Editing: HBO's <I>The Survivor</I>
Issue: May/June 2022

Editing: HBO's The Survivor

The HBO Original film The Survivor marks filmmaker Barry Levinson’s return to the network. Based on the true story of Harry Haft, the film reunites Levinson with actor Ben Foster, who stars in the lead role. After being sent to Auschwitz, Haft survived not only the unspeakable horrors of the camp, but the boxing spectacle he was forced to perform in against fellow prisoners for the amusement of his captors. Still, he was driven to survive and reunite with the woman he loves.

The Survivor was produced by New Mandate Films’ Matti Leshem (The Shallows), Bron Studios’ Aaron L. Gilbert (Bombshell, Monster, The Front Runner), Baltimore Pictures’ Jason Sosnoff (HBO’s Paterno and The Wizard of Lies) and Barry Levinson (Donnie Brasco, Bugsy) and Scott Pardo (Hope & A Little Sugar). The film’s production was aided by a team at USC Shoah Foundation, which provided detailed historical consulting, in addition to access to testimony of Haft, filmed in 2007, and preserved within USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive.

Doug Crise (pictured, right) edited the project on Avid Media Composer, working in Los Angeles, Budapest and New York City. 

“It was my first time working with Barry Levinson and it was such a relaxed and creative atmosphere,” he recalls. “The survival story of the film is more about Harry Haft learning to live his life after the trauma he went through during the Holocaust. While editing the film, we were always very aware that the story had to be told from Harry’s internal thoughts.”

According to Crise, the performances and the story had such an emotional impact that the film always worked, even in the very early stages of the edit.  

“Rarely do you look at an editor's assembly and know you have a great film, and that your mission isn’t just to make it better, but to hold on to what you already have,” says Crise. “The film will go through maybe changes and experimentations while searching to improve and hone it, but in this case, we never wanted to lose that sense of what we felt the first time we saw it.”