Ian Haydn Smith in conversation with Una Ni Dhonghaile, Joe Walker, Andy Jurgensen, Joshua L. Pearson and Elliot Graham
Ian Haydn Smith: Good evening everyone. My name's Ian Haydn Smith and I'd like to welcome you to the 2022 BAFTA Film Sessions. This is a hybrid series of fourteen events that celebrates the nominees from this year's EE British Academy Film Awards and tonight's event welcomes some of this year’s Editing nominees. Now before we start with the event, there's a little housekeeping. Please do join the conversation on social using hashtag #EEBAFTAs. There is closed captioning available now, which you can turn on at the bottom of your screen via the CC button and also to ask a question use the Q&A button also at the bottom of the screen.
Our guests this evening are for Belfast, Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, yes, Duneila? I knew I was going to say that wrong, sorry Úna. For Dune: Part One, Joe Walker, For Licorice Pizza Andy Jurgensen, for No Time to Die, Elliot Graham and unfortunately Co-editor Tom Cross is not available to join us today. And finally, for Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised, Joshua L. Pearson.
So congratulations to you all on your nomination and welcome this evening. So I'm going to start with a general question to our guests, and then we're going to move to a brief excerpt from each of the films, and the guests can comment on that and the wider film and then we'll open to any questions or comments that you, the audience, may have. Now I want to start with the genesis of each project and the initial discussions that took place around the film.
So Úna, perhaps we could start with you and Belfast. It's not just a recreation of an era, but one seen through the eyes of an impressionable young boy. Could you, could you talk about the discussions you had with Kenneth Branagh about that?
Úna Ní Dhonghaíle: So the conversation was actually quite quick because Ken wrote us during lock down, so we were finishing Death on the Nile and I because the studio closed in London I returned to my studio in Dublin to work from home to finish Death on the Nile. So when I returned, I left, say, March 27th, I came back to London at the beginning of June so we could just do the final fine cuts, two weeks notes and then final, final cut. And then Ken presented the script and he had written it in those months while we were working remotely. So it was quite a, it's a passion project, Ken’s passion, project and then all of us who worked on it, it became our passion project. We hit the ground running because we began shooting at the end of August so it was, we were learning and grafting as we were going. I did a little preview sort of type edit of the prologue at the beginning of August because Ken and Harrison, Jim Clay, the production designer, had gone to shoot some recce. They were hoping to shoot in Belfast, but then owing to the pandemic they weren't able to go, so we had cut together say three and a half hours of their camera and phone footage to create the prologue in the script. There had been a voiceover and maybe an interview and Van Morrison’s music. So in those four days in the early August, we refined as to what it is now which is just Van Morrison's music leading the way. So we, like any passion project we had a beautiful script written by Ken and then we just kept learning and grafting as we were shooting and editing.
IHS: And something that really comes through not just in individual shots where you've got characters in foreground and background, but in the intercutting between different shots, this sense of a community and also the sense of people living on top of each other.
UND: Yeah, so my dad is from Northern Ireland and of course I recognized when I read the script, I recognized that sort of vernacular and I went to the National Film and Television School in England, so I had studied films like Bill Douglas’ Trilogy or the I always talk about the films of Dennis Mitchell. He's a documentarian, he's called the father of poetic realism, and he had celebrated the vernacular of the people of North England. So for me, when I read the script and I saw that Ken had captured the people of Northern Ireland and say, my family. Ken would have his Protestant working class background and we would have a Catholic working class background, but the language and the community is the same and my dad always spoke about the great friendships with their Protestant neighbors, something that the media through the troubles that sort of overlooked. All the focus had been on the division and not actually on basically the civil rights injustices that sparked the whole Troubles and the fact that there were friendships between the communities. So that was something really close to my heart as well, which I felt like this was a great celebration of not only Ken’s beautiful family and his community, but for the people of Belfast and the fact that the film is still called Belfast, I think it's a simple triumph on a personal level that we've reclaimed that name from the sort fingers of war and actually given it back the celebration of humanity. So I hope I hope you know people will begin to revisit the story of Belfast and what happened before the Troubles through this film.
IHS: Thank you. Joe, I want to come to you. Dune is your fourth consecutive feature with Denis Villeneuve after Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 and one of the things that I always find fascinating in your collaboration with Denis is the discussions that you must have around scale. Each of these films balances this grand vision with moments of intense intimacy. Could you talk about that please?
Joe Walker: Well, I think in the middle of this giant worldbuilding thing that Dune is, I mean, the original book is, you know, it's like a kind of fractal amount of detail. I mean, Frank Herbert went really deep into how things might be. Yeah, and the rules of that world, you're trying to set up all of that, but also you know, convey at heart the inner life of a, you know, young man who's growing up in this environment with many factions a part of his DNA and fighting against immense odds, you know with the Atreides family. So it was always a question of trying to kind of capture the intimate and, you know, Denis’ films give me an opportunity to really tap in, not just in a verbal way, but in often a very cinematic way, kind of inner life of the characters, by being able to see what's in their minds and also you know, very expressive images, that sort of just touch you on some level that is kind of unsettling maybe or you know familiar.
