The Indie Spirit Award winner for Best Editing this year went to Daniel Garber for his work on How to Blow up a Pipeline. Indie films have a lot to teach editors about the challenges and opportunities in editing. This film was shot on 16mm film and edited on Adobe Premiere.

Today on Art of the Cut, we’re talking to the winner of the Indie Spirit Award for Best Editing: Daniel Garber, and his work on the film How to Blow up a Pipeline.

Daniel’s other work includes the feature film, Cam - which was also a collaboration with his “Pipeline” director, Daniel Goldhaber. Daniel has also worked in documentary editing on films like Some Kind of Heaven, and the documentary series, Naomi Osaka. He was also an additional editor on the Sundance documentary Riotsville, USA, which we featured on Art of the Cut several years ago.

Daniel, thank you so much for being on Art of the Cut. It’s a pleasure meeting you and I love the movie.

Thank you so much. I’ve been such a fan of the podcast for ages, so it’s such a pleasure to actually be here on the show.

Thank you. This movie came out a while ago, but the reason why I thought that we should chat is because you received - if I’m correct - the Indie Spirit Best Editing Award.

That’s right.


Thank you. It’s a little bit surreal. It’s such a strange thing with awards because people talk about these films so long after you’ve actually finished working. So it’s like being transported back into a past life.

I get that from a lot of editors. Tell me a little bit about - if you can remember - the pre-Title sequence of scenes. Was that scripted? And was there any thought of rearranging the order? You’re being introduced to all the characters. So it could have gone in any order, but it went in a certain order. Why?

That’s a great question. I think that the script set me up for success in a lot of ways. That was actually apparently one of the very first things that they wrote. I think Ariela [Ariela Barer, producer/writer], who’s one of the co-writers of the film, conceived of that opening sequence, sort of introducing each of the characters one by one. I think the order ultimately did not really change.

We certainly toyed with that and didn’t feel like we were constrained to what was in the script. But actually the thing that mostly changed was the duration of each of those little vignettes introducing each of the characters. Some of them went on much, much longer, and some of them just had to be cut way down as a result.

Part of it is that the opening few minutes of a film as you know, always kind of have to teach the audience how to watch the film.

So since we’re trying to set up something that moves pretty fast and has a lot of characters, you kind of have to suggest that the film is going to be pretty light on its feet, and it’s going to cover many different storylines before people get too invested in any one of them.

So the rhythm that we were trying to achieve was something where we were really cutting short a lot of those scenes. So you’re kind of out by the time you have the bare minimum of information that you need to understand who this person is and to have some questions about them, and then you have to move on because there just has to be that kind of momentum propelling you into the title.

Editor Daniel Garber, photo credit Drew Levin

I love the idea that you mentioned that you have to teach the audience how to watch the film: we’re not really gonna explain why these people are doing anything upfront. You’ll figure it out later.

There’s a cut I loved on kicking down the door in West Texas to the guy waking up on the bus. I’m assuming scripted, is that something you had to find or play with the timing?

Oh yeah, of course. Actually, what was really funny was a lot of the stuff that happened by the door to the house as people were first starting to show up was some of the first material that they shot. And I think that there was actually maybe a little bit too much coverage in a way for a scene that is actually relatively simple.

And so there were actually so many options that we ended up toying with that moment and a lot of the things that happened by the door of the house a bunch before we actually arrived at that cut. I found it very satisfying.

I like the energy that comes from a cut like that where you’re sort of cutting immediately on an action, and somebody’s reacting on the other side. There’s this transfer of energy through time and space that gets communicated through that cut.

So you’re saying that there was stuff in between the door getting kicked and the guy waking up in the script?

I honestly don’t remember. I think that was the order of scenes for sure. I’m not sure if that was intended to be the exact cutpoint. And as with many things in this film, I think this is a film where there are a lot of moments that propel you into different places or different times. That’s partly because of the ensemble nature of the film.

There are several different threads during the actual heist operation. Then also there are these moments where you cut back on a moment of extreme tension into the backstory and get to meet the characters in their ordinary environments, kind of see their origin stories.

