JenGe: William, I just want to let you know how thrilled I am that you
are willing to share with us your experience on Equilibrium.
Many of us fan have come to love this film so much and are
fascinated by varying as well a every perspective of
it. Thank you!!
William: You're welcome, and thank you for creating such a
JenGe: It really is all my pleasure. I'm just glad I
was in the right place at the right time to do it.
First off and purely for my own satisfaction how did you come to find
the fansite in the first place?
William: When EQ came out in theaters, I was working on
location in Marrakech, Morocco, on another project. Naturally I
was disappointed in EQ's limited release and critical savaging.
Then I got an e-mail from Ninon Tantet, our Associate Producer, linking
to a positive review by Nick Nunziata at CHUD.com, a site I hadn't
previously heard of. On the message boards there I noticed that a
certain "JenGe Chick Flick Destroyer" was especially passionate about
the film. She started a dedicated website and it became an oasis
of EQ love that provided me with encouragement while I was toiling
halfway around the world.
JenGe: I'm surprised my enthusiasm didn't scare you. I
forget people are actually reading those boards.
Are you surprised by the fan response to this film?
William: No. During our test screenings we had people
screaming and cheering, so we knew it would resonate with audiences.
JenGe: How is it that you came to work on Equilibrium?
William: Tom Rolf, the original editor, brought me on to
assist him at the beginning of the project. When it appeared that
we were winding down, he moved on to edit the John Woo film
Windtalkers. Turns out we would have quite a bit more time to
work on EQ, so Kurt grabbed me and said, "Let's continue cutting."
Walldude: You have a number of credits in your filmography
as a "lightworks editor" & an "editor." What is the
William: Lightworks is the name of a particular type of
editing software. On those "Lightworks" projects I was
responsible for the computer end of things (as opposed to the 35mm film
Walldude: How much collaboration was there? Was Wimmer
standing over your shoulder the whole time, were there studio
William: The short answer: Wimmer wasn't standing over my
shoulder the whole time. He was sitting on a couch behind me.
The long answer: On studio films, the editor cuts during
photography and is given a short period after wrap to assemble the film
alone. Then the director gets a couple of months to work with the
editor to create the Director's Cut. Then the studio gets
As a result of this process, the director and editor end up
stuck in the same room for many hours a day for months on end--so they
had better learn to collaborate. On EQ Kurt occasionally would
say, "See what you can come up with," as he did with the scene at the
end of the movie where Preston shoots up the video control room.
Almost always, though, our motto was "Let's try it"--we'd examine a
scene meticulously, cutting all kinds of versions then making tiny
adjustments until it worked perfectly. The scene where the
Sweepers catch Preston with the puppy--it seems like we spent forever
As for the studio, they pretty much left us alone and gave
us the time we needed.
NoClockThing: How do you get the source material organized
such as the different takes?
William: With lots of help--we had an assistant editor in
Berlin, Simone Hofmann, organizing hundreds of thousands of feet of
film during photography. Back in L.A. we had another great
crew--Doug Kunin, Tim Alverson, Brian Day, Brian Addie and Mark
Martin--keeping track of those miles of film as well as thousands of
versions of visual effects shots.
The job of running an editing room is somewhat like that of
a librarian--since we have to be able to locate any frame of film at
any given time, we assign a unique name and code to each take. In
the computer, we compile this information into a database.
MisterAnderson: What non-linear suite did you use to
cut the film (Avid, etc) & what were the specs of the
PC/Mac you used?
William: We cut EQ on the aforementioned Lightworks.
The version we were using operated on a DOS-based PC so ancient it had
two hamsters powering the CPU.
Walldude: Is there anything in Equilibrium that you are
particularly proud of and/or something special that we should look for?
William: I'm terribly proud of the ending gunfight in the
Hall of Mirrors (there are no mirrors, I know, but that's what it was
called in the script). There wasn't an obvious solution to that
scene and we worked at it until we found one. Then we refined it
and made it even better.
The darkroom fight at the beginning of the movie is notable
because it represents an effective collaboration between the Editorial
and Visual Effects departments. Tim McGovern, our Visual Effects
Supervisor, was able to seamlessly combine many different
live-action elements to make the scene convincing.
I think the members of this website have already uncovered
the movie's little secrets (Kurt's cameos, etc.). The only thing I can think of
that you guys might not know is about the two
Sweepers who get shot in the face in the puppy scene. For the
close-ups on their eyes we used guys from our crew, Doug and Brian
A. (Then again, maybe that's more interesting to us editing
JenGe: Were you involved in the original editing of
the Beethoven sequence to the Karajan rendition and if so how does the
current version compare?