So, uh, Dune was, you know, it was gonna be, I knew, right from the outset talking about the genesis of the project, when we first talked about it, we were working on Blade Runner and you know, in cinema history terms we would kind of try not to trample the carpets of a much loved sci-fi film and then he told me he was doing Dune and I thought Oh my God, and he said the fans are gonna bring their baseball bats. So the early discussions weren't very explicit except, you know, abandoned fear or you enter here.
IHS: And you talk about the fans, was there a lot of discussion about sort of the rules around Dune and how you were going to represent that world and how you were going to create the dynamic of that world?
JW: Well, that impacted editing a lot because you know, how do you set the film in motion and the script was brilliant, but you know it, it did evolve and we had the time to kind of adjust things because the pandemic hit and we had a little more time. Actually, we were rather grateful for that couple of months when everybody put their tools down, but we got to think about it. And it's all to do with how do you set up so many complex factions in this world; you have the Atreides at the heart of the story, you have the Bene Gesserit, it you have, you have the Harkonnens, you have the Fremen and you have three planets, the emperor. I mean, there's a lot and it was just always trying to kind of find a, you know a visual way and a smooth that way that meant that you gave enough time to kind of care for people and find their stories compelling before you then tested them with, you know, increasingly dynamic risk, so you know big battle piece sequences and fight sequences and an accelerated feeling. And we always wanted to get to the end and feel like you wanted more. So that was the challenge in terms of pacing and selection, is how do you start the film actually, and how do you create threads in the edit that are going to see you all the way through to the bitter end?
IHS: I want to move on to Andy now you've not only previously worked with Paul Thomas Anderson on Inherent Vice and Phantom Thread, you've edited many of his music projects and videos with the likes of Joanna Newsom, Radiohead and Thom Yorke, and Iron and music is central in in many ways to Licorice Pizza. Could you talk about the discussions that you had with Paul Thomas Anderson, regarding the way that music is used both in propelling the action forward but also helping to define the era and the challenges in actually cutting that together?
Andy Jurgensen: Well, one of the cool things was that Paul had, he kind of figured out a lot of the songs in advance, so it was actually in the script, so it was so neat to read the script for the first time and like you know I would just have my iPhone and just like pull up the song and then kind of like read the scene and then play the song. It just gave you such a good feeling. But yeah, music it was a huge, obviously, a huge element, and you know both for the nostalgia aspect because this movie is just so much about nostalgia, but just also just for energy and like the youthfulness of the movie, you know. That was something that we talked about at the beginning was just always like keeping the momentum going throughout kind of from scene to scene to scene just and to make it very youthful. You know obviously there’s all this running and there's we just keep moving and moving and moving, so it's about the ride of it. But then also when not to use music because the whole truck sequence actually is played completely dry so there's like about ten or fifteen minutes where we don't have any music at all and it kind of is like a palate cleanser.
So yeah, I mean obviously this is like so fun to be putting all these needle drops in throughout and stuff in the background too… I mean like stuff in the radio or stuff on the TV, it's just all, everything added to just creating this like a memory piece, kind of thing
IHS: And with that in mind, that idea of the memory piece and just thinking of how different cinema is today and in many ways the momentum of contemporary cinema compared to what cinema was like in the 1970s, the area in which the film is set. Did you have discussions about that? That notion of Paul Thomas Anderson’s memory of the valley and how that would be captured through the beats of the momentum in the film?
AJ: Definitely yeah. I mean it's kind of a hybrid between his memory of the Valley, but also Gary Goetzmann who is a producer and friend that kind of the whole story is inspired by. He was a child actor. He sold waterbeds, all this stuff. So it was kind of like a hybrid of Gary’s story and then Paul's kind of take on a coming of age story. And a movie that we referenced a lot just in visuals and kind of for the soundscape and things like that, it's American Graffiti, when we were kind of just figuring out the look of the movie, so that was kind of an inspiration. So it's kind of like Paul's version of American Graffiti in a way.
IHS: Great, thanks Andy. Elliot, I'll come to you now. You're used to the world of the blockbuster action film from X-Men 2, through to Superman Returns and more recently Captain Marvel and with No Time to Die you're working with this rich legacy and specific expectations of the Bond franchise but obviously what we’re now used to since Daniel Craig came on board is a much more human 007. Can you talk about the conversations that you had with Cary Fukunaga about balancing the classic expectations of a Bond movie with a much, much more modern Bond?
Elliot Graham: Yeah, well, first of all credit my wonderful Co-editor Tom Cross who couldn't be here. We did everything together. I think we all felt a responsibility to Daniel because he's just been such a phenomenal James Bond, a phenomenal actor in the part. It was very much about giving him a send off that was worthy of his tenure. At the same time, having all the fun of a Bond film. And yes, that was a that was a balancing act the whole time, that that you know Cary was interested in, brought up, and was discussed every day: The performance, the drama, and then eventually the film.
IHS: No Time to Die is a very good example of action as character in many ways, but also action as emotion, and that's the thing that I found really fascinating is how that brought into the film and through the tempo you manage to constantly keep hold of the audience’s emotional heartstrings as well as kind of keeping them on the edge of their seat.
EG: Thank you yeah well I think, I think we've leaned on Daniel. Every set piece was certainly about the character, it all came from him or his collaborators. But I mean, you know if he's lost in the forest, or if he's in that car he, you know, totals at the beginning and it's about him and his relationships with others. And it's all about him, and so that grounds action I hope in a very special way that does it justice.
