Today on Art of the Cut, we talk with ACE Eddie-nominated editor Angela Catanzaro, ACE, about editing the latest Predator movie, Prey.
Angela last spoke with Art of the Cut about her film The Protege and before that for Five Feet Apart. Her other features include The Foreigner and TV series including Man in the High Castle, Code Black, Parenthood, Suits, and Friday Night Lights (for which she was nominated for an ACE Eddie.) Short on Time? Read our 6-minute best of recap.
Art of the Cut with Editor Angela Catanzaro about her work on the Predator film Prey
Angela, it was great talking to you the last time we talked, and I'm so glad we're getting a chance to talk again about this. This was a really interesting film because so much of the filmmaking was wordless. It's really cinema because there's so little dialogue. Talk to me about the challenges of editing that.
It was challenging in some ways, but honestly, that is one of the main things that drew me to the project because anytime I have the opportunity to tell a story visually with sound or with music, I'm always looking for those moments. I think dialogue is great, but any time you can eliminate it, you can simplify it. I think for the audience, there's a level of appreciation and enjoyment when there are no words involved.
We had so many scenes in this movie that really lent themselves to being wordless and some that were even shot with dialogue and scripted as dialogue scenes, and then we turned them into either a mini-montage or a scene that was intercut with another scene but just eliminated all the speaking. Not only was it not necessary, but we discovered in some cases that it made the scenes so much more effective and more powerful, and hopefully more enjoyable for the audiences.
Actually, even early in my career working on Friday Night Lights, that's the project for me where I was allowed to experiment with just getting rid of the language, getting rid of the words, and trying to allow the story to play out visually and sonically. We were able to do that quite a bit on that show, and I think ever since then, I always have this desire to gravitate back to those types of exercises where you consider, "What is the simplest form of the story, and how do we convey that without over-complicating it?"
Angela Catanzaro in her editing suite
One of the other things I want to talk about is perspective, and so much of this perspective is through Naru's — the female warrior's — point of view. Was that just something that was inherent in the footage, or did you have to work on that in post?
We definitely kept an eye on that in post. That is something that Dan Trachtenberg, the director, really wanted to keep track of. When I came onto the project, that was something I felt like we could really work to improve and make sure that we were — as much as possible — telling the story from her point of view because I think it just makes for a much more interesting story.
Yes, we have a few scenes early on that were late additions when we added these little tidbits of the Predator early in the movie. Those weren't there originally, so it really was all from her perspective, but then we found it was much too long before the Predator made an entrance, and for me, that was okay. I will be honest. I was fine with that, but for people who were fans of the franchise, I think they felt like we wanted to see the Predator. It's a Predator movie, so let's let him have a presence early on.
We really did work to try to tell the story from her perspective, but one question that we kept asking ourselves was about the subtitles for the French-speaking characters. We decided not to subtitle them, and that was really because we wanted to try to remain in her point of view because she wouldn't know what they were saying, so why should we? Ultimately, it's not really important. There are a few jokes you're going to miss if you don't speak French, but it was really interesting, I think, to just stay with her. That felt to us like really the best way to tell the story.
You mentioned the early scenes with the Predator, and that was one of the questions I had. The first time you see the Predator, it was obviously just a plate shot essentially. So, I would love to know how you decided that. You must have had to imagine: "Okay, we got this ship that comes into view, and then the ship goes away, and then the Predator rises," and none of that's there, so you're looking at just a plate for probably quite a while, trying to decide how long to sit there.
Yes. It was very boring for a very long time. Actually, the scene that you're talking about is just one shot, and it is just a plate. To be honest with you, it was stolen from the tail end of another shot, and I think we did have to slow it down, reverse it, do all those kinds of tricks to extend it so that we had enough real estate to make the action of the ship flying away, and then Predator rising into the frame. To make that happen, we had to make sure we had enough of that plate.
That was a late edition, and that was really to give us something of the Predator early on. We do see the ship in the title sequence, but then for a long time, that's kind of it. So, we wanted to establish he's there, he's a threat. They're living in the same environment.
In fact, there were a lot of scenes that, for a very long time, we just sort of had to imagine what they might be.
