'Baby Driver' Editor Wonders About VR, AI Potential

Paul Machliss, an Oscar nominee, talked about what that technology could do, Wednesday at the Hollywood Professional Association's Creative Tech event at the Ham Yard Hotel in London.
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Paul Machliss

Tech-savvy film editor Paul Machliss, whose work on Edgar Wright's Baby Driver earned a BAFTA award and Academy Award nomination, is intrigued by the potential of telling stories with emerging technology, including virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

During a keynote Wednesday, at the Hollywood Professional Association's Creative Tech event at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, Machliss said he's watching virtual and augmented reality and questioned how that technology could be applied to telling stories. "The technology is showing us what's possible. Now how can we integrate this into storytelling?" he asked. "Do you do stories for the individual or is there a group context? Could you do a version of Baby Driver that is more involving? There could be a world one day when the storytelling is in a free, movable environment."

He added that a story still has to have a beginning, middle and end. But he commented, "Or are you clever enough, almost like Memento, to start at the end? Do you have a choice to view it that way?"

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter after his presentation, Machliss hinted that Wright, Baby Driver's inventive helmer, has "some new [motion picture] ideas brewing. I have yet to hear Edgar's full thoughts, but it won't surprise me if whatever he does next will be pushing the art form. That's the exciting thing about working with him: You never know what comes next and how it's going to be done."

While talking with THR, he also weighed in on the notion of using artificial intelligence in the editing suite. Specifically, there's been growing discussion of its potential to organize clips faster and more efficiently than what is now a manual process typically handled by assistants.

"If it's a useful tool, I would never turn down the opportunity if it embellishes but doesn't take away from the work," Machliss said of this possibility.

But he warned, "If the AI is there, what's to stop it from shot construction? Could you make an AI [version of film editor] Walter Murch? Would a computer cut a film like Walter Murch or do what it thinks Walter Murch would do?"

"I'm intrigued," he said, adding that "we are a long way off" before "a computer comes knocking on my door and says, 'Don't come in on Monday.'"

Machliss, who edited Baby Driver with Jonathan Amos, is again working with Amos. They are cutting Joe Cornish's fantasy film The Kid Who Would Be King, which is slated to open March 1.