The Rough Cut: A Crash Course in Editing “The Fall Guy”

The Fall Guy editing team of editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE and assistant editor Matt Absher once again find themselves in the cutting room of a David Leitch action spectacular. This film is the fifth project the trio has worked on together; their post-production process is like a highly coordinated stunt sequence.

Summary for The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch from a script written by Drew Pearce, is loosely based on the 1980s TV series about a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. The film version follows a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) working on his ex-girlfriend’s (Emily Blunt) directorial debut action film, only to find himself involved in a conspiracy surrounding the film’s lead actor (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

In our discussion with The Fall Guy editing team of editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE and assistant editor Matt Absher, we talk about:

  • Defining David Leitch
  • Intercutting to the chase
  • Taming a triad of tones
  • Syncing split screens
  • Voice over and out

Listen while you read…

Editing The Fall Guy

Matt Feury: Wait, are you saying somebody did a documentary about making stunt movies? They interviewed you, right, Elísabet? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: No. They interviewed Keanu Reeves. Who is he? 

MF: Exactly. What does he know about cutting action? Elísabet, the last time we spoke, we talked about how you are recognized for being an action movie editor. I asked if there was anything else you hadn’t done that you wanted to do and you said, “I’ve always wanted to do a horror movie because my grandchildren would be impressed by that. They like horror movies.”

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Well, it’s not a lie. Matt knows. 

MF: Is that any closer to becoming a reality?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: No one called. Not one phone call. But no, I’m extremely happy about my career. I love that people know me as a stunt editor. It doesn’t bother me at all. But any editor can edit anything. It’s about the editing, not the genre. I don’t know why people pigeonhole everyone. It’s an old Hollywood habit, I guess. 

MF: Last time we met, we were talking about Bullet Train. I recall you mentioned that you reworked the opening because it didn’t feel like a David Leitch movie to you. I thought that was interesting because, in recent interviews with David, he said that he was not trying to make The Fall Guy into a “David Leitch” movie. How do you define what a David Leitch movie is, and how is The Fall Guy a departure from that?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: David Leitch movies are always fun, action-packed, and R-rated. The Fall Guy is absolutely action-packed, but what makes it different is it’s more or less handheld. It has a lot of handheld shots, which doesn’t happen often in David Leitch films. That gives it a different feel. They went out of their comfort box to do that. 

Matt Absher: And they said as much at the start.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: There were so many interesting things about how we did The Fall Guy that differed from other movies. One of them was the film grain. We had film grain incorporated into the dailies.

Matt Absher: We used LiveGrain. Jonathan Sela, our DP, wanted a grainy analog look, but he wanted it on the dailies too. So the lab was applying it, which meant our VFX vendors had to match it. That meant the look was baked in from the beginning, and through previews and studio screenings, we knew exactly what we were going to get. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: That was amazing, but it also had its downsides. One was that it was very difficult to see if a shot had soft focus. That didn’t happen, but we also wouldn’t have necessarily been able to clearly see if it had happened because of the grain. But it was amazing to be able to see that look from the beginning. 

Matt Absher: The Fall Guy was shot on vintage lenses, the Panavision C-Series, so there was some softness on the tops and bottoms of the frames. Right out of the AVID, it had a projected, cinematic look which doesn’t usually happen. 

MF: What was the impetus behind doing that grade with those lenses?

Matt Absher: We’d have to let Jonathan speak for himself. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Quote Johnathan. He uses a lot of those lenses on all his projects. That’s just his look. It’s his style.

MF Let’s go back to Bullet Train. It was based on a book and when we talked before, you told me that you read the book out of curiosity. The Fall Guy is loosely based on an 80s TV series. There are some Easter eggs and maybe a cameo or two that call back to that series, but did you take any time to brush up on the 80s show at all?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: I did. I found two or three episodes and I watched only for the fun of it. This film was very loosely based on the TV series. It’s paying homage to it but no, I didn’t study it. 

