Whether film editor Takashi Uchida is assigned a drama, fantasy or action film, the Japanese born craftsman always delivers a crisp, distinctive cut which enhances the impact of any story. Equally adept at complex narrative dramas—he worked with ten different directors on Actors Anonymous—or the walloping animated adventure of the Netflix Kong: King of the Apes series, Takashi’s technical facility and innate grasp of any subject’s subtly and nuance is uniformly excellent.
Takashi’s instinct for what a story requires and the impact even a single frame of film can have to achieve a specific dramatic goal is masterly, and these formidable skills were recently brought to bear on a new type of subject for the editor, the fizzy tween comedy Jessica Darling’s IT LIST, an Amazon online release starring Disney TV actress and YouTube phenomenon Chloe East.
Adapted from the sixth of Megan McCafferty’s best-selling teen novel series, the middle school-set prequel presented a unique new setting for Takashi. The titular ‘It List” passed down by a sibling to her little sister when she enters junior high, touts “the 3 Ps: popular, pretty, perfect” as Jessica’s requisite goals for survival. Intrigued at the prospect of exploring new thematic territory, Takashi didn’t hesitate.
“I was introduced, by a mutual friend, to editor Daniel Hanna, who was a good friend of the director, Ali Scher, and I joined the team as co-editor,” Takashi said. “After I started the project, a couple of Japanese friends said they had read the novel as teens and told me how the books actually became an important part of their young lives. So, I was really proud to be working on a project that I hoped would stay in the audience’s heart like that, as a bright spot in their own youth.”
Takashi doesn’t just inhabit a story, he carefully manipulates the action in a way that elevates each sequence. “In order to express the youth and freshness of the story, we were using a very playful editing style, making creative transitions,” he said. “But at the same time, however comedic it is, there’s still dramatic arc in each character and the editor’s job is to reconcile these two elements.”
Takashi’s deft handling of the story’s content paid off. “Takashi is a great editor because he is dedicated and detail oriented.” Scher said. “He’s also a fantastic storyteller. He can see where the story in a scene is and flush it out in the cut in a way I might not have thought of. That’s what a great editor does—brings the director a new perspective on something they’ve looked at a gazillion times. It’s always very exciting to get to see your film in a new light, the great editors understand this and push the envelope with their first cuts. Then it’s all about collaboration and marrying the two visions. Takashi excels at this because he doesn’t bring his ego to the table. The edit should never be a fight, but rather a dance, where the two partners each bring a lot of passion and a lot of give. Takashi is a great dance partner.”
Together with Hanna, the emotional content was carefully addressed. “In this film, we are trying to capture Jessica’s nervousness and struggle in this new place,” Takashi said. “It is her journey to find out who she is and also what it means to stay true to yourself. As an editor, crafting a narrative to express her emotion was the most important thing and our goal was, always, to build character and express their emotion.”
“There were a lot of challenges,” Takashi said. “I learned so much from editing this film. I was really lucky to work with such a talented director, Ali, and Dan, a great co-editor. Also, a lot of times the editor really has to work on shaping up the acting in post-production, but I didn’t have to worry about it at all—these kids were so talented. I am really proud of it and I believe this film will remain in the audience’s heart along with many other classic teen movies.”
The mutual pleasure which radiated throughout the IT LIST team imbued the finished product with great warmth, charm and appeal, and connected them on both a personal and professional level. “Takashi was such a joy to work with,” Scher said. “He was innovative and hard working. It takes a lot of determination and perseverance to be a great editor and Takashi worked a scene until it truly sang. I personally could not be more pleased with the work that Takashi did and the way the film turned out. I would definitely work with him again, no question.”