Editing ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Was Surprisingly Complicated

Editing ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ Was Surprisingly Complicated

Tuesday morning was a great day for Everything everywhere at once the quirky sci-fi action-comedy that came seemingly out of nowhere last spring to be a smash hit and, not coincidentally, received more Oscar nominations than any other 2022 film, including one for Paul Rogers, the editor who he commissioned the film, balancing his relentless, sometimes ridiculous drive with quieter scenes.

Rogers, who I spoke to a couple of days after he won a Critics Choice award on January 15 for editing EEAAOHe acknowledged that in the past he hadn’t given much thought to industry accolades, but this year’s experience had definitely changed his mind.

“I tend to have a bit of a cynical view of awards as a viewer,” Rogers said. “But I think being there and seeing the kind of love for other actors and other directors that was shown among colleagues and friends, that cynicism started to wear off the more I was there and the more I saw that genuine celebration. of hard work, sacrifice and the stories of many people. It was great.”

The film has been on the market for a long time, debuting at the South By Southwest Festival in March and hitting theaters in April, where it stayed for months before moving to streaming.

It has been a fan favorite, by almost all measures a success. Its box office gross is $104.1 million worldwide, huge for a small independent project that grossed a modest $500,000 from 10 theaters in its opening weekend. The Rotten Tomatoes critics score is an excellent 95%, and the RT audience score is an excellent 89%.

It helped that EEAAO is a gleefully silly, occasionally baffling, and completely over-the-top movie that stuck around on theater screens when little else was on the market besides Top Gun: Maverick and some other summer blockbusters.

The movie also had some influential champions, like the Russo brothers (creators of the last two billion dollars). avengers movies and netflix
the gray man, among much more), who were executive producers of the film. But initial ambitions for the film itself were modest.

“We weren’t aiming for the Oscars or award shows,” Rogers said. “And I think that was made clear at the (spring time of) release. And it was clear to me when we did it, it was like a joke between us of, wouldn’t that be funny? When we were working on the sillier parts of the movie, we thought, ‘This is real Oscar stuff here where he jumps on a butt plug.'”

The aforementioned butt plug is technically part of a rather unique prize, and is wielded at a key moment in fending off attackers that, well, you have to watch the movie (maybe twice) to understand. That said, once the movie was finally finished after months of pandemic-related delays, at least one cast member thought he’d made a keeper.

“Actually, the first person who really mentioned it to me was (lead actor) Ke (Huy Quan) after we did the friends and family screening. He said, ‘You know, I think this could really win some awards,’ Rogers said. “I was like, ‘No way, Ke, absolutely no way. This isn’t the kind of movie that gets awards shows or Oscars excited.’ He was so wrong. And I realized that I just don’t doubt Ke. He knows what he is doing. This guy keeps proving time and time again that he’s not to be doubted, but we still keep doing it. He was correct.”

Rogers met the Daniels shortly after moving to Los Angeles, when a classmate from Alabama invited him to a birthday party at a skating rink. The birthday boy turned out to be Daniel Scheinert, whose managing partner Dan Kwan was also there. Together they go for it manager name of the Daniels.

Fast forward a decade, and the Danielses had a new project, and early on, they discussed the script with Rogers, “to work on it, without any presumption of involvement on my part.”

Rogers hoped that another editor, whose work he loved and who had recently completed a film with the Daniels, would eventually work on the new project.

“But I was lucky,” Rogers said. “Eventually, we all went to a Korean spa, and as we were freshening up after a bath, they said, ‘Do you want to help us make this movie?’ And I said of course. And then they sent me the script and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to do my job for myself.’

The story was originally about a relationship between a father and daughter, but when filming began in late 2019, it focused on a messy relationship between a relentlessly ordinary working mother and her perpetually frustrated young adult daughter.

When Rogers saw the filming script, he called the previous editor, Matthew Hannam, as advice. They met up for a drink in the trendy Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, just days before the lockdown was set to begin, and just as filming was about to wrap.

“He gave me a lot of good advice in general, but one of the ones he gave me was from the beginning: don’t think about the big picture, because you’ll drown, you’ll be overwhelmed,” Rogers said. “’Just take it scene by scene, moment by moment, and follow that. And then once you get past it all, you can take a step back, look at the big picture, realize what’s not working, and start thinking in those terms.’” That helped give me permission to not try to figure it out from day one.”

