Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Editors Nathan Orloff and Shane Reid discuss the use of the iconic Ghostbusters music, using their imagination with VFX, the value of being near-set or on-set and how much the “domino effect” meant in delivering iterations of the story.

Today on Art of the Cut, we’re talking about Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire with editors Nathan Orloff and Shane Reid.

Nathan’s been a guest on Art of the Cut a few times, including for the last Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and also for John Wick 4.

Shane Reid is coming from the world of TV spot editing — as you’ll hear in the interview — and music videos. He’s really starting off his feature film career with this film and — amazingly — another in just a few months: Deadpool & Wolverine.

Nathan, you edited the last Ghostbusters movie, so I wanted to kind of hear from Shane how he got onto this one. Also I saw that he’s doing the Wolverine & Deadpool movie, and how the heck do you edit two gigantic blockbusters in the course of two months or whatever this is gonna be released? Obviously you didn’t do that, but tell us a little bit about getting onto this movie and also juggling the schedules of the two movies.

REID: Well, it was definitely a rare experience. I met [writer/producer] Jason Reitman doing an Apple ad with him and [his dad, director] Ivan [Reitman]. It was the only thing that they had co-directed together. When I was working with them, I was mostly working with Ivan because Jason was on the road for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Ivan was hysterical and really fun and so sharp. I just spent more time talking to him. Shortly after that, unfortunately Ivan passed and I reached out to Jason and said, “I’m not gonna pretend to know your family, but all I can really offer - because I know your father is so important to you - is a story about him that you might not have known, so I just recapped some of our conversations on the phone.

Jason was really heart-warmed by that and asked if I would help him to find someone to make a memorial film for Ivan’s memorial service. I said, “I’ll do that.” And he said, “No, no, no! I wouldn’t ask you to do that. But I said, “I grew up watching Ivan’s films.

If I could help give anything back to his legacy, it would be an honor.” So we worked on that together and that was the way that we were able to actually spend time on something that was close to Jason’s heart.

We got that wonderful time that you get with the director in the room where you’re just creating something out of nothing. We bonded and when this came around, I talked to him about it and Nathan was on board. He said, “We’re just looking for someone else to edit during production.

We just want someone else to, to come in and, and help build the film while we’re shooting it. I don’t know if that’s something you’re into.” I said, “Actually what I have going on on the side is a way, way, way, way, way out there Hail Mary possibility of this other film, which I couldn’t mention at the time. I had been having conversations about Deadpool/Wolverine.

So it worked out where Deadpool was starting to shoot on the tail of when Ghostbusters was wrapping. So I was just on helping through production and that was the understanding, and we were all good with that.

Then we all fell in love with each other working. I didn’t want to go. Nathan and I had such a great time working together, but that was kind of the deal we all made. So I went on to Deadpool but the strike happened immediately.

So [producer] Jason Blumenfeld and Jason [Reitman] and [director] Gil [Kenan] start writing to me asking if I could come back. So I came on and Nathan and I got a really wonderful, two months to dive back into the film and, and really build it back up before I had to leave again for Deadpool.

So there was a real juggling act, but what was fortunate about it was I got to kind of come back in and be an objective point-of-view to what Nathan and Gil had been working on, but I also knew the material. So it helped in a way to freshen things up and then have Nathan and I get back on the page of what we were originally starting to do.

Crazy time juggling! Nathan, you’ve cut films by yourself. You did John Wick 4 as a solo editor - obviously with a team, but you were the solo editor on that - then you’ve also worked on the previous Ghostbusters with a team of editors and Dana Glauberman was on that. Tell me a little bit about what you like and don’t like about having a collaborator or doing it yourself.

ORLOFF: I can’t say enough positive things about my experience with Shane and with Dana. As for being a solo editor, John Wick 4 doesn’t really make sense to do it with another editor because of both the material and mainly also the director.

On John Wick 4, we had a lot of time in post. Plenty of time in the schedule. Not only that, but the way [director] Chad [Stahelski] shot that film is the way he shoots action scenes - linearly. It doesn’t make sense doing a film like John Wick specifically where the main character is in almost every single scene. I can’t imagine jumping around with two editors on that movie.

