November/December 2014

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35 NOV-DEC 14 / CINEMONTAGE A native of London, England who grew up in Sydney, Australia, Smith began his own voyage in the film industry more than three decades ago. He started as an apprentice at a post-production house in his hometown, where his duties ranged from edge numbering to making tea, he says. He worked as a sound editor before eventually breaking into picture editing, assisting or cutting films for such prominent Australian directors as Bruce Beresford and Peter Weir. Shortly after Smith finished work on Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) for Weir, his agent called with a question: Was he interested in editing a Batman movie? "To which I think my first response was, 'No,'" Smith recalls, though his curiosity was aroused when he did some homework on the project's director, Nolan. Smith had never seen Memento (2000) nor Insomnia (2002), so he sat down with the films before giving his agent his answer: "I agreed with her that, yeah, this young guy — he had a future." After meeting and deciding to work together, Smith and Nolan found that they were simpatico. "I think the editor-and-director relationship is an interesting one, where it's kind of like a marriage in a way — you have to be on the same page aesthetically, technically, dramatically," Smith says. Nolan, who worked with Dody Dorn, ACE (see interview, page 26), on Memento and Insomnia, agrees: "I love working with the same editor because you develop a very close relationship with the person. In the edit suite, you spend an enormous amount of time together trying out different things. And once you find somebody that you really click with in terms of your technical approach to cutting and your overall creative vision — and then your personalities — I think you definitely want to repeat that experience and try to build on the relationship. And that's been very productive for myself and Lee." But their collaboration on Batman Begins (2005) got underway with Nolan asking Smith to change course from one of his previous habits. In all of his previous films, Smith, like most editors, cut scenes with the aid of temp music. Nolan asked him to stop. "He said, 'I know you've probably done it like this your entire life,'" Smith remembers. "I said, 'Yes, I'm normally carrying temp music pretty well from the get-go.' And he said, 'I just want you to try to cut the entire first cut without using any music whatsoever.'" It was a tall order, but as Smith dove into Batman Begins, he realized that the film was benefitting from the decision to abstain from temp music. "It makes you very, very, hard on the footage because as soon as you put music on, everything looks better; music is the great glue," he explains. Smith found he was forced to reckon with scenes that played very slowly without music, with an eye to shortening them for maximum effect — even though he knew that they would later be helped by the addition of a score. "It just gives you a laser focus on not letting stuff just go on forever," Interstellar. Paramount Pictures

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