In film, editing is often seen as a language, which can be both powerful and subtle, in the same way individual notes of music can produce a captivating or soothing melody. When editing is successful, a movie will communicate the intensions of the director, as well as the script, cast and crew.
It’s a notion Kent Kincannon is quite familiar with as editor for the movie “Before You Know it,” which is Hannah Pearl Utt’s directorial debut on a feature film. It’s also a project incubated in the Sundance Director’s and Screenwriter’s Lab.
To help us understand more about the editing process, Kincannon took a few moments on his way to Park City to offers his thoughts on cutting this film and capturing the right mood as it competes for recognition in the US Dramatic Competition this year.
In addition to directing, Utt stars alongside Jen Tullock in this larger than life comedy, in which the two play a pair of co-dependent sisters who discover that the mother they thought was dead is still alive—and starring on a soap opera. (Utt and Tullock co-wrote the script, as well.) The film’s cast includes Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin and Alec Baldwin.
“The two sisters own a theater together while Mandy Patinkin plays their father,” says Kincannon.
“This comedy is larger than life and a very personal movie for Hannah. We started editing the picture after looking at an assembly compiled by an assistant during the shoot in New York. I examined all the dailies, took notes, then hit the ground running. A lot of the first month was very technical in nature before we chiseled everything down to get it right.”
Cinematographer Jon Keng did a fantastic job and shot plenty of coverage on location, but some scenes were unnecessary. While it was essential to have adequate footage for shots to cut smoothly, it was also too much of a good thing: “There were so many fantastic scenes that didn’t make the cut—we even cut out one of Alec Baldwin’s scenes,” Kincannon says. “But Alec agreed it wasn’t necessary and that it didn’t serve the story. It was a hilarious scene too, but what are you going to do? It was great Alec said that because he is also an executive producer. So he could have kept it in if he wanted to, but his character doesn’t suffer at all as a result, meaning we made the right decision.”
I asked Kincannon how he knows when to cut, noting if you leave the audience tied to a shot too long that it quickly becomes laborious and monotonous. “Over time you just get better at not missing those moments,” he responds.
“It’s either self-evident to cut, or you just have to play with it. In many ways you throw it against the wall and mess around with it until its done; you are manufacturing the right mood and emotions, and that’s done by constantly watching, looking and examining the flow….”