The editors from “Molly’s Game” talk process, inspiration, and more

01 31 2018

“Molly’s Game” brings audiences on a risk-filled adventure where nods to the time period are brought to life through creatively constructed montages by some of STALKR’s very own. We got to chat with the editors from the film—Alan Baumgarten, and Josh Schaeffer, and Elliot Graham.

Alan Baumgarten

How did you get your start in editing?

I made a super 8 film in high school, went to UC Santa Cruz for 2 years, took a year off, and eventually finished up my undergrad studies at NYU film school. After that, I returned to LA, got a job in sound editing and then later moved into picture editing. I was an assistant editor on features that were cut on film for a number of years before moving up to editor.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Recent films would have to be “American Hustle,” “Trumbo,” and “Molly’s Game”. A documentary on Duran Duran, the TV show “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” were also key projects earlier in my career.

What does your creative process look like and how does editing sourced footage factor into your process?

It all starts with reading the script. Once I get a good feeling for the characters and the story, I start doing ‘research.’ If the script indicates archival or stock footage, obviously I look for that material first. But even if there isn’t any in the script, I’ll often look at historical footage to understand a time or place better. In “Molly’s Game” it was exciting because there were several places we used sourced footage in our editing where it wasn’t originally scripted.

Where do you go for inspiration, in filmmaking or otherwise?

I work so many hours at a computer, I like to spend time outdoors when I can. I enjoy playing tennis and travelling. Walking my dog is usually best for inspiration.

How did the sourced footage in Molly’s Game influence your editing process?

Ha! It was an involved process—there was a lot of it. We worked hard to get the right combinations of images. They had to say the right thing information-wise, but also be visually dynamic and feel right. It’s a lot of fun editing with sourced footage, especially when you have Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue and voice over leading the way.

Tell us about your current work and anything upcoming.

I recently started co-editing (with Maryann Brandon) on “Venom,” for director Ruben Fleischer. It’s for Sony and stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed.

Josh Schaeffer

How did you get your start in editing?

My lucky break was landing as receptionist at Lost Planet, a commercial post house. From receptionist to assistant editor, over time I began to cut, and really everything I learned about how to be an editor started here. My connection to “Molly’s Game” came from Elliot, who I had assisted in commercials years ago.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

“Molly’s Game” is my favorite. Also my work with Jordan Vogt-Roberts on “Kings of Summer” and “Kong: Skull Island”.

What does your creative process look like and how does editing sourced footage factor into your process?

Stock footage can be a tool to create emotion. The editing that inspires me gets you to feel something and stock can be a way to help a sense of time period or memory.

Where do you go for inspiration, in filmmaking or otherwise?

I love photo books and I have an embarrassing number of terrariums.

How did the sourced footage in Molly’s Game influence your editing process?

It was just another way to add more depth to Aaron’s story. It helps make the movie more non-linear and get the audience to think about the movie introspectively.

Tell us about your current work and anything upcoming.

I am about to begin a movie called “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, & Vile”. Zac Efron plays Ted Bundy. Lilly Collins plays his girlfriend and the movie is told from her perspective.

Elliot Graham

How did you get your start in editing?

I went to NYU film and started editing everyone’s films—as I was the only guy who was into being alone in a dark room for days and weeks on end—and I fell in love with the process of bringing the story together, making the audio and visuals dance together. Later I moved to LA and ended up sleeping on the couch at Jim Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, as I couldn’t afford an apartment yet. I was working for a director there who let me cut in my free time, so I would assist all day, cut all night, sleep on the couch, wake up before the security guard arrived, and repeat. Not so fun at the time, but it’s a good story now.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Honestly, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few fantastic experiences. “Milk” and “Steve Jobs” have to be the tops. Playing with Danny Boyle’s kinetic imagery and Sorkin’s genius dialogue are about as good as it gets. Working with an artist like Gus, living and working in the Castro in SF, surrounded by people who had lived through the story we were telling, was pretty special.

What does your creative process look like and how does editing sourced footage factor into your process?

The process is always very organic, as is the use of sourced footage. “Milk” ended up highly dependent on stock footage, but it wasn’t written into the script. Gus and I discovered in post-production that we needed more details of the time to give a sense of place and context and plot, so we turned to stock footage as a way to expand the narrative. As we worked away, it became a part of the structure of the film, and I can’t imagine the movie without it—the images support the sense of authenticity the film has.

Where do you go for inspiration, in filmmaking or otherwise?

Watching movies, reading books, traveling—like all arts, you bring to your work your experiences in life, so it’s good to get out of the cutting room and see what’s going on in the world.

How did the sourced footage in Molly’s Game influence your editing process?

We had used a bit of stock footage in “Steve Jobs,” another wonderful Sorkin script. It became clear early on, in the opening ski sequence of “Molly’s Game,” that connecting some imagery with all the brilliant stories the voice over was describing allowed the viewer to even better connect with Molly and added an even greater kinetic viewing experience to match the kinetic dialogue. In an early card sequence, sourced footage allowed us to explain the high stakes world she had entered, and by flashing actual footage of the high end rock and roll, Silicon Valley, jets and Ferrari lifestyles of the players she was dealing with, we were able to clarify her attraction to the world she was entering. Sourced footage only works when it’s a natural part of the storytelling, and it was a big help to us.

Tell us about your current work and anything upcoming.

Just finished up a Danny Boyle TV series called “Trust” and I’m moving back to commercials over at Exile Editorial.

Congratulations to the whole team who worked on “Molly’s Game”. Learn even more about the editing process with this interview with Alan and Josh.