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2014 Unbranded Interviews: Scott Chestnut

Published: 11/13/2014
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Editor's Note: A year after the Unbranded team reached the Canadian border and on the eve of submission deadlines to major film festivals, NickerNews interviewed editor Scott Chestnut.

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Read 2013 trip interviews here.

NN: How has Unbranded differed from your other editing projects?

SC: There is way more material. It’s these guys’ lives for 5 ½ months. That’s a lot of time.

NN: Did you ever get weary at the sheer volume of footage and the process of editing hundreds of footage hours to 90 minutes?

SC: Sure, yeah. I mean it’s just a function of looking at a certain section and you’re trying to figure out how to make sure you’re conveying things how you want to.
[Photo at right: director Phill Baribeau, assistant editor Paul Quigley, editor Scott Chestnut]

NN: Was it hard to bring a fresh set of eyes to it every day?

SC: You’re never completely fresh, but you try to put your frame of mind right…You ask people what they think and try to get their reaction.

NN: Are you at that point now where you’re asking an outer circle to weigh in?

SC: Oh, yeah. For sure.

NN: Do you hand-pick those people?

SC: Yeah.

NN: What do you look for?

SC: People who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings, have a sense of how filmmaking works, and who are just very aware of things when they watch a movie. A lot of times when somebody makes a comment about something in a film, it might be actually be about something that happened 10 minutes beforehand.  But that bit wasn’t clear the first time. Those people can put their finger on that.

NN: What kind of movies do you like to create?

SC: You can make movies more interesting when the audience has to put two and two together, connect the dots, and get engaged more with what’s going on. You just can’t obscure what the dots are. And also, people don’t really want to know that they are connecting the dots, so that to me is the tricky part. Try to make it interesting.

NN: Right, I just watched a movie that left me wondering and saying, ‘Hmm…”

SC: Yeah. I like the Sopranos because it left you with…’there is something going on there.’ I love that kind of stuff.

NN: Is there some dot-connecting with Unbranded?

[Photo at right, Matt Damon and Edward Norton in Rounders, edited by Scott Chestnut]

A little. The big thing about Unbranded is that there’s so much challenge to it. What they’re doing is difficult. You get to engage in that difficulty, which is really good.

NN: Is there’s a lot of rooting for the team?

SC: Absolutely.

NN: The men? The horses?

SC: Both. Definitely. And because of the purpose behind it.

Dennis and Ben said it was very patriotic.

SC: Yes. It’s Texas boys in the rural American west. You can’t get more patriotic than that.

NN: Patriotism can get cliché. Did any of that element get tiring through the editing process?

SC: Heck no. It’s not necessarily overt in any way.
[Photo at right, a pair of monitors showing segment of Unbranded film]

NN: They’re not wearing red, white and blue and waving flags?

SC: Right. But it’s Americana. It’s guys in the wilderness. It’s campfires. For one thing, this is truly American. For another, you can’t do this in other parts of the world.  We have the Rocky Mountains. It’s pretty uniquely American. And the iconic cowboys are pretty American.

Did you get out on horseback?

SC: I did.

NN: Was that a new deal for you?

I rode horses when I was a kid. My mom’s family has a ranch. We used to go there when I was a kid. With Unbranded, I rode Dinosaur. [in photo at right. Read about riding with Dino here.] He’s actually staying in the pasture next to my house. He’s funny. He cracks me up.

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Read 2013 trip interviews here.

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