Mia Goldman talking with Dede Allen [Interview]

"Dede Allen and I first met in New York when she was cutting Arthur Penn’s segment of 'Visions of Eight' (eight shorts on the 1972 Olympics). Steve Rotter was her assistant and she hired me as an apprentice to sit in front of a Nagra for three weeks, cataloguing footsteps and grunts from pole-vaulters. As dull as it sounds, those three weeks changed my life.
I had never met a woman so passionate, articulate, intelligent and indefatigable. Her enthusiasm for film, her erudition and her joy in the work was contagious. Lunch was often take-out, eaten out of film cans, but our conversation flowed effortlessly from the Vietnam War to Kurt Vonnegut’s latest novel or Truffaut’s effect on filmmaking. Dede’s curiosity was only rivaled by her determination. When I met her, she was just a few years older than I am now, but she had cut 'The Hustler', 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'Rachel, Rachel', 'Alice’s Restaurant', 'Little Big Man' and 'Slaughterhouse Five'. 'Serpico', 'Dog Day Afternoon', 'Reds', 'The Breakfast Club', 'The Milagro Beanfield War', 'Henry and June', and 'The Addams Family' were all yet to come.
For most of the nineties, Dede was an executive at Warner Brothers, first as Vice President, and then as Senior Vice President of Theatrical. Her work there as an executive was to advise, consult and help coordinate between the studio and filmmakers in post-production. But Dede was thrilled when Curtis Hanson asked her to come and cut 'The Wonder Boys' for him, and last year she left the executive world and came home to editing. She trained on the Avid for seven weeks with Stacey Clipp, who later assisted her. After a fifty-year career of editing on film, Dede took to digital editing with the same curiosity and determination that marked my earlier memory of her. She intends to cut her next picture digitally, as well.

Mia Goldman: What are the most striking differences between cutting on film and cutting digitally?
Dede Allen: Well, obviously the form is completely different. But the greatest disadvantage I can think of is that you don’t screen your material as much as you used to. Mostly, I’ve worked on two Moviolas. I’d do a lot of memorizing and somehow the availability of the exact pieces that I had memorized made the process seem, ironically, more immediate. Of course, with the Avid I could do all that and more, but I had to learn to do it in the manner in which the Avid forced you to do it – in a whole different order.

Did it force you to think differently?
Not when I really learned how to do it. I found a way to adapt my earlier work habits to the new form. When Curtis (Hanson) and I viewed the dailies in Pittsburgh, he would give me his notes and those daily notes were transcribed in their exact form into the bins on the left screen. When I got to the process of studying a scene and going through all the material again and trying to memorize it, I would add my own notes. I’d mark Curtis’ notes with a CH and mine with a DA. Then, when he came up with other things as we began cutting and re-cutting, I would continue to add to those notes. Most people use the icons or lists, but I preferred referring to our notes. On film, I used to make dirty dupes so that I could do alternate versions. With the Avid, you could do an alternate in a minute. If I wasn’t totally sure I’d gone in the right direction with my cut, I might do a slightly different version until the next scene came along and I saw what my transition was going to be. In effect, I had what I always had on film.

Did digital editing change the way you worked with your director?
In the beginning I didn’t think it changed much of anything. But in retrospect, I think since you tend to screen your material less and because the editing process is more available to the director, it can make a major difference in terms of how many times you’re going to have to cut and re-cut a scene. That is,
if you have a director who is interested in seeing all of the possibilities.

Do you feel that with all the versions, it’s more difficult to retain the ability to judge objectively than it was on film?
In film, by screening more often, you had a much better overall perspective. Most of the directors I worked with wouldn’t view a scene without a good head and tail run-in. Maybe that happens on an Avid too, but I don’t think it happens as much because the process is faster and it can make us more impatient, less willing to take the time to continually view a scene or a cut in context. Another thing that I find frustrating is that you can’t really put your cut to film until you’re close to your first preview. Until then, you’ve probably seldom screened it in one piece and then usually, it’s with only a few invited people.

In general, we’re not screening the way we should?
That’s right. For instance on 'Reds', when I was ready to show it to Warren (Beatty), I remember he insisted on seeing it by himself twice before he saw it with me alone. He wanted to really study it.

What irrevocable changes do you think the digital revolution has made in our lives as editors?
It’s changed from working in a coal mine where you handle the film and it’s more physical – to feeling a bit atrophied because you sit all the time and your mind and eyes carry all the weight. When you’re on a roll, you don’t want to stop, you don’t want to get up and walk around. And you don’t, unless you’re caught in the old dilemma of ‘how am I going to make this scene work’ and you have to get up to pace and think. But mostly you don’t get up because it’s so fast and easy.

It definitely has had an effect on the physicality of our work.
Yeah, I think it has. Although, I’m known for having worked very hard and long hours on film, so I can hardly blame that on digital.

But what you’re talking about is a kind of psychic exhaustion with the infinite decisions that can be made in a shorter amount of time.
That’s true.

Do you think that digital editing is influencing or changing the form and the rules of film editing as we have known it?
Yeah, it certainly is changing the rules of film editing. But sometimes it’s hard to separate out what the source of the change is. So many things are coming into play simultaneously with the digital revolution. I think there’s been much more corporate takeover because of the way films are financed and marketed.
Because of the stars’ fees, the cost of films has created an enormous amount of pressure for the studios, producers, directors etc. and that pressure flows downstream to everyone.

Big changes started to happen at Warner Brothers during your tenure there. The schedules seemed to get shorter with the advent of digital editing. Was there a relationship between the two?
That’s a very interesting question. Studios are convinced that they can edit three times as fast on the Avid because they suddenly see the form. They never stood over us and found out how fast people might be doing it on the Moviola or a KEM – it was always more mysterious. There’s more of a tendency to feel that they can miraculously finish a film better and faster, but often that’s not the case.

Do you think there’s any hope that the studios would ever understand the idea of thinking time?
Yes, on a one-to-one basis, of course. They’re intelligent people. But what’s pressuring studios today, whether its Time Warner/HBO, Disney/ABC, Viacom/Paramount or any of the other conglomerates – what’s pressuring them today is money. If it’s a small picture that’s problematic and if they’re not really sure how or when it will be released, then you have plenty of time and they don’t hover as much. Sometimes with re-cutting you can work miracles and they can see it. Or, for example, with a director who may be on his or her second picture they’re more willing to take advice. But when there’s a big action film, everyone feels they know all about that genre – until say, the characters aren’t working. I have been asked to come in and look at pictures like that once in a while and that’s a difficult thing to do because the people in power have to be aware that they’re in trouble. In those situations there’s usually a very strong producer or a producer/director who has the power to insist that the film be explored some more. That exploration can be a good educational experience for producers as well as agents, or actors who become producers. Once they go through the process they do learn, but they often forget.

Television is also a victim of sped up schedules. Lately, there seems to be less concern about cleaning up the cuts; the overlaps are sloppy and matching is less important. That may be a result of no time, but I think that in some cases it’s more about breaking the rules.
That’s interesting because I was always known for breaking the rules. All you have to do is look at Bonnie and Clyde. Every time Arthur (Penn) said, ‘Go through it again, take out more, take out more,’ I began saying, ‘I’m going to be known as the mismatch person of the universe.’ But, I have a theory about matching, which is – if the eyes are right and if the attitude of the actor is right, the cut should work.

I would contend that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to see the mismatches that you’re talking about. They wouldn’t notice them on a first-time viewing, whereas some of the mismatching that’s going on now is mismatching for mismatching’s sake.
Well that’s true. That’s like the wobbly camera where you go in and you get dizzy looking at it. It can be very effective. It can also be over-used to the point where it’s ridiculous.

What about MTV?
That’s badly influenced a lot of narrative editing. I used to cut trailers and God knows I’ve been a big one for breaking the rules. But you have to know the rules to break the rules, and a lot of people don’t know the rules.

What do you miss most about the old days? Do you regret any of the changes?
Well, I came out of the so-called ‘Golden Age’ in New York, when people had much more control of their pictures. I miss that process immensely – the freedom to get a picture, to make it a labor of love that everybody’s involved with and excited about. It’s much harder to do today, even if you’re on an independent, I would imagine. I miss the fact that the process has become so interfered with. I miss that intimacy. It’s become –

Filmmaking Interruptus.
Yes. Filmaking is a victim of Corporate America. But that’s the world we live in.