I will say we had a fantastic visual effects team, including our visual effects editor, Ben Howdeshell, and he was able to work some magic. So, if I told him, "Ben, we want a spaceship, we want it going this way, we want it going into the clouds, and it should probably last three seconds. And then we want Predator to rise into the frame and sit there for two seconds and then turn and walk away," he could mock it up within a couple of hours. He was really so helpful to us and worked so much magic, so we didn't have to imagine quite as hard as we would've otherwise.
There were a number of scenes like that where we weren't creating something out of nothing, but we were reimagining what the scene might be and, "Oh, what if there's Predator blood over there? What if that's a bear claw instead of a Predator claw?" So, he was able to cook those things up for us quickly, which was such a treat.
So VFX was almost your postvis team?
A hundred percent. We owe a lot to them. Dan always — well, I don't know if he was joking — but said he doesn't want to do a movie without this team because they were so instrumental, especially for us, because we were making changes all the time. There was never a scene that was safe or locked for sure that we were 100 percent sure: "This is the absolute best version." We never said that about anything. Everything was always in flux, and, in fact, we had an Avid on the dub stage - and that wasn't to check visual effects shots. It was because we were cutting. I believe we even made a change the day before we print mastered.
So, there was a lot of time on the mix stage, unfortunately, that was spent conforming reels when I'm sure they would've loved to have been doing creative work, but instead, they were trying to clean up whatever mess we were creating in the Avid in the adjoining room. That was rough. I've never been on a project where it just seemed like like there never was a lock and that's pretty much what we had on this.
Did the mixing guys say, "We should just lock them in here with us?"
Sometimes they just wanted us out, but I will say we had a great relationship with the mixers, Chris Terhune and Craig Henighan, and we had so much fun on the mix stage. And maybe some of that was delirium because we were working such long hours, and when you're with a team like that, and you’re together for such a long period of time, you have all these inside jokes. Things that nobody will ever think are funny in the outside world. There really was a lot of camaraderie and obviously, they were doing amazing work on almost no sleep.
On this project, I worked 29 straight days, which I think is a record for me, but they did much more than I did, so hats off to them.
How long were you on the mix stage?
I want to say somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks probably. I wasn't there during pre-dubs because we were busy really cutting. While they were pre-dubbing, we were making changes, which was mostly on the Fox lot, but then once we got into the final mix, I tried to be there as much as possible. That was only because I really enjoy it. That is really my favorite part of the process, and anytime I can just sit in the background and listen to the team making what we did just sound incredible, that's really gratifying. It is my absolute favorite thing.
Prey sound mix team and stage
Other than it being fun for you, what is the value of having you on the stage? Because there's gotta be some ROI for them to pay you to sit for six weeks on the dub stage?
Well, when I wasn't cutting something or recutting something or figuring out how to fit a new visual effect somehow into the cut, the things that an editor can do on the mix stage, if you've worked very closely with the director and your EP's, you have an idea of what their sensibilities are and what kinds of things they're going to like and what they're not. 9 times out of 10, you’ve already talked about: "When we mix, we're going to want to do this. We're gonna play more perspective here." We do have a spotting session, but sometimes we don't go into great detail on every scene when we just do our initial pass and talk about things.
So, really it's just to convey the things that we've already discussed with the director, and also maybe we're auditioning new ADR lines. I know for a fact that the director did not like when the emphasis was on this part of the line or wanted a more subtle performance. I can be helpful here if I have some information that they just don't have because they haven't been sitting in a room with someone for three months or four months.
I also have a lot of fun experimenting with things. Sometimes, I even get asked for my opinion — which is great — because when you're on the dub stage for a long period of time, there is a fatigue that happens to your ears. I know this must happen to the mixers too, where sometimes you just don't know if something is popping through. Are you hearing that, or is it getting muddied in the mix? Sometimes your ears are especially tuned into one sound, but somebody walks in off the street, and they don’t hear it. It might feel to you like it's very out front, but it might really be buried in the mix to someone else. So that's all: just another pair of ears.
Let's talk about the tension that's built in the first hunting party. Originally, they go out, and nobody knows that there's this Predator out there that they need to worry about. They're looking for a big cat.
But it felt like anything could happen at any moment. There was just great tension. Talk to me about building tension in an edit.
