Q1 2020

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52 C I N E M O N T A G E F E A T U R E F or Nat Sanders, ACE, the story's the thing. It was the veteran picture ed- itor's desire to tell stories that inspired him to enter Florida State University's film school to study screenwriting. It was what motivated him to take a chance, quit his job editing reality television in L.A., and move to San Francisco to edit college classmate Barry Jenkins' first independent film, "Medicine for Melan- choly" (2008). And, most recently, it was the power of a story that drove Sanders to put his honeymoon with his wife on hold for nine months until he and writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton completed the final cut of "Just Mercy," a powerful legal drama based on the best-selling memoir of criminal justice reform activist and defense attorney Bryan Stevenson. "I read the book and was blown away by it," Sanders said during a recent interview near the Warners lot. "There were parts of it that were so emotional and raw and sad that tears weren't just falling down my face, they fell straight out of my eyes and down to the ground. … The book was so powerful that there was no question that I desperately wanted to be a part of it." "My wife was very patient and under- standing," he said. "She was so great and so supportive." Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson, "Just Mercy" de- picts Stevenson's early years working for the release of wrongfully convicted men on Death Row in Alabama with the help of criminal justice reform advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). Written by Cretton and Andrew Lan- ham, the screen adaptation focuses on Stevenson (Jordan) as he fights to exon- erate Walter McMillian (Foxx), a family man unjustly convicted and sentenced to be executed for the murder of a young white woman. It's an intimate story about racial injustice and the cruelty of capital punishment, brought to life through the subtle, nuanced performances of its stars and a strong supporting cast. A Deep Sense of Responsibility In a recent telephone interview, Cret- ton said he asked Sanders to edit "Just Mercy" because of Sanders' connection to the heart of Stevenson's story and his commitment to creating something that Stevenson would be proud of. Sanders has edited two of Cretton's previous fea- ture films: "Short-Term 12" (2013) and "The Glass Castle" (2017). The pair have developed a strong working relation- ship built on trust and an appreciation for each other's skills and insight, Cret- ton said. " N a t i s a t h o u g h t f u l , e m o t i o n a l , caring person, and I think that plays a part in the way he chooses performances and crafts a scene with sensitivity," Cretton said. "He's meticulous and a perfectionist, and he has an array of attributes that have helped me with the types of movies I like to make about people who operate from a place of love and are trying to be better people," the director added. Both Cretton and Sanders said every- one on the "Just Mercy" cast and crew felt a deep sense of responsibility to tell Stevenson's story to the very best of their abilities. "I think I lost the most sleep and had the most revelations in the shower while working on this film," Sanders said. "My brain never turned off because I wanted to make sure I was telling the absolute best version of the story." "Editing really is about storytelling," he said. "You're really creating the last draft of the script. Rather than working with a blank page or what was shot on set, it's really you and the director being co-writers in that process." One Wedding and a Film Shoot Sanders said he worked on the film from September 2018 to July 2019 —11 months from start to finish, and the lon- gest he's ever worked on a feature. With his wedding day set for October 20, 2018, in the middle of production, he worked on his editor's cut in Los Angeles while cast and crew were shooting in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama for two months. He said he only took a few days off for his wedding. "At the end of each shoot day, we would talk about what he [Cretton] had Order in the Court NAT SANDERS BRINGS COMPASSION AND CRAFT TO "JUST MERCY" 'I lost the most sleep and had the most revelations in the shower while work- ing on this film.' By Laura Flores

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