How Aggressive Schedules Affected the 'Rise of Skywalker' Editing
How forced release dates and an aggressive schedule affected The Rise of Skywalker and its storytelling capabilities.
There are lots of reasons The Rise of Skywalker has been given lukewarm treatment from fans and critics. While the box office is still doing gangbusters, this is definitely not the story Disney wanted to end the saga, especially a saga that began on such a humungous high note.
As most of you know, many studios schedule release dates before movies even shoot.
This creates aggressive dates that keep directors, editors, and other crew working around the clock to put forth a product. A lot of those times, the products suffer.
And Maryann Brandon, the editor of The Rise of Skywalker, agrees.
While appearing on “The Rough Cut” podcast, Brandon talks about the struggle of keeping up with this kind of filmmaking.
“It’s a struggle. It affected everything. About a third of the way through, [Lucasfilm president] Kathy [Kennedy] was like, ‘JJ has got to spend more time in the cutting room.’ And I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Not with the schedule that we were on. Not with what he was dealing with on a daily basis, …he was just exhausted at the end of the day.”
The struggle is real.
And it wasn't just about working in the edit bay. To meet the deadlines Brandon had to set up edits on set and cut in real-time. In her words:
“I suggested I cut on the set…we had two tented rooms…so I just went wherever JJ was, usually 10 feet away from the camera, wherever the camera was, and I just mobile-y cut. And in between takes, [J.J.] could sit down with me and we could go over things.”
Not only does this sound like a stressful situation, but you can see how everything this suffers.
Everyone had to divide their attention between different tasks at hand, so it was hard to see what was missing and what would need to be shot.
So when critics watched the movie, it's not surprising it got mixed reviews. While the great parts of Rise of Skywalker are great, there are scenes and emotional arcs that don't always feel like they line up.
You can blame scripting, aggressive timelines, studio mandates, and Reddit commentators.
And the people behind the scenes know audiences are left unsatisfied. Brandon said:
“In a time when the whole world is polarized, it should not be a film that is polarizing. Basically, the message of the film is, ‘Hey you know what? You can be bad and good can come into your life. And maybe if you’re open-minded to it, extraordinary things can change your mind. And you have to believe there’s always hope.’”
While I think that message comes across within the movie, I do believe there are lots of ways it could be stronger.
Until studios stop posting release dates before people get to work, the best hope for movies will never come to fruition. Art and commerce are two incredibly hard things to blend. Hollywood has always been able to toe the line, but telling people when a project has to be done limits the ways they can make it better.
Reshoots and different cuts are part of the process, but these mega-blockbusters need a ton of room to grow and come into their own. Most are never good on the first pass, they need help, and when you deny them that you create a ceiling, they cannot break.
Hopefully, Skywalker is a lesson to every studio in town about taking their time.
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