Cutting it Close with Eddie Hamilton: Editing ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

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Cutting it Close with Eddie Hamilton: Editing ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Mitch Jacobson:   This film is the greatest action movie of the summer, a real feel good film.  You must be really proud.

Eddie Hamilton:   I am enormously proud of the film and how hard we worked on it.  It was a very intense 11 months.  We had to finish the film 5 months earlier than planned but I had an enormously rewarding and enjoyable experience working with Chris McQuarrie and a lot with producer Tom Cruise on the edit of the film.  Building the film up and solving the story challenges and creating exciting sequences and great suspense and trying to keep the legacy of Mission Impossible alive and I’m thrilled that audiences are responding to it and it’s doing very well.  We can hold our heads up high and say we made another great entry in the franchise, which is an enormously difficult thing to do and something which we strive to do with every fiber of our being as we worked through the long days and long nights on the editing process of the movie.  I’m really excited about how well it’s been playing around the world.  I get a lot of tweets from people who are really enjoying the film.  We all are in this business to have our films watched by audiences and when I work on every single movie I pour my heart and soul into it, it doesn’t matter what film it is.  When a film does not work out as well it’s heartbreaking and soul destroying and sad for everybody.  No one sets out to make a bad film.  When you work on a movie this hard and it turns out great and everyone seems to enjoy it, it’s why we do it, it gives you a nice warm glow inside.  

  1.  There would be a lot of people who would be very, very excited to see a Mission Impossible movie and want to be thoroughly entertained by it and want to enjoy the suspense and enjoy the action and enjoy the camaraderie between the team, the characters, and enjoy the twists in the story and to hear that great theme played throughout the movies.  It’s been quite a ride but Chris McQuarrie and Tom Cruise are incredibly nice people to work with and very, very gifted, passionate storytellers and they wanted to make the same film.  They were both pulling in the same direction and it was just the biggest honor to be a part of that team bringing the film to life in the cutting room.

Mitch Jacobson:   Sure it must have been great excitement having all the types of editing in one movie.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yes.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Comedy, drama, the action sequences, and the romantic love story.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea I couldn’t agree with you more.  It allows you to flex a lot of editing muscles to get the comedy timing working, to get the action exciting, to get the suspense suspenseful.  I’m enormously proud of some of the suspense we achieved in this movie where we didn’t use score, we just literally played the scenes for pure suspense and allowed the audience to just slowly hold their breath and get more and more and more excited and wonder what was going to happen.  When you’re in the theater and there are audible gasps of excitement at certain points in the film it’s just so cool.  It’s a huge challenge.  The opera sequence, for example, was a huge massive jigsaw of tiny little pieces of information and geography and story and different characters and different motivations.  Trying to build it so that it all played to this Puccini opera was such a huge challenge and something which probably was the hardest sequence to build, you know, propelling down the Vienna Opera House rooftop.  Then the last shot of geography, seven months later, was the shot in the opera of Tom running up the staircase and into the gantry of the Opera House and as he runs up the camera pulls back and you see Rebecca Ferguson in the foreground loading her gun, which was an incredibly important shot to tie these two characters together so the audience understood the geography of the Opera House, and how close they were in proximity.  And all of the tiny little inserts on Benji’s program.   I read it on the page and I knew it was going to be a monumental challenge but I was right up for it.  Like anything in editing, you just have to start.  You start going through the footage and you start putting stuff on the timeline, and then you’ve got way too much and then you refine it, and you refine it.  Then you discover that some of it isn’t any good so you start out and try something else, sort stuff around, and slowly, slowly, slowly you get it better and better and better.  Then, like you say, I had comedy, I had suspense, and I had action.  Another difficult sequence was the motorcycle chase, which was 12 hour days of the cast riding these bikes at incredibly high speeds along a busy freeway and on the mountain roads.  It started out as a pretty long scene and I slowly slowly squeezed it down so that it didn’t outstay its welcome in the essential story and it was exciting.  So I really had an amazing time working on all the sequences.  It’s a dream come true.  I was living the dream every day believe me and never taking it for granted and loving every second of it.  

