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Backstage Interview Transcript: Film Editing

CATEGORY: Film Editing
SPEECH BY: Tom Cross 


Q.    I've been lucky to meet Damien, and he's an incredible filmmaker.  And, so, yeah, and I think a lot of people thought that with his youth that his film wasn't as worthy, yet we're starting to see all those awards coming.  And I want to know what his impact for you was during the making of the film. 

A.    His impact on the making of the film with me was huge.  He always knew that he wanted to make a picture that was really strong in terms of character but one that really was told stylistically.  He knew he wanted to make a movie that would be an editor's showcase.  He wanted to tell his story with a certain level of suspense, and tension, and manic energy; and he knew he wanted to illustrate that through the film editing.  He knew that from the beginning.  So Damien is ‑‑ is relatively young.  He just turned 30, but his script and his filmmaking abilities are really just beyond his ‑‑ his years.  He's incredible.


Q.    And as you said, WHIPLASH very much is a showcase for film editing. 

A.    Yes.


Q.    What goes into creating something that's so kinetic, and in the end affects the film so much and makes people grip their ‑‑ their ‑‑ their seats?

A.    Well, I ‑‑ I think ‑‑ I think, you know, Damien always wanted to make an action movie first, an action thriller first, and a music movie second.  So he knew that there was going to be some really fast‑paced and, you know, fast‑paced action and a lot of fast cutting.  But I think what was really great about what Damien envisioned for the film was, you know, he ‑‑ he really had in mind a lot of different editorial styles.  So he knew that the musical scenes, and the rehearsing, and the practicing would be fast and would be brutal.  He wanted it to be ferocious.  He said he wanted the musical scenes to feel like boxing scenes from RAGING BULL.  So ‑‑ but I think what was extra intelligent about how he wanted to do it was that he wanted the other scenes with other characters to have a different editing style.  So the scenes with Andrew and his girlfriend played by Melissa Benoist, he wanted those to play the opposite.  He wanted those to be gentle and ‑‑ and romantic; and in that way they're very traditional.  They're not cutting.  And the same to a certain extent with the scenes with his father, Paul Reiser.  He wanted those to play at a different pace.  And I think that was a brilliant choice on his part, because it enhances the faster paced and more violent cutting that happens in other scenes. 


Q.    You've just demonstrated a wide range of editorial styles, and you're relatively new at this as well.  So talk a little bit about what you've learned from this that you can now apply to other types of movies. 

A.    You know, I ‑‑ I guess if I've learned anything it's that I can ‑‑ I should have an open mind and continue to keep learning in a way.  You know, I'm kind of a student of film.  Damien Chazelle is a student of film.  We both are kind of movie geeks.  We love a lot of the same movies, and that's how we sometimes would communicate.  He'd say, "I" ‑‑ you know, "This should" ‑‑ "I want this end of the finale to feel a little bit like the end of THE WILD BUNCH where, you know, the gunfighters go out in a blaze of glory, you know."  And he never spoke in terms of trying to copy or replicate something exactly.  He really talked in terms of inspiration.  So he and I spoke the same language in that way.  And, you know, I ‑‑ I think ‑‑ I think I ‑‑ I just have to be open to more films, new films, and ‑‑ and, you know, new ways of storytelling.  You know, there's a way that I think you can get caught up in ‑‑ in trying to do very specific things, you know, that are ‑‑ have their roots in the past.  But, you know, like I look at my fellow nominees, and I'm ‑‑ I'm completely I'm ‑‑ you know, I'm humbled to be in their company.  Every one of those movies that was nominated for film editing, every one of those is so different, and ‑‑ and they're such brilliant examples of the craft but very different examples.  And, to me, that's inspiring.  And, to me, that inspires me to continue to be open and to continue to, you know, look with wide eyes out into the future. 


Q.    A little more than a year ago you were racing to finish this film for Sundance. 

A.    Yes.


Q.    Now in recent weeks you have won a BAFTA, the Spirit, and now you're an Academy Award winner.  Can you just talk about what this ‑‑ this past year, this experience has been like, how it's changed your life, and just what you're feeling right now?

A.    It's ‑‑ that's a huge question.  It ‑‑ it's really amazing.  Like I was just saying before, I ‑‑ you know, it happens ‑‑ there are different levels of feeling humbled and feeling honored.  And, you know, a little over a year ago Damien Chazelle and I were sitting in an editing room, and we were looking at each other and saying, "Wouldn't it be great if this movie got into Sundance?"  And, "Wouldn't it be great if" ‑‑ we always had dreams that J.K. Simmons would be somehow recognized for something.  And those were ‑‑ those were the sort of seeds of our dreams in a way; and that as we went on, we saw that things started to catch on with people beyond what we thought was possible, because we always loved the movie we were making, but we always knew it was a very ‑‑ a very narrow niche‑specific thing.  So we were constantly delighted when people would really respond to it.  After Sundance, I was delighted by the attention that I got in reviews.  I started seeing the editing mentioned.  I started seeing my name mentioned, which is not something I'm used to at all.  And, you know, that continued to happen all throughout the year as the film went to different festivals:  Cannes and et cetera, et cetera.  And ‑‑ and then with the nominations towards the end of last year, it's just beyond my wildest dreams.  I mean, I ‑‑ it's kind of an out‑of‑body experience for me.  And, you know, just like I said before, just to be nominated is such an honor for me, because I love editors, and I really respect the craft and I respect them.  And the people who I shared these nominations with I think are some of the best in the business, and so I'm just ‑‑ I'm really just humbled to be in their company.





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