What you’re talking about is a very special thing. The joy of collaboration…
That’s right.

Carol Littleton once put the issue of collaboration beautifully – that the sum of two parts is greater than each part on it’s own.
That’s exactly correct. And conversely, the sum of 10 parts is not as good as the sum of two parts.

The creative process is a mysterious one – it’s quixotic and it’s very hard to pin down what exactly makes it successful. Do you think the work is being hurt in subtle ways that we can’t really define on some pictures?
I hope not. I don’t know. I haven’t been on a film where the director wasn’t strong enough.

But many pictures don’t have strong directors.
The studio wants immediate success. They want a preview that rates high. And if it doesn’t rate high they get into the act. There’s no question about that. Even with as strong a director as Curtis, the pressure is immeasurably strong.

How do you think digital editing has changed working with the studio? The things you’re talking about are things that could happen on film, too.
Yes, exactly. You’re absolutely right. I’m talking about studio pressure generally. In the years when I was at Warner Brothers, I began seeing what can happen. Often the studio would get involved with a cut and executives would go down to the Avid and want to see it. I think digital editing has created an environment where everybody thinks they’re going to get an immediate reaction and everybody thinks they know how to be a filmmaker, even if they don’t have any idea how to do it. I was in a situation once where a very big person at the studio said, ‘All I have to do is see the cut – I know it’ll work.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but what happens before and after?’ He didn’t care; he just wanted the cut changed. There’s very little understanding of the dialectics of film. They don’t understand the subtleties. And with young, inexperienced directors, they don’t have the power to say ‘no.’ A lot of them don’t even know the Director’s Guild rules. They don’t know about the 10 weeks. On the other hand, you can have a director with immense strength – someone like Sidney Pollack or any number of strong directors with good track records – the studio wants to do business with them. Those directors have the power to say ‘no’; they can get more time. James Cameron came up with a very good statement at the ACE awards when he said, and I’m paraphrasing now – making a movie is like having a baby. If it takes nine months to have a baby, you can’t shorten the gestation time by adding parents. Sometimes you can’t rush a movie because it changes as it goes. It’s an evolution.

Are there any benefits you celebrate, benefits that mitigate what we may have lost?
I think there are a lot of benefits. There’s an excitement in seeing the work come together so fast, and if you know how to really work the machine you can perfect, experiment, and change cuts rapidly. I also think that young directors who don’t come from a theatrical background can greatly benefit if they have an editor who can help navigate the differences between MTV say, and the three-act form. They can search for a balance between flashy editing and making characters work.

A well-respected editor I know once said to me, ‘I used to feel so bored. I had hit a creative wall in my work. Now I can do everything faster, I can see things faster. It’s freed me up.’
Oh, I think that’s a big benefit. Your friend is definitely right about that. And it’s fun to have one’s ideas expressed instantaneously. But life in general has sped up and the editing process is a victim of speed as well. We are living in a different kind of world now and it’s something that we have to adapt to in the best possible way that we can.

Years ago, when I was an assistant, I remember you likening the challenge of editing to sculpting. You quoted Michelangelo, who said, ‘To make the David, I cut away everything that wasn’t the David.’
Editing is like writing with shots. And writers are people who change their ideas all the time. Ideas evolve. They’re not bound by a formula.

With these tightened schedules, do you see any new changes that have hindered that process, because of budgets and marketing pressures?
The market is changing rapidly and, as a result, younger editors are beginning to cut earlier – they come out of commercials or MTV. What’s happening now is that the studios will let a director hire someone like that, but then they often bring in a well known editor to polish the picture because they feel that they haven’t quite gotten the best out of the material. In addition, the studio gets to save money because they don’t have to pay the better known editor for the duration of the picture. I think it’s hard on the young editors but it’s also difficult for the better-known editors who don’t really want to do this. This didn’t happen on 'Wonder Boys' because we had a strong director, but I’ve seen it happen over and over again when you don’t have a strong director and the studio steps in. As an editor, you want to have a picture you can live with. A picture is something that is born, it’s like a child – it grows with you. You watch it grow to a certain point where it blossoms because of the collaboration and trust between the editor and the director. It’s a very exciting process. Studio interference is more and more common now, although it happened before the digital revolution, too.

This interference isn’t just hurting directors, it’s also hurting editors.
Yes, especially editors who come from MTV or commercials and are new to the theatrical, three act format.
So there’s a conflict created between experienced editors and less experienced editors?
Yes. Often the director is opposed to the new person coming in. He or she wants another pass with their editor, but the studio won’t give it to them. Bringing in a new and perhaps more experienced editor puts the younger editor in a position of having to defend their work with the director, but they don’t have the clout and it becomes antagonistic and painful all around.

There’s also the situation where the first editor is very experienced but another editor is brought in by the studio, anyway.
I think that was true even before we got to digital but that situation is also more common now. I remember an awful situation where a very prestigious editor was fired off a picture. They were screening the film and another extremely well known editor was brought in. The lights went up and the first editor turned around – and sitting in the back of the theater, he saw the new editor there and realized that they were about to let him go without a word. It’s devastating when that kind of thing happens. And you don’t know why but very often it’s an inexperienced producer who is fearful or anxious and won’t let the process of finding the film take it’s course.

Good editors can become casualties because the studio will attack the director through the editor.
That’s right.

Sometimes it’s not the cutting per se that’s the problem, it’s the thinking.
Yes, the thinking. Often, there are cases where the studio is absolutely right in wanting to go in a different direction. For example, you would hope that in the case where a newer director and their first editor hadn’t quite found the bestfilm – that it needed a polish or the characterizations weren’t quite right – you’d hope that the director would be able to welcome the help of another editor. The studio isn’t always wrong, but unfortunately, a system has evolved where editors are expendable. You can always get another person to come in to doctor a film for two or three weeks, but I think doctoring can be a very unpleasant thing to have to do.

On the other hand, it can be very exciting when a director is open to seeing things differently.
It’s hard on directors because they’ve got to try to stay open to another point of view from the start. And most good directors do. But you have to get their trust. I remember how anxious I was when I first worked with George RoyHill – he had had the same editor for a long time, but his editor was ill. I was lucky in that George became very excited when he saw an early scene I cut – I think it was the walking through the mud scene in 'Slaughterhouse-Five'. I remember he was enthusiastic because it was a totally different approach from what he had thought it would be. He was always open to fresh ideas from then on. But there aren’t many directors with his kind of confidence around right now.

The first film I cut was 'Choose Me' – Alan Rudolph was the director. When we finished the movie he said, ‘You know, I really like it and I see every single argument we had on the film and they all made it better.’
That’s wonderful. It’s great to disagree, but conversely, when somebody gets consumed that only their way is right or that the schedule is the priority and they don’t allow you to help them find their vision, it can be difficult.

Do you think the digital revolution has changed the hierarchy or environment in the cutting room?
Well, I’ve only done one picture, so I can only judge what happened on that picture. There are two distinct jobs for assistants now: one is film and the other is digital. Either one could be the first assistant. However, if the overall job of running the editing room falls to the digital assistant, it seems to me that the job can become overwhelming. Obviously, most top-notch assistants are able to do both, but that would be extremely difficult. The division of labor is a challenge because there’s so much tangential work that is created by the Avid and then there’s a lot of crossover work such as opticals and music, etc. Sometimes what can happen is that the director will develop an independent relationship with an assistant who is handling the music or the opticals, which very often hurts the other assistant. It’s complicated. Obviously, a well-tuned cutting room, where the people are used to working together – particularly if the first assistant has chosen the second – makes everyone’s work run smoother. Crewing a cutting room is like casting a film. You want to make sure that everyone works well together because you don’t want to burden the director with psychological problems or an unhappy work environment. On big movies it can get especially complicated with three or four digital machines going at once with second editors and three or four assistants, so there needs to be a clarity of position and a respect for each other’s jobs.

