Art of the Cut: Paul Thomas Anderson Jumps the Age Gap with “Licorice Pizza”
Today I’m speaking with editor Andy Jurgensen, editor of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza.
Andy’s work on the film has garnered him BAFTA and ACE Eddie nominations for Best Editing. Andy has been part of Anderson’s post team on Inherent Vice, on which he served as Assistant Editor and on Phantom Thread, on which he worked as Associate Editor.
Check out the Art of the Cut podcast to listen to this interview, and stay up to date on all the latest episodes.
HULLFISH: Thank you for joining me. You have had a long relationship with Paul [Thomas Anderson], and I interviewed Dylan Tichenor for Phantom Thread. Tell me about you moving your way into the inner circle and up the ladder in the group.
JURGENSEN: Well, I started working with Paul on Inherent Vice in 2014 as an assistant editor, and I had a great experience with Leslie [Jones], who I’d worked with before. Paul also does these side projects from to time—music videos or things for Jonny [Greenwood]—and he just started calling me to help him out. So, that started our relationship.
Then, Phantom Thread was just a different animal because we went to London for that movie, and since we do everything on film and we do film dailies, it’s hard to do that kind of thing in another country. In LA, we have the bubble of being close to FotoKem and just having everything here.
I think he’s just slowly welcomed me into the circle and trusts me now. A lot of the people that work with him have worked with him for a long time. We know his sensibilities. The way he makes movies is so unique, so I think that’s part of it.
HULLFISH: I’m sure it’s wonderful to be trusted. You want to know that you trust the editor and that the editor has got your back. I saw that you did some Haim music videos with Paul too.
JURGENSEN: Yeah, we’ve done a bunch of Haim videos. That’s how he got to know that family is through doing music videos, and I’ve pretty much cut all of those. So, maybe that was part of it too. I’ve been part of the Haim process. Now, onto this movie, maybe he wanted to just continue with that.
HULLFISH: You also mentioned the 35mm film aspect. You’re a relatively young guy and I haven’t even worked on film myself and I’m in my late fifties. Where do you even find an assistant that is capable of working in 35mm film and all of what that entails?
JURGENSEN: We’re still cutting digitally obviously, but during the shoot, we’re watching film dailies, so we do have to prep that. Then, once we get to a certain point, we do conform workprint. And when we lock, we make lists and cut negative for the photochemical version of the movie.
We have two assistants. Jay Trautman was our first assistant and was great. I had to find someone that was really on it and teach him everything that I had learned in the past two movies. Even just from Inherent Vice to now, so many things have gone away as far as film equipment that we used to be able to use that isn’t made anymore or that’s broken or obsolete.
Our film assistant is Bill Fletcher, who’s actually done a lot and has worked on Tarantino’s movies and Chris Nolan’s. So he rotates around.
HULLFISH: Rotates around the three directors who shoot on film [laughs].
JURGENSEN: He does, honestly. He’s amazing. We also have an incredible post supervisor, Erica Frauman. So, that was our team.
HULLFISH: What a different way to work with the 35mm film dailies. That’s fascinating to hear about.
JURGENSEN: I feel pretty lucky to be straddling these two ways of filmmaking. It’s so fun. Yes, it can be annoying at times because there are all these extra elements that we have to make, but it’s also so special being in this old photochemical style of filmmaking.
Obviously, I do other movies too, so it’s interesting how Paul’s process has influenced how I approach those projects. It’s a unique experience.
HULLFISH: Talk to me about the difference between cutting a film that is entirely digital—or at least edited entirely digital—and then how screening dailies on film as a group changes the way you watch dailies.
JURGENSEN: It’s invaluable. It’s one of the best things that Paul does. That’s one thing that he keeps alive from the old days, and he’s been doing it from the beginning.
On Phantom Thread because we had this issue of being in London, we couldn’t watch film every single day and had to settle for getting selects every week. But he would still watch dailies every night with the dailies colorist. We’d go over to Technicolor and watch it digitally.
Here, it’s the perfect scenario because we have a place where we work with a digital projector, film projector, and the Avid. It kind of is like mission control.
This film was all shot in LA, which was great because we could gather together at the beginning or the end of the shoot day in our space, have a drink, and just watch dailies from the day before.
