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Springfield Native Edits Feature Films

The movie Running with Scissors opens in theaters nationwide today, though it's not yet playing in Springfield. A graduate of Missouri State University and Springfield native, Byron Smith edited the film, which is already receiving a lot of Oscar buzz. KSMU's Missy Shelton recently spoke with Byron Smith about the movie...He joined her by phone from his office in California where he's working on his current project, editing the HBO series Big Love.

Shelton: What was the most difficult aspect of working on this movie?

Smith: It's a movie that started out as a small, independent feature and as the studio became more and more involved, it started turning into a bigger project and with that, a lot more expectations and a lot more responsibility.

Shelton: I should mention that since you've been in California, you've edited the television series Nip/Tuck but this is your first feature film, correct?

Smith: Yeah, this is my first feature. I'd cut Nip/Tuck for the first two seasons. After that, Ryan Murphy, the director asked me to do Running with Scissors.

Shelton: And how different is it editing a feature film versus editing a television series?

Smith: A television series, the pace and the deadlines come a lot faster. You work must faster and then you move on to another episode, where with a feature, you take a lot more time if you can. In a TV show, you have the same characters that the audience starts to become familiar with. You get to know them and things start to go together smoother and easier. So you're more familiar in the world that the TV characters are living in. Whereas if you're doing a feature, you're usually doing it for the first time so creating this whole world these character live in...a lot goes into that including the tone, the music, the feel, how the cinematographer is creating the world with light and camera placement. It takes a great deal of concentration to get it right because you've only got one shot at it.

Shelton: Explain what an editor does on a feature film and how involved you are in the creative process.

Smith: While they're shooting the movie, everyday, I get the material they shot yesterday and I start to assemble that together. I select pieces and parts of performances and put them together and I create the scene. I take a portion from one camera angle and I combine it with another portion from another camera angle that maybe they shot 10 or 15 minutes later. I put those together and make them appear as if they're happening in real time. I go about cutting scenes while the director is still shooting the movie. So, I'm his second pair of eyes and ears. I'm using my first impression to make his vision of the movie come together. Then, I show my work to him. We talk about the scene and the movie and what things are working and what things aren't working. We discuss changes that need to be made. We work together on a very intimate level creating the movie together.

Shelton: I was looking at various reviews from critics. As an editor, do you read the reviews and how do you feel about them?

Smith: I've peeked at the critics' reviews. The reviews have been mixed. And I expected that. We're not really worried about that because I went to a screening here in LA the other night. The audience was receiving it really well. I was surprised that they were receiving it better than I expected. They were laughing at the funny moments from the first shot and laughing a lot more wildly than I expected them to be. In some of the dramatic moments, they were quite moved by that. That felt really rewarding.

Shelton: There's a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this movie, particularly for the leading actress, Annette Bening. But is there any buzz surrounding you as the editor?

Smith: There's been a little bit but it's, I think only flattery. When you talk about Oscar buzz for editing, there's a certain amount of time that usually you have to spend in the industry before you get that recognition. It's very tough for a 28-year-old to get any kind of nomination such as that.