Matt Absher: You didn’t binge-watch The Fall Guy

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: No, I didn’t. 

MF: Was there anything stylistically about the movie that the TV show influenced? For example, you delayed the main credits until the point where Ryan Gosling’s character Colt Seavers takes the gig with Gail (Hannah Waddingham). That feels like a TV show’s style. Was that reworked at all or was it tied into the TV show?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It is, up to a point. But we also have to face the fact that this is how we’ve been doing movies for at least twelve years. We demand that we situate ourselves in the plot and the characters before we do the credits, or we even skip the front credits completely. So yeah, we knew it. We talked about it, that the beginning had a TV show feel to it. We liked that, but I don’t think it was meant to be that. It was just a fun surprise, I guess. 

MF: There are a lot of fun surprises in this movie. Colt’s voiceover is there at the beginning and the end. Was that voiceover element always baked in from the beginning? Did it come and go? How did you debate that in the cutting room? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It was not written in the script. David had the idea to make a montage for people who didn’t know what a stuntman did, and there was a voiceover over that part. But when we did test screenings, there was some confusion about some elements in the film, and that’s how the voiceover grew. Instead of only having the voiceover one time and never again, we decided to bring it back in the end, almost like a button to finish it off.

MF: There’s a sequence at the beginning of the film where Colt is down and out, working as a valet. Then he gets a call from Gail to get back in the gig. There’s a lot of intercutting back and forth between him as a valet and then him in his apartment talking to Gale. How did that sequence evolve? What was your approach to putting that together?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: There are a couple of reasons why we ended up intercutting it. One was, it’s never good to repeat certain story points. We know that he works as a valet, so we don’t need to see Gail telling him that he works as a valet, and we don’t need to see him telling her he’s a valet. It becomes repetitive. So we put everything up against each other to tell the story of him being a valet. 

Another reason was also to strengthen his motivation to go to Australia and help Jody (Emily Blunt) finish her movie. We originally had the valet scene up first. He drove the car, then went home and got the call from Gail. But this way we could build up the reasons why he made the decision to go to Australia and why he did the stunt with that fancy car.

MF: The Fall Guy is a romance, a comedy, an action movie, and it’s a sci-fi movie too because you have the Metalstorm film that they’re all working on. That’s a lot of different tones to work with. How did that affect your work and how challenging was it to make The Fall Guy feel like one cohesive film and not many different films stitched together?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: A David Leitch movie is never simple, and I love that. Both David and his producer, Kelly McCormick, make a big deal about being story-based and character-based in their action movies, which is a treat for all of us. David is the master of tone. But yes, it was difficult to balance. We had to experiment with a lot of things.

Of course, once Colt and Jody unite on set, you don’t want to lose contact with them. That’s why there’s a lot of intercutting, to keep them both in the moment. You don’t want to lose sight of them because Ryan and Emily are amazing together, right? But yes, finding the tone was hard. We did a lot of experiments and trials, but this is where we landed and we’re pretty proud of it. 

Matt Absher: There’s also a mystery.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Which is kind of like Bullet Train. There are so many strong characters in this movie. So it was also about balancing that. We didn’t want our supporting characters to overshadow our main characters.

MF: Matt, as Elísabet is working through all those different iterations, what kind of work are you doing to support her in terms of managing different sequences or story beats?

Matt Absher: I just stay out of the way. What she did to reel one of Fall Guy is classic Elísabet. She pulled that off and convinced David to push it as far as it needed to go. I got a front-row seat for that. I loved the ride. It was a pleasure to watch.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: That’s not completely true. Matt is extremely supportive and nothing goes out of the editing room that Matt hasn’t greenlit.

Matt Absher: But Elísabet hasn’t worked with as many editors as I have, so she doesn’t know what I know. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Matt is extremely supportive, and we talk about cuts. We will sit down and discuss them and talk about them and think about them. It’s always extremely helpful. And Matt does all the first passes on sound as well, which is a lot. 

