Andrew Marcus and HEDWIG

For Class #4

 Instructor: Norman Hollyn T.A.: Beth Moody
 Office: 310-821-2792 Phone: 323-472-1164

 E-Mail: nhollyn [at] cinema.usc.edu

E-Mail: elizabethmoody [at] gmail.com



 

By Warren Curry

For more than a decade now, Andrew Marcus has edited some of the more critically embraced films in recent memory. "Much Ado About Nothing," "Remains of the Day" and "American Psycho" are just a few of the movies that highlight his impressive resume. With the initial praise being heaped upon his latest work, Fine Line Features' "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Marcus' string of artistically important and challenging films continues.

Based on the wildly successful off-Broadway play, "Hedwig" was a project that Marcus had attempted to acquire the film rights to. "Hedwig's" writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell described Marcus as an editor who "works himself to the bone, to get it the best it can be."

As usual, quotes which pertain to what we're talking about in class are highlighted in yellow.

This is an excerpt from a much longer interview which can be found on Editors Net web site.

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How did you get involved with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"?

I was working in Los Angeles for a company called Muse Productions, and when "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" was an off-Broadway play, I tried to get the rights to produce it as a movie. I talked to the director, John Cameron Mitchell, about doing it. When the stage play took off, and New Line got involved, we were out of the running. When the movie was up and running, I put out the word that I wanted to edit it, because I had loved the stage play so much. I thought John was an amazing talent, and it was really interesting and different.

"Hedwig" was John's directorial debut. What is it like working with a first-time director?

John was a first-time director, but he had developed "Hedwig" for six years as a stage play and then as a movie in the Sundance Lab, so in terms of preparation, he was way ahead of the game. He also had the luxury of most of the crew being hired well before we started, so there was a lot of prep time. The play was very theatrical and the big trick was finding a cinematic language to substitute for the theatrical language that carried the play. Whether it was costumes, set design, camera work, animation or editing, we kept asking ourselves, "What is the most cinematic way of telling the story?" So even though he was a first-time director, he was incredibly well prepared.

There's a wide range of visual styles in the film, from the near anarchy of the band's live performances to animation to the more stylized flashback scenes. How did you manage to keep everything cohesive?

One of the things I learned from this movie is when you keep the emotional thread going, everything ties together. The minute you break that thread, you lose the audience. In the early cuts of the movie, there was a lot more shtick in the stage presentation. A lot of comedic scenes we wound up cutting out because they put the brakes on the emotional experience and the identification with the characters.

Did you have a lot of footage to work with when you were cutting?

No, we shot the movie in 28 days so we didn't cut that much out, but we restructured the film considerably. Up until one week before we locked the picture, we were changing around the order of scenes in a big way to the point where at the opening screening, I had forgotten the order of the film. I really enjoyed watching it because of that. We also had the luxury of being able to re-shoot a few scenes.

Many of the flashback scenes have a distinct dreamlike quality to them. From an editing standpoint, what was done to create that atmosphere?

It wasn't so much editing, as much as it was the camera work and production design. They shot it in a bleach bypass, so they drained all the color out and made it look really blue. There used to be a flashback, then a performance, then another flashback and then more performance. The story wasn't narrative at that point; it wasn't being told in a linear narrative fashion. So one thing we did was make young Hansel's story and trip to America much more linear. It used to be interspersed with more of Tommy Gnosis's story, and we separated the two.

During the scene when Hedwig's band performs the song "Angry Inch," which explains the botched sex change operation in graphic detail, the band becomes involved in a violent confrontation with some of the audience. This initial chaos is then counteracted by a trace of sorrow and desperation in Hedwig's demeanor. How do you approach cutting a scene that incorporates such conflicting tones?

That scene was an area where we knew we wanted to change gears really abruptly and put the brakes on all this chaos and go into Hedwig's head a lot more. The camera did it by using slow motion and a huge close-up of Hedwig's face. Stephen came up with a great musical cue where we faded down on the chaotic music and brought up a very lyrical piece of music for the flying. That helped tremendously. One of the nicest things about working on this movie was how closely we got to work with the composer during the editing process.

How many cuts did you assemble before John became involved in the editing process?

I cut it in Toronto while we were shooting, so I had one pass and then John and I worked on it for a number of months together. Stephen came in during the middle of that process. I should also mention that our studio executive producer, Amy Henkels at New Line, was just great. She came into the editing room at a point where we were burnt out, and in a subtly diplomatic way made some suggestions that really helped the film just when we needed it. Killer Films and everyone knew we had problems, but it was really Amy who put her finger on what the film needed and what direction we should go. Nobody ever bullied us, but sometimes you do get too close to the film and you need a producer or somebody with a little bit of power to say "do this." Sometimes, you try it and everything opens up.

You've worked with Merchant-Ivory and Kenneth Branagh. You recently cut "American Psycho" for Mary Harron. You've cut "Hedwig," and now you're working on "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." This is a broad range of material, to say the least. What is the core element that attracts you to projects?

What all those projects have in common is really strong directors. They all have a personal vision, which I'm there to help realize. Also, they are all people who I've worked with over and over again. I'd much prefer to have the kind of collaboration that starts before the film is even made. Mary Harron and I are talking about her next film now and how we're going to do it. Hopefully my collaboration with John will also continue. I don't like to do projects where you don't have a relationship with the director, the studio hires you and you can get replaced.

© 2001 EditorsNet





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