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December 2017

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Page 20 of 43 19 POST DECEMBER 2017 STAR WARS tar Wars: The Last Jedi was written and directed by Rian Johnson, and hit the- aters with much anticipation on December 15th. The Lucasfilm saga features many of the franchise's familiar talent, including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and Andy Serkis, as well as visual effects — some 2,000 — by Industrial Light & Magic. The film was shot by cinematographer Steve Yedlin and edited by Bob Ducsay, whose career spans 30 years, with many credits coming from visual effects-heavy films. Ducsay says his work on San Andreas, Godzilla and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, among others, has well prepared him for the challenges of a Star Wars film, which spent nearly two years undergo- ing post production. He regularly is required to be- gin putting scenes together long before their visual effects have been completed, and has developed a vision and understanding for how features evolve in post. Having recently completed work on The Last Jedi, Ducsay took some time to speak with Post about his work as an editor on what is surely to be 2017's biggest blockbuster. Bob, you've built quite a career as an editor on VFX-filled films. I'd imagine you would have to have that type of background to take on something this enormous? "It's a very interesting aspect of my job. I've done a lot of these complicated visual effects movies and there is a great advantage. Star Wars has a massive number of visual effects in it and is a very, very complicated film. Having experience in these things and knowing the sort of things that you can do is always very, very helpful. It's like any profes- sion. Anytime you've got knowledge of something that you need to apply, it's to your advantage. "The funny thing is, in the end, like editing any movie or being a filmmaker on any sort of film, it re- ally, at least in my opinion, comes down to story and character. The same thing is true with visual effects. Even though I have a lot of technical knowledge and I have a lot of experience dealing with the visual effects, one of the things that I am always looking toward is also the same thing that Rian was also looking for in the movie in dealing with the visual effects: How does this shot move the story forward? And, how is character involved in this shot? "We talk about this all the time. This is a short- hand that I would use with the visual effects supervisor and the visual effects team. The notion of what is the story of the shot? "As complex and technical, as well as artful as visual effects are, the reality of it is that they are truly there — especially in The Last Jedi — they are there at the service of character and story. And when you have a chance to see the film, I think you will see what I mean by that. So I guess it's really helpful and great to be able to come armed with the knowledge and experience that I do have with visual effects, but really, in the end, the most important thing that I'm always trying to apply is: What does it have to do with character and story?" Did you consciously guide your career to one working on effects-heavy films? "In many ways it's the way it worked out, but there is a little bit of planning and a little bit of aspiration. I love populous movies. And what really got me into the movie business was that. I love great stories told on a big canvas. This can go way back before visual effects were a part of it. The movies of David Lean, and getting more modern with Raiders or Episode 4 — these are movies that meant a lot to me and influenced my involvement in the movie business, and in particular, becoming an editor. "I didn't specifically set out to get involved in movies that really involved a lot of visual effects, but the scope of adventure movies — which are my favorite films — like Lawrence of Arabia, which has no visual effects in it, but it's a great, sweeping ad- venture — if you were to make Lawrence of Arabia now, you would have 1,000 visual effects in it. I kind of fell into it, but the way I got there was because they were the sorts of movies that I always enjoyed. "I like being transported somewhere else and I love the escapism of the sort of movies that I work on. Because of that, I now work on movies that have 1,000 visual effects in them. And it's a highly-com- plex job that requires a lot of knowledge. The reality of it is that these movies are just like a small drama in that, in the end, you are trying to tell a good story with great characters, and the visual effects are just a complication of those things." These films can be massive in terms of production and footage. How far back did you get involved? "We started shooting two years ago this coming February, so just under two years ago, and we finished up around a month ago. The actual pho- tography and post production on the movie was somewhere around a year-and-a-half. It's a long process. I guess, probably about 19 months to be accurate about it." What was it like cutting together scenes where you know, ultimately, there will be visual effects? "Often, you don't really have the material that you are ultimately going to have when the movie is finished. The Last Jedi is a little bit different in that it is the best hybrid of making these sorts of films. It actually has large sets, and there is actually a lot there as the movie is being photographed. S Editing battle scenes with digital fighters required a good amount of imagination.

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