So, a lot of that was scripted. I think that there was a lot of uncertainty around whether that would work or not. Certainly, when I read the script, I thought, “This all sounds hypothetically great, but I don’t really know if it’s going to work.”

Everything’s always hypothetical on the script-level until you actually start cutting it together. It was not a surprise, but definitely relieving that so much of it worked as scripted. But as you know, even if it works structurally, getting the exact moment of those cuts right is incredibly difficult.

One of the things that I focused on was really sharpening those moments to punctuate them in exactly the right way. Whether that’s kicking in the door or cutting on an explosion, or a dropping barrel. All of these things have to be timed exactly right.

So that’s the sort of thing that you spend hours on, just finessing it and making sure that it’s the exact right frame.

There’s a funeral that takes place in the movie and in the scene after the funeral there is some great sound design under the conversation: just some ominous distant mechanical refinery sound. Can you talk about using sound effects to build tension or create atmosphere?

Wow. Yeah, thank you for bringing that up. ‘cause that is one of my favorite aspects of the film and not something that a lot of people have asked me about, but we had an incredible sound designer, Michael Odmark, and then we worked with a rerecording mixer, Ric Schnupp, who’s also fantastic.

The sound was always going to be such a central part of the film, not only because that’s how Daniel [Goldhaber], the director, and I like to work in general. We think about sound an awful lot, but this is also a really interesting film in that respect because the villain doesn’t take on a human form in the film.

The villain is really climate change, it’s the oil industry, it’s the infrastructure that they’ve built that is kind of the machinery of death, and the question is: how do you make that felt throughout the film?

How do you make that ominous presence - this sort of foreboding sense pervade the entire film - even when it’s not visually represented a lot of the time? The sound design was shouldering a huge part of that burden of constructing the sense of this ongoing threat to human existence.

So we were thinking about what does oil sound like when it’s moving through the pipes? What does a refinery sound like? We didn’t think about this in a very literal sense. It was much more about what emotionally feels right based on the kind of reaction we want the audience to have, which is an interesting contrast, I think, to the way that the rest of the sound design works.

I mean, it’s generally very grounded, very objective and almost documentary-esque at times, but the presence of the oil and the oil industry is something where we took a little bit of creative liberty with constructing these elaborate and ominous soundscapes.

Workspace layout inside Premiere

I love giving some props to your sound designer. That’s lovely. I’m sure that a lot of the heavy lifting was done by him, but what about BEFORE the sound designer comes in? Are you feeling like you need to fill that scene with something to give it that tension so you get the pacing right?

Yeah, absolutely. I really love working with sounds, even when I’m constructing the rough assembly. I really feel like - especially in fiction films - there’s just something about how bare and clean dialogue can sound when you don’t back it up with any additional added sound. I find that it really just makes the entire scene come alive.

Even if you just add one track of ambiance in a scene, it really does a lot to hold everything together to smooth out any variation in audio quality. And really just to give you a sense of the place in which the action is occurring.

So I always work with at least a little bit of sound design, and when it came to sections like the scene where they’re standing outside of the refinery or where they’re shutting down the oil, traveling through the pipes, I was definitely focusing on creating at least some temp soundscapes for those sections. It was definitely not nearly as good as what Mike was able to construct later.

It at least started a conversation. I think that, for me, a big part of it is just providing something that other collaborators can react to. So, I obviously care a great deal about the sound while also recognizing that I’m never going to be as good as somebody who does that full-time. They also, I think, respect and react to at least whatever I’m able to set forward.


I’ve talked to other people about the fact that sometimes either with sound design or with score, it actually allows you to change the pace of the scene. Either the sound design allows you - because it’s creating so much tension - that you can hold the scene longer or maybe score comes in and you can tighten it because the score is telling you something that allows you to get outta the scene faster.

Yeah, that’s a great observation. I think that’s absolutely true. I think it just has to do a lot with directing the audience’s attention, and generally, people’s attention starts to wander. It’s because you’re not providing them with something that is stimulating enough to get them to think interesting thoughts.

And that can come in so many different forms. It could come through the image, it could come through a plot development of some kind, and it could, of course, just be in the sound design, and if they’re able to latch onto something in a sound and just marinate in the images for a little while, that allows you to alter the pace significantly.

