Utopic's Jill DiBiase cuts indie feature <i>Open Tables</i>
March 21, 2017

Utopic's Jill DiBiase cuts indie feature Open Tables

CHICAGO — Editor Jill DiBiase at Utopic (www.utopic.net) cut her second feature for director Jack C. Newell. Open Tables was picked up for digital release on iTunes, Amazon, Hoopla and Vimeo VOD, and garnered acclaim and awards during its run on the festival circuits. Largely improvised, the film uses Newell’s script as a jumping off point and features Second City actors in the ensemble cast. 

Open Tables was shot at numerous Chicago restaurants and focuses on the elusiveness of relationships. DiBiase culled through 40 hours of humorous footage to ultimately created the 84-minute final edit. 

“This is dialogue-driven film,” says DiBiase, who joined Utopic in 2013 and has cut numerous TV commercials and Web stories since. “The cast was so good at improvisation that I found it fascinating and so full of good stuff that it was really hard to let go of some of it.”

Her first cut clocked in at four hours. Subsequently, she and Newell went through more edits “being somewhat merciless - even if it was really good - if it wasn’t absolutely necessary to the story,” she says.

Newell, who also appears in the film, was unfazed by the abundance of footage. Partial to using improvisation as a tool because of the spontaneity and excitement it elicits in performances, he knew it could also take the project in unexpected directions.

“Most fiction/narrative films are written before they are shot, so when you are improvising, as we were, you sort of shift that writing time/energy to the editing,” he says. “We were shooting and improvising, then bringing footage to Jill and we would edit it. Then I would rewrite the script and go back out and shoot more and come back with more footage. We were in a constant state of writing/shooting/editing. All that to say, for Open Tables, Jill was definitely writing/rewriting more than she would on a normal film project and having to think about this in a different sort of way.”

Working from the script and Newell’s notes, sometimes with him present, DiBiase continued to the edit nights and weekends. During the process, the film got shorter. 

"We collaborate well together,” she says of her synergistic relationship with Newell. “We’ve created a handful of films together and have great dynamic that gets better with each film."  

Currently, she’s editing the indie feature, A Little Water, directed by Alexandra Zelman-Doring. She’s also working on  commercial projects for Utopic

"I love working on films in addition to commercial editing,” says DiBiase. “Cutting a variety of lengths and genres challenges my creative ability and lets me explore new techniques and ways to get a reaction out of the viewer. Open Tables with its added improvisational factor created even more possibilities for me to explore.”