‘Sicario’ editor Joe Walker on using ‘very different strategies’ to ‘manage the tension’ (Exclusive Video)

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For Joe Walker, editing “Sicario,” Denis Villeneuve‘s hit thriller about the ever-growing war on drugs at the U.S./Mexican border, presented opportunities for creative ways of working. “My strategy was really just to enjoy these dailies that I was getting from Roger Deakins, and just be really rhythmic and muscular about it,” he explains as he chats via webcam from his editing suite (watch below). “It felt like I could really sort of manage the tension with the pacing of the film and be super accurate really, sometimes using some very different strategies from what I’ve normally done.”

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One of the ways Walker approached scenes was to edit with the soundtrack muted which allowed him to better focus on the visuals. “That was a conversation with Denis where, in fact, the first time we met, I talked to him about working with music, and that I was getting sick of temp tracks,” referring to the temporary soundtracks oftentimes employed to assist during the editing process before an original score is composed. “I’ve found it forces composers to create unoriginal music, and also it’s a big energy-sapping thing.”

With his background in music and sound, Walker admits, “I can waste so much time doing temporary things, and fundamentally know in a cut whether the tension in a film is successful because it’s successful, and whether it’s being propped up by various things like the propulsive rhythm of music. If you can create an almost silent movie that works, then you know that you can build from that, and you can let out the air a little bit and allow music to have a feature in it.”

Walker earned an Oscar nomination for his work on the 2013 Best Picture champ “12 Years a Slave.” That marked his third collaboration with director Steve McQueen after 2008’s “Hunger” (Evening Standard Film Awards nomination) and “Shame,” which won him a European Film Award in 2011.  

Watch our full interview below for more about his work on “Sicario” and then make your Oscar predictions for Best Film Editing using our easy drag-and-drop menu.

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Photo Credit: Lionsgate

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