IHS: Great, thanks Elliot. And finally Joshua. I want to come to you in Summer of Soul. Now, this is an extraordinary film because when it came out last summer, and I know it was obviously in Sundance first and a really popular hit in the States. But it opened here in Summer and it really felt more like a Summer blockbuster and event rather than just another documentary that's opening. And I'm just curious about the conversations that you had with Questlove at the beginning of this project. Was there always a clear vision on how the documentary was going to be constructed, not just through the archive footage of the cultural festival itself, but the way that you use other archive footage and also bring contemporary interviews into it?
Joshua L. Pearson: I mean, no, there was not a clear vision because it's a documentary, so there's no script and there was no, you know… I mean, it's a very organic process with docs. And you know, obviously there was a broad vision of what Questlove wanted, you know which shifted during lockdown Summer and George Floyd Summer. So you know initially obviously Questlove is a very, you know he's a musicologist, he's got this encyclopedic, Byzantine knowledge of music. He originally kind of wanted it to be a little bit more about music because he can't help himself when he's watching the footage right here. And he was obsessed with the footage, he'd been watching the entire concert on a loop. It's about 40 hours of footage and he would always be pointing to the band members and like oh, that guy played with that guy and later on he was in so and so’s band. So there was the potential originally to have it be much more of a music discussion. But you know, we always did want to inject the political and social context into it partially because the concert itself was not very overtly political, unlike Woodstock, you know, you don't get a sense that… There aren't people with signs saying ‘Stop the War’ there, you know, it was very apolitical in the moment except of course for Jesse Jackson, but you know, so we wanted to inject that stuff kind of tucked in around the edges of the songs and then of course we went into lockdown and I was working at home alone and putting cuts up on Zoom and then all the George Floyd civil rights stuff happened and then we really felt more of a you know, more passionate about injecting this this, you know, what was going on in 1969, 'cause it seemed like it was all happening again and you know history repeats itself. I guess that's an answer.
IHS: I mean, the other thing is well as well as having the history as well, and what I find really fascinating is the sense of joy of the festival. And I think I think one of my loveliest moments in any film I saw last year was that fantastic montage of the host of the festival and the organizer behind it and we just see over the course of six weeks, the many different costumes that he wore and outfits he wore, which is just wonderful. That's lovely. Humor is also a really big thing, a big part of the film.
JP: Absolutely, you know. Obviously there have been, you know, 1969 was a dark time, particularly for black people in America and, but we all knew that and Questlove and you know other black people on our production team, you know, there was very much a message from them saying like, you know what, we've already seen, we've seen all the burning buildings and people getting beaten up by the cops. And you know can we please not have any shots of German shepherds attacking black people in this film and you know. So I was like absolutely, I mean of course there's still a little bit of burning buildings here and there, but not quite as much as ordinarily there might be so, and, you know, Questlove, absolutely, it was all about showing the joy of people at this concert and you know this joy and resilience because you do see. You know he very explicitly has said in interviews and publicly, you know we've seen enough black suffering, you know, let's see some black joy for a change, essentially. And you know, I was very happy to facilitate that.
IHS: And again, coming back to you, Úna, I’m just thinking about the era in which this film is set is the escalation of violence in the Troubles in Ireland. And yet we have this levity, that that exists throughout the film and sometimes it's with the use of intercutting old movie footage, but also you've got Van Morrison's music and the music generally in the film. Could you talk about that?
UND: Well like with Joshua, we actually didn't want to show in the opening montage, we didn't want to show any of the political murals of Northern Ireland. We wanted to try and look at Northern Ireland with sort of fresh eyes and so all the murals were nonpolitical as a conscious choice, and same thing with serve the playfulness. When you're dealing with such a serious subject you do have to have that play, that that interplay of laughter in order to actually then feel the sad moments as well. So I think for us we were trying to—it is a memoir and so we have that sort of immersive quality, we wanted the audience to feel and understand what the family felt and I think the tools that Kenneth used in the script, which were very useful were things like the cinema to show the kid, but also I think just that, I think sort of an irreverence of not being tied down because we used Van Morrison. Originally, there's a lot more music of the time in the body of the film from ’69 and we only had fun Morrison top and tail with The Healing Has Begun. Then Van wrote that beautiful song Down to Joy, so we put that at the top and Healing has Begun at the end and then the music of the time within the film, although it felt great for the needle drop like Licorice Pizza, it also, I think Van Morrison’s music felt like Ken's fingerprints. He felt that there was there was something of a purity from his memoir point of view, that Van, the poet of Ireland, you know, was putting into words a message that resonated with Ken and it also meant that for me in editorial so the first week of the shoot I knew that we were never going to use score, so that meant that I could actually sort of focus on the sound design as well before our brilliant sound team started, of just building up those things, those ice cream vans that you can hear distance in the riot because we wanted to show in this world where the tanks are rolling in and barricades are being built, children have to go to school, ice cream vans are still coming into the community to sell ice cream, so it was that type of discourse we were having of just a playfulness in our use of sound and music as a character and just trying to be immersive in the sort of subjective point of view with our characters, presumably the boy.
IHS: And I want to stay with the idea of intimacy with you, Andy, and also drawing on the humor when we look at the relationship between Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim's characters. It's a very, very beautiful relationship that develops, but it is something that moves between this tentative romance and us understanding the humour of the situation. How easy was it to find that balance?
