By Lee Hurley
Photo by Luke Lynch
Birmingham native Paul Rogers has been editing films in Los Angeles for the last eight years. His latest film called Everything Everywhere All At Once has an incredibly high IMDB rating of 8.5. The movie was written and directed by the Daniels, one of whom is Daniel Scheinert also a Birmingham native. Paul’s father Alan Rogers is a well-known lawyer and more importantly a friend, and luckily I ran into him at a wedding, and he caught me up with Paul’s career. Paul and his wife Becky have two children, Jomei and Enso. They live in Altadena which is north of Pasadena. We sent Paul some questions and here is what we got back.
It seems like a film editor has a lot of control over a movie? Am I right that there are many ways you can go with each scene or is it more controlled than that?
Sure, although I hesitate to call it “control.” I think the most apt metaphor is that the director is the head chef, they write the recipe (assuming they wrote the script) and collect all of the ingredients, and the editor is the cook who puts it all together. So sometimes during that process the cook may realize that despite all of the wonderful ingredients and the great recipe, it’s just not tasting how it should. Or maybe some of the vegetables weren’t as ripe as the chef thought. Whatever the reason, the recipe may need to be changed, new ingredients added, bad ones removed, the ratios adjusted. That’s my silly and long-winded way of explaining editing to non-filmmakers.
And yes you are right that there are many different directions to take a scene or a sequence of scenes. Cutting style, pacing, music or no music, which character’s perspective you are centering, these are some of the ways in which an editor can help shape a film in order to help a director or directors achieve their goals. But mostly I’m just trying to have a good time with my friends and make stuff that makes me laugh, or cry, or stretches me in some way emotionally.
Do you love your work?
Is it more solitude or collaboration? Do you show things you have done daily?
Definitely a mix of the two. I love collaborating and really value the time spent in an edit with the directors, and I also love to bring in other editors to work with. Our approach at Parallax is centered on collaboration amongst editors so we constantly share work with each other and ask for help. It’s wonderful for the process but sometimes tough for the ego. It makes for better films though.
That said, I also value the solitary days where I can really connect with a scene and the hours just fly by.
Do you have to sell yourself these days still, or are those days over?
Luckily my distaste for self-marketing paired with my sub-par social skills have meant that I never developed that talent. I started off in LA by working for free, and it doesn’t take much to sell free work. After that it’s been all word of mouth.
How did you get educated to become a film editor?
College of Santa Fe. It was a wonderful, strange, small school in New Mexico, and I’m very sad that it’s gone.
What did you do when you lived in Birmingham?
Well at first I grew up. Decided to become a breakdancer but forgot to do the part where I become good at breakdancing. When I came back from college, I got a job at Alabama Public Television with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. I miss them and loved that job. Everyone there believes in the mission of educational television, and that taught me a lot about only doing work that I feel good about. I’ve carried that forward and try to do work that does good for the world.
Do you miss home at all?
I miss my family, my friends, the lakes and rivers, thunderstorms, the way it sounds at night, and the food. I’m happy in LA, but I enjoy and value my trips home.
When you left, did you have a game plan or just trust in your talent?
My game plan was to find the people who worked on the art I liked and learn from them. That worked out really well, but I was super privileged to have my wife Becky stay behind in Alabama and keep her paying job so that I could work for free in LA for six months to get established. Lots of other privilege was wrapped up in how smooth the transition was, but I have to give her credit for not calling me crazy and leaving me!
When did you start your company Parallax? How many employees are there?
I didn’t start the company, Luke Lynch and Graham Zeller started it about a month before I moved to LA. Luke was the first person I looked up—he had edited a film called Until The Quiet Comes by Kahlil Joseph. I watched that film while I was working at APTV and realized that I needed to quit my job and find those people. Luke, Graham, Kahlil, and I are now all partners in Parallax.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is getting rave reviews. How would you briefly describe the movi,e and how did you meet Daniel Scheinert?
Family drama immigrant story about generational trauma, kindness, and using nihilism as a weapon for good? Dan Kwan always pitched it as “The Matrix but starring my mom.” Scheinert pitched it to me as “It’s about Dan’s mom trying to finish her taxes.”
I met Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan (the directors of the film) at the Moonlight Roller Rink in Glendale. My former co-workers at APTV Justin and Helena Gaar moved to LA about a month after I did and invited me to Scheinert’s birthday party at the roller rink. I fell in love with the group of people that I met that night. Dan and Daniel have a knack for surrounding themselves with incredibly sincere, kind, talented, wonderful people, and so after that night of roller skating and karaoke I knew I had found my people. Only afterwards did I realize that these people made really incredible work and luckily our sensibilities and working style lined up really well.
You mentioned in an interview that you feel like the world is troubled? Do you feel like the world is heading in the wrong direction? Is there hope?
Jeez what a question. I said that huh? Do people care what the editor of a weird indie sci-fi film thinks about the world? Let’s assume some strange person reading this does: Yes I think the world is troubled. Where it’s heading is in infinite directions, so let’s just find the one that centers on kindness and empathy and put our energy into that one. There’s always hope, at least I hope there is. There, I’ve solved the world’s troubles in three sentences in the pages of Portico.
If you could live somewhere other than where you live now, where would that be?
Well I live in Altadena, and I love it. We’ve always dreamed about moving back to Santa Fe, and I have a strange obsession with Madison, Wisconsin, although I know almost nothing about it and have never been. I recently was in Austin, Texas, for SXSW and really fell in love with that city too.
What’s in the immediate future for you project wise?
I just finished a film called The Legend of Ochi for A24, which is a bit of a throwback-style movie about a girl who learns to communicate with a sort of magical forest species called Ochi. All animatronic and puppetry. It’s beautiful. And then after that I’m working on a film with Kahlil, and then hopefully taking a break and going to Madison, Wisconsin, of course.