“This movie gets worse every screening.”
That is just one of the many notes given to director Ridley Scott from studio executives during the post-production process for the science-fiction classic Blade Runner.
Last night, at the 93rd annual Academy Awards, Blade Runner star Harrison Ford introduced the Best Film Editing category with s few samples from that particular infamous set of notes to illustrate the fact that while everyone has opinions on a film’s edit, it is only the editor who is making the thousands of choices and spending the untold hours assembling a film into its final form. (Side note – The police station set seen in Blade Runner was built in Los Angeles’s Union Station, where this year’s Academy Awards show was being held.)
You can read the entire studio memo Ford was quoting from below.
The notes come from Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio, two of the film’s producers who were financial backers on the project. Since they were the ones signing the checks, they also had a lot of say into the final edit of the film.
Given it’s classic status now, these notes certainly seem wrongheaded. Although to be fair to Yorkin and Perenchio, their background was in comedy, having worked with Norman Lear for years before this.
Especially egregious, though, is the complaints about the voice over. Scott originally did not have voice over in the movie, only adding it at the behest of the studio in a previous round of notes. Of course, it should be noted that Ford purposely gave flat readings for the voice over because he thought it was a bad idea and hoped that it wouldn’t be used.
But this is a powerful example of what screenwriter William Goldman meant in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade when he wrote “Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess — and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”