In Good luck to you, Leo Grande, Emma Thompson plays a retired schoolteacher who’s certain she’s never had good sex. She decides to change that by checking into a hotel room and hiring a sex worker, but he quickly seems to be more than professionally interested in her. Much of the film consists of these two characters in a hotel room, and editor Bryan Mason explains the importance of highlighting performances and chemistry to keep the audience’s attention.
Director: How and why did you become the editor of your film? What factors and attributes led you to be hired for this position?
Mason: The film’s director, Sophie Hyde, and I have a long history of working together, so I was thrilled when she asked me to work with her again on this film, although upon first reading the script I was curious how we were going to keep the audience’s attention. through a journey that’s basically two people in a room for the best part of 95 minutes.
Director: Regarding the progress of your film from its first cut to your final cut, what were your objectives as an editor? What elements of the film did you want to improve, or preserve, or disentangle or totally reshape?
Mason: I think my goal as an editor is more or less the same for every project, which is to make the best possible version of the film in the time you have! It sounds overly simplistic, but I really think that’s what it boils down to for me. In particular, with this movie, it was important to get the balance right between the two characters so that you feel for them at different times as the dynamic sways and changes as they move from strangers and a familiarity grows.
Director: How did you achieve these goals? What kinds of editing techniques or processes or commentary projections allowed this work to happen?
Mason: Sophie and I worked closely together through all stages of editing really trying to get the most out of the footage and picking the performances that gave us the best character journey. At various stages of editing, we showed the film to trusted collaborators and that was invaluable in getting an idea of what was playing and what was not.
Director: As an editor, how did you get into the business and what influences influenced your work?
Mason: I grew up skateboarding and filming skateboarding. While I was still in school, I put together a skate video of our little team of skaters, from VHS to VHS, play record, break, play record, style. It was my first editing experience and I really enjoyed it. Then, when I finished my studies and continued my studies in cinema, I turned quite naturally to the camera and the editing room. Very early on, skate videos really influenced my sensitivity as a filmmaker and as an editor in particular. Now I’m mostly influenced by feature films and I’m always amazed when a movie manages to pull me into storytelling and all the cinematic techniques disappear and you’re just in the story. It’s a good edition, I think; that’s what I’m always looking for.
Director: What mounting system did you use and why?
Mason: I cut on Adobe Premiere Pro and have been doing it for years now. It continues to evolve and update and it’s a great system.
Director: What was the hardest scene to cut and why? And how did you do?
Mason: The film’s opening was probably the trickiest sequence to cut, as it changed and changed several times from what was originally envisioned. It took a while for the right piece of music to land, and we ended up with a fun hiatus between the two main characters as they both prepare to meet for the first time. It became our title sequence and it really took a few revisions to get there. What was needed was time and space to try something, let it settle, revisit, tweak, reimagine, let settle, try the graphics, the music, a different piece of music , ah now we get to it, let it rest, try another font or layout, revisit it, let it rest, yes you still feel good, ahh. It happened a bit like that.
Director: What role did VFX work, or compositing, or other post-production techniques play in terms of the final cut?
Mason: There are only a handful of VFX shots in the film, they are subtle but really help a few moments tremendously.
Director: Finally, now that the process is complete, what new meanings has the film taken on for you? What did you discover in the footage that you might not have seen initially, and how did your final understanding of the film differ from the understanding you started with?
Mason: When I read the script for this film, I first imagined a slightly different tone than the finished film. I thought it would be lighter and more disposable in some way, but the depth and reality that Sophie managed to find with the cast is surprising and ultimately quite touching.