Nope Editor Nicholas Monsour On Working With Jordan Peele, The Movie’s First Cut Length, And More

You’ve worked with Jordan now a number of times, on two features, a bunch of TV shows. Are you and he at the point now where you’ve got a shorthand and you can get into each other’s minds a bit?

We come loaded with knowing generally what to expect in terms of the things we’re thinking about, interested in, and how we go about different aspects of our jobs. There’s a lot that we’re not learning anymore about each other, but one thing we have in common and one reason I believe we work well together is that Jordan’s always challenging himself, trying to reinvent the way he does what he does. I also have to try to do that.

We probably could be making ourselves a lot more comfortable than we are, but there’s always a new challenge and always new stuff to figure out, so we’re figuring out how to do each project on its own terms each time. I started working with him almost eight years ago, so there’s a part of editing that really is hanging out and being able to talk about ideas and that part only gets more comfortable and better the longer you do it.

What was the brief on “Nope” when he first approached you about working on this? What did he tell you he’d be looking for?

Two things. One is Jordan’s an amazing collaborator in that he’s extremely generous with how inside his own thought process he allows you to be. Before he even had completed a script, he would take me out to lunch and tell me the whole idea as though he had to pitch it to me, which he doesn’t have to, but it’s part of his process to talk through it with the people he’s going to work with. He did the same with the actors and the cinematographer and the production designer. He goes through this series of conversations with the people he’s going to work with as he’s developing it.

One thing that’s really exciting about the position Jordan has created for himself is that he’s the brand, he’s the IP, he’s the writer, he’s the director, and he’s the producer, so he continues developing the project the whole time. As it’s building, he can pivot and tweak, rather than feeling locked in and beholden to some material that wasn’t his. There’s a core idea and core set of characters. As they find the locations, he thinks, “Ooh, that’s interesting. Maybe we should tweak this aspect or that aspect of the plot,” based on the realities of the casting, the production design, the locations, all of that.

The core brief was there about the family, the brother-sister relationship, the peripheral relationship to Hollywood and mass media, and how that related thematically to an encounter with something incredibly powerful and “other,” and the voyage of discovery of figuring out what it is and why we’re driven to try and capture and understand something like that, like a UFO or an alien or anything like that.

That said, the other part of what he definitely made very clear was he was throwing everything he had at “Nope” creatively that he could, and that he was inviting me and the other collaborators to bring all the ways we think our jobs should be done to this project.

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