I’ve heard about situations where the director feels the need to move very quickly – and they begin to rely on an assistant or a second editor who is proficient and speedy at just implementing an idea, with no discussion…
They’re a pair of hands. For the director, it feels easier because there’s no conflict and no discussion, but that situation can adversely affect the film. In the old days we used to call it paper bagging when a director or a producer would have an editor in another room cutting another version of something. There were directors who did this – sometimes without the knowledge of the main editor. In some cases it could be construed as practical because there’s too much material and not enough time to investigate, but then it should be done openly.

What do you think about the apprenticeships of film editors and how that’s
been affected by technology?
That’s interesting. In the old days, if the assistant was busy with something you’d get the apprentice in to hold your trims while you were working and they could kind of watch what you were doing. That’s kind of gone.

The editor is more isolated and your assistants don’t get the opportunity to learn your tricks. Today, for example, would you be able to mentor a Richie Marks, a Jerry Greenberg, a Steve Rotter or a Claire Simpson the way you once did?
I would hope so.

Time is more important than ever. The editor is just trying to produce and there can be very little interaction with the assistant.
I think that is probably true. However, I usually hire assistants that have good taste and I appreciate their involvement. When I had two or three versions I would always call my first and second in – to come and look so they’d be up-to-date on the work. I think that’s terribly important because I trust their opinions and no matter how rushed I was, I always appreciated their feedback.

Sometimes the director’s yearning for immediate gratification can cause problems.
On film, directors knew it took a little time to smooth something out or to perfect a cut, but now because digital makes the act of cutting faster, their expectations have grown. When you’ve got six versions of a scene and the soundtracks are still incomplete – they lack fluidity – and the director says, ‘don’t bother fixing the sound, do it later’ – you could be up all night trying to perfect those scenes. That can be very frustrating.

When you’re making changes and you have say six or seven tracks, it can get pretty hard to keep everything in sync.
I got quite fast at making those changes, but when you’re completely re-cutting something and you have a lot of tracks, it does take time.

How has the digital revolution affected the editor’s relationship to the finishing of a film, primarily in sound?
Well, we had a fantastic sound crew. So as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t really change the relationship – I worked as closely as I could, but because the director was so busy constantly making changes, I was not able to attend the temp dubs or the ADR sessions. I was there for all of the dialogue pre-dubs, but I wasn’t for all the effects pre-dubs. But if you have a crew like I had, you don’t have to worry about how the effects are going to come out.

Sound editors and mixers are also suffering from the pressure that comes from the illusion that everything can be done instantaneously. The directors don’t really understand that it can take more than a punch of the button to fix subtle problems.

Well, actually, my experience with Curtis was that he does understand sound. He’s very good on that.

There’s artistry to a lot of this work and that takes time.
Oh my God, are you kidding? It’s tremendously artistic – how you meld ADR with original sound, how you create seemingly infinite but disparate layers to sound – all that takes artistry, and most important, time. Sound is such an enormous part of the
process. But then I have always enjoyed working with mix-ers – the mix has always been one of my favorite processes. I call it ‘the final exam.’

Is there any advice that you have in this new age on how to become a good editor?
Well, I would give the same advice I gave in the old days which is learn where the scene is. See plays as much as you can, good plays, because that’s where you’ll really find out about the three act form and learn about performance – even though it’s very different on film. Anybody can learn the tools. Look, if I can learn the Avid, anybody can learn the tools. I didn’t even type, you know.

You’re talking about storytelling.
Storytelling, performance and good taste are the key to being a good editor. If you don’t have the opportunity, if you’re part of a culture where you can’t get to the theater easily, make sure you try to.

These suggestions are pertinent even though filmmaking is changing.
Absolutely. Drama is drama. And comedy is comedy. Whether it’s 'The Blair Witch Project', 'Being John Malkovich' or 'American Beauty', the three-act form is still the center of story telling and performance is its soul. I also have one other piece of advice. Never feel above something. In other words, when you think you’re ready for something, but you can’t get the job because there are other people who have already gotten the job, don’t feel like you’re never going to get a chance. There is a tremendous amount of disappointment in the present generation. A journalist who interviewed me for something said he had been talking to some assistants in New York and he was kind of shocked by their manner. Both assistants complained of everything being so unfair. They felt that they had studied in college etc., but nobody had taken them on, no one had given them a break. They were very unhappy and feeling sorry for themselves. I’m sure they’re very good assistants and New York is a hard place to work now. But they shouldn’t feel automatically entitled to being mentored. What’s important is to keep working. A career evolves out of a variety of experiences.

That’s good advice. Keep working.
Yes, keep working. And stay positive. You can over-estimate where you should be, but if you can’t be there yet – don’t become bitter and don’t become negative because that can kill you personality-wise. It can not only hurt your work; it can hurt your relationships with people who can help you.

I remember a wise man once said to me, ‘Don’t under-estimate the power of luck.’
That’s right. Luck has a lot to do with it. If I hadn’t gotten a chance to work with Bob Wise because Carl [Lerner] was doing 'Middle of the Night', my whole life might have been different. I remember that at the time my friends didn’t take me seriously because Bob Wise was known as a great editor, so of course they thought I didn’t edit the film. It took two or three pictures before they began realizing that maybe I was contributing something. I was also much older when I started. I was 34 before I got my first big picture.

I understand that Napoleon would choose his generals by lining them up before battle and asking each one if he felt lucky. The ones who did were the ones he put in command.
That’s because they had confidence.

That’s it. It’s a state of mind.
That’s right. That’s true. I have been very lucky. And I was always surprised by it, I always felt, ‘Gee how did I get such a break?’ And I still feel that way. I’ve had a very lucky career because I’ve been able to work with so many great people. Obviously I learned a lot from them. But I was just under 19 when I started and it took me a very long time before I got a chance to work on features.

I guess what you’re saying is that you should always work towards your goal.
That’s right. But don’t be dissuaded because luck can come your way at any time".
 By Mia Goldman on 2000.


Joe Hutshing, Julie Monroe and Supervising Sound Editor Wylie Stateman talking about "W" [Interview]

Director Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy, and his 2008 film W., as usual, raised a few eyebrows. Released in the last months of the president’s tenure in office, W. provides a realistic yet poignant treatment of the life and work of George W. Bush. The three editors who worked on the film have a long history with Stone. Julie Monroe has assisted on many Stone films, beginning with Salvador, and was an associate editor on JFK. After also working for Adrian Lyne (Lolita) and Irwin Winkler (De-Lovely, Life as a House), Julie returned to edit the last two Stone films, World Trade Center and W.—films which reflect a clear transition in Stone’s style from the frenetic, tough edge of JFK and Natural Born Killers, to a more traditional narrative approach. A twenty-year veteran with Stone and other directors, Joe Hutshing joined W. in Los Angeles after shooting was completed in Louisiana and worked on key sequences. Joe has been honored for his editing work on Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, JFK, and Born on the Fourth of July. Often overlooked in a discussion on editing are the enormous creative contributions of the sound editing team, and to balance the picture, Wylie Stateman—also a longtime Stone colleague—offers insights as supervising sound editor on W. into the rich, complex collaboration of the postproduction process. Wylie and his sound team have received many honors for World Trade Center, Memoirs of a Geisha, Kill Bill 1 and 2, and JFK, among other films.
Separate interviews with these three editors were combined to provide the following discussion of the editing of W.

Cineaste: What was your approach to making a film about George W. Bush, who was still in office when the film was released?
Julie Monroe: We always knew that we wanted to take an observer’s look at the situation and not be heavyhanded. Let the circumstances speak for themselves, which hopefully they did. This was clear in Stanley Weiser’s script, which didn’t feel like it was forcing an opinion on anybody, and Oliver took a real fly-on-the-wall approach. We were always very aware of not being too caricaturey. The goal was to film a small slice of the presidency. There was so much material we didn’t go into, such as the 9/11 specifics, Katrina, and so on. Oliver picked certain episodes that he wanted to show; for example, we always wanted to have W.’s religious background, the Christian aspects of his life, and how that affected his presidency. If Oliver made this movie ten years from now or had made it five years earlier, it would be a much different film.
Joe Hutshing: If it had been made just a bit later, I’m sure we would have put in the shoe-throwing incident! Yes, obviously there is a point of view in W., but we didn’t want to hit anyone over the head with it, as, say, in a Michael Moore film. I love Moore’s films, but we didn’t want to make an entertaining film that was so one-sided. It could have been very easy in editing to manipulate the situation and turn someone into a buffoon. We did not want to do that because it would have been too easy. There was no need to. I mean, history speaks for itself.

