Jabez Olssen interview: ‘The Beatles: Get Back’ editor
Jabez Olssen, the editor of the recent documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back,” says that main culprit behind the decision to make each episode of the docuseries over two hours long. “Originally we were going to release in a cinema, which would have given us a definite running time that we couldn’t go over,” he tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). If they had gone to theaters, the whole thing probably wouldn’t have been more than two-and-a-half hours long meaning only about five minutes of each day of footage would be able to be used. Once the pandemic happened, the move to a streaming platform helped bring about the format for the release. “Once that decision was made, the running time becomes slightly less important. There was so much good material and it would have been hard to tell the story in a more compact, shorter form.”
“The Beatles: Get Back,” which is currently available to stream on Disney+, is a three part documentary directed by Peter Jackson made up of previously unseen footage of the legendary band. The footage was shot during January of 1969 when the band was writing, rehearsing and performing songs that would eventually be on their final album, “Let it Be.” The footage culminates in the group’s infamous rooftop concert on Saville Row in London.
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Olssen’s relationship to the music of The Beatles is very obvious as a big picture of the band’s characters from the animated “Yellow Submarine” film hung behind him. “It was a great thrill to work on this. The Beatles have always been my favorite band.” He was worried that working so long on a project with their music would lead to the same thing that happened with “The Lord of the Rings” while he helping to edit those movies. “I haven’t read them again since, so I was a bit worried that was going to happen with The Beatles, but it hasn’t. I can still put on an album.”
Initially, the process of collaborating with the sound department was very separate but that took a dramatic turn in the later half of the editing process. “What happened was the very late in the process development of the machine learning and artificial intelligence work on being able to de-mix…which allowed us to separate background noise from conversations and split out the instruments.” This led to material that had been previously discarded to make its way back into the fold. “Because of this machine learning breakthrough, it did become a bit of a loop and that was quite unusual and quite late in the process.”