AJ: I mean; it was something that Paul was really aware of throughout. You know it is there obviously is like this whole age difference thing, so that is it's inherent to the story of the two of them and the kind of the complexity of the of the maturity levels, you know, but the he idea was always to really keep it like innocent. You know it's like it's more of these two people like understanding each other you know, you know, she's kind of lost in life and kind of wishing for her childhood again, or her adolescence again, and then for him. You know, he's like sixteen going on. You know, forty-five, got all these businesses and stuff so it's interesting. It's like she's really the one that has the like the arc in the movie. I mean, she really is like I would say even the main character of the movie and it's just her, you know, trying to kind of navigate adulthood and, you know in Gary, she kind of finds someone who like understands her, you know, because she is kind of volatile so…it's, you know this this movie, just you can't really put in a box 'cause it's kind of like an adventure movie and it is sort of a romance and it's a comedy. It's just like kind of a wild ride. But the idea was that like the plots would always kind of serve this purpose of like bringing them together for these kind of specific moments in the movie and then then they get broken apart and then they come together and they break apart. So that's kind of like the ride of it.
IHS: balance again, is something, Joshua, Homme that I find astonishing with Summer of Soul, because one of the pleasures of the film lies in the overwhelming emotion of the people looking back on that time at the festival. But how easy was it to work these sequences in with the music to ensure this perfect balance between reminiscence and performance?
JP: Uh, yeah, well it's funny because we, you know, at the start of a project they're always looking for more interview subjects like we gotta get as many people as possible. But as it turned out, you know, we couldn't find that many people who were willing to be interviewed and you end up with this nice limited, you know the limitation became an advantage. So in other words, if we'd gotten dozens of artists who have been there it might have diluted the impact of watching Billy Davis Junior and Marilyn Mc Coo from Fifth Dimension watching themselves, but you know in a nice way, the limitation of the number of people we actually got created nice isolated moments where you know, like, their moment is just so wonderful and beautiful that it worked out well. That way you know the limitation can be an advantage, less is more in a way and so it just became a very, it just kind of naturally had a nice balance of this person talks about this stuff, this person talks about this stuff and that way you don't get extensive repetition. You know, it has a flow where there's something new happening every 10 minutes, you know? But it was also then it became, it becomes a trick of, you know, we also didn't want to use any score, everything was to be scored by the music that's actually was performed by the artists that day. And so you know, it became a very much of a trick of, you know, first, distilling an idea or a story to its just bare essence and then weaving that into the music whenever the music is happening, whether the music is being used totally as score which you know the jazz tracks work well for that 'cause there's no lyrics, but when it's a song, a big song lyrics. That's where I use my musical knowledge to try to make sure it's, you know, to try to wedge sound bites into the beat of a song, essentially. Or have someone say a phrase, and then at the end of their phrase we come right into a, you know, a lyric, a new lyric or something, or a chorus or something like that. And I am a musician so I do really, really enjoy editing in that kind of musical way.
IHS: And Elliot again I'm staying with this idea of intimacy and I know we touched on this a moment ago, but I think when people think about intimacy in older Bond films, it's almost like Oh yeah, that love scene, you know get that out the way, get back to the action. But it's so integral to the way that we've perceived Bond over the course of the last fifteen years and I know you said a lot of it’s kind of down to Daniel Craig, but it was amazing watching this film, one of the longest Bond films, and I felt that there was this propulsive forward momentum that didn't let up with the film. And yet there were so many scenes that were allowed to breathe, and again this really is in the way that the film was cut together, and I'm just curious about the discussions that you had and the way that you and Tom worked together on having this breathing space.
EG: Sort of two questions there. Tom and I worked together integrally. It was a wonderful partnership we would share every single day everything we were doing and we were basically on the same page and as far as that page, it was about the motion leading in this particular story, because we knew the story and the motion needed to lead. That's where we were going, and that's where they were going since Casino Royale, really, with the death of a Vesper at the end of it, and that that is a big part of several of the other films, and the producers were wonderful and Daniel wanted to wrap up what was a unique series in that, you know, his films connected, they were a connected story and hopefully the film in some way did pay homage to that beginning of Casino Royale, where he sort of re-shocked… what would you call those things? The thing that brought him back to life in Casino Royale sort of brought Bond back to life through Daniel Craig and we just wanted to end his tenure the way he began it, with emotion.
IHS: Defibrillator just came into my head. Great and Joe I just want to come to you and this is something I'm going to bring up with some of the clips that we have in a moment. A defining character element or key element of Dune in terms of the characters that when you consider how expansive and yet heavy and weighty Herbert’s novel is, you don't necessarily—humour doesn't necessarily jump off the page, but something that I feel is a key element of the films that you've worked on with Denny is allowing a thread of levity into scenes, offsetting the weight of the drama with humour. Again, how easy was it to locate that and find that and bring it out?
JW: I think a lot of that is in the performance that this amazing cast brought, and you know Javier Bardem, there's a kind of delicious smile upon his face, it’s a very small, despite the toughness of the situation, and certainly Jason Momoa brings a sort of incredible ability with comedy. And they all do in their own way. There's always a kind of, I think, maybe this more than others, there's been a chance to kind of play with that rhythmically and to remind ourselves it's not all doom and gloom.
