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LIGHTS, CAMERA . . .

Keeping It Moving

December 19, 2007|Michael McCusker

This week: Film editor Michael McCusker on working with James Mangold and handling one challenge of remaking "3:10 to Yuma."

I have worked for Jim in one capacity or another for six years, so I know his strategies and have a good idea where the drama lives scene to scene and in the movie as a whole. I think Jim knows that my priorities align well with his -- as we are both fascinated with character-driven, strong thematic stories.

Jim's a confident director, knows what he gets when he shoots and thus leaves me very much to my own devices. We don't watch dailies together and we don't speak every day, although I do send him scenes every couple of weeks for his feedback. This process gives me a great deal of freedom to work the cut. My goal is to present a strong point of view.

"3:10 to Yuma" is a remake in which Jim preserved the original's strongest elements while opening up the story's scope and drama. In the original, there is a bit of awkward exposition early on after Ben Wade is captured, where the posse Dan Evans has just joined lays out a plan to get Wade on the train to Yuma prison. Scribbling in the dirt with sticks, the posse formulates a plan that entails a switch at Dan's farm, then we watch the plan enacted just as the characters discussed. Jim didn't shoot this scene, choosing to let the audience discover the plan as events unfold. The challenge became that without the exposition it was unclear why and how the posse ended up at Dan's farm. So we worked up a short dynamic transition where the marshal calls out instructions to meet at Dan's farm. We then rearranged the next scene slightly to have Dan explain to his wife why Wade is there. This approach kept the plot moving and fixed a potentially confusing transition.

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To see this scene, go to TheEnvelope.com and click on The Envelope in Print.

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