Matt Absher: If you’re asking me what I did on The Fall Guy, it was a beast of a film. Nowadays the studios fold everything on top of itself, and every department wants and needs to be fed constantly. For whatever minuscule creative input I might have had, I was also swamped with the bureaucracy of keeping this thing on the rails.

MF: It sounds like Elísabet trusts you quite a bit. 

Matt Absher: We had an amazing crew in both Sydney and Los Angeles. 

MF: Let’s talk about the Sydney aspect a little bit. Elísabet, I don’t know if you noticed this, but your co-editor on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Harry Yoon, was a bit of a social media celebrity recently. Florence Pugh posted a video during the set of Thunderbolts, and then you see Harry cutting away on his AVID right outside the soundstage with director Jake Schreier. Harry was working on a pretty basic setup, probably designed for mobility. I know that you and David prefer to be working closely during production. Was it a similar situation for you? Were you that close to set and what was your setup like there? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: No, we don’t choose to sit on set and edit unless it’s something that needs to be put together ASAP to figure something out. We will do that if it’s needed. The situation in Sydney was that our editing suite was on the floor above the stage, so we had a very close bond with everyone on set. Everyone knows that’s super helpful. It’s much easier to have an in-person dialog instead of just texting, writing emails, or making phone calls. It’s a completely different thing to be in the same space. We had an amazing team in Sydney, Australia and we had an amazing time there. How many days were we there?

Matt Absher: Eighty days of principal photography and twenty-five days of second unit, plus a bunch of aerial days and array days. It was a lot.

MF: Matt, what did you think when Elísabet said, “We’re going to Sydney and I need my cutting room humming.” What is your responsibility in terms of the cutting room and workflow setup so that she can be as creative as she needs to be?

Matt Absher: I just hire the right people. I’ve worked with a lot of editors who have very particular ways of working. You have to follow their clerical guidelines. Elísabet is all about just doing the work. How it gets to her is not going to impact her process.

The way I work is to be nonhierarchical with the team. I play to everyone’s strengths. Every cutting room workflow is different based on the project, but it’s also based on who is working with me. I don’t have an answer for you because every cutting room is different. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: But we do make a wish list of what we need and want. On my wish, I always write, “Get me the fastest computer!”

Matt Absher: There has yet to be a computer made that is fast enough to keep up with Elísabet. She melts computer mice. She plows through footage. Thank God too, because there was a lot of footage on The Fall Guy

MF: The Fall Guy is around two hours and seven minutes long. Do you recall the amount of footage you had to work with?

Matt Absher: I’ve blocked it out. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Yeah, I’m sorry. Neither one of us can remember. The ratio was so high because we had so many variable-speed shots as well. Shooting 97 FPS, 120 FPS… Every day the cameras were off speed, even for dialog scenes. I saw the footage and thought, “What is going on?” 

MF: Why did they do that? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Because parts of it were within action beats. It’s super fun when you can play with the variable speed. But it’s a lot of work, especially for Matt and our crew. Still, everyone did amazingly well. The only things that slowed us down during this movie were the strikes. We had both the writers’ and actors’ strikes exactly when we were trying to finish the movie. We couldn’t get the additional voice recording in.

MF: That additional voice recording, the ADR, was there more of that in The Fall Guy because of the nature of action films? Do you get to run those sessions as the editor? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: I don’t run anything, my friend. I’m not in the running business, but we do participate in all of it. We had an amazing crew around us on The Fall Guy, especially because it was a David Leitch and Kelly McCormick movie. One of the aspects of this job is that you are very often working with the same people over and over. When David and Kelly find good people to work with, their loyalty is endless. So we will always work with the same people.