There was another great cut where Shawn says, “What do you know about building bombs?” And there’s this nice hard cut to Michael or someone wiring a remote detonator. Was that scripted or you just had to find the right moment?

That was in the scripts, though actually, that was a moment that changed. If I’m not mistaken, that was one of the scenes that we did in pickups a little bit later. That first flashback that introduces both Xochitl and Shawn was one of the hardest parts of the film to get right.

In part because, as with the opening of the film, how it has to teach you to watch the rest of the film, that first flashback has a lot riding on it because it has to establish the device of the flashback. People have to understand that that’s kind of part of the structural conceit of the film that you’re going to be jumping out of the present tense, out of the active operation, and into each of the character’s backstories.

And so there were a lot of things in that section that ended up changing up until the very end of the edit. That scene was one of them. So there was a lot of conversation about how that would unfold as they were preparing for pickups and that was something that was reacting to the edit since we already had a rough cut by the time they went back to shoot that.

Miro “storycards” wall

You mentioned the flashbacks. For those who haven’t seen the film - and I highly recommend that you do watch the film - you’re following this “heist” or “operation” and you jump back to see the characters in their earlier life before this operation happens. Did you attempt a version where you didn’t put the names of the characters on screen as the transition to the flashbacks?

I don’t totally remember if we tried that. I do know that there was some question about which names we would showcase where because often, the character’s backstories end up overlapping in various ways. Many of these people are meeting for the first time during the operation itself, but many of them knew each other in advance.

So sometimes the flashback will feature both Xochitl (sounds like “Sochi”) and Alisha sharing a flashback together, and yet that flashback is labeled Alisha’s flashback rather than Xochit’sl. So there were those kinds of questions around what does the audience expect based on the name that they see before the flashback?

That makes sense. All the flashbacks, I think, had a text with the person’s name first, but there’s one that doesn’t - and I’m not disagreeing with the your choice. I think that you had to have the person’s name before the flashback because otherwise it was very hard to tell are we flashing back or are we still in the present?

There are flashbacks where the name comes in the middle as opposed to just at the very beginning of the flashback.

So how were those choices made?

I think part of it was a comprehension issue. One of the biggest issues is: does the audience understand that we’re in a flashback? If you have a sufficiently different location or time of day, it becomes clear that you’re not actually occupying the exact same space. It’s not something that’s just happening the next morning or something.

So there has to be enough of a “rupture,” I think, in the continuity for people to understand that; otherwise, you really do need the title at the beginning in order to establish that you’re changing gears.

That’s exactly what I thought. The one I noticed that didn’t have the title was going between a day and a night scene. That seemed a very different location, so you knew you had to be flashing back.

Right, right. I think you’re referring to the Logan and Rowan flashback later in the film.

They’re running in the operation and we cut to them running in the flashback.

Right. So, I guess there are a couple of considerations there. Part of it is the question of comprehension and do people understand where in time and space they are, but part of it is also a stylistic thing, like that match cut from them running from behind in one scene to them running from behind in the flashback. I think that was too good to pass up in a lot of ways.

There’s something about considering the transfer of energy from one scene to the next that cut managed to keep the tension very high; whereas I can imagine if we’d cut to a card there instead of cutting straight into the action, it would’ve kind of sucked the air out of it a little bit.

Yeah. Did you have coverage on those running scenes where you could have cut to two different angles but you chose to have the two angles match?

I think that this was by design. I think Daniel had intended that we cut it this way, but there were other options. We did explore other things, but this was ultimately, I think what the plan was and ultimately what worked best.

Another fun cut is where they’re all sitting around a campfire and one of the girls says, “I have handles if someone has mixers.” And then, BOOM, you cut to drunken laughter. You don’t cut to somebody going and finding alcohol and people starting to drink. No, it’s, a big jump. Energy to energy.

Exactly. I think that, generally, my idea is to try to keep the audience doing at least some of the work all of the time. And if you give them too much and they know how this story goes, then they start to get ahead of the film, and that’s a recipe for boredom.

But I think that just the idea of a bunch of people sitting around and starting to drink is a story that’s so familiar to so many people. You really don’t need to do very much work for everybody to understand how one thing leads to another, and suddenly, everybody’s drunk and sitting around in a room talking about terrorism.