But on a movie like Ghostbusters, you’re kind of playing Whack-a-Mole: “All right, you got that scene, this is taking me a while.” If they’re shooting this much coverage, you’re getting so much more material on this kind of movie. Also, with John Wick, Chad famously doesn’t use any second unit. But my brain would’ve exploded if I didn’t have Shane on this movie.

Shane Reid and Nathan Orloff

I think all the John Wick films are solo editors: Elisabet Ronaldsdottir on the first one, Evan Schiff on 2 and 3, and you on the last one. 

One of the things that I thought of with all these great actors was performance and trying to pull out great performances and the loving little looks from Dan Aykroyd or whatever. When you’re looking at dailies, is anything driving you other than the typical things? Or are you thinking, “Oh my gosh, the fans are gonna want to see this reaction from Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray or whoever?”

ORLOFF: I edit a little atypically, especially on a film like this. I usually watch the beginning of every take for a little bit and figure out my way in. I find if I watch a great moment and I fall in love with it, I realize I subconsciously contort my entire edit to do this one thing that I don’t even know if I need yet.

I edit the scene sort of like a Tetris where I’m just looking at the beginning of every single shot, thinking, “What’s my in? How am I going to end it? What am I gonna do next?”

It’s a maze. I’m looking at everything I have to wind myself through the maze. If I find that look and it’s good, it’ll still be good, but I’ll have more context, if it’s useful in that part of the scene. We want for the story to make sense, for the comedy to land, for the drama to land.

That’s why I focus on “what’s the beginning and the next thing that’s gonna get me the most emotion, the biggest, the funniest way in or the scariest way in.” And then just find the scene through that. Oftentimes I get to a dead end of that maze and I have to go backwards.

Don’t focus too hard on what makes the fans happy because in the end you’re making something that the fans could be happy with if the story’s good.

Top row: Conchita Gatti Pascual, Kevin Jolly (vfx editor), Tom Reagan (vfx editor), Hugo Cantrell (2nd assistant editor)
Bottom row: Laura Mountford (1st assistant editor), Nathan, Nicholas Lundgren (1st assistant editor), Alastair Grimshaw (vfx editor)

It sounds like you would not be a select reel guy because there’s no reason watching all the selects for a film when all you’re really trying to find are the first 10 seconds or something.

ORLOFF: I make my selects backwards when I am creating those elements. If I find something I like, I copy it, and put it away in my “sandbox” and then my sandbox ends up with all these things I liked, but I couldn’t find a place for as I was constructing.

What about you, Shane? What’s your approach to dailies in a scene?

REID: We do work a little bit differently, but Nathan and I were always so aligned creatively on anything we did. We never had a different rhythm or a different sensibility. I’m a Ghostbusters fan. I grew up with Ghostbusters and I’m a fan of films.

So when I select, I can’t really get the scene working until I’ve watched every single thing. I make a lot of markers on takes and I just sort of use my finger as a lie detector test. When I’m feeling something that is interesting from someone, even if it’s out of context, like, “Wow! That was an interesting little moment,” I let that guide it.

If you look at my timeline I’ll have takes that just are completely covered in markers and then one where I have one little thing to maybe go check out here and there. When I feel like I’ve taken all that in, then I can start putting the scene together.

As I’m putting the scene together, I’m almost using sense memory - remembering how something felt… a really honest and pure moment. “Let me try that.” Doesn’t mean it always works. It’s certainly not in service of what I think the fans are going to want.

It’s in service of myself as the first fan enjoying that moment from that character that I like so much.

Nathan Orloff

With this kind of a movie that has great comedy and also the scariness of it, talk about the broader pacing of tonal moments.

ORLOFF: We watched the movie as a long play a lot. We’d look at the macro sense of: “we got to the library too slow. How do we get to this plot to fast point faster?” Then you have to figure out what do you not really, really need before then, or when does this scene overstay its welcome?

Shane was mentioning the litmus test of: “when is the movie pushing me out? All right, when am I back in? When is the movie pushing me out?” Then debating that with Gil and his sensibilities of when those moments would happen. We’re usually very in-sync between the two of us.