Cineaste: How do you as an editor work with a director like Oliver Stone?
Monroe: Oliver is like an incredible open vessel to ideas. As opposed to going through the minutiae of the editing, sitting with the editor during the step-by-step process of a cut, Oliver reacts to sequences emotionally. We spend a lot of time with him in dailies, getting his first reactions such as, “These are my selected takes, these are my performance preferences, my blocking preferences,” but after that, he sits and absorbs and reacts. Because he’s a writer/director, he’s got an idea in his head of what he expects to see, but he is always open to ideas about structure. He has never changed in that. His projects are so complicated storywise, there can be a lot of restructuring, moving things around and telling things differently. But unless there is a problem with the way something is constructed, he mainly reacts to the overall sequence and any problems therein.

Cineaste: What goes through your head when you receive a mass of material to edit for the first time?
Monroe: JFK was the first associate editing job I had with Oliver and it was a mass of footage and styles. There were times when we were completely lost in what we were doing and trying to figure out how to tell a story with diverse combinations of dialog, structure, and visuals. His ideas from the get-go were to tell a story through flashbacks and documentary imagery. The process was a lot simpler in the two more recent Oliver films I did, World Trade Center and W., in that he shot a lot less and the stories were very specific. It was still a lot of footage, but it was definitely dialog telling the story more than imagery telling the story.
Wylie Stateman: There is a tremendous amount of important story-driving dialog in W. Our dialog mixer, Gary Summers, is a four-time Oscar-winning re-recording engineer. He said there was more overlapping dialog in W. than any other film he’s ever done. Oliver is a writer of the highest order and he is not afraid to have actors interact through the use of intricately-crafted words.
Monroe: The actors sometimes bring incredible things that you would have never imagined. Seeing what they do with their characters is always exciting. Often things happen on the day of the shoot. There was an amazing collaboration between Oliver and the actors, and we had some great pieces of improvisation from both actor and director. What you do with that material in the editing room has infinite possibilities of new, authentic moments. If the actor and director come up with some great idea on the set, then you as an editor always want to find the best bits of the story and the best bits of the characters to tell that story.
Hutshing: First impressions of the material are so important, and I learned that from Oliver. He would always have us keep a “1-R log”—1-R meaning his first reaction. As we watch the footage over and over, he would ask, “What’s my 1-R on this shot?” And we could look it up in our log from when we first watched the footage. Oliver knows you only get your first reaction one time; after that, it’s changed. In that way, I put myself in the place of the audience and react just the way anyone would. Why was something funny when I first saw it? Why did that first spark my interest? A lot of times in watching dailies, you zone out, drift off. But why am I zoning out? It could be I’m tired! But often the footage is not compelling. My first impressions are usually very reliable.

Cineaste: Do you collaborate with the sound editor from early on in the process or does sound work occur after you have assembled the film?
Monroe: Wylie and his sound team came up with ideas for sound very early on and gave them to us to incorporate within our cuts. That way, Oliver got a sense of what the final sound was going to be. Wylie’s collaboration was absolutely there from the outset and progressed afterwards, so by the time we were at the temp dub, we were already final-mixing in a sense. It is great to get his ideas early on so that all the material becomes part of the whole film every time you screen the movie with the director, and you’ve got some of that sound design that will ultimately be part of the film.
Stateman: The editor is in such a unique position to be literally the right hand of the director, and some editors do insist on having their hands in every facet of postproduction. The editor is the most senior creative person in postproduction behind the director. It can serve a film well when the supervising sound editor is the most senior creative person on the sound side. Ultimately, postproduction is more smoothly accomplished by allowing people who have a very specific focus to have a certain amount of autonomy and self-direction. While the editor is in most cases capable of accomplishing every aspect of postproduction, experienced editors often learn to delegate responsibility. In the case of W., anything you hear in the finished film has been a conscious choice shepherded through the mixing process by the supervising sound editor.

Cineaste: Can you describe some sequences involving sound in W. that might have been structured early on in your collaboration?
Monroe: The thread of the baseball game was very, very important. The sound had a very introspective feel. The baseball field linked the film in three places.
Stateman: Oliver’s thoughts on those baseball stadium scenes were very clear. He saw the stadium as a place where W. was very comfortable, in touch with his constituency. A place where he felt in control of his work and where he experienced interacting with his people, the masses. A stadium is a complex acoustical environment because it is a mass experience. We played with stadium sounds so that in all of the stadium scenes the evolution of the sound that W. is experiencing is not just baseball. It starts with regular stadium baseball sounds and people yelling for him from the stands, and blends into news conference reporters firing questions at him, and Senate applause for the State-of-the-Union speeches that he would experience later in life as president. The sounds become a sort of foreshadowing of his life work, the way he experiences the people he believes he represents politically. The sounds seamlessly work through those moments and provide a bit of a subliminal pastiche. It’s not designed to fill space like putty, but to advance the story by foreshadowing.
Monroe: W. was more straightforward in sound, being such a heavy dialog film, than World Trade Center, where the sound was continually coming out of the silence underneath Ground Zero, with fireballs shooting out or pieces of debris dropping, and so on. But Wylie has the knowledge and sensitivity not to overdo anything. For example, Josh Brolin is a very physical actor and he did subtle things like clicking his teeth when eating or licking his fingers. Some sound editors would clean out the sounds behind these nuances and make pristine tracks, but Wylie instinctively left them alone because these physical quirks were part of the actor’s characterization. Josh Brolin did this one action where he shifted his sleeve, probably at least a half dozen times in the film. I asked Josh, “What’s up with this… It looks like you’re not comfortable in your own clothing. Did you mean that?” He wouldn’t tell me if it was intentional or not, he just laughed, and I could only assume it was very well thought out. Wylie enhanced the action in Foley, so that if it was, in fact, something that Josh was trying to portray about W., Wylie very subtly added to that.
Stateman: You know, as a sound editor, you are always looking for ways to anchor an image with a sound that validates the visual. Often with special-effects films, with all the CGI, we are basically working from scratch and it’s truly our job to validate what has no physical possibility of occurring in the real world. In the case of W., where we were dealing with big dialog sequences, we wanted to keep the soundtrack from just floating in the air with only words. So we would often create little bits of movement, footsteps, and other anchoring sounds to tie those words to reality and give the audience clues that this is all genuine, all real, and from that moment of the day. We worked very hard to validate the reality of the scenes.

Cineaste: I would imagine simple activities, like Bush placing a glass on a table or chewing a sandwich, are special moments that you can accentuate with little sounds that we take for granted as an audience. How do you determine which sounds are important to include?
Stateman: The selection of sound is a conscious choice. As well, there’s a particular effect that can only occur through the removal of sound. Whenever I am asked, I always say my favorite sound is silence, simply because whatever happens after a moment of silence is given greater weight and importance. In all of Oliver’s films, we make a conscious effort to work with silence. In fact, W. ends in a moment of silence after a grandiose play in the stadium and George W. Bush loses the ball. My style is usually to decide which moments to make extremely real for a certain period, then to drift off into the surreal or a dream sequence, like the stadium scenes. You have to create a basis of reality before you can depart from it. In a film like W., we worked with the dialog tracks that John Pritchett so well recorded for all the principal characters. He gave us enough raw material to sort from and make conscious choices of the bits and pieces we could harvest from multiple takes. At one point, everything becomes so well-manicured to smooth out the inherent problems an actor might have had in recording from day to day, or in a close-up versus a master shot. Visually, the films are all cut up, but sonically there is an opportunity to heal a lot of those cuts and make them disappear by having continuity transition over cuts. In this way, your mind is not jarred by the disoriented shift in visual perspective. Rather, the consistency of the soundtrack heals those cuts from time being expanded or compressed visually.

