ACE Editors Talk Editorial Challenges, Business

At CineGear 2009, a group of top-notch ACE editors-Mark Goldblatt, Michael Tronnick, Maryann Brandon, Maysie Hoi and Tina Hersch-got together to showcase some of their more challenging editing sequences and describe what’s going on in the business today.
Star Trek

To much applause from the audience, editor Brandon (Mission Impossible III, A Thousand Acres) showed a sequence from her latest movie, Star Trek. “It’s not just an action sequence but one that tells a story and establishes a character,” she said, describing the scene when Kirk and Sulu parachute onto a platform over the planet Vulcan. She noted that numerous elements went into every shot, and that as many elements as possible were created practically to give the scene more physical reality. The platform, for example, was practical and set up at Dodger Stadium for the shoot. The attention to detail included decisions about sound. “We decided to keep space silent, so sound doesn’t come in until they break through the atmosphere,” said Brandon.

Starship Troopers

Noted action movie cutter Goldblatt (X-Men: The Last Stand, Armageddon, The Rock) showed a battle sequence from one of his favorites: Starship Troopers. He spoke about editing in more general terms. “Ally yourself with the editor,” he advised. “It’s important to have close agreement. The best relationships are almost telepathic.” His #1 editor’s tip was to “be centered.” “Don’t freak out,” he said. “Be one with the footage.”

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Hersch (Gremlins, Independence Day, Dante’s Peak) brought an interesting example from director Joe Dante’s segment in the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was about a boy who had the power to get anything he wishes. He befriends a teacher and, to show off his power, creates large cartoon monsters. When she begs him to make them disappear, he ends up wishing his entire world away. The two are left in a blank, white space. “I didn’t like the boy’s performance,” said Hersch. “He was 7 and his eyes kept wandering. I wanted another piece of film to distract the viewers – and Joe [Dante] will try anything.” She took another take of the same performance and, on the Moviola, married the two. “We were stunned,” said Hersch. “It was amazing, it was so right, and it’s that way in the film today.” “In those days, good enough was good enough,” she added. “In the digital era, we could have nudged it for days.”

Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?

Maysie Hoy (The Joy Luck Club, What Dreams May Come, The Celestine Prophecy) has had a long relationship with director Tyler Perry. “He took a chance on me to cut comedy,” she said. He taps into the human condition. As editors, we have to be good listeners and trust our instincts. You can’t second-guess the director.” She said she likes to go to the set and meet everyone. “We oversee everything,” she said. “I like to have a personal relationship so if you call the focus puller or the make-up artist with a problem, he knows who you are. We’re all collaborators on the same ship. Our only ego should be to help the director realize his dream.” She showed an excerpt from Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? in which the female lawyer is having a date from hell. “If you’re a good editor, I think you can cut anything,” she said. “You need a director who believes in you.”

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour

Michael Tronick (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Hairspray) talked about his recent work on 3D stereoscopic films, including Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Tour and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. “I had never cut 3D or a concert film,” he admitted. “But when Disney asked me, I said, why not?” Tronick said he met “an amazing community of people in 3D who were so helpful.” The production had seven 3D cameras and two 2D cameras. He revealed he cut in 2D. “It was a learning process to find out what looked good in 3D,” he said. “I chose the shots where the performance was the best.” He watched three hours of 3D dailies (“I hope you never have to do that” he told the audience), but said he eventually became “a big fan of 3D.” “I think it can be used for everything from a Pinter play to an action film,” he said. The EDL went to Fotokem, which conformed the 3D media. “Then we’d screen it in 3D and start working things out,” said Tronick.