Saar Klein is an American film editor who has been nominated twice for Academy Awards, and who received an ACE Eddie Award for editing the latter film. Klein was born in Israel. He emigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of 10. In 1989, Klein received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Klein was offered an internship with editor Joe Hutshing on the film JFK; his first editing credit was for the 1993 film Heaven & Earth. The Thin Red Line, which was nominated for an editing Academy Award, was only his second credit as an editor. Klein shared this credit with Leslie Jones and Billy Weber; the film was directed by Terrence Malick. Klein and Joe Hutshing co-edited Almost Famous, which was directed by Cameron Crowe. Klein edited The Bourne Identity, which was the first in the series of films based on the novels of Robert Ludlum. Christopher Rouse, who worked as an additional editor on The Bourne Identity, edited the subsequent films that were directed by Paul Greengrass. Klein subsequently co-edited The New World; Malick's films have typically used several editors. Klein recently edited Jumper.
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I'm Saar Klein. I've been in the movie business for over 20 years, and finally made my first feature film with Wes Bentley, Jason Isaacs, and Vinessa Shaw - AFTER THE FALL. You can check out the trailer here and you can buy it on iTunes here - and if you happen to be in LA, it's playing for one week only starting this Saturday 12/20 at the Arena Theater in Hollywood.
You can check out the Hollywood screenings here!
I've had the good fortune to work on films like THE BOURNE IDENTITY, THE THIN RED LINE, and ALMOST FAMOUS.
Looking forward to taking your questions today - Victoria's helping me out.
Proof on my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/saar.klein.5
OK guys - thanks so much for your great questions Please go see my film After The Fall if you can. it’s hard for small films to get noticed today. If you like my past work as an editor you may enjoy is as well . If you can' get to the theater in LA this week get it on iTunes. Hope to do this again sometime!
Working with Malick. What was your first impression of him and the task in front you, when you started working on Thin Red Line?
Was there any major differences in the editing process between Thin Red Line and The New World or does he work more or less the same way each time? Is there a method to his madness?
Before I did THE THIN RED LINE, I cut a film called ENDURANCE which Malick produced.
I didn't really know who he was at the time, but then a friend of mine schooled me and forced me to watch DAYS OF HEAVEN, which blew me away.
At that point, I decided to take the job because i realized what a great opportunity it was.
He was shooting THE THIN RED LINE in Australia at the time. When I was hanging out at Warner Bros, I began to understand the mystique around Malick.
People were whispering about the fact that Malick was going to come back and work at the studio, and there was a lot of energy & excitement around the occasion.
As he returned, I was a little bit nervous. I didn't realize what an incredible opportunity I was offered when I decided to re-edit a small documentary about an Ethiopian long-distance runner.
But once I met him, he was the loveliest guy - incredibly fun-loving, and just great to hang out with.
The way that Malick works that is different than other directors is that he really treats his editors as actors. He really guides you into the philosophy of what a scene is about, what he is trying to do, in very poetic & abstract ways.
It's an incredible way to work.
And I've never experienced it with anybody else.
THE NEW WORLD was not much different than that, except he developed his way of working that way, and evolved, I guess. So I guess you could call it a method, but it's a method only he knows, and understands, and can control. It's a unique experience for an editor that I appreciate constantly.
Reading your wikipedia entry "Klein was offered an internship with editor Joe Hutshing on the film JFK (directed by Oliver Stone-1991)". That sounds like a pretty amazing break. Was that as big a deal as it seems, and how did that come about? And I guess in general how did you go about finding work as an editor?
The interesting thing about that was that I was struggling in Los Angeles for 4-5 years, doing PA work, basically just trying to find some way to feed myself.
At that point, my mom said to me "I know this really great lady and her son is a real big shot editor." Of course i thought that was a bunch of BS, I didn't want to meet or talk to my mom's friend, because that seemed incredibly pathetic, but then out of desperation, I called Joe Hutshing up because my mom's friend was his mother.
And when I showed up in an editing room in Los Angeles thinking it was going to be a waste of time, I was escorted into a large atrium. I realized I was sitting next to Randy Quaid. And then I realized that this was the real deal. And then Joe, who was cutting THE DOORS at the time - these were the days before IMDB when you can figure out what somebody was doing - Joe was the first person who was REALLY honest with me.
He told me "If you wanna get into the business you gotta get a cheap apartment and a reliable car."
Because you're going to be running around a lot, doing errands.
