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 HKCinemagic 2

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Interview with David Wu, a chef in the editing room
Editing 1/1 - Page 3
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
Date : 3/6/2008
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Chang Cheh
John Woo
Movies :
A Better Tomorrow
The Bride With White Hair
A Chinese Ghost Story
Hard Boiled
Iron Road
The Killer
Companies :
Shaw Brothers
< Previous
Page 2 : On Iron Road
Special thanks to Anne Tait, Barry Pearson and Raymond Massey.

A shorter version of this piece was firstly published in that’s Shanghai magazine, June 2008.

HKCinemagic : You collaborated many times with three major HK directors, who understand well the importance of editing: Tsui Hark, John Woo and Ronny Yu. Can you tell us from which one you learnt more about the craft of filmmaking? Which one of them shared the most your point of views on the techniques and the use of editing?
David Wu : Actually I learned from three other directors: David Lean, Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa.
It’s John Woo who shared the most of my points of view on the techniques and the use of editing. I guess it’s because we met and grew up in the same studio, which is the Shaw Brothers. studio. He was Chang Cheh's assistant director and I was the assistant editor of Chang Cheh's editor. We also watched the same movies, lots of French movies, and movies by Jean-Pierre Melville, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, etc.
So I can say we are pretty much influenced by the same great filmmakers. That’s why we don't have to talk much or argue much because I know exactly what he wants and he knows exactly how I will play with editing.

The New One Armed Swordsman
HKCinemagic : Before shooting Iron Road, did you have the editing for each scene in your head? Do you consider it as working in reverse compared to other directors who shoot first and think of the editing later?
David Wu : I think that's what every director should be doing. For me this is my way, my habit. I guess it has a lot to do with my editing background. I pre-edit the scenes so when I shoot I don't shoot what I don't need. By doing that it saves me lots of time and time is money. Otherwise one will just keep shooting lots of materials hoping that they will capture what they need in the editing room. It means they shoot by chance, not by choice. That’s not the way I make movies.
HKCinemagic : You’ve often been referred to as “the editor of John Woo.” Does this label bother you? What have you learnt from your collaboration with Woo?
David Wu : It does bother me. And lots of people even mistakenly label me as his student. No, we are schoolmates, like I said, we saw the same movies, we are trained in the same studio, from the same director.
We did share a lot of good times and bad times too. Actually I created some editing techniques in his films that you can now see everywhere, in HK, Korea and North America films. But mainly I must say that it is John's style that influences to those international followers. Funny enough, we were originally influenced by North American directors. Life is a circle.
HKCinemagic : When you started working with John Woo, did he already have a sense for editing? He likes to use a lot of slow motion, like Chang Cheh before him and Sam Peckinpah before him. In your collaborative works, where does this idea come from, you or Woo?
David Wu : I think I have answered this question already. It’s Peckinpah's influence to Chang Cheh to John Woo and David Wu.

HKCinemagic : Some people say that you and woo overused the slow motion in films like The Killer or Hard Boiled. What did you both wanted to express by slowing down the pace of action scenes with slow motion? In retrospect, will you use so much slow motion now?
David Wu : We were merely expressing a style, it is a John Woo’s style, his signature. Only it has been copied and imitated so overly that now it has lost its flavor. Even in some movie this style has become a cliché.
I personally select to use slo-mo in the right timing, which means to use it effectively. You don't see too much of these moments in Iron Road.

A Chinese Ghost Story
HKCinemagic : A Chinese Ghost Story, Swordsman, A Better Tomorrow and The Killer are films with action scenes acclaimed around the world. The editing has played an important role in this recognition, with especially the “fast cut” technique you introduced. It has become a signature of HK action films from the 1980s-1990s. In retrospect what do you think of the techniques you used in HK? Do you still use them now?
David Wu : I think I have mentioned above that those techniques I created have been very over-used. Once I was chatting with an American director about action sequence, surprisingly he admitted that he had a copy of Bride with White Hair for "reference,” and that he literally ripped off all the HK action ideas from action to editing.
To be honest some of these techniques seem old if not used now. Movie-making is changing every day, every year. I choose to move on.
HKCinemagic : Films from the US and also from Asia are now adopting this kind of fast-paced sense of action, with very quick editing techniques. Do you think HK films have greatly influenced international cinema in that respect?
David Wu : Definitely, because we dare to break rules, and I am proud to be one of those crazy guys.
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Page 2 : On Iron Road

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