REID: There’s so many variables to this film. There’s so many characters and there’s so many tones to juggle and you don’t really know where they need to hit until you start stacking them together. Then you start feeling really jerked out or into a moment.

It was really about creating enough time for each character to service them throughout the film while also elevating the stakes enough that the motor keeps going. There were times where you would have a scene in a certain place and you would feel like all the momentum of what we just built has just died.

Then: do we need that scene or do we fold that scene into something else? Or does that scene go before something else? So along with Gil, it was a matter of really just getting onto the ride and then staying on that ride.

That’s the great thing about Ghostbusters is you can take the comedy and the horror at the same time, right? It’s a very delicate balance to weave comedy, horror hints of romance, hints of friendship, family desire, internal desire, and to put all that into one film. It was a massive balancing act.

Hugo Cantrell, Tom Reagan, Laura Mountford, Shane Reid, Nathan Orloff, Nicholas Lundgren in front of the firehouse

I love the idea Nathan mentioned of watching the long-play a lot (the whole movie). The cutting together of the scenes is really pretty quick in the overall scheme of things and the rest of the post schedule is trying to make the entire movie work. Any other thoughts about that process?

ORLOFF: I have never worked on a film that had such a high degree of “domino effects.”

I have never had a movie where it wasn’t obvious all the time what wasn’t working. We would find that something was off.

The train got derailed somehow. You’re trying to figure out, “What’s not working? This 10 minute chunk was working two weeks ago. We hadn’t changed it. Why is this no longer working? Oh, the problem is actually two minutes prior, this change actually derailed our train of thought.” 

This movie has so many characters, so many plots, so many things to juggle. It’s mystery, it’s comedy, horror, tension, tone, everything, all these.

There are all these different things that it’s attempting to do. When one thing gets derailed, it actually affected all this other stuff before we actually figured out it’s over here. It was very, very weird to work like that. Usually, when the train goes off the rails, you kind of know exactly when and why.

REID: It was a massive detective case all the time and it required watching the long-play (full length of the movie) a lot and just being really honest with yourself. Sometimes it would just be as simple as a line or a scene just playing too long or the tone should be scarier than it was.

We’ve made it too light and now I’m not feeling any threat down the road. Nathan’s right, it was a massive ripple effect. When you have this many characters and this many things going on in a film like this.

Shane Reid

Can either of you think of an example of that, something that got pulled out or put in that created that ripple effect?

REID: I think what it was for us: “device and rules of the threat.” One of the massive things that we did between the middle and end of the film was when Nadeem [Kumail Nanjiani] comes in and drops the orb onto Ray’s desk in Ray’s Occult Shop, there was a ripple effect within the room.

It shook things to life. You felt something was happening inside the shop because of the orb but it wasn’t reaching to the outside. What we started to do later on was to add a shot where ice starts to sort of ripple through the streets toward the containment unit and it helped connect those dots right away.

It let the audience know that something’s going on between these two things communicating. That didn’t come until much later in the film, but when you do something as simple as that, it created a ticking clock of these two things coming together.

Then we’d have a scene where everyone sitting around a table talking about something that’s happening, but now the threat’s going on behind the scenes. We were already ahead of it, so now the scene needs to go away and we need to find a way to tell the information that we need from this scene somewhere else because the clock has been ticking from the beginning.

It was a device that really changed the way that the rest of the pacing worked in between that period when it condensed itself in a way, instead of allowing it to breathe like a normal story might.

ORLOFF: It definitely added an undertone of threat anytime we would cut to the orb and, and now that you know - and linked what it could do - the scene where the power goes out in the lab and the orb gets cracked open a little bit by the the chamber - we described it as “he had a toe out in the real world” and had all this power all of a sudden before the orb retracted. So we moved that scene a few scenes earlier.

Adding that threat earlier into the movie added a “motor” to the plot. We had all these character scenes and funny scenes: scenes that we knew were funny but they weren’t landing if you watch them in a run and you didn’t have this story with a threat around these scenes.

It was very confusing for a while that we knew these scenes worked. But then all of a sudden if you move the threat earlier, now those scenes could be funny ‘cause you wanted to laugh after being thrilled.

