Science Fiction Filme) First of all, I would like to thank you for your time doing this Interview. I think you´re work have got a huge fan base here in Germany. Especially because for films like COMMANDO (1985), TRUE LIES (1994), T 1 & 2 (1984/91) or STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) of course. A lot of movie maniacs know the films you are involved. Could you please tell us what you did before you come into filmbusiness. Why have you choose the way of being into editing?
Mark Goldblatt) Before I became a film maker, I was studying Philosophy as well as serving as film critic for my university daily newspaper. I also chaired a student committee that screened movies on campus. Subsequently, I studied film making at the London Film School. Then I relocated to Los Angeles to seek work. Eventually I found work as a production assistant on a film called Hollywood Boulevard directed by Joe Dante & Allan Arkush for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
SFF) Do you remember how you got your first permanent job in film?
M.G.) No job is really permanent. In my case I worked myself up the ladder from p a.’ing to assistant editor for Joe Dante when he was editing Ron Howard’s GRAND THEFT AUTO. Joe gave me some small scenes to edit and eventually offered me the position of co-editing his first solo directing project, PIRANHAS.
SFF) Do you have any personal idols or role models in your business? Is there a movie or an event which make you think: “I want to do the same thing.”? Do you have any collaboration which was the most influential in your career and why?
M.G.) Anne V. Coates, Donn Cambern, Tom Rolf and Dede Allen. Watching the James Bond film, ON HER MAJESTIS SECRET SERVICE, edited by John Glen, influenced me to seriously consider being a film editor. Collaborating with Joe Dante, James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven were career highs for me. They broadened my perspective on storytelling which is the key to great editing.
SFF) Editing in film, like many other areas of film, is rather invisible. And that is precisely what makes the cut so fascinating. Can you please explain what it is about this technique that excites you so much?
M.G.) What excites me about editing is that I can control the viewer’s perception of time & space & elicit emotional responses. As Godard once said: “cinema is the truth 24 frames per second.
SFF) I think it was Martin Scorcese who once said, "The only difference between film and theater is the editing." Do you agree with that?
M.G.) Editing is the final culmination of turning the script into a motion picture. the pre-edit in theater productions is the result of many rehearsals. Any given performance of the play will vary on a day-to-day basis dependent on the actors’ performances and their inter-relationship with audience reactions. Cinema is much more controlled since the editing can control the elements from the inside out.
SFF) How do you prepare yourself as an editor for such big projects as ARMAGEDDON (1998) or PEARL HARBOUR (2001) and how do you proceed with the editing for such projects? Did you use storyboards or/ and pre-visualisations?
M.G.) You must pre-plan as much as possible in pre-production. This is often accomplished by employing storyboards and previsualization, especially for sequences that have many complex action beats & visual effects. You work closely with the storyboard and previz artists and with the director so you understand the story beats very well. Once shooting begins, you methodically build one scene at a time, cut by cut until you have a cohesive movie.
SFF) You did the editing for both THE TERMINATOR (1984) and TERMINATOR 2 (1991). Would you say these two films are fundamentally different in the way they are put together?
M.G.) No difference between the way I approach each of the TERMINATOR movies. TERMINATOR is a shorter and less complicated editing process. T2 was a huge undertaking requiring three editors for the better part of a year. We collaborated and each had our own scenes to edit.
SFF) You worked with James Cameron on three films a good ten years apart. Why not on ALIENS (1986)?
M.G.) Jim and Gale tried to hire me to edit ALIENS, but at the time the studio didn’t think that I had amassed enough major films under my belt. They also wanted to hire an English editor for budgetary reasons. Jim & Gale, unfortunately for me, lost this battle to hire me.
SFF) Without your work in the action genre of the 1980s and 90s, many films would not be what they are today: Classics of action cinema. Did you have a particular approach in those decades when it came to editing iconic films?
M.G.) During the editing process one never knows in advance as to what the final outcome & audience reaction will be: that was certainly the case with THE TERMINATOR. We knew that the film was good, but we never expected that we were making a classic and iconic movie that would stand the test of time. The editing approach to these iconic classics is not any different to the process that I would use on any movie; classic action films or not: study the footage and let the rhythmic components within dictate the editing style.
SFF) How would you describe the cinema of the 80s and 90s in terms of the portrayal of action scenes and their heroes?
