Director Tom McCarthy recently tapped editor Tom McArdle at PostFactoryNY to cut Spotlight, a new drama that tells the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of child molestation by Catholic priests and the subsequent cover-up by the local archdiocese. The film was McArdle’s fifth collaboration with the director, dating back to 2003 and The Station Agent.
McArdle and his crew spent 10 months cutting the film at PostFactoryNY’s facility, with eight months devoted to picture editing, and two to sound, music and visual effects. The set up included editing and assist rooms along with offices for McCarthy and post supervisor Kelley Cribben. The main workstation was an Avid Media Composer v 6.5.4 on a 12-core Mac Pro with 16 gigs of RAM. The production stored 5 TB of media data on PostFactoryNY’s central ISIS server.
McArdle has cut each of McCarthy’s films at PostFactoryNY. “We are very comfortable there,” he said, “and that high level of comfort allows us to focus on the work. It’s the best place in New York for editing movies. Everyone wants to cut there. A lot of talented people were working on our floor – Paul Haggis, David Simon, Brian Koppelman… PostFactoryNY has big rooms and a nice atmosphere. Their Avids and tech support are top-notch. It feels like a big rustic house for moviemaking.”
Stylistically, Spotlight has a similar feel to the tough, realistic dramas of the ’70s, but more tightly wound. “The fact that it was based on real events and a real investigation influenced things,” McArdle said. “It gave it a gradual build. During the months of editing, we tried to make the film tighter so that there were no unnecessary moments.”
“It was all about pace and clarity in hopes of maintaining the tension and tone of the picture,” explained McCarthy. “I usually take a few weeks off after the shoot and then Tom and I sit down and watch his first assembly. Then we go out for a steak and a few martinis, and wash it off. We get to work the next morning and keep editing until we think it’s ready. We do a number of small screenings along the way to push the cut forward.”
The film includes several montage scenes used to convey the scope of the newspaper’s investigation. McCarthy said they were among the most difficult sequences to cut. “The process is very tedious, going through directories and knocking on doors, that sort of thing,” he explained. “It took a while to get the pace right. We wanted to feel both the drive of the investigation and the tedium of the work. It was a fine line to walk.”
“It feels like home,” McCarthy said. “It’s a unique place. They take very good care of you, big or small film, and they are good people. They take film seriously and you feel that in their approach and support.”
Spotlight has drawn rave reviews from critics. It was named film of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Washington, D.C. Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Online. It has been honored at Chicago International Film Festival (audience choice award), Gotham Awards (best feature, best screenplay), Hollywood Film Awards (screenwriter of the year), Independent Spirit Awards (Robert Altman Award) Mill Valley Film Festival (audience award: best U.S. feature film), National Board of Review (top ten films), New York Film Critics Circle Awards (best actor) and the Venice Film Festival (Brian Award, Silver Mouse).