Dan, the director, did a great job really — and the cast too — conveying that unease. What I loved about some of these early scenes, yes, we do have music over a fair amount of it, but sometimes when there's something lurking in the woods. I found it much more effective to just go back to natural sound. For anyone who's ever been camping, you know sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, and you just hear something. It's easy to have a musical accompaniment and feel like it's really ratcheting up the tension, but sometimes reducing and eliminating things off the palette is the trick, at least here it was, to make you feel that uneasiness. Every little branch break, every little weird bird, all those sound effects. Again, hats off to the sound crew, who really did a tremendous job creating that landscape. It was spooky. Sound is really a big part of creating that tension.
I love the sound of the ax that she throws and the sound that it made hitting wood or landing in the brush.
Yeah, I love that sequence with the pre-lapping of the sound of the tomahawk into the tree and not knowing what it is. We did a little bit of reordering on that scene at one point. It's just two or three wide shots of the forest, and you hear the hatchet into the tree, but you don't know what it is for a few beats until we get to that scene visually. When we reordered, we kind of cut that out, and I really missed it, so we did reinstate that. I can’t take credit for that idea to pre-lap that sound, but it was extremely effective. We did a fair amount of pre-lapping and post-lapping in the film. I think there were some really interesting sounds in this that were natural and organic but sounds that we're not used to hearing in our daily lives, so they felt a little unusual and unsettling even.
You alluded to the fact that some of that early Predator stuff was not originally supposed to be there, but talk about that cutting back and forth to reveal the Predator, how long to be away, when exactly to get to that part of the story because, as you said, it's a Predator movie, we need to see the Predator at some point. So, talk about “keeping it alive” essentially.
We did do a couple of reshoots. In one of the reshoots, one of the main focuses was Predator, beefing up his story and letting him participate a little earlier in this film so that it wasn't just about Naru's journey. Well, we didn’t really shoot, but we created that scene that we were talking about earlier on the Mesa where the Predator ship goes away, and he rises into the frame. We included a scene with him where an ant is eaten by a mouse, the mouse is eaten by a snake, and then Predator rips the spine out of the snake. We added a scene with a wolf, where the Predator has a showdown with a wolf, and then a scene in what we call "the Predator cave" where he's using his magical tool to take the skin and flesh off of the wolf's skull.
So, they had multiple purposes basically. One was to involve the Predator earlier, but the other was really to help people understand what the Predator's M.O. is. How does he function? What does he do? We hope that the takeaway from those scenes is that he's leveling up. Something Rafael says later in the film is, "He's looking for the strongest beast.” He's a trophy hunter. He keeps these skulls.
In all of the Predator movies, you get a glimpse of some skulls, especially, I think, at the end of Predator 2. He's got the trophies in the ship, but people who are new to these movies wouldn't know that. Part of it is trying to help people understand why he's there and what he's doing. He's not just like a random alien. He has a purpose.
In terms of where we chose to place those early beats, so much of that was really, as it always is, just kind of by feel. It's not always, "four minutes have elapsed, we haven't seen Predator. We need to get back to him," but when does something significant happen? For a while, we had some interesting transitions there. In fact, I don't actually remember where we landed with one of them because we were cutting so far to the end, but we had Naru trying to use her tomahawk to kill some bunnies so that she has something to eat, and that was sort of dovetailed with this bunny that hops out of frame because it's being chased by the wolf that Predator is then chasing. We had some interesting transitions. In certain cuts, they were a little bit comical, and that was not ideal.
I just watched this today, and I think it's the other way around in the film. It might have been one way early and then changed.
I'm embarrassed that I can't remember, but we literally have had hundreds of iterations of this.
I think the Predator got the rabbit first...
And then it's Naru. Right. She's on the Mesa, and it's night. We played around a lot with, as you can tell, the structure. It was surprisingly malleable. We did a lot of that type of work in the middle section of the film too. We have cuts of the movie where Naru is definitely being tracked by the Predator, and then we have cuts of the movie where she is definitely tracking him. It's sort of a hybrid that lives in the final cut, but we played around. How close should he be to her?
