They say a film gets written three times: once in the screenplay, once on set, and then one last time in the editing room. Over the course of more than seven months, Ton Do-Nguyen, famous for editing (and starring in) a certain viral video in high school, worked on turning the hours of 4K footage shot into a 16 minute film.
1. What drew you to this project?
Originally, I was attached to the project as a script supervisor. I absolutely love Austin and really loved his past work (Jordan Presents) so I knew this project was about to be a great one. Being on set was so much fun, and there was a moment on the first night of shooting with the UFO encounter, I just thought to myself, “Oh snap, he’s onto something.” When I got word on set that they still needed an editor, I had to hop on.
2. What was your process for editing this film?
Editing this film was such a fun and collaborative process. Let’s be real — it was literally just months of Austin and I hanging out with food while being super productive. I brought my sauce and Austin brought incredible precision and meticulousness to bringing this vision to life.
3. How did your musical background aid in editing this film?
Going into this project, I have had extensive experience working in music videos. When you’re dealing with music, so much of the video’s excitement is dependent on allowing the rhythm of the cuts to swell along with the rhythm of the music. Although I was dealing with a different medium here — a narrative sci-fi short film — I wanted to bring that same energy to this film and allow the editing to carry the action and excitement of the film. Especially as an homage to the action- and score-heavy Spielberg films we both grew up loving, we knew this film had to swell like one.
4. What were some changes that you made in editing that you feel improved the film?
There were some points in the editing where we had to cut out certain sections to keep the film moving along. For example, there was a whole gag that was set up in the flashback scene in the beginning that was omitted, as well as whole chunks of dialogue throughout the film — specifically the beginning conversation between Greg and Julia as well as the conversation between Greg and Stevie right after they see the UFO.
5. The first cut of the film was 25 minutes long. What was the most difficult thing to cut from the film in order to get it down to time?
Our first cut was a whole 25 minutes. It’s hard because you see the charm in everything that is presented to you, especially with the dialogue in the scenes. But as an editor, you have to step back and look at the grand scheme of the film to see what is necessary to keep the momentum of the film pushing along and what scenes are dragging in relation to the rest of the film.
6. What was your favorite sequence to edit?
My favorite sequence to edit was hands down the point in the film where chaos just breaks loose at Stevie and Julia’s place. There was so much coverage to play around with in that scene with the camera snapping away, the lights all flickering, the Operation game popping off. It’s such an exciting high point in the film and it was super fun to channel the swelling energy into the editing to capture the magic of that sequence. My honorable mention is the UFO sequence. It’s just such a gorgeous set piece!
7. What was the most difficult sequence to edit?
The most difficult sequence to edit was the beginning of the film. We went through a lot of drafts trying to figure out this beginning sequence, mainly because of two obstacles. One, how do we find a proper balance between the conversation between Greg and Julia and the flashback? In some drafts, the flashback just dragged or felt awkward plopped into the film where it was. In some drafts, that conversation was just too much. Two, how do we get to the action already? You want to be able to get through the exposition properly while still pushing the film along to the exciting action sequences.