The awards buzz is swirling—not to mention some early wins for Green Book, which is currently in theaters. I had the pleasure to speak with editor Patrick J. Don Vito about editing Green Book and his collaboration with director Peter Farrelly.
Patrick J. Don Vito has been working in Feature Film and TV Picture Editorial for over 27 years. He has worked with directors, including Peter Farrelly, Jon Avnet, Jay Roach, Judd Apatow, Donald Petrie, Steve Brill, and Dennis Dugan, among others. Born in Southern California, he graduated from Chapman University in 1991. During school he focused on editing and immediately afterwards went into the profession. His passion for storytelling has taken him through the world of Features, Episodic Television, TV Movies and Documentary, whilst covering many genres throughout his career. As a classically trained pianist he has also had a few compositions included in projects on which he has worked.
ABOUT THE GREEN BOOK
Academy Award ® nominee Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Academy Award ® winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) star in Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures’ Green Book. In his foray into powerfully dramatic work as a feature director, Peter Farrelly helms the film inspired by a true friendship that transcended race, class and the 1962 Mason-Dixon line.
When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on the Green Book to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger, as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.
KOUGUELL: What drew you to the project?
DON VITO: I read the script and thought it was amazing, it was one of the best I read. I do a lot of comedy and it had so many different elements in it, which was the challenge of the movie; it was a hybrid of comedy and drama.
KOUGUELL: You’ve worked with Farrelly before on Movie 43.
DON VITO: Yes, and on a pilot that never aired.
KOUGUELL: Tell me about your collaboration with Farrelly.
DON VITO: Working with him is always collaborative. Peter knows what he wants but he’s careful to let you try what you want, to see if that will be a help.
Farrelly knows story really well. He wanted to be a novelist before he became a director.
DON VITO: It’s interesting how this movie got made. This movie fell into Farrelly’s lap. He ran into Brian Currie—the character actor, and he said he was working on his first script and told Farrelly the idea, and a couple of months later Farrelly asked what was happening with the script about the bouncer, and then he suggested, why don’t you, Nick Vallelonga (Tony Lip’s son), and me start on it? They had a wealth of story to work from, hours of tapes.
Once Pete got involved, he wanted Viggo attached. He sent a wrote a letter and sent it along with the script to Viggo, and said, ‘This is a departure for me, please read the first 20 pages.’ Viggo liked it, and this started the ball rolling.
KOUGUELL: As an editor do you stick close to the screenplay?
DON VITO: My first pass, I try to stick to the script but along the way and something comes up we will try alternate cuts. There are always little things that you try to fix along the way that you don’t necessarily know until you sit with the audience. Sometimes it’s about trimming, sometimes clarifying an idea, sometimes it’s too clear and needs some mystery. There are always many ways to solve problems, so you have to figure out which will work the best.
KOUGUELL: Let’s talk about the balance between drama and comedy in Green Book and how you worked with Farrelly to create this balance.
DON VITO: The trick of the whole movie was getting that balance right. There was improvisation on the set, the writers were on the set the entire time, too. The stars also would pitch in ideas, so the script would evolve while they were shooting. In the cutting room, I would first cut everything together and then pull out things that weren’t the right kind of joke or didn’t seem to come naturally out of the scene or if it wasn’t the right tone.
KOUGUELL: What’s your reaction to all the awards and recent nominations the film has received?
DON VITO: It’s very cool, better than the opposite! Better than being ignored. I’ll take it. It’s been fun to go to screenings and having people excited.
KOUGUELL: Your advice for aspiring film editors?
DON VITO: Keep working. Use your instincts and look for stories that you really connect to. It’s been an amazing ride.
Learn more here about the film here.
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