Talk to me about the dynamics of quiet scenes compared to loud scenes and whether that was something again that you said you were given as a gift in the script because the script was written that way or whether you needed to find those moments? For example, after the drunken terrorism talk - which is very loud and boisterous and has fast cuts between different people talking - then that cuts directly to Xochitl out in the dark with the coyote sounds.

This is another place where it was definitely helped by doing pickups. The scene of Xochitl standing outside in the dark alone, smoking quietly. That was something that we added much later. And I think that there was a sense we had that to maintain the dynamism of the film, to really have this alternation between these really dense, frantic scenes of everybody sitting together and quieter moments of reflection.

I think we just recognized the need for something of that sort to happen in that moment. So that was actually one of the last things we shot. It may very well be the very last thing that we shot and put into the film.

In a film like this, people often tell me about how unrelenting it is and how tense it is throughout, but I think that a big part of that is actually about building in pauses, building in breath because people actually start to tune out if they are literally experiencing tension all the way through.

It just kind of all starts to run together and become the same. So you actually have to build in these moments where the audience really can just catch their breath. It’s the contrast between the tension and the moments of rest that I think creates the sense of constant tension.

A big part of that is also being able to layer the different characters’ perspectives as well. I mean, part of it is that when you have a room full of people, and you’re kind of jumping between every person’s perspective, you start to get a sense of the group dynamic.

But ultimately, what the audience feels, I think has to come through individual characters’ perspectives. Although that changes so many times over the course of the film.

Moments like Xochitl standing alone and smoking give you an opportunity to latch onto one character’s perspective and really develop an emotional attachment to what’s going to happen later in the film.

At one point, part of the team is tasked with blowing up a pipeline, and some of the team goes off on another part of the mission. Can you talk about intercutting those two simultaneous things that are happening and whether that was exactly scripted or did you find moments where we need to get away from this for one reason or another and go to that.

This is another instance in which I honestly don’t remember what was scripted and what wasn’t. So much of the challenge of making this film was actually just wrapping my head around the structure of it at first.

Ultimately, the script is kind of a blueprint that suggests how things might be put together, but behind that there is an imagined actual operation that’s unfolding, so I sort of needed to understand: what is even going on in this heist?

Like, what is each character doing at any given moment? How in the imagined reality of the film do all of these things unfold simultaneously? So I actually used Miro, if you’re familiar with that? It’s sort of an online index carting outlining software [] to map out in great detail the timeline of the entire film.

That was actually one of the first things that I did in the edit, just grabbing screenshots from each of the scenes and plotting out the real chronology of the film - what was happening for each person at each moment.

That gave me the freedom to change the order where I saw fit or where it was necessary because at least I could understand what I was trying to represent and understand what the script was trying to get at.

Which was actually, I think much more complex and better thought out than I think anyone would actually realize. One of the marks of a successful script is that you can kind of just read it and experience the emotions of it without understanding all of the nuts and bolts - everything that went into planning out exactly why things happen in that order.

But I needed to understand for myself how the writers had made those decisions. I didn’t always have [director] Daniel [Goldhaber] and [writer/producer] Jordan [Sjol] and Ariela [writer/producer Barer] in the editing room to explain to me exactly why they had chosen to do things in a certain way.

So it was a little bit of homework for me just to figure out: how do you thread together all of these different simultaneous events?

Miro Detail

I love that you used Miro to do that. Is there a reason why you didn’t use real index cards or is that just ‘cause you’re half my age, at least?

No, I like real index cards a lot, too. I think it was just that this was such a complicated story in so many ways, and I just wanted to have a level of granularity that I think would’ve been very difficult to pull off with real index cards without a wall that was 50 feet long. And this is New York, not LA, so I don’t have that kind of space!

Tell me about score. It’s kind of atonal. What did you use for temp? Were you able to interact with the composer during the edit?

I love talking about the score for this film because Gavin Brivik, the composer, is both a dear friend and a repeat collaborator and I think we have a really fulfilling dynamic when we get to work together. Gavin also composed the score for Cam, which is Daniel Goldhaber’s first feature that I also cut.

