Press > Escape From L.A. > Exclusive Interviews > Edward A. Warschilka (Editor)




How did you end up being an editor as well as the editor for six John Carpenter movies?

I had been working for a number of years as Mark Warner's 1st assistant, and on Big Trouble in Little China that was my role again in addition to being the liason between editorial and the VFX (Visual Effects) house. Back then in the days of celluloid the VFX would come in dribbles and scenes needed to be constantly updated with new versions of the VFX shots and that would cause picture edit changes. It was like having two jobs at the same time and I drove back and forth a lot. I'm not even sure we had fax machines at that time. After filming was over John wanted to come in and work on the end battle sequence and Mark Warner and Steve Mirkovich had their hands full with other scenes. I was promoted to editor and worked with John exclusively for that huge sequence and then after that moved on to other scenes. I had really enjoyed my time with John and learned a lot from him then and through the following years. After Big Trouble I had gotten a call from John and Sandy (King) (Associate Producer/Script Supervisor) to come work on They Live which if I remember correctly was already under way. I was on other project that I didn't feel I could abandon so it wasn't until Body Bags that we got together again.

How did you and John prepare for this project and what kind of discussions or disagreements did you have during the editing?

You would think that would be the situation before starting a bigger studio production. The truth however was that up until right before that I was finishing up another show. Even though John and I had done a couple shows together at that point the studio wanted a very well-known and respected editor to cut the show. By the way, someone I too respected and admired. I didn't think I was going to get a chance on it but remember saying that I'd love to help out in any capacity I could, maybe as a second editor if one was needed. John never told me how it all worked out, but the other editor ended up being otherwise occupied, and along with John endorsed me. John also was knee deep in the thousands of production decisions leading up to the beginning of photography. This was the first show the two of us worked together using the Avid digital editing system although I had used it before for someone else. Back then we still had film dailies that we would conform to match the digital edit so we could take it to theaters to run for testing. Another benefit of the Avid is that with our tight schedule I could go out to set with VHS copies of cut scenes for John to get feedback and notes. The show was for the most part shot at night and so I would occasionally go out to set during their lunch hour and run cut scenes with John as we went and the Avid made that possible so much quicker and easier. I remember one time going out because I wanted to try something different with the basketball scene and the Avid allowed me to do an alternate version unlike if I had been editing on celluloid and a KEM (Keller Elektro Mechanik). The alternate version didn't make it, but John allowed me to try. But after that sometimes when he'd talk about a scene during dailies/rushes he'd finish by teasing me in good fun, "Oh that's right, you're going to go off and do what you want anyways." There weren't any disagreements.

What kind of challenges did this movie provide to you and which were the hardest, interesting, funniest and satisfying scenes or sequences to work on?

The schedule was definitely the most challenging aspect. It made it so much harder getting the time devoted to the visual effects teams. At one point we had to bring in another editor David Finfer for an insurance claim because when the night battle at the end of the show was shot they couldn't use charges in the guns because of complaints from the neighbors of the studio it was filmed at. No, that scene wasn't filmed at Paramount. David put together the first pass of the battle for me so that they could start to process the claim that would pay for all the gunfire to be added later by a VFX company. I always regret that David didn't get credit for that but he and I became the best of friends and worked on a couple of more shows together. The end battle in Anaheim took a lot of time, and the poor actors had to pantomime shooting guns with no charges in them.

How long did it take to edit the movie?

Started shouting Dec 11, 1995 and sent it to the negative cutters June 12, 1996. Then came mixing, color timing, and print Mastering ending about July 16 and had a press screening July 19. 

Were there any significant changes or different cuts done and were there any scenes or material that you and John wanted to keep but had to drop at the very last second so to speak?

Not that I can still recall.

John has said that he would have wanted more than only nine weeks of post-production time to work on the movie. He only had one day to look at his rough cut before it had to be sent in to Paramount for release as well. Do you feel the same way or are you satisfied with the final cut? If not, what would you have liked to have done differently?

It was
a shame about the schedule. Projects like this especially with fantasy and VFX need more time to develop and polish. Story and structure have their demands and then as VFX roll in adjustments have to be made to accommodate it. I remember the tidal wave surf scene which had been discussed one way and the VFX just wasn't working out and we were already on the mixing stage before I re-cut the action to work with what they were able to accomplish. As an avid surfer back then I was unhappy with it. They could have used more time. Back then Paramount was known for their short editing schedules. I had worked on 48 Hours and Staying Alive and both had similarly tight schedules WITHOUT the VFX.

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?

My favorite time on all of John's shows was when the shooting ended and he came into the cutting room to work. We'd open the belly of the beast and then had fun discovering where it took us. I enjoyed working with John. I have a lot of love and respect for the man. He along with a few others have been wonderful mentors. I learned a lot from John and have always been thankful for the time I got to spend with him.

What do you think of the movie personally?

It's fun, it's campy, and a statement of living here in L.A. Nowadays it's prophetic with the pandemic virus hanging over our heads. Of course our virus had a different name but just as deadly!

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I just finished working on Season 2 of The Twilight Zone and like so many others waiting for the day we can go outside and continue our lives. I've been trying to play the guitar for the last 47 years. Still do every morning. Still suck. I've always been a water rat. I was a competitive swimmer and still get in the pool for workouts, a scuba diver, surfer, sailor, and ocean kayaker. I'm slower now and less energetic so more time for roasting coffee and pulling shots and capps for me and the missus (who I met on In the Mouth of Madness).

Thank you for your time, Edward.