I took his advice and got a reliable, crappy car and a cheap apartment. And then, about 1/2 year later, he called me and asked me if I wanted to be the post-production intern on JFK.
That was a huge break for me since so many amazing editors worked on that besides Joe - Pietro Scalia, Hank Corwin, Julie Monroe... people who had such huge careers and are editing such great movies.
I put that car to use, driving around like a maniac running errands, but it was my chance to get my foot in the door, and it led to me getting a call from Joe to edit ALMOST FAMOUS with him years later.
When your mom tells you she'll connect you with somebody - don't laugh at her.
I've been a video editor my whole career, but never worked on feature films. What would you say the biggest differences in workflow between film/tv are, and what editing system do you use?
I'm not sure I can answer that, because I haven't done any TV or video, but creative skills are creative skills and they are always the same. And practical, procedural things might change in how things are done but that doesn't matter as much.
I've used Final Cut in the past, but I prefer Avid.
I hope that answers your question.
Hello, did you get to affiliate with the cast and if so how was that experience?
The experience was great. i was lucky to have great, amazing actors that are also incredibly fun to hang out with.
We were working such long hours that most of the hanging out happened on set in-between takes. These kinds of experiences shooting small films really bond people together.
Vinessa Shaw, Jason, Wes, not to mention tons of local actors from Albuquerque - many of whom you'd recognize, by the way, if you watched BREAKING BAD!
Hello! Thanks for doing this. You have quite the impressive career!
What's it like working with Terrence Malick? How exactly do you work with him? How do you work with directors in general? (Emailing back and forth, working from home, working near the director/producer/whatever).
Also, how did you get your start as an editor? And how the hell did you manage to have the Thin Red Line as your second editing credit???
Most situations you're working in an editing room with a director. Whether it's a house, or an office, or a tent, or an igloo, doesn't really matter these days, since editing systems are so portable.
Different directors work in different ways - some directors are more hands on, others pop in once in a while to give their impression.
Everything changes from project to project.
As for my credit on THE THIN RED LINE, the resume doesn't show about 10 years beforehand of struggling, and scrounging, and learning. I think it was a combination of hard work and a lot of luck that got me that huge break.
A lot of editing jobs are quite vulnerable or disappearing. Directors edit themselves on their laptops, and get PAs to do their logging etc... Is this something you are aware of? Is it a problem - that the entry for editors is kind of eroding?
I think that's happening on the small scale, for really tiny projects.
The jobs that are really threatened are assisting editing jobs, because it's becoming seemingly easier to manage an editing room. As far as editors, directors will always need editors, and I think it's a good idea to have an editor for a director - get a different perspective on the material.
Almost Famous is my favorite movie, anything interesting wind up on the cutting room floor ?
Yes. A lot ended up on the cutting room floor.
In fact, we released a longer version which was named "Untitled."
We struggled for so long with finding the name "Almost Famous" that we called it "Untitled" and then really fell in love with the name "Untitled" - so when Cameron had the chance to release a director's cut, that's what he went with. If you have the chance to see that one, it has a bunch of longer scenes. There's a lot more than that, as there always is, when you're editing the film - the next best thing would be being in the editing room and seeing the LONG-long cut.
You're in a packed parking lot and someone's just took the spot you've been waiting for...Do you confront them, let it be, or other?
Depends on whether I'm feeling peaceful that day, or full of rage.
Thanks! I have used both FCP and Avid, and Avid is also my preferred platform (especially since FCPX). Have you started working with 4k material (or 60fps)? If so, have you noticed any big differences in workflow/rendering/quality?
I'm not really qualified to answer that, although I've worked with 50FPS. I'm basically ignorant when it comes to technical matters. I trust my assistants to do all the hard lifting when it comes to that. It's a wonder I can even turn the system on.
I have heard some, including Walter Murch, talk about hopes for notation like music for film editing/scripting. What do you think of that idea? That a film's edit could be composed ahead of time based on time signatures, rhythm, etc... Could you see that working?
That sounds too precise to me.
There's an improvisational element that I love about editing. And once you get the footage, you can play a little jazz with it, and create something completely new that hopefully elevates the material beyond what the director originally imagined.
Stephen King said “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Have you found an equivalent in editing? A cut or sequence that turns out so nice and so precious, that it stands out too much and risks interfering with the film around it?
ABSOLUTELY. It's not different than writing.