Usually, we get the film first even before we’re getting it digitally because that’s just the way that everything gets processed with the scanning. The pipeline is so unique. So, the first time we’re seeing it is on print.
We can just judge so many things when watching it big on film. Not only the performance, but the lighting, and the lenses and focus.
Paul’s wearing so many hats. He’s the writer, the producer, the director, and a co-cinematographer, so there’s a lot in his head. When he’s watching dailies, he’s analyzing so many different elements.
For dailies, we will have a little group of people—the camera crew and some other key members—and we can just see how things play and what gets laughs. I’ll take notes and we’ve usually figured out a lot of our favorite takes.
I’ll have a big binder at the end that I use to help build the movie later. Honestly, just being there in the room is the best thing.
Now that I’ve been around for so long with him, I can just look at him and see when he’s liking something or when he’s not. It’s just that nonverbal communication, body language, or sometimes we can just look at each other and nonverbally nod to say, “Okay, that’s a perfect moment.”
Sometimes he’ll decide he’s going to reshoot something and we’ll have a discussion asking, “Is this working?” Or, “I don’t like how the camera’s moving here. I don’t like how the lighting is.” It’s built into the schedule that there’s going to be stuff that gets reshot.
Of course some directors do watch dailies on PIX, but because of all the stuff that’s getting shot with multiple cameras, sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to watch all the dailies and really know what you got. So, with him, he just makes it a priority to set aside time to watch dailies, and by the end of the shoot, we know we have the movie.
HULLFISH: I think how invaluable it is to be able to watch the dailies with a group and the director specifically to be able to take note of that non-verbal stuff of a little sigh, impatience, or a big smile.
I did one movie where every Saturday we prepped select dailies and we watched it as a team, and it was great to be able to sit next to the director and hear that stuff, because normally we watch the dailies by ourselves. You have no other sense of anybody other than you.
JURGENSEN: Exactly. I think it’s great.
HULLFISH: When you watch the dailies with this group of people, you’re obviously taking notes, probably long hand on a piece of paper, and then you have to go back into your NLE and watch the dailies again. How do you combine those two dailies watching processes?
JURGENSEN: Well, first of all, as we’re watching dailies as a group, Paul and I have chosen takes that we like and I star those. We’ve at least done some of the work already.
As I’m watching the stuff again in the Avid, I’ll add markers. I’ll usually do a color for myself—which is stuff that I like—and then I’ll also do a different color for Paul of things that he has responded to or things that I’ve written down that we like.
Then, usually you have your scene bin and there’s each take in a row for every setup. I’ll just click and drag up our favorite takes. I’ll move up the best, take the most, and if there’s a second or third favorite take, I’ll just move it up a little bit. Sometimes I’ll put a “***” or, “best first half,” or something like that in the clip name.
For me, I’ll always have the notes when I have a scene up so that I can look at them. But if I just open up my bin, I can see right away which ones are my favorite takes. This was our favorite one, and this was our second or third favorite one. Visually it is just so much easier for me to pinpoint. Then, I can click on those and see certain moments in the markers.
We don’t do ScriptSync. There was a lot of improv in the Jon Peters section, so I did have Jay mark those up with locators, just so that we knew when certain lines were, but we don’t use ScriptSync at all.
Really I’ll just open up the scene and I’ll see my favorite takes. Then, I’ll usually do a little selects sequence in that bin and pull my favorite things. Sometimes, I’ll do a rough cut of the scene and so that’s how I get to know the footage again.
HULLFISH: You’re saying that you’re literally lifting the best take in a specific setup a couple millimeters up in a bin. Of course, the poor person who’s OCD is thinking, “No, it has to be a straight line.”
JURGENSEN: I know. I remember working for editors that were like that. You had to make sure it was exactly right. This just works for me, and it probably will make other people crazy, especially if their monitors are a different size.
But it’s this shorthand that I’ve started doing with Paul, even when we do these little music videos when we’re just watching stuff right there at the Avid. I can just move stuff up, and then I don’t forget. If you lose the piece of paper or the written notes, you can at least go to the bin and see, “Okay, well, it’s gotta be one of these three that we liked.”
HULLFISH: You’re not the first editor that I’ve talked to that has said that’s what they do. I’ve talked to several who say that they move the best take up a little bit higher than the other ones.
