Maplewood’s Tim Squyres Receives Oscar Nomination for ‘Life of Pi’

By Susan Wallner
State of the Arts

The 85th Academy Award nominations were announced today, and Life of Pi received 11, including Best Picture, Ang Lee for Directing, and Tim Squyres for Film Editing. The winners will be announced February 24, 2013.

Tim Squyres has edited most of director Ang Lee’s films, including The Wedding Banquet, Sense and Sensibility, Hulk, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing. Life of Pi is his tenth Ang Lee film and the first in 3D for both of them. Yet, the two rarely talk.

“On most of Ang’s films, I’m not there at all, I’m not in the same time zone,” says Tim. “On Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon we shot for 128 days, and he and I spoke twice during that entire time.” The two communicate through their work –- Tim edits together a few versions of the footage he is given for a scene, and then sends it to Ang for review. Sometimes there is further work to be done, but oftentimes not.

Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger in “Life of Pi” Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

The Maplewood resident works wherever his jobs take him. Sometimes Tim assembles entire rough cuts in his home office, other times he’ll be on set. More typically, he’s in an edit room in Los Angeles or New York. He spent seven weeks on location in Taiwan during the five month shoot for Life of Pi. Mostly, however, he edited this latest movie –- all alone -– in a small theater with 3D projection.

According to Tim, 3D adds two variables to the footage. The first, the amount of depth (caused by the separation between the two cameras), an editor has no control over. But the second, called “convergence,” he has complete control over in the editing. Convergence determines what’s in front, behind, and on the screen plane. For instance, does the sun seem right at the horizon, or behind it? “Probably between a third and a half of the shots in the film I changed the convergence on,” says Tim, “and that just becomes part of your job.”

Tim Squyres talks about editing “Life of Pi” in 3D. Footage courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Tim Squyres didn’t go to film school, but he was hooked when he took a film class in college. Afterwards, he moved to New York where he worked as a sound recordist, a cameraman, a director, and finally an editor. He found that he really liked editing because it involved him in the story of the film from beginning to end. He now has close to 30 film credits.

The new movie Tim is working on is very different from the intensely orchestrated, special effects laden Life of Pi. Shot in only seven days, The Master Builder is an adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play starring Wallace Shawn and André Gregory (of My Dinner with André fame), directed by Jonathan Demme.

For this project, Tim’s edit room is in a beautiful, funky old house overlooking the Hudson, in an office filled with paintings from Demme’s collection of Haitian art. He expects The Master Builder will be about two hours long. As of now, there is no firm release date.

Susan Wallner is an award-winning producer with PCK Media. She is a long-time contributor to State of the Arts, now airing on NJTV Sundays at 8 pm and Thursdays at 11:30 pm.