When editor Andrew Weisblum came aboard tick, tick…BOOM!, which director Lin-Manuel Miranda describes as a “big, old honking musical,” one of his early challenges was coming to grips with its tone.
“I think something we were conscious of…is the balance of humor and neurosis and all these other things that…are kind of central to Jonathan Larson’s very honest point of view about his own anxieties, and how to make that accessible and relatable for an audience,” Weisblum says in conversation with Miranda and editor Myron Kerstein in the latest edition of Deadline’s video series The Process. “So, I was concerned with…making sure that we found the right context for that.”
Naturally, another challenge for both editors was making the film’s array of vastly different musical sequences work. “I wasn’t worried about it being entertaining. I was worried about it having enough dynamics through the whole film, [so] each number had enough differentiation, not just sonically, but visually, and that we came up with ways of approaching that stuff,” says Weisblum. “Those were the things that I was mindful of, I guess, in the initial part of the process, and then it became, I think for us, context, trying to figure out what Jonathan Larson means to people who weren’t around then and how to frame that best.”
Miranda’s feature directorial debut, penned by Steven Levenson, is based on the stage musical of the same name by Larson, the iconic composer, lyricist and playwright behind Rent who died before seeing that show win four Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and experiencing the extent of his impact on Broadway. It finds the promising young theater composer, played by Andrew Garfield, navigating love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City, on the cusp of his 30th birthday.
Kerstein came onto the project after Weisblum had finished the director’s cut and seen the film screen for an audience. “It’s very intimidating to work on your first movie and also to work on something that Andy was cutting because it’s like, ‘Okay, two of my heroes right there. Now, I get to work with them,'” he tells Miranda. “But then at the same time, it’s like, ‘I have to keep pushing. I need to raise the bar.'”
Miranda says that in coming to the project as a first-time filmmaker, editing was the part of the creative process that he knew the least about. “I’ve edited little things, short, short pieces,” he notes, “but never something on the scale of a full film.” In the end, the Hamilton creator explains, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the process in post was not all that dissimilar from that of songwriting, which he knows so well.
“Paul McCartney has a great quote in his recent docuseries with Rick Rubin where he says, ‘You sit at a piano and every song that’s ever written is here, and that’s amazing and exciting. It means you can pull something out of the piano, too.’ And I felt that way when we sat [down]…Instead of the 12 notes that we all have access to a songwriters, what you have to play with is everything you shot,” Miranda reflects. “That’s always a humbling lesson for every first-time filmmaker, is, ‘Oh, I could’ve shot a lot more than I shot.’ But within that, it’s all fair game, and I found that thrilling.”
Weisblum landed his second Oscar nomination for his work on tick, tick…BOOM!, with Kerstein garnering his first. Miranda is in the mix with a second nom for his songwriting on Disney’s Encanto, with Garfield scoring one for his performance as Larson.
In conversation with Miranda on The Process, Weisblum and Kerstein offer a deep dive not only into the editing of tick, tick…BOOM!, but also into their careers and creative processes, discussing the projects that took them to new levels in the industry, Kerstein’s work on the film In the Heights based on Miranda’s musical, a huge compliment to Weisblum that Miranda’s filmmaker friend Alex Horowitz shared with him, winning over friends who claim to “hate musicals,” the importance of mentorship and more.
Miranda speaks for his part to similarities between Hamilton and tick, tick…BOOM!, dodging biopic tropes and establishing rules for the Netflix film, which he calls a “gateway musical” and “not the biopic you usually get,” his experience seeing Larson’s show of the same name Off-Broadway on his 21st birthday, and why he “can’t imagine a world” where he would want to direct a film from his own script.
Check out the entire conversation above.
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