Red Stewart chats with film editor Kevin Tent on Downsizing, his directorial debut Crash Pad, and more…
The entertainment industry is full of fascinating people working behind the scenes to ensure audiences get the best quality experience from whatever venue they are enduring, often with little recognition. In the film sector, in particular, it seems that the only crew members to be acknowledged are the directors and producers.
One of these unsung roles is the film editor, and we at Flickering Myth had the privilege to speak to an Academy Award nominated one called Kevin Tent. Tent has been working as a film editor since the early 1990s, getting his foot in the door thanks in part to famed film producer Roger Corman. Though he has worked with a variety of filmmakers over his career, Tent’s most frequent collaborator remains director Alexander Payne, whose latest film Downsizing hit theaters Friday.
Tent has been working with Payne since Citizen Ruth back in 1996, having developed a strong partnership in the process. To start off the interview, I found myself asking him about how common these kinds of friendships are in the film industry, especially in light of the Harvey Weinstein Scandal which revealed a significant number of cover-ups all over the board. I specifically questioned if the stereotypical view of constant backstabbing was an accurate description of working in Hollywood.
“It’s not like that” he assured me with an easy tone. Having companionships like the one he has with Payne is reportedly “not rare” and actually quite common among crew members, who need to trust each other when working on movies. I was specifically surprised to learn that these friendships can, and often do, last over the years as familiar teams are called together with each new project.
While Downsizing was the most recent project for the Payne/Tent team, I was a little more interested in talking to Mr. Tent about his directorial debut Crash Pad, which was released primarily on video on demand in September 2017, though had a limited theatrical release in late October 2017. Crash Pad, which readers can purchase through the iTunes Store, is a romantic comedy, telling of a man named Stensland who, after having an affair with married woman, finds himself in a humorously awkward situation between her and her husband.
It turns out moving from the editor’s studio to the director’s chair was not as big a transition for Tent as it might appear. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” Tent told me, going all the way back to his college days. In some ways he joked that editing was actually something he “fell into,” but was quick to promise me that he is grateful for the opportunities given to him all the same.
I inquired as to what it was about Jeremy Catalino’s lighthearted script that caught his attention, especially given that other directorial debuts like Wally Pfister’s Transcendence and Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game took on much more dramatic subject material. “I’ve always liked comedy,” he stated with what I imagine was a smile. It makes for a much more “relaxing” atmosphere, something necessary for a quick shoot.
And a quick shoot it was. It turns out getting Crash Pad out for this year was born out of necessity as Tent was called upon by Payne to do Downsizing, leaving him with a small window of time to pursue his dream. Adding to that was the fact that Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Stensland, had to go off to shoot Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “We only had a few weeks to shoot” he said, meaning they could not afford for anything to go off schedule.
Despite the seemingly high pressure, everything progressed easily, thanks in large part to the actors. Tent, using an acute filmmaker’s sense, put together a phenomenal cast that made things things fun, including Christina Applegate, Thomas Haden Church, Nina Dobrev, and of course Gleeson himself, who Tent believed had untapped comedy potential since seeing him in About Time.
I asked Tent if telling such established actors what to do was intimidating. “Of course” he said with a strong laugh. “But everyone is a professional.” Tent maintained that he ultimately did not have to do much when it came to filming courtesy of the talent consisting of nice people to work with, but I like to think it worked both ways.
I was also interested in Tent’s relationship with Crash Pad editor Franco Pante as I initially figured it must have been strange to work with someone else on cutting the movie when he was so used to being the main editor. Turns out Pante was no stranger, having worked under Payne as an assistant editor on the film RV, thereby making the collaboration “a whole lot easier.”
To conclude, we brought the discussion back to Downsizing. Compared to past Payne movies, Downsizing features a lot of visual effects, and it got me wondering how this impacted Tent’s approach to editing compared to the past. The answer is not much. “There will be scenes you send to the visual effects department,” but that “does not change” the approach he and Payne have taken to movies in the past, which is focusing on bringing out “character moments” as much as possible.
Overall, it was an absolute honor and pleasure to speak to Mr. Tent. Not only was he an intelligent man to have a conversation with, but also incredibly nice, two traits needed now more than ever in today’s world. Readers are welcome to check out Crash Pad and/or Downsizing.
Many thanks to Kevin Tent for taking the time for this interview.