The other thing that I would love to hear you talk about is circled takes. So, we know on the day of shooting what the director thinks is good, but very often that’s the wrong thing. The director might see that later and think, “Oh, that’s not the best take.” Did that happen?
Were his on set instincts the same as his instincts during dailies?
JURGENSEN: It’s interesting how he works on set because he doesn’t really say, “That’s my favorite take.” We have a script supervisor that we’ve worked with, Jillian Giacomini, for a number of movies. She also has this shorthand where she can kind of feel the body language of whether Paul likes a take or not.
Also, with his process, the performances will change as the scene is getting shot. You can just watch the footage and you can figure out that he didn’t like this lens so they moved to this other lens and then they changed the lighting and Gary started doing this other thing. So, then it kind of evolves to these three takes that are good.
Jillian is great because she’s able to write little notes to me and can give me a heads up of what stuff to pay attention to. Of course, sometimes we go to takes from the beginning for whatever reason down the line, but he has a really good instinct about when things are working.
It’s not like we’ll just watch only the circle takes during dailies.
HULLFISH: I wanted to play a scene for you, which has beautiful, really sweet music. This is the two of them walking home for the first time, and the score is almost Renaissance. I just love it. I want to play this for you.
JURGENSEN: That was always meant to be a oner. Oftentimes, we won’t even do coverage on certain scenes because Paul says, “This is going to be a oner and this is what it is.” So, that section and then the section at the end when they’re running towards each other has Jonny Greenwood’s score.
Those are the only times in the movie where we use score. Every other time is a needle drop. So that was by design.
We did have a temp piece that was in that also had a harp sound like that. We used that for a while and then ultimately we just sent the cut to Jonny and he wrote something and decided to use that theme at the beginning and the end. We decided obviously to build the music for that final sequence. Otherwise, it would have just been too thin.
HULLFISH: There’s a scene where he gets arrested. Do you remember the music choices for that arrest scene?
JURGENSEN: Are you talking about the teenage fair sequence?
JURGENSEN: That’s Blue Sands by Chico Hamilton Quintet. That is just a piece that we licensed. We use it throughout that entire sequence.
It starts at the beginning when he’s walking in and we edited it to hit certain dramatic notes. Then, it slowly eases away when he’s just sitting there alone in the police station thinking, “How did I get into this mess?”
HULLFISH: That was a great, impactful scene. It shows that she cares about him. There’s great character building in that.
Are there things that you use as gold standards for whether a scene stays or goes? I actually heard you talk to Matt Feury about the scene where he says, “I met the girl that I’m going to marry.” It’s a short little scene and it does give you that sense that he’s not just after sex. He really loves her, so it’s an important scene, but I think you mentioned at some point that you cut it out—or at least considered cutting it and put it back in.
JURGENSEN: Yeah, there are a lot of factors there. The plot is not really that important to the movie. It really is about this evolving relationship between these two characters and their back and forth. So, you always want to serve that purpose.
Also, just the way the movie is structured in these episodes, you have to make sure that certain sections aren’t outweighing others because then it’s going to start dragging. It’s a balance of what feels right. For example, that scene between him and his brother adds something to Gary, especially at the beginning of the movie.
You are setting up the two of them, Gary and Alana, and it’s important to set up who they are as people. You want to root for them and you want to root for Gary. It adds a humanity. It’s just a balance of all those things.
This movie is just so unique. You can’t really put a label on it. It is a coming of age story, a romance, and a meandering slice-of-life kind of thing with all these crazy characters. It’s a very unique piece.
HULLFISH: The interesting thing to me is if you ever did cut it out, you wouldn’t necessarily notice that it doesn’t work as well without it just by playing the two scenes that butt up now because you cut that out. You would only feel later in the movie that it was missing, right?
HULLFISH: You need to be watching the whole thing to realize, “Now the ending doesn’t feel right,” or, “Now this moment feels a little creepy instead of sentimental.”
JURGENSEN: Also, think about the prank call scene when he’s sitting there with his brother and then calls Alana. If we had not really set up the brother at all, that would have been jarring.
It just adds a fun element having met the kid ten minutes earlier because that’s his whole life: him and his brother. Now, there’s this new element, Alana, and so now it’s kind of a triangle between the three of them. It’s a domino effect.
