In this excerpt from the new ebook Tour of Memories, Helle Le Fevre discusses editing The Souvenir, her evolving collaboration with Joanna Hogg since Unrelated, working with improvised material, and collaborating with the sound team. To read the full interview, get your copy of Tour of Memories: The Creative Process Behind Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir now.
An evolving collaboration in the editing room from Unrelated to The Souvenir
Editor Helle le Fevre has worked with Joanna Hogg since Hogg’s first feature, Unrelated. Although le Fevre was only brought on as editor of Unrelated after the shooting was complete, starting with Archipelago, their second collaboration, le Fevre has been much more intrinsically involved with the whole process of making the film. Her work now begins as soon as the first rushes come in.
“During the shoot, we will talk maybe once a week for about an hour and discuss the week’s rushes. Joanna is so busy when she shoots; she’s developing at the same time. On The Souvenir, we would talk every other Sunday.” By beginning the edit during the shoot, le Fevre can spot gaps in coverage, which Hogg can quickly move to fix on set. “We would call if something was wrong or something was missing. For example, they might need one more scene where Anthony’s (Tom Burke) borrowing money off of [Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne)].”
To maintain her outsider perspective in the edit, le Fevre deliberately keeps her distance from the set and Hogg’s filming process. “I work from the cutting room. I don’t go on set, and I don’t need anybody in the cutting room. I’m as far away as possible from the set, because then I see everything fresh.”
On each film, Hogg and le Fevre relearn how to approach the edit. “I can remember when [Joanna and I] started Archipelago like, ‘’Now we know how to do this,’ because we had done Unrelated. But then, when [we sat] down with Archipelago, it’s a totally different being. It’s like the formula you thought you knew, you’ve already used up… every time you sit down, you need to reinvent your method.”
Their decade-plus collaboration rests on a foundation of mutual understanding and synergy. Le Fevre understands how to edit Hogg’s films because she understands what stories Hogg is trying to tell. “I’m always trying to find out what’s going on behind the words,” le Fevre mused, summing up what makes Hogg’s films so perceptive.
“She’s just very good at finding uncomfortable situations,” le Fevre continued. “Quite often, dinners are uncomfortable, in some way. She has a good eye for all these details. It’s designed to bring across how other characters are feeling in this situation through some other method than words. How you do that depends a little bit on the scene and who are you most interested in at this point in the film. Who is the most important [character] to understand at this point in the film? And in The Souvenir, most often, it’s Julie, no?”
Helle Le Fevre on cutting together improvised material in The Souvenir
Hogg’s heavily improvised films can pose editing challenges in the cutting room. Every day, Helle le Fevre receives new rushes and has to piece them together without a traditional script to use as a roadmap. Instead, Hogg provides le Fevre (and the rest of the team) with a rough outline of what she envisions the film to be. “I read the story document. It’s pages that are kind of a map that gives me insight into the characters. I get to know their thoughts. They’re really lovely, these documents. They have small images. There’ll also be a little poem which gets me closer to what she’s thinking.”
Fortunately, because Hogg shoots in sequence, le Fevre receives rushes in chronological order meaning she feels like she is watching a narrative unfold in real time; she is constantly left guessing where the story will go next. Each day’s rushes are unpredictable and thrilling: the on-set cast and crew try out different versions of events, and le Fevre watches them all, wondering which threads will be followed to completion. “[Joanna] improvises a lot. You experience the film in many versions because it could unfold like this, or it could unfold like this.”
Hogg’s improvisatory process provides le Fevre with “a lot of choice. You can notice very different bits, which are interesting. Sometimes, you try out different versions of that scene. [Choosing which take to use] always depends on how this scene balances against the other scenes. It slowly finds its own rhythm.”
To read the rest of the interview, get your copy of the book Tour of Memories here.
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