Before the orb comes into Ray’s Occult shop, there’s a little foreshadowing. The scene right before that is the Stay-puft marshmallow scurrying away and you don’t know why. The Stay-pufts know the orb is arriving.

ORLOFF: Exactly. And I think in the script that functions how the ice worked. But in the end you think, “Okay, the marshmallows are scared of it, why should I be?”

REID: There was always the containment unit that was bringing us back to the Ghostbusters - where they started - what’s really happening within the operation that they’ve been doing all these years.

The containment unit was a device that we kept coming to, but what we needed to do was show that there was a cosmic connection between these two elements and that our characters and our audience is going to go on the journey of: how are these two things going to merge?

So we had the Stay-Puft marshmallows being scared, but it really has nothing to do with the Ghostbusters by doing that. Now it has something to do with the Ghostbusters because of the connection to the containment unit, but they don’t know that yet.

They’re figuring that out with our audience. So it’s really powerful little moves that we had tome like chess pieces. It was a very malleable edit. You could really move scenes around a lot, which is fun and exciting but also at times a bit of a headache because there’s so much clarity that you have to have to service everybody and you have to spend all this time with them.

So there’s a lot of things weaving throughout the body of this movie. We figured out the dominos in a way that we feel really, really proud of. But there was a lot of moving pieces in this one. It was really an interesting edit.

\\*Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire\\* post team and sound team on the mix stage

What about the score? You’ve got this great legacy of music themes that you have to play with - going back to the original Ghostbusters. How much of that stuff did you use as you were trying to build cuts or did you stay away from that?

ORLOFF: There were definitely some moments we did. Shane and I had a conversation about this when we both started in London - we definitely wanted to use it for certain elements and fanfares, but I felt that on Afterlife, we really leaned in - in a good way, in a way that this franchise needed - to Elmer Bernstein’s score.

Obviously this film would do the same, but maybe let’s try taking it in a new direction. Let’s try taking it into scarier territory in a lot of ways. So it was something that Shane and I were excited about when we were temping and I think Gil was around for it and embraced it and so did [composer] Dario [Darianelli].

I think we found a really good balance. It was a little hard on something like this because you expect certain fanfares and certain things but you also want to push it into something new.

Did you try to map it out at all? Like: “This moment has got to have a classic Ghostbuster theme, this moment shouldn’t?”

ORLOFF: Yeah, Shane cut the Slimer scene in the attic. His instinct was the correct one: put in those little Ghostbusters notes anticipation of threat right when he turns his head. I don’t think that ever changed.

What else did you temp with? Did you find that you were temping outside of Ghostbusters universe because you needed those different tonal feelings?

REID: Yeah, I temped a lot with the Conjuring scores and the original Friday the 13th scores. We were starting to use them in the lab ‘cause they had these really tense strings. They were a little too far in the end, but I think - like Nathan was saying - I think the idea was: How do we push this into a new place? Sometimes the horror scores felt like they were just trying too hard.

But it was an interesting place to work from because he would start to craft a horror scene and not play it like a Ghostbuster scene, and it was really effective I think in allowing us to sort of “genre” each section and then find ways to pull all that together in a thread that felt like it was deserving of Ghostbusters but was pushing it into a new space. So lots of just tonal horror film score. 

I noticed that my kids - they’re nine and seven - if I show them something that is physically scary, if I show them a zombie thing, it’s pretty ineffective. But if there’s tension and something happening that they don’t see, it gets them every time.

So when we were thinking for kids as an audience, how do we just hold these moments with the tension of a horror film but we’re not delivering something that feels terrifying as a horror film, but we’re allowing kids this space to feel something that is unsteady and uncertain.

So a lot of those more ethereal droney type of temp scores were really cool pieces to use in the attic, in the lab, et cetera.

Nathan, you mentioned London. I’m assuming that’s where you edited.


Is there an advantage to being close to set?

REID: On this one, yes. Gil was in mostly every night after wrapping. We were right next to the lot and right next to production. So he would pop over for 45 minutes or so after he’d shoot and it was fun.

He’d come in and have a really great attitude about what they shot that day and tell us what he was excited about and brought in a good energy in the room.

