This was shot in two twelve hour days. How difficult is it to put together a satisfying film with the limited amount of footage produced in 24 hours, in comparison to the multiple options a normal full budget project provides?
I’ve never cut a feature-length film, but I’ve cut scripted and unscripted digital and television shows where there are more takes than you need. I like working with micro-budget projects because it challenges you as an editor to mentally ingest the footage in a different way than if you’re on project where everything is shot and covered. Honestly, I feel it’s in these projects where, as an editor, you get to really create “magic” to solve problems.
How much changes for you between your first assembly and the final cut? Was that the same in this case?
Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. It really depends on the project. Each project comes to you as an embryo - with all its chromosomes in place and ready to grow in the manner in which they were designed. But then, it becomes a baby and starts finding its personality…and as personalities change, so does the baby. So, I always go into a project expecting to take a long way to the final cut. The attitude, the quirk, the heart of this story and these characters went through their own growing pains during the editing process as the film grew up and into itself. Thankfully, I was teamed up with a director who had a strong vision for this story - yet, he was open to other viewpoints.
The film has an idiosyncratic tone that keeps the audience on its toes. How much of that was created by you in the edit, and how much of it was inherent in the initial script and footage?
So much of it was already there in the writing, the performances, the production design and the photography. I was instantly inspired and curious when I watched through everything for the first time. The tone was like nothing I had worked on before — which was a little daunting at first — because the vibe was specific and the performances really teetered on tightropes; their characters were so precise. My job was to keep everything balanced on that tightrope and mine the performances for those unspoken moments that will tell you so much without a single line being spoken.
How much collaboration did you have on The Toll Road? Was it more or less than you are used to on other more high-pressure projects?
I had more collaboration on this project than I ever expected. A lot of the projects I edit are ones where I’m usually juggling roles of producer, director and editor at the same time. This was a different beast because it was a project I did not get involved with until after it was shot. And it was a story that was so important to Tom and Lizzy, they poured so much into it, as did the team I work with at Kids at Play, that I felt a tremendous responsibility to do it right. So, being able to actually collaborate on it with Tom, Lizzy and Kids at Play was very satisfying. It was a team effort.
Music plays a large part in this movie. Can you speak on that?
Oh man, the music… the first time I watched the cut with Bear’s music I got teary-eyed. It really just wrapped itself around these characters, this world and immediately glued it all together. It made the tender moments between Emily and Stewart especially heartfelt without being too heavy-handed or demanding of an emotion.
What was your working relationship with Tom like, as a first-time director?
Having never met Tom before — we didn’t actually meet in person until after I had sent him my first rough cut — I didn’t know how he would want to work together — or what he was like not just as a director, but as a person. But it was a really creative pairing where I’m confident I can say we learned a lot from each other during the process. Tom knew what he wanted, but was very collaborative and open to suggestions. Sometimes first-time directors are ‘my way or the highway’ types, Tom was the opposite. He had a mad appreciation for the art of editing and gave me enough creative space to figure out how to make things work the way he envisioned. I look forward to the next time when we can do it all over again.