There is the scene in the mud pit where she falls into the mud and gets stuck. We decided to split that up. We put the scene where Predator discovers the skinned buffalo right after she falls in to create a little bit more tension there because we saw her cross the creek, discover the buffalo, and then go into the mud pit. So we know he's not too far behind her. We did things like that to keep them in proximity to each other, hoping that it would ratchet up the tension and up the stakes a little bit.
What did you do for the temp score? Did you have a composer on early enough that you were dealing with their music, or were you using old Predator music or music from old Native American Indian movies?
We had a music editor who definitely helped us temp things. That was really instrumental, but we pulled music from all over the place. I think we had score from The Revenant in there, and we did have some indigenous drums and things.
We had to be very careful because we wanted everything to be very accurate. We had several Comanche advisors on the film to help us ensure that we were doing everything correctly regarding how Comanche culture functions and what Comanche music is like. We wanted to really be accurate, so there were things that musically sounded like they could work for Comanche culture, but we did not use them. We needed to be very specific to that exact culture.
Even the war whoops. When the warriors are whooping, they were re-recorded because they weren't accurate for what you would hear in the Comanche language. So, we did really try not to lean on any generically indigenous-sounding music. We were looking for emotionally what was the most effective.
Our composer delivered tracks to us before some of our screenings. As soon as we had something from her, it was in the film, and it was magical. Sarah Schachner was our composer. She did a phenomenal job. She did actually record some vocals and some instruments with an indigenous musician named Robert Mirabal. You can hear it in Naru's praying over the skinned buffalo. Then you also hear it in the ceremony, the bonfire scene where Taabe is made war chief.
By the way, that scene where he was made war chief was originally a dialogue scene. That was one that we happily turned into a wordless kind of montage. I think it was actually a much more beautiful, much more effective scene that way. There were a lot of really interesting shots that didn't lend themselves to being part of a dialogue scene, these long lens rack focuses, but once you have the opportunity to experiment with taking out the dialogue, all those shots are back on the palette, and fair game.
That music she originally delivered for Naru praying over the buffalo worked very well under that too. She was a fantastic collaborator and had some really fun ideas for us.
That scene was actually my next question because not only is it wordless and a little bit of a montage, but there's also great sound design and that choice of very dream-like audio instead of natural audio. Talk to me about why the choice was made to drop dialogue that was there.
We played a lot with having a bit of dialogue, having all the dialogue, having no dialogue, and it just felt like it wasn't necessary to tell the story. I will say that without the words and allowing that really sparse kind of boomy sound design to really mark the significant moments, like when the staff hits the ground, you have this big deep reverberant sound that was really all that was needed. It probably told the story better than it could have with the words. There was just a weight to it, a gravitas that words just couldn't convey. We felt like that was definitely the way to go there. It also really helped us with the story because we were able to be with Naru more, feeling like that is more of her perspective. She is fixated on the fact that something's still out there. Yet this ceremony was almost surreal for her because we haven't addressed the threat. We were able to kind of be in a bubble — we called it — and we go to her bubble a couple of times, like in the mud pit and here for sure.
So, in terms of perspective, it was especially helpful there to approach that scene the way we did with sound design, music, and visuals.
I also love that there's great tension in that scene because you are dealing with that ticking clock of sinking. I was literally on the edge of my seat watching that scene.
Good. I’m glad because we went back and forth with that scene in terms of length. It was, at one point, much longer than it was ultimately. Then at one point, it was much shorter, and we felt like that wasn't quite enough of a struggle. We also went back and forth with where to end the music. Do we want the music to continue until she's fully out? Or is it clear the threat is over when she hooks her tomahawk on the tree?
That was one we definitely weren't sure what to do from a sound design perspective, and all of that work was done on the stage. Sometimes, we would go to the stage like with Taabe becoming chief (the scene we were just talking about) We definitely had that idea in our temp. That was in the Avid. But the mud pit was not. That was all just experimentation on the stage. That was a product of some pretty late nights and terrific work by our sound designers.
I love that scene and noticed also, not in a bad way, just that we're editors, and we notice the editing. As you said, once she hooks the tomahawk, you're basically done. So, there's a jump in time. You don't see her crawl all the way out of the mud because that would just be too long. It's a cut.
Yes, and that is exactly why we did that, but it was like that for a long time, letting her fully drag herself out of the mud. I mean, it is kind of interesting to see somebody getting out of the mud pit. But it did start to feel a little interminable, so yes, that was a little bit of a jump cut there.