The lockdown, which had been so devastating to much of Hollywood, turned out to be a secret blessing for the complex editing work required to piece together the Daniels’ intricate mix of sci-fi, hopping between alternate worlds, outrageous sight gags, action sequences in slow motion, talking rocks, and much, much more.

Unlike the rest of the industry, Rogers said: “I had this really wonderful project that I cared about with my friends that I could make a Zoom (call) to and talk to every day and then take my mind off the world and focus on the story. . And the story really seemed to lend itself to what was going on at the time, which is these feelings of isolation and longing for connection, nihilism and cynicism. And that’s what this movie is about, and ways to fight that by embracing it. It was a great form of therapy for me working on this film. It was great.”

In fact, Rogers called that editing process “a really wonderful moment. The worst day of the movie was the day we closed (the print) and I realized that it was all over. It was a very depressing day.”

The block, in a mild irony, ultimately gave Rogers roughly twice the editing time typical for such a low-budget film, or as originally scheduled. With the entire industry on hold and theaters closed across the planet, distributor A24 “basically told us to work on it until we thought it was finished. And so we were working on it for 11 months. If we had stopped at that five-month mark (originally scheduled), we would have had a pretty good movie, but it wouldn’t have been the movie we have now.”

To edit the project just as lockdown hit, Rogers “grabbed an iMac from work” and left the machine in the living room of his family’s small Highland Park bungalow. He put on his headphones, turned on Adobe
Premiere Pro and went to work, using the program’s project sharing features to remotely test edit with directors.

“The way that Dan, Daniel and I work is incredibly collaborative,” said Rogers. “And they are editing with me. They are both talented filmmakers in all aspects of movie making, because they came of age during the time when if you wanted to make a music video, you had to shoot it, write it, act in it, edit and color it (grade it) and do the visual effects.

Premiere’s flexibility and opener capabilities were particularly useful for building those test versions of a scene, adding rough visual effects, or doing tricks like speeding up a background character’s movement, while keeping the main figure at normal speed, Rogers said. That kind of flexibility gave him the ability, for example, to tweak fight scenes or remix bits of multi-takes into a single scene so that the final images look like they came from a movie with a much bigger budget.

“All of those things are really helpful in leveling the playing field between these big-budget action movies and these smaller indie action movies,” Rogers said.

Premiere was particularly helpful in allowing directors and Rogers to collaborate remotely on the creation of the eye-catching, 2001-Quick style cuts were needed as the characters switched between alternate worlds, or possibilities, or their own life story in rapid fashion.

“Those were really fun things to work on,” Rogers said. “But I will say that it wasn’t the things that kept us up at night, right? They were the things that we knew were almost an escape from trying to figure out the most intricate mechanics in the story.”

The biggest editing challenge came during the film’s most reflective moments.

“How to make sure the audience was emotionally invested in these characters and that we stayed true throughout this two-and-a-half hour movie to the characters’ journey,” Rogers said of the challenge. “That’s what happens to you in the shower with the water running over you, with your head in your hands, saying, ‘I have to figure this out or the movie won’t work.'”

A scene in the first 15 minutes might need to be repeated at the end of the movie to build emotional resonance, Rogers said as an example. More importantly, it was crucial that such scenes balance the frenetic action and provide humanity and connection.

“There was so much visual experimentation and ‘grandiloma,’ that there are a lot of opportunities to lose the thread or lose connection with the characters and just come clean with explosive visual footage,” Rogers said. “So it was a lot of figuring out when we needed to give the audience a break, which wasn’t that often.”

Unlike the start slow and build approach of many action movies, Rogers said EEAAO took a different approach, launching at an explosive pace, before ending, more or less, with a scene where two rocks “talked” in the woods. Scheinert put together a test version of the rock scene in the woods near Los Angeles that ended up “basically intact” in the film.

“Sometimes you just have to know when to get out of the way of a good scene,” Rogers said. “I think that movie has shown that you can tell the story in many different ways. And yes, you don’t have to follow a formula.”

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