From the cutting floor to the Oscars

Film editor Kirk Baxter, who has been nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “The Social Network,” talks about his work on the film, the actors and the “fine details” of editing.

By Meg Boberg / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Film Society welcomed a packed house Saturday night at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue for a screening of the critically acclaimed film, “The Social Network,” which explores the history of Facebook and the lawsuits against its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Film editor Kirk Baxter was present Saturday night to talk about his and co-editor Angus Wall’s work on the film, for which they received an Oscar nomination.

“The Social Network” has also earned Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) and Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg).

Baxter and Wall began their professional collaboration in the 2007 film “Zodiac,” and again on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which earned the duo an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing in 2008. Currently, Baxter and Wall are co-editors for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which is scheduled to premiere in December.

“It was a challenge just to jump back and forth, back and forth between the transitions,” Baxter said of their work. “It’s tricky, like a jigsaw puzzle, when you’re putting it together, or a Rubik’s cube, when you’re constantly cutting between people.”

“The Social Network” has a nonlinear plot, jumping back and forth from the founding of Facebook in 2003 to the lawsuits against Zuckerberg, in 2008. Baxter said he and Wall made an effort to help director Fincher in assembling each scene.

Leading the question-and-answer session was Malibu Film Society Executive Director Scott Tallal.

“Everybody has their own style, but I’ve heard from many directors that the process of putting just the opening shoot together is so all consuming that they often put off the editing process until after the film is in the can, but I know that’s not the way [Fincher] works,” Tallal said, adding that it has been reported that 99 takes were recorded for the opening scene of the film.

“David is always trying so hard to do his very best, I call him an athlete of film because he’s trying so hard for the film,” Baxter said. “It’s easier to edit if you’ve got a good leader, especially in this market. Essentially, we’re helping David. He doesn’t like imperfection and he likes things to be simple and clear.”

Audience member James Desborough, a Los Angeles resident and U.S. liaison for the British newspaper The News International, asked Baxter his opinion on supporting actors Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake not being given Oscar nods.

Rather than give a direct answer, Baxter offered his praise of Timberlake’s and Garfield’s performances. Timberlake played the role of Sean Parker, the founder of the online music sharing application Napster, who Zuckerberg turned to for help in making Facebook a worldwide presence.

“In making the film, in seeing all the performances and knowing who did what, I was astounded by how clever Timberlake was,” Baxter said. “I think he’s going to be taken seriously from this point; he’s got a future ahead of him in acting. Sometimes with actors, you have to work to stitch the best takes together to make it sing, but I was really impressed with what he did.”

Baxter added that Garfield’s delivery, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, of the line, “I was your only friend” to the Zuckerberg character was a poignant moment, as well Garfield’s “explosive performance” while confronting Zuckerberg in the Facebook office when he finds out plans to oust him from the company.

Rebecca Reinhardt asked Baxter how the music in the film impacted the editing. The film’s score has earned an Academy Award nomination for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

“There’s a rhythm of the film,” Reinhardt said. “To me if feels like a symphony, how did you work to coordinate with that soundtrack?”

Baxter answered: “We started shaping the film to this music and defining the music to the picture. The detail makes the film work and that’s where [Reznor and Ross] are really clever. It was like a bag of Easter eggs for us to shape the film to this music. The detail is what makes the film work Š it’s the fine details.”

The next event hosted by the Malibu Film Society will be the Academy Awards Night Red Carpet Party on Feb. 27 at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway.

The black-tie optional dinner gala will be screened on a 16-foot HD screen and include a catered dinner, fashion show and raffle prizes. Tickets can be purchased online for $75, or for $100 at the door.

More information about reservations or membership can be found online at or by email to Executive Director Scott Tallal at

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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