HULLFISH: There’s another scene in their first date—which of course is not a date for Alana—where they go to the Tail o’ the Cock and they’re sitting in the bar. I think that held on her for the entire conversation in the bar without cutting.
JURGENSEN: Yep, it’s a oner.
HULLFISH: But he is doing most of the talking. Talk to me about the purpose of that. I’m assuming you also had coverage?
JURGENSEN: Yeah, we did. Sometimes you just get these magical takes and reactions throughout the movie that are just so good. That’s one of the reasons why we stayed with her at the beginning of the movie too. Her reactions when she first meets Gary are just priceless and it tells you so much about who she is.
That might’ve been a scene that we actually reshot. I think we shot that one way and then Paul had the idea that we potentially might stay in as a oner, but we did do coverage. That was an example of a scene that once it got reshot we worked out these kinks so that we could keep it as a oner.
Sometimes, if the timing works out perfect, just staying on a shot the whole time makes you just feel that there’s something so authentic to the moment. You don’t feel manipulated.
HULLFISH: True. Right after that oner is a scene with them at dinner. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this term called “dragnetting”—it’s a pejorative term and you did not do it—but it’s basically when you’re always on the person who’s speaking.
What I loved about this scene is that it just felt right, like you were always on the right person at the exact moment that you were on, instead of the person who was talking. So, I want to play that scene for you and then have you talk us through this.
JURGENSEN: This was an amazing take of Gary that we found at the beginning where his expressions are just so perfect and innocent. Obviously, he’s a showman, he’s a child actor, and he’s trying to impress her, but there’s kind of an innocence to it.
We just loved this take. Some of his expressions when he’s putting his hands out doing jazz hands show that he’s just always performing, but he’s also containing himself, too.
So, it was a great thing to find this dynamic between his side of that performance and then her just being almost dismissive—although that’s maybe the wrong word because she is amused by it.
Obviously, she’s kind of enjoying the attention. That’s the reason why she’s here in the first place. It was just finding these great takes between the two of them.
HULLFISH: Do you have a discussion with Paul about the purpose of the scene, or do you just intuit it on your own? For example, if the purpose of the scene is that she can’t believe she’s there despite herself, and he can’t believe his good fortune that he convinced this girl to go, then does that tell you where to be?
JURGENSEN: Not really. It’s funny, when we were first doing screen tests between the two of them, it was this scene, so they knew this scene really well. We had already cut the scene using the old footage, so that was an interesting evolution because the script did change a little bit, but the style was always the same.
He’s this showman and she’s not taunting him but is responding sarcastically, getting more information, sometimes a little impressed but all with this veil of sarcasm until the end at that moment when he says, “I’m never going to forget you,” and that catches her off guard. So, that’s the arc of the scene.
Paul’s style has always been to not make things too cutty. So, the challenge is always trying to figure out the right moments to cut. You want to keep the best performances, but he’s fine sometimes just staying on a character and hearing another character over the shoulder, just watching the one on screen react. It may not be the most perfect timing, but he’s okay with that.
HULLFISH: There’s actually a section of this scene where I felt like that when it’s over her shoulder, but if you cut to her for that then it becomes too cutty.
JURGENSEN: Yes, exactly.
Also, you can see that showman thing that he’s doing in that moment, even when she’s starting to talk. Plus, he does this licking of his lips, which we use throughout the movie.
He does that a bunch, so whenever we saw that, we would sometimes try to keep that in because it feels like something a teenager would do. It’s not so polished.
HULLFISH: So, instead of cutting it out because you think, “I don’t want to see him lick his lips,” you think that adds to his character and tells us something about it.
JURGENSEN: Absolutely. One thing that Paul would sometimes say to me when I’d show him a sequence is, “You know, it’s too perfect. Make it less perfect.”
“It’s too perfect. Make it less perfect.”
Nowadays, we’re so used to everything being cut so tightly and the rhythm of scenes being so perfect. I’ve really taken that to heart because you then take the sequence and just make something a little off, half second off or just staying on a shot with maybe a little bit more of a gap than there should be, but it just feels more natural. It feels more human and it adds something.
Even with some of these musical sequences that we do—which are calculated for certain moments to happen on certain beats of the song—sometimes we’ll decide to just make it a little off and it’ll still work. That’s a little lesson that I’ve learned from him.
