Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Film Editing

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Film Editing

Article excerpt

The creative process of putting all that "EARTHQUAKE" action together-a gargantuan task-was skilfully handled by a petite, soft-spoken lady with feature editing credits as long as your arm

Since I'm semi-retired and living in the country, I come into Hollywood these days to work on only the pictures I like. When I was offered the assignment of editing "EARTHQUAKE", it was such a different type of story that I couldn't resist it. This picture has been a great challenge, but a very pleasurable experience, because I was working with a wonderful crew, a wonderful cameraman and a wonderful director.

Of course, I've worked with Mark Robson before-on eight features to be exact. We have a very nice relationship and I like working with him. Although he is a top-notch editor himself, he gives me free rein to exercise my own creative individuality in cutting a sequence the way I feel it should go. Then we go over it together and he either likes it or he doesn't. If changes are required, I make them, but at least I've had an opportunity to follow through on my own concept. I guess he has confidence in me by now.

There aren't many directors like that around these days. With most directors, you cut it exactly the way they want it, and there's no room for editorial creativity. During my career I've worked with all kinds of directors. I've worked with Hitchcock and Hathaway and Mankiewicz and Preminger and John Ford. Ford never told me anything and he never looked at the picture until it was finished.

The fact that Mark Robson had been a working editor for a long time has great advantages. He understands an editor's problems and he makes sure that he shoots everything that is needed to cut a sequence together smoothly, but he doesn't shoot a lot of superfluous material. Even so, there was an enormous amount of footage shot for "EARTHQUAKE", about 200,000 feet, but this was mainly because multiple cameras had to be used in so many of the scenes. There were at least four cameras on most of our action material and I would select what I thought was best and put it into first cut. Mr. Robson and I worked pretty long hours on it, but I enjoyed it. I like working.

We started cutting right after the first day's shooting. As soon as the dailies were cleared, the film was coded and sent up to my cutting room. I keep up to date, so that by the time a sequence is more or less finished shooting, I'm pretty well set on it and have it all cut. I generally work that way. I don't like to get behind.

Inevitably, there were some delays because of the great amount of second unit material-trick shots and miniatures and matte shots. This kind of work takes time to do, and we had to wait until we could intercut these scenes with the first unit material. In spite of these unavoidable delays, I had my first cut of the picture completed seven days after shooting ended.

Mark Robson looked at the first cut and then we went into our changes. We scrambled sequences around and trimmed scenes until we got it the way he wanted it-ahead of schedule.

In editing a picture with as much action as "EARTHQUAKE", you adhere to the script as much as you can, and from that point on it's a matter of isolating the most exciting bits and putting them together. I tried to get as much action into it as possible. For some reason I always seem to get assigned to pictures that are very physi'cal. I don't know why. Pictures like "NORTH TO ALASKA" and "THE YOUNG LIONS" and "BROKEN LANCE" all had a lot of physical action-fighting and brawling and things like that. "EARTHQUAKE" is packed with action and that suited me fine, because I like working on action pictures very, very much. They're more flexible and I think you can do a lot more with them. I like dialogue pictures, too, but, still and all, you're locked down with dialogue.

There was so much going on during the actual earthquake sequences that, in order to put it together, I had to develop a "feel" for the material-as if I were actually experiencing an earthquake. …

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