“It just keeps getting better,” Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenneger) says in early 1987. Predator. Indeed, the film franchise that followed continues to outdo itself, especially with Prey, which just hit the masses and set ratings records on Hulu. Led by a dynamite Amber Midthunder, the action-horror film succeeds on many levels – and it owes a big thank you to the editors in particular.
Claudia Castello – who worked with acclaimed director Ryan Coogler on Creed, Fruitvale Station and Black Panther — took the reins cutting together Prey and has wonderful things to say about the editing process. Connecting with us from El Salvador, Castello recently spoke about the acclaimed prequel which even got the blessing of Predatorof the original cast, including Bill Duke.
The complexities of an editor’s role
MW: Could you tell us about your role as an editor and what it entails, especially with a film like Prey?
Claudia Castello: Editing, as many people know, is the third time a film is written. The script, the production, then the editing are the three main structuring and restructuring parts of a film. So, as an editor, I see this role as a sculpting job, where you get all the raw material, all the takes, 100 hours of footage, and turn it into a one hour and 40 minute film.
And Prey, there were a lot of sequences. There were a lot of options, so we had a lot of leeway to play in the editing room, which was great. We also had a lot of special effects. But the cool thing is that most of the special effects were done practically and then, you know, the details were done afterwards. Besides the whole Predator “glow thing”, it was a real Predator. He was an actor doing the Predator. And then we did all the final looks, which were really well done. I’m very excited to see what it looks like in the end.
The animals, all of those, there were a lot of special effects involved, but all of the locations were real. The fights were well choreographed, and then we just had to do little things in the edit and put everything together in the most seamless way.
What I usually focus on in editing is the emotional arc, you know, making sure we get the whole story, making sure nothing is missing. And then in the editing process you see things that you couldn’t see when writing the script, for example. And then, ‘Whoa, there’s a void here. How to close this gap? And that’s also what’s fun about publishing. It’s like finding solutions. And we’ve been through a lot of those situations. We had a few retakes. And all this you discover during the editing process. It becomes a really important role in the whole movie.
Looking back on the Predator Franchise
MW: If you had been a fan of Predator films before joining the Prey crew?
Claudia Castello: I was already a fan. And then when it happened to me, I started watching them all. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love this. It’s too much fun.’ I got into it really passionately. And in this one, what caught me was a Native woman fighting the Predator. And I thought, ‘Wow, a Predator movie that, you know, the fans are so diverse, I think it’s going to be so visible to Native Americans. It’s gonna be amazing. That’s what I want to do. I see a junction of two very important elements: the fandom which will already make the film grow and this element of broadening the spectrum. And that was the most exciting thing for me besides being a fan of Predator.
MW: Were the scenes where the Predator was camouflaged more difficult to edit?
Claudia Castello: We had a terrific in-house VFX editor supervisor, Ben Howdeshell. And because I had Ben, it made it so much easier for me (laughs).
The challenges that come with editing a film like Prey
MW: What scenes or parts of the film were the hardest to put together?
Claudia Castello: I’m not sure I have the right to say precisely which ones (laughs). But there were several, and we had to find complete lines and scenes to help tell the story. The relationship between the two brothers was a situation that needed some help, and a few other things that needed to be clarified at the end for the whole story to be understood because sometimes things go too fast. There are so many elements to understand this art. So we did some tests to see how people reacted and to see which places audiences had the most trouble with. Then we would focus more and solve this problem. We had several public test screenings.
Future plans for Claudia Castello
MW: Are there any projects you are working on that you would like to talk about? Something that you are particularly passionate about?
Claudia Castello: I just started a TV show, it’s called black cake. The EP is Oprah [Winfrey]. It’s from Kapitol Entertainment, and it’s going to air on Hulu. This project is going to be exciting because it really comes from a woman’s point of view. It’s written by women, about women, produced by women, edited by women, directed by women. This is the first time I have this opportunity. The story is really good. The project is big budget. They are going to shoot in different places, different countries. So I’m going to be excited about this one.
MW: Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience on Prey?
Claudia Castello: I just wanted to mention the importance of the editorial team. I’ve worked with my assistant editor, Alex Oppenheimer, on so many projects. And now I think he’s going to embark on his solo career as an editor. But the team we had for this movie was the best team I’ve ever had. We had so much collaboration and we worked in a happy environment. Everyone was ready to contribute and to feel that their opinion counted on this project. I hope we can work together on future projects.