Cineaste: In a number of scenes, the editing seemed to enhance a dreamy or otherworldly feel to what was happening. For example, when W. is jogging and collapses on the road, you hear the expected sounds of birds and his running steps. But you also suddenly hear thunder on a sunny day. How did that sound help to transition into the next scene with W. and Reverend Hudd (Stacy Keach)?
Monroe: The intention of that scene was very subtle. The jogging, as originally cut, had specific backgrounds—the sound of birds, leaves rustling in the trees—and these sounds actually continued into the next scene with the Reverend. This was a kind of sound ghosting, as if to say W. would remember from one scene to the next when he had hit rock-bottom in his life.
Hutshing: I had a completely different idea on how to do that scene and Oliver didn’t like it. Instead of thunder, I had spooky church voices coming in because the preacher in the following scene was talking to members of his congregation. So I made his voice very echoey, and it was slapping all over the place while W. was on the ground. Then I had the voices coming in with the wind, followed by seeing the mosaic picture of Jesus and then the Reverend. I thought it worked really well, but Oliver didn’t like it at all, so gone. Probably too obvious.

Cineaste: Wylie, would you elaborate on the impact of the sounds used in that jogging scene?
Stateman: A film is filled with many opportunities to create tension, to heighten the anticipation of an action or event, although some are not as obvious as others. When W. goes jogging in the park, he collapses from exhaustion, but also has a religious experience as he’s suffering on the ground. Instead of playing the obvious wind swirling in the trees and angels singing from the heavens, we introduced sound elements that telegraphed the next scene with the preacher—which the audience hasn’t yet experienced—into the present scene of the jogging. It is almost subliminal, but it keeps the audience thinking, engages them with the character, and moves the story along. As for the thunder, that is an interesting acoustical sound. Thunder only occurs up in the heavens, but it also reverberates off the clouds, off the ground—it’s a truly magnificent natural sound. So we chose thunder primarily because it is acoustically very honest, and at a moment where we are in a very delicate situation storywise, Oliver insisted on honesty. Thunder can certainly be a cliché in horror films and it can be an ominous chord too. But it was ultimately chosen over other more heavenly sounds because of its beautiful acoustical space and because what W. was experiencing at that moment was new life and a world of great breadth. It was basically his burning bush, which could have been visually expressed in many ways, but there were very few ways it could be delivered to allow the audience to draw their own conclusion and experience it without being cliché.

Cineaste: How did the music convey the overall religious mood of the film?
Monroe: Our composer, Paul Cantelon, who is the son of a faith healer, did a simple yet beautiful sort of religious, churchy-sounding score. We had demos from him very early on. Most of the time in editing, you use temp music either from the composer you intend to work with, based on scores that have already been recorded, or other composers whose material fits. This helps you to create the rhythm of the picture. Paul, however, was on location with us in Shreveport, with a little Casio keyboard, and he came up with themes and endless pieces of music for us to experiment with. He was just a music machine giving us anything we talked about! Thus, we incorporated his music into the film from the get-go. By the time Joe came on when we returned to Los Angeles, several musical themes had already been established, and Joe could give a fresh ear to and hone in on what worked best for particular scenes.

Cineaste: In addition to an original score, however, you also judiciously used some songs that were perhaps tongue-in-cheek, would you say? “Yellow Rose of Texas” seems like an obvious choice, but why “Robin Hood” to underscore two of W.’s scenes?
Monroe: We found various versions of “Yellow Rose of Texas” to use as kind of a Kubrickian theme throughout. But I wish I had chosen “Robin Hood”! [Laughs] Actually, Stanley Weiser came up with the CD. Before we started shooting, we sat with Oliver one afternoon listening to tons of material, and he absolutely loved “Robin Hood” because it suggested this delusion of grandeur theme for Bush. As soon as we got the dailies back for the Crawford Road scene, which is where we first used that song in the movie, it was pretty obvious it belonged there: W. and his band of merry Cabinet members plodding on behind him, and ultimately they miss the turn in the road.

Cineaste: A little irony there.
Monroe: Yes, the simplicity of the man and his delusions of grandeur.
Hutshing: The irony of the song seemed a little off to me. W. stealing from the rich and giving to the poor? I don’t think so! [Laughs] But the use of the song really made me think.

Cineaste: Joe, would you elaborate on the heavy dialog scenes you worked on specifically, like the Cabinet meeting in the Oval Office and the tense conference room scene about going to war? What editorial decisions did you make to keep the audience involved in scenes with so much discussion?
Hutshing: I basically followed the script, of course, but I tried to inject some humor if the scene allowed it. For example, in the Oval Office scene, I tried to play up the looks exchanged between Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove for a little humor. In one instance, Rumsfeld was drawing a picture of Rice, and her look at him punctuated his action.

Cineaste: So that exchange wasn’t scripted?
Hutshing: No. I had footage of those actions, but inserting the looks between Rice and Rumsfeld was not scripted. Somehow I wanted to include what the actors did with those little actions when I saw them because I thought, “Oh, that could be a good moment.” You want to keep a scene modulating so that it’s not so even, so dry—perhaps I shouldn’t say dry, but when there is a lot of talking and business, it’s nice to have humor sometimes. It’s part of the seduction of good entertainment. When I saw Condoleezza’s look, I knew I wanted it to be in the scene somewhere.

Cineaste: Did that shot become like the spine or core around which you built the scene?
Hutshing: It’s not the spine because it’s more a fun thing. The spine would be Josh Brolin’s performance, for example, but the little bits are the ornamentations that you set in to keep people alive in the scene with an exchange of looks. The eyes are so important—the scene means more when people are looking at each other. As for the long conference scene discussing the proposed Iraqi War, that was fifteen pages in the script, about fifteen minutes of screen time, very long. When the film came out, I think it was close to eleven. It was not an overly covered scene, so the key there was to find the performances first, then cut in the reactions to keep it from being the same over and over and over. It’s like having a big plate of vegetables—nothing wrong with vegetables, but sometimes you need a little meat, a little starch, maybe even some chocolate afterwards! In that conference scene, there was obviously tension between Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove because Colin was the only one against the war. So we used music to underscore his views—adding something more to the vegetable plate.

Cineaste: Using emotional music at such dramatic moments in Colin’s speech could border on melodrama too. Why did you feel music was necessary in that talking scene when you did not have it in the Oval Office meeting earlier?
Hutshing: Actually there was a bit of music of an evangelical quality at the end of the Oval Office scene when W. calls for a prayer. But one of my favorite things in editing is to put in music where it can heighten the emotion or amplify the direction in which you want to take a scene. Putting in the music is like frosting the cake. If the music is hitting the notes of the scene in the right places, getting the emotions in where I want humor or drama, then it’s thrilling for me. Even when I show it to the director, my heart is pounding because I am so excited. With Colin’s speech, I used music to underscore his passion for what he was saying. He had a pivotal line about his opposition to the war and I stopped the music at that point so his line would stand out. Then, because he had more to say, I brought the music back in after that point to continue his speech. Otherwise, the speech would just be endless and the audience would begin noticing the length of the scene more. However, then I used slightly atonal music to underscore Dick Cheney’s manic look when he says to Colin, “There is no exit strategy.”

Cineaste: Do you think the audience picked up on the musical shift?
Hutshing: Cumulatively, with the visuals and the performance by Richard Dreyfuss, I think they might think this guy’s off somehow. And that is the music throwing a weird spice into the mix!