HULLFISH: I think I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s this Japanese term called “wabi-sabi,” which is the beauty of something that’s imperfect.
Also, with things like camera bumps and little camera movements—if something’s egregious, of course, we’ll fix it—but he likes having that little human touch to it. In fact, maybe only two shots are stabilized in this movie—I pulled back and realized it was too much.
We needed to see a little bit more of a human touch to it because it was too perfect.
HULLFISH: Before the Tail o’ the Cock scene, he walks to his house with a lunch box. What’s the value of that—I know it’s a pejorative term—shoe leather? What’s the value sometimes of showing him going from one place to another or spending a moment just walking someplace?
JURGENSEN: That scene sets up the neighborhood and that we’re in the Valley, we’re in the suburbs, and that it’s just your cookie-cutter street. You can tell from this little sequence that this is their routine. I’m sure he goes and he picks his brother up every day and they go to some restaurant because his mom’s working.
They’ll go eat, he’ll take him home, and then they’ll watch the Dodger game. So, it’s setting up their routine.
HULLFISH: Also, I believe there’s a pre-lap in that scene of the audio into the living room. Can you talk about the value of a pre-lap and what it gives you?
JURGENSEN: It’s just a great way to link two things together. The audience today is used to film language, so when we hear pre-laps like that we instantly realize, “Okay, we’re going to be moving forward in time.” So it’s a way to time jump, essentially. Usually—but not always—that’s a way that editors do that.
The Dodger game was something we had to put in. There are all these little details throughout—all these little radio things, songs, things in the background, things on the TV. We tried to pepper those in as much as possible just to add to the authenticity of the time period because it’s such a nostalgic movie.
It’s not only recreating this time and place of the San Fernando valley but also about being a kid during that time.
This movie couldn’t happen nowadays with cell phones and text messages. Can you imagine? In the prank call scene, they would know exactly who’s calling. They’d be texting, “Where are you?” instead of running around trying to find each other.
So, you’re capturing this time period that we’re never going to get back. We’re never going to have that anymore.
HULLFISH: I just saw a tweet from somebody who said, “I just found out today that there was a phone number that you could call and it would tell you what time it was,” and that started this whole thing about, “Did you know that you could press a series of buttons and call back the person who just called you?”
Which is what she does, right? She must’ve pressed *69 or something that would call back.
JURGENSEN: Maybe, or they probably knew each other’s numbers.
HULLFISH: You’d have to ask Paul whether he thinks she just pressed a call back button.
JURGENSEN: I don’t think it was around back then, so I think she maybe sensed, “It’s not Lance on the phone, so this must be Gary.”
There’s another great cut that I love—again, it’s film language and film grammar—where it’s the smash cut that happens after the mom says, “You’re not going to be able to go to New York because you don’t have a chaperone.” Boom. Cut to him on an airplane.
Was there anything between those scenes, or was that scripted to cut from where she says that to the airplane?
JURGENSEN: That was scripted like that. We always were going to use a song in that moment. That really launches the whole story. The first reel is just setting up the two of them and their dynamics.
That’s actually the beginning of reel two that launches us into their adventure once they’re on the plane. Then, we’re going fast from scene to scene and we just keep moving.
HULLFISH: I love that cut. One of the things that I had a question about was a scene with a woman in the waterbed when he first gets to see what a waterbed is. Those shots of her are really close.
Talk to me about the choice of that big close-up of her, what it got you, and why you or Paul felt like that’s the shot you wanted to be on?
JURGENSEN: I think that was just a decision that was made on set. There’s a kind of motif throughout the movie of closeups and we use it a lot. We didn’t have choices.
Gary kind of gets entranced by her and lured into the business, so I think it was just getting this connection between her—Brenda’s her name—between Brenda and Gary. The camera tracks alongside her as she’s looking at him in closeup. That was a directorial choice.
HULLFISH: You don’t realize it when he first sees the waterbed, but then of course that becomes a huge part of the movie, so having a close-up tells you the importance of something, I think.
I want to talk about intercutting. There’s a sequence with Alanna running at night, trying to find Gary and it flashbacks to other scenes of her running.
Can you talk about trying to tweak those moments to figure when exactly to cut to those flashbacks and when to cut back to live action?