IHS: Now we're going to go to clips now, but if you do have any questions, please do start sending them in and we'll come to them in a moment.
And I thought with the clips, we'll start with a bang with No Time to Die. This is the Havana sequence featuring Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas in one of the film's standout set pieces. So let's see this clip.
OK, one of the key set pieces in the Bond film. I don't know how you feel about this Elliot, but it struck me watching this and thinking about it after I saw the film but of all the sequences in the film, this in many ways felt like the most classically Bond-esque sequence.
EG: Cocktails and a little bit of fun. You can feel the fun of the music. I mean, we're playing a Cuban with salsa, would have you music you know and then having a good time. You're allowed to have a good time. That was obviously sort of an Ana de Armas clip, and that is interesting it’s not just all Bond this particular sequence since it's intercutting really three lead characters. That sequence was different from the others. Cary Fukunaga, the director, has a brilliant eye and he really loves to go for sort of a flow and this one has more of a staccato rhythm and it's funny sometimes you know the things that go wrong could be gifts, and there was a point at which this was going to be a oner, believe it or not, and Daniel did get injured and we ended up shooting Ana at one part and Daniel at another time and the villains at another time and then a few days of overlap which made for a different kind of cutting required, but it actually sort of left itself to the fun of the sequence, and they have such chemistry those two. You know, Bond and Paloma there, it was just a joy. It was fun and it was fun, Tom and I had the fan that is shown on screen while cutting it.
IHS: I think that that we end on the shot of Ana and that's one of my favorite reaction shots in the entire film because there's the constant theme of Bond’s too old to be doing what he's doing, and that's shot of her just as he falls behind the bars is looking going oh come on, keep up mate. It's just a lovely shot.
EG: She's lovely, yeah and they just have great chemistry.
IHS: And the other thing is, well, that this scene really highlights, and again, it's another strong element of the Bond films is not just the action, but the sense of place in which the action unfolds. The Bond franchise’s exoticness, let's say. How much of a discussion was there about saying, look the intensity has to be there, but you have to pull back as well because we have these amazing locations?
EG: Say it again?
IHS: How much was there a discussion about looking yes you have to have the intensity of these fight sequences, but you also have to have this sense of the location and seeing the exoticness of it.
EG: Part of a Bond film, is it feeling like your place and we're in Matera, Italy, which is the opening of the film, that’s the grave, and so on. We were in Matera, Italy which only looks like Matera. Cuba, I think, has a sort of hyper realism too, and it was a set you know built on, you know the classic studio Pinewood. I think it gave us sort of a Cuba hyper realism, which maybe was fun because that sequence is a little bit over the top in a wonderful way. It was fun for Tom and myself and we could go up there and play with Cary and the stuntmen as it was shot over various months. Due to the you know injury we allowed to be involved in that process of well, what pieces will pull it together? And we weren't jumping offsides buildings but it was fun and they did such a wonderful job. The production designers are brilliant, and we felt like we were walking into Cuba and it was a joy, it was one of those surreal moments in your life.
IHS: Great, thanks Elliot. We're going to move on to Licorice Pizza now and we're going to see Gary’s first encounter with John Peters, a lovely interplay between Cooper, Hoffman and Bradley Cooper. So let's see this clip.
OK Andy, the timing in this sequence is impeccable in the way that it draws out the humour of the encounter and we have the assistant in the background. Could you talk about the conversations you had setting up this sequence?
AJ: Well, the interesting thing is this was actually the very first scene that we shot in the entire movie like, this was day one because of the way that Bradley Cooper's schedule was. And actually, I think it worked perfectly for the scene, because obviously Cooper, you know he's like a first time actor and his first scene was with Bradley Cooper, basically like you know intimidating him. So it actually worked so well, because I think Cooper was so nervous and also this, there's not many like improv scenes in the movie, but the stuff with Bradley Cooper there was a lot of improv, including that whole Barbra Streisand thing that I think it was maybe mentioned in the script. But that whole thing where he couldn't say the name right, that that was just improv and so we just loved that piece, especially when he looks over at the assistant, like shrugging his shoulders. So it's like you know, it's just finding these really good gems in the footage and then like kind of building like sequence around it.
IHS: It's funny because whenever I think of Paul Thomas Anderson, like a lot of people, I think of relentless movement. The movement of the camera, I remember watching Magnolia and it's just this camera is constantly roving, but in this film there's a fair amount of running and the camera is moving with the characters and you mentioned that earlier about this movement but you're in this sequence, and like so many sequences in the film, the pace is much more static and it's less this idea of drawing out the nervousness, and we have a sort of a classic side profile shot of these characters and I think some people might be tempted to, some directors might have been tempted to go immediately for the close ups, but there's something that works incredibly well about just keeping that distance for the most part in that scene, could you talk about that?
AJ: Uhm, I mean, I think I mean honestly who knows what we would have done, but the real reason why we stayed on that shot like that was because we didn't have coverage of it. I mean that is the shot where he did that great little moment. But I mean, you know, like with any movie like this you have to, kind of have balance out… If there was movement throughout, just like constantly things moving, I mean it would be a different kind of movie, but it would you know you want like the highs and lows you want… All the movement loses its impact if you just are continuing to do it, so it's like you need to have these kind of moments of kind of staticness because we're about to go to the whole truck sequence and then and that'll just play better if we kind of can breathe a little bit in a scene like this. But yeah, I mean you want to feel the nervousness of Gary. You want to be there with him being like who the hell is this guy?
