Kirk Baxter interview: ‘Mank’ editor
“It doesn’t matter what the intention was; it only matters what was captured,” muses two-time Oscar winner Kirk Baxter at the end of his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about editing “Mank” (watch the video above). Baxter and former editing partner Angus Wall are the only in Oscar history to win consecutively for Best Film Editing, which they did for 2010’s “The Social Network” and 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” both under David Fincher. Baxter is currently nominated for a Critics Choice Award for “Mank,” his eighth collaboration with the director.
Fincher is noted for shooting far more takes than is standard, but Baxter is quick to clarify, “I always try to correct this extensive-take opinion on David — it’s extensive coverage. He gets a lot of angles for scenes and within those angles, actors will be repeating their performance because there’s multiple takes required, due to all the angles. And all the angles is what makes films exciting to watch and certainly exciting to make.” He elaborates, “You’ve got the depth of the amount of takes and you’ve got the coverage to make sure that from the beginning to the end of the scene, you are using the prime.”
Baxter as such does not consistently favor later takes over earlier ones. He explains, “It’s not really picking a performance that’s going to work from the start to the end. The whole nature of film editing is dissecting these things into little pieces and judging each delivery for a scene and by getting lots of angles, you’re able to maneuver through a performance.”
“There was a whole opening scene that we put together of when Mank and his brother were little kids that was prior to the title sequence,” reveals Baxter about major cuts to the narrative in post-production. Although acknowledging that “each day comes with 500 decisions,” Baxter also highlights Orson Welles‘s final appearance in the film as a one of the more blatant revisions that he made. Baxter explains, “I campaigned to get that out and then it was David’s idea to bring it back, but just as audio only and to play it on black, which I really enjoyed.”