I found this great article over at Vanity Fair's 'Little Gold Men' about recent Oscar winners, Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter, editors of The Social Network, on working with David Fincher, editing on digital & getting intimate with Jesse Eisenberg:
Little Gold Men: Let's start with the obvious. What do you think as editors when Fincher comes at you with his infamous "99 takes" approach to filmmaking?
Angus: Well, he may have shot 99 takes, but he doesn’t actually send all 99 takes to us. I think it was usually 60-odd takes and 30 he didn’t like. The great thing with David is you get a lot of material. Having that allows you to do things that make the scene much better.
Kirk: It’s not like he’s shooting one shot, 99 times. He’s also getting all his coverage. He might do that master for a bunch of takes, then he’ll get the over-the-shoulder, then the close-up. He’s going to make sure he’s got a great performance from every angle.
So, you like having that much material?
Angus: It allows us to do our job.
Kirk: That opening scene was very much setting up the film, and he had a target to get to in terms of how long it took to get through all the dialogue. The first God-knows-how-many takes were really about getting it truncated. What’s normal for David is about 6 to 12 takes for a setup. But sometimes it’s as simple as three.
Angus: That said, he does shoot a lot of takes!
Was the screenplay’s structure a challenge? Was it hard helping the audience keep track of when and where the action is taking place?
Kirk: The main heavy lifting is really the writing. The traction of it all makes sense and that’s based on what Aaron wrote. Our task was—does it make sense to be overlapping this, should there be hard cuts?
Angus: Does the dialogue pre-lap? There are a couple of phrases or lines that are lifted from scenes, but in terms of the shape of the movie, it’s very much in the original script.
Kirk: We played it quite straight towards the beginning when you're jumping back and forth in time. As the audience got used to that language, we were able to get more aggressive in overlapping the lines and speeding it up.
David likes being on the technological forefront of filmmaking—shooting digitally, editing in Final Cut. How does that impact the editing process?
Angus: When I switched to Final Cut, it made me rethink how I work. It forced me to re-invent things. I love it because it’s so flexible. It doesn’t force you into a way of thinking about editing.
Does all this technological change amount to a revolution in filmmaking?
Angus: God, yeah! I think having these rigid departments, and this very strict division of labor, is a twentieth century notion. If you talk to people coming out of school these days, they do everything. We as editors try to keep up with that. David shoots digitally, so, unlike with film, we don’t have a lab. There are four or five people in post-production and we do what 25 or 30 people used to do in the film world, which is a huge revolution.
It makes you leaner and meaner?
Kirk: It makes you very fast. Today for example, I got a phone call from Fincher at seven in the morning saying, We’ve got an actress here who needs to go back to France, but I’m not going to release her until I see an edit of the scene we shot yesterday. I’ve got my hands on the footage by 8 o’clock, I’ve put all the selects together while David’s filming, and by 11:30 I’ve got him selects of everything from the day before. He goes, Love it, love it, no, yes, and by 5 o’clock, in between set ups, he’s looking at an edit.
That’s a pretty break-neck pace.
Kirk: The way David shoots, he likes to see the edits as he’s progressing. The assembly process of his movies can be almost as stressful as being on set because it’s always based on time. But we’ve then got 4 months to go through and fine-tune and decompress.
Angus: There’s not as much time as in the old days of, Well, we've got to wait for the machine, let’s go take a coffee break. What it means is the creative process is taking the time, not the logistical process, and that’s the good thing.
Are you nostalgic at all for old methods of cutting on film?
Angus: Honestly? No.
Do you ever feel a weird intimacy with the actors as you watch their performances over and over? What’s it like meeting them in person after that?
Angus: It’s surreal because you feel like you know them. I always have to check myself when I meet them for real. When I first started, I would be like, How’s it going?, and people would be like, Who the fuck are you?
Kirk: You think they’re like a cousin because you’ve been through their underwear drawer—not that I’ve been through my cousin’s underwear. You know a little too much, but we’re essentially strangers.
Do you ever take candid moments that aren’t really part of the performances and use them in the film?
Angus: All the time. When you find them in the dailies, they’re treasures, because they make the performances feel really legit.
Kirk: There’s loads of accidental stuff that happens that’s just so human, they can’t be denied. They have to find their place. One is when Jesse throws the dart and it lands in the orange juice. That’s classic, the look on their faces.