“The shots had to work for the edit as much as the edit had to work for the shots,” says editor Paul Machliss.
When editor Paul Machliss was on location cutting Edgar Wright’s high-octane Baby Driver, it was probably “the only time you had to wear a safety jacket while editing,” he says, joking, “though I always said editing is a very dangerous business.”
The hit film follows getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort), who regularly plays music in his earbuds to drown out his tinnitus — and the result is a meticulously choreographed tour de force of picture and sound.
“It’s such a big mix of music and action, and so many things were required to fall on the beat and interlock with other elements. Edgar said, ‘I think we are going to need you out here every day,'” explains Machliss, who cut the film with Jonathan Amos. “So my cutting room became a portable sort-of editing trolly — a magliner with a laptop, monitor and some storage and a connection to video assist. And for the assemble, that’s how the film was put together.”
“Sometimes it actually become necessary to edit on the move,” he adds. “I’d be in a command vehicle, with a safety jacket and a laptop strapped to an apple crate. I was sitting next to Edgar, and we were dropping shots in as we filmed them around downtown Atlanta.” Once production wrapped, the final cut was carefully refined during postproduction.
Reflecting on the film, Machliss says that collaboration between production, including cinematographer Bill Pope, and postproduction was “the most enjoyable aspect — how one informed the other. The shots had to work for the edit as much as the edit had to work for the shots. And it’s interesting photographically, but it always pushes the story forward. That was a testament to Edgar’s work.”
All the music had to be cleared before shooting began. “I had every track on the Avid. Sometimes I had animatics attached to it; we did an animatic of the entire film with the correct music,” Machliss recounts. The music was also playing on set or in earbuds, for the actors to perform against.
Machliss describes how each image was used in the storytelling — for instance, to help the audience maintain the sense of geography or understand the characters.
“Every steer of the wheel or pump of the brake is there to tell a story,” Machliss says. “You get a sense of where they are going, why, and how all of the protagonists in the car are involved…there’s a lot you can read into a character in the way they react.”