LAS VEGAS - The immense popularity of Sascha Baron Cohen's satirical experiment in culture shock, Borat, although originally a surprise to many in Hollywood, drew an unsurprisingly large SRO crowd to NAB's Post Production Conference here. Editing was the topic for close to 600 attendees listening to James Thomas tell of how he, with fellow editor Peter Teschner, winnowed down about 450 hours of Panasonic VariCam footage into an 82-minute film full of risky comedy and stunts that ultimately garnered a $275,000,000 box office.
Thomas, who has edited the comedy of Baron Cohen for nine years, praised the comic's blend of live risk-taking and "reality TV" production style. Since Baron Cohen's subjects typically did not know they were participating in an edgy satire, many loosely scripted stunts could only be attempted once. Thomas, a long time Avid user, says Borat's tension-producing "rodeo" sequence is a prime example combining luck, comic timing and editing expertise.
The sequence was shot, using five VariCams, at a real rodeo in Virginia where the Borat character came, decked out in cowboy gear, to sing his Kazhakstani version of the National Anthem - with his own over-the-top lyrics. As the large crowd hears unfamiliar words sung, the cameras - and the editors - capture documentary-style negative reactions from the patriotic rodeo fans. One unexpected, and impossible-to-duplicate occurrance was a spill taken by a horsewoman, and her horse, who had been waving the American flag as Borat sang his song.
Another scene includes a conference between Borat and the rodeo's producer, a hardcore rodeo man. The exchange with the cowboy-hat-wearing producer took place after Borat's singing embarrassment, yet, since it worked so well as an introduction to the sequence, Thomas repositioned the unscripted chat at the beginning of the rodeo sequence.
The NAB presentation was produced by FMC (www.fmctraining.com) and hosted by Ken McGorry, an editor with Post Magazine.