A special language is essential for an editor in forging a creative bond with a director and repeatedly ushering their vision from the printed page to the big screen. William Hoy has been able to develop such a language with director Zack Snyder over his last three features.
"When I first started working with Zack, especially on '300' there was a lot of speed ramping, it was kind of the signature of the movie, and I thought, if we don't see eye to eye, this is going to take forever," said Hoy. "Thankfully he liked a lot of the things that I did, and we actually created a certain language that he liked, so those decisions are a lot easier now."
While Hoy has developed strong relationships with a number of directors, he enjoys working with Snyder because of his strong visual style and his fearlessness in taking chances. After working with Snyder on his first two graphic novel adaptations, "300" and "Watchmen," Hoy was excited when Snyder approached him with a treatment for "Sucker Punch."
"This is the first project that I've worked with him that is entirely from his own imagination," said Hoy. "There are so many little tidbits that really tie together, that is one of the things that really drew me to it. Ultimately we felt very free to play with this story as we went on, because it wasn't from an original source."
The story involves a young woman who attempts to escape her reality by venturing into a number of fantasy landscapes. While Hoy approached his editing duties as he would any other project, first by reading the script and offering the director comments pertaining to the story – is it grounded, will there be a climax at the end, are the characters properly emphasized – he chose to stay a bit closer to camera than he normally would to ensure proper material would be present in editing the various realities.
"I wanted to have the scenes pretty much the way I thought they would play in and out because there were so many complicated transitions from the different realities," said Hoy. "Zack had a very definitive idea of the look of each fantasy world. The fantasies were shot in different frame rates and in different styles, so each world would be quite separate in the viewers' minds."
In addition to the various visual cues that clearly defined the alternate worlds, Hoy also included distinct transitions for each entrance and exit the characters made from the fantasy worlds, as well as sound effects and music mash-ups that alerted viewers to these shifts. What proved most challenging within these scenes were the large amount of action sequences
"I think one of the challenges is to keep involved in the character as you are going through the action," said Hoy. "You can watch it and say 'I don't really care about this person,' then your tendency is to not to care about the actual action scene that you are watching."
Additionally, Hoy edited each action sequence with a slight difference to avoid allowing the action to appear repetitive and stale. Snyder outlined the look he wanted with each action scene; some were more frantic, while others were meant to appear like one long take. These types of shots provide the greatest amount of challenge to Hoy.
"Zack likes to use a lot of high speed cameras, and in doing that there is a lot of speed ramping, within the shots itself," said Hoy. "It is such a signature of Zack Snyder. He'll shoot between 50 and 300 frames per a second and then it's up to me to ramp that – to find the areas where I think the motion should speed up so you almost don't see the motion, and then slow it down and see the actual impact and the actual jump. Within each cut, there is a lot of decision making. That one cut might take hours and hours of experimenting."
While ensuring the visual details are providing the desired affect, Hoy is also devoted to maintaining and enhancing character development through the story's progression. Once principle photography was completed on "Sucker Punch," Hoy assembled a rough cut he watched with Snyder to ensure characters were developed properly. If a character appeared bitter or angry at a point that was not intended, revisions in other scenes occurred to either remove the hostile edge, or clearly illustrate why that edge appeared.
"Those are all the things you only know once you get the picture in one piece, because a scene might be working, but sometimes you just have to let go of what we love within a scene for the good of the whole picture," said Hoy.
One of Hoy's favorite scenes to edit was, in fact, one such scene removed for the good of the feature.
"There was a huge musical number in the middle of the picture, and we moved it around and tried to find a place for it" said Hoy. "It appears in the end credits now in just bits and pieces. It gave me the opportunity to cut a musical number, and I was very happy with the way it came out. Unfortunate it made the second world not very oppressing, so we felt we had to take that scene out."
While Hoy looks forward to working with Snyder in the future, his next project, "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" will keep him busy for the next nine months.
"I am reading the real biography of Abraham Lincoln and it is so interesting regarding what was happening with this country at that time. 'Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’ is about all these dark forces that he had to deal with – it is an interesting metaphor so I'm very excited,” said Hoy. “Unfortunately the schedule may not allow me to work with Zack for a while but I've been very fortunate to have our schedules line up for past projects. I love him, and he's like family and I'm going to miss him."