For example, I’ve been working with our sound editor Mark Stoeckinger since John Wick, and he’s amazing. His crew is amazing, and our dialogue editor Jason Freeman is incredible too. It’s so amazing what they can do with sound these days. The Fall Guy has a scene with Colt on a phone talking to Jody, and he’s driving the boat. And that was one clunky boat, let me tell you. But Jason cleaned up every single clunk.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to ADR on that because it was an emotional scene. That’s always more difficult for the actors, but it’s also difficult for the editors to get it to work properly. But Jason Freeman came in with his superhero cape and cleaned it all up. And then Mark designed all of the amazing, fun soundscapes.

We had an amazing visual effects crew too, even though almost everything in this movie is practical effects and stunts. But even when you do live stunts, the visual effects team has to come in and take out the wires and padding. Maybe there’s a blue or green screen that has to go, or maybe they have to change the sky, whatever it is. They were amazing. 

MF: I’m guessing there was less previs in The Fall Guy than in other movies because so much of what you did was practical. But let’s talk about stuntvis. That is something that not everyone is familiar with. What is the process of working with stuntvis, and how do you incorporate it into your edit and build on it?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Stunt crews are amazing. They will make stuntvis and then build on it. They constantly send us updated stunt pieces. It’s a great roadmap to all the stunts that are going to be filmed. But I don’t think any of the live stunts have ever turned out exactly the same as the stuntvis. Once you get to a location, or even to a studio, there are so many things that can affect it. The stuntvis is always going to be different from what the stunt performers do. But it’s a great road map. When you start getting those dailies, you know exactly how they visualized and wanted that stunt sequence to be. But you can’t just copy the stuntvis. 

MF: The Fall Guy begins with an intro from David Leitch and Ryan Gosling professing that the film is a tribute, if not an outright love letter to stunt people. Since David is a former stuntman himself, how does he approach his stunts? Is he different from other directors? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: David is special. He knows stunts and he respects them. The stunt team also had the support of producer Kelly McCormick. She and David gave them the time and resources needed to rehearse the stunt, rehearse with the actors, and do longer takes. A lot of it is about allowing the stunts team to have the prep time they need. And David knows exactly where to put the camera. Not only was he a stuntman, but he has also been the second-unit director on so many famous stunt movies. So yeah, he knows what he’s doing. But you don’t have to be like that to love stunts. Look at me. My whole career is built on the stunt world and I’ve never done a stunt in my life. I’m a film editor. That’s my career. Stunt teams have given me my career. 

MF: You’ve never done a stunt, but you do have a dance background. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: I do, but I have never sacrificed myself in any way. 

MF: You said David knows where to place the cameras. Let’s talk about how many cameras. The last time we spoke, you said normally you shoot with one or two cameras at a time on David Leitch movies. How about for The Fall Guy

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Same director, same director of photography. So yes, it was the same. 

Matt Absher: There was not an outrageous amount of cameras on The Fall Guy. Less experienced directors might think you need more cameras. It speaks particularly to David and Jonathan Sela’s blocking coordination, and their camera and lens choices. Their choices complement the stunts, even in subtle ways that I think other directors don’t think about. They just want the stunt to happen in front of them.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Our stunt driver Logan Holladay broke a world record during this movie. He did a cannon roll, which is a classic Hollywood car stunt, and rolled the car eight and a half times. We had so many cameras filming that. Five, six, seven… How many? We’re both old! We can’t remember anything! But yes, we had a lot of cameras on that stunt. That’s when one of the cameras overheated. There was one camera, not underneath the car, but it went over it. It was a beautiful art shot. Amazing. And the camera overheated. 

Matt Absher: We got an outfit out in London called Fluent involved. They are these real deep image science nerds and they drilled into the layers of these pixels. It took them a few months, but they pulled the shot out and got it back to us in immaculate shape. It was remarkable, and it’s a beautiful shot. Everyone was desperate for them to fix it, and they did.

