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This is a fascinating and very informative look at the process of editing a major action flick in this day and age. And the process she discusses is actually quite different than what so many things I've read elsewhere assume was involved. Especially, in what was not included in her comments compared to what has been said so loudly elsewhere.
One of the main things (among many!) I found fascinating in this interview was the total lack of any socio-political "narrative" within the editing process, at least as has been charged by a number of critics I've seen. She says upfront that this is an action flick, and ... it was cut for the most powerful storytelling of visual action ... and not by the dialogue of the screenplay. Which she notes she never really paid any attention to.
She had dialogue muted during nearly the entire cutting process. She added bits of clips that added to the visual story telling, and had no room for other clips or bits unless there was an absolute need for a comment. Or to give a slower pace for a beat or two.
What did she pay attention to?
She and Abrams had a short time together to discuss "feel" at the begining of the process, before he raced off to start shooting. Especially, the model was the first Star Wars flick made, now number IV in the "canon". How did that look and feel? What was it made that 'special' to viewers? And how could they evoke that same feel as the wrap-up piece of the series?
The entire time Abrams was off shooting, she and her assistant editor were already cutting the film. She'd add and trim clips by the emotional visual content ... and then for cutting while "feeling" the effect the viewers would feel, adding say the sounds of the spaceships and light-saber slashes and booms and such (from the sound library of previous SW flicks) ... and also, throw on some of John Williams' scores from the earlier episodes. (Remember, the dialogue is still muted ... )
And naturally they sent stuff out to both visual effects and audio work teams. And then worked the results back in to replace the original clips as they came in. Along with the new media coming in daily from shooting.
That is rather different than what has been speculated elsewhere. Several harsh published critics have stated in no uncertain terms that editing choices were made at the studio's demands to either placate the (implied) stupid fan base by bringing back a horrid concept of "specialness" to those with the force after it had been "democratized" in the previous flick, or second, to reduce the screen-time of non-white females (Rose).
Maryann mentions no studio involvement at all. Anywhere in the process. It was all about the visual storytelling of this flick as compared to the original Star Wars ... which I would add, was edited by another top-notch editor who ... happened ... to also be a woman. Personally, I kind of like that bit of book-ending also: both the first and last flicks of the series were edited by women. Kinda cool ain't it?
What Maryann makes clear ... the whole project was behind the gun time-wise from when Abrams brought her into it, and that she and her chief assistant editor were already into editing the project as soon as Abrams started the first few days of shooting. They'd get massive dumps of new media daily throughout the filming. They were going through scene by scene as media came in doing full editing of the flick. They would add things ... move scenes around ... trim ... all that sort of work in a constantly shifting workflow.
And that rather a lot of scenes and parts of scenes that were shot, didn't make the "cut" ... because they weren't able to move the story forward visually. And they still struggled to get the time down under three hours.
An amazing process to keep track of, really. I can't imagine keeping all that straight in my head in such a time-crunched process!
By the time shooting was finished, and Abrams had time to sit down with her, they only had time for a couple quick re-shoots or added audio captures, a few send/returns for additional vfx/audio, final touches, trim another few minutes out to get the time down ... then only enough times for a couple small screenings for a very few people to make sure no major mistakes had gotten through. And ... publish. There's no mention there whatever of "studio" involvement in any part of the cutting.
There wasn't the time to sit back and be retrospective anywhere in the entire process.
But the details of her cutting process are rather amazing to hear. This is fairly long and detailed, and well worth the time spent listening.