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HomeAwardsAward Contender-Richard Chew, Editor, The New World

Award Contender-Richard Chew, Editor, The New World

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Editor Richard Chew had never worked with director Terrence Malick before he began editing The New World. One of three editors who worked on the film, (Hank Corwin and Saar Klein are also credited), Chew was tasked with bringing the director’s vision to the screen.The editor found Malick’s unusual methods quite a surprise. “It was a very challenging process in post with Terry, period,” says Chew. “He writes wonderfully descriptive and period evocative dialog for the characters, yet the paradox is once you look at the footage, he wants to take out as much of the dialog as possible. We were asked to use the images only. Then he substituted everything in there with voiceover.”Chew’s theory is that Malick writes the dialog to get the actors into the period, the language and the right frame of mind for their character.Set against a historically accurate backdrop, The New World is a retelling of the epic adventure tale of the ambitious soldier of fortune John Smith (played by Colin Farrell) and the passionate, strong-willed, native princess Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher) during the founding of Jamestown in 1607. In Malick’s hands, the classic story becomes a sweeping exploration of love, loss and discovery.Even on-set, Malick has an unusual process. The takes were generally long and the director often let the camera roll on at the end of a scene to see what would happen. He consistently talked to the actors from off-screen, redirected and sometimes even had the actors use dialog from a different scene.Says Chew, “All of a sudden these lines, which they may not have even prepared for this scene, are thrust upon them. He constantly throws the actors off so that their reactions are quite natural. So their deliveries don’t have a lot of intellectualization.”In working with Malick, Chew had to rethink how he would normally cut a scene. “Every rule I’ve ever learned about linear editing, composition, matching sizes when cutting between two characters… Terry loves to violate those rules. He doesn’t ever want to go back and use the same angle twice. In a conversation between two characters, he would not like it to just cut back and forth between two singles. We would even cut to something else so that we would not have to go back to the same angle.”Malick resists having the editing, or any element in the film, appear consciously designed. He did not want it all timed out or looking too “Hollywood.” Chew had to go for a raw, more unfinished kind of feeling, including keeping all the little jerks in a camera move.Chew admits that he is still trying to process the intense experience: “Editors choose to work on a project based on what’s written. In this case, it was hard to judge because I tend to take the script more literally. The intent was there, but you had to read so much between the lines that I think what we ended up with was a continuation of Terry’s writing process. It was hard for me to ever imagine what we ended up with from where we started.” – Mary Ann Skweres

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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