MF: So we’ve established that we’re all old and remembering things can be difficult. But do you recall how you absorbed all your footage during dailies? How were you set up? Do you watch everything in multicam to get through everything faster? Or do you watch every frame from every camera by itself? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: I watch it all in multicam, but I make notes. I might look at some shots individually for different reasons. But we’re not alone. The script supervisor is there. We always make a big deal about talking to our script supervisors. We get to know them because we need the information we get from them to be as detailed as possible. The script supervisor is the one who tells us which shots we can’t use for whatever reason so we don’t waste time on it.

For me, that’s the most important thing to remember. No one is alone in filmmaking. You always have a lot of people around you, and those people also have people around them. That is a part of why people love movies. It’s not only because we like watching them, we also love the community in which we can make them. I think the way to respect the community is to talk to your coworkers because all of us truly are collaborators. 

No one is alone in filmmaking. You always have a lot of people around you.

MF: I’ve heard editors talk about how you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of meal breaks or getting together outside of the cutting room. They say that’s where you can discover things about the movie when you’re away from it. Do you think it’s important to have that time together? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Absolutely. I one hundred percent agree. If you don’t have a life, where is your creativity going to come from? That’s just something that comes with living a life. 

MF: Matt, I don’t think I’ve ever asked an assistant this. What is a day in the life like for you? When does your day start? What are the first things you tackle and what do you save for the afternoon? And when do you go home? 

Matt Absher: That’s a whole podcast right there. It entirely depends on where you are at in the process. The arc of making a film has so many different hills and valleys. My life during dailies is a lot different from my life during the director’s cut. And then there’s the preview, mix, and delivery stages too. So there is no one answer, but it’s sort of a first-one-in, last-one-out devotion. That’s the idea, that you closed the day. You want everything that could be tied up to be tied up. If it isn’t, you’ll just get swamped. 

MF: It sounds like your work is never done. 

Matt Absher: Well, it isn’t. If you have a moment, you need to move on to what you’re doing next to preempt disaster. There’s always something coming up on the calendar that you have to prepare for or talk about or coordinate. It’s hard to give you an easy answer other than that I’m constantly moving forward. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: This is partly because of how the industry has changed from film to digital. It gets harder every year because there are so many new elements being introduced, even if it’s just different formats being released to different apps and tablets. It came with the digital revolution, and it’s creating more work for your first and second assistant editors. 

Matt Absher: There’s efficiency and time saving with technology, but producers are the first to recognize that, and they will just close the calendar on you. If some new tool is introduced that saves you time, that time will be stolen pretty quickly. Crews are not alleviated much by new technology, but God bless it because now decisions can be made much earlier. That’s huge. 

MF: Let’s talk about making an early decision. The Fall Guy has a lot of fun needle drops. One in particular became a recurring motif of the movie. That’s Kiss’s detour into disco, “I Was Made for Loving You.” You must have had that song locked down early because it was prevalent throughout the film. Tell me about that and what you went through to identify and test out all the other needle drops.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Was it there from the beginning? I’m trying to remember. I think it came a bit later on.

Matt Absher: Yeah. There was some back and forth.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It’s the same thing that Tom Laurence and David did with Bullet Train. That’s their thing. They break down a song and make it into a score. You can find different variations of it throughout the film. We had two amazing music editors. Angie Rubin did our needle drops and Dan Pinder did the score with Tom Laurence. Kelly McCormick came up with putting in Taylor Swift. That was a funny one. That was a late, late thing. But we managed to get it into our last test screening. Music is a powerful thing. We tried so many needle drops all over the place. Poor Angie was very busy. There was a lot to try. Trying different things is a part of finding the tone.

