- Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016
- LOS ANGELES
There’s an Academy Award pedigree to the four editors behind director/writer/producer David O. Russell’s Joy (Twentieth Century Fox): Tom Cross, ACE, the Best Editing Oscar winner last year for Whiplash; Christopher Tellefsen, ACE who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2012 for Moneyball; three-time Oscar nominee Jay Cassidy, ACE; and Alan Baumgarten, ACE who shares an editing nom with Cassidy.
Joy represents what Cassidy and Baumgarten describe as their continuing joy of collaborating with Russell. Cassidy and Baumgarten previously teamed with fellow editor Crispin Struthers on Russell’s American Hustle, earning the alluded to Best Editing Oscar nomination in 2014. A year earlier Struthers and Cassidy were Oscar nominees for Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. Cassidy’s first Oscar nomination came in 2008 for Sean Penn’s Into the Wild.
SHOOT caught up with Cassidy and Baumgarten to discuss Joy, with Baumgarten also chiming in on his work for director Jay Roach on Trumbo.
Joy is based on the story of Joy Mangano, Miracle Mop inventor and home shopping entrepreneur. We see Joy, who’s portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, go from girlhood dreams marked by innovation and invention to a less than inspired adulthood mired in the mundane as well as responsibilities tending to her dysfunctional family. However, she regains her inventive, entrepreneurial spark and battles the odds--including betrayal, the brutal world of commerce, and assorted other derailing dynamics--to create a successful business which is a testament to the power of individual drive and enterprise. Her life story has elements of emotion, comedy, adversity, perseverance and joy, with much of the experience, for better and worse, centered on her family. The Joy cast also includes Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Röhm and Dascha Polanco.
While having four editors on one film would seem unwieldy on the surface, the process went relatively smoothly according to Cassidy and Baumgarten. And it was a process necessitated by the schedules of the cutters. “Alan and I both were not exclusively available when Joy started,” explained Cassidy. “Alan was working on Trumbo at the time--he cut it all through the shooting and then joined us on Joy.”
Cassidy went back and forth on Joy, noting “I was on at the beginning for a week and was then working on a Sean Penn-directed film [The Last Face] which we’re finishing.” While not exclusively on Joy until later, Cassidy said he and Baumgarten had the benefit of being involved during the script phrase.
“That was very important,” assessed Baumgarten. “David pitches a version of the story as it is evolving, helping us to gain a sense of where he’s going and to share ideas with him. We got a sense of the characters, we talked through scenes, we had several meetings a couple of months before shooting started. That was invaluable for us. We had a shorthand with David gained from working with him previously but the early involvement in Joy provided a real sense of what he wanted to achieve with this film.”
Cassidy related, “We were fortunate to get Tom Cross involved, then a window from Christoper Tellefsen. They had other films to go to. All our personalities jelled well. It also helped that Chris had cut for David before [on the 1996 release Flirting with Disaster]. Generally we had three editors at one time for the first half of Joy. And then two of us--myself and Alan--for the last several months."
Cassidy recalled how he first became acclimated to Russell’s style of working during Silver Linings Playbook and how that experience came to play in the cutting of Joy. Cassidy noted that Russell wanted to work on Silver Linings Playbook with Pamela Martin, ACE who had cut The Fighter but wasn’t available at the time. “He cast about for new people and my name came up. I had a brief conversation with him and started on Silver Linings Playbook. It was a great learning experience. I could hear David on the set speaking. He tends to keep running, to keep the camera rolling and do resets with the actors whenever possible. You hear him talking to the actors as they are resetting the takes. It’s amazing how much you glean from being an eavesdropper on his process with actors. When I finally did sit down with him after the film was shot, I felt I knew him better than he knew me. That began our working relationship. I saw how very smart he is about the way he shoots things and how that equips him to do the best storytelling when he gets to edit the material. He will purposely shoot a piece of exposition in more than one scene so he has a choice of how to bring that piece of information to an audience. He’s not cornered by early decisions. He has different options as to how a nugget of info can be shared with the audience. He doesn’t totally lock himself into one particular concept of how the story should be told. He will bend the story and find the best way to reveal the story in the best way--I saw that in the editing of Silver Linings Playbook, and then in American Hustle and Joy. As a writer, David continues his writing process into the editing.”
Baumgarten said that “showing Joy’s journey from childhood into her 40s” presented one of the prime editing challenges. “We had to have a sense of flow over time, to capture the fable feel that David wanted. We had to find a seamless poetic way of editing, of telling her story.”
Attesting to their success in that goal was Baumgarten, Cassidy, Cross and Tellefsen collectively earning earlier this week for Joy an ACE Eddie Award nomination in the best comedy feature editing category.
Joy isn’t the only Baumgarten-cut movie in the current awards season conversation. He also edited the Roach-directed Trumbo (Bleecker Street Media) starring Bryan Cranston as lauded Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era for his political beliefs, necessitating that he pen scripts under an assumed identity or sans an official credit. “Doing justice to this story based on real events entailed a major challenge involving archival footage,” said Baumgarten. “We had to use the footage for its historical value and effect without letting it overwhelm the story. We had to integrate it with the work done by our actors to best tell the story. The archival footage was not just the [House Un-American Activities Committee] hearings but also from the Academy Awards of the time period, clips from movies like The Brave One, Roman Holiday and Spartacus [all written by Trumbo].”
Trumbo continues Baumgarten’s working relationship with Roach which includes several comedies (Meet the Fockers, Dinner for Schmucks) as well as the HBO telefilm Recount which chronicles the weeks after the 2000 U.S. Presidential election and the subsequent voting recounts in Florida.
