Sony Pictures Classics’ Jockey recently received the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at AFI Fest following its nomination for Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic, at the Sundance FF earlier this year. We spoke with editor Parker Laramie about editing the film remotely and collaborating with the directors.
Laramie trusted Adobe Premiere Pro to piece together the intimate story of an aging jockey (Clifton Collins Jr.) determined to win one last championship when a young rookie rider shows up claiming to be his son.
PH: Hi Parker! How are you? What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Parker Laramie: Mostly looking forward to 2022 not being 2021. 2021 was kind of an emotional roller coaster. Would prefer more highs and less lows I guess.
PH: Did you always want to be an editor? What did your break into the industry look like?
Parker Laramie: No. For a while I thought I wanted to be a programmer for film festivals, so I studied film in a purely theoretical and critical capacity rather than studying production and making films. But I realized pretty quickly that I was more of a craftsperson than a critic. I’m not sure if I had one “break” – it was kind of a confluence of a few different things. I started working as a PA in post, was cutting stuff for free in the evenings and in between gigs to teach myself. Somebody I worked with knew somebody who knew somebody, and I worked a lot of nights and weekends.
PH: Can you share some of your projects you’ve been able to work on (and what you learned along the way)?
Parker Laramie: I mostly work in documentaries. In addition to Jockey, last year I also worked on a doc series for HBO, Allen v. Farrow, with Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering, which looks at the allegations against Woody Allen. That taught me a lot about the more investigative journalism side of documentary, which appeals to my more social justice oriented side. I also got a chance to tap into some of my critical studies on film a bit to take a closer look at Woody’s work. Years ago I worked on a horror film, Unfriended, where I learned a lot about how hard it is to cut in that genre, and how similar it can be whether you’re cutting scripted or unscripted material.
PH: How did you get involved with Jockey?
Parker Laramie: I’d worked with Jockey producer Greg Kwedar on a documentary called Ghost Fleet, and when he was prepping to shoot Jockey he reached out to me because they wanted the film to have a documentary element to it. They wanted to shoot with real Jockeys, on a real live racetrack, plus they wanted the freedom to adlib with their more experienced actors. I love working with unscripted material because it really gives me a chance to experiment and find the film in the edit, but to have the anchor of some scripted material mixed in is kind of a dream scenario for me. Once I was introduced to his filmmaking partner, Jockey director Clint Bentley, I knew I was working with my people. I felt like we all had really similar taste, and so I knew working with them would feel very seamless.
PH: What were some of the challenges (and successes) you experienced working on this film?
Parker Laramie: The biggest challenge was the structure, particularly the first 20 minutes of the film. Since they shot with a live track and real jockeys, the film evolved a bit beyond the script. The edit became a process of recalibrating the film to accommodate a lot of the new material. Finding the momentum that settled us into this world and propelled the story forward was a delicate process. After months of trying every possible combination we could think of, it all finally came together when we decided to place the scene with Jackson & Leo talking during the morning warm up at the beginning of the film. It set the expectations for the film right where we wanted them, and everything fell into place after that.
PH: Collaboration is a key part of working on a film. How did you do that effectively? How did you communicate your thoughts and ideas with the team?
Parker Laramie: I usually like to communicate most of my ideas through the cuts themselves. Before I start cutting I’m a lot more interested in listening, and usually directors have been pitching a project for so long that they’ve got lots of things they want to communicate. Once we’re cutting and exchanging notes, it’s easy to focus on fixing things – but I find that takes much longer and you end up feeling lost and discouraged, especially early on in the edit. It’s important to find what’s working and work towards supporting that. Early on, we all felt that the exercise montage towards the beginning of the film was working really well. It clearly establishes so much of what’s going on with the film – the relationship between Jackson & Gabriel, Jackson’s anxieties about his fatiguing body – and so we were able to treat that as sort of a “hero” sequence and say “let’s make the rest of the film feel like this.”
PH: Did you briefly have to edit remotely? If so, any tips on editing and collaborating remotely?
Parker Laramie: Actually, we were editing remotely months before the pandemic hit. I’m based in LA, but Clint & Greg are based in Texas. We met in person twice to work for a little over a week – the rest of the edit was done entirely remotely. I’d upload cuts to Vimeo or Dropbox, and we’d get together on the phone or on FaceTime to discuss notes. The in person time was more about working on specific scenes. The film was in a fine cut stage by March 2020, and we kept cutting on and off after that for a few months, sometimes screen sharing over Zoom. My advice for editing remotely is to over communicate. Lots of emails, lots of phone calls. Keep Zoom on throughout the day on mute with the screen shared. But don’t feel pressured to video chat – sometimes voice only works really well. Sometimes I’ll work for hours without hearing from the director but then they’ll pipe up with an idea or a response to something. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to the best part of being in the same room – the accidental discoveries made together.
PH: Let’s talk about Premiere Pro. How did it help you piece together the story?
Parker Laramie: Premiere Pro’s greatest strength is how fluid it is to work with sound. Sound, for me, is a huge part of my edits. I like to spend a lot of time building the soundscape, even though I know it will all get replaced by the sound designer. Beyond the obvious things, building out an atmosphere really helps find the tone of the film and anticipate what the film will feel like in a darkened theater with no distractions. It also helped us get inside Jackson’s head, which is what this entire film hinges on.
PH: As an editor, what have been some of the most valuable, interesting lessons you’ve learned about the industry and/or yourself?
Parker Laramie: When I first started cutting, I had a lot of anxiety about my favorite ideas getting scrapped or shot down. Eventually I learned that the best ideas typically came back by the end of the edit, so I don’t worry about throwing out things anymore (I just make sure I keep them somewhere I can find them easily again). I’ve found this helps me be more collaborative and have more confidence in my ideas, and feel more free to experiment and try things. And half the time I forget about the ideas entirely anyway.
PH: Any resolutions you’re working on this year? (Can be professional or personal!)
Parker Laramie: Ha – just eating better and exercising more, like pretty much everyone ever. The work typically gets better when those things are in place.