Editor, LAIKA Entertainment
Christopher Murrie remembers the day in the winter of 1993, when he was a
student majoring in art at Knox College, that he ventured to a movie theater
in Galesburg to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, produced by Tim
Burton and directed by Henry Selick. A decade-and-a-half later, the 1995 Knox graduate, now a seasoned film and video editor with LAIKA Entertainment, served as lead editor for Selick's latest film, the critically acclaimed animated feature Coraline.
What did you do in the production of Coraline?
As lead editor on Coraline, I worked daily with the director to mold and shape the story, for both sound and picture. In animation, unlike live action films, all of the film gets edited before shooting begins. We start with a recording of the script, which we make using crew members and local actors, and we begin editing storyboards together with this rough sound to form a framework of a movie. Then, as we record the actual actors, our rough sound voices are gradually replaced with the actual voices. Simultaneously, we refine the storyboards towards the ultimate goal of having a complete version of the film -- built entirely out of voice, sound effects, and drawings, representing all the shots and the actions and acting that will occur in them.
The editor in animation really gets to do a lot. We get to mold the performance of all the characters; revise, re-frame and create new shots during the storyboard phase; and build the framework for the sound effects and music. It is a wonderful rich and creative job with lots of challenges and rewards.
How long have you worked at LAIKA?
I have been with LAIKA for 10 years. I started as an assistant editor in 1999, when they were still called Will Vinton Studios. I worked on a wide variety of commercial projects including M&Ms, 3 Musketeers, Honda, Trident . . . lots of breakfast cereals. The advertising side of the animation world is largely about mascot character animation. I was made an editor in 2001, and made the leap over to the entertainment division in 2004.
What were your favorite experiences at Knox?
I owe a lot to [studio art faculty members] Lynette Lombard and Tony Gant. They were a big influence on me when I was at Knox and encouraged me to follow whatever crazy ideas I had that didn't seem to fit into the curriculum. They taught me a lot of important lessons about the visual medium that I use every day in my job. Visual composition is a key part of film and a big part of editing. You always have to be conscious of where the viewer's eye is in a shot, and where it will go across a cut. I remember being terrified to admit to myself that I wanted to get an art degree -- thinking that it would never amount to a job. Now I use the things I learned every day, and I couldn't do what I do without those experiences.
It has been a tremendous privilege to work as the lead editor for Coraline. I am tremendously proud of the film and my contribution. I hold a special place for my Knox experience in my heart and owe much of my success to the growth I achieved there.