I loved it. You talked about pre-laps a little bit. One of the ones that I noticed was the bear scene.
Right. She’s cleaning her bow off from the mud pit, so that's a pre-lap. We also tried to create this landscape where everything felt connected. She's close to the Predator, the Predator's close to her, and the bear is not too far off. Everyone is sharing the same space, so those kinds of pre-lap sounds of the natural world we did a lot of those to actually help link locations together.
I don't know if I would call it fully a pre-lap, but at the end of the Predator cave, he stands up because hears Sarii bark (Naru’s dog). Then we cut to Sarii barking. They're walking across the creek. Naru's about to discover the buffalo that then right after the mud pit Predator’s going to walk through and then discover the buffalos. So, we did a lot of that to try to link things in the environment. It just helps ratchet up the tension just a little bit.
So, the bear might not have been a true pre-lap, right? It was maybe just a sound she heard. I thought it was a pre-lap originally.
In that scene, it is. It's a sound that's fully in scene, but yes, it takes us then to the bear scene. It does the cut. The bear scene itself was a very interesting scene that changed many times. At first, the bear was with a buck (a deer), and the Predator was also in that scene watching Naru watch the bear and the buck. The bear was on the near side of the river, then the bear was on the far side of the river. Naru knocked down some rocks, and that's what alerted the bear to her presence. Sarii barked, and that's what alerted the bear to her presence. We went through so many different versions of what this conflict is between Naru and the bear. We settled on the wind change. That is what motivates her. Once the wind changes, the bear smells her with his keen sense of smell. She knows she's in trouble and then has to defend herself.
So, ultimately what we settled on was a product of a reshoot too. That shot of the wind change is, oddly enough, I believe, what they were planning to shoot originally. Then, they decided not to on the day that they were going to shoot it, thinking that'll never work. Then, probably six months later, that's what they came back to in the movie. I guess the first instinct was right there.
Prey Avid timeline
It’s not an easy thing to visualize.Talk about the pacing around pre-fight and fight scenes. There are a bunch of fights between the Predator and various combatants. There are lead-ins to those moments. Talk about pacing that so that you have that tension. Is it slower before the fight scenes, and then the fight scenes are faster? Talk about landscaping those kinds of moments.
In this movie, at times, I feel like we're almost approaching sensory overload because we have these big fights with Predator's big presence and his own sound design, and a lot of big music. Anytime we had a quieter moment, or a time to just live in the natural world, I felt like we needed to take that opportunity to just play the scenes dry, just be with her and her dog, and not have too much going on. Because otherwise, I feel like if you've always got music and you've always got sound, you're going to become a little bit numb to it. It's not nearly as effective.
Sometimes it was really effective to be caught off guard by Predator. We are in quieter moments. The cutting isn't frantic. We reserve it for when we need it to drive to the action scenes. If we're not completely dry, then we have an eerie tonal, more amorphous sound landscape that's not super effects-driven, things that tonally prepare us for what might be a big throw down but don't put us quite there yet.
We talked about the POV of Naru, but you go in and out of it — especially towards the end when there are other people — the Frenchmen, there are the other warriors, and there's the POV even of the Predator. Talk about choosing those moments. Do you need to do anything editorially to successfully make a transition in POV?
Well, I think it was pretty straightforward when we were in Predator vision. That's fairly obvious. The end sequence, which we call "the burnt blade," where Taabe and Naru are tied to the tree, was probably the sequence that we fiddled with the most in the entire film. Who to be with, when to be with them, and what should they say?
We reshot multiple versions of the dialogue between Taabe and Naru at the tree. We have so many versions. It's a bit mind-blowing, actually. How much should we see of the Predator? How long should that fight be? I think we did excise a few beats from his fight with the French trappers, but otherwise, it's pretty much there in its entirety.
That was really a lot of just playing around, to be honest. I wish I had an elegant answer to how we made the decisions that we did, but because it is such a long sequence, it just really became a feel thing. We'd create a version, we'd show it, we'd get feedback, and then we'd create another one, show it, get feedback, and see what just felt right. All of those things, that conversation with them on the tree, could be continuous. We could have just had their whole conversation and then been with the Predator and then been with the guys up on the ridge, but we discovered that intercutting had been really helpful. It's been a great way to tell the stories like we were talking about with the mud pit earlier.
