In the Hollywood moviemaking system, below-the-line crew members are called upon to give as much of themselves as any actor or director on every project they work on. But from time to time a project comes along that's a little bit special, requiring artisans to go to extraordinary measures to help a director craft his or her vision. Here are some of their stories:
Behind the scenes: The film was shot for one week every year for 12 years. Having an editor like Adair with a 12-year level of institutional memory was crucial to having the film flow naturally. Each year, Adair would edit together the current footage, and then graft it to the segments that already existed, but she had to be aware of keeping pacing and approach consistent.
Scene sculptor: "Every time I got a new computer I'd have to bring the big 'Boyhood' file over," she recalls. "We kept a list of things we'd want to re-evaluate after Year 12, so we wouldn't make any hasty decisions too early on. It really allowed the film to be in mid-process and for us to sit and live with it as long as we could."
Behind the scenes: Hiking the rocky Pacific Crest Trail is tough enough. Walking it backward, carrying a 40-pound handheld camera is quite another feat. Virtually all of "Wild" was shot with that handheld, and most of it outdoors with natural lighting. (Bélanger did have a key grip making sure he didn't tumble into a gully.)
Scene sculptor: "Handheld is great," says Bélanger. "We can do the jobs of five people with one person — it's freedom. Still, I'm not a young man anymore so I had to get in shape for this job. It worked — I could do all of my days without collapsing, and I didn't fall."
Co-editor (with Douglas Crise), "Birdman"
Behind the scenes: A movie made of long tracking shots didn't make Mirrione's edit job easier; instead, he came up with a new workflow and suggested that director Alejandro González Iñárritu tape rehearsals of the scenes so they could make editorial decisions ahead of shooting. Additionally, in order to control rhythm and pacing without the use of different angles and cuts, Mirrione and Crise would occasionally drop out a frame or compress a scene to get it to "pop."
Scene sculptor: "It was a matter of adjusting the editorial ego," says Mirrione. "Normally, as an editor you get to have a point where you have control over everything, and we knew that point would not come."
Supervising sound editor, "Into the Woods"
Behind the scenes: Noting that director Rob Marshall prefers naturalism in his films, Leyh spent hours in a Louisiana swamp recording actual noises and coordinated putting 18 microphones on a tree in California's San Bernardino Mountains to capture the sound of it falling. (Finally, proof that if a tree falls in a forest with no one around, it does indeed make a sound.)
Scene sculptor: "Standing at 3 a.m. in a swamp recording, sometimes you don't even know what all the animal sounds are," recalls Leyh. The trees (slated to be knocked down after a beetle blight infestation) had to be finished off with axes to avoid chain saw noises, and were potentially dangerous: "When anyone takes down a tree, there's a 70% chance it'll fall how you want it to, and a 30% chance it won't," he says.
Music supervisor, "Boyhood," "Grand Budapest Hotel"
Behind the scenes: For "Budapest," Poster organized a 50-person orchestra full of balalaika players, half of whom were Russian, half of whom were French. All spoke a common language (with help from two translators on the podium) — music. Meanwhile, on "Boyhood" he was responsible for licensing and coordinating approximately 70 songs for the three-hour film.
Scene sculptor: "Working with directors like Rick [Linklater, "Boyhood"] or Wes [Anderson, "Budapest"], you want to bring to bear all you can and persevere to get all you want," says Poster. "The ambitions of both films are so bold that you have to make sure you're bringing your A-game to the process of music supervision."