‘Scare Me’ pushes the boundaries of horror anthology
Image Source: Patrick Lawrence
By Adobe Communications Team
Posted on 11-30-2020
Shudder’s new horror flick Scare Me goes beyond previous horror anthology films with its storytelling, which creates an imaginative and interactive audience experience. The primary story arc follows two main characters, Fanny and Fred, who tell each other frightening stories at a cabin in the woods. The film is unique in that it never strays from these two characters to tell the short stories within, including the use of impressions, impersonations, and sound effects to draw the audience in and unveil the overall plot slowly with each short story.
We sat down with the film’s editor, Patrick Lawrence, to discuss his editing techniques, challenges he overcame, and how his inspiration from those who “dare to be different” influenced his choice to take on Scare Me.
How and where did you first learn to edit?
I began film studies back in 2002 at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. Back then, we were still learning about film production by shooting and editing with 16mm film stock. So, I learned to not only shoot on film, but also how to linear edit by splicing clips together on a flatbed Steenbeck editor. At the same time, I began taking a video production course to help satisfy some credits, it was in that class that I learned about the oncoming digital cinema revolution (this was circa 2003), and non-linear editing through ingesting/digitizing DV tape and applying what I learned on the Steenbeck digitally in Adobe Premiere.
Prior to this I had strictly wanted to be a director, but the ability to make important structural and narrative decisions in the edit fascinated me. It made me realize that editing could be an extension of directing, and that I could have just as big of an impact on the story being told as the director trying to tell it.
How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?
The process of beginning a project starts with familiarizing myself with the source material. Most of the time that begins with the script, which I mark up in real time on my initial read through. I find that this allows me to really hyper focus on not only the characters, but also potential camera angles, sound effects and reactions that will help me when compiling my assembly cut. After my script is marked up, I keep it open in PDF form on either my iPad or my MacBook Pro, in the same way some editors use paper scripts propped up on music stands, it serves as the blueprint to my editor’s cut.
It’s equally important to meet with the director, and mine as much information as you can about their vision before beginning your work on it. I always try to approach my editor’s cuts as not being influenced by anything that might have happened during production, and free from any of the misgivings that might be tormenting the director. In my head, I like to approach the first cut as though I was an audience member: Everything is new. If it doesn’t make sense to me as an objective observer, how will it make sense to the audience? And that is where you begin to peel back the layers of the film and sculpt it into something that works for everybody involved (the director, the audience, and yourself).
Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.
One of my favorite scenes in Scare Me is towards the beginning, where we first see Fred (played by Josh Ruben) manipulate sound and space to create a real-life monster inside of his mind. He breaks from eating his TV dinner and stares blankly at a cellar door 10 feet away. As the camera creeps in slowly towards the door, we hear a low pounding as if someone on the other side is trying to bust through. And as the camera gets closer and closer to the doorknob, we spin around to reveal Fred (still sitting at the table) making these terrifying sounds with his mouth.
To me this was the epitome of what Scare Me is all about: Three actors taking storytelling back to its most primal form, and this was the scene that got me the most excited about working on this film.
What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?
The greatest hurdle we dealt with on Scare Me was how to trim the film down from two hours and 10 mins to a more manageable 104 mins. The issue with this was we have five complete scary stories being told in a linear and continuous narrative, making it very difficult to lift or eliminate any problematic scenes.
Unfortunately, we ran into just that issue when one of the stories in the film was just not working for our test screenings… and lifting it all together would not make sense for the narrative progression of the film.
Josh Ruben (director) and I were forced to roll up our sleeves and get creative with how we presented this story in order to keep it in the film, while still cutting it down from its original 11-minute run time.
I suggested using the erratic emotions of our characters to motivate faster cuts, with no real linear path for the story to be told, while at the same time using an eerie piece of score to turn the story into a montage/recap so that the audience could pick up the finer beats of the scene, without having to sit through the entire thing.
The end result is one of the funniest scenes in the entire film, and our follow up test audiences absolutely loved it. It even got a special shout out during the Q&A at Sundance this past year.
What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were they the best choice for this project?
Premiere has been my tried-and-true editing platform for the last eight years. I float back and forth between Avid and Premiere, depending on the needs of a particular project, but the muscle memory and symbiotic relationship I have with Premiere really shows in the speediness of my workflow. I am fortunate to have had six films premiere at the Sundance Film Festival since 2016 and all of them were edited using Adobe Premiere.
