… How do you know when you’re ready to take on that responsibility?
… A director makes or breaks a film. This man does everything on the film and I’m one of those spokes on a wheel, but I’ve got to know where he’s at. You’re building, taking pieces of film, digging out the values and structuring it. A lot of directors tell you exactly what they want, but it’s not what they say, it’s what they feel. I try to get into what I think they feel and then I build the scenes. Some directors shoot pieces, they don’t shoot scenes. In Fatal Attraction, there were a lot of lovely pieces, the action scenes, the love scenes. You have to take them and structure them, give it order, form, symmetry, and make it work with the overall view. Sometimes you have a lot of little scenes that work but the totality doesn’t work. So you’ve got to always think about the whole.
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Do you work the same way with all directors?
For some directors you have to change your personality. They demand something from you besides your work. They want a certain kind of personality. If you’re going to be a right arm to a director, you’ve got to assume that role. I’ve gotten along with all of my directors because I have the ability to change myself. Like anything in life, the guy who succeeds is the one who has the ability to adapt, to make it happen.
This next is from the interview with Richard Marks:
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How would you define what an editor does on a film?
When you shoot scenes you tend to shoot beginnings, middles, and ends. One of the prime functions of an editor in sizing down a film is to make scenes flow into one another. When you distill scenes, you tend to lose pieces of beginnings, of ends, and sometimes hunks out of the middle. Distillation is really what we do, because something may work well on paper, but when you use it full blown on film it may be saying the same thing six times. In the cutting of a scene, a great moment or a wonderful look by an actor can replace a line or two of dialogue. Cutting a film is an ongoing process where you really try to distill the essence of the idea behind the script.
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How do you select your projects?
… A good script can be ruined by bad people and a bad script can be made better by good people. As an editor, you spend a long time locked up with someone in a room, and ultimately, you want to know that you can get along. It’s not like shooting a film. We’re not gone in eight or twelve weeks; we’re there for a long haul. It’s a marriage.
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Everyone says that the hardest thing to do is to make the leap to editor. How do you know when you’re ready to take on that responsibility?
Dede Allen [Marks’s teacher/mentor] recommended me for an Alan Pakula film [Klute]. I went to see Alan. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was a kid, 24 years old. I read the script, I talked to him and, based on Dede’s recommendation, he offered me the film. I went home and thought about it. I had a long talk with my wife about what I should do. I was terrified of saying no, because I felt I was blowing an opportunity out of the water, but I think I was more terrified that I really didn’t feel confident enough in myself to take on the responsibilities of a big film. I felt if I blew it, I’d have a hard time getting a second chance, so I decided to pass on it. … [P]sychologically I wasn’t ready for it. Most of what we do has to do with our own sense of ourselves, and if you don’t have confidence in yourself, you’re going to blow it. It is always more important to make the time to find confidence in yourself.