Cineaste: In these and other prolonged dialog scenes, what guides your choices when using action/reaction shots? Sometimes it’s not always the speaker who is seen, but rather the listener.
Monroe: Yes. The lunch scene with W. and Cheney is one example that very much played on many of Josh’s reactions to what Richard Dreyfuss was saying rather than on the speaker. It is never really a formula. You watch dailies and find an amazing reaction shot and you note that to yourself. On that scene, I believe there was a B camera covering a wide shot or an overhead shot, but the first coverage was on Josh. I think a lot of Josh’s work was from his first takes. Later, the camera turned around and did all of Richard’s coverage. To be honest, probably two takes were prominently used because Josh nailed the scene right away. No matter how much you feel like you’re being a lazy editor working with only two takes, you have to realize, No, this isis the through-line. I need to use those reaction shots because they’re saying so much. Whatever Richard threw at him, Josh’s reactions were so genuine in those early takes that they became the primary part of the scene. the performance, this

Cineaste: Speaking of a shot that may say so much, I have to ask you about the barbecue scene…
Monroe: Are you going to say the corn shot? [Laughs]

Cineaste: As a matter of fact, yes. The hostess of the barbecue is leading W. over to meet Laura for the first time, and, as the hostess is speaking to him, you cut to her foot stepping on a corn cob. Why?
Monroe: We had a great second-unit D.P., Danny Hiele, who shot an unbelievable amount of footage of “gluttony” for that scene—people eating potato salad, the rich Texas barbecue—which included an actor stepping on a corn cob. That is not even the hostess stepping on the corn. I just loved that foot shot when I saw it and, to be honest, I don’t know why I did it! I made the hostess step on the corn cob by cutting the shot of the extra’s foot into the dialog scene. I have heard many ideas about what the corn shot must mean. For some, it represents the gluttony of the rich. Someone thought it was an ethanol reference for clean corn-burning fuel! So many people commented on the corn at one screening that we pulled out the shot, it was becoming too big a deal. But at the next screening, everyone was asking where the corn shot was! Oliver doesn’t care what it means; it made him laugh, so we kept it in.
Hutshing: Actually, there’s a lot of spirituality in Oliver’s films, like dancing Indians in The Doors, and references to Native Americans in U-Turn and Natural Born Killers. When I saw the corn cob, I said, There it is, another—maybe bad—symbol of the Native American! Or, this woman is introducing W. to Laura after she steps on the corn cob. Uh-oh, is this a bad omen? I even found a sound effect for it—I put in a leather squeak, but maybe stepping on an egg would have been better! [Laughs] Really, those kinds of images are like brush strokes that work poetically and add to the surreality of the moment.

Cineaste: Other quick shots like that can also capture the essence of a character, like the several belt-buckle shots you used?
Monroe: Yes, that’s very much Oliver’s style and we incorporated it. He did that a lot in Nixon, with pieces and images that identify the characters. For the preacher, a close-up of the gleaming buckle is his flashing glamor. For W., who wears presidential and gubernatorial belt buckles throughout the whole film, it’s a little touch of Texas, who he is.

Cineaste: Likewise your use of transitions, such as dissolves or fades, to characterize a moment in time within the story?
Monroe: Transitions are all connections, visual ways we can join the cuts in a film, as Wylie suggested earlier about sound continuity. In one case, after W. collapses on the road, a close-up of his eye dissolves into the eye of the Jesus mosaic in the room with the preacher. In another, Bush turns out the light in his bedroom and the light next switches on in the conference room. It’s a way to truncate time, connecting points along the story line to tell the story most efficiently. Not every scene has to have a beginning-middle-end, and such transitions make the same connections in different scenes and link them storywise.

Cineaste: Looking back, do you think the story of this film captures the truth of Bush’s legacy as president? W. seems very poignant in his baseball scenes, on the one hand, but the final startling press conference—when W. stammers to answer the reporters’ questions about his decisions—seems to show him at his worst. How scripted or recreated was that scene to convey this truth?
Hutshing: That was word for word. We get asked that all the time!
Monroe: We enhanced W.’s statements with cuts to the reactions of the Cabinet and the reporters, but that was the actual conference, sadly, yes. It is available on YouTube. It wasn’t that W. was necessarily feeling any culpability, but he was shaking his head and not understanding what he did wrong.
Hutshing: Having worked on so many of Oliver’s films, I tend to sum their essence up in a word, like Wall Street would be greed. Talk Radio, hate. The Doors, excess. Born on the Fourth of July, sacrifice. JFK, conflict, because there were so many conflicting stories of what happened there. Oliver said JFK was like his Rashomon.

Cineaste: And what is your word for W., Joe?
Hutshing: I have to think about that one… Failure. It’s a tragic story.

By Gabriella Oldham, on 2009.

Source: http://www.cineaste.com/


Hablando con José Ramón Lorenzo [Entrevista]

"LHP – Antes que nada, agradecerte que nos contactases para estas cosillas. Nos encanta poder entrevistar a gente del cine y por primera vez a un montador, que como bien nos has dicho, es algo poco común.
Muchas gracias a vosotros. Es verdad que el trabajo del montador sigue siendo algo desconocido. Creo que la cultura del dvd, con sus escenas suprimidas, montajes alternativos, diferentes finales… ha hecho que exista una generación interesada por el montaje pero, en líneas generales, esta disciplina sigue teniendo un aura de “magia negra”.

LHP – Cuéntanos, para aquellos que no conozcan demasiado la labor de un montador, a grandes rasgos, en qué consiste vuestro trabajo, y que elementos tenéis en cuenta en la sala de montaje.
Ese gran montador que era Ralph Rosenblum decía que la mejor definición de montaje se la dio un señor dominguero – que hacía sus vídeos de bodas y barbacoas – cuando le dijo “Así que lo que tú haces es, como yo, quitar los trozos malos”. Los montadores recibimos muchas horas de material que tenemos que ordenar y sintetizar hasta formar una narración coherente. Normalmente, se cree que seguimos estrictamente el guión eligiendo las tomas buenas y que, en algunos casos, suprimimos escenas por motivos de ritmo. En realidad, la labor va mucho más allá de eso: no sólo se cortan escenas, sino que se cambian de sitio, se pueden forzar paralelos, se pueden redoblar diálogos en su integridad para cambiar todo su sentido… Es un mundo de posibilidades que muchos definen como “la tercera escritura” (la primera se hace en guión y la segunda en rodaje).

LHP – Sueles trabajar codo a codo con el director o tu labor es más autónoma, al estilo de estudio americano.
Se hace de forma alternativa: hay fases de puesta en común de ideas y de correcciones plano a plano con el director sentado a tu lado y fases en las que tienes plena autonomía para, a continuación, presentarle tus ideas al director. Globalmente, por venir Guillermo de la televisión – donde los procesos son más eficientes y racionales – sí que se deja bastante cancha al montador, entrando el director en una fase posterior. Esto es positivo porque, de esa manera, tanto el director como el montador tienen el mismo conocimiento del material rodado, sin que el último tenga que ir a rastras del primero. El montador como mero “operador de la máquina” es una perversión de la teoría del cine de autor que creo que va desapareciendo: sobre todo cuando la aparición del Avid o el Final Cut han hecho el proceso de montaje mucho más sencillo y accesible – al director – que las vetustas y voluminosas moviolas.

LHP - En Proyecto Dos el montaje es un elemento muy notorio a diferencia de otras películas que hacen del mismo una herramienta más sutil. ¿Ese planteamiento venía desde la preproducción o fue una decisión posterior?
De partida, Guillermo es un director que tiene plena fe en el poder “hipnótico” del montaje. Cree – y con razón – que estar, a través del montaje, en los emplazamientos adecuados para la narración crea un mayor efecto emotivo en el espectador que un alambicado movimiento de cámara o una fotografía exquisita (ojo, Guillermo no descuida jamás la estética: simplemente, establece un orden lógico de prioridades). Por ese motivo, dado un tiempo limitado de rodaje, su labor como director se centra – entre otras muchas cosas – en tener la cantidad correcta de planos para poder contar la historia. Después de todo, estamos haciendo un thriller de mucha acción. Y eso, por mucho que pese a algunos directores de fotografía – Rafa Bolaños, el de la película, no está entre ellos – necesita más cantidad de planos que un clásico drama español. De poco sirve que hayas iluminado con primor un plano general consiguiendo unos maravillosos y sutiles reflejos en los bordes de los vasos (que, realmente, poco emocionan al espectador) si, en el camino, te has dejado en la cuneta planos necesarios porque “no daba tiempo a iluminarlo todo bien”. O que te preocupe hacer un maravilloso plano secuencia – forma en la que muchos despachan una escena - cuando la acción necesita un número elevado de cortes para ser contada correcta y emotivamente.
Por ese motivo, sí que podemos decir que la película nacía con la vocación de tener muchos cortes. Se barajaron 2000, frente a los normales 900. ¡Nadie pensaba que fuésemos a llegar a 7.000!

