<I>A Star Is Born</I>: Editor Jay Cassidy
Issue: November 1, 2018

A Star Is Born: Editor Jay Cassidy

Editor Jay Cassidy has worked on a number of notable films, including Fury, Foxcatcher and Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Joy with director David O. Russell. It’s also where he met and began his long-term relationship with actor Bradley Cooper, who has spent lots of time over the years in the edit suite.

Here, Cassidy discusses the hit film A Star is Born and working with first-time director Cooper.

Did Bradley give you any particular direction for the edit?

“Bradley had a very strong desire to tell the story from the perspective of these rock 'n' rollers, musicians and performers — from their point of view, so it meant that he only photographed the performances from the stage. There’s never an angle from the audience looking up, never cutaways of the audience cheering, never anything sort of in the objective description of the performance. It’s always with the performer and always when you look out at the audience, it’s what the performer sees — the large sea of faces and the back light so the audience is treated kind of like a third person. You never personalize the fans at all. Once we had that intention of Bradley’s, we knew how he was going to shoot, and we would cut the concerts in a very specific way.”

What was your working relationship like with Bradley? Did it feel like you were working with a first-time director?

“I would go back to my relationship with Bradley, which began while working on the David O. Russell films. Bradley and David have a tremendous collaboration when they work together and at the beginning of Silver Linings Playbook, David brought Bradley into the cutting room because it was such a difficult performance to craft, so that’s how I initially got to know Bradley. He made such big contributions to the editing of Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Joy. It’s just a marvelous collaboration and I’ve been so fortunate to watch it develop over the years. So, when I started working with Bradley, it felt like an extension of the work we did with David. Bradley, I think, has certainly been interested in directing for a long time and has been in cutting rooms even before working with David. I didn’t feel like this was a neophyte at all; I felt like this is a natural step for him as an artist and I was just happy to be there.”

Bradley spent a lot of time with you in post?

“Definitely. The habits and working patterns that kind of evolved while working with David extended into this movie. We knew there was a lot of experimentation that we wanted to do. He had his ideas. We would try those out; get some reactions. We’d also try suggestions from people that were closely involved with the film. All of that process, it was him. And from it, came the edit. What happens in any editing situation, you go through it, your confidence grows with what you’ve got and the feedback of even small audiences of friends, you start to sense that what you’re intending to have happen on the screen is being read by the audience the way you want it to. And as well, if there are misreads and if there’s something you intend and it’s being misread, you find that out, too. So that evolution is something that’s not necessarily unique to this film at all, but certainly was done with gusto by Bradley.”

What were some of the biggest joys of editing this film?

“It’s very emotional. I got to see scenes very early, because I was the first one, because I was putting them together, and I had a personal kind of threshold. If I felt emotional as the first assembly of the scene came off, in the first viewing of it, I knew that after repeated viewings in the process, that I might not ever feel that way again, but you know the emotion is there in the particular scene and I felt it with so many, as the film started to come together. Then, once you had a complete movie, it became a question of keeping all the rhythms of the film together so that you protected all those emotional moments. So, for me, that was the biggest challenge. Bradley is an incredibly sensitive sole and he knows this material better than anyone, having written it, directed it, I always knew by his reaction, because he was the best test case in the room, and I could tell by his reaction that the things we were doing were really succeeding.”

Did you cut the film on an Avid?

“Yes, I’ve been a beta tester, so we’re always chasing the betas. Avid has changed how they do the betas. Every month, there’s an upgrade of some little section, which means they’re not making an enormous upgrade anymore that completely breaks people’s workflows. Instead, there are these incremental upgrades that come out every month or six weeks and they’re very specific. It’s a remarkable strategy I have to say.”

Did the film turn out the way you had hoped?

“Anytime I see a film being received the way this one has, I just have to step back — movies are gifts that filmmakers give to audiences and every now and then you give a gift that is really well received and I think this is the case here.”