An interview with 'The Old Man and the Gun' Editor Lisa Churgin

Known for her work on Pitch Perfect, The Ugly Truth and House of Sand and Fog, editor Lisa Churgin talks to Mandy News about how she got into editing and her experiences working on her most recent film The Old Man and the Gun.

8th January 2019
/ By James Collins

The Old Man and the Gun IMDB

How did you get into Editing?

I went to a liberal Arts college in Overland, Ohio, where I was an English Major. For my junior year abroad I went to New York instead, where my bother-in-law was going to NYU. He used my apartment for a small student film and it was the first time I saw what they were doing. My sister was an actor and I always thought they were odd but once I saw what was happening behind the camera I fell for it, or drank the cool aid as they say. 

After college I moved to New York and got a job as a secretary at a documentary company. At that point I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in film but they had editing rooms there, so I stared gaining some skills.  Of course they were not happy about me not being on the front desk and so I got fired.  

I kept working and was lucky enough to be introduced to Susan Morse who was about to become Woody Allen’s Editor. She let me work for her and then got me hired as the apprentice on The Warriors. I ended up organising the film and all this information was in my 23 year old brain and so when they moved to work on post they took me with them to California.   

I think you either like the editing room or you don’t, you flourish or you die. You have to like trying to find the pieces of the puzzle and making them fit. 

I left the business for a while as I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in editing but I realise now that’s where my heart is. As an assistant I worked with Carol Littleton on my last two movies - a true inspiration. A woman of great intelligence and grace who has showed me how an editing room should be done. She helped me get my first unpaid job as an editor, you have to do the unpaid one first, and I was introduced to Allen Rudolf, who liked to hire Assistants who were trying to break into editing, which was perforce for me to get a credit on a feature.   

How did you get involved with The Old Man and the Gun?

I worked with Laurie on Pete’s Dragon. When he hired me he asked if I would consider doing it on premier. I did some research and realised it wasn’t ready for a large visual effects movie so I said how about I use Avid on this and if we work again I will learn premier for the next one. We had a great time and then he asked me to do The Old Man and the Gun, I agreed to do that before I had even read the script.  

In the past I had taken on films on Light Works and then one film on Final Cut so I learned that. Gattaca was my first on the avid, and I actually went to high school with the guy who invented the Avid. They shot in Cincinnati and I was in LA where the lab was, the only one left in LA.  When we finished shooting I went to Dallas and we did the post there.  When you see David Lowery, who is an editor in his own right, he had Robert Redford in the same blue suit for the whole movie so we were able to move him around structurally all over the place. 

What are you working on next?

Something as different as possible, the Untitled Pickle Comedy with Seth Rogan and Brendon Trost who use to be a DP and has worked with Seth on many movies.

What attracts you to working on a project?

Editors get typecast quickly. There was a period of time I was doing deep dark dramas, which I love but can be depressing, so I thought I really need to laugh a little bit more. So, I have made an effort to go outside the confines of my niche, dark drama, and have been lucky to be able to do that. 

I think most editors will tell you they would love to do lots of different genres but often it’s difficult. I have been able to do that and I’m very grateful for that.  

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