William: It doesn't. I mean, the current version works
well in the film, but you can only go downhill after
starting with a nearly flawless musical performance. It
happens all the time in film editing, falling in love with the temp
music. In this case, the Karajan version helped us discover the
true nature of the scene, so it still served a valuable purpose despite
not ending up in the final product.
JenGe: Kurt Wimmer has a lot of praise for you on the DVD
commentary. He made the following remark, "William had the attraction of
being one of the few people who was actually an advocate of this film [whilst]
we were shooting it, and was optimistic about what this film could be.
And I promoted him, and he and I proceeded to tear this film apart
frame by frame, left no frame untouched, and I have to say it was in
that period of time that I really learned everything I know about the
character of a film as distinguished by the exterior appearance of a
film which I brought to the cutting room already. It's almost like the
difference between a beautiful woman, you see her and she's beautiful,
but then you've gotta talk to her and you gotta see what her character
is. That's what I mean by the character of the film. I learned
everything about creating the character of the film in that time, with
What was/is your response to a comment like that?
William: Uh...check's in the mail, Kurt! Or do you
Seriously, it's very important for the editor to be an
advocate for the director. We learned together, and I only
wish every job could be that educational.
Did he really say "whilst"?
JenGe: Actually no...I just checked it and it's a typo
in the transcript that has been fixed. Nice catch!!
Wimmer also makes this comment, "...
I went back in with William and recut it and you know it's really
extraordinary the alchemy of editing...juxtaposing images. We
seriously recut the scene and then played it for an audience and they
went nuts. They started applauding and it was an amazing lesson
for me and William and I applied it to everything else in the film in
terms of maximizing, you know, what we had to work with and squeezing
every last bit of audience reaction out of it.(2)"
I happen to have been one of those that went nuts in the
theater so in your experience how can the "alchemy of editing" enhance
or detract from a film?
William: Sometimes our focus is expository, such as
clarifying story points. (It's amazing how a small change can
affect the audience's perception or comprehension of certain story
points.) And sometimes it gets more grandiose, which is often
great fun. (Editing an action scene is the closest I'll come to
writing poetry.) But we're always working to find the right
balance between story and style.
And what seems like alchemy is in fact the collaboration of
people in picture (us), visual effects, sound and music. Steve
Flick and Peter Brown, our Supervising Sound Editors, and Jeffrey
Perkins and Sam Lehmer, our Sound Re-Recording Mixers, were responsible
for creating the sonic atmosphere that immerses you in the movie.
Those wonderful metallic noises and signature "zizz" shooting sounds
coming from Preston's (Brandt's?) guns? Steve created those.
As for the power of Klaus Badelt's music...judging by all
those soundtrack threads on the message boards, it seems that the
regulars here are already familiar with it.
MisterAnderson: How long did it take to cut the film
in its entirety?
William: I flew to Berlin to start work on EQ on September
11, 2000. (I know.) We finished in February of 2002.
JenGe: You have quite a number of films on your
resume. Was there anything unique about working on Equilibrium?
William: Kurt gave me my break on EQ--it was the first time
I've been fully engaged in the creative aspect of film editing at the
studio level. Because of that it remains a milestone in my career.
Walldude: In your opinion what is the best film(s) to
watch in regards to editing? JenGe: What films have most
inspired you in this field?
William: It's funny, because film editing is sometimes
referred to as "the invisible art"--when done well, you don't notice
it. I could get all intellectual and say something like
Battleship Potemkin, but really any film you enjoy you can study for
editing. In fact, sometimes you can learn more from a film you
One drawback of studying finished films is that you don't
get to see scenes not included in the final product (for a
structural/macro perspective) or where a shot goes after the cut (for
an "intra-scene"/micro perspective). For the structural
perspective, DVDs with deleted scenes are quite useful; you can usually
see why those scenes were deleted. The best "intra-scene"
-related DVD feature I've seen is on the fourth disc of The Fellowship
of the Ring (Extended Edition). There's a nifty bit called
"Editorial Demonstration: The Council of Elrond" that allows you to
view footage before and after cuts were made.
All that being said, I'm particularly inspired by Star Wars
(of course), The Killer and The Godfather. Miyazaki's work as
well. For action, almost any Jackie Chan movie.
MisterAnderson: Does the editor also cuts the
trailer for the film or is it someone else?
William: Someone else. I've been asked to assemble
informal trailers and find it difficult to switch from a story- and
continuity-based mindset to one of quick flashes and highlights.
Trailer editing is its own art and there are talented editors whose
primary job is cutting trailers.
JenGe: What are you currently working on? Can
you give us any scoops on UltraViolet without getting into trouble?
William: Unfortunately, there's a clause in my contracts for
both projects which promises grievous bodily harm if I blab.
JenGe: Was there any difference between editing
Equilibrium & editing UV?
William: More hamsters!