On November 20th, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had planned a Q&A with Academy Award winner, editor Joe Walker, following a screening of Arrival. Unfortunately, Joe was unable to make it to Burbank, so Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, moderated a Q&A conversation with Joe and the students over speakerphone.
As mea culpa, Walker invited the students for a screening and Q&A to his new movie Widows, in theaters now!
Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows, starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, has recently opened for Oscar run.
Since Walker has won so many awards and nominations (Arrival, 12 Years a Slave), Laiter asked Walker about the process of voting on the Academy’s end. Walker said that the initial list of Best Film Editing nominees is compiled by the editing branch and then voted on by the Academy. “If you’re nominated… that’s the endorsement by your peers. And then if you win… that’s the endorsement of the entire Academy.”
Asked about his background and how he “made a name for himself,” Walker said that the most important thing was that he “worked harder, and did more.” Walker had started as a sound editor at the BBC, and moved up through the ranks — now he collaborates with Steve McQueen on films like Hunger, 12 Years a Slave, and Widows, and with Denis Villeneuve on films such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.
One student said that he admired the use of tension in many of Walker’s films, and asked how one might go around building that tension. “Tension is a really complicated thing to achieve… a lot of it is to do with story… you aren’t going to create suspense if there’s nothing to feel suspenseful about… you hope that the reveal is delivered with a little bit of a punch.”
One thing Walker likes to impart on students is, “If you interfere with a performance by cutting on every line — if every line of dialogue has a reaction, and then you come back for another line… it doesn’t allow the audience to look into the eyes and the soul of the character… Let that stuff play, don’t get in the way.”
The New York Film Academy looks forward to welcoming Joe Walker back to discuss his new film Widows and to learn more from him!