Roslyn Kalloo and Chris Donaldson interview: ‘Women Talking’ editors
“I found it very boldly feminist and incredibly moving, and I knew it was going to be in [writer-director Sarah Polley‘s] hands a really great, special film,” says editor Roslyn Kalloo about working on the film “Women Talking.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Kalloo and her fellow editor Chris Donaldson above.
“Women Talking” tells the story of a group of women who debate their next course of action after discovering that they have been repeatedly assaulted by the men of their Mennonite community. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews that takes place almost entirely in the hayloft where the women’s discussion takes place. “It was amazing to read how Sarah had expanded the world, and had expanded the vision of the novel into the film,” Donaldson remembers. “That was really exciting, because she managed to lift, from a very dense novel and basically one location, an entire cinematic world.”
Among the biggest challenges during the editing process was incorporating one major change that “transformed” the entire film. Like the book, the film was originally intended to be narrated by August (Ben Whishaw), a former member of the community who is brought back to record the women’s deliberations. But in post-production that was changed to Autje (Kate Hallett), a girl who is present for the debate. “All of a sudden, you are seeing the film through a new lens, through a new point of view,” Donaldson explains. So they constructed a new beginning “entirely through material from other scenes” and applied a “new prism for how the last scenes were being presented … Essentially, we were taking material from everywhere to illustrate and ground this new voice.”
Another challenge was the volume of footage produced when you’re “tracking 10 stellar performances in a two-hour conversation in a single location,” Kalloo points out. “One day I had about 11 hours of footage, because it was a 10-minute scene that they were running, and they didn’t want to interrupt it for the flow of performance … So yeah, that was one of my biggest challenges was going through and crafting the performance with Sarah.” All that work led to a “gratifying” finished product. “The film has such an optimistic, hopeful stance … and if it pushes that conversation forward, and if audiences are embracing it and moved by it and talking about it afterwards, I see that as an extreme success.”