Also, one unexpected place where intercutting was very effective was after Taabe's death. Naru's washing the blood off of her hands in the river, and we intercut that with the mom back at camp getting the news that Taabe had died. That was something we just tried, and it worked really well. It was very effective, and I feel like it was much more emotional together intercut. We thought, "Why didn't we try this earlier?"
The scene with her mourning Taabe's death at the river was originally a pretty straightforward scene. It wasn't about the hand washing. It was her mourning and crying at the river. Sarii comes up and licks her. She pets the dog, and they have a moment. It wasn't as compelling as it could have been, and we weren't sure why. When I went back and watched the dailies, I saw this footage of her plunging her hands in and that blood being washed away. That image itself was just like a gut punch. This is her brother she's washing off her hands, and it just felt so powerful, so I really have to say I totally milked it. We slowed some of those shots down and resized them to really get the most out of that physical action of putting her hands into the water and that blood dissolving into the water.
Amber Midthunder, the incredible actress who plays Naru, her pain is so evident. She keels over just like the mom keels over when she's back at camp getting the news about Taabe. In a way, their emotional struggles were parallel. So it made sense to intercut them in that way. It was pretty effective. We also worked very hard getting into that sequence and making Taabe's death less literal. When he dies, we do go into a little bit of sound design and a little bit of this music. I think it made it much more emotionally impactful for the audience.
*** END SPOILER ALERT ***
Before we recorded this podcast, you and I talked about the business side of editing. How did you come to edit this? This isn't your 12th Predator movie.
This is one where I do have to say my agent thought I would be a good fit for this project and connected me with the producers and director, and we met. I walked away from the meeting thinking we instantly hit it off, but you never know until you get the call that they want you for the job what the actual reaction was.
I had the chance to watch the film (Angela took over for another editor). There were so many things about it that really just genuinely made me excited about it. Number one is the cinematography. Jeff Cutter did such an amazing job shooting this film. I thought, "Oh, I want these images. Let me have these images." And the performances were absolutely terrific, and I really liked the story of the young girl who is a warrior. This is not a feminist film, but there is that message there too. You cannot ignore it. So, it was one of those things that I was really excited to be a part of.
Also, the Comanche aspect of it too. This movie is — I think — the first ever that has a Comanche language dub. I believe it's available to stream. In fact, all of the original cast members returned to voice their characters for the Comanche dub. So, that was a lengthy process because they had to learn the words. We had experts on hand to make sure that everything was pronounced correctly. Those things drew me to the project, but I have to say my agent was the one who was the connector in this situation. Hopefully, I'll work with this team again because they're fantastic.
Sounds like he wants you to work with the team again. We were saying that you're already on to your next project. It’s a tricky thing, especially with somebody who's in demand like you, that you're actually available for the next thing. For example, if Dan starts another project, what are the chances that it's gonna work out perfectly? It's tricky.
It is. With television, there's a little bit more leeway because schedules are shorter. If you do get a great opportunity that you absolutely can't pass up, and you're on a television show, and you're supposed to cut 4 of 10 episodes, and you have only done 3 and have to jump ship, I feel like in some cases that is excusable because if you're going onto a job where you know this is another year of paychecks, nobody can argue that you're not making a logical choice there.
I have a friend who is actually a mentor of mine who does a lot of work on features and television, and he makes a point of making sure before he's hired on any television show that they understand that if he does get an opportunity on a feature, he will have to leave the show.
You'd be amazed at how often he still gets hired. I believe in being upfront with people. I think that maybe has cost me a job, but it is tricky.
For me, I think the hardest part of being an editor is choosing your path and knowing when to say no, knowing when to say yes, and which jobs to take. I think a lot about what it will look like on paper: If I saw these credits on someone's resume, would I want to hire them for this project? Do I have the right experience? Have I worked with the right people?
I think now in my career, I don't have a desire to be on a TV show for multiple seasons. I loved that in the beginning because I was on two shows. I absolutely was such a fan of and it was such a pleasure to be on them, but now I find myself wanting to do other things and tell other stories.
