Note especially how Hutshing discusses the editorial choices that were made in regards to pacing. Hutshing comments that the "faster is better" pacing approach is common now. When you contrast the editing styles of remakes like THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR or even LOLITA, this is very obvious. THE FRENCH CONNECTION, a film which was heralded for its fast pace when it first came out in 1971 appears glacial in today's world of THE MATRIX (a film which I liked very much, by the way).

It is important to avoid relying on editing tricks which may only be the fad of the moment. However, it is just as important to avoid consciously trying to avoid these editing tricks, as Marty Brest did on MEET JOE BLACK. The editing must grow organically from the material, not from an imposed style.

I've highlighted a few of Hutshing's comments which comment either on the issues we are talking about tonight or continue the discussion of how editors work on scenes.

Interview with Joe Hutshing, Co-Editor, "Meet Joe Black"

By Elif Cercel
Tuesday December 1, 1998, 12:12 AM PST

So, you are particularly adept at working with multiple editors?
It is just the way it goes for certain films, especially the types of films we are talking about, where the director shoots a lot of footage and the post-production schedule is so tight that we need more help. I actually like working with multiple editors because it gives you a chance to get away from some material for awhile, step back from it and let somebody else have a shot. On the other hand, you lose the singularity of vision that you have when doing it yourself. I like both ways. Preferably, I would cut a film by myself, but I certainly don't mind sharing the duties with someone else I respect.

How long did the editing process take?
We had a very long post schedule -- the longest I have ever worked on a film. From the time we started shooting until the time I left, just before it went into theaters, was seventeen months. Generally, I work on a film for about a year or maybe a little bit less.

How far did the film's pacing evolve during the editing process as opposed to being a scripted concept?
The pacing of the movie was something that Marty had felt was really an important element of the film. I know the slow pacing is what the critics have gotten down on us for the most. Mike and I have both worked on action movies and movies that had very, very fast cutting. It seems to be very popular today. Marty wanted to do something that worked intentionally against that concept. He wanted to try an approach that was totally different, which was to go in the opposite direction and slow the pace down.

Mike and I have always been schooled in the "faster is a better" theory. This is the prevalent approach now. But we had to get into a different frame of mind for this film and we enjoyed it because it was so different. This film is like nothing else out right now. It puts you into a different frame of mind when you are watching it. I really thought it was bold of Marty to go that direction. I liked it.

What was working with Martin Brest like?
Marty spends a lot of time in the editing room after he has finished shooting. He likes to sit with you while you are trying different takes.

Marty didn't make many changes to the structure of the edits Mike and I would present to him. For the most part, the structure remained pretty much intact with some exceptions. The work basically involved going over takes and shots to make sure that we used his favorite take.

What were the most satisfying scenes to edit in this film?
I liked the first "coffee shop" scene where the young man meets the young woman for the first time. That was the first scene Marty shot. It was very tricky in terms of matching action. Nothing matched because they are eating. In the takes, he was cutting his food, putting salt and pepper on it, reaching for his orange juice, his coffee. In the wider shots I wanted to hold on them while we established the characters before going into the close-ups. In these shots, their hands were clearly visible and it is very tricky to get the best performances. If you look at the film for matching purposes, it was a nightmare. Certain shots did not match, but I tried to match the rhythm and the motion of what people were doing, along with the best performances. Hopefully, the audience will be watching their faces and not their hands.

Going back to the "coffee shop" scene for a moment. The way that sequence ends is so abrupt and impactful. Was that difficult to set up?
That sequence was great! When we got the working optical back, it was pretty close and one we could show to an audience. That sequence was so violent that we were very unsure about it. When we first showed it, the audience's reaction was immediate and loud. It was one of the most complex reactions I have ever seen in any movie. At first people gasped, then they laughed, then they felt guilty about laughing. Then they laughed more. Everyone was talking and they kept talking well into the next scene, where Allison (Marcia Gay Harden) is talking to her father and they missed entire lines of dialogue, which really didn't really matter. In the first screening, people finally quieted down when Allison said, "You haven't listened to a word I've said, have you?" That was a great moment and made the scene even funnier. I really loved the reaction to that violent moment because it is so outrageous. It makes the audience wonder what kind of movie they are watching.

There is a very interesting sense of mystery and tension that runs throughout the film. Were there any particular techniques, especially in the use of sound, that helped to achieve that feeling?
The writing and the music were most important in that regard. For example, I really liked two of the scenes Mike cut. The "heart attack" scene had originally been thought of as a scene with a score, but Scott Hecker, our Supervising Sound Editor, came up with that sound. When we played it everyone fell in love with it immediately because it was so powerful. There were a lot of different noises used like the sound of wind, ducks, geese and a low rumbling sound. It was like music, in a way, so we used it instead of music.

What was the concept behind the way that "love making" scene was edited?
The thought behind it was to focus not only on Susan (Claire Forlani), but on the way Joe is becoming aware of being a real person, as well as the impact of their love-making and how it would affect his agreement with Bill Parrish, Susan's father. By using a lot of the close-ups we were trying to convey the thoughts going through his mind during the actual love-making.

How, if at all, has your own approach to editing changed over the years and how do you think the profession itself has changed?
In a personal sense, I have learned so much on every film I have worked on. It always amazes me when I get near the end of a film, how much I have learned. Each film is so different and you approach them so differently. The way I edit depends so much on the footage itself. "Meet Joe Black" couldn't be any more different than "JFK." The entire approach depends on the story and the footage you get in. Over the years I have learned how to do things and I am better at playing the instrument, in a sense.

In terms of editing as a whole changing, it is always about storytelling. There are fads which come and go. There are popular forms of editing -- a new gimmick might be used for awhile and then dropped. But it all depends on the movies that are made and how each one is shot.

© EditorsNet, 1998

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