IHS: OK, let's move on to Summer of Soul and this sequence, this is a sequence that highlights how the film integrates the personal the political and cultural issues at the era into a euphoric tapestry. So let's see this clip.
OK Joshua, this this comes back to something we discussed a little bit earlier about the way that in this sequence we see it's a great example of the way that the film draws, not just on the festival itself, but a wealth of archive material from the era. But it's not just that, in this sequence we have that music playing constantly over the top, as though those shots were meant to be there and were scored, too, though I always know the music we scored to those shots. Can you talk about that, again, this idea of integrating the music with this wealth of very different archive footage?
JP: Yeah, absolutely. I mean we you know… Again, I can draw on this kind of rhythmic editing style that I've developed many years ago editing strange music videos, but this also actually highlights the fact that we wanted to draw on unusual and unseen sources of archival, the social context stuff. So you know that hairdresser scene we had a great archival researcher Elizabeth McGlynn, who just found amazing stuff from obscure corners of the world, and we also wanted to consciously find black sources of the news. So it would have been easy enough to find the standard, you know, ABC, NBC, CBS News reports from 1969 but instead we actually found this fantastic public television show called Black Journal that was sort of like sixty minutes of black culture, and throughout the film you see these two kind of guys who are like anchormen, these black anchormen type guys were looking at the camera and you know they did stories on everything to do with black culture, so that hairdresser scene was a, you know, a little thing they had done about fashion, the fashion of the times and the transition from, you know, combed, straightened hair to letting your hair go into an Afro and you know I just love the way that hairdresser says, you know, ‘for black people who were unfortunately born in America’. You know, I just was like Oh my God, that's such a great line so I knew I had to wedge that in there. But then, yeah, it's a matter of, you know, just keeping to the rhythm of music and the music's always got to be there and you know, unfortunately, the film is kind of so crammed with music, I kind of wish there were a few more moments of breath. There's not a lot of that, so it might get a little exhausting after an hour and a half, but you know hopefully the rhythmic playfulness keeps you interested and keeps you energized.
IHS: Great, and we're going to move on to Dune now. This sequence is where we begin to understand Paul Atreides’ power featuring Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson and it's another sequence where music is essential, and but it also highlights, the sequence highlights the power of the films quieter, more intimate sequences. So let's see this clip.
Joe, what's some really interesting with this sequence is the sense of place that we have in it, particularly the way that their decision to cut away to objects around the room, and then that very subtle Zoom into the portrait.
JW: Yeah, you know, the really nice thing is slightly like a companion to Arrival, Denis shoots some sort of documentary things, you know, some B roll that you can use anywhere. And in this case there were the shots of the bullfight, a bullfighter, the grandfather of the Atreides who'd lost his life, being killed by a charging bull and a little statue, and we can, I suppose the important thing is at this point in the story is it's very near the beginning of the film, you start with a very jarring battle scene between the kind of—in a very desert, you know, very brutal kind of desert scene in a hostile environment, and then you're able to contrast it with a much more familial you know, breakfast scene, and to set up the psychology of Paul, who is this combination of his mother, a Bene Gesserit, a secret order if you like, and his father the Duke Atreidies. And I mean the first one to set up was the skill of the voice you know that he's learning and this idea that the Bene Gesserit can kind of channel their ancestral power and all these kind of witchy voices, and that Paul's learning that, so that gave us a thread that you know runs throughout the whole film that he's learning and at the beginning although you can't quite hear this on streaming we decided in this sequence to put his voice slightly out of sync and to have a kind of just a base thump, but he says ‘Give me the water,’ and I mean, that appealed to me. I come from, you know, I studied music and I did sound at the BBC for many, many years and its sort of like sound has always been my kind of way into cutting a sequence and find the rhythm of things so that was kind of coo. But the idea is also to put in little time slips, you know, that's something that came with this sense of going unconscious. And the other side of Paul's psychology is the Atreides, this sort of rather plucky underdog who are gonna go onto a baking oven and try their best to kind of manage things against you know, insurmountable odds. And something weird about the kind of psychology of the bullfight, it's felt like a strong symbol that endures throughout the movie in that kind of quite symbolic way. I think even the fight there's a hand to hand fight right at the end of the film. It always feels to me to have traces of a bullfight in it. And that was, you know, the really lovely thing with Denis is he has a plan, he always has a very strong plan. He's storyboards sequences very carefully, he and the production designer think through the concepts and the whole flow of the scene. But as an editor, you know your dignity comes from you know, doing that plan and rendering it as well as you can. But also saying ‘yeah but have you thought of…’ In this case he'd shot some B roll, it was a little uncertain exactly where it would go. It was kind of just stuff while he was in the location and I found a sound of that of tinkling bells, and it just really helped me say that there's something weird about to happen. The important thing in the scene was to set up in as nonverbal a way these people, and that making the kind of strange familial.
And giving that sense of something about to happen, we're going to show a clip from Belfast now and which is the sequence that opens the drama and we see it all from the perspective for Buddy, played by the excellent Jude Hill. So let's see this clip.
