First assistant editor Carrie Puchkoff and supervising sound editor Ron Bochar recently completed work on the film Hollywoodland, which explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman in the popular 1950s television show. Reeves had aspired to be a major film star and had taken the television role for the quick money, never expecting to become typecast as a small-screen superhero. The phenomenally successful show ultimately limited his appeal to movie studios and audiences, and sent him into a downward spiral. In 1959, he was found dead of a gunshot wound. The film's noir-like style underscores the whodunit, which stars Ben Affleck as Reeves and features a down-on-his luck investigator (Adrien Brody) who tries to uncover the facts of the case, along with a studio executive's wife (Diane Lane) with whom Reeves has an affair.
The movie switches back and forth between two different time periods. Can you talk about how these transitions were handled in post?
Ron Bochar: The film kept flitting between George's time, coming up the ladder as an actor, and the present time with Brody's character, say about 15 years later. So we wanted to present a contrast between the two. In George's life, you'd go to a restaurant and there'd be a live orchestra with a sense of liveliness, happy people, and conversations. His neighborhood would be full of birds and kids playing outside. Adrien's world is more chaotic. There are faster cars, radios, canned music, and noisy neighbors more of a cacophony. That's how the whole movie is structured. We go back and forth between something pleasant and calm and something a little more crazy.
Carrie Puchkoff: Also, to emphasize the flashback quality, we softened the look of the flashback footage for the night he died. There was a slightly sepia texture and tone that had a different look to suggest the time difference. All of that was done in post.
Is there any particular scene that stands out as an example of the impact of picture or sound editing?
Puchkoff: One of my favorite scenes in the movie is a scene where Toni Maddox [Diane Lane] and George Reeves [Ben Affleck] meet Eddie Maddox and his mistress for the first time. It's just a great scene. It just seems so natural and it works so well. What really took it over the top was what Ron put in. Toni puts her hands under the table and tries to fool around with George, and he keeps slapping her hands away. Ron added these hand slap [sounds] either because they weren't picked up or couldn't be picked up. It's a very subtle addition, but it makes the scene funny. Having that sound and the music in the background all mixed so well added an extra layer that created a perfect natural flow to the scene. You can see the tension and anxiety, but also the compassion between the characters. It's by far one of my favorite scenes. I always loved watching it.
Any particular features or tools on the Avid system that you appreciated using on this project?
Puchkoff: I really loved working on our temp effects. We used a lot of picture-in-picture and re-sizing in the film to portray Reeves in his role as Superman in the 1950s. We actually recreated parts of the television series. It was a lot of fun because we had a lot of footage of Ben Affleck in the Superman costume. For example, they re-shot the opening sequence of the Superman series with Ben as Superman. There was also a montage sequence of kids running in from playing in their neighborhoods after school to watch Superman on TV with four or five homes getting ready to watch the show. [Toronto-based effects house] Mr. X ultimately did the final effects and did a wonderful job. We initially sent them QuickTime files with picture-in-picture footage to give them an idea of what we were looking for. I never used those tools to the extent that I did on this project. My workflow was very efficient, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Also everything was shot in color, so I had to de-saturate some shots to black and white. There were a number of layers. It was surprisingly easy once I got into the flow of it. I created these video mix downs to make it easier.
Have you worked with other film editing programs and do you have any preferences?
Puchkoff: I edited a small series in the spring after I worked on Hollywoodland and used Final Cut Pro and found it a little difficult to work with. I found that I had to take extra steps in the editing process that I wouldn't have had to do on the Avid [system]. At this point, I think the Avid [system] has a much more intuitive and straightforward workflow not only for editing but for media management, especially for an assistant. It's really easy to navigate, which I find especially useful for figuring out how to do something I may have never done before.
From a sound standpoint, was there a scene that you particularly enjoyed working on?
Bochar: One thing we had throughout Hollywoodland were these transitions that go from the "now" time after Reeves died to these flashbacks in which Adrien Brody's character is thinking about what may have happened and envisions all these different scenarios. We had to come up with a device to make this work. So we created some winds, rumbles, and tones which worked with the music and on their own that we subtly used throughout those sequences to separate them even more from reality and get us both in and out of those transitions.
Any features of Pro Tools that you find particularly useful on film projects?
Boichar: I'm up to version 7.1 something on the Pro Tools|HD system. We just upgraded it last week. I'm looking forward to [Pro Tools|HD] 7.2. I really love the way they've improved the Trim function. It actually works in a more creative way. Ideally to use trim you want your fader to go to a null position, a nice flat zero position. That way, if you want to raise the entire track, and you have a zillion little moves in it and you want to make the whole thing a little louder or softer, you can grab the fader down and lower it and all the moves you've done leading up to that in Trim function will just follow that overall change. It makes it so much easier to deal with.
Hollywoodland is distributed by Focus Features and was released nationwide on September 8, 2006.