Director Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes paints a quirky picture of the true life relationship between artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose distinctive portraits of big-eyed children were painted in secret, and her charming, wannabe-artist husband (Christoph Waltz) who took credit for her creations and usurped the phenomenal success that should have been hers.
“We decided from the very beginning that this was going to be a different movie,” said editor J.C. Bond. “We talked about the characters as the most important part of every scene. We didn’t want to get over-complicated on visual effects. The performances were obviously what we were after. As we started receiving the dailies from the shoot, it became clear that we had amazing performances.”
With a faster shooting schedule and tighter budget than some of his other films, Burton kept the footage to a limited number of set-ups and takes. With talented actors like Adams and Waltz, the director could get any performance he needed. According to Bond, Burton asked for a bit of variety in the actors’ performances.
“In the case of Amy, she has a Southern accent throughout the movie,” Bond explained. “She did different takes with different amounts of accent. In the case of Christoph, he would do different amounts of intensity in his reactions. He can be very animated. Tim would ask for different possibilities.”
Later in the cutting room, the filmmakers shaped the performances. With a film about real-life characters, they were always conscious of the realistic journey and growth of each character throughout the course of the movie.
Of general concern was the overall pace and the integration of the music. These challenging areas of the edit took some finessing to get just right.
Bond subscribes to the philosophy that the best-edited movie is the one in which you don’t notice the editing. “We strive to become invisible,” he said. The editor has worked with Burton previously, but in different positions – first assistant editor, associate editor, additional editor, FX editor and now editor – since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, their first film together.
During their collaborative history, Bond has learned to read Burton’s body language, which is a major way the director communicates. Big Eyes is the first film in 20-plus years that Burton has directly worked with an editor other than his usual editor, Bond’s mentor, Chris Lebenzon. “I was lucky enough to be the editor on Big Eyes after working in various capacities over 10 years,” commented Bond. “It was a new experience for Tim and an amazing experience for me.”
“Tim is an extremely creative person who has a way of communicating via body language that is particular to him,” continued Bond. “I don’t see how anybody could ever come to work with him if they didn’t know him before. Because of Tim’s body language and way of communicating, it does require somebody who can read him and understand the way he works, which is something I had the opportunity to learn over the years.”