Post Magazine

February 2011

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the film is nothing — you just have all these pieces that don’t mean anything yet. So it’s only when you start editing that you basi- cally rewrite your script and find the film. And I just love that process and finding out what the film really is and means.” POST: You've previously worked with editor Stephen Mirrione on two of your films — Babel, which won him his second Oscar nomi- nation, and 21 Grams. How does that relation- ship work? IÑÁRRITU: “I really love working with him because I think he’s not just a very smart, accomplished editor with incredible technical skills, but he’s also a very sensitive guy and has very good taste, which is also very important in an editor — and we work well together.We always agree about the real meaning of a scene and what’s valuable to save in a performance.That’s crucial, I feel. “You hear stories about directors and edi- tors who fight a lot, and I will not even con- sider that. I edited Amores Perros myself; it took me eight months and it was very difficult and lonely, even though I love editing. So for me, I find it far more enjoyable when I can share that time with someone else in a dark room and all my thoughts about how to put it all together — all the infinite possibilities.” POST: So Stephen started working on the film in Barcelona? IÑÁRRITU: “Stephen came to Barcelona on the set and started editing while we were shooting, doing an assembly.Then we finished up in LA at Universal.We did it all on an Avid system, and we edited for one year and two months — a long time!” POST: Who did the visual effects, and how many visual effects shots are there? IÑÁRRITU: “There are a few visual ef- fects, but not that many, and they were all done by this place in Madrid, called El Ran- chito.They did a really good job. I’m pretty involved because the problem with visual ef- fects is that you have to get them exactly right. If you don’t, they can destroy your whole film, and the most difficult thing is to make them look natural and use them when you really need them, so they add this whole other dimension. So we pre-designed them all, and I love it when people don’t even re- alize that they’re there.” POST: How important are sound and music to you? IÑÁRRITU: “For me it’s hard to overesti- mate just how important they are to my films. I think there’s a dictatorship of the image in all films, and I really like to challenge that. For me, sound is even more important than what you see on screen, in the way that it hits you.The emotional chords are much more sensitive to sounds than images, be- cause they’re more abstract, and like smells they can trigger a much deeper understand- ing of things.When you see images, they’re very concrete.When you hear them, they’re abstract in the way they trigger your own emotional baggage. “I spend a lot of time looking for just the right sounds and textures for my films, and I’ve worked with sound designer and editor Martin Hernandez, who has designed all my films since we were at college together. So he knows exactly what I like and want, and in this case we really pushed it, just as we changed the formats to get the visuals wider. So little by little I wanted to keep all the scratches and sounds of the lavelier mics to come up in the mix, which we did at Universal. “There’s the scene where Uxbal em- braces his daughter in the bathroom, saying goodbye to her, and you could hear their heartbeats in the laveliers, and the classic first session with the mixer is where he wants to erase all that. “I said,‘Wait — this has to be pumped up, not removed!’ Because this apparent technical mistake is for me a statement.This guy’s hearing every heartbeat, every scratch their clothes make. So this hyper-realistic ap- proach to the sound mix was very impor- tant to me, to make people aware of his journey and the hyper-sensitive last mo- ments of his life. “The music is the same. I need to hear a film before I start it — what are the sounds, what is the texture, what is the tone? A film for me always begins with a vague idea, often a bit of music, and this began when I was listening to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major. And [composer] Gustavo Santaolalla did 130 tracks for the film. It was very diffi- cult to find the right voice for the film. Now I’m doing a CD titled ‘Biutiful,’ which will con- tain all the tracks from the film, plus one, ‘Al- most Biutiful.’ That will have all the tracks that didn’t make it.” POST: Did you do a DI? IÑÁRRITU: “Yes, and I think it’s a very in- teresting process.The first time I did it was for 21 Grams, and I only used it for a part of the film. It wasn’t that well defined back then and it was painful to watch the end result. But now it’s changed and it’s far more so- phisticated. I still resist it a little as it’s so easy to perfect every single frame if you want. The danger is you can go crazy with it, so you must control yourself and not overuse it, because then you can lose the natural look of light. The choices it gives you are scary, and I also feel you lose the grain — and I love grain. Some people love sleek looks, but I prefer some grain. But I know it’ll keep getting better and better.” POST: Is film dead? IÑÁRRITU: “I think so. It’s inevitable. Dig- ital has made it so much easier, but I also feel that some things are lost, which is a shame, but that’s the way it is.” POST: You directed, co-wrote and pro- duced this. Do you have a favorite hat to wear? IÑÁRRITU: “I hate producing! I only do it because I have to; I’d far rather just write and direct. I’d say that editing and doing the music are my favorite parts.” POST: Did the film turn out the way you hoped? IÑÁRRITU: “Completely. Of course, in post there are always things you question and feel you could have done better, but it’s a bit like an old, aged wine — we spent so long on post that I had a lot of perspective to hopefully make all the right choices, and I’m very happy with the result.” February 2011 • Post 11 Editor Stephen Mirrione started work in Barcelona, but finished at Universal in LA on an Avid system.

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