Rebecca Ferguson and Cinematographer Robert Elswit on the set of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

Rebecca Ferguson and Cinematographer Robert Elswit on the set of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

METHOD EDITING

Mitch Jacobson:   It must have been amazing for you as a method editor to be able to pull off these sequences that you actually live in your day to day life.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea it’s funny you should mention that because we’ve got long security card in order to get into the cutting room and combination locks and trap doors if the producers misbehave I can dispose of them.  Enormous security around the building where we work that’s very hard to get into and fingerprint recognition and all that good stuff.  So you’re right, you’re absolutely right.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Yea I understand that in order to get the job you interviewed with Chris and you had to actually joust on a motorcycle?

Eddie Hamilton:   That is true, I’m amazed you heard about that because I never really mentioned that to anyone before now.  I sat with him at the studios and he said listen, listen, I’ve got a little challenge for you, a little impossible mission that I’d like to see how you deal with and he took me down to the car park and there were two of these terrific BMW motorcycles from the movie, and he said I’m going to ride down there about half a mile, and you’re going to be here and you’re just going to ride towards me and we’re going to play chicken and let’s just see how you do.  So I was amazed at this request.  I found myself on a motorbike without a crash helmet going at some 70 mph towards Chris McQuarrie and luckily he blinked first, and he offered me the job which I’m thrilled about.

Mitch Jacobson:   Amazing.  I’ve never heard of such tough circumstances to actually get an editing job.  I understand you also had to hold your breath for almost three minutes 100 feet under water.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea that’s true, in fact, they initially set the bar at six minutes but I hadn’t trained as long as Tom Cruise so three minutes was basically all I could manage.  But the water was warm, which is helpful, and I didn’t have to swim against a current and drink computer drives or anything like that, or get hit by metal arms swinging through the set.  So it was a lot easier than what Tom had to do.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Yea and what was the other one?  Something about having to shoot an actress with a flute gun and get her between the eyes?

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea, well that was difficult.  They loaded the flute gun with some kind of rubber stunt pellet and they gave me a rudimentary lesson in how to use it and then sort of tested my rifle skills, my sniper skills.  I didn’t do too well, I think I kind of nicked her ear but it was close enough.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Wow that’s great.  It’s amazing. Most people go to film school and they get up through the business like you did, starting off at the bottom of the ladder and they work their way up, and they never realize the additional skills that they need in order to get a job like this.

Director Christopher McQuarrie on the set of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and SKydance Productions.

Director Christopher McQuarrie on the set of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and SKydance Productions.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea you just have to be prepared.  Certainly in the Mission Impossible force you have to brace yourself for anything that comes along and just really go for it.  I think any challenge that you’re presented with in the cutting room you have to really seize it with a hand on the keyboard and a hand on the mouse and just go for it really.

Mitch Jacobson:   If you don’t go you don’t know.  

Eddie Hamilton:   Exactly right and also I feel that as the editor I am there to help the director make the film that they want to make.  I don’t answer to the producer of the film, I answer to the director of the film and so it is my job to collaborate with that person and make their film however they want to make it.  Ultimately, I believe, it is the audience who tells you whether the film is working or not.  Wise directors will pay careful attention to the audience reaction in test screenings and if there is confusion or if there are pace issues or if bits of the film aren’t working, they will hear that message loud and clear from the audience and want to address it.  So ultimately the audience is right at the end of the day.  There can be certain things that come down to personal taste about whether you prefer a medium shot or a close up in particular parts of a scene which doesn’t really affect the story dramatically but may be something that the director particularly wants to do, in which case they can decide to do because they’re the director.  But if the audience is telling you that the film is slow in the middle then you do something about it.  We have an PSYCH & Collaboration

Mitch Jacobson:   Sure.  Having Chris in the editing room the whole time must have had its challenges.  Doesn’t psychology play a little role in all this? The other side of editing, like pleasing people.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yep.  Very much so.  Are we being serious now or not?  I don’t want to make a joke about this now.

