Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker marks the first time director J.J. Abrams has finished a property he has helped start. It’s also the first of his movies to be edited on set.
Abrams’ long-time editor Maryann Brandon recently told Express that she cut most of the upcoming Star Wars movie while it was being shot — something The Force Awakens director has never done before:
“When we did The Force Awakens, we started in May and we finished shooting in October, and we were out [the following] Christmas,” Brandon said. “For [Skywalker], we didn’t start until August, so we weren’t done until February shooting — so we have four months less time, and it’s a very big film. So I convinced J.J. to let me cut on the set. He was like, ‘No, we never do that.’”
The finale to the Skywalker saga’s compressed production and post-production schedule lead to Abrams having to work outside his comfort zone in order to help ensure the movie be completed on time. The decision to edit this way ultimately proved to be a blessing for both Brandon and Abrams:
“I had the [director of photography] right there to ask questions,” Brandon explained. “If I needed a shot, or if J.J. decided we needed another shot, we would set up in a corner and get a green screen shot of something. Getting to know the cast and having them be comfortable with me, it was a really great way to understand what they were going through.”
This editing process is highly unusual, but it does have its benefits as Brandon pointed out. On a production as massive as this one, the filmmakers can see in virtually real-time what is working, what can work better, what they have, and what they still need as the assembly cut is put together. The process is also helpful when it comes to scheduling the inevitable reshoots.
We’ll see how it all comes together when The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters December 20, 2019. And dollars-to-donuts, fans will see new footage before that at D23 in August.