‘Thank You for Your Service’ Editor on Why Less Is More on Camera

Photo Source: Francois Duhamel/DreamWorks Pictures

“Thank You for Your Service” editor Jay Cassidy discusses the particular challenge of piecing together a film about PTSD and what actors can do from an editing standpoint to better their performances on camera.

Trust an editor: Less is more.
“Less is more is usually a good operating principle. Audiences are so fast, and what you think is required to make a moment—maybe you don’t need as much and you can still make the same moment and serve the performance better [by doing less]. That happens all the time, in every genre of film.”

READ: How to Become Your Film Editor’s Best Friend

Continuity matters less than truthful acting.
“If an actor is telling the truth, you don’t care which hand the bottle’s in. You get over those things awfully quickly if your head is in the performance. Beulah [Koale, who co-stars as Solo] was not particularly experienced, but it didn’t matter. He was so in the moment that you were never concerned about those things.”

‘Thank You for Your Service’ required subverted cliché.
“It was no different from any other film in that you have an obligation to tell a story clearly and concisely. But in this case, you had to be cognizant of the subject matter. The inner life of these characters was so affected by the war, and that thought could never leave your mind. You had to be careful not to overemphasize the obvious [and] that whatever decisions they made came from their character and not from an idea people have about veterans.”

Editing is the same from genre to genre.
“Obviously it’s different material and there are different concerns, but the process is the same in that you have an initial, very long cut of what was shot, and at that point, the real editing begins. You find your way through the story at that point. That’s true with a comedy or love story or anything. Shakespeare said it best: The play’s the thing. If it doesn’t play, it doesn’t matter how good it is or how worthy it might be.”

Actors inform the editor.
“I’m always humbled by what actors do; [I’m] in awe of them. That’s certainly part of my background, and my choice of the films that I’ve worked on has a lot to do with which actors are in them. I’ve worked with actor-directors, too. I always find that as you’re working with the material, you kind of meet the actor head on as far as what he or she is trying to do and learn from it.”

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