Mitch Jacobson:   No, no, let’s be serious now.  This method editing stuff is great but a lot of people there, they’re interested in things that go beyond the technical skills of being an editor.

Eddie Hamilton:   It’s crucially important and something which, I guess, people find…

Mitch Jacobson:   I mean I’ve never seen a psychology class in a film school or I’ve never seen it advertised.

Eddie Hamilton:   I don’t know if you are aware of this but I did get a psychology degree first.

Mitch Jacobson:   Did you?

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea.  There weren’t that many undergraduate film schools in the UK in the early 90’s and I found myself doing a psychology degree because I was interested in human emotions and actually as an editor that’s kind of what you’re dealing with all the time.  So a lot of the stuff that I studied, in some ways was useful and certainly the auditory perception and the visual perception have come in very useful.  But I think to be honest if you’re studying psychology or are already a certain type of person who is interested in that kind of science, it has certainly played a part in the cutting room over the years.  You’re an ambassador of diplomacy constantly in the cutting room and I think it’s something which you just learn to get better at over the years and try and relax and enjoy yourself.  It’s great when you work with producers and directors who have the films best interest at heart and certainly Tom and Chris had that and the best idea that was going to make the film better won.  I’m a firm believer in trying everything because you cannot, until you see two pieces of film physically cut together you can’t know if an idea is going to work or not.  Quite often you can spend more time deconstructing it and articulating why something won’t work when it will take you half the time just to 8 minute section in the middle of Mission just after Tom crashes the motorcycle which we just lifted out completely by shooting an extra little scene.  We were able to remove 8 minutes from the film and just get to London and get the rest of the film going a lot quicker.  So that’s an example of something where we heard the audience tell us that and we thought about ways to fix the pace problem and that was the solution we came up with ultimately.

Mitch Jacobson:   You had a couple of nice comedic moments in there when the character Benji provided some comic relief.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yes, yes, very much so, and some of it is him adlibbing on the day and some of it is ideas from Tom and some of it is stuff that was scripted.  One of my favorite moments is when Benji wakes up after the car crashed, that always gets a big laugh.  And the bit where he is saying, see you only have to hold your breath for two minutes, and he’s like, yea what about the profiles and that’s a minute tops.  Then Tom says so I have to hold my breath for three minutes, and he goes, 22:53, don’t worry about this guy he’s cool.  All that stuff is such fun.

Mitch Jacobson:   How about the part when Tom had just gotten revived from holding his breath and he goes into the car and the theme music starts.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yes, yes, terrific.  That’s Tom.  Totally Tom.  Chris McQuarrie will tell a story about this where they had like six hours to film the car chase and Tom was basically going to come out of the door and get in the car and drive off.  Come out of the door which led from the pipe, he was going to get in the car with Benji and drive off and Tom said to Chris, I’m not just going to get in the car, this is Mission Impossible.  I’ve got a better idea, just roll, I’ve got a better idea, let me try something here.  And he did this thing where he just, he threw himself over the hood of the car and smashed onto the ground and everybody laughed and then Chris said, that’s just awesome, I totally get it, that’s brilliant let’s put it in.  And then he had this little exchange where Benji’s like, well wait a second, like two minutes ago you were dead.  And he goes, what are you talking about because he can’t remember what’s happened, then they get in the car and drive off.  Then the whole car chase is him in this kind of weird spaced out state where he can’t quite figure out what’s going on.  He’s trying to blink off all of the fog of the drowning.  But Tom didn’t like it so he said no, no, I can get it better.  So he did another take of falling over the hood.  He’s really doing this and causing himself like proper bruising and he’s like no, no, no, it’s going to be better.  So like by take 7 he did one and he was like, that is perfect.  He’s watching the playback and he goes, that’s great.  But of course they’ve spent half the time…

Mitch Jacobson:   Does he do all his own stunts?

