- Marvel Studios
- Business Insider spoke with “Captain Marvel” co-editor Debbie Berman, who has also worked on Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Black Panther.”
- Berman talked about how her Marvel experiences have been different, and what it’s like working with Marvel Studios.
- She also said Lee Pace’s Ronan was originally introduced earlier in the movie, but a decision was made to bring him in later.
Debbie Berman has had a marvelous few years.
Berman caught what she called her “big break” as a film editor on Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in 2017 and then again on last year’s “Black Panther.” Her latest editing gig (along with co-editor Elliot Graham) was “Captain Marvel,” which hit theaters over the weekend with an impressive $153 million.
Berman talked to Business Insider about what it’s been like working on three movies in a row for Marvel Studios, and the great lengths she went to to get the “Captain Marvel” job.
She also revealed that one character in the movie had a slightly different journey in the script.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Travis Clark: How did you become involved in “Captain Marvel”?
Debbie Berman: I actually advocated to be a part of “Captain Marvel” as soon as they hired the directors [Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck]. I was working on “Spider-Man: Homecoming” at the time and I thought I’d plant some subliminal messages in the execs’ heads, so I bought a Captain Marvel shirt. Every time I knew the execs were coming into a session for “Spider-Man,” I’d wear that Captain Marvel shirt. Not very subtle. I let them know that that was a project I really cared about and it was one I found exciting and interesting. Then the week that I started “Black Panther” is when I met [Boden and Fleck] and they brought me on for “Captain Marvel.” So everything happened at once.
Clark: What attracted you so much to “Captain Marvel”?
Berman: Apart from the obvious reason that it’s Marvel’s first female-led film, I thought it was something I wanted to be a part of. I thought it was important for as many females as possible to be a part of telling that story. I’m a huge fan of Brie Larson and love so many of her performances. In a lot of her work she brings such a raw and grounded real performance to the characters, and I was interested in seeing how she would do that with the most powerful character in the Marvel universe, and she did a spectacular job. And I love working with Marvel, I had such a blast with Spidey and Panther.
Clark: Since this is your third Marvel movie, what’s it like working for Marvel? What’s the environment like? Is it this “well-oiled machine” and “factory” that it’s known as, or do you have a different perspective?
Berman: I don’t think it’s a paint-by-numbers thing at all, because every film has its own dynamic and its own issues, its own challenges, its own filmmakers with their own filmmaking perspective and style and energy. All three films [I’ve worked on] have felt like different experiences to me. The constant is [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige is the smartest man I’ve ever met. He’s a phenomenal human being. What’s great about Marvel is you feel you have a strong creative voice in the process, especially as an editor. If we get a version of the film and I say, “Wow, this would really work if we had a scene that sets this up,” if they think it makes the film better, they will support that.
The one thing Marvel does that is different from other studios is they schedule additional photography in as part of the normal filmmaking process. Normally it’s used at the end where people think, “We’re in trouble, we need to shoot that.” But Marvel understands that we’ll know more about the film after we’ve gotten a first version of it and that will inform us on how to make it better. It’s not fixing something that’s broken, it’s just part of the process. It’s nice to know you have that option and that it will be supported.
Clark: How does your experience on “Homecoming” and “Black Panther” compare with “Captain Marvel”?
Berman: For “Spider-Man,” it was my big break and I felt a real connection to the character because he was trying to prove himself and become an Avenger, and I felt like I was on a similar journey because I was trying to prove myself, too. Everything was newer and amazing and exciting. I’d be standing on set watching Spider-Man and I couldn’t believe it. With “Black Panther,” I’m South African, so this story was very important to me and dear to my heart. Ryan Coogler is a phenomenal person to work with. It was an intense journey. I feel like I’ve been so lucky. “Captain Marvel” was a story I felt like we needed to get right. I did the three films back-to-back-t0-back, so by the time I got to “Captain Marvel,” I was familiar with the process so I found that helpful. But it’s always exciting because you’re pouring your soul into it and people reciprocate the love you pour into the film.
Clark: What did you learn from “Homecoming” and “Black Panther” that you carried with you to “Captain Marvel”?
Berman: Some of it was work-flow stuff, like we will change the film right until the end and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the best possible movie is out there. With big visual-effects sequences, the sooner you can initiate any ideas you have on that the greater the chances are for success. If it’s got a lot of CG elements, you have to focus on that earlier [in production] so that other people have time to do their jobs.
Clark: How essential was the editing process in delivering the movie’s twists and concealing things so the twists really hit the audience?
Berman: Generally, you don’t really want to be ahead of the character, you want to learn things as they do. There are things that are revealed to the audience a little sooner than they are revealed to Vers (Larson) because it would create tension or a more interesting narrative. But it was a constant play of adding and subtracting information so that you have enough to be curious but hopefully not enough to be ahead of any twists that may be coming.
- Marvel Studios
Clark: Was there anything originally in the movie that changed throughout the making of it?
Berman: One decision was when to introduce Ronan (Lee Pace) in the film. He used to be introduced right at the beginning of the film, but people would recognize him from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” That affected their interpretation of the Kree. If you introduce him too late, the climax of the movie doesn’t work as well. So we [talked a lot about] where and how to introduce that character.
Clark: So he was originally introduced earlier in the script?
Berman: Yes, but it would have made people suspicious of the Kree. You have test screenings to see how the audience reacts to the film and you do little tweaks here and there to make sure the film is telling the story that you want to tell. You try a variety of different things, and you can intellectualize it but ultimately you just go with your gut with what feels good to you. And then hopefully the audience will have similar feelings. Ronan wasn’t a specific point made [with test audiences]. You just feel the energy of the room, so that didn’t come up necessarily as a specific note but you can just see how things were working and what needed to be changed.
Clark: Anything you want to add about the movie?
Berman: There’s a fun fact I can tell you about. There’s a security guard in the film and that’s actually played by the head of security at Marvel, Barry Curtis, and he did a phenomenal job and he’s absolutely hilarious. It’s the scene where she [Captain Marvel] lands at the Blockbuster and she walks out and he’s in his car. He went through the whole process and auditioned and killed it. I cut the scene and he’s hilarious. We never changed it. It always worked.