Then it would allow Nathan and I to have a scene that we were working on that morning and watch dailies and rough it in and we were all in such a place of trusting each other and moving at a good enough pace that we could just show that rough cut that night, get Gil’s first reactions, address those notes and then kind of push that off to the side and get on to the next thing.

So it was really beneficial to be in close proximity.

ORLOFF: It was really nice. Sometimes we would go to set too, but not as much as on Afterlife. I was on set for four or five weeks during the very end of the production.

I don’t think we did anything like that on this movie. Maybe just for the third act I was on set with my laptop cutting in video assist footage. But I agree, it was really beneficial to be that close.

Why did they need to have you cutting off video assist?

ORLOFF: I’ve experienced that on almost every third act. I think films with any amount of blue screen for your third act or CG characters or villains or whatever, when you’re getting towards the end, it’s down to the wire.

You don’t have a lot of time left with your actors and you’re trying to just make sure all this stuff fits and that you have everything you need. It’s a gigantic puzzle when you have all those characters there in terms of getting the beats that were required to tell the story. It’s a big big map in the script.

You can read it and you try to visualize and assume it works and then you put it on the timeline you find, “Wait! We really need something that goes from this to this.” So it’s just good to be there in real time and not wait. You can’t wait to come back and ask for something, because they’ll say, “We just destroyed that part of the set today ‘cause we thought we were done.”

REID: Yeah, we had a couple moments like in the lab too where we were able to run in at the end of the day when they were wrapping shooting to ask, “Can we just pick this off and this off?” They’d say, “Great!” We’d duck out of our computer, run across the street and get two things that we felt like we could use. That was incredibly helpful.

Nathan, Shane, Erica Mills (executive producer), Eric Reich (executive producer)

What was the politics of that? Were you talking to Gil and asking a favor or were you talking to second unit or somebody that that was doing that for you?

REID: It was always with Gil. We had a really great working relationship with him because he was so invested in coming into the edit. I think we all felt invested in the story that we were trying to tell and he respected if we had an idea and we’d go to him and just say, “Hey, if we can do this, this might be cool.”

And he was totally open to it. Sometimes he wouldn’t agree with it and we wouldn’t do it and it was fine. It was always one of those things where you say, “I don’t think anything’s wrong here but if we had this, it might give us this little window for suspense or it might give us this little beat of story that we feel like we’re missing.

That’s just the benefit of a being close together. We’re doing it together and respecting each other creatively. It wasn’t really political in any way. It was always to service the best idea for that scene.

What about this stuff that was shot in New York? Did you always edit in London or did you move over to LA for any part of it?

REID: Nathan should talk about that ‘cause he did the sewer dragon chase and that was really interesting in the way that that was designed because it’s fascinating and watching him work in that way was really inspiring and he just had so much control and imagination to know how to put that together.

ORLOFF: Thank you Shane. It was actually interesting. It was kind of the opposite of the Gozer chase in Afterlife. They had storyboards to go off of and then I had edited the storyboards with full-on music and sound effects. It was basically like a mini animated film.

Then they shot the second unit footage on it and of course going from storyboards to actual footage there are things that work on boards that you cannot get in real life, so it just turned out to be something different. So I edited that during production and then had the storyboards in place of what they were gonna shoot on the screen - on the stage in the car with the kids.

That way we had this very clear map of what we needed to get inside the car on bluescreen stages where you have the most control to get what you need. Because of the schedule, New York shot at the end. So we had the sequence with previs then what they shot on set with the family in the car became very integrated with Geoffrey Baumann, the VFX supervisor.

We actually sent our VFX supervisor to go to New York, not just the second unit director, but him, to basically oversee all of this and how is it gonna fit into our already existing pre-edited sequence with bluescreens and the family in the car, ‘cause it was a lot to match up and I thought they just did a tremendous job.

When we got the New York stuff back it was just: “Oh great, they did four takes and take three and four great and I’m just gonna cut this in.” It just slotted in really well. Then of course the next six to nine months was more about just trimming the dialogue scenes and making it as sharp as possible. To answer your question about New York timing: the shooting was three months in London.

We did three months of the director’s cut in London too. So I was in London for six months, then we came back to finish out the rest of the film, work with the producers, work with Sony and VFX and then start our sound mix and DI this last January, February [2024].

