Oscars: How 'Boyhood,' 'Imitation Game' Film Editors Manipulated Time

It's the wizards who cut a film together who create its rhythm — and often its emotion, too.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Film editors can determine a movie's tone. The Grand Budapest Hotel called for a period sensibility and madcap humor, so editor Barney Pilling says: "My job was more about delivery and timing. We would slow things down, speed it up, split the screen." On the other hand, in American Sniper, Joel Cox, who edited the film with Gary Roach, often focused on building tension "by the performances of the actors and the length of the cuts." And for the climactic concert scene in Whiplash, editor Tom Cross says: "We needed to really inject our characters in there and see their relationship. Without these character arcs, you just had a music video and not a scene as deep and intense as it could be."

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Editing also is about manipulating time. The Imitation Game's editor William Goldenberg found himself juggling three different time periods: "In the original script, the '20s and '50s were more paired up, but we found it was too much time away from the main story [set in the '40s during World War II] so we separated those and moved them around." And Boyhood's Sandra Adair had to compress 12 years of filming into a few hours of screen time: "After we got a few years in, we started to connect one year to the previous years," she says. "We were very patient."