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October 2014
Issue: June 1, 2008

EDITING: 'SEX AND THE CITY'

Only a handful of insiders really know what Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte have been up to these past few years. It is tantalizing to think about: the gossip, the canoodling, the shoes. These four beloved characters, who became pop-culture icons during the series' six-year run on HBO, will be a welcome sight for millions of ardent fans when Sex and the City: The Movie hits theaters this May.

Michael Berenbaum, one of the series' long-time editors and a veteran of feature film projects (Before Night Falls, Barton Fink), was delighted when he got the call to cut the film. "We had the first read-through with the actors, the producers, and the writers, and it was completely déjà vu for everyone," he says.

However, intimate familiarity can breed great expectations, and that was a definite consideration for the filmmakers. "It is a fresh project, but you also need to be consistent [with the series]," explains Berenbaum. "So the question is, 'How do you open this up on a big screen and still give everyone what they are used to on the small screen?' We are making sure we do everything possible to make it as cinematic as possible. There are bright colors, bold costumes, and a great, big story."

While the cast and crew were accustomed to many aspects of the storytelling − the multiple plotlines, the trend-setting fashion, the hip songs − there were some challenges in translating the typical half-hour episodes to a full-blown feature format. "We always had a limit of 30 minutes. We always had that guideline," says Berenbaum. "For the movie, we were presented with this amazing script, but we were concerned that it was really long."

One of Berenbaum's trickiest tasks was to ensure that each character was presented fully. "It's not like we can cut out one of the girls," he explains. "In a normal romantic comedy you might have one main character and one sidekick. Here, there are four different main characters that we have to juggle and balance and keep active. We need to give everyone their screen time, their due."

He admits that there were quite a few terrific scenes he had to part with. "There was so much good material," he says. "The deleted scenes will probably surface somewhere down the line, maybe for the DVD [as bonus material]. But they have to come out to serve the movie as a whole − that's always the challenge."

LAPTOPS LIGHTEN THE LOAD

After shooting for three months in New York City, where Berenbaum and first assistant editor Carrie Puchkoff were on location to cut dailies, the editing team moved to Los Angeles to complete the post work. The bi-coastal setup consisted of as many as three Media Composer systems linked through an Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage setup with fully mirrored storage. Puchkoff and her colleague, assistant editor Stuart Sperling, also used Media Composer software on Macintosh laptops to augment the workflow.

It was the first time that Puchkoff had used the software-only Media Composer solution. She was particularly eager to try the ScriptSync editing tool, which uses phonetic indexing of text and dialogue to "sync" source clips automatically with the script itself. "The script imported perfectly," she explains about her first test usage. In addition to automatically indexing the entire script, she used the ScriptSync feature to help manage the extensive voice-overs that are a trademark of the show. "[Actress] Sarah Jessica Parker had recorded all of her voice-overs in one long take, so we imported them. ScriptSync gave us the first locator and then helped automatically separate [all of the lines and takes.] It gave us a great kick-start in terms of organization."

The Media Composer software offered overall time-savings as well, creating a more efficient editing workflow during crunch times. When the main editing systems were tied up, creating turnover tapes for other departments, the laptops were used to create cut lists and OMF exports. "We started turnovers to three departments before noon one day and were done by 7:00. If we hadn't been using the laptops, it would have taken two days," she says.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Berenbaum enjoyed experimenting with aspects of the editing as well, particularly for the score, which was a new element for this story. "We always had this great new music on the show. For the film, we also have a composer, Aaron Zigman, writing a full score," says Berenbaum.

As usual for a film project, Berenbaum created a temp score, finding existing songs and using them as a placeholder during editing. Though the process held some surprises for him on this film. He explains, "In the dramatic parts, where we would normally play the score, I tried some typical romantic comedy-type music, and the movie just rejected it. It was as if the movie was too sophisticated for the kind of music normally used in that situation. It was difficult to find songs that worked. When Aaron eventually heard [the temp score we had created], he was totally inspired, which was great."

Surprises are likely in store for audiences as well. While the history of the characters may be widely known, their fates are still very much up in the air. "Everyone is guessing what is going to happen in the film," says Berenbaum. Though it would hardly seem to matter. If the film is anything like its insatiable characters, it is only likely to leave audiences wanting one thing: more, more, more.