Inside the “Venom” edit bay with Alan Baumgarten

12 11 2018

We got the chance to chat with Alan Baumgarten, editor of Venom, to hear more about his creative process, what it truly takes to bring a villain to life, and so much more. Give the interview a read!

How did the sourced footage in Venom influence your editing process?

At some point, Ruben Fleischer (Director), Maryann Brandon (co-editor) and I discussed the idea of using stock footage as a way to illustrate Eddie Brock’s work as a journalist. We tried using it a few times in early versions but it really only took shape fairly late in the process. We built a montage of stock footage as part of an “opening intro” to “The Eddie Brock Report” that appears early in the film. We sought out specific footage of events that Tom Hardy’s character (the “Voice of the people”) would be covering in the Bay Area: homelessness, rent control, technology companies, etc. After creating a version with some basic animation and temp graphics, we enlisted two companies to help polish and finish the piece. We worked with Laundry and GenPop, both of whom Ruben had a relationship with from previous work. Of course we also relied on STALKR to clear (and help us find) all the right footage, even as we got down to the last minute in our schedule!

How did the fantastical super-villain storyline influence your editing process?

That storyline was well established in the script and it continued to evolve in the various cuts as we progressed. Basically, our goal was to make Venom as bad-ass as possible!

How did you balance the intense action and particular tone of a superhero movie with the larger arc and narrative? How do they work together?

We knew that Venom, as a super-hero/villain, would definitely have some big action scenes. But we also needed to establish the character of Eddie Brock before he became infected with Venom so the audience could relate to him and care about him during the action scenes. From there it does become a matter of finding a balance between the dramatic story beats and the excitement and energy of the action. After both the motorcycle chase and the office lobby fight scenes there are slower, more grounded scenes. After the chase there’s the scene with Eddie and Venom on the pylon and after the fight Anne drives Eddie to the hospital and they have an intimate dialog scene. These scenes let the audience catch their breath and settle back into the story. Until the next action scene, of course.

Venom and Brock’s relationship is the crux of the film. How did you work to build this relationship? Did working with CGI influence this process?

Yes, it’s all about Venom and Eddie’s relationship. That was something Ruben, Maryann and I talked about all the time. If we could get the Venom and Eddie relationship to be fun and satisfying, that would be the key. Tom Hardy is an amazing actor and he gave us everything we needed. Tom pre-recorded temporary Venom dialog every morning and then had it played back into an earpiece while he was performing as Eddie on set, so all of his actions and reactions with Venom were built into his performance. When we added the CGI Venom into the shots, the placement for eye-line, the timing of dialog, movements and action had all been established organically. As we refined the edit and created new beats, things sometimes became a bit more complicated. This is where huge credit needs to be given to the entire team at Double Negative (our VFX Company) and Paul Franklin and Sheena Dugall (VFX Supervisors) and Mark Soper (VFX Producer). They created the awesome, bad-ass character of Venom that made the whole film work.

What was the most challenging scene to edit?

Most scenes have their own unique challenges, but the final battle between Venom and Riot on the rocket launch platform was one of the more complicated ones. We had some live action footage of Tom Hardy, and that all became part of visual effects shots, but the majority of the scene was entirely CGI. A fair amount of pre-viz was work done, but the sequence continued to grow and evolve as we went along. There ended up being many hours of VFX reviews where numerous iterations of all the shots and action pieces where reviewed, changed, and changed again. Much of the big choreography got locked in at a certain point, but there was still an incredible amount of detail in shots that kept everyone working extremely hard until the very end.