Our friend Mitch learned a lot about the editorial process for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and was cool enough to send us his notes:
I got an email from a software editing company about a webinar that was an interview with the editors at Bad Robot. In that same email, they mentioned that they were going to talk about the workflow for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so I decided to load it up and see if anything good came out of it. I got some fairly interesting tidbits from it:
1) J.J. does not do first cuts. According to his two editors, he cannot sit through it, so they basically mine through it all, and he comes in periodically to do a sequence here or there and eventually sits down and watches a cut (probably second cut or third cut) once post-production started.
2) He shoots a TON of footage. I think one of the assistant editors said its close to 16+ hours of footage a day.
3) J.J. is somewhat hands-off during editing. He lets the editors go through footage and pick what they think is better.
4) J.J. also when editing likes to have sound as close as final as possible (temp music, etc).
5) Bad Robot used John Williams’ music editor and Williams’ old music for the temp music since the score has not yet been recorded.
6) J.J (which I think most people know this) never stops working and moving. They said when they get to the first studio screening, they will still be cutting til about 10 – 15 minutes before they export it.
7) They edit in a 5.1 soundtrack mix during post-production. So they make a temp mix, and basically edit the film in 5.1 for the best sounding movie, instead of adding it later.
8) They were shooting with 4 cameras with two separate units at the height of production.
9) During post-production, J.J. more often than not in contact with the actors, and has them re-record lines to send them in to him during editing, and then will replace them later.
10) Right now, they are in the heavy visual effects part of editing, which means they are receiving finished shots, or close to finished shots and sending them back to ILM for screenings, which occur 3 or 4 times a week.
11) The editors are the keepers of ALL of the footage. So marketing-wise, they have to go through editorial to get what they want. The only place that has the full movie, shot-for-shot, is at Bad Robot in LA. All footage that is released to other editors for trailers and TV spots are watermarked and prepped in a certain way so it won’t be leaked.
12) If there are any major “potholes” that need to be filled, the editors tell J.J. (sometimes multiple times). In the past, they have shot little scenes or inserts as late as 3 weeks before the picture was locked.
13) Something I found to be really unique: The editors basically split the movie in half. So one day, one editor might focus on dialogue and drama scenes, the other action and much longer “big” sequences. They trade off every day.
14) They were editing in a trailer while they were shooting on stages at Pinewood, when production was at its height.