LHP – Si venía de antes ¿se trabajó la planificación pensando ya en ese tipo de montaje?
La planificación es magnífica: nunca antes me había ocurrido el tener siempre el plano que pudiese necesitar. Todas las escenas estaban perfectamente cubiertas y no había una sola posición de cámara desperdiciada. Hay directores que han trabajado con él en, por ejemplo, “Policías” que siempre te dicen “De todos los directores de televisión de España, ese el que da más gusto ver trabajar: lo tiene todo clarísimo hasta en las puestas en escena más complicadas”.
Dicho esto, el tipo de montaje realizado – con efectismos tipo inserción de algunos pocos frames en negro, congelados de tres fotogramas con juego de luminancia, superposiciones igualmente breves con juegos internos de velocidad… – no estaba previsto de inicio. Son esas cosas que surgen en la sala de montaje. Lo que ocurre es que tampoco son efectos que te exijan unas condiciones especiales de rodaje. Como mucho, se podría decir que esta tipo de edición agradece más una planificación de cámara en mano, con sus juegos focales y hasta rápidos toques al zoom (tipo Greengrass) y ése era el tipo de estética que llevaba la película desde el inicio. Eso sí, al ir montando la película conforme si iba rodando, Guillermo se fijó en lo que estaba haciendo y, en algunas secuencias, rodó algunos planos para lograr ciertos efectos de montaje y, en otras – como la persecución de coche, rodada en varias jornadas – rodó algunos planos a petición mía, en función de las necesidades que iba encontrando en montaje.

LHP – Imagino que viniendo Guillermo Groizard del mundo de la televisión, donde es uno de los realizadores más destacados, habrá aplicado varios aspectos típicos de las series, como el rodaje multicámara. ¿Te permitió eso jugar más con el montaje o ya se iba haciendo un premontaje en el mismo set de rodaje igual que en las series?
Guillermo, incluso dentro de la televisión, está vehementemente en contra del premontaje en el set. Cree que es una aberración conceptual contra el montador, al que se le impone un montaje previo antes de que él pueda pensar por su cuenta. La realidad le ha dado la razón: en todas las producciones en la que Guillermo ha desterrado esa práctica, el montaje se ha hecho más rápido.
Respecto al rodaje multicámara – dos cámaras en este caso, al igual que en la magnífica “Plan oculto” de Spike Lee – en líneas generales sólo puedo decir que es una gran ayuda al montador a la hora de clasificar material y lograr raccords. Sólo hay que evitar ciertas trampas del montaje multicámara. La principal es la facilidad con la que se puede realizar un corte “que cuele”: llega un mero clic del ratón, sin usar marcas: el resultado suelen ser montajes picados en exceso con cambios de plano sin necesidad. Otra trampa es que el raccord “perfecto” que te da ese montaje no siempre tiene por qué ser el más correcto y/o elegante: la mayoría de las veces se agradece cierta repetición o supresión de fotogramas en las acciones. También hay que saber “sacar acciones de sitio”: la reacción, por ejemplo, de un personaje ante algo no siempre se produce en el momento en el que aconteció en la escena, y hay que buscarla o falsearla cogiéndola de otro sitio. En otras ocasiones, como en las secuencias de mucha acción, ignoro los grupos multicámara y me dedico a buscar los pequeños momentos brillantes de cada toma como se ha hecho en el cine “de toda la vida”.

LHP – Nos has comentado en alguna ocasión que la idea era hacer un montaje con ciertas similitudes al que ha podido verse en los últimos trabajos de Tony Scott. Mucha gente considera que es bastante efectista y a veces llega a hacerse cargante si se abusa del mismo. ¿Cómo habéis controlado que no se haga del montaje algo tan presente y destacado que se imponga a la propia historia?
Durante semanas, me estudié frame a frame secuencias completas de “El fuego de la venganza”. Te podría describir los trucos de Tony Scott de memoria. Lo que parece igualmente relevante e interesante de esa película es que, si se analiza bien la labor de ese estupendo montador que es Christian Wagner, verás que hay muchas escenas montadas de forma lenta y pausada, dentro de los cánones de cierto clasicismo. Se trata, en definitiva, de que los efectismos ayuden a la historia y no de ahogar ésta “porque toca hacerlos”.
En “Proyecto Dos” aplicamos este tipo de edición, en primer lugar para el proceso de los déjà vu del protagonista (los mecanismos de la memoria siempre son difusos, en torno a imágenes fugaces que cuesta concretar). Es un recurso comúnmente aceptado, para el que también usamos referentes como la serie de culto “Day Break” o, incluso, “La Isla” (montada, también, por Christian Wagner).
Pero pronto vimos que ese tipo de edición también resultaba útil en transiciones, en “secuencias de montaje” que requieran una cierta síntesis (por ejemplo, la primera vez que asaltan al protagonista) o incluso para momentos más oníricos y menos narrativos (el encuentro Diego/Eldrich, el cuento de los dos señores…). Con ese criterio fue utilizado. Dichos efectismos de montaje fueron bautizados como “janders” y esa ya es una terminología que se está usando en diferentes productoras de cine, publicidad y televisión.
Lo que teníamos claro es que los “janders” son textura, embellecimiento y cierto efecto emocional en según qué momentos, pero que NUNCA pueden suplantar a la acción y a la narración. No existen clímax de acción resueltos con “janders” y nunca se elude con ellos la construcción de un momento emotivo. Valga como ejemplo los treinta minutos finales de película: es acción sin descanso y, en ella, el montaje, dentro de ser acelerado se hace algo “clásico” en comparación con el resto del film. Y es que, por brillante que pueda resultar ese tipo de montaje, no tienes que hacerte esclavo de él: está ahí para ayudarte. En concreto, este tipo de edición facilita enormemente las transiciones, el hacer “jump cuts” para aligerar lo que te apetezca de la acción, el realizar flashbacks (o, a veces, dado lo peculiar de la estructura narrativa de la película, flash forward encubiertos) que expliquen los puntos oscuros de la trama… En suma, mil veces más posibilidades que el montaje clásico, siempre que no se te vaya de las manos.

LHP – Mucha gente opina que al comienzo es mejor dejar libertad al montador, que suele tener una mirada más fresca y menos condicionada sobre el material rodado. Y una vez que ya hay un premontaje, el director entra en el proceso de cerrar el montaje final. ¿Fue así en esta película?
En efecto, es así, sólo que la diferencia entre el primer montaje y el montaje final es abismal. No tanto en duración (15 minutos menos) como en la estructura de la película. Un hecho clave de la historia fue retrasado del minuto 5 al 16, y con ello hubo que reorganizar profundamente todo el primer acto (por ejemplo, la secuencia 23 pasó a ser la tercera) incluso partiendo secuencias y repartiéndolas espaciadamente. Quedó mucho mejor.
Influye mucho también el tremendo bagaje audiovisual de Guillermo. Antes de las series, ya tenía una experiencia cinematográfica que hasta incluía una profunda colaboración con Amenábar (distribuyó Himenópteros, Alejandro hizo la música de sus cortos, Guillermo fue la primera opción para producir “Tesis” – hay un guiño en la película – pero no pudo ser por motivos estrictamente económicos…), Guillermo compartía con Amenábar un profundo fetichismo por la técnica. En suma: son realizadores que pueden hablar, a un elevado nivel, con todo el equipo técnico de la película: desde los directores de fotografía hasta el sonido. Eso incluye que son grandes operadores de Avid con unas ideas claras respecto al montaje. Así pues, es importante estar muy despierto con Guillermo e ir igual – sino más – rápido que él. Si no, te acabará quitando el ratón para montar – y, encima, bien – la secuencia.
Por ese motivo, el intercambio de ideas fue frenético, llegándose a reescribir, mano a mano, dos secuencias clave en la que sendos personajes explican, de forma contrapuesta “el pastel” de la película: milagros del doblaje (que era inevitable hacer: una secuencia ocurría en un túnel de lavado y la otra en una azotea; rara vez se puede utilizar ese sonido directo…)

LHP – Existe una frase muy común, cuando se hace una cagada en rodaje, o falta material, que es “eso se arregla en montaje”. ¿Estás de acuerdo con ella?
Esa frase suele ser complementada con “el montaje no es Lourdes” y así, las dos juntas, cuentan una gran verdad. De hecho, el nacimiento de los “janders” se produce con la secuencia onírica del “cuento de los dos señores”. De alguna forma, la pura imagen, con sus movimientos de cámara, no terminaba de producir todo el efecto deseado, así que comenzamos, poco a poco, a enrarecerla en montaje. En una noche de inspiración resolví la parte del secuestro de una forma muy peculiar y allí nacieron los “janders” que se contagiaron al resto de la película.
En el caso de “Proyecto Dos”, Guillermo, además, rodó mucho material que nos sirvió para cubrirnos estupendamente las espaldas: ya existe, de partida una mentalidad de “salvar en montaje”. Así pues, yo creo que el montaje tiene una gran capacidad y responsabilidad a la hora de elevar la calidad de una película, pero no creo que salve el desastre integral.

