Sunday, January 21, 2018
  • Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017
Editor Gregory Plotkin Reflects On "Get Out," Collaborating With Director Jordan Peele
Gregory Plotkin
Film is set to receive Stanley Kramer Award from Producers Guild; Plotkin earns Best Editing nominations from Independent Spirit Awards, HPA
  • LOS ANGELES
  • --

While Get Out (Universal Pictures) marks an auspicious directorial debut for Jordan Peele, editor Gregory Plotkin hardly views him as a first-time filmmaker. 

“In working with Jordan--who also wrote the screenplay--nothing about him felt like a first-time director,” affirmed Plotkin. “He’s smart, focused, super collaborative, open to exploration. He’s a ‘collaborator’ in every sense of the word. He’s very thorough. We methodically went through every scene every day for months, and over that time we had our minds meld. Jordan is simply a great, open-minded, collaborative storyteller. He has a strong point of view, is pretty intuitive and he trusts people he works with.”

Peele also infused the project with a sense of purpose, sharing the story of young African American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), who go on a weekend getaway to a secluded estate to meet Rose’s parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. 

The film has been praised for its insightful social commentary about race relations in the modern era. In addition to being named the best film of 2017 by numerous U.S. critics groups, Get Out has been recognized as one of the top 10 films of 2017 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute, and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture--Musical or Comedy. The film is part thriller and provocative commentary, with elements of comedy, drama and horror.

“The Trayvon Martin incident was a big starting point for Jordan writing the film,” related Plotkin. “Unfortunately, more and more tragic incidents followed that felt so topical. Jordan didn’t make this movie for accolades or for money. There was a cathartic aspect, a desire to get things out. My biggest takeaway from the experience of working with Jordan on Get Out was the value of making a movie you love, of making a movie you want to go see. I think we made a more honest film as a result of that. We sat in a room for eight months, and from that you have no perspective on how something will be received. Luckily the film resonated because it came from such an honest place. To have people respond to it the way they have has just been phenomenal.”

For Plotkin, the biggest challenge Get Out posed to him as an editor was “when to reveal certain information. There were times when we chose to hold back, which I think contributed to better telling the story. What helped us was seeing the movie through the eyes of Chris, through that character’s moral compass.”

Plotkin added, “We also had to trim back the humor. There could have been punchlines to many scenes but we resisted because that could have made it seem that was what the movie was about.”

Connecting with Peele
Plotkin was introduced to Peele by Blumhouse Productions’ horror film impresario Jason Blum, a producer on Get Out. Particularly appealing to Peele was Plotkin’s work in the horror genre with such credits as Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4, also produced by Blum.

Plotkin felt simpatico with Peele from the outset, even though they didn’t first meet in person as he would have ideally wanted. “I had a Skype interview with him,” recalled Plotkin. “We spoke for about 20 minutes and bonded on different films, particularly Kubrick films, and the desire to shoot in Kubrickian style. We also talked about other films like Rosemary’s Baby and I saw elements of those horror, suspense films when I read Jordan’s script for Get Out. He was already in Alabama getting ready to shoot the film when we did the Skype call.”

Shortly thereafter, Plotkin got word that he was chosen to edit Get Out. It was a decision that has since proven prudent. Plotkin was nominated for an HPA Award for his cutting of the feature. He is also up for the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing on the strength of Get Out, one of five Spirit nods earned by the film--the others being for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Male Lead (Kaluuya). Among the many other accolades garnered by Get Out are Gotham Award wins spanning the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award, Best Screenplay and the coveted Audience Award, and National Board of Review Awards for Best Directorial Debut and Best Ensemble.

Additionally the Producers Guild of America is honoring Get Out with the 2018 Stanley Kramer Award which will be presented at the 29th annual Producers Guild Awards on Saturday, January 20, in Los Angeles. The Stanley Kramer Award was established in 2002 to honor a production, producer or other individuals whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.  Producer/director Stanley Kramer created some of the most powerful work in the history of American motion pictures, including such classics as Inherit the Wind, On the Beach, The Defiant Ones, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The Stanley Kramer Award is determined by a seven-person committee appointed by the Guild’s Board of Directors, and operates independently of the Producers Guild Awards committee and the Guild’s staff.

Plotkin said he is gratified over his Get Out experience, as well as the other opportunities afforded him in his career, starting as an assistant editor on Weekend at Bernies II. A major break came when he got the chance to serve as assistant editor on The Insider, the first of 11 films he assisted on for editor David Rosenbloom, ACE, including Frequency, Pay It Forward and Friday Night Lights. Plotkin’s big break as a full-fledged editor came with Paranormal Activity 2. Plotkin described Rosenbloom as a mentor “whom I still call. When I work, I hear his voice in my head. He’s like family now. I remember him giving me the opportunity to go cut a scene and then he’d critique it. I now offer that to my assistants as well. I still very much value David’s advice to this day.”

This is the seventh of a multi-part series with future installments of The Road To Oscar slated to run in the weekly SHOOT>e.dition, The SHOOT Dailies and on SHOOTonline.com, with select installments also in print issues. The series will appear weekly through the Academy Awards gala ceremony. Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Jordan Peele, writer/director; Toby Oliver, DP; Gregory Plotkin, editor; Rusty Smith, production designer.