During that process, we kind of developed this way of passing things back and forth where the cut was constantly responding to the music and the music was responding to the cut. I think that that really continued in this project.

Gavin actually went to New Mexico, where they were shooting and recorded a bunch of sounds in the fields: people banging on oil drums or just sounds of nature, so Gavin had this incredible library of sounds that he could draw from, and he used those to basically make these artificial instruments in the computer that that he then used to start building out these bizarre textures that sort of fell somewhere between sound design and music.

That was kind of the first music that I started temping with. I first put together the film without any music at all, in part because I knew that in a film that has so much inherent tension, I really needed to know that I was doing my job effectively as an editor and not just leaning on the music to supply the tension.

But after that first cut, I started drawing on these sketches that Gavin had put together, layering in a lot of his music. There were some moments when we were using temp, we used things like Tangerine Dream in part because Michael Mann’s films are such a huge reference point for us, and Tangerine Dreams scores for Michael Mann are incredible.

So we were drawing on that. Fortunately, we didn’t use very much temp music. That disappeared relatively quickly because Gavin was working from the very beginning constantly and supplying me with new music.

Gavin essentially composed the score twice, I think, because I had been using a lot of his music, then as we got closer to picture-lock, it just became clear that there were certain sections that would require something different.

I think in particular - about the beginning of day two of the film - which is essentially the beginning of the actual operation itself, everybody gets up, they’re a little bit hungover, they drink their coffee, and they set out to actually do the deed. 

Gavin composed a piece of music that I think was 11 minutes long. One continuous cue, which was such a feat of composing, and it’s also this sort of thing that doesn’t work unless you’re really working hand in hand, as composer and editor.

Early in our discussion we’d mentioned how sometimes adding score can change the pace of a scene. So, you just said that you cut without score and then you added the score later. Did you find a scene with his score now is too long or too short?

Yeah, I think that it really depended on the piece of music, too, though. I think score can sometimes elongate things, it can sometimes make them shorter, and your perception of time is so unpredictable in those instances. 

At least I find there were moments when I really wanted to build out some of these long pauses, and sometimes what that would require from Gavin was something very different, like a very sparse cue, a moment that’s very tense, and that requires a lot of patience on the part of the audience sometimes also requires a piece of music that’s a little atonal, a little hard to anticipate, not something that’s too rhythmic. 

Then, at times when you want things to move a lot faster, like at the beginning of the heist operation, you’re drawing on music that is way more propulsive and maybe has a driving beat. So, those sorts of things can radically change the perception of time. 

But I also think that it’s really hard to separate out the effect of the music and just generally what your feelings are about that scene. It’s kind of all working in tandem, understanding that certain scenes just need to come down more generally. And also wanting to use the music to accentuate the tension.

Reel 1 Premiere timeline

We were discussing intercutting earlier. The other thing that you’re intercutting is between when we’re in the this operation - which I think we can say, since it’s in the title of the film, is to blow up a pipeline - when you’re cutting between this operation of blowing up the pipeline and these flashbacks, are you also having to find the right moment to get into and out of those two things? Can you think of any time when you were thought, “It’s in the script to do this, but I think we should cut out these four lines because it’ll make a better edit to go from the flashback here to the operation here?”

For getting out of the flashbacks it was a lot more challenging than getting into the flashbacks. I think most of the cuts into the flashbacks were more or less as scripted from the outset. I think that that’s a great testament to the writers to anticipate our needs as an audience. 

I think cutting out of the flashbacks was a little bit tougher because sometimes, scenes just had a tendency to overstay their welcome. When you think about trying to maintain the momentum and trying to build up the energy, going back into the tension of the heist operation, it often really helps to get out of a scene as early as possible. 

Generally speaking, it’s better to get out of a scene sooner rather than later, but sometimes, even just maintaining the sense of of almost clipping a scene is really helpful for creating that sense of energy.

Then also, disorientation sometimes going into the present tense again, which can actually be very helpful if you disorient the audience a little bit and they’re casting about for something to grab onto, and then that quickly presents itself. 

I think that there’s just a subtle way in which that allows the audience to change gears more easily. So, one example of this is one particularly explosive cut out of a flashback and into the present tense where the character doesn’t even get to finish their line before the cut happens. 