I love almost every genre, so if I had the opportunity to do something I've never done before, I usually will take that. I just did a comedy series earlier this year and had never done that, so that was cool. It is always kind of a gamble because you don't know if the director that you've worked with for five years, if his movie that's going to start in two months is really going to start in two months, and if you keep passing on things and that other project doesn't go, you might not work for another 3 or 4 months. For some people, that might be okay, but sometimes that's panic-inducing. So, for me, I think that is the most stressful. Saying no is very hard for me, so thank God I have my agent to help me through that.
I was going to ask if the agent helped you work through some of those ideas and discussions.
I have a great team that helps advise me at my agency. They really do consider what I've told them that I want to do and what I want my career to look like without thinking anything about commission or is this going to be a long-term job so then we don't have to worry about getting her employed if she is on this show that goes 20 seasons. They've really been a great sounding board and have given some really good advice, but ultimately, the decision is yours.
I've never had somebody tell me, "You need to do this. This is absolutely the thing to do for your career." I wish somebody would just tell me, "This is the right path," but no one can. Even my husband, too. We've had some hard decisions about me leaving to go on location, and I have turned down a job because there was too much going on. Our house was under construction, we just got a new dog, and so many things going on that it wasn't worth the stress to my relationship to be gone for four months on location. So, I've turned things down.
There's a lot to weigh and, as I said, it’s very stressful, at least for me. When I get my first day of dailies, I just take a big sigh of relief. “I made the choice, I'm here. Let's do this.” Then, I try not to look back.
Those decisions are even harder probably early in your career because then you're choosing, "Do I want this big assistant editing job, or do I want the little editing job where I get the editor's chair?"
Those are critical decisions for sure. It really just depends on honestly if you want to cut. Some of that is just being in the right place at the right time. It honestly is. I know a bunch of tremendously talented assistant editors who, for example, have been promised, "You'll get to cut on the next season," and the show doesn't go to the next season. So, I think it is important to work with people that you really like and people that are supportive of your career.
If you want to cut and you're an assistant, it doesn't matter whether it's a big movie or a TV show. You need to be working for someone who will let you cut, encourage you to cut, give you feedback, tell the executive producer that “my assistant cut the scene” — after they have said they like it, of course! You wouldn't want them to say, "This scene is shit.” Then you say, “Well, that was my assistant." That's the wrong way to do it.
So, if you only want to work on features, don't assist in television. I think it makes more sense to be an assistant in features and still try to cut stuff, still, try to get an additional editor credit. TV is probably the fastest path to the editor's chair. At least that's what I've seen over the years mentoring people. That’s usually the fastest path to start in episodic TV. If you just want to cut features or TV and it doesn't matter to you, just get on a good show, preferably one with a good track record that's gonna go for a while, so that you get that opportunity to cut.
I think it's actually much harder now that so much work is being done remotely because you don't get that face time with executives or the producing team. They don't really know who is on the crew. If you're not in-person, how would they know? Because when I'm doing notes with my producer, it's just me. So, I think it's a little bit harder now for assistants on shows that are remote to get recognition. So, editors, prop up your assistants. If they're good and they want to cut. It's up to us, really, to get them out there and push 'em out the door.
That remote thing is really interesting to think about because that is a big disadvantage. I think of Fred Raskin, who assisted on Quentin Tarantino's movies, and he was just an assistant, but when it came time to hire an editor, Quentin could have gone to any big feature editor he wanted to, and instead, he chose the assistant. That's only because he knew him and had seen him a million times and hung out in the lunchroom maybe.
Especially for feature directors where you're gonna be with that person for at least 10 weeks but probably months and months working side by side with them, it is really important that you get along with that person and have a relationship with them. But you don't get that feeling, you don't even have an introduction to assistants in a remote workflow situation. I think it is a tougher game for sure these days.
I think so too. Well, I don't want to end it on a bad note for the assistants, at least, but thank you so much for chatting with me and letting us know some of the really interesting structural choices. I think this was a great talk about the options that you have as an editor.
This one was a movie where we used absolutely all the tools in the toolkit, and it was fun exploring all the possibilities. Thank you so much, Steve. It's always great to talk to you.
Thank you so much, Angela.