In Atlanta to work with the Farrelly Brothers, the creative minds behind 'Kingpin' and 'Something About Mary,' Sam Seig, the editor for 'The Three Stooges' reflects on comedy, timing, and editing as a team sport.
First AE Dave Ray-mond (L) and 2nd AE Charley E. Spaht ham it up with a Stooges prop in one of the three Avid Ni-trix DX suites running on Avid Unity. All dailies were created in Avid DNxHD 36. Cutting comedy is such hard work.
Any great comedian will tell you that comedy is about timing. That is why editing plays such a crucial role in comedic features like The Three Stooges. Finding the natural rhythm, letting the joke play, knowing how to pace the audience response, is more of a feeling that an editor needs to develop aside from the technical skills.
The creative minds behind There's Something About Mary, Kingpin, and many others were certainly comfortable with physical humor, but bringing the Stooges to the big screen has been a real challenge for Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Everyone knows the style and look of the original trio, and has loved it for a good part of their lives. From what we've edited so far, I'm confident that the audience will not be disappointed. The casting is perfect, with Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos, as Larry, Curly and Moe, and the slap-stick visual humor is true to form.
I've worked with the Farrelly Brothers since serving as an Assistant Editor on Kingpin, and as Editor on their last three features.
This is also the second feature we've done in Atlanta. My team and I were here last year for the Farrelly's Hall Pass. We prefer to cut on location, because it allows us to screen a scene with Peter and Bobby as soon as it is cut, and it gives production ample time to reshoot if there is a technical problem, i.e negative damage etc.
They are great directors to work for, as they encourage input and collaboration from the editorial team.
SLAPS, GAGS & MASTERS
The storyline begins as the three baby brothers are left on the steps of an orphanage where they are discovered by a nun, played by Larry David, who is the victim of their earliest physical pranks. As adults, they are on a mission to save the only home they knew as kids from bankruptcy.
The storyline begins as the three baby brothers are left on the steps of an orphanage where they are discovered by a nun.
The shoot was very complex as there were many physical stunts and special rigs required to safely handle the various pratfalls. And as anyone knows the sound effects are a big element in the pranks.
To make the first cuts work, we had to have the "bonks, boings, slaps" sound effects laid in at each cue. Some of them are old classic effects, so we took sound samples from the DVD copies of the originals to be sure we matched the style. These will be replaced later in audio post with re-mastered effects.
As physical as the comedy is for Stooges, I have found, as in the original shorts, that the gags play best in the master shots. You want to keep it "open" to give the audience time to laugh. If you remember the famous hair gel scene, from Something About Mary, it was necessary to open up the reaction shot to allow for a big laugh before the next scene could play.
That is why it's extremely important to preview the film for an audience. You want to see how a packed theater responds, and make sure that the edit gives them room to respond the way they want.
The Three Stooges trailer
A "TEAM SPORT"
Editing is "team sport" and I am supported by two assistants that work closely with the lab in managing the technical aspects of the dailies. First AE Dave Raymond has worked with me on three Farrelly Bros. films now, and makes sure all the dailies specs are correct. He breaks out scenes into bins each day and has them ready for my review. He also tracks any shots that need to be scanned in advance for VFX, such as wire and rig removals.
This is critical, as we shot over 450,000 feet of 35mm, and transferred to HDCAM SR 4:4:4 tapes and Avid DNxHD 36 editorial files. Dave is also the main contact with the lab, making sure the dailies, camera logs, and script notes are accurate.
When we were in Atlanta last year, we added Charley B. Spaht as our 2nd AE, who creates the Code Book of all the Avid Metadata in a File Maker Pro database. These are essential for the final conform.
ON LOCATION, ON MY FEET
When we cut on location, we bring in three Avid Nitris DX systems and a Unity rented from Sixteen 19 in New York. I still run Media Composer 4.05 since I'm familiar with all its features and I know it's stable.
I used to cut on Moviolas and flatbeds when I was an assistant to Michael Kahn on big action films like Minority Report. When working with film you had think about your edit before cut-ting the workprint. Avid makes that work much faster, but it's es-sentially just a big "butt splicer." As efficient as the Avid may be, the most important editing tool I have is my brain. You've got to see the story in your mind first.
I have a unique style in that I edit standing up on an elevated console rather than sitting in a chair. I find I have more energy and stamina cutting this way and feel more physically free to move around.
Stand Up Comedy - Editor Sam Seig standing at the console of an Avid Nitris DX system on location in Atlanta. Sam cut the entire Farrelly Brothers comedy, Three Stooges, standing up.
After we wrap in Atlanta, I'll take a week to complete a first as-sembly of the full film. That gives the directors time to step away from the work and see it with fresh eyes. We'll move our editing systems to Cape Cod and spend five weeks with Bobby Farrelly on the cut, then we'll head to Ojai, California, to work with Peter Farrelly for five more weeks to complete the Director's Cut.
After that, the studio execs at Fox will set up test screenings before we make the final cut. I am with the film all the way through the sound mix, to the DI stage at EFILM, to the final Answer Print.
Some might say I'm being "type cast" as a comedy editor, but I've worked on large action films in the past and I prefer the light-hearted atmosphere one finds in most comedy editing rooms. I may never win an Oscar, but at least I'll be laughing for the rest of my career.
Some may consider the Stooges humor to be less sophisticated, but is the film laugh-out-loud funny? As Curly would say, Soitenly! (Non-Stooge translation: Certainly!) Who needs awards when, to quote an old movie phrase, you can "make 'em laugh!"
FILM, COLOR, AND COLLABORATION
You may already have guessed my perspective on this, but contrary to what you've heard, film is not dead. This was our second time to work with the local Atlanta lab, Cinefilm. We did Hall Pass with them and everyone has been impressed with their work. Veteran DP Matt Leonetti was also back working with us, and was ready to jump into work with colorist John Petersen (above, working on The Three Stooges) in Cinefilm's Spirit/DaVinci 2K Suite. Matt knows exactly what he wants, but he was using a new stock this time, Kodak Vision 5207. When he came in for the test with John, he was surprised how quick it went -- John was able to call up the basic look he used on Hall Pass last year, and make some minor tweaks. Building on a relationship makes a big difference.
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