I think sometimes the audience is really expecting a scene to play out in full or a character to finish their line, but actually, they’ve gotten a lot of the material that they need to understand the scene already on an emotional level, and perhaps they already understand what the ultimate takeaway of that scene is. 

So even cutting out in the middle of the line doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone’s ability to understand what’s happening, but it does maintain the momentum, so that sort of surprise is a great thing to aim for.

Adobe Premiere “Production”  organization

Talk about the macro-pacing of the movie. If you know as you are trying to decide how long the movie should be - when you’re gonna hit certain points - how long should we be before we get to the opening titles? How long should it take us to get to them arriving at their objective? Each one of those is a big question that is probably different from your original cut to the way the movie ended up.

There are probably a lot of people who are much better than I am at thinking about specific targets that they want to hit in terms of duration or what percentage of the film should be in one space rather than another.

But that’s generally not really how I approach things. It’s much more intuitive in terms of feeling like we’ve overstayed our welcome in this section of the film, or like we have to get to this moment sooner. But what exactly that means can vary wildly from one project to the next. So I’m not really thinking in terms of specific plot points or three act structure or something like that. On a film like this, it’s mostly just about maintaining the tension.

I think that that’s really the primary object tip throughout the film is to maintain the tension when you go into the flashback, don’t spend too long away from the main operation, or else people will lose some of the momentum within the heist itself. 

Everything had to be in service of just maintaining that forward momentum. There were versions of the film in which we spent a lot more time on day one. Day one is the time when the crew is getting their bombs ready, they’re scoping out the locations, they’re basically laying all of the preparatory work for the heist itself, but not actually doing the thing. 

There were some versions of that, that were significantly longer in part because Jordan, one of the writers, and I are very drawn to stories that have a lot of process. So, a lot of that process stuff was allowed to unfold in a little bit more detail with a little bit more duration. 

We realized over time that the whole thing just felt a little bit too slack when we spent too much time in those sections of the film. So there was this process of whittling that down until it was to a point when we felt like we weren’t shortchanging this sort of documentary reality of watching people go through the labor of making these bombs, but we were also maintaining a lot of the momentum that was getting shortchanged in the previous iteration of the film.

I wasn’t looking for percentages, but exactly what you said: that when you’re watching something, there’s an intuitive sense of “we need to get to the day two faster than this.”

Yeah, absolutely. I think we did have a sense sometimes that there were certain moments that needed to arrive sooner than we were providing them. Part of that was the audience can only go for so long without understanding why these characters are doing what they’re doing or how they got to do what they’re doing. So, the first flashback needed to arrive sooner than it originally did.

Part of the work was cutting down some of the process leading up to flashback one so that people could get a bit of a foothold from the perspective of the character before the rest of the film unfolded. So, it’s more about giving the audience exactly what they need in order to develop the emotional attachments that make the film a rewarding experience. 

And if you withhold for too long, then people start to tune out. I have a teacher who often refers to these as “chiropractic issues,” where there’s a problem in one place, and then you feel it, say, 30 minutes later. 

So often it would be problems with the emotional reaction to the end of the film, but in reality, it’s a problem at the very beginning of the film where people are actually not developing the right kind of emotional investment on a character level.

The film was shot on 16mm film.

It was shot by Tehillah De Castro, who’s a phenomenal DP. She really specializes in shooting on 16mm. I think that that was a decision that they made very early in the process, not only because I think we all just love the book of film, but also because in those kinds of conditions where you’re shooting out in the desert in broad daylight, film handles the harshness of those conditions in a much more elegant way.

What did shooting 16mm mean for you in the edit?

In the edit what that meant was that I was operating with kind of a delay. Ideally, editors like to review footage as it’s being shot, and that wasn’t entirely possible for me because they would shoot in New Mexico, FedEx the footage to FotoKem in LA, and then I was in New York in my office with my great assistant editor, Emily Yue, and because they could only ship the footage every few days, I would only get the footage, around five days after it had been shot. 

So, there was a little bit of a delay in terms of my ability to review the footage and provide timely feedback to people on set. 

