‘Joy’ editors Jay Cassidy and Alan Baumgarten on finding balance between comedy and drama (Podcast)

Jay Cassidy and Alan Baumgarten make up half of the team that edited David O. Russell’s “Joy,” alongside last year’s Oscar winner Tom Cross (“Whiplash”) and past nominee Christopher Tellefsen (“Moneyball”). “The fact that there ended up being four of us was more of a situation of many moving schedules,” reveals Cassidy in our recent audio chat (listen below).

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As he explains, “From this sort of conflicting schedule thing, we all ended up working together, for about two months in June and July, which was really interesting, and really fertile because it gave David a lot of reign to try a lot of different things at time when he could because he had the time. Whenever you’re doing the multiple editor situation, the personalities determine how it works and whether it works well, and I think our situation worked very well, and we only benefited by the group focus when we had the group.”

Russell’s films have always walked a tight-rope between comedy and drama. “Joy,” the story of a woman’s (Jennifer Lawrence) struggle to form her own business, is no different. When it came to balancing the tone, Cassidy explains, “I think that balance comes from life. There was never an attempt to make comic scenes, and never an attempt to make serious scenes. There’s always an attempt to make real scenes, and if the behavior is real, sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s heartbreaking.”

He credits his director, saying, “that’s always been his approach to it. He doesn’t do broad, flat comeyd but he does do human comedy. So my sort of working assumption was, if you keep it real, it can be funny or it can be serious.”

Adds Baumgarten, “The comedic and dramatic elements are just apart of telling the story. That’s how David writes his scripts, and how the actors perform the scenes. It has to be real and natural. No comedic moment or serious, dramatic moment would make it into the film just because it was a moment that had humor or drama if it wasn’t necessary or important or worth having as apart of the bigger scene in the film itself. We don’t sort of think in isolation about the film: to hit a dramatic or comedic piece it has to be apart of what we’re doing.”

Cassidy and Baumgarten, along with Crispen Struthers, earned Oscar nominations for “American Hustle,” and Cassidy has also been nominated for his work on “Into the Wild” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Both “Silver Linings” and “American Hustle” took the American Cinema Editors prize in the Musical/Comedy category. 

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“Joy” photo credit: Fox

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