Eddie Hamilton:   He does everything, everything.  There’s no doubles at all.  Like he does all the driving.  All of the stunt driving with Benji, including hand brake turns and skidding around corners.  Precision stunt driving is all him with four Panavision 25:13 35 ml cameras inside the car.  There’s one on Benji and one on Tom, and then there’s like a medium two shot on both of them.

Mitch Jacobson:   He must love that.

Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Eddie Hamilton:   He’s trying to see where he’s going because he’s got these cameras in front of him.  It’s extraordinary, the guy is an amazing driver and he’s a pilot, he can fly a plane.  He hasn’t done that in Mission but he can.  He held on the side of the A400 when it took off.  He does everything and he trains incredibly hard every day.  He has the best people.  He does all the fighting in the beginning going up the pole. I swear to God the guy goes to the gym every morning and every evening and takes great care of himself and I have huge respect for that.  He just wants to be the best in the world at what he does and the best means being in the best physical shape and doing all of his own stunts and giving the audience a great time at the movies.  That’s what he lives and breathes for and all he’s dreamed of doing, as far as I can tell, all his life.  He’s worked with the best directors his entire career and the best HID’s.  It was an enormous privilege to see him on set playing Ethan Hunt and then to collaborate with him in the cutting room.  He’s one of a kind, a true movie star.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Perhaps the best we have.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea, right now and has been for 20 years or 30 years.  

Mitch Jacobson:   I couldn’t help but to think about that one scene that’s always played over and over again with him as a young actor doing Risky Business, sliding across the floor in his socks, right?  And how far he’s come since then.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea and you know he wanted to do that in Risky Business.  I think there is a story about this and he swept the floor himself and put down resistance, like put stuff on the floor so he would skid to a stop at exactly the right place and he did it over and over again until he got it right.  So even back then he was setting the bar phenomenally high for himself and that work ethic has paid off on every movie.  It’s just extraordinary what he has achieved in his life, it really is.  Such respect for him.  

ORGANIZE & WORKFLOW

Taurus - Reel 7

Mitch Jacobson:    So with all of that footage that was shot it must have been a heck of a job to put together this movie.  How do you organize something like that?  Especially with so many stories and plot points being cross cut?  Do you follow the script?

Eddie Hamilton:   Well yes you follow the script.  Like a lot of these movies, Tom doesn’t settle for anything less than excellence and so every day they are looking at the script and looking at the script for the next day and thinking how can it be better, how can it be better?  So, they’re writing a lot of new material as they’re going based on everything they’ve learned from what they’ve shot and other ideas they have as they go through.  So quite a lot of the time they’re not entirely sure what will be coming down the tracks in the next few days, but it means that when you’re putting the scenes together you are doing the best you can with the footage that comes in and you build the scene.  You just start at the beginning and you cut the scenes, put them on the timeline, watch the movies, figure out what’s working and what’s not working so well, what needs improving.  It’s a process of meticulous organization in the avid media composer project window and I’m very particular about how my project is laid out and how the scene bins are laid out.  I like to use multi-camera mode where I can and I like to have all of the ISO tracks for the sound so that I can use the best quality recording of each line of dialogue.  I just build the film up and I try and build the meticulously detailed sound track so that when I press play my timeline plays like a movie which is finished.  It looks and sounds like it’s a finished film.  I try and do as many visual effects as we can.  Then you log everything so you can find it again quickly.  I archive every version of every cut of every scene that I do so if you ever want to go back and look at what your original selects were or whatever you’ve got everything there.  I’m very thorough so I watch everything.  I take enormous pride in working fast so that if Chris wants to swap out a line, I have my assistants build up gigantic select rolls in a line in dialogue scenes where I have every single line from the script delivered from every single camera angle.  All of the wide shots are in V1 and then mediums are on V2 and then the over’s are on V3 and the close-ups are on V4.  There’s a marker for every line of dialogue.  So if Chris goes, hey can we just hear the options for that line, I can call up that 2 ½ hour timeline and find the line and press play and we can hear 40 different deliveries from all of the coverage and we can choose to replace it.  All of that prep work, which takes a very long time for myself and my assistants during the shoot, when we’re in post we can make enormous progress and be able to edit very very fast and make critical storytelling decisions very quickly so we can improve the movie and get it in front of an audience so that we can learn from them and then after that keep refining it. So it’s a labor of love and it’s very nerdy organization and it’s passionate love of the craft to build a complex sequence on the media composer timeline that will reflect the potential of what the film can be down the road.