But we did have a way of getting around that problem, which was that Jordan - who was one of the writers of the film, but he was also on set and doing all sorts of odd jobs - and one of his jobs was to operate this recorder that was hooked up to the video tap in the camera. 

So he would record this really crappy view through the viewfinder, then send those as low-quality dailies to me at the end of every day. So I would actually have an opportunity to review - without sound - what they had shot that day, and just be able to say, “It looks like you’re getting enough coverage of this. 

Maybe you spent a little bit too much time on this one scene…” whatever the case may be. I think part of the challenge a lot of the time for the director is you’re out there in these really difficult conditions fighting the elements, fighting for light in the middle of the winter, and often it really helps to just have an editor be able to provide pretty immediate feedback and say, “Hey, you’re getting great material. 

Don’t freak out, don’t worry about this at all. Keep up the good work.” Of course, I’m being totally honest with him, but in truth, he was getting material that I thought was great, and it would’ve been very difficult to be that kind of emotional support from afar if I had not been able to review things until a week later.

From a technical standpoint, what were you getting from FotoKem? Were they giving you proxies or were you editing with the actual high resolution 4K or 2K scans?

The lab was giving us proxies. We were cutting with those proxies and then we relink to the source footage - the full rez scans - when we did the online.

What were you cutting in Premiere? Avid?

I was cutting in Premiere. That’s sort of been my go-to over the past several years, since Premiere introduced Productions. That’s really been my favorite program.

Daniel’s WFH set-up

Talk to me about the use of Productions. I think that the introduction of their Productions workflow is a big turning point for Premiere and its ability to handle something like a feature-length film. Explain why you felt like that was the turning point for you.

I’ve cut features in both Avid and Premiere and I’ve cut in Premiere with Productions and without Productions. One of the things that Avid does so well is that it has this modularity with the bin structure where you open up one bin and it doesn’t mean you open up every single thing in your project. 

You just open up the relevant bins, which I think reduces the load on the machine significantly. When Premiere introduced Productions, I think it was their direct answer to that, and it just became so much more stable when editing a long-form project.

For me the big question is: what is the software that I’m fastest in? I just find that I’m faster at cutting things in Premiere for whatever reason. It’s a lot more intuitive for me. There was this trade-off before of, “Am I gaining something in stability while losing a little bit of speed on the keyboard?” 

Now, I think that I don’t really have to make that compromise. I think it’s really stable. I wasn’t experiencing any crashes in Premiere while I was cutting this. Just being able to move very quickly through changes makes it a lot more feasible to sit with the director and just audition every idea rather than arguing for several minutes about whether something is going to work or not. 

You can just try it out, even if it’s in a relatively rough version. You can see enough to say, “Hmm, maybe this is a direction that’s worth pursuing,” or maybe we shouldn’t go down this path and should try something else.

I’ve cut films in Premiere, but never with Productions. Was there anything to the organization of using Productions that you needed to get used to or that you particularly loved or hated?

There really wasn’t much to adjust to when it came to Productions, at least from my perspective. Organizationally, it was very similar to the structure of a normal project, be it in Avid or Premiere. It’s just that I think - under the hood - there’s a lot more that’s occurring to keep things stable and modular. It was very intuitive.

I think that the only thing that was a challenge on a technical level was figuring out how to manage mirroring our drives. I’ve actually worked with Emily now on two projects and we’ve used Productions in two different configurations. 

On How to Blow Up a Pipeline, we were using mirrored drives. We had these tiny four-terabyte SSDs that had all the proxies on them and that kept me very mobile, which I loved because I could cut from wherever we did have an office, but I could take the project on the go with me. 

One time when we did a test screening in LA, I was exporting the film on my laptop from the backseat of a cab going across town. So it was really nice to be able to stay that flexible. 

Then, on our more recent project, Spermworld, we were using a shared server within the office, so I’ve found that one of the other things that’s been great about Productions is seeing how it can exist in so many different configurations depending on the budget and the needs of the specific production.

Director Goldhaber does the final “tech check”

Daniel, I project a long and fruitful career for you. It was a great project to watch and it was a pleasure to talk to you about it.

Thank you so much. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. It’s always a pleasure to talk about films, and especially a pleasure to talk with other editors.