It's an extraordinary sequence that happens at the opening of Kenneth Branagh’s film and we get that 360 shot and then it becomes more frenetic as it goes on. Úna, I'm actually going to go to a question from one of our audience members, Trace Taylor, who asks about the fact that we go from color shot aerial shots of contemporary Belfast at the beginning into this black and white that that is the rest of the film, save for a few color moments with old movies. When was it decided that it would be black, and white and could you talk about both the black and white in the context of this scene and also the construction of the scene?
UND: It was always in the script. It was always colour top and tail for modern day and black and white for the past and its sort of interesting. If anyone has seen Death on the Nile, Death on the Nile begins in black and white and goes into color, which was also the past and the present day. OK, so I think that is a Ken Branagh. Even back in Dead Again, he uses black and white as the tool for the pan and this. Why am I breaking up, or can you hear me?
IHS: I think if everyone can turn their microphone off just in case, and perhaps we'll just we'll just hear you.
UND: Will I try?
IHS: That that's good.
UND: Is that good OK? Sorry and so what I was going to say was that that's yeah, so that opening shot and the riot, that was always there. It was shot in sixty frames per second and one of the tools that I had in the cutting room obviously was the time warp that by putting a time warp on it I could modulate it from twenty-four frames down to thirty-six, forty-eight, sixty and just begin to get that sort of visceral nature of what the boy was feeling. This is an actual memory of Ken’s and he says in the script he was coming home after those beautiful long shots which were all sort of held to the sound of the B; so a little bit like if anyone has seen Come and See, or even, even James Bond because you hear that explosion and then your ears go deaf, we wanted to do the reverse of that. The subjective POV of sound came first, and then the explosion kicked off the riot and then I was able to cut. Ken shot loads of beautiful B camera footage all handheld, and we had the drone guy, so then, from an editorial point of view, I was trying to go from the majesty of these long held shots to suddenly this quick cutting of you know handheld shots to create that tension and aggression. And although you sometimes, we're always talking about subjective point of view and how to keep its subjective, it's really important to say it's not just the highest point of view, but we really were trying to get under his skin so you felt it as he felt it. And then as that scene continues, Ma comes out of the house and there was another time where we used slow motion as a tool that she could put up the dustbin lid and then we went back into slow motion as those bricks were rebounding. And you could hear her voice and then, I think sort of I used a type of elliptical editing, which I think just for all the guys here, I think actually I just want to give a shout out to everyone because I think all of us have musicality in our editing and I can recognize it in their work. And I know in this scene I was very conscious when I was cutting of trying to get the most aggressive cutting points so there could be even in half a movement of grace being picked up and cutting away or the half of the drone not allowing anything rest. So you felt that tension and unease and then when she threw the kids under the table having that little moment of respite, where you hear their breath, you hear her breath at the window before the final car explodes, and then in the black you just hear her voice. ‘Oh, holy God.’ So it there was a musicality I think to just trying to find that, those shots to create that energy and aggression so that the audience could feel what it felt like to be those children with their world turned upside down.
IHS: I've got another question here that I'll start with you Úna, from Alex Metraxia. How far into the editing process do you and the director feel like you've found the film? And perhaps an addendum to that, the importance of the role of experimentation within that of finding the moment.
UND: So yeah, so that's why that little week in August was actually, really vital for Ken and I because the film could have started, you know, with a voice over at the top and tail and a more personal memoir like Cinema Paradiso or a film like that. So by doing that little week in August before principal photography began it meant that we had removed the voice and it was just Van Morrison. And then I think that meant the first two weeks of the shoot we were finishing off deliverables for Death on the Nile, and then I was cutting and Ken came in to me on the first and second Friday of the shoot in Twickenham and we watched say the first--I was cutting, I had brilliant assistant Carly Brown and Lydia Manarin who were helping me during the shoot, so I would cut, send it to Lydia, Lydia was building up sound, Carly was managing the rushes and it meant by the Friday we had a really good cut for Ken to look at that meant he could come in and we could actually sort of, discuss and adapt the boy and how much of it was going to be seen through the boy’s eyes or how much of it was in the early days, there was a little bit more wide shot and less on the child, so then in the second week Ken picked up more of the boy's face and we went back to some scenes that we had been shot in the single and picked up the cutaways and just finding you know the way through. So I think when we finished the cut I did email Ken saying, you know we were quite fearless I think, and just constantly going back. Our first cut was two hours twenty, and it was a really good two hours twenty. It wasn't like a psyche two hour twenty, but we collapsed scenes, we refined, we lost a few storylines and we just brought it down to for example, conversations. Like the first riot will have absolutely no music, it's all sound design. Like the guys I love sound as a tool for my editing. And then the second riot as per the script, actually Ken had written, you know High Noon, so then it was good to have this sort of magic realism of High Noon, and there's a playfulness to that.
But then, even when I was doing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we could continue the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Bang music, go over all the present opening and again collapsing scenes and finding those vignettes so we were constantly pushing ourselves and exploring despite the fact that we were working remotely owing to COVID, we just were fearlessly just getting in there, even if it meant waking up, you know sometimes on Saturday morning at 4:00 AM or something. I was thinking I wonder if that would work and send it to Ken, and Ken is also like a very dedicated, he wouldn't mind getting an email saying have a look at this at the weekends. There’s now…
IHS: And Elliot just come to you in terms of that idea of knowing when you've kind of hit the sweet spot in the experimentation in the process?
