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AOTC

All Shook Up with The Editors from Elvis

5 minute read

Top 10 quotes from Baz Luhrmann's team on what it was like to work on the film — from massive amounts of footage to the role of assistant editors.


I’ve loved Baz Luhrmann movies since Strictly Ballroom which I watched obsessively with my parents. Romeo & Juliet with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio? Swoon. Moulin Rouge? Cut to me singing at the top of my lungs. 

This week’s Art of the Cut rocks its way into his latest film Elvis starring Austin Butler in a performance primed for award season. The director teamed up, once again, with long-time editing partners Jonathon Redmond and Matt Villa on the project. The duo had over 600 hours of camera footage to work with, a massive amount of stock footage to wrangle, and luckily, a highly collaborative director and environment. Get ready to shake, rattle, and roll.

Top 10 Quotes

I first started this project about five years ago, even before there was the script. Baz had an idea of making an Elvis film even before he even pitched it to the studios. He just wanted to scratch the itch. We did a lot of research a long time ago in collaboration with Katherine Martin, his costume production designer, and the music guys, Elliot and Jameson. We started cutting materials years before we shot anything. The first thing we presented to the studio wasn't a script, and it wasn't a treatment. Baz nicknamed it ‘the script-ment’.  Jonathan Redmond

rev-1-ELVIS-FF-00158_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It was very important for Baz to have the style of a montage in the style of the time period that it was set in. For example, when Elvis set off on that first tour that ended up at the Daytona Fairground that was very much a 50's style with superimpositions and overlays and things like that. Matt Villa

rev-1-ELVIS-TRL-90472_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

How do you decode that kind of sense of shock and awe to a younger audience today when the music vernacular is so different? That's something I think Baz does very well. We were definitely exploring how faithful we need to be to Elvis' music and how do we push it to decode what it meant back then to a young audience and how radical it was. Jonathan Redmond

rev-1-ELVIS-TRL-88311_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

We're shooting some of the big set pieces, a minimum of four cameras, sometimes five, and multiple takes. So one of those supergroups could have 30-40 different shots. On top of that, Baz is a huge fan of rolling resets. any one take might have five or six sub-takes within it. Keeping track of that was also challenging, not just for us but the assistants as well. Even though we're shooting digital, there are still limits on how long the camera can roll, but everyone did a great job. It was a lot of material. Jonathan Redmond

rev-1-ELVIS-TRL-88704_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the big things that Dave Quinn and Walter Ratcliffe, the first assistants, did for us was do these massive supergroups of all the performances. Basically, this multi-view mode but by factors of several. For all the takes of the performances, they stacked everything all together so that John and I could flip through. That was both terrifying and very handy.  Matt Villa

rev-1-ELVIS-TRL-88223_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The four-and-a-half-hour assembly is the result of just a nasty slog to put something on the screen, and it's something that would never see the light of day outside of Baz. He saw it and invited many of the Heads of Departments in to watch. Then, of course, comes the heartbreaking process of throwing babies out, but we started in a good place. It was called the “kitchen sink cut.” It was everything, including the kitchen sink. Matt Villa

rev-1-ELVIS-FF-00148r_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

We had two amazing first assistants and some fantastic second assistants. They were able to just create the daily bins in such a way that worked for both of us. We were able to share things incredibly easily. There was no kind of technical difficulties in having multiple editors. Jonathan Redmond

rev-1-ELVIS-FF-00105r_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

They were two very separate scenes that existed in two very different parts of the film but once again, as time became our enemy, Baz had an idea that juxtaposing those two scenes and intercutting them together shows that these are the two worlds that Elvis existed in, but belonged to neither. It never showed it quite as significantly separately as when they were meshed together. Matt Villa

rev-1-ELVIS-FF-00051_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Everyone has different gifts, be they technical or creative, or both. Matt Villa

rev-1-ELVIS-FF-00494_High_Res_JPEGPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Anything goes with Baz. He can fill in a lot of blanks in his head. He prefers to see things rough and ready and quickly than to perfect them. We can get any bit of music in there that sets the tone, or the music guys can give us just any old song mashed together. We'll use it. He's really good at reading ideas presented any which way. Jonathan Redmond

Want more? Read the full AOTC interview and listen to the full pod

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