Thanks in large part to his accomplishments with the Star Trek franchise, J.J. Abrams seemed like the perfect choice to helm Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a decision fans largely approved of when the film landed in theaters. While many audiences praised what Abrams achieved, other fans felt the film played it too safe in regards to meeting their expectations. For the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the filmmaker had to find ways to organically conclude not only the sequel trilogy, but also the entire Skywalker Saga. The film’s editor, Maryann Brandon, recently detailed the process of crafting the film, noting the new filmmaking techniques Abrams was forced to accept.
“I did this thing on cutting Rise of Skywalker – and we have a very short schedule,” Brandon shared with the audience at a talk at the Carsey-Wolf Center. “When we did The Force Awakens we started in May and we finished shooting in October, and we were out [the following] Christmas. For this film, we didn’t start until August, so we weren’t done until February shooting – so we have four months less time, and it’s a very big film. So I convinced J.J. to let me cut on the set. He was like, ‘No, we never do that.’”
She noted, “I was like, ‘Just try it, so I can start turning over shots.’”
Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was originally attached to direct the film, which is likely why Abrams was unable to develop the film by his traditional methods. With this bigger time crunch, Abrams had to step outside his comfort zone, as did Brandon herself.
“So I was on the set the entire time, and he got so used to it that he was like, ‘You need to be less than ten feet away from me at all times’ – so if the camera would move 10 feet, I would move 10 feet,” Brandon noted. “I was everywhere! Outside, in a water tank.”
The filmmaker explained that this process allowed her to develop a relationship with the cast and, by piecing the film together as they went along, allowed her to obtain footage she might not have normally been able to.
“I watched what they were shooting, I was cutting what they were shooting the day before,” Brandon detailed. “I had the DP right there to ask questions. If I needed a shot, or if J.J. decided we needed another shot, we would set up in a corner and get a green screen shot of something. Getting to know the cast and having them be comfortable with me, it was a really great way to understand what they were going through.”
Fans can see how her efforts paid off when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on December 20th.
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