With screenwriter Aaron Sorkin‘s dialog-dense script and director David Fincher‘s extensive coverage, one of the challenges faced by the editors of The Social Network – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall – was keeping the film at a viewable length. The solution was rapid-fire dialog and full use of coverage that always gave the editors someplace to be.
Citing an example, Baxter explains, “For the conversation in the boardroom, you have a perspective from each person to whom they are talking. Having so many places to be, keeps it rapid fire. And the line deliveries were quick and to the point.”
Wall adds, “The script itself was 160-odd pages. There was good reason to have everybody speaking rapidly. We didn’t want a long movie. Really, the biggest challenge of any film that is so dialog-intensive is wringing every ounce of meaning out of every performance. For instance, in the opening scene, conversations are cascading over each other. The way that Aaron wrote the script – and he’s really good at this – those things are woven seamlessly together. It feels like a genuine conversation, but it’s packed with meaning. As editors, a big part of our responsibility was making sure that we had every best piece in the film.”
Although the story is based on a living human being, to the editors, he is still a character in a movie so they did not feel the need to “channel” Mark Zuckerberg. “We work with the ingredients we have,” says Baxter. “That all begins with Sorkin and Fincher and the actors who play those parts. We simply try to bring out the best of what’s in front of us.”
The Social Network is not the first film on which Wall and Baxter have collaborated. “I think that it’s unique, because it’s very organic,” reveals Wall. “People talk about The Godfather, that there is a splice that divides two editors’ work. As Kirk often says, whatever needs to be done, we do. Whoever finishes what they’re doing takes on the next task.”
Wall continues, “David helps with that. He doesn’t take into account that you’re good at this, so you should do that. It’s whoever’s standing in front of him. Nobody takes guardianship over things. It’s about helping David, helping the movie. Editors get caught up in the first assembly. You get a nice perspective, almost the same as the director’s, when you come in and dance upon what has been constructed. You get to see its weak points. I thoroughly enjoy the work that Angus has done to things that I initially started.”
“Likewise!” exclaims Wall. ” When you find yourself painted in a corner, it’s a luxury to be able to say, ‘have a crack at it.'”