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The Thrills of Editing Nope

5 minute read

Top 10 quotes from writer/director Jordan Peele's longtime editing collaborator Nicholas Monsour.

Editor Nicholas Monsour has collaborated with writer/director Jordan Peele throughout his career, including on Key & Peele, Us, and now on Nope. The sci-fi/horror/thriller shows off Peele's love of movies (with some definite Spielberg-esque vibes), continues to push his creativity forward, and dives deeper into the world of social commentary he's known and loved for.

Art of the Cut recently chatted with Monsour to get an inside look at what it's like to work with Peele, how his projects have grown more ambitious over time, and to discuss the editing freedom that comes with working with him.

Top 10 Quotes

"You're in good hands when you have Jordan writing and filming because a lot of it is gonna come down to the framing, the lighting, and stuff you don't get to control as the editor necessarily."

nopecredit: Universal Pictures

"This was a really interesting project as an editor because it's a very loaded scenario. It was so original in terms of the setting, the characters, and the meta nature of dealing with Hollywood and image making. In a way, I haven't quite seen it done from the below-the-line angle."

08credit: Universal Pictures

"I think a trap that some action or sci-fi can get into is building a whole world or creating some unique thing no one's seen before, so you want to see it from every angle, up close, far away, upside down, and everything. That can take some of the mystery and wonder away."

03credit: Universal Pictures

"What's really exciting about a feature-length project to me is that it's long enough that you get to embed rhythms in people. If you're really paying attention and sinking into a movie, you then have the opportunity to subvert that rhythm that you have set up. So, I think it can start quite a ways back before the jump scare or the moment you want to really be startling to somebody to set up the rhythm that you're then subverting probably at that moment."

10credit: Universal Pictures

"I absolutely rely on a script supervisor being there, taking those notes, and doing a great job at that. I think it is one of the most underappreciated roles in film production. It should maybe be its own department even. That job is so crucial because I respond emotionally to the footage first or instinctively and see what I think is there, but it's another way that I get that direct line of communication."

12credit: Universal Pictures

"The phases were very blurred together throughout the entire edit. There wasn't a strict 'Pictures done. Now you score it.' It was constantly moving together."

02credit: Universal Pictures

"Jordan wants to be able to walk into the edit bay and talk about music and talk about sound, and he wants to be able to walk onto the sound stage when I'm there and start talking about the picture edit. Not because he doesn't know the process, but there isn't really any reason we can't all talk about those things. He prefers it to be this group discussion where the best ideas emerge."

13credit: Universal Pictures

"The goal is that as soon as we're done with the production, there is a watchable movie, not just a complete 'Hey, remember you shot all this, and these were all your circle takes,' because some directors do wanna see that. I understand that approach, but Jordan knows what he shot. He remembers his circle takes. He's actually really interested in getting onto the next part usually. We've been talking the whole time and he is been watching, giving me notes. Often, when he sits down and watches the editor's cut, we could be up to version 15 of a sequence. We've already done a lot of work by that point."

06credit: Universal Pictures

"He knew he had these kinds of powder keg moments and scenes that he had written in, and the fallout of when they explode in the movie was something he was always balancing right up to the end of the edit. It was a great feeling when it did gel."

14credit: Universal Pictures

"Jordan is always thinking about not taking anything as a given on how movies are made. He's always looking at it critically, as I hope I am too. We've always talked about, "I would rather that we didn't have to go there to do this. It would be better if this was happening in one meeting rather than two." So, we wanted it to feel like that. There were, of course, limitations with space and with how many people you would wanna get together all at once because of COVID."

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

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