For Scare Me, I utilized Creative Cloud’s ability to manipulate clips in real time by bridging my temp sound design with Adobe Audition and making quick visual effects edits with Adobe After Effects. For example, in our “Grandpa” story, Aya Cash transforms her voice line by line to mimic an elderly Slavic Grandfather, a young girl and a zombie dog named “Rover.” In the edit, I was able to pitch shift Aya’s voice to make her sound even more demented (and sometime demonic) by connecting my audio with Audition, making the appropriate adjustments and then with one click automatically saving said adjustments in my Premiere timeline.
What do you like about Premiere Pro, and/or any of the other tools you used?
Premiere Pro’s ability to work natively with multiple media formats has always been one of the main reasons I prefer to edit with it. Every project varies with what type of media is going to be thrown at you by production and having the technology to import any format is not only a life saver, but extremely time sensitive as well.
Another great new feature in Adobe Premiere was the Freeform Viewer which allows me to organize my scene bins by take and map out the progression of the scene by grouping similar angles together, further helping me visualize the first cut before I even begin to edit.
What’s your hidden gem/favorite workflow hack in Adobe Creative Cloud?
I don’t fancy myself as a colorist, but I have gotten pretty dangerous with the Lumetri Color panel. It gives me so many options to dial in, not only a fresh grade from Raw footage, but also matching back to a LUT or a specific tone/feel. In the past when we were forced to say, “just imagine that this will look like this in Color,” I can now do in a matter of seconds, giving the director an in-edit grade that better matches their vision in earlier cuts.
Who is your creative inspiration and why?
I get inspired by people who dare to be different… People who take chances. Prince, Bowie, Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, the list goes on… If you are the type of soul who loves to stand out in the crowd, then you are a friend of mine. I don’t like making stories for the status quo, and I love a good challenge… That is exactly why I wanted to work on Scare Me. It was unlike any script I had every read before. The scenes practically leaped off the page to the point where the film I saw in my head came to life before my eyes in the edit. I commend Josh Ruben for having the guts to do something extraordinary: Subverting the horror genre by giving fans something uncomfortable, that makes them appreciate the art of storytelling more than the warm blanket of flashy visuals and slasher flicks.
By isolating three actors in a cabin, with no set pieces or visual effects, you are forced to use your imagination as an audience member - creating a rare, interactive experience that makes each person’s viewing of the film unique to them. The divisive reaction we have received from Scare Me is only balanced by the number of fans who have been inspired by it, creating fan art on Instagram or even wanting to do a staged version of the screenplay. In that respect, the inspiration has come full circle.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?
I think the biggest struggle about being in the film industry is having the wherewithal to put yourself out there and network with fellow filmmakers and producers, especially when working in post-production. On most shows, I am the only editor, so getting to meet and network with fellow editors is very difficult. And I think most of us are introverted by nature, which makes socializing in public even that much more difficult. I myself have a very crippling fear of rejection, always have, so even doing things like making a phone call can be fuel for anxiety.
But the best thing to do in terms of finding work is to connect with producers and directors who are getting things made, and to make your intentions known. Everything I have done since moving to Los Angeles can all be traced back to one fateful moment in May 2015 when I gave a Producer (Sarah Winshall) my business card and told her that if she “needed an editor, to contact me.”
Her short film was Affections, directed by Bridey Elliott, and it was the first of six films that I have edited that has been selected for the Sundance Film Festival. If I hadn’t made that connection, or handed her my card that day, I’m not sure that I would be doing this interview with you right now.
It’s funny how the world works, but sometimes you just have to take a chance and do something that makes you uncomfortable and see what happens in return. It could change your life.
Share a photo of where you work
Image Source: Patrick Lawrence
What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?
My workspace is a little unconventional, but its 100 percent genuinely “Patrick Lawrence.”
I like to surround myself with all of my favorite things, especially the things that made me happy as a child, and being that my favorite film of all time is _Ghostbuster_s, my home office has become known as the “Ghost Cave.”
I collect any (and almost all) Ghostbusters memorabilia, and my weakness is anything circa 1984/1985, especially action figures. So, when a client or director comes into my office, we almost always begin our session with five to 10 minutes of strictly Ghostbusters talk. I find that it is a great way to break the ice and disarm the Director, making them feel more comfortable with me as a friend, and as a collaborator.
Scare Me is available to stream now, exclusively on Shudder. Check out the trailer below!
Topics: How I Cut This, Video & Audio, Creativity, Insights & Inspiration, Media & Entertainment, Creative Cloud, Customer Story, Creativity,
Products: Premiere Pro, Photoshop, After Effects, Audition,