In LA…?

ORLOFF: In LA, yeah.

You mentioned the need to be able to use your imagination on VFX. So I’d like to talk a little bit about that. This movie’s got a ton of VFX. Talk to me about editing when you’re missing a huge chunk of what you’re actually trying to edit until six months later. That’s when you really get something to look at.

REID: I found this really fascinating ‘cause this is my first time with a big VFX film. I thought that that would be something very challenging. But what I really enjoyed about it was that you had all these other little bits of nuance that you were constructing in the performance of these monsters.

Some of it was practical. With Slimer they built a practical Slimer and moved him around like a puppet. Some of that worked and some of that didn’t. So with something like Slimer, you’d basically look at what’s really working from the practical performance then what are we missing?

What do we need to mock up in postvis to make this scene actually play? But something like Garaka you’d have all this pre-vis and then you’d start looking at how do we make him more menacing and how do we tether him to this shot where his hands are clenching and the ice is clenching behind him, which I love.

There was such an amazing extra layer of filmmaking attached to that. It wasn’t a hindrance, it wasn’t a nuisance, it was actually always about “how do we keep stacking little details to bring this character to life?”

We heavily worked with Gil, Nathan and I and VFX and you just keep going at it, similar to what I would imagine doing animation feels like because that was my experience with it. I found it really fun and there was enough in the pre-vis that we can make sense of what we wanted the scenes to do and there was enough practically done that you weren’t just “here’s a tennis ball and someone’s looking at it and now we all have to imagine that this isn’t happening.”

I think Gil did a really great job of shooting in a way that we could absolutely imagine what we wanted and needed and then it was just about executing it.

ORLOFF: Gil was great on set. He’d always be basically narrating the film to the actors over the microphone: “Garaka is doing this!” He didn’t want the actors or even us to have to remember what was happening.

All you need to remember is your lines and reacting to what’s happening. Inevitably you do get to a point where you end up with some empty plates for VFX and you just have text on screen that says “Garaka closeup.” That’s the tricky part where you’re doing so much mental gymnastics to even get to the point of imagining what the scene is that it’s hard for you to judge what your emotion is.

I think it was different than Afterlife because I think Garaka to me is much scarier as a villain. But it wasn’t until you started getting actual renders where you could see, “Oooh, Garaka’s freaky looking! He’s scary!” It’s one thing to be able to use your imagination when you’re looking at kind of PlayStation three level graphics or PlayStation two.

In other words, previs or postvis…

ORLOFF: Exactly. You’re looking at these graphics and you’re a preview audience for instance to to be scared of it. In Afterlife we at least had Gozer - a person in a suit, and the dogs were dogs and you can understand that.

But with this - your main villain being completely CGI - that’s a huge challenge. Trying to make it more horror-esque. It’s a challenge and sound is a huge thing and I’m glad that Shane and I do so many sound effects so that the timings of things are there for the VFX team.

REID: To piggyback on what you’re saying, the challenge was we were working so hard to make Garaka scary because he is looking like a PlayStation 2 character. We’re really, really trying to deliver this huge emotion and ride out something that is not there, which really takes quite a lot of imagination and faith that it’s gonna turn out that way. Then you shepherd that process.

But once it starts feeling more real then you can pull back. But it was just existing in our minds and just a slower process than having an actor perform it.

You mentioned using text onscreen: “Garaka closeup.” Is there an advantage or a disadvantage to grabbing some concept art of Garaka and sticking that in? Or are you actually better off putting in the text?

ORLOFF: I meant the text only for us internally to judge. I don’t think we’d ever screen that way. Not to anyone that’s not a producer, only for us internally to figure out - before we asked an artist to draw something or post or post-vis to put something in. It was only a matter of the three of us.

REID: We had to do a lot of drafts of the ending. So a lot of times you’d say, “I got an idea…” then you just go and edit something. The real pleasure and joy of working with Nathan is that we were really not precious about it.

So Nathan would have a structure of something, I’d go take it and do something. He’d come back and say, “I like this, but these rules don’t work for me.” Then he’d do something else. It was almost like pitching in a room, like, “Stay with me here. His hand’s gonna come in and then this is gonna happen. Then that’s gonna happen there.”