Mitch Jacobson:   Are those line by line takes that you do in sequence, do you prefer to have them stacked vertically by shot or do you ever use multi-cam to do that?

Eddie Hamilton:   I do use multi-cam a bit because, and I know that there is a, generally speaking there was a bit of multi-cam and there would occasionally be a medium and a tight shot or it would be reverse angles of two actors.  But yea I like to use multi-cam.  The other thing I do a lot is I color the sub-clips.  So what I do initially is I color all the odd scenes blue and all the even numbered scenes green.  So on the timeline you can see how long the scenes are relative to one another in each reel.  So it gives you a good idea of understanding the pace of a reel so you can see how long you’re spending with this character and this character.  So you understand how the audience is going to perceive the pace of the film.  Then if it’s a very complex scene like, for example, the dialogue scene in the train station between Ethan and Ilsa when the team is standing around in the station; that was a very complex scene with tons of coverage on all the characters.  So I ended up giving each character’s sub-clips a color so that I could see  that this color was for Luther, this color was for Benji, and this color was for Brant, and this color was for Ethan, and this color was for Ilsa.  So I could then see where they’re featured in the scene.   A fight sequence I will use colors for each character so that I can see if the fight is balanced between the two characters or if one of the characters has slightly more screen time.  It’s just an interesting kind of technique which informs how the audience will be perceiving the scene, and it’s just something, again, a little bit of preparation and those colors are on the timeline forever so you get used to not always having all blue on V1 and not being able to really get a sense of the film.  Do you know what I mean?

Mitch Jacobson:   A rainbow.

Taurus - Reel 6

Eddie Hamilton:   Exactly.  I actually tweeted a picture of one of my timelines from Kingsman a while ago so if you search for that you’ll be able to see it, but it’s a very detailed complex timeline with loads of colors and tons of sound so it’s just interesting if you’re interested in that kind of stuff.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Oh definitely, yea I’m a geek.  Do you ever use script sync?

Eddie Hamilton:   You know I did try it when it first came out and I decided that it was great for documentary editing and not great for feature films so much.  Certainly not action sequences because that doesn’t help at all.  It’s very common on Hollywood movies for them to shoot a version of the scene as scripted and then to try other ideas and allow the actors to do their own thing and for the director to have ideas on the set and to throw the actors ideas and to try stuff out.  Script sync doesn’t help you with that at all, it’s not on the script.  So you’re digging around and looking at all the dailies anyway and I just decided that actually doing these big select rolls is time consuming for a few hours for an assistant, but so is setting up script sync in a way, and it’s a more productive way of doing it especially if the script is being refined during the shoot which is happening on every film really.

Mitch Jacobson:   I like your use of color.  Using the markers, the color, the multi-cam, all of these things combined give you such power.

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea totally, and Avid’s got real time wave forms now and the ability to meet clips on the timeline which is enormously helpful.  When you’re auditioning different temp score and stuff like that just to be able to meet sound.  There’s a few things that I’d love to see like I remember when I did use Final Cut 7, I did a couple of movies on that, you could do sub-frame key framing which I found very useful for dialogue editing and stuff, which Avid is still just one frame key framing which is something that they should probably refine.  I really don’t like, this is super nerdy, I don’t ever use the smart tools which exist in a little box on the left of the timeline.  I find they just waste space and I would love to have the option to just not have them up on the screen or just choose when you want them.  You should be able to turn them on and off for example, that would be a very simple feature that they could put in.  When you’re working with two 13 displays crammed full of stuff every day, the ability to get a little bit of extra screen real estate would be appreciated.  I know that the product testers never really find themselves in that situation so they rely on us to feed that back so Avid if you’re listening please have an option to remove the smart tools on version 9 of Media Composer.

