By Mary Ann Skweres
French editor Sylvie Landra has quickly risen to the top of her field in her own country, and these days finds herself more and more working on this side of the pond. Catwoman was her third US-based project and the first time she edited for director Pitof.
A major studio undertaking with a star cast and numerous visual effects, Catwoman was “an enormous machine to drive,” she says. “We don’t usually have movies like that in France.”
Of the many differences in working here and there, one of the most interesting is the ways crews are organized and the various different protocols. French and American crews react differently to unusual requests, she noticed. In France the first reaction is ‘No,’ “but in the end we do it the best we can. In the US everything is ‘Yes’ right away. But you’re not sure you’re going to get it.”
The job itself is the same, although she occasionally found working in a second language to be a challenge, especially during long sessions when fatique set in.
The greatest challenge on Catwoman, however, was the universal one of never being sure there’s enough time. Landra started editing pre-vis animation of the visual effects shots a week before production began; the July 24 release date allowed only 10 months for the film’s completion, a short time frame for a film with around 850 VFX shots.
She relied heavily on her crew and a lot of hours and continuous days to get the project in on schedule. “I had the best crew I ever had. They were always there smiling,” she remembers.
Landra brought her regular first assistant, Soline Guyonneau, and her UK assistant, Kate Baird along for the ride, and “stole” American assistant Gary Roach from Clint Eastwood’s editor Joel Cox. Americans Blu Murray and Matt Diesel rounded out the crew. “If I had a wish now, it’s to start again with all of them,” she says.
Another big difference in working in the US, according to Landra, is the proliferation of large visual effects movies. For Catwoman all the VFX were delivered in HD. Previews were screened in HD. Because the VFX were not finished, QuickTimes in the HD conformation were used to show the best and latest version of the VFX to the preview audiences. Large portions of the film, such as fight scenes, would not have existed to screen otherwise.
Not surprisingly, the thing Landra missed most about not working in France was the gastronomy. But there are always workarounds. Producer Edward McDonnell, at the time, was traveling to France. A request was put in for goat cheese. Landra remembers the weekend he came back from Paris. “The three French jumped into the kitchen and dived into the plate. We were moaning ‘mmmm’ for an hour.”
In the end it’s all about the cheese.
By Mary Ann Skweres