So if you’re waiting for those elements to come in, you’re just wasting your time. Better for us to work fast, pitch ideas in the room to Gil or Jason or each other and then find out what we wanted to do, then go down that road. So text is no fun to look at when you’re watching a cut, but for us it was absolutely helpful when it’s a day long process.

Sometimes I think if you cut in something that’s close to the image, there’s an “uncanny valley” thing where if you are close but not close enough, then it’s actually worse than putting just text.

REID: Yeah, sometimes it’s effective to just say, “This is the idea.” Because when you start to put something physical in its place, your mind starts to believe that that’s what’s happening in the scene.

But when you put text in you know what the intention of the scene is and sometimes it’s about being simpler, bring it down to something that is just simple that we get right now and then we know the process and we know the people who are gonna make this come to life.

But the idea just has to be what are we trying to tell in this moment right now? If we can just place it there, we can piece it together in our heads. If I see a fake hand all of a sudden it becomes a real hand and then I’m questioning why it’s there and what the scale of it is. Emotionally it takes me out of it.

ORLOFF: On Afterlife, I’d have boards of Muncher that I just cut out and I had five different positions of him - turn around, screaming, whatever - and I would just float him around on the screen with key frames like a Mario ghost but because he’s black and white in illustration, it was much better than if I had actual low-quality 3D renders.

It’s more easy for your brain to see the simplicity of it. It’s more work for your brain to look at.

As long as it’s not the final audience, let the viewer fill it in with their own imagination. 

You mentioned sound effects. Talk to me a little bit about how much you filled in sound effects, because sound effects - for me - is one of those things that with VFX, it feels like they make the VFX more real. If you watch VFX without the sound effects, a lot of times you think, “Well that’s hokey!” Then you put the sound effects in and now if feels real.

ORLOFF: Totally sound on this film was very interesting and Shane and I both  love editing the sound effects and we actually never even do a traditional temp mix for all our screenings. We just did our temp mix out of Avid. We have brilliant assistants - Nicholas Lundgren and Allie Andrus as well and others, who just cut wonderful sounds for us.

REID: We were constantly staying up with our mix and keeping it balanced in a way that we could screen the film. They worked really tirelessly on the sound design because we previewed it out of the Avid mix a few times.

Sound for me is always as important a component to building a scene as the visuals - even if it’s the absence of sound. It’s my way to convey the way that I wanna feel about a scene whether it’s poppy and electric or whether or not it’s internal and quieter. I couldn’t imagine making any scene work without cutting it that way.

So because it’s so important to Nathan and I, everything would come baked with the sound pass. We work fast and we’d get a scene together and obviously you’re not spending all of your day working on the sound design, but when we were doing the Stay-Puft minis running around, you’re adding all these screams and fires and little laughs and we had this track of them speaking gibberish.

You just start messing with where those go. When we were in the really, really early rudimentary stage, you could not even see the Stay-Pufts. Some of the first plates we had of Phoebe discovering one of ’em, you just hear them and you’re immediately charmed.

We’d have them be really happy right before Podcast smashes them and really build up this joy - this really childlike baby sound. A lot of those were used before we had the visuals to support them, but then you understand, “Oh I know what this scene’s doing.” But if we just had plates and Phoebe and music, it wouldn’t be effective.

How much do you like to rely on your assistants to do that stuff and how much do you feel like you need to do it? Also did you get a sound effect toolbox to work with or do you just use the previous movie’s SFX?

ORLOFF: I kind of figured it’d be easy to pull out the previous movies’ library but we didn’t end up using it or grabbing or getting it.

REID: Except the proton beams

ORLOFF: Yeah, proton beams. We got some stuff from the sound design team. I think Shane and I are very, very in sync with this. Sounds are integral to the tone of finding the scene, even if it’s a background droney something or if it’s the specifics of when someone’s hitting a button on a machine or especially a creature ghost sound.

It doesn’t mean I usually need to cut in. I could ask the assistants, “Hey I put in a bad version of this, can you replace it?” But at least the timing’s there or I’ll ask them for a little tool box: “Can you find me 10 creepy ice sounds.

