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“My Techniques Are Intuitive”: Editors Marc Boucrot and Jacqueline Castel on My Animal

Two girls stand with their faces inches apart, completed drenched in red light.My Animal, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Lycanthropy serves as a metaphor for burgeoning queer desire in My Animal from director Jacqueline Castel. Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) is a benchwarmer on her local hockey team and deals with an alcoholic mother at home. Adding to her misery is the fact that she’s confined to her quarters during each full moon due to a dangerous transformation occurring within her. She finally finds a salve in Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), a figure skater who recently moved to town. Desperate to flee from her myriad problems, Heather hopes that Jonny will join her on the journey to society’s outskirts. 

Edited by Castel and frequent Gaspar Noé collaborator Marc Boucrot, the duo recount how they approached cutting the film.

See all responses to our annual Sundance editor interviews here.

Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the editor of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job?

Boucrot: Jacqueline Castel, the director of My Animal, was looking for an editor in Montréal, and I have been based here for the last 12 years. I think she chose me because she knows Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and liked his movie A Prayer Before Dawn which I edited, and also because I’m a long-time collaborator of Gaspar Noé (since the late ‘90s in Paris).

Castel: Marc was one of the first crew I locked on My Animal, when we were still a Québec-Belgian international co-production and I had certain hiring requirements. I called up Jean-Stéphane, who I had met in NYC while working with the actor Caleb Landry Jones on a project, and he gave me a great recommendation to work with Marc. I liked that Marc had worked with auteur driven directors, to me it’s a mark of not only a trustworthy person, but one of serious value and quality. When the project switched to an Ontario production, I fought very hard to keep Marc onboard the project, and he is the only Québec-based crew I was able to keep. 

Filmmaker: In terms of advancing your film from its earliest assembly to your final cut, what were goals as an editor? What elements of the film did you want to enhance, or preserve, or tease out or totally reshape?

Boucrot: First of all, it is not “my film.” As an editor, I’m one of the closest collaborators of the director, and my job is to help to tell the story the way Jacqueline wants to tell it. My goals are always the same: Make the story consistent, be truthful to the characters, create strong emotions, and maintain a rhythm that keeps the audience engaged. That is what I aim to reach by cutting and recutting the scenes. It’s quite a long process: 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 24 weeks. More than 2 years for Enter the Void. Despite the effort I put in the movie, it stays the director’s movie, even if there is a kind of appropriation when you work hard on it.

Filmmaker: How did you achieve these goals? What types of editing techniques, or processes, or feedback screenings allowed this work to occur?

Boucrot: My techniques are intuitive. Only rhythm, feelings and respect for the characters, for the story, and for the audience matter. 

Filmmaker: As an editor, how did you come up in the business, and what influences have affected your work?

Boucrot: As a child my first passion was cinema. I used to be a musician in Paris in the ‘90s. Then after studying sound engineering I ended up as an Avid and ProTools technician in a film post-production company in the late 90’s. Gaspar Noé was editing I Stand Alone by himself night and day and often needed my technical support, and then he asked me to collaborate on Irreversible. Since then I have participated in all of his movies as an editor or colorist. He gave me the chance and the confidence to be an editor.

Filmmaker: What editing system did you use, and why?

Boucrot: Despite knowing Avid Software very well for a long time, DaVinci Resolve is today maybe the best software for editing, it’s intuitive and friendly. I’ve edited my last 3 last feature films on Resolve, then the work during editing like reframing, color grading and stabilizing can go directly to the DI project like we did for My Animal.

Filmmaker: What was the most difficult scene to cut and why? And how did you do it?

Boucrot: Editing a movie is struggling with almost all of the scenes…it is the process, I think.

Filmmaker: What role did VFX work, or compositing, or other post-production techniques play in terms of the final edit? (Feel free to ignore this question if it’s not applicable.)

Castel: While the VFX is somewhat minimal in My Animal, it played a significant role in how the final edit was approached. There were certain techniques that needed to play on screen longer than you would normally cut the scene with, for example, so that was more challenging to cut around before you’ve actually seen the effects work. In an ideal world, you would be able to see earlier drafts of an effect before finalizing a scene, but we didn’t have that luxury given the timelines involved. The real game changer with the final edit was moving to Resolve 18.1 and utilizing cloud synchronization to work collaboratively across multiple teams once we were picture locked. It was pretty incredible that our post producer JP Castel could be throwing VFXs updates into Reel 1 in Los Angeles while the team in Toronto was coloring Reel 3 in a DI suite. With such a tight post schedule to meet our Sundance deadline, we couldn’t have made the film without this feature. 

Filmmaker: Finally, now that the process is over, what new meanings has the film taken on for you? What did you discover in the footage that you might not have seen initially, and how does your final understanding of the film differ from the understanding that you began with?

Boucrot: When you build the story from the footage, you don’t presume anything, you know you have to wait after several cuts to see the right movie. Heather seems more like a werewolf now…and Jonny and Heather’s relationship is very touching, seeing the characters taking on a life of their own, knowing them very well, like family. The best is to watch the movie with the sound mix and color grading in a theater at a festival with an audience. It’s always a strong emotional experience, feeling the audience’s reactions to the work.

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