mat newman shaping only god forgives 1

Mat Newman: Shaping Only God Forgives

Mat Newman: Shaping Only God Forgives

Having worked on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson, Drive and Only God Forgives, editor Mat Newman has developed a unique style all of his own. Here, he tells movieScope why he relishes bringing such creative visions to life.

Only God Forgives has a very unique look, like most of Refn’s work. What was the editing process like?
This edit was very hard. On other films the editing room was very social; there was always a conversation around the film, which is really important. On this, I was on my own for a long time because Nic was making commercials. My first cut was 140 minutes, which is tight for a first cut, and then we just sat down and worked it.

A lot of directors pride themselves on 50 different angles a day; they want to do a lot of coverage and create a lot of options, before choosing the right one in the editing suite. Nic’s theory is narrow and deep. He’ll shoot a scene from five angles but he’ll do each angle 20 times. So, as an editor, you have a lot of time, but not much choice. It means you can’t do something clever in the edit; Nic’s already done that. It was a case of sitting there and finding those moments. I think Nic was concerned about the shape of it, because there’s very little plot, and dialogue is said very quickly in scenes, with a lot of space in between. But we got there.

How has your working relationship with Refn developed since Bronson?
You have to be bold with a director. Nick’s a very brave director; he makes strong choices and he doesn’t do anything by half and he’s very deliberate. Once he decides to go down a path, he goes all the way down it. That’s emboldening to the people around him; he lets his crew know we’re not doing the same old thing, he lets you go further in your own work and he pushes you to have a choice. He wants to see what everyone can bring to the table, and then he’ll decide what he wants. He doesn’t prescribe things, he lets you make you offers and he brings you out of yourself. I throw everything at Nick’s films, some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t, but what he likes is the fact he had a lot to choose from.

[As an editor], you have to offer the director a shape to a movie. You have to make the film play; so you’re constantly asking yourself “Where do I get bored? Is it coherent? Is it digestible?” That’s mostly technical decisions made to serve the material, and knowing – always – what the intention of the material is.

Only God Forgives opens in UK cinemas on August 2

Read the full article in movieScope magazine, Issue 35 (July/August2013)