Passing director Rebecca Hall describes every stage of production
ANDRE Holland and Rebecca Hall on the set of Passing. Photo by Emily V. Aragones - Netflix - MAIN IMAGE

Rebecca Hall on the Post-Production of Passing

I love being on a set, but the amount of people and the noise was difficult for me. But being in an editing suite was like writing again. It was just me and editor Sabine Hoffman, like, OK, now let’s do what we can with the film that we have.

I’ve managed to work my way into a couple of editing rooms, sneaking here and there. Ben Affleck let me in one day when he was editing The Town. I said, “Oh, I happened to be nearby. I’d love to know how everything’s going!” Such a sneaky lie. I was keeping it to myself, but I wanted to get in there.

I didn’t expect how much I relished the problem-solving. Let’s just take a little bit off here. Let’s move this around. You are rewriting again, you are crafting it. But your original idea remains the same. We always stayed true to the kernel of the film that I wanted to make.

My editing experience was very weird. We did two or three weeks together in a room, and then COVID hit. I went to my home in the countryside. Sabine stayed where she was, and we did it remotely for months.

The process was much slower. Sabine would work on like three minutes of a scene. She’d fiddle with it. It would take about two hours for her to upload it to me. Then I would watch it and write back.

Passing Rebecca Hall

Tessa Thompson is Irene in Passing, from writer-director Rebecca Hall. Photos courtesy of Netflix

Using, I could make precise notes, like: At 3.4 seconds, let’s shave off however many frames. We got granular. At this point, let’s cut back to here. I’d make all the notes on and send it back to her. Then I would have to wait another two hours for these tiny changes to happen. In that time, I would go for a walk in my garden. Ideas would just emerge in these quiet moments that I’m not sure would have emerged otherwise. I feel grateful we had so much space around the editing process, because we were able to get so delicate.

I want people to come out with a lot of interpretations of Passing and argue about it. That’s how the book operates. And that’s how it should be. That was the stuff that was discovered with our space and that time, and that capacity to sit with the material for so long, in an unpressurized way.

I was solitary for a lot of the editing process. There wasn’t too much noise coming from anywhere. Sometimes I was really angry that I didn’t have that noise. Why can’t I have a screening? Why can’t I watch people’s reactions? How do I know how this is playing? I had to send it to people who I trusted and get them to email me thoughts, which was not as helpful as sitting in a room and actually feeling the temperature of the room.

We threw out a lot of rules, and we cut it together how it felt right. Then we had to backtrack sometimes from some of the more extreme ideas and find a happy medium. The edit was this space of realizing how these tiny, tiny changes could tip the narrative in one direction or another.

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