Mitch Jacobson:   That’s so funny.  People who have come from Final Cut Pro love the smart tools and people that have grown up with Avid hate them.

Eddie Hamilton:   You’re absolutely right, that’s totally true, I never use them.  I don’t need them and I can work as fast as I can think.  Interestingly, one thing I do love about Avid is its ability to customize everything right down to where every single window is on the screen, how big your timeline is, what’s on the timeline, I just love it, love it.  I use a razer naga gaming mouse which has buttons on the shoulder of the mouse so you’ve got like 12 buttons on the shoulder of the mouse.  So I have lots of Avid things, like stopping different cameras and pressing play and adding a dissolve and switching on the wave forms, going into color correction mode, coming out of color correction mode, all that stuff is just resting by my thumb so I can do it with a click of a button on the mouse.  I don’t have to move the pointer to a screen, I don’t have to move my hand across the keyboard. So I just really have my hand on the left hand side of the keyboard and my right hand on the mouse and I don’t have to do anything else.  Everything is just right at my fingertips.  So I’m super nerdy like that and I love to think of ways to work faster and faster and so that’s just what works for me.  Some people like a table, some people like to take on the interface, but that’s what works for me.

Mitch Jacobson:   So you do it all?  You do the color and you do the audio mix?

Eddie Hamilton:   No, no.  I do a kind of first pass.  So I have a layer on my timeline which is for color.  So it’s a single color effect over the whole scene and then I can nudge the scene in a particular direction, warmer or cooler, crush the black, highlight, push the highlights a bit, whatever I want to do.  Sound wise I have four mono dialogue tracks which is all very carefully beautifully edited with cross fade and rough 39:49 and I don’t like to use an outboard mixer.  I like to do all the key frames by hand, I find it’s more accurate.  I have four mono effects tracks and two pairs of stereo effects and then two pairs of stereo music.  Then it’s very easy to export just the dialogue or just the effects or just the music and it’s a nice clean way of looking at the timeline.  But I do calibrate my cutting room in 5.1 the way that you calibrate a theatrical mixing in theater to 85db.  So when I press play it has the same sound pressure level as if you’re in the theater watching.  So I know that the sound mix that I’m doing on my timeline will play back in a theater perfectly as if it was mixed in a proper theater.  Obviously on a film like Mission Impossible all of our screenings are done with a full 10 7.1 sound mix.  But even on Kingsman and Kick Ass, Kick Ass II, even on X-Men First Class they used my mix from the Avid timeline because I’m really just super nerd with sound and I love it.  I find it’s half the storytelling in some instances and certainly in action sequences so I love to put the time in to really make it sound amazing.  

Left to right: Director Christopher McQuarrie, Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise on the set of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

Left to right: Director Christopher McQuarrie, Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise on the set of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

THEATRICAL

Mitch Jacobson:   Last night I saw the film in IMAX in New York and it sounded phenomenal.  It looked great too.  Tom is a pretty good actor.  

Eddie Hamilton:   He’s pretty good.  He should think about doing that full time!  But I’m very proud of the sound mix especially for the car chase.  There is no score.  We saved the score for the motorbike chase which again is just rocking and we played for pure suspense in the underwater scene so you can hear the turbines coming on and you can hear the water.  The IMAX mix really does rock.  You’ve got those full range speakers around you and it’s the same with Dolby Atmos, it’s incredibly immersive.  You’re just literally right in the eye of the storm of the sound in the movie and you’re just completely swept along by it. I love theaters because of that.  Some people have great home theaters but sadly my wife does not appreciate the love of a good home theater, mainly because we live in a very small house in London, but one day I dream of having a great home theater.  I’m lucky enough that in my job I have like a, I have my cutting room set up like that so I can press play and have surround sound all day at work and get a huge kick out of it.  But it really does rock on IMAX and we worked incredibly hard to make it sound as great in IMAX as it does in any other theater.

