Joan began as a first assistant editor on such projects as both of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. She then moved to the principal editor with 2002’s Oscar winning short film The Accountant and the 2005 feature film, The Quiet. Since then she has worked with Tom Ford twice on A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals. Some of Joan’s additional editing credits include Admission &The Perfect Guy. The Norwich Film Festival is also delighted to welcome Joan as one of our 2017 film judges.
Joan, firstly congratulations on the nomination for a BAFTA in editing at this year’s festival - Nocturnal Animals was an incredible film and offered a master class in editing a variety of different stories. So this leads me nicely on to our first question:
NFF: Working on a project such as Nocturnal Animals must have been quite a demanding and overwhelming process at times. I was wondering how you as an editor manage this process. What is your typical process like when you sit down to edit a scene?
JS: I always have the script in my head, so that I know exactly where this scene falls within the story, and what this scene conveys in relation to what has come before and what will come after, even though none of those scenes have been filmed as yet. Once I receive the dailies for a scene, I re-read the preceding scene, the scene that I’ve received the rushes for, and the scene that follows. Then I watch all of the dailies for the scene and take copious notes, almost exclusively about performance. I make decisions based upon performance as to where I want the scene to go….what moments I want to emphasize….which nuances that an actor is displaying that I want to make sure ends up on the screen. These might be the tiniest of gestures, but they convey everything….often more than the dialogue, at times. Then I dive in! Building and sculpting and making decisions every second. Working and massaging the scene over and over until it is flowing into the narrative, connecting the visuals, and especially, supporting the performances.
NFF: Previously working with the brilliant director Tom Ford on A Single Man – Did this make it easy for you both to work collaboratively together on Nocturnal Animals? If so, why?
JS: Yes, because I instinctively can get quite close to what Tom’s intentions are while he is still actually shooting the movie, and while I am editing alone in the cutting room. Working together on A Single Man made collaborating on Nocturnal Animals almost symbiotic. Even without talking with Tom on a daily basis, I could tell from how he was directing the film and the actors where he wanted the scene to go. And if I was off base, we would then work it out together in the cutting room. The creative collaboration was and is incredibly exciting. Tom is brilliant and his creativity is positively explosive! What an incredible joy it is to work with him!
NFF: Nocturnal Animals is multi-layered in its storytelling – what was your favourite scene to cut in the movie? And what is it about that scene that resonates for you?
JS: Wow….there are so many. Just from a performance standpoint, I would have to say the scene with Laura Linney and Amy Adams. They were on fire, and their chemistry as Mother/Daughter was electric. Every take was brilliant. That scene is integral to the understanding of Susan’s motivations and choices throughout the movie and throughout her life. The scene on the side of the road, when Ray abducts Tony’s wife and daughter was an incredibly challenging scene to cut. Besides the amount of characters and the handheld cameras swinging back and forth, the challenge was in very slowly building the tension until it became unbearable. ….of placing the audience in the shoes of both Tony and Ray….of being drawn and repelled by Ray, questioning his motives as Tony does, and questioning Tony’s actions or non-actions. It was a study of, an emotional journey through society’s definition of male behavior…what is considered strength and weakness….of the capacity for good and evil….of decisions good and bad…of regret for those decisions.
NFF: Was there any particular scenes that you wished had not been cut from the final version of Nocturnal Animals?