M.G.) Many of the best action films of the 80’s and 90’s were notable for the sheer magnitude of their set pieces. Productions budgets were high and a sense of spectacle was achieved through quick-cuts and rhythmic editing to achieve bigger than life action.
SFF) Editing a film is often a team effort. To what extent did your assistants take on aspects of the editing themselves or make suggestions to you for the montage?
M.G.) Although the assistants have many responsibilities, I encourage those who want to edit to do so under my supervision. I then critique their work. If they have done a good job, the edit can be included in the film. The only way assistants can become editors is by editing. I'm very proud of the fact that many of my former assistants are now editing major motion pictures themselves.
SFF) How do you see the change in the way stories are told in modern cinema compared to the past? Is it still possible to incorporate many substantial nuances of editing, especially in the big blockbusters, and does this technique often only serve to string together quick action scenes?
M.G.) Good storytelling is good storytelling—it really does stand the test of time. The strength of the screenplay is paramount in that regard. Styles vary from decade to decade, such as fast-cutting vs. slower more methodical editing but this is really more cosmetic than anything else. Compare Eisentein’s POTEMKIN to say, Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH and you can see that classical editing has broken the mold between what is sometimes wrongly considered “old fashioned.” Dzign-Vertou’s MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA is avant-garde in such a way that it is as “modern” as cinema can be. What’s old again is new again. Stringing set pieces together with inconsequential scenes between them is simply bad storytelling, no matter what decade of film history we’re discussing.
SFF) Has the increase in visual effects made it more difficult to edit a film today compared to the '80s, where a lot was happening right in front of the camera?
M.G.) It’s more difficult, it is more complex in what we can achieve during the editing process. If you can dream an idea, you can make it a reality with visual effects. The only limitations are your budget.
SFF) One of the more recent films that intelligently revives a film series from the "good old days" is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2013). Here you were also responsible for the editing. This film also surprises with an absolutely surprising resolution. When you were editing this film, how many times did you rearrange the famous final scene or did everything fit the first time?
M.G.) The film was tightly pre-visualized and is pretty much consistent with the Original plan.
SFF) Let's stay with this film for a moment. There is a wonderful homage (like many other scenes) to the old series. In one scene Ceasar yells the word NO. When I saw this scene in the cinema at that time it became absolutely quiet and everyone was shocked. That's how emotional film can be. How exactly did you go about planning that scene?
M.G.) No pre-arranged plan other than the screenplay and the performances of the actors.
SFF) Which software do you use for editing (and if so why) or do you work analog?
M.G.) I have used AVID for all my digital editing. Haven’t done analog editing in decades.
SFF) What tips do you have for prospective editors who would like to work on feature films?
M.G.) With lots of classic movies, edit as much as possible even if it’s little movies that you make with your mobile devices. Have a clear concept of what you want to be creating and go for it. Be brave in your editing choices.
SFF) Do you have any collaboration which was the most influential in your career and why?
M.G.) My collaboration with Jim Cameron on THE TERMINATOR was a magical, lifechanging experience. The movie felt like it was editing itself.
SFF) We all have our favorite movies. Mine is PHASE IV for example. But which movies do you really don´t like and why?
M.G.) In general, the movies I don’t like are the ones which seem like thefilmmakers are not committed and passionate about their work. I prefer to concentrate on seeing the good in movies, as opposed to criticizing the flaws in a given work.
SFF) I am really into science fiction (or fantasymovies in general) because I think, that those kind of movies are the best way to show actual political and social events. For example SOYLENT GREEN or SILENT RUNNING. Do you believe that these genres can transfer something to the people? Would it make sense to return to this tradition in today's difficult socio-political times? The transport of overcoming social problems through entertainment films?
M.G.) Science fiction films in particular have a long history of metaphorically dealing with cultural and social issues the forces the audience to confront the issues of the day.
SFF) Do you have a project you always wanted to do or are there something in progress we can enjoy in the future?
M.G.) Nothing in particular.
SFF) Hand on heart: Which film would you have liked to be involved in?
M.G.) MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
SFF) I held up with the most important question to the end: What was the most difficult project you were working on and why?
M.G.) For various reasons THE LAST BOY SCOUT was very difficult because the producer and the studio were at odds with the vision of the director, resulting in a lot of arm-chair quarter backing. There were too many chefs in the kitchen.
SFF) Thank you very much for this conversatuion. Stay healthy.