Archival interview with Victoria Sullivan from the official Matrix website. She worked on Continuity on The Matrix and as a script supervisor on The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
MATRIX: What do you do for ‘The Matrix’?
VICTORIA: Continuity. I am the editor’s eyes when he is on set, matching action so the shots will cut together when we go into the editing room.
MATRIX: How do you go about doing that, aside from being on set and seeing all the shots? How do you go about tracking everything?
VICTORIA: The fool proof method is to set it up first, to know the angles that you are going to do, to know when the director will want to cut in, so that everybody knows what they need to repeat.
MATRIX: Do you have your own system?
VICTORIA: I think that you do end up having your own system. In a big film you work with a team, it would be impossible to keep track of it all by yourself, that is why small films are really hard because you do have to keep track of everything; the bigger the film the better the team. If you keep good communication open with the make-up and wardrobe people and cast it is easier to make it simple. So you don’t have to say that you smoked a cigarette on the third word, you put your coffee cup down on the sixth word and you turned your head on the eighth word, you can’t do that because nobody can perform with that in their brain.
VICTORIA: It is a double edged sword actually. The higher caliber actor, maybe one time in ten won’t match their action, but you can’t set it up for the higher caliber actor, it is all on their terms. They know their craft very well and perform their actions as part of their performance, so you can say no, that was your right hand, or, you turned clockwise, not anti-clockwise, and usually they will say thanks, but you have to pick your moment. It is a very political job, and difficult not to be a nag. You have to be able to get the details right without being seen to be too pedantic.
MATRIX: Have there been any particularly difficult days on the Matrix set?
VICTORIA: Every day [laughs]. The truth is: no, this is a very controlled set, but just from the nature of the film, being a special effects film, it is very very bitsy.
MATRIX: They are shooting a lot of film for green screen. Does this make it harder for continuity?
VICTORIA: That can be easier because it is so planned. Action scenes are easier because they are like a choreographed dance, they won’t change their action. If they are striking with a hand, it is a natural movement and they have choreographed it so that the next movement is turning your back, and that will always happen. There is nothing worse for continuity than a dinner party with people sitting around a table eating. You don’t want to sit there and count how many bites someone takes on what word, it is really up to the actor to do something about that, but you can tell when someone is conscious of their action. Basically what you want is a flowing rhythm. Experienced actors have usually been in a difficult situation before and won’t get themselves in that situation again.
MATRIX: What do you mean by a difficult situation?
VICTORIA: A situation that neither the director or myself have instructed the actors on beforehand, and they go ahead with eating and speaking without thinking. The director will usually try to shoot around this situation than try to match it. We are only as good as our directors.
MATRIX: So what do you think of Larry and Andy?
VICTORIA: Absolutely amazing, my favorite directors.
MATRIX: How about the actors?
VICTORIA: They are fantastic, it is a pleasure to work with skilled crafts people. At first you are a bit nervous to be working with ‘stars’, you know their faces and are about to spend six months of your life with them; they have power and you wonder how they are gong to use it. In Australia we don’t have a star system, it is very different, the actors sit down and talk to you, it is less like business.
MATRIX: What other films have you worked on?
VICTORIA: ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, a Gillian Armstrong film was the last big thing I worked on, which I loved because it was so dramatic, totally the opposite to this.
MATRIX: Have you picked your next project?
VICTORIA: There are a few things I could do, but I am going to take a holiday. Twenty four weeks is a long time to be under this kind of pressure. A long film in Australia is twelve weeks. So it has been twice as long with twice as much pressure.
MATRIX: As far as continuity is concerned, is your job finished when they stop shooting, or do you have to do something for editing?
VICTORIA: I might have to go in and tidy up the mark up. This is part of the paper work that I give the editor which gives camera details of each shot, notes describing each shot and reasons why particular shots may not have been printed or why we have done another take. For instance, shot number 150: this says how many takes we did and which ones we are printing, the description of the shot, which camera it was on, that it was at 40 frames per second and the camera set up. Anything the directors verbalize about a shot I write down because it helps jog their memory in the editing room later.
MATRIX: What is your take on ‘The Matrix’, as someone who is closer to the script than most?
VICTORIA: I think it will be a big hit because it is interesting, it has a plot, high caliber actors, excitement, action and it has great directors. It is unbelievable how they know. They’ve got the movie in their heads, which, in my opinion, is the difference between a good director and an average director.
MATRIX: Thanks Victoria.
Interview by Spencer Lamm