Tim Squyres Edits Life of Pi
Tim Squyres, American Cinema Editor (ACE)
Life of Pi was a complicated film to make, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s about a tiger in a lifeboat in the ocean. It was a complicated story to adapt to a script. If you read the book, there’s the adventure story about the boy, the tiger and the boat. But it’s not really what the book is about. It ends on something that’s intellectual and philosophical, which is not usually what you do in movies. You usually want to end a movie on an emotional note, but this book ends on a big idea, and that’s why people like the book. We wanted to be true to the theological argument that Yann Martell was trying to make in the book. How to do that in a way that was cinematic was a big challenge.
The great thing about working with Ang is that he doesn’t make the same movie over and over again. It’s constant development. When he decides to do a martial arts film, he doesn’t look for a martial arts editor; he says, “Tim, you’re going to learn to cut martial arts.” In working with him, whatever new thing he’s attracted to, I need to wrap my thinking about this.
Life of Pi was something new, with themes and visuals unlike anything we’ve done before. We’re always pushing each other. We agree 95 percent of the time, but the other 5 percent is what we talk about. If you disagree too much, you can’t work together and if you agree all the time, you’re wasting your time. We push each other a little bit and wind up hopefully with something better than either of us would do on our own.
This was Ang’s first film shooting digitally. He had always shot on film and initially he had to be talked into 3D. You can’t shoot modern 3D on film, so once we decided to pursue 3D, we had to shoot digital. He was wary of the digital cameras at first, but we shot a bunch of tests and the Alexa won him over, especially when he saw what he could get in low light. Working with the cameras was a positive experience for him.
We’re shooting in 3D, which is hard; we’re shooting on water, which is hard; we’re shooting with an inexperienced actor, which can be hard (although he turned out to be quite good); and then there are the animals and all the visual effects. Each one of these factors makes shooting a movie difficult, and we had all of them in the same movie on what was a fairly tight schedule. We simply weren’t going to be able to get the same kind of coverage you would normally get. We would be constrained. On a wave tank shooting in 3D, you’re not going to get 30 set-ups in a day.
Knowing that, we knew we had to have a plan, and previsualization was how we did it. Halon in Los Angeles did the previsualization, which enabled us to make sure we had a plan that would work. Although we relied on previsualization to plan coverage, once the footage got to me, I wasn’t constrained to cut it like the previs, although sometimes there weren’t that many other options that made sense. I spent about half of the shoot in Taiwan, and half in New York; if there were a change on set while I was in Taiwan, I would usually go out to the set and talk to them, which is unusual for me. Usually in Ang’s films, I’m nowhere near they’re shooting. In this case, I got called in a lot to make sure it was going to work out. [more…]
Source: Creative COW