LHP – Supongo que es eso mismo, el material mal rodado o la ausencia del mismo lo que más complica tu trabajo ¿no?
A menor cantidad de material y menor número de subtramas y secuencias, menos posibilidades de montaje hay: ello hace que sea más difícil afrontar un problema y más fácil elegir entre un abanico de opciones, puesto que son menos. ¡Pero es que en montaje el número de opciones es siempre enorme!
Por ponerte un ejemplo, cuando monté “El segundo nombre” de Paco Plaza, se optó por hacer una película tremendamente sobria (frente a las astracanadas iniciales de la Fantastic Factory, con subproductos como “Faust”) que suponía un ritmo interno lento de los actores y muchas escenas resueltas en plano secuencia. Ello, por supuesto, exigía un montaje clásico e invisible. Bien, pues incluso en casos como ese, además de eliminar 40 minutos de película, las escenas fueron reorganizadas salvajemente (en órdenes como 10, 11, 42, 36, 35, 24, 14,18…) ¡sin contar con ninguna subtrama! Lo complejo es que siempre actuaba la misma protagonista y, aún así, no se notaba el artificio de montaje ni que la mayoría de los planos secuencia empezaban por la mitad y acababan antes de tiempo. Así pues, la apariencia de “montaje clásico” te puede encorsetar, pero nunca te encarcela del todo…

LHP – Hoy lo común es realizar el montaje de imagen, y posteriormente el de sonido. ¿Suele haber algún tipo de puesta en común entre ambos equipos o es el director quien une ambos procesos con la idea que tiene sobre la película?
Tiene que existir la colaboración con los técnicos de sonido: yo siempre la he fomentado tanto yendo al estudio de sonido como invitándoles a la sala de montaje. Cuando hago una escena pensando en un diseño de sonido determinado lo comento con ellos, ponemos en común la mejor forma de articularlo y hasta me envían maquetas de su trabajo para que las use de guía.
Los montadores de la “vieja escuela” consideran a los de sonido como meros operadores, y creen que ellos tienen que imponerles “su” montaje de sonido, y que todo lo que se salga de ahí es “una videocliperada”. Pero, hoy en día, el montaje de sonido se ha sofisticado tanto, que yo creo que no se puede hacer eso: sólo puedes comentarle ideas muy básicas y generales sobre el diseño de sonido, y ellos terminarán aportando mucho más que tú.

LHP – Sobre el sonido, hoy es cada vez un elemento más potente y esencial para una película. ¿No crees que aunque sea más sutil, ya que el espectador concentra casi toda su atención en la mirada, se hace esencial para que la película logre lo que pretende? ¿Crees que es un aspecto que se tiene suficientemente en cuenta hoy día en el cine español?
En ciertos sectores sigue existiendo una cultura del “con que se oigan los diálogos, llega” y críticas al diseño de sonido que, más que provenir de una ranciez e incultura audiovisual parece que vengan del deseo de pagar menos jornadas de sono. Afortunadamente, éste no fue el caso con “Proyecto Dos”. Desafortunadamente, te tengo que dar la razón sobre lo de la cultura del cine español: el sonido de la película lo hizo la gente de Zound Ltd. en Londres (concretamente Patrick Dodd y Zardan Kurpjel) que han trabajado en películas de Hollywood y el resultado es, sencillamente, espectacular.

LHP – Proyecto Dos también parece una apuesta por un cine de acción que en España es casi nulo, porque aunque hay otros géneros poco trabajados, éste es el menor de todos porque suele ser muchas veces poco valorado y se asocia siempre a presupuestos escandalosos. ¿Crees que es viable un género de acción en España con buena factura?
¡Por supuesto! Pero no vinculado a los modos de producir del cine español de toda la vida. Que el equipo de la película haya sido tan joven y, varios de ellos, acostumbrados al ritmo de producción televisivo, denota que es urgente hacer las cosas de otra manera. Rafa Bolaños supo hacer una excelente labor para rodar en HD tantos planos al día dejándose margen para luego realizar un magnífico etalonaje (cosa que muchos directores de foto se negarían a hacer). Guillermo tenía la cabeza perfectamente estructurada a la hora de pedirle a Lucía Jiménez hacer mil barrabasadas al conducir (Lucía es una excelente conductora, por cierto…) para, de una toma multicámara, resolver varias secuencias. En suma, vienen de la cultura que ha hecho posible decir que, por ejemplo, tanto “Policías” como “Cuenta atrás” tengan secuencias de acción infinitamente mejor resueltas que cualquier película española ¡y rodando todo el capítulo en menos de diez días!
Tenemos que quitarnos la etiqueta paleta y de “orgullo del tercer mundo” de cierta parte de la crítica que usa la palabra “americana” para insultar. A esa gente le diría que una forma de unir los planos, una forma de ubicar y mover la cámara, una forma de hacer la fotografía… ¡eso no es patrimonio de ningún país! “Proyecto Dos” es una película que aborda un tema espinoso, con interesantes ramificaciones éticas y científicas (el guión se hizo en colaboración con el CSIC y la Cátedra de bioquímica de la Universidad Complutense) que, en última instancia, está hecho desde una perspectiva, digamos, más “europea”: la historia transcurre plausiblemente en España, los actores se comportan como españoles y el final de la película no intenta venderte la moralina reaccionaria norteamericana. ¿Qué yo, por ejemplo, la he montado inspirándome en Christian Wagner o en William Steinkamp? Pues vale, simplemente he intentado seguir el camino de los que hacen bien las cosas, independientemente de su país.

LHP - ¿Volverás a trabajar con Guillermo Groizard en el futuro? ¿Qué proyectos tienes a la vista?
Sin duda que volveré a trabajar con él, y seguirá siendo un placer, una risa (todos los que participamos en la delirante posproducción de la serie “Supervillanos” volveríamos a firmar por repetir algo así) y un reto. A veces, nuestras dinámicas de trabajo (compagino muchas cosas con la publicidad) hacen que no nos encontremos todo lo deseable, pero tengo claro que seguiremos compartiendo créditos.
¿Largometrajes a la vista? Puede haberlos, pero todo está difuso. De forma inmediata, sigo con la publicidad y cosas para televisión, la más reciente “Sin tetas no hay paraíso” que, guste o no guste, te da la rara oportunidad de ver una gran inmediatez en la reacción de la gente: la televisión está ahí, todo el mundo habla de ella, se involucra en las tramas, sale en las portadas de las revistas, hace que tu madre y hermana te llamen para comentar el capítulo… y eso te da una gigantesca e inapreciable cultura acerca de cómo funcionan las emociones y expectativas del espectador y sobre cómo jugar con ellas: el elaborado – y no previsto en guión – montaje en paralelo con el que cerré el capítulo 9 (¡que incluía “janders”!) es algo que, estando en las antípodas de “Proyecto Dos”, me sigue satisfaciendo enormemente desde un punto de vista de montaje.

LHP – Pues muchas gracias por todo y esperamos que la película haya salido bien y que funcione estupendamente en taquilla. Un saludete.
Un saludo y enhorabuena por la página: tanto por sus contenidos como por la cultura y tono que demuestran los comentarios. Ojala disfrutéis de la película y me ofrezco a aclarar cualquier duda que haya quedado sobre el montaje a los lectores."

Por Javier Ruiz de Arcaute, el 22 de abril de 2008.