Every great movie has great collaborators working hard behind the scenes. This couldn’t be more true for long-time collaborators Rian Johnson and his go-to editor Bob Ducsay. 

After teaming up for the first time on Looper, Ducsay and Johnson have collaborated on five feature films, including Johnson’s latest whodunnit, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Their collaboration shows us what a great director/editor team can do for the final product of a film. 

But how do Johnson and Ducsay manage their collaborative relationship? 

The secret to a good director/editor collaboration.Editor Bob Ducsay and Director Rian JohnsonCredit: Getty Images

In an interview with Variety, Johnson and Ducsay break down what makes their 10-year collaboration work so well. 

For Johnson, the trick to a great director/editor relationship is learning how to think like an editor. During his time working with editor Gabriel Wrye on The Brothers Bloom, Johnson learned how “to be a true collaborator.” 

“I still have an editor’s brain, but at this point, it’s almost two minds working together, that lock in sync when we’re working,” Johnson said. “I feel like we are completing each other sentences.” 

A director that can think like an editor is extremely beneficial to the editing process, although it isn’t an easy skill to acquire.

“I think that must have been very difficult for [Johnson] because it’s such an intimate, precise process,” Ducsay said. “Every detail, every nuance, down to the frame, which is 24th of a second, gets debated in your mind when you’re cutting a movie.”

But Johnson’s ability to think like an editor doesn’t promise a prosperous working relationship. Ducsay believes that “all collaborations in moviemaking” come naturally, and is a collaboration that asks the director and editor to challenge themselves and each other.

“Over this decade of collaborating, I feel it’s such a comfortable and positive working relationship because you hope to bring things beyond what someone could do on their own, and work very hard to do that,” Ducsay said. “But at the same time, you’re also learning everything that the director, in this case, Rian, wants out of their movie and what their vision is.” 

The secret to a good director/editor collaboration.'Looper'Credit: Sony Picturesctures Releasing

Editing is a delicate technical challenge that requires the director and the editor to maintain focus on what is important to the story being told. While the director is responsible for getting all of the footage an editor needs, the editor is in charge of shaping performances to bring to life the director’s vision that came from the screenplay. It’s like a game of telephone. Constant communication and understanding between the director and editor can turn a vision into a reality. 

A great director/editor collaboration is built on trusting each other's instincts. When you have someone that you can sit with for 12 hours and can still find a way to push the story beyond what you thought was possible every day is the sign of an all-star collaboration.

Creative relationships that embrace each partner’s visions and suggestions are the ones that push what is possible with a scene. They breed innovation and care. 

What other director/editor duos do you think work well together? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Variety