Then that sound pass is sort of a rhythm at least to the scene. If you looked at the big picture, you’d have these scenes that have 20 seconds that are incredibly well sound-designed and the rest of it’s pretty good. Then you have scenes that have nothing and it’s their job to literally make the whole movie sound as good as those 20 seconds that I spent my time on.

Is it something that you do or that maybe you assign to an assistant: to go through the script and see there’s a ton of frozen ice, there’s a ton of big scary machines powering up and powering down…

ORLOFF: …Just pull libraries. Is that what you’re asking?

At what point do you start to try to find the stuff that you know you’re gonna need? You could have done that before they shot.

REID: It’s a great point. It is what we did. You would definitely start to look for ice and all the different versions of ice: from the vapor to the crystallization to the cracking through walls.

You would definitely get the machinery, the proton packs, cars, those main things - walla, Foley, the things that exist in the background - city environments, et cetera. You get those and then if you’re building a scene, a lot of times you just lay some of that stuff in as a base so that it has environment.

When I start on a scene, if I’m gonna start on Trevor in the attic, I just look through the dailies: what’s happening? There’s a giant wooden door that’s creaking and falling, there’s a big trash pile, there’s dripping goo, there’s footsteps. I like to have sound effects bins that are by scene.

They start that way and then, and then usually I have enough in there to not have to carry that process on the whole time. After a month you probably have enough of everything to make anything work. And then if you get really granular you can just ask for that.

Nathan, what about you? Do you try to either prep yourself or have an assistant start early looking for those sounds and starting to build bins of stuff or is it per scene?

ORLOFF: I’ve been fortunate to not even be able to answer that question ‘cause I rolled right into this from another movie or I was on a short vacation right beforehand. I went to the premiere of John Wick 4 and showed up a week and a half late where Shane was already working in London.

So I didn’t have time to prepare or even asking Nicholas to get on it ahead. I was very familiar with the script and I worked on the previs a little bit, but the assistants are so good at grabbing stuff, and once you have the scene visually in front of you, it just kind of makes sense to start building that ice library as you need it, because you can spend a ton of time trying to grab it before production and then - once you start putting it against dialogue - you think, “Oh, that’s not gonna work.

We need something that sounds totally different.”

Last question for both of you is if there’s a scene that you could talk about that was challenging or that you’re proud of?

REID: The Venkman/Nadeem scene with the pasta strainer on his head. Nadeem getting more and more upset - and the fire behind him is starting to ignite. What was really hard about the scene was that there was quite a bit of dialogue cut out of it. In the script, Venkman is only supposed to throw the pen at Nadeem once, but because Bill does it in different ways and do them at different times, when you took some of the dialogue out you still needed to convey what’s happening with the fire.

I started to use the pen as a device to keep getting him more and more upset, since we lost the dialogue. So I would, I would reuse what was really like one piece of blocking with Venkman, in three different ways to build Nadeem losing control.

I was really proud of the way that the pen turned into this device to to not only comedically make the scene successful but to allow Nadeem’s character to be pushed over the edge by the sparring partner that he had in in Venkman.

ORLOFF: For me, the kitchen with Nadeem was weirdly tricky ‘cause you’re going from what’s supposed to be really scary to something that’s like a building tension that Trevor is gonna get blasted to being saved to a heroic superhero-esque moment to comedy. It’s the most tonally schizophrenic scene I’ve ever worked on.

And I’m actually very proud that I think the final version is not that far off from where I started or where we started on that scene. It just took a lot of experimentation to nail those moments.

And that’s a scene where there’s so much that’s going on with  VFX that because of the quality of the postvis versions of them, you can’t tell if you’re laughing because the joke is funny or if you’re laughing because it’s a really bad CG version of the VFX.

It wasn’t until we really started getting the final renders where we thought, “Oh my God! I think this is gonna work!” Now I just think that the scene just plays wonderfully and I’m really proud of it.

Gentlemen, it was wonderful talking to you about this movie. Hope everybody gets a chance to see it in the theater.

ORLOFF: Thank you so much for your time, and thanks for enjoying the movie. Hope you guys enjoyed it.

REID: Yeah, thank you so much.