MF: There’s a gag reel at the end of The Fall Guy, during the credits. As you were editing, were you marking bits and creating a bin specifically for that? Or did Matt take on those duties? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Oh, he was busy keeping that ship a-sail. There was a lot he had to do because we could not find all of that in our material. There’s less than 10% of our movie in that gag reel, which is our little love letter to stunts. 87 North did a documentary series about stunts and the making of stunt movies. They did five episodes, three were about different movies and two of them were on The Fall Guy. We went and got material from those filmmakers for the gag reel. They did a lot behind the scenes, and we had to communicate with them and try to get specific shots from them. There was so much to go through and figure out. We just had to plow through that material. 

Matt Absher: That sequence was a lot of work. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It was a lot of work. But it was fun, so that was nice.

MF: I want to ask you about the moment when Jody and Colt are on the phone together. Jody is talking about her decision to use split-screen in the movie she’s working on. Then you go into a split-screen sequence in the actual film. And you’re not just syncing their dialog, you’re syncing their movements. That has to be a lot more challenging, possibly even requiring some interframe things like Animattes or speed ramps. Tell me about that sequence.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Those scenes were shot separately. Emily and Ryan did amazingly in-camera. They shot Ryan first, and when they shot Emily, they sent us each of her takes. Those came to us directly from the camera so we could see if they worked, and it all did. We had to use a little visual effect assistance. There’s a zoom in one of the takes that didn’t quite sync up, so visual effects came in to fix that. Matt Sloan was our visual effects supervisor, with Kate Morrison and Chris McClintock. We worked closely with them and it was very rewarding.

But yes, we tested it and then we had to shorten it because it was a bit too long. At one point, we thought, “Okay, we’ll cut it down.” I liked it better when it was cut down. I liked the energy that came with having harsher cuts. 

MF: In The Fall Guy, you have this typewriter motif. You use typing as a transition. How did that come into play? Was that always there from the beginning or is that something you experimented with? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: That’s something we experimented with. A company called Antenna built the graphics for us. David had a meeting with them and went through what the film was about. We also allowed them to watch the movie because the graphics didn’t come until we had locked the edit. So they watched the movie and we talked about it, and they came up with several motifs. Everyone fell in love with what they did. 

MF: There are some nice tie-ins to The Fall Guy TV series, but largely your movie is very different. Some of the Easter eggs are more obvious than others. In one of the fights, you hear the “Bionic Man” sound during the fight. Of course, Lee Majors played both the Fall Guy and the Bionic Man. It was a cute little wink at the audience. Tell me about how that came about. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: That’s just people having fun in the mix. Mark Stoeckinger’s team put it in and we loved it. Sound likes to have fun. They throw in different sounds and want us to figure out what they are. They had fun with that and it worked. Everyone was happy. 

MF: I read that your test screening audiences wanted more romance. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Yes, they wanted more romance. Maybe there was a tiny bit too much action. They felt like they were away from Jody for too long, which is why we ended up intercutting Jody in the bar with the truck chase. 

Matt Absher: Anything to get the two of them together. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It was about having them both together. People love that duo. Ryan and Emily should be in every movie from now on. They shouldn’t even do movies without them. 

MF: Every movie is now Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Exactly. 

MF: The test audience wanted more romance, but I’m sure they loved the action too. Do you each have a favorite stunt? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: God, there are so many good stunts. We have a world record. Who’s not going to choose that as a favorite? But there are so many more, like the truck flying over the flower bed. All of those flowers are special effects. They shot the truck going over, and it felt a bit like, “How is he flying over the wall?” So we had to brainstorm and we came up with that flower bed. Visual effects did all of that. Everyone took the scene back to their station and had fun with it. In the end, it became the truck going over flowers and then over the car and all kinds of stuff. 

Matt Absher: My favorite has to be the simplest stunt of all of them and, frankly, the most dangerous. It’s the freefall from the helicopter. That was crazy. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: But we also threw our superstar off the eighth floor of a building, so… 

Matt Absher: Yeah, but he didn’t jump out of a helicopter.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Ryan’s fall was a bit stressful. Not us for us, but for the producer and director. They were stressed out by pushing their superstar off a building. And it happened pretty early on. 

