<I>The Infernal Machine</I>: Editing Paramount Pictures' suspenseful thriller
Jeremy Wanek
Issue: September/October 2022

The Infernal Machine: Editing Paramount Pictures' suspenseful thriller

Paramount Pictures’ The Infernal Machine follows a reclusive and controversial author, Bruce Cogburn, who is drawn out of hiding by an obsessive fan, thus forcing the novelist to confront a past that he thought he could escape, and to account for events set in motion by his bestseller decades earlier. This psychological thriller stars Guy Pearce, Alice Eve, Jeremy Davies and Alex Pettyfer. It was written and directed by Andrew Hunt. 

From the get go, we knew we wanted to create a roller coaster ride for the audience. We also wanted to do something different within the thriller genre. A lot of what makes this movie unique isn’t just the structure of some of the more intricate scenes, but the way the story focuses on emotion. I can’t dive deeper without giving plot points away, but the last 20 minutes of the film, in particular, have a lot of moving parts. 


I edited the movie in Minneapolis, while the crew shot in Portugal for five weeks. The DIT uploaded synced dailies via Google Drive. We needed to turn dailies into complete assembly edits to show the investors every day, so we relied on Frame.io as our review platform, and it worked flawlessly. 

After principal photography, Andy and I continued to edit for another 15 weeks. I cut in Adobe Premiere Pro, because I find it quicker to do any speed changes, re-framing, and compositing, which Andy and I do to a great extent. We had a VO booth in the room that had a mic connected to my computer via a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface. We used this to record temp ADR and additional lines in the film. 

Part of our process is creating stringouts of each line from each take and playing them back to back. This helps us clearly focus on which read is hitting the best, emotionally. This isn’t always needed, but sometimes Frankensteining sentences or words from different takes can elevate a performance. It’s a similar process to Avid’s script sync feature. 

Photo (L-R): Actor Jeremy Davies and Editor Jeremy Wanek

One of the things that Andy introduced me to was his “Bad Company” test. If we felt like a scene was playing well, or conversely, felt like something was off, we would play the song, “Bad Company,” by Bad Company. Then, simultaneously, we would playback the scene in question. That song has a solid beat and fun flourishes. It helps you feel the rhythm if you’re questioning something…I wouldn’t say it works every time, but Andy may say otherwise. Either way, it’s an excellent song. 

As the lead, Guy Pearce is in just about every scene. He has a knack for incredible continuity while also giving you a range of choices in his performance. It allowed me to choose the right point to cut emotionally, which you don’t always get with actors who aren’t so detail oriented. I’m drawn to eyes, however, he was doing interesting things with his mouth and nose as well that were fascinating to watch! 

After picture lock I sent reels to our composer, Nathaniel Levisay, our sound team – Folklore (in Australia), our VFX team – Viridian (in England), and our post house – Serve Chilled (in Australia) who did the online, while the color was done by Kali Bateman. 

Jeremy Wanek is an editor and VFX artist at Nocturnal Robot (www.nocturnalrobot.com), a company he founded.