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Destroying and Re-assembling the Decades of Mason Carroll

One of the most important and all too often overlooked roles in film and television production is that of editor. The men and women who take part in this vocation do much more than simply linking parts of the footage shot by the director, cinematographer, and actors. Yu Jung Hou is an editor known for her work on a wide variety of productions from Disney’s The Incredibles 2 to The Profit (TV series) and many more. She is highly renowned in the indie film scene. Two productions of this past year illustrate the utilization of completely contrasting approaches by her to propel the story. Chaos and order both have their proper place in Yu Jung ’s professional universe and as long as the film becomes better, these tools are warranted.

(Photo: Jared Nickerson)

When producer Destiny Lilly and director Michael Markham contacted Yu Jung about editing The Decades of Mason Carroll, it was based on glowing recommendations and her impressive prior work. Their work together required more than the standard amount of trust as filmmakers and editor were separated by a huge geographical distance. This was further exacerbated by Hou’s preferred methodology of limited specific instruction towards editing as long as everyone has a synchronized understanding of the story and what it wants to achieve. She explains, “I normally try to do everything I can to keep preconceptions as far away from me as possible. Letting the dailies speak to me is an important process. I love experiencing my feelings of seeing the script visualized for the first time. If the dailies are not telling the same story as the script, having no attachment to things other people want me to do allows me to come up with better narratives that I could potentially present later more easily. Also, most directors do a very good job giving instructions through the scripty’s notes so I’m never really cutting blindly. Unless the directors requested otherwise, I’d normally ask for an uninterrupted first cut. Then we can play with the footage together as much as they want.”

The film tells the tale of Mason Carroll who, following a freak accident in World War II, has stopped aging. Instead of a blessing, this seems to be a curse for the man who lives through many decades unable to settle down for fear of his secret being discovered. Time and time again, he sabotages relationships and moves on…until he falls for Brooke. Through his relationship with her we understand that being alive is more about connection than health or aging.

The performances and the cinematography in The Decades of Mason Carroll are exceptional but this doesn’t make the story unique. Yu Jung fell in love with the characters and communicated to the director that she wanted to take an unorthodox approach in the editing. Inspired by the numerous timelines, she began a process of destroying and re-assembling the film in order to “get what’s best for the film.” Hou credits Markham with allowing this latitude. It paid off with nominations and premiers at the Hoboken International Film Festival, Short Film Corner at Cannes' Court Metrage, and numerous others. The film has also secured distribution with Gonella Productions.

The comedy Present Tense (screened at Burbank International Film Festival-Semi-finalist, Laughter Film Festival, Studio City Film Fest, and The Parlor Hollywood) required more of a constructive than a destructive approach from Hou. The very limited time schedule did not allow for reshoots and thus it fell upon the editor to create certain shots from existing footage. She communicates, “No close ups were originally shot. When the movie came to the cutting room I realized that in order to create the humor we were looking for, we had to be able to cut to the characters individually in their own close up shots. Luckily we shot on a higher resolution of 4K which allowed me the room to zoom in and get the appropriate frame. Another good thing about this project was that both of our main actors were great and delivered awesome performances in every take, which gave me more options and flexibility to do my job. My ability of being able to tell what’s needed to make a film good, and utilizing the resources I was given became crucial in this project. If you’re making a comedy, you obviously want the audience to laugh and get the joke.”

This understated touch is paramount when the couple begins arguing in the film. The close-ups communicate a sense of impending uncomfortably in each other’s personal space as tempers flare. The married couple are under the incorrect assumption that they are good at choosing presents to surprise each other with. The dynamic between them uses humor to communicate our desire to make each other feel special as well as our frustration when we fall short. Steven Newman, producer of Present Tense, declares, “Yu Jung brings so much more than simply her exceptional talent to a project. She's got a real instinct for what makes films flow and gel into a cohesive piece.” Smoothing the story out or carving out a disjunctive path for viewers, Yu Jung Hou cultivates the uniqueness of many films with her abilities.

Written by Kelly King

Destroying and Re-assembling the Decades of Mason Carroll Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:11:00 AM Rating: 5
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