By Keisha Martin
Although most students choose to pursue directing here, the Ohio University School of Film offers several different specialization tracks for MFA and HTC students (screenwriting, cinematography, and post-production). While many have pursued screenwriting and cinematography, few have chosen the post-production (editing, sound mixing, sound editing, and color correction) route.
Next Spring, Thesis HTC student Logan Marshall will graduate this program in the post-production track. During his undergraduate HTC time in the School of Film, Marshall has worked on dozens of student and professional projects in a variety of roles, but found his love for storytelling in the art of editing. Working alongside directors to create strong stories, Marshall’s love of filmmaking thrives. Below, we get a peek into his mind as he took some time out from his busy schedule to answer questions regarding the post-production process.
Why did you select the Post-Production track over the other options available at OU?
Simply put, I find more joy in the post-production collaboration process than any other part of filmmaking. As much fun as I have making films of my own, editing just does it for me. I wanted to hone in on the craft and work collaboratively with a director other than myself, so I chose the editing track.
What are the steps of completing an edit of a film for you? Are you involved in all steps of production or just post-production?
I want to be involved in as much of the pre-production process as possible. Being present during pre-pro pumps me up to work on the project and it’s important to maintain excitement as an editor. You don’t want to shove a project to the back of your mind until it comes time to cut. Plus, I might have an editorial insight that helps the director better understand how to approach a scene. That said, I do prefer to stay off the sets of films that I’ll be cutting. I like to see footage with completely fresh eyes, avoiding any preconceived notions. As for completing an edit, I don’t stop working on a film until I feel it is as good as it can be. This includes sound and color, but most importantly story.
How long would you say you spend on average to edit about 1 minute of a film?
Oh geez, that’s a tough question. Probably at least 20-30 hours, sound included. This might sound like a gross exaggeration, but when I look at how much time I’ve put into the cuts of Pasture and Applebaum, it's the closest guess I have. Of course I can stitch a scene together in far less time than that, but the devil is in the details; tweaking and polishing are the real time hogs.
How much of what you do is technical and how much is artistic? Is it hard to keep up with the ever changing technology of the film industry?
While there certainly are a lot of technical aspects to editing, its mostly artistic. Anyone can learn what commands do what in Avid or Premiere, but it doesn’t guarantee they can edit. Of course you need to learn these commands, but the real difference is made in the editor’s ability to sense story, rhythm, and style. Honing those elements is what turns a good film into a great film. As for keeping up with the industry, there’s still a lot I need to learn—I'll put it that way.
What is your perspective on editing and storytelling? How does it feel to work with directors to craft stories?
My perspective is this: make every story as good as it can be, then make it a little better. What this means for each film differs. Every film has a different set of problems that arise--some can be fixed, and some can’t. Knowing when to spend how much time where is an important skill I’m still learning. A lot of this is helped through the collaboration process with the director. It’s important to figure out which story threads should be followed and which should be cut or reconfigured and the director’s vision is often helpful in this respect. It can, however, be painful for them when I say we need to cut something...but that’s half the fun!
What are some of your own personal goals you want to achieve when editing a film? Any set standards or is each project unique?
As I said in my previous answer, I want every film to be as good as it can be. If this means the film needs 1000 cuts, then I’ll make 1000 cuts. If it needs 10, then I’ll make 10. I don’t have any preconceived ideas about how I want to cut a film. I let the footage speak to me as much as possible. If you truly listen, a story will tell you what it wants to be. You can’t force it to be something it’s not. Fighting it will only cause the final product to suffer in quality, and I never want to walk away from a project feeling like I didn’t help it blossom into what it needed to be.
What are some of your favorite films to edit? What are some of your favorite parts of being an editor?
I enjoy cutting dinner scenes. Or scenes involving food, I should say. They seem to have an almost-musical rhythm built into them. Searching for this rhythm is some of the most thrilling stuff for me. This search links into my favorite part of being an editor: discovery. There’s nothing quite like the process of discovering a film's identity (rhythm, style, visual motifs, etc.). It often feels like banging your head against a wall, but when that breakthrough finally happens, it makes all the pain worthwhile. Seeing a film finally begin to work is as exciting as it gets.
What are some challenges you face when working on a project?
Oh god, where do I begin?! I won’t bore you with the technical ones (although there are plenty). The biggest challenge I face is making the story work. A good script will always make my job easier, but even then there are no guarantees. Many things that appear to work on paper don’t end up working in the cut. This could be because of a performance issue, a timing issue, or a character issue. That said, every cut is in-and-of itself a challenge, regardless of story. Some flow like butter right off the bat, but most require hours of tweaking, and when you tweak one cut, it often makes the next feel off. So the negotiation between cuts is a big challenge, rhythmically speaking.
Any advice for individuals looking to get into editing?
Yes: cut as much as possible. Nothing teaches editing like the act itself. Oh, and always back up your data/footage!
What are some classes that you suggest for students to take at OU if interested in editing and or steps that they should take?
Obviously there are the required courses such as Editing I, II, and Art of Editing. AoE was a hugely beneficial class for me, but its only as beneficial as you want it to be. So my advice in that respect would be to give it your all. Also take Experimental Filmmaking. This class will force you outside of your comfort zone and show you methods of creativity that expand your understanding of your craft, whatever it may be. Also, if you’re serious about editing, talk to Tom (Hayes). He's willing to give personalized lessons to people if they are interested—I've seen it with my own two eyes!
Are there any editors that inspired you?
Certainly the big names like Thelma Schoonmaker, Walter Murch, and Michael Kahn. I also really love Dylan Tichenor’s work (There Will Be Blood, Zero Dark Thirty, Brokeback Mountain). His cutting always seems to put me under a hypnotic spell of sorts. He’s very good at making long, quiet movies work. He moves them with a measured steadiness that’s hard to find in a lot of longer movies. I also enjoy the work of Hank Corwin (Tree of Life, The Big Short) and Les Blank (Burden of Dreams, The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins).
Any projects you are currently working on? Any goals for the years to come?
I am currently finishing up Eddie Loupe’s Applebaum and Graham Holford’s Pasture. I also just wrapped with a corporate client whose company video I shot in Cincinnati. My main goal for the years following graduation is to edit a feature, documentary or narrative.