JURGENSEN: In our initial cut, that was not in there. It was just running back and forth. Then, we had this idea of cutting back to some previous moments in the movie as sort of an intercut. So, I wanted to make sure we did one where she was running to him after the teenage fair.
Then, his side is when he’s running to her after she’s fallen off the back of the motorcycle. Those are the two moments that we use in the flashbacks, but it was also sound, too.
Once we got that in and we realized that this actually heightens the emotion, I started taking sound from different scenes and peppering those in as well.
When we first start cutting back and forth between Gary and Alana during that final running sequence, you’re hearing kids from the teenage fair, you’re hearing radio from another portion of the movie, then we were hearing the motorcycle. It was a combination of using footage flashbacks but also sounds.
HULLFISH: I did not realize that. I love it. I’m sure I was aware of it maybe psychologically.
JURGENSEN: Hopefully that’s it. Hopefully, you’re just hearing a little bit of this radio stuff and remembering earlier parts of the movie.
HULLFISH: I saw that Paul said that Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Graffiti were major influences. Is that something he asked you to watch?
JURGENSEN: We watched American Graffiti. We had a print of it. It was so ingrained. We were talking about it all the time. Even the titles at the beginning—that green font that we use throughout— is inspired by the first title in American Graffiti of the Lucasfilm font. So, that was our little throwback to that.
Even the cherry bomb at the beginning of the movie is a throwback to the cherry bomb in American Graffiti. Again, it’s not like we’re trying to copy that movie and it’s not really the same kind of movie, but it’s just the essence of it. It’s like Paul’s version of American Graffiti in a way.
HULLFISH: It’s more like American Graffiti was George Lucas’s life that he turned into a movie, and Licorice Pizza is Paul Thomas Anderson’s version of growing up, coming of age.
HULLFISH: Also, I’m assuming some of the needle drops were in the script. Talk to me about you building a playlist probably from Paul, correct?
JURGENSEN: Yeah. He’s so in tune with music. He always has been. So, he was choosing songs as he was writing the script and there were a lot of things in the script that notated certain songs.
The process is that he plays a lot of music during dailies, so that’s a way in which we can whittle down a playlist. Or some songs that are going to potentially be in a sequence he will whittle down by saying, “These are maybe the favorites.”
I don’t show him a big assembly of the movie. That’s not how we work. We do the dailies, I take the notes, and I have my own process of going through the digital dailies again and making selects.
Sometimes, I’ll do a little rough cut, but he doesn’t want to just watch a four-hour version of the movie where I’ve just put all these songs in. That’s just not his process. I can have it on the side, but he doesn’t want to see that. He wants to build it with me.
So, that’s how we do it. Sometimes we’re just roughing in shots and then I’ll go back and do coverage, but I build the roadmap of the movie with him. A lot of the time that also includes putting songs in, and of course we’ll change stuff up, but that’s how we do it.
HULLFISH: Does he say, “I think this would be a good song choice for this moment,” but then there’s also just a big playlist that you can then dive into?
We just try stuff. That’s what’s so great. You can have different tracks. In fact, the Stumblin’ In track—the moment you were talking about for the plane—wasn’t actually period accurate. We tried a bunch of songs, and sometimes a song just feels right. It’s just the perfect thing and we had to use it.
Other spots like Life on Mars was in there from the beginning and we never changed that. Also, Let Me Roll It because of the way that Paul timed the choreography with them laying on the bed, looking over, and their pinkies touching.
It was not like we made it to be a music video, but there were certain moments of the song that we wanted to heighten with these images.
HULLFISH: Did you also go through on your own and find your own tracks and add them in? Or did you just figure that Paul’s were perfect and you’re going to go with that?
“I don’t know if it would be a smart idea to say, ‘By the way, I just changed all the music cues.’”
JURGENSEN: I don’t know if it would be a smart idea to say, “By the way, I just changed all the music cues.” I don’t know about that. But I’d talk to him and say, “I don’t know if this is working. What else could we find?” It’s just a dialogue.
HULLFISH: You said that there are two places where there’s score. Were there other places where you felt there should be score and you did temp score or no?
JURGENSEN: Nope. Never.
It was always the idea to just do score at the beginning and end. You could say, “Oh, well why didn’t you do score during the truck sequence?” and maybe other directors would have done that, but we thought it worked so well not having music there. The movie is almost wall-to-wall music, and once you hit that Jon Peter’s section, it’s dry for about 15 minutes.
