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Reflections of a Puzzlemaker

Reflections of a Puzzlemaker

Articles - Editing

Dana Glauberman
Dana Glauberman

For editor Dana Glauberman, it’s all about collaboration. Whether working alongside director Mark Waters on 2004’s mega-hit Mean Girls, Arie Posin on the critically-acclaimed The Chumbscrubber or Jason Reitman for Thank You For Smoking, Glauberman relishes the process of moviemaking. Taking a break from editing Factory Girl, George Hickenlooper’s upcoming film about a young woman’s desire to become Holly Golightly, Glauberman spoke to MM about the joy, the timing and the politics of making movies.

Lily Percy (MM): Did you always know that you wanted to pursue a career in editing?

Dana Glauberman (DG): No, I didn’t always know that I wanted to pursue editing as a career. When I was a kid, though, I loved doing jigsaw puzzles—huge jigsaw puzzles. I would lay out the hundreds of little pieces on our dining room table and sit there for hours on end, trying to make the pieces fit; trying to tell a story through this picture. Editing, to me, is like putting a huge jigsaw puzzle together… there is just no right or wrong way of doing it.

As a film studies major in college (UCSB), I took one small production class where we had to put together a five-minute film from beginning to end. I hated doing everything—writing, acting, directing, etc. The only thing I loved doing was going into a small dark room and splicing my little Super8 film together. That is when it clicked that I wanted to pursue this as a career.

MM: There are many editors who have also sought out roles as producers, directors, writers and even actors in the film business. Have you ever considered branching out into any other fields?

DG: At this stage of my life and career I really have no desire to do anything other than edit. There is something therapeutic to me about going into a room by myself, and working out the scenes—whether it be an easy one that can be cut together in an hour or two, or even a much more complicated, complex scene where it can take days or longer to edit together. That is not to say though that one day in the not-too-distant future I might not change my mind and want to try something else. Producing has always been a bit of an interest for me, so perhaps some day I will have the opportunity to do that, as well.

MM: You’ve worked as an editor on films such as The Chumbscrubber, Mean Girls and, most recently, Thank You for Smoking. With so many great films out there, how do you choose which projects to take on?

DG: There are quite a few things that I think about when considering a project. First of all, a script really has to grab me and keep my interest in order for me to want to work on it. The story line, the characters and who I think the film will attract when all is said and done are all things I take into consideration. In the case of Thank You For Smoking, the script was not only entertaining but also smart, sophisticated and original.

I also think it’s important to think about who I am going to be spending days on end with for a good portion of the year. Relationships are so important in this business, and I have to be able to imagine myself being in a room with the same people for hours and days and weeks on end in order to say yes to any particular project. Again, as far as Thank You For Smoking goes, this, along with what I mentioned above, all fit together quite well.

As far as The Chumscrubber and Mean Girls go, I was originally hired as an assistant editor and fortunately, due to one situation or another, was upgraded to additional editor.

MM: In editing Thank You for Smoking, you used two Avid Media Composers and 500 gig Unity shared storage. With all of the editing software options available, how do you go about choosing the right software? What do you base your decision on?

DG: A large portion of deciding what editing system to use is based on the budget. Many “low-budget” films try to get away with using only one Avid. However, I find this absolutely insane. It is so important to be able to have a full editorial team working together at the same time of day, even if that “team” consists of an editor and only one assistant. If a decent deal cannot be made for a top-of-the-line system, and you have two of them, I would much rather take a step down in systems in order to have that second Avid.

MM: Because of the biting humor and fast-paced dialogue that is at the very center of Thank You for Smoking, the film’s pace and tone were extremely reliant on the editing. The film works so well in fact because the editing matches the tone seamlessly. How did you achieve this?

DG: Timing is so important in any kind of genre, but especially in comedy. If you don’t get the timing right, a joke can fall flat. When I first assemble a scene, I go a lot by the natural timing that the actors give me in dailies. However, when I watch what I’ve just assembled, there are inevitably areas that feel too slow or too fast, so I’ll adjust accordingly. Test screenings are important in order to see how things are playing in front of an audience, whether they are a small intimate group of 20 or a larger group of 150 or more. We had several small screenings on Thank You for Smoking, which was definitely helpful. Plus, we’d be silly not to use our resources, so I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that, after Jason and I had gone through the film at least once, we were fortunate enough to have Jason’s father [Ivan Reitman] come in to help us out.

MM: What has been the most surprising part of being a film editor? The one thing that you could never have anticipated when you first started out in this business?

DG: Wow, great question. I’m sure there are many, but one of the biggest surprises is how crazy the politics can be.

MM: What is the editing process like for you? Do you always consider it to be collaboration between the director and yourself? Has there ever been a film where this hasn’t been the case?

DG: The editing process should be fun, but at the same time challenging. Although I haven’t been the lead editor on too many films just yet, I try to make my cutting room a fun environment to work in. As I have already mentioned, I like to surround myself with people whom I can trust and live with for hours, days, weeks and months on end. I do think that in most cases the process is a collaboration between director and editor, although there will be times when the two don’t agree. The ultimate collaboration is when the director can express what he wants a particular scene to be and trusts the editor enough to interpret and execute this in order to achieve that particular vision. This is the kind of relationship that Jason and I had on Thank You For Smoking and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

MM: Unlike a lot of the positions currently available for women in the film business, women seem to have always thrived as editors. Why do you think this is?

DG: It is true that women have thrived as editors, and there are a lot of theories about this. Some say that we bring more sensitivity to our work, and because of this, in addition to our nurturing qualities and attention to detail, help tell the story better. Although I agree with some of these theories, I do think that any editor, male or female, can achieve the same outcome.

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