Last week Quentin Tarantino hosted a below-the-line panel in Los Angeles for the Oscar-nominated members of his Inglourious Basterds crew, including director of photography Robert Richardson, visual effects designer John Dykstra and editor Sally Menke. Following the panel, Cinematical was lucky enough to catch up with Menke via telephone to ask a few additional questions. In addition to discussing the process of putting together Basterds, Menke mused about the necessity for film language in a culture saturated with cinephiles, and offered a few insights where those director's cuts come from when films make their transition from the big screen to Blu-ray or DVD.
Cinematical: How involved are you in the process when director's cuts or extended editions arrive on DVD or Blu-ray? Do most of these come from earlier cuts or do you have to reconstruct something more or less entirely?
Sally Menke: For me, a director's cut is usually when you get to a cut that the director is really happy about - and this doesn't doesn't usually happen with directors like Oliver Stone or Quentin - but other directors have their perfect cut and they love it, and the studio says, "we can't release it at this length," and usually it has to do with time. It could be whatever reason, but let's say it's time. So then the director cuts out five or seven minutes or whatever the case may be, so you cut it down to that length and it gets released at that point. But you still have the edit that [you did before] so it's not really a problem to then release it at [that length] because you saved it already. Now, someone has to pay for getting a print made, so there is money and labor involved, but everything is pretty much saved somewhere along the line, so that's the issue at stake, really. Then, of course there's all of these airplane cuts and all of that, and I'm usually involved in that, one way or another.
Cinematical: Last night someone asked about violating the 180 degree rule and you said that you and Quentin decided to ignore some of those classic film rules when making movies together. In your opinion, how important are those rules now to moviegoers? Are they so familiar with film language that they don't need them to be preserved?
Menke: I think that they have to be handled with kid gloves, because it can be very distracting if you don't know what you're doing with them. I think you have to understand the craft and the form to abstract it. Because I've watched so many films where people really don't pay attention to it, and you're just confused beyond belief, so I do believe you have to understand the rules to be able to break them. There were plenty of times where Quentin had pushed me beyond a limit where I go, "Quentin, you can't do that," and vice versa. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work, and we do it a lot, and sometimes it just doesn't work, and sometimes you do it and it's magic.
Cinematical: Do you feel like there are new rules emerging for filmmakers, even just editorially?
Menke: I do. I think that there's new rules, because if you look at cinema in the beginning of its days, you had to follow every action and it had to be very literal, and everything. Now we can compress a person's time even as simply as going down a hallway; we can definitely compress time and an audience is willing to accept it as a natural progression of time. So yes, I do think there are new rules.