It’s only the truck sounds that you’re hearing. You’re hearing some distant songs playing at the gas station or whatever, but that’s it. So, it’s a good contrast.
HULLFISH: Sometimes you just have to open it up to that, right? It makes it stand out because there’s no music when there’s so much music in the rest of the movie.
JURGENSEN: Yeah, I think it is almost more tense. I think it plays better by just hearing the neighborhood sounds and the truck sounds, especially when it’s going backwards. You’re more in it.
HULLFISH: Absolutely, and it’s a 1970s-sounding truck. The sounds are interesting by themselves and you don’t want to clash or have them be overrun by music.
The sound guys were great. We had a lot of good stuff that they recorded on set, but especially when it’s going backwards, they put this extra sound of a rollercoaster when it goes backwards. Then, it stops and we see that profile shot of Alana and Gary and the truck starts moving forward. If you listen to that, it’s a roller coaster starting to go up.
HULLFISH: That’s fantastic.
JURGENSEN: It just adds such a cool little element, especially then at the very end with the extra rattling, it makes that a very dynamic moment.
HULLFISH: To wrap things up since we’re on sound, I have often had to fight with directors to get me into the sound mix. Talk to me about the importance of you being in the mix to say, “Oh my gosh, that’s a great idea,” or, “No, the sound that I put in has a certain character and we need that,” or, “I’m missing a sound that you took out.”
Why should an editor be in a sound mix?
JURGENSEN: Especially for sound in the Avid tracks, you sometimes really have to do a lot to make things work, whether you’re pulling sounds from other takes or different dialogue. You really know where the bodies are buried, so to speak.
Things just sometimes get lost or sound editors will get rid of certain sounds thinking, “That doesn’t matter,” when it really does.
“Things just sometimes get lost or sometimes people say, ‘That doesn’t matter,’ when it really does.”
Even in the first date scene, you can hear all this clanging of silverware and stuff and some of that was in the tracks. We don’t want to clean all that up.
Paul likes to keep that natural sound because if it’s too clean, again, it just doesn’t feel authentic. That’s usually what we’re doing. The sound guys that we work with are great and they now know Paul’s sensibility. He’s usually saying, ” It’s too clean. Put back some of that air.”
So, we’re usually dirtying it up more. We barely do ADR either. I think there’s only one ADR line in this movie because he just doesn’t like how it sounds. We just try to make it work without. In Phantom Thread there’s zero.
JURGENSEN: We get really good sound recordists, but we also try to keep the authenticity. Even if it’s just not the most perfect sound.
HULLFISH: That’s interesting.
I would think that for you to know that kind of thing about your director would also help you choose even which microphone to choose in a production track.
Sometimes I try to avoid the lavaliers, even though sometimes they’re cleaner, because the boom just sounds more real or there’s more air to it, like you said. There’s more life to that boom.
The lav usually has that muffled sound. Obviously, the sound team can make the lav sound good when they’re doing the mix, but personally, I agree. I think that the boom sounds better.
But everyone knows that Paul wants to try to be as authentic as possible, so that means barely doing visual effects, not doing ADR, not doing a lot of windows.
Because we are cutting negative, that means you’re limited in how you can manipulate the image. You can’t do windows when you’re doing a photochemical finish.
HULLFISH: Not doing windows means Resolve power windows in color correction. Not making one part of this scene look darker or brighter than another part.
JURGENSEN: Exactly. You can’t do that when you’re doing photochemical. Everything is the old way of doing it. So, everyone’s aware of that: the camera operator, focus puller, etc. Everyone’s got to be on it.
As far as sound goes, they’ll put little mics in plants or different places around the set to try to capture it because everyone knows we don’t want to do ADR later.
For all the running, Lisa Pinero, who was the production sound mixer, had to make sure that we could capture the sound with all the running and not get the scuffs that you would get.
HULLFISH: So they invented a bicycle with a big boom on it?
JURGENSEN: [Laughs] Actually, for one of our tests we had the camera on a souped up golf cart kind of thing following along with them with the boom. I don’t think that really worked that well, but they figured it out.
HULLFISH: That’s great. Thank you so much for joining me. This was a really interesting conversation and I really appreciate you chatting with us about this.
JURGENSEN: Thanks, Steve.