Michael McCusker, ACE

[ 00:00:17 ] With Jim. Yeah I was I was 16 an editor and you know if David Brenner who's done a lot of lot of work you know for a long time he's you know we're for Oliver Stone and I started working for him in 96 on the original Independence Day. And so I was his assistant for many years and he took on a movie called kitne people. Jim had been interested in Dave's work and wanted him to do. Girl Interrupted but I believe that's what it was. But he was not available. So he his next opportunity work with Dave he. He got him on getting people that I was assisting. And you know as as it was and as it is now many assistants will sort of augment the cut with music and sound and what I was doing a lot of sound on that movie and Jim was real taken with the work I did. He liked what I was doing so he made note of that and then the next movie that Jim made was identity and we were told right off occasionally pulled an identity and I got a bump up into a associate editor position did a little cutting with Jim and and then Dave left the movie early because he was going to do our own Emmerich movie. Another one the day after tomorrow. So I stayed for the last couple of couple three months to finish out the identity with Jim and we kind of. Got our relationship started at that point in time and when and when the line came along he had asked Dave my boss to cut it but Dave had decided that he was going to be taking some time off. You'd been working a lot and wanted to write an aspiration to be a writer director himself so. So he came and tapped me which was like kind of pretty great. It was like winning the lottery because I never caught a movie before so I walked the line. It went really well. I got Nonni for an Academy Award so it was. A pretty good night to start. People ask How do you get your start and I say well win the lottery. You know its a little like that. I mean I worked really hard but that first break was huge. And so Ive done since waterline Ive done 3:10 to Yuma night and day. The last Wolverine the Wolverine and this movie.

[ 00:02:32 ] So five movies for him and worked on seven of his movies you know I mean I think you answered it but I think that the idea that you know there's trust there on both sides is very helpful. I'm allowed. He he he allows me to really kind of just wait in the scenes and work them really hard which you know sometimes will put me behind camera significantly. But he understands I'm you know that's kind of my process. So he's not really pumping me for cuts so much he will if there's something that's just logistically really challenging and he needs to see whether things are being cut together or working in the cut in those situations on movies like that. I prefer to be near him. So he does come into the cutting room and see stuff really quickly. So you know in the in the production part of it it's it's just allowing me to have the timing and the and I think he understands that we share a lot of the same taste. We don't really have along a lot of conversation about it. It just seems that we kind of our line. It's one of those kind of intangible things. Can't really can't really figure why it is like they were just somehow aligned in terms of what our aesthetic is and I don't question it too much it just works really well.

[ 00:03:55 ] So well it's funny because it's it's still it's still becomes it's still an issue to this day and you know Jim is Jim has his idea of a sonic sonic landscape whether it's the temple where the final is that the sounds have to be unique they have to have their own.

[ 00:04:20 ] He doesn't like anything to be what he calls great sound just kind of something is not the find isn't sort of contributing something specific. He's his his the best way to sort of.

[ 00:04:30 ] It's a it's a conglomeration of of of specificity is what he's looking for in sound he wants specific sounds he wants unique sounds he doesn't like anything sounds library doesn't like a lot of shushing of Foley if it's not really contributing to what the scene is about in any given time so he conceives of scene he can seize a sound in a scene it's like what's it doing for that beat and then move on to the next beat of sound as opposed to just kind of layering sound across a whole scene or sequence to fill it up and needs to be and needs to be filling in a goal. Each time he hears something. So he's very specific about it so when I did this one thing on Kate and Leopold it was just a series of like simple sounds put together in a kind of rhythmic pattern.

[ 00:05:15 ] And that was really just cutting towards what David already done pictorially and it sort of just gave that scene a little pizzazz and I think he you know acknowledge that like that you know it's it's again it's kind of sequence to sequence movie in a movie.

[ 00:05:36 ] I will my preference is not see it at all until I'm done cutting it because I like to because I find that it's not something that's specific to jam.

[ 00:05:47 ] I think this is just the the what happens when you're a director is you're you know you're in shooting head you're in production headspace and production headspace is a very different place to be than when you're cutting the movie. And Jim has this great capacity to like remove himself from production and get into the full cutting once production is finished. But while he's in production he's still like hanging on to what the intent the specific. You know some sort of preconceived intent he had which is you have to walk in any scene as director having intent. And so if I start doing a lot of really cutting during production you start doing a lot of that stuff in post a lot of that work isn't really coming through because it's like we're not hanging onto it because he's he's coming at the scene from a different angle he's coming in at the scene from like whether or not he's got enough coverage is supposed to. Whether or not the scene works dramatically. And so I like to I like to get that reaction because that's where we're going to be going at the end. I don't want to be recutting recutting recutting and then trying to keep up with Dalys. So you know I'm I have progressed in this business a long way but I'm also not the fastest editor and world so I don't like to fall too far behind Cameroon's it's a little stressful. So the recutting can be a lot know kind of a recipe for falling behind.

[ 00:07:04 ] So well you know I mean certainly the photography was beautiful so to me that goes a long way towards it.

[ 00:07:18 ] But you know what Jim wants in this movie what what he was going for was this kind of dirty harry PA troubled man maybe troubled by an event but at the core of them at the core of Logan is flaws in pain pain and Pech and Paul was you know I think a caring director who found that heart of his male leads they were all very much his movies but there was something in there that was damaged and hurt. And I think that that's you know Jim's got a strong affinity for that director and for movies of that time I think that would probably answer the earlier question is like why is it that we share an aesthetic. I think I have a very strong affinity for for that work for those years for the for the 60s and 70s the pecking pause and you know the Ashby's and the John cool is and you know just those are my favorite time period in moviemaking. And so I think we would crossover there that we mesh at that point.

[ 00:08:23 ] Gemini I just think it was a it was great it was a great working environment.

[ 00:08:35 ] It wasn't just it was certainly I like to have a working environment with people that that I enjoy spending time with because you have to do so much. So I try to keep it light and try to have a good time and joke around. And we did and we had a great time doing that with and without Jim but the relationship with the studio was phenomenal and they really trusted him and really trusted the thing. This idea he had and went with it and I can't say enough about that. That is that makes it when you know they're on your side. It just makes it very very pleasant experience. It's one of the best experience I've had so it was great.

[ 00:09:18 ] Well you know I love working with music and you know I was intimidated as an assistant for a long time. So I think I got my I got baptism under fire with music when I cut a musical. The first movie I did so but I do love music and I'm always you know working with trying to find the tempo. The guy that I work for but I came up under David Brenner is very big and of like finding the tempo really early and working with music and I kind of took that lead from him and I try to do the same thing. I love working with the music editor. Music Editor I like to have come on the movie at least a month before the director comes into the cutting room so that at that point I will have some scenes that I've I've found the sound for. And then there are other scenes I haven't had a chance to and we'll sit down and we'll talk and my kind of lead with the music editor at that point is like I'm the director until the director shows up. And at that point it becomes Jim's movie but I want to put forth you know a sort of a template and an idea and a point of view in the music that supports the point of view I'm trying to give him in the movie.

Thought Gallery Channel: 
Backstage Conversation Season: 
2017

NAB Show Thought Gallery is a collection of works from today's top media and entertainment professionals.

Want to learn more? Want to be a Contributor? Find out more.

Advertisement

What are you waiting for?

Register Exhibit Sponsor