tenenbaums.
He just finished Brokeback
F&V: What have the challenges been on Brokeback Mountain?
I took over from the original editor, Geraldine Peroni. I learned to
edit from her, when she was Robert Altman’s editor and I was her
apprentice on The Player, and I worked with her for
five years. While she was cutting Brokeback
, she passed away rather suddenly, tragically. The
first month was really difficult, seeing the work she’d done, all her
selections and knowing her thinking behind it. Soon, it got to be
cathartic and good to spend this time with her- I found myself thinking
about her all the time through this process and it was a gift to me in
that way. I think that our two styles complement each other’s. I don’t
think you’ll be able to discern which cuts are hers and which are mine.
F&V: What did you learn from working with Robert Altman?
Bob is an amazing person. He’s the kind of guy where if you’ve never
been a set decorator before, you could get hired as a set decorator on
his film- because he recognized in you the aesthetic and the drive and
the interest. He would let people rise to their level. I don’t know too
many people who do that today. You have to be a very secure person-
your ego has to be intact- to have lots of people around you whom you
allow to contribute. More than any living director his imprint is on
his movies, like a John Ford or a Hitchcock. You look at seven frames
of the movie and know who directed.
F&V: What have you learned from working with so many directors with a strong storytelling sense?
It’s very rewarding to work with someone who is clear on telling a
story. There are a lot of filmmakers who don’t really know how to tell
a story – they know how to make a pretty shot or slam you in your seat
with a big music cue, but that doesn’t have much to do with
storytelling. One thing I come away with having worked with these guys,
the common denominator is that they all know or have different ways of
keeping on point in telling a story by having a point of view. It can
be literally a character’s POV or a general cohesiveness to the tone
and approach in the storytelling. In film, that’s an extremely
important thing and it’s really difficult to keep track of. If there’s
a scene where a guy is getting angry and breaking furniture, is the
point to watch the guy smash the furniture or is it to see what it does
to his little daughter? The filmmaker who understands POV and
storytelling will know not to spend all day shooting high-speed shots
of furniture splitting but the little girl’s eyes. You’d be surprised
how many directors don’t understand that.
F&V: What goes into making a good director/editor partnership?
The basics are trust and respect- going both ways. I have to trust that
this person knows what they’re doing or, at the very least, that
they’re using all of their faculties to attempt something. You don’t
have to be successful. Sometimes we can fail and have it be the most
rewarding experience. It’s very important to fail otherwise you don’t
get a sense of where the rails are. At the same time, I need them to
understand that I’m putting just as much of myself into the film to
serve their vision and the path they’re carving. The main part of the
editor’s job is to be a surrogate audience, to react to footage and say
what’s important and not important to the story. I’m exposing my own
sensibility. A lot of times, when I have to show the director what I’ve
cut, I’ve been so nervous. With Paul [Thomas Anderson] on
Magnolia, I put a sequence together, a very
emotional section of the movie. Paul sat down on the couch to watch it
and I literally couldn’t press the play button. Paul understood that I
had put something of myself into it and that I was understandably
nervous. That’s one of the reasons I respect Paul as much as I do. He
understands the contribution.
F&V: Do you have a personal style or philosophy of editing?
I’m not an MTV-style guy, and I’m not whatever the opposite of that is.
If I have a style or philosophy it’s that I’m really drawn to true
moments. I like to structure things so that there is a moment where
things come together, where the ideas you’re working on resonate. I’m
looking for connections and associations- not overtly or
intellectually, but in my mind that’s how I’m building a story. At the
end of the day I like to have a human connection to it. I don’t want
smash-it-up movies that are only smash-it-up or broad comedies that are
only broad comedies.
F&V: What are you working on now?
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
– the writer/director is Andrew Dominik
[Chopper]. He knows what storytelling is about. And
Roger Deakins is shooting, so it’ll look good no matter what.