In fact, it's even more mesmerizing - in filmmaking, falling in love with your "darling" is even more likely to happen. Because film is a visual art form. A beautiful shot, incredible lighting, even an amazing performance can really mesmerize you, and you really have to think to yourself - does this benefit the story as a whole?
From very painful experience.
I guess the only benefit you have in film is that perhaps, at some point, the extended DVD will come in that can include these "massacred darlings."
Hey there! Thanks for doing an AMA. What would you have done if you weren't involved in filmmaking? Do you have other passions or interests that you could see yourself pursuing day in and day out?
I love nature.
And I love the ocean.
I don't really know what i would do with that. Working on Jacques Cousteau's boats, fiddling around filming sea creatures, sounds pretty cool.
I'm unqualified to do anything but edit or direct.
From Raging Bull, to Goodfellas, and then very plainly and deliberately in The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese/Schoonmaker have shown that shot-to-shot continuity is kind of unnecessary. Blatantly ignoring it even adds a lot of energy to a scene. What do you think of it? How seriously do you worry about whether the amount of beer in a glass jumps around between shots - if the performance etc.. are on the money?
It depends on the situation.
I'm not sure that Scorsese wanted that lack of continuity - he maybe just decided that it wasn't a big deal and not as important as a certain cutting energy that he wanted to have. I think if a story really works, people are not that interested in whether a hair's out of place, or the beer in a glass doesn't match.
If a story doesn't work, I find myself panning the screen looking for lack of continuity just out of a lack of engagement.
In a really engaging film, it doesn't even matter if there's a wrist band in a shot - who cares?
But trust me, on set there's a script supervisor making sure that everything matches - even on a Scorsese film.
What was working on Bourne like?
Amazing, difficult, psychotic, enlightening... it was my first opportunity to really work alone as an editor and really create my own style.
We were also editing in Paris, which added an element of fun.
Me and Doug were both doing our first big film - it was a great opportunity to come up with something new and fresh.
What's been your favorite project to work on throughout your career? What is your least favorite part of being an editor in the film industry?
I guess my favorite project has been working as an editor on my own film AFTER THE FALL (yes, that's a blatant plug). I just care so much about it. And it's incredibly fun to be able to edit footage I actually shot.
My least favorite part of being an editor is the time. It takes an incredibly long time to edit ANYTHING.
And anything worthwhile is time consumptive. But for me, personally, who loves the outdoors - the confinement, sitting in a room for so long, sometimes gets to me.
What will you take from your recent directing experience back to the editing room? Do you think you can be objective enough of your own work when you're writer/director/editor?
I rethink what I have learned is that I need to resist cutting my next film and hire a full time editor. The need for a second pair of eyes is crucial and the need to have someone who is brutal with the footage. Also - it gives you someone to talk to : "what do are you thinking for lunch - i'm thinking the tuna... you're getting the turkey? How about we go half half?"
Any drawbacks to starting at the top? You didn't spend ten years editing corporate videos, commercials, music videos, straight-to-video stuff. You were launched pretty fast as an editor.
Well that's not accurate because all that is known of my work are the top things that are public. I started with whole bunch of other stuff: direct to video and films that never got released. They were all very useful to me, because you get better as an editor cutting poor material -- editing a perfectly directed film is much easier. That's why awards for editing are so misleading. Unless the people that vote get to see what the editor STARTED with.
Bu there probably are no drawbacks to starting at the top, except that the the fall down is much more painful. :)
Have you ever been mistaken for Woody Harrelson?
Finally a relevant question! Yes and all the time and always by TSA employees. I was recently in Marrakech for a film festival where I was approached by a Japanese actor who was convinced that i was Viggo Mortensen. HE wouldn't let it go and finally i just went with it. That was was very exciting for the sake of variety.
But Woody I hear on a daily basis.
Damn you Woody!
What parts about editing cutting film is easier/better than on a computer?
The part that you get to touch the film and be physical. When people worked on film (and really i came in at the tail end of that) they never had all these injuries that people now experience hovering over keyboards and staring at a monitors. Assistant desks where elevated so you stood up working. I edit today standing up as well -- much better.
How much of a "personal touch" can an editor leave on a film without negatively affecting the director's vision?
Filmmaking should not be about the editor or the director for that matter. Everyone on the film should be beholden to the film itself. but it is the director who ultimately is responsible for that and he/she should gauge that. But there is nothing wrong with "personal". What is missing today from many large hollywood films is personality.