<I>The Power of the Dog</I> editor Peter Sciberras
January 10, 2022

The Power of the Dog editor Peter Sciberras

Netflix’s The Power of the Dog is a feature about a charismatic rancher, who inspires fear and awe in those around him. When Phil Burbank’s brother brings home a new wife and her son, he torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.

Directed by Jane Campion, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Netflix released The Power of the Dog in theaters on November 17th and began streaming the feature on December 1st. The feature was shot by cinematographer Ari Wegner (www.ariwegner.com) and edited by Peter Sciberras. Sciberras (pictured) recently provided insight into his work on the film.

How did you get involved in The Power of the Dog?
“I got an email from co-producer Libby Sharpe, read the script, then traveled to Sydney to have a lengthy meeting with Jane. We got on well and chatted about the characters and the story. We especially talked about the tension that would need to be built and maintained throughout. I got the gig a day or two later. I later found out that David Michôd had told Jane about me and my work while David and I were cutting The King.”

Can you talk about the footage and how you were receiving media?

“The film was shot on Alexa LF in ArriRaw and we cut on Avid Media Composer. The shoot was based in New Zealand, but I was assembling back in Australia, so the dailies were transcoded to DNx36 MXF and uploaded each night using Aspira.”

How would you collaborate with director Jane Campion?

“Jane is a wonderful director to work with and is really open to trying ideas out and discovering things. We were really open to listening to the film and not forcing things too much. When collaboration is working really well you can’t trace back where ideas are coming from and solutions are coming very naturally. That was very much the case with Jane.”
When you look at the film, is there a scene that stands out, either from an editing standpoint or a storytelling perspective?
“One challenging scene is where Peter walks through a crowd of workers who are jeering and insulting him. Phil then calls him over and they have a very surprising conversation. It’s a long scene with a lot of ambiguity and there were a lot of choices to make. One choice that stands out was to play the dialogue in the scene quite wide, and we wanted the audience to be watching on and questioning Phil's words. When we were tight in, close up, the feeling wasn’t quite right. It was too seductive and we could feel that there wouldn’t be enough space for the audience to sit back and really question what Phil was up to. There was also the matter of placing Rose in the scene watching on, and how often to do that, which was quite tricky to achieve without sacrificing Phil and Peter’s moment. 

“Finally, there was Peter’s walk. We had coverage of all the workers and multiple angles on Peter’s walk. The extras looked great and had been growing their beards for six months to get ready for the scene. It became obvious that playing the walk and return all in one shot was the most memorable and powerful way to tell the story. So much of our work in the edit was about finding the most elegant way to tell the story and that was achieved through reduction and economy. I think this scene is a great example of that.”