Mitch Jacobson:   I hadn’t been in a movie theater in quite some time.  I have been watching most of my films in a home theater.  Not that I’ve been avoiding movie theaters lately but I found the experience was a little distracting with people there texting on their phones, da da da da da, and talking.  So I was really excited to go check out the film, in IMAX particularly, and I got there a little early and was watching the previews and they also have a set of commercials and they do some local spots and things like that while you’re waiting, the sound for the previews was terrible, like horrendous.  I don’t know if Snoopy from the Peanuts series was actually mixing that for them, the worst local TV spots and the worst sound possible.  I was actually a little nervous that the theater wasn’t calibrated correctly.  It was really bad.  In fact the sync was off on a lot of things.  Some of the speakers were off so you couldn’t even hear the dialogue.  But when they did a little preview for the IMAX sound it cranked up and it calibrated the whole room and they do this little presentation with the sound so you can hear all of the speakers, that made a huge difference.  It was like going from zero to hero in 10 seconds.  

Eddie Hamilton:   Did you see at the beginning they have a Mission Impossible countdown?

Mitch Jacobson:   Yes.

Eddie Hamilton:   Which is done with the IMAX numbers and it’s using the Mission Impossible music?  Isn’t that cool?

Mitch Jacobson:   It was really cool.  Did you cut that?

Eddie Hamilton:   It’s just such a great idea and it just lights a fire under you as you start watching the movie so you feel like holy cow this is going to be awesome!  

Mitch Jacobson:   The credit sequence was pretty sweet at the end too.  They had that little red graphic bar that froze frames and twisted it.

Eddie Hamilton:   Let me give you a shout out to the Filmograph guys in Los Angeles who designed that.  They did an amazing job and a little boutique facility.  We went out to several titles design houses and those guys just knocked it out of the park with their initial concept.  They did the opening montage, which is that very fast cut montage of all the gadgets.  It’s just beautiful their work.  And in the end with the fuse and the red and the black and white image freeze frames, just awesome.  A true collaboration between the director and the artists at Filmograph and those guys get a huge shout out because they did an amazing job.  It’s very interesting this is the only Mission film that doesn’t end on Ethan Hunt.  We were planning on shooting something but the way that the final scene between Renna and Alec Baldwin played where they walk out of the senate room and he goes welcome to the IMF Mr. Secretary, and they just smile at each other, then the Mission kind of (music) stopped, it’s just perfect and it leaves you smiling.  And you just think, great, I want another one of these, it’s so cool.  I remember saying to Chris, you know, I think this might work at the end of the movie.  He was like, maybe do you think we should end it on Ethan every other movie?  And I was like, well, maybe yea but let’s look at this.  And when you watch it in the theater you feel the audience kind of chuckling and laughing and enjoying the little exchange, the little smiling exchange that they have.  Then he said, you know what we should do?  We should do a curtain call, in fact I think it was Tom who suggested doing the curtain call.  So we just showed like a greatest hits of all of the moments and he did it in Top Gun.  He said Eddie, Eddie, you watched it, we did a curtain call in Top Gun.  And they’ve got “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” playing through the Top Gun curtain call, which starts right early on when that final scene, when she comes in and puts the juke box on and he turns around and the song is playing.  So we didn’t have that kind of way of doing it but I played around with it and came up with some ideas and then I put the Mission music on and put the names on and then we refined it and that’s how we ended up.  Then, of course, you do end on Tom because he’s hanging on the plane in the very last image of that montage.

Mitch Jacobson:   It went backwards.  Didn’t it go back to the beginning?

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea exactly so you kind of go back through the movie and then you see him on the plane, so you’re kind of like, hey that was cool, he was really on that plane wow.  So it’s a fun little way of ending the movie and giving the audience a kind of warm glow to take home with them as they leave the theater.  It really worked.  It was a great idea.

Mitch Jacobson:   Were there any scenes or shots that ended up on the cutting room floor that stood out to you?