MF: How about a favorite scene? 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: There are so many. You are asking for so much because I have so many favorite scenes. It was a joy to intercut scenes. I loved all of the intercuts in the beginning, between the valet scene and the Gail phone call. That was fun. It was also fun cutting between the karaoke bar and the truck chase. That was a delightful scene to work on. Also, I loved everything with our friend Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played Tom Ryder. 

It was also fun to do so many different things. There was a commercial, and we had the trailer for Metalstorm at the end of the movie. Houston Yang helped us to make that more trailer-like. There were just so many crazy things. We also have a music video, and we have two movies that we had to work between, which was super fun. 

Also, there was a sequence outside the Sydney Opera House that portrayed how we do Hollywood stunts. But at the same time, we had to find ways to keep the love affair alive, energetic, and sweet. That’s difficult when you’re working with ugly, boring people like Ryan and Emily, but it’s one of my favorite scenes. Also, Hannah Waddingham is a powerhouse. I’m sad to say there were so many good jokes from her left on the cutting room floor. 

MF: We’ve talked about the relationships between these wonderful actors. Let’s talk about the relationship between editors and assistants. Elísabet, what do you do to help foster Matt’s career?

Matt Absher: She just calls and I say yes. Are you kidding?

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It’s not just that, please. I love making movies with Matt because he is amazing. I hate calling him an assistant. We call him Captain. He’s an amazing captain who puts out every fire. Everything is a smooth ride, and he keeps everyone happy. We’ve worked together for twelve years. But you asked what I do to make him happy. I don’t make his deal. I have nothing to do with any of it. The only way for me to make him happy is to leave him alone as much as possible. But also, I think it’s important for every editor to know that their assistant editor is the first person in and the last person out. As an editor, I feel obliged to leave early. I’m not even joking.

Matt Absher: No, that’s not a joke. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: It’s no joke because I know they’re going to stay behind at least an hour after I leave. And they are always there when I arrive in the morning. 

Matt Absher: To be clear, that also speaks to Elísabet’s talent and confidence. I’ve worked with plenty of people who work endlessly because they’re at a different level. Let’s just put it like that. 

MF: Captain Matt Absher, what advice do you have for the next generation that would love to be in the Captain’s chair, where you are? 

Matt Absher: Being an assistant editor can be a great middle-class career. It’s tough on families and it can be tough on relationships, but it is a career path for young editors who love editing and want to stay in it. Even if they can’t strike out on their own as a picture or sound editor, they have a front-row seat to the process. As long as you can find good people, then it’s a very satisfying career. I’ve been at it for years. I don’t know how I’ve pulled it off so long, but it’s doable.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: He has an amazing career…

Matt Absher: All right, all right, let’s move on. 

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Don’t interrupt me, I’m your boss. Like I was saying, he has an amazing career. I think one of the beauties about Matt is that he is interested in the work, and he respects it. Also, he wants to do it. I think an assistant editor needs to be all-in because of the magnitude of the work and how complicated it is. I think our system is broken because people who want to edit have to first go through being an assistant. That has to stop. I would be fired on my first day if I was an assistant.

Matt Absher: I would never hire you.

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: He wouldn’t! I’m lucky that I didn’t have to go through the American system. I went through my European thing and began as a film editor. I would never have survived this assistant world. Never. Not because I’m stupid. There’s just a completely different set of tools that you need to do that kind of work.

Matt Absher: My advice is to remember that this is a freelance gig. Editing is job-to-job, project-to-project. The golden rule of freelance is, it’s never about the job. It’s always about the next job. You have to squeeze every opportunity you get and learn something new, expand your network, and ultimately become indispensable. Make sure that nothing runs right without you. If that means sabotaging all the equipment, so be it!

Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, ACE: Mission accomplished.

Matt Feury

Matt Feury is host and producer of The Rough Cut podcast, as well as the Sr. Director, Market Solutions – Video & Post for Avid.

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