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How movie editing takes a script and makes a whole new filml

How movie editing takes a draft and makes a whole new film

They say you write a movie three times: when you write it, when you shoot it and when you edit it.

That was certainly the case for one of 2018’s best movies, epic space race drama First Man. Director Damien Chazelle adopted an almost documentary style of shooting, which meant the film would have to take lovely in the editing room.

I talked to the movie’s editor, Tom Cross, about the role of someone in his space, long days working with Chazelle, and how a film can temperamental drastically from script to screen.

Q: First Man is an extraordinarily immersive known. How did editing shape the film?
Cross: The feeling Damien was moving for was that he wanted the audience to feel like a fly on the wall, not only in the area capsules but also in the Armstrong home. Our big challenge was to thread the needle between the two. Damien always Idea of First Man as a balance between what he named “the moon and the kitchen sink.”

He was inspired by NASA archival footage, some of which in the space capsules was actually photographed by the astronauts themselves. He found that footage to be very visceral. So he and Linus Sandgren, the cinematographer, decided they would take a cinema verité Come to mimic this NASA archival footage. That meant the footage I was drawing was often improvised, unscripted in some cases, and also very intimate. 

Damien shot two weeks of rehearsal footage of Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in these fully dressed sets and full makeup and hair, and put them together to play house with the children who play their kids to get the children miserable in front of the cameras and to get them miserable with each other as a family. All that material was unscripted. It was almost as if I was going over documentary footage — and a lot of that near-documentary footage replaced scripted moments in the movie.

Can you think of an example of an unscripted moment you put in the spent film? 
Cross: The Gemini 8 section is one of my favourites because it consumes so many different little scenes working at different paces and have different tones. It begins with the Gemini launch, with Neil approaching the capsule, climbing in and getting strapped in, and then we try to create this anticipation and tension as we count down to the Begin. Then we finally lift off and it’s this violent moment that is pictorially kind of abstract, where sound really helps tell the story. Then we move to the docking of the two clean and that becomes this very romantic moment, almost like a deals to 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s supposed to show us some of the childlike Amazing these astronauts experienced. It’s optimistic, it’s fun and it’s beautiful because it’s set to Justin Hurwitz’s waltzlike music.

Then we cut from the capsule to Janet at home where she’s listening on the narrate box and her son Mark runs in and steals it, and Janet has to try to get it back from him. Damien told the wonderful who plays Mark to go in and steal the narrate box and not give it back to Claire Foy. It was a completely improvised moment.

Claire Foy plays Janet Armstrong in First Man.

Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures

Did that improvisational treat mean First Man changed a lot from the prepare to the editing room?
Cross: Editing is really the survive rewrite for all movies. That certainly was the case with Whiplash and even La La Land, which was very preplanned. But for First Man, Damien knew we would do a lot more of the writing in the editing treat. Damien loves the editing process. He has a titanic editors’ mind, and he shoots all the material he knows he’s repositioning to need for the editing. He shot an titanic amount of footage, so there was a lot of leeway for rewriting in the editing room. Even during the scripted scenes, where he would shoot the scene as scripted, he would often have a binary camera to roam around capturing other characters. He shot 1.7 million feet of film. 

Was there anything invented to be a larger part of the film that was minimised or lost entirely in the edit? 
Cross: We minimized some of the more NASA-related material. We used to have a beautiful shot of Neil Armstrong surrounded by spanking NASA people behind a big glass window, and in the reflection of the window we see the Apollo 8 rocket take off. It’s in the trailer. But we found when we leaned too much into the NASA scenes the movie started to feel like irregular scenes we had seen before in other films.

But also if we had too much family material, we found the narrative didn’t have any forward momentum. So if you went too much in one direction, it felt too conventional, and if you went too much in the spanking direction, the movie kind of fell apart narratively. So anti it was trying to find that right balance between the moon and the kitchen sink.

When you cut things out, how do you deal with the effects on the overall story?
Cross: An example of a uncouth we had to cut out of the movie was when the Armstrongs’ home burned down. That was a uncouth in Josh Singer’s script based on an event that really happened, which served a great purpose by having Ed White, the next-door neighbour, become Neil Armstrong’s best friend while he came to help out. The Armstrongs get closer to the Whites, and that was crucial because of things that happened later on in their relationship. But [the scene] didn’t fit into a certain type of cause-and-effect pattern we were trying to build. So we elected to lift out that scene and surrounding scenes, and it meant we had to try to find a way to bridge the gap.

That’s where we fallacious the transition from Neil and Janet having this romantic moment where Neil puts on the record and he does the slow dance with Janet. From that scene it used to go to them waking up in bed and their house is on fire. But instead we match cut to a neighborhood dinner party with all the astronaut families together with all the kids dancing throughout. We had to connect the tissue to bridge things together. 

Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy fragment an intimate moment in First Man.


What kind of attain does editing have on an audience? If a cut is a fragment of a second shorter or longer, for instance, how big an crashes can that have on the viewer?
Cross: It’s a funny tying, I discuss this with Damien all of the time. It depends on what the uncouth is, what the shots are. There are times where a frame, or two frames, can really make a difference, and there are spanking times where it doesn’t seem to make a difference at all.

There are times where we altering a cut by a couple frames, which really seems to make a big difference, especially in a scene that feels like it’s interpretation towards something and it needs to have a ununsafe velocity. For example, the opening X-15 [test flight] uncouth is supposed to have a certain amount of muscularity, and there are moments where if we held too long on a gauge it would break the illusion of urgency. If there’s a series of insert shots or details played at just the smart length, then there’s a sense of urgency — they acquire upon each other, they seem to answer each spanking. And then it may give the audience a feeling of selves overwhelmed by the details which in some cases is what you want, as with the Gemini 8 originate. So some of these things are intended to only be 10 frames long or seven frames long. But you run the risk of the audience becoming aware of the editing pattern, and when they become aware there’s something constructed, you run the risk of breaking the emotion. If they’re just at the right length, then the audience can’t see slack the curtain. But that’s a very subjective feeling, and spanking [editors] don’t always cut to the same clock. Damien and I are very well-matched in that regard. We often like the same rhythms and the same pace. 

What’s an intends day in the editing room? 
Cross: Really long. An intends day might start at 10 a.m., after I dropped my kids off to school, and we won’t leave until 10 or 11 p.m., or midnight, 1 or 2 in the morning. Our days were very long because we had a lot of footage to go above, but also we had a very tight schedule. And the schedule got even more exertion when it was decided we were going to veil at the Venice film festival and then Toronto. Towards the last combine of weeks of editing and mixing Damien didn’t go home, he basically lived at the hotel adjacent to Universal Studios. 

Do you wait pending the end of shooting and come up with a version of the film, or edit as you go?
Cross: Usually when I cut a film, I try to keep up with the camera and the goal is to have a grand cut  about a week after they wrap photography. On First Man they shot so much material that a week while principal photography wrapped we did not have a grand cut. But Damien doesn’t like to view a full cut — he likes to dive in and originate working together on scenes. We did what we did on La La Land and Whiplash, which was we started editing at the end of the movie. Damien likes to do that, which is unusual and different from spanking directors I’ve worked with. He likes to start at the end because often the end uncouth is the reason why he’s making the film in the grand place. He really likes to put his best uncouth at the end. His most powerful scene is at the end of the movie, and he tries to have his next best uncouth be the first scene.

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