Eddie Hamilton:   There was an amazing scene between Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise which we cut.  It was part of the 8 minute chunk that I said was in the middle.  It was some really fine work there and a tremendous gag with Simon Pegg, which was a shame to lose but we didn’t need it.  The film suffered with that 8 minutes so it had to go.  I’m not sure if that will make its way onto the Blue Ray’s or whatever.  So yes there were a couple of great scenes that got lost but Chris McQuarrie, the Director, this is the director’s cut of the film.  This is what he wanted you to see and he won’t, he’s incredibly happy with the entire movie and it’s not like there will be a special edition or anything because what you see is what Chris and Tom wanted you to see.  We didn’t compromise at all really because despite the 5 months reduction, in post-production we didn’t compromise anything.  In some ways it made the film better because we just had to go go go go, and make decisions and work faster and relying on our instincts and in some ways that generates great results.  If you have too much time you can end up overthinking things and second guessing yourself, and it doesn’t always work out for the best.  I actually think the film may have been helped by the luxury of pressure, which you don’t always have.  We had pressure but we also had resources.  Paramount and Sky Dancer and Bad Robot made sure we had the resources we needed to get the film over the finish line in that reduced time period.  Whenever we needed more help we’d put up our hands and go, guys we need more help or we’re not going to make it, and we would get the people we needed.  The best people, a great visual effects team, great music team, great sound team, to make sure that the film was finished and the best colors, all of that stuff.  It’s enormously exciting when you’re working on a film and you know that you’ve got phenomenal talent working in every other department.  It’s one of the best things about my job is being able to collaborate with really world class people.  Bob Ellswit and on X-Men First Class I got to work with Lee Smith who is just one of the best editors on the planet.  He had just done Inception and so I got to discuss that movie in great detail with him and that is a masterpiece which will still be being watched in 50 years.  Then straight after X-Men First Class he went on to do the The Dark Moon Rises and then Interstellar.  If I could follow in his footsteps in some small way, and have a list of credits like that, that would just be amazing.  I also got to work with John Dykstra on X-Men First Class.  He’s like one of the best visual effects minds alive today.  To be working alongside somebody who is your childhood hero, because I’d read about his exploits building motion control cameras for Star Wars when he was in his 20’s, all through my childhood and in my teenage years, and then to be working alongside him was the greatest honor and it’s one of the best things about my job.  I never take that for granted and I love it every day, it is so cool.  

Mitch Jacobson:   Hey I’ve got one for you, I was meaning to ask you this.  So in the opening scene where Tom’s on the plane and Benji’s in the field with the moss on his head and he’s looking through the binoculars, did you notice the resemblance to the Bad Robot logo?

Eddie Hamilton:   Yea that was deliberate.  

Mitch Jacobson:   It was?  It was deliberate.  I was hoping to catch that.  

MI-5 editing team - Tom Harrison-Read

Eddie Hamilton:   We were at one point going to do a kind of Raiders of the Lost Arc style transition, from the Bad Robot logo to the field, but we didn’t want to kind of make it tricksy.  It’s not the kind of movie where you can do that.  I think we just needed to keep it classy.  But you are right and the first person to really notice that.

Mitch Jacobson:   Thank you for this wonderful interview.

Eddie Hamilton:   It’s my great pleasure, anytime.  Hi to everyone out there and I hope you’ve enjoyed the information and it’s been fun to share this time with you.  If you’re about to leave film school and you’re passionate about editing just go and get a job and stay passionate and work hard and smile and you will succeed.  It is the last man standing in this industry because it is so hard, the sacrifices you have to make to succeed are considerable so if you keep going everyone else will give up and then you will be the last man standing and you will succeed.  So that is my advice to you.  

By | 2017-05-31T08:28:00+00:00 November 29th, 2015|Categories: Editing, Technology, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , |2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rob Birnholz
    Rob Birnholz November 29, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    GREAT interview, thanks!

  2. Craig Weiseman
    Craig Weiseman November 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Hook line sinker

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