12 YEARS A SLAVE
Joe Walker on the Editing
Immersing the audience into Northup's journey was also the goal of editor Joe Walker, who
reunites again with McQueen. "Joe is an amazing editor and he's a musician as well, so he has that
sense of rhythm and flow, and he knows how to work with equally well with sound," says the director.
"I'm very grateful for our relationship."
Walker in turn says of what makes McQueen's style so exciting for an editor: "It all about
inviting the audience inside the scenes to invest and investigate, without pushing them towards any
one conclusion. And I don't know many other filmmakers who do that."
Right away, Walker realized 12 YEARS A SLAVE would take what he and McQueen have
done before to a new level. "This felt like a big step up in terms of scale. The story involves such a
huge cast of characters and has such vast historical scope," he says. "At the same time, it has a
brilliant vantage point that feels very modern because it's about a man pulled out of his own free life
into this extraordinary situation."
In the editing room, Walker and McQueen played with the film's chronology, ultimately
deciding to start the film deep into Northup's journey before going back to his life as a free man in
New York. "At some critical stage we decided we ought to start the film in the middle of Solomon's
journey," says Walker. "So we give a glimpse into Northup's life as a slave -- and then go back and
investigate how he arrived at this point. And from that flowed a lot of the narrative structure."
Much as he enjoyed the intensive creative process with McQueen, Walker says his favorite part
of working on 12 YEARS A SLAVE has been watching audiences experience it in early screenings.
"The real satisfaction is seeing the film play well with so many different people, with rich audiences,
poor audiences, white audiences, black audiences, all audiences. It's incredibly comforting to me as an
editor because it means it is a successfully told story and people are engaging with it."
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