After working as an Assistant Editor on movies for the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and getting her break cutting features for Nora Ephron and Nicole Holofcener, Editor Alisa Lepselter, A.C.E. got the job of a lifetime cutting Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999). Fifteen years later she is on her fifteenth collaboration with Allen for his newest movie, “Blue Jasmine,” which opens on Friday. We caught up with Lepselter to speak to her about her career and her work with the legendary director.
You’ve been working with Woody Allen as editor since “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999). What’s your work process with him like and has it changed at all over time?
Not that much has changed, in that because of the way he makes films that are specific to him, he doesn’t want to edit the film until he’s shot the whole thing. It’s unusual. Most directors have the editor doing a rough cut as they’re shooting, because they don’t have the time to omit that step. Woody has a lot more freedom to work at his own pace, and he wants to be in the cutting room with me from day one when he’s done shooting. He comes in and we review all the material, and start cutting from the beginning, from scene one, sequentially, which is also very helpful, because you understand what the tone is as you’re going along. But it’s a luxury that most people don’t have, to work that way, and that’s the only way I’ve ever worked with him, and that’s the only way he has, apparently, ever worked with anyone, so that’s the same.
One thing that’s been different is that he’s been traveling more, to go shoot his films overseas, and I don’t go overseas with the crew, mainly because we’re not going to cut it anyway until he comes back, and I can screen the dailies here, and make notes and talk to him if there is anything I have issues with.
Over the years have his shooting and editing schedules remained consistent?
He does a film a year, almost like clockwork, and his shooting schedules are relatively the same every time because they’re based on the kind of budget that he has, and that’s pretty consistent. The editing is not always consistent, because it depends on the film. Some films are put together very easily and others are more problematic, and we’ll just take as much time as we need. And most people don’t have that [opportunity] either. It’s not as though there’s a studio giving him a deadline. Yes we have some deadlines, we have a mix time set up, etc…so it’s not like we have no schedule at all, but there’s never a difficulty in getting our actual cut together. By the time we lock picture, and we move onto the sound editing and the color correcting, those are the kind of things that can take a long time, and get us up against deadlines, but actually editing the film – we always have enough time.
Have you been editing digitally or on film?
When I got the job [for “Sweet and Lowdown,” in fall 1998], I was told Woody cuts on film and don’t even think about asking to do it any other way. And I asked to do it another way and he said OK! Sometimes people underestimate how flexible Woody is. He’s very open-minded. I just had to explain to him why I thought he’d really benefit from working on the AVID [digital editing system], and he said ok, we’ll give it a try. And so we’ve been working on AVID ever since. He’s been very happy with it. He still does shoot on film, and nobody’s ever convinced him that he’d be better off shooting digitally, because the kinds of films that he makes really wouldn’t warrant that switch just yet. The cinematographers he’s worked with lately really do still enjoy working with film given the chance.
For the full interview go here.