EG: Well, it's time to turn the sound back on and that's what happened so that’s what happened. Again, please, sorry.
IHS: Just when you and Cary knew you'd hit that moment of when you were happy with the film. Can you hear me?
EG: Sorry I missed the moment there. It was just an evolving process. Cary’s a filmmaker who's happy when you're done. So it's an exploration up until that moment and Tom and I were bouncing back and forth just giving each other feedback the whole time, which was really lovely collaboration I like working with another editor if you have wonderful relationship because there's somebody there, you know in the trenches with you to bounce stuff off of, and both of us have done a variety of films and Cary sort of brought us on because we've done a variety of films. He looks to sort of subvert things and Cary is happy when you've finished.
IHS: And what about you, Andy?
AJ: Well, Paul's process is interesting. We actually watched dailies on film like big during production and with like you know our crew and Paul played music and so like that's that is kind of where we were really finding the movie and really become, just Paul like kind of hones in on like what kind of movie he's making up. So like that's part of the process. So by the end of the shoot, we know we have the movie but then there's obviously the second part in post-production and for that again, like going back to this whole momentum thing, it was just so there was something so cool about when we when we showed… We didn't, we kind of were building the movie together but we didn't, I remember we showed his family it was maybe just like three weeks after we had finished, just like the first half and so building that really quickly and then showing that first half like the first hour. I remember just like looking at him and a lot of the music was in and it just was flowing and I just, you know, you just have that feeling, like, OK, we're on the right track. It's succeeding, you know, and then it kind of went on from there.
IHS: And what about you, Joe, the role of experimentation and just knowing when you've done it.
JW: Well, I mean this was a long one. I mean we started and then the pandemic took a big chunk of time out of our post schedule and we got delayed. And then you know it gave us some benefit, but it was, you know, from beginning to end about twenty months altogether of editing, and a lot of change.
And you know, it's all always been important to us to show the film, normally to friends and family to get their response, but that wasn't possible, you know, the sort of in person screenings were sort of not happening so we had to kind of find our own way. We did have, there's normally one screening you know, in Sicario it came very fast, in Arrival it took a long time and this one this one too, there was just one where we just felt we got it and it's, you know, by that stage, everything has come into the room, the Hans Zimmer score is fully there or at least on the way and it clunked into place. But I do remember that the night before it was meant to be all over, you know, pencils down time I suddenly realized that we hadn't done a little flashback sequence at the end of the film before the fight with Janice and I said to Denis, I've got to do something. And he said, OK, fill your boots. You know, go do your stuff, but literally they were taking the drives out of my hand on the last day, so you know. Sometimes a deadline is a good sponsor of ideas, I think.
IHS: And finally, Joshua, what about you? I know some documentary film makers say that that you never complete, it's always ongoing. There's this idea that you don't want to down tools.
JP: Yeah, I mean I still have things I'd love to change. But actually this was interesting because we started in person for a couple months before the pandemic and there was a moment, I started working on just looking at the concert footage and, you know, we're picking songs and I was also trying to dress up the concert footage a little bit and they actually hadn't really started the interviews yet. And then once they started shooting some of the interviews, I mean the very first interview they got was with that that guy Moussa Jackson, who kind of frames the film. He's the guy who was only five or six years old and it was his first memory and he had a massive crush on Marilyn McCoo and he frames the film in that beautiful way, and they shot that interview and they when I first looked at it it actually kind of all clicked for me. I was like oh, I get what this movie is gonna be about. It's gonna be about memory and lost history and, you know the way he ends the film I know I'm not crazy, this actually happened. You know the whole sort of theme of black erasure, which kind of just frames the film. It's not a thread throughout, but I was like, oh, we got this great framing device and everything else is going to be gravy in between. Uh, so you know early on I kind of got it, but then of course there is no script, there's no storyboard. We're loosely trying to structure things with notecards, you know. That process of just ordering things was organic and kept going for months during lockdown. I was in my basement. Producer Joseph Patel was in his apartment, Questlove's in his apartment. But you know, I worked, I get left alone a lot. The way documentaries go a lot of the time is you're actually not working with the director constantly. They're often you know, working on their next project because it's so interesting for me to hear how all the other editors work. I've never done a scripted film, so you know, we're not often, we don't have that chance to work with the director and watch dailies and show them stuff while they're still shooting. Oftentimes the material’s already been shot, here you go, you know, have at it, and they're off doing something else and then they'll check in once or once in a while, but it was very organic that way and there was of course a lot of experimentation. I mean, I work alone a lot. I'll just cut stuff and then screen it from director and you know, it's either thumbs up or thumbs down. So it's really fun for me actually, because it's basically nothing but experimentation.
IHS: That's great, thank you Joshua. And unfortunately this is all the time that we have this evening. Coming up tomorrow is a panel with the Supporting Actor nominees, so please do join us for that and you can check out bafta.org and BAFTA’s social channels for more information and activity on those sessions and do, do, do tune in next week for the EE British Academy Awards on Sunday the 13th March at 7:00 PM on BBC One which is hosted by Rebel Wilson.
And thank you to BAFTA for organising this, but most of all thank you to our guests this evening, all our nominees and congratulations on your work on these wonderful films. Thank you for joining us.