The editing duo of Lawrence Gan and Ernesto Matamoros-Cox recently worked on Arcane (https://arcane.com), Riot Games’ flagship animated series, based on the global game phenomenon “League of Legends”.
Gan’s credits include serving as director on the feature film Love Arcadia, and as editor on Space Jam 2. Matamoros-Cox’s work has earned him Annie nominations, including for DreamWorks Dragons and GKIDS Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.
Here, they talk about their careers and recent work.
Photo: Lawrence Gan
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
Lawrence Gan: “As a young boy from a relatively traditional Asian -American family, I was never supposed to be in the movies. My academic career centered around math and science - movies were just the thing my family did for fun on Sunday nights after dinner. Then one day, I picked up my father's 8mm camera, jerry-rigged it into a faux-linear editing bay made from two VCRs, shot/edited a book report on Michael Crichton's ‘Congo’, and inadvertently started my dark love affair with movies and editing.
“I moved out to Los Angeles - after getting my obligatory Neuroscience Degree from Duke University - and paid my dues, working in live-action television and features. I eventually found my first editing job on an animated feature called MK Reloaded - a modern day retelling of the Monkey King story. It was a fun project, where I had the chance to bring some of my Asian heritage to the big screen. I’ve also worked on major movies like Lego 2 and Space Jam 2, but most recently, I finished editing on Arcane with Ernesto.
Ernesto Matamoros-Cox: “I have a background rooted deeply in martial arts. In 9th grade, a buddy asked me to be the villain in a short film he was shooting. While going through the post production process, I found myself in the cutting room, where I would spend the next four years learning animation and editing basics. I went on to work in live-action TV/features, documentaries, commercials, music videos, video game cinematics and animated TV/features.
“Over the years I’ve been able to use my 30-plus years of martial arts experience in conjunction with directing and editing. From choreographing action sequences on a number of projects, both live action and animated, to informing decisions relating to acting, timing, and character animation, martial arts has been an invaluable tool set in my career.”
Photo: Ernesto Matamoros-Cox
How did you come to work on Arcane?
Matamoros-Cox: “I was working on How to Train Your Dragon: Race to the Edge for Dreamworks Animation Television. A colleague of ours, Stephen Meek, reached out and asked if I’d be interested in working for Riot Games. ‘League of Legends’ is a worldwide phenomenon, so I was intrigued. What could they possibly be working on that they needed film editors? It wasn’t until Christian Linke (creator/showrunner) showed me some concept art for the Silco drowning scene that I realized this was going to be something different and special. I wasn’t expecting a video game company to take such a bold risk, but man, did it pay off. Riot gave us more than just a project we can be proud of — they gave us lifelong bonds with many members of the team.”
Gan: “Ernesto and I hit it off pretty much immediately. That first time we met, I think we just hung out on the Riot Campus and chatted for close to four hours? I was at a point in my career where I was looking for something new and exciting. I had never worked for a ‘video game’ company, so the idea alone was intriguing. Like Ernesto, ultimately, the linchpin was talking with Christian Linke. Hearing his vision and seeing some early test footage of Silco drowning sold me on the value and future of the show.”
Can you walk us through the needs of the project?
Matamoros-Cox: “It became clear pretty quickly why Riot stacked Arcane with the talent that it did. Christian Linke and Alex Yee felt the series should feel like live-action that just happened to be animated. The tone of the story is a bit darker, moments are given the chance to breathe, characters are given the appropriate screen time so we can grow with each of them, and moments feel earned. Keeping all of this in mind and making sure we did these beloved ‘League of Legends’ champions justice was incredibly important to both the Arcane team and Riot as whole.”
Gan: “What this meant for the editorial process is that Arcane approached the animation pipeline more like a feature than a series. Revisions weren’t arbitrarily capped at a certain number of takes due to schedule limitation. The emphasis was placed on getting it right, not getting it fast. As editors, we were always encouraged to ‘make it better’ rather than just ‘make the script’.”
Matamoros-Cox: “There’s usually never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it twice.”
What were you editing with?
Gan: “Arcane used Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere on an Apple Mac Pro. We also used Wacom Cintiq.”
Matamoros-Cox: “What he said.”
Can you call attention to some of the interesting or unique challenges you faced on this project?
Gan: “Working on a show that is based on a beloved property always offers unique challenges. There is a delicate balance between staying true to your fan base, while still making the show accessible to newcomers. Ultimately, Arcane was able to achieve this because we are all fans ourselves. Ernesto and I still play ‘League of Legends’ on a regular basis and we’re stoked to see the show enter into the rich lore of Runeterra. Also, none of this would have been possible without our partnership with Fortiche.”
Matamoros-Cox: “We loved working with Fortiche and the entire team in France. Directors Arnaud Delord, Pascal Charrue, and co-executive Jerome Combe are a rare combination of talent you don’t come across very often in the industry. They are passionate about what they do and are both artists and true geeks at heart. They are some of the nicest and funniest people we’ve ever worked with.
“Time was always a challenge. Everyone was full steam ahead everyday, so the time difference was challenging. We always wanted more of it! More time to edit together, more time to dream out loud, more time to drink wine and talk about our favorite comic books and anime. Having another edit team at Fortiche relieved this a bit. It created a form of 24-hour edit cycle, which everyone appreciated.”
Where can we follow you on social media?
Gan: “My instagram is @lawalaw. You can also find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. And please make sure to check out Arcane on November. 6th, only on Netflix.”
Matamoros-Cox: “My Instagram handle is @nettobetrippin. You can also find me on LinkedIn under Ernesto Matamoros.”