As for Cassidy, at press time he had embarked on Passengers, a feature directed by Morten Tyldum, a Best Directing Oscar nominee last year for The Imitation Game.
Fred Raskin, ACE
Editor Fred Raskin, ACE served as an assistant editor on Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2, his first work with director/writer Quentin Tarantino. That eventually led to Raskin cutting Tarantino’s Django Unchained and most recently his second feature for the filmmaker, The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company). Dating back to Kill Bill, Raskin recalled, “Quentin understood fairly quickly that he had a kindred spirit in me. We have a mutual love of films. However, if you ever want to feel you know nothing about films, start a conversation with him about movies.”
Tarantino and Raskin remained connecting over the years between the Kill Bill fare and Django Unchained. They’d run into each other frequently at the New Beverly Cinema theater in Los Angeles, which Tarantino later went on to own. “I remember going there for a George Romero showcase,” said Raskin. “Quentin told me, ‘I figured I’d see you at this.’”
Tarantino invited Raskin to a rough cut screening of Death Proof (2007) and a few years later the editor got a call to screen on the Avid a rough cut of Inglourious Basterds (2009). “He wanted me to take a look at it to see if the movie could be ready in time for Cannes,” recollected Raskin. “I said to him jokingly, ‘You’re putting me in a horrible position. As a Jewish guy, there’s no movie that I want to see more than Inglourious Basterds--but you’re asking me to see it on a standard def TV screen.’ Quentin responded, ‘I feel your pain but know that you will have an opportunity to have an impact on the movie.’ I laughed, I really wasn’t going to say no.”
For Django Unchained, Raskin earned a BAFTA Film Award nomination for Best Editing in 2013. Among his other accolades are ACE Eddie Award and HPA Award nominations for the 2014 release Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gunn. At press time, Raskin was on a brief hiatus after The Hateful Eight, scheduled to embark on Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, again with Gunn. Raskin’s editorial filmography also includes The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (with fellow editors Kelly Matsumoto and Dallas Puett), Fast & Furious (with editor Christian Wagner), and Fast Five (with Wagner and Matsumoto), all directed by Justin Lin.
Looking back on The Hateful Eight, Raskin said among the biggest creative challenges was “grasping how the 70mm format was going to impact everything. We were regularly conforming the work picture so we could do weekly screenings of the material in 70mm. We came to understand the implications of the enormous frame with tremendous clarity--not to mention the beauty of the 1:2.76 aspect ratio. These are beautiful compositions [from cinematographer Robert Richardson, ASC]. You can have a wide shot, a medium shot and a closeup all in the same frame. We had to grasp the way all this would impact the editing rhythms. I found myself holding longer on shots than we would have if this were simply a 35mm film. The images are so beautiful that you don’t want to cut it short. The question often wasn’t what are we going to cut to next. Instead the question was should we even cut at all.
“Quentin was very smart about it,” continued Raskin. “He frequently shot coverage while having in the back of his head, ‘If this plays as well as I think it’s going to in the master, then we will stay in the master because we can. The only disappointing thing is that when the movie lives beyond this in video, it won’t have the same impact as the theatrical showcase version.”
Set in Wyoming some six to a dozen years after the Civil War, The Hateful Eight introduces us to a rogues' gallery of characters who are trapped by a snowstorm in an isolated location, Minnie’s Haberdashery, with no idea as to whom, if anyone, can be trusted. The cast includes Samuel L. Jackson (as Major Marquis Warren, a former Union soldier turned bounty hunter) Kurt Russell (as bounty hunter John Ruth), Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Ruth’s fugitive, Daisy Domergue), Walter Goggins (southern renegade Chris Mannix), Damien Bichir (Bob, the supposed caretaker of Minnie’s), Tim Roth (Oswaldo Mobray, the hangman of Red Rock), Michael Madsen (cow-puncher Joe Gage) and Bruce Dern (Confederate General Sanford Smithers).
Raskin had different editorial considerations relative to the 70mm showcase roadshow version (replete with intermission), as compared to the more conventional theater “multiplex” version. For instance the scene where Domergue is playing the guitar runs as one continuous four-and-a-half-minute or so shot in the 70mm roadshow presentation. “We held on that one long wideshot because Quentin felt the image was beautiful with everything happening in one frame,” explained Raskin. “But in the digital/multiplex version, we used some other coverage. We could afford to be a little less precious about the image. One continuous shot wasn’t going to have the same impact as in 70mm.”
Raskin estimated that when working together, he and Tarantino spent 70 percent of the day focusing on the task at hand, editing the movie. The remaining 30 percent was consumed talking about movies, “which might be a bit of a low estimate considering what a cinephile he is and what an encyclopedic knowledge he has of film history. It’s a tremendous learning experience being around him.”
That film conversation in turn was of value to the task at hand, related Raskin, often providing tangential guidance and subconscious effect on the movie being cut.
“I feel incredibly lucky to get to work in this industry as is,” said Raskin. “But to get to work with a filmmaker like Quentin, to work on exactly the kind of movies I want to see, has been a treat. I remember in college going to see Reservoir Dogs in 1992 with my friends. I came out thinking, ‘Oh, my God. He has to be the most exciting voice around in cinema.’ And to go on to actually work with him has been amazing.”
This is the ninth in a multi-part series with future installments of The Road To Oscar slated to run in the weekly SHOOT>e.dition, The SHOOT Dailies, SHOOT’s January print issue (and PDF versions) and on SHOOTonline.com. The series will appear weekly through the Academy Awards. The 88th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 14, 2016. The Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.
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