How did you come to work with Whit Stillman? Were you a fan of his movies before working with him? Which one is your favorite?
Growing up between Connectcut and Manhattan, (my mother was in CT, father in NYC) becoming a Whit Stillman fan was very natural. I was a huge fan of his 90’s trilogy, METROPOLITAN, BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO in high school and still am. Like many great artists, his films capture a perfectly unified vision, and it’s far too difficult to choose a favorite. I had only been working for about a year as an assistant editor when I got the interview and subsequent job as assistant editor on Whit’s film, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. Whit and I became pal’s during the editing process. I think he liked that I was a hardworking, hale and hearty New England girl. At one point the editor had to leave for a few weeks, I filled in, and it stuck.
Did the pandemic disrupt your work life? Did anything change for you?
Unsurprisingly I’ve been working from home. Production came to my house and installed a massive desk, with three monitors, a calibrated sound system and an ergonomic chair. Now when you walk into my living room it looks like I have a Twitch stream devoted to Call of Duty. I love not having to fight LA traffic but working from home there are different battles to be won. My husband Andy, also works from home, with his screenwriting partner Eugene Kotylaranko. They converted our guest room into their office. For the most part it works well because they take over the upstairs and the ground floor is my zone. But since the kitchen is close to my edit setup, I am sometimes interrupted. Eugene has an amazing ability to make the loudest sounds when hunting for snack food. Crinkling bags, crunching on chips, slamming drawers. I’ll be editing a very subtle emotional scene and all of a sudden I hear “CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP.” Still, it does beat that LA traffic…. (Eugene, if you're reading this, you know I love you.)
What was it like working on The Scary of Sixty First Street?
I loved working on SCARY. I totally respect Dasha as a thinker and artist. We’ve been friends for a while, so it was a really fun process. We were cutting during the height of the pandemic - I spent the first month (June 2020) cutting alone and then in July she came to Pasadena and stayed with Andy & me while we worked. Andy rolled out a mattress on the floor and converted his office into a guest room. Our daily routine was - I would wake up early to work, Dasha would stay in her room until about 11, spending the morning sleeping, talking to her enneagram therapist on zoom, reading, podcasting etc, she’d then come down and we’d work until dinner time. Then we’d all eat together and watch a movie for inspiration. It was a very immersive editing process. Hanging out with her, even when we weren’t talking about the film, helped me craft something that fully evokes her vibe.
What can you tell us who haven’t seen it about the movie?
It’s a film about exposing the moral rot of the wealthy (specifically Jeffrey Epstein) and the spiral these girls go down trying to uncover the corruption of our elites. In another era this wouldn’t be a controversial idea but, as most are aware, art has become so neutered and edgeless, that even critiquing universally despised people seems to stir the pot. Most contemporary films are so petrified of being disliked or controversial that they skim along the surface of reality to the point that you feel as if you’ve just watched nothing at all. I believe the word for that is “content”. The funny thing is SCARY isn’t even particularly gory or sexually explicit - it’s campy, more like a giallo horror, but there’s something about Dasha’s complete willingness to be perverted and messy and honest about real issues that seems to shock people. Whether you love it or hate it you have to appreciate her total commitment. I’m very curious to see what people say when it comes out.
[Your husband] Andy really seems to love living in Pasadena. What is it about Dena which so appeals to him?
Andy loves Pasadena because it’s beautiful, reminds him of a slasher film, and is deeply unhip. Pasadena is what it is, and always has been. Classic American suburbia like Pasadena is totally disinterested in the whims of your typical urban neighborhood. “Have you been to that new restaurant where they cook a bunch of different colored vegetables together?” Who cares! I live in a house with 100 year old windows. Besides, if I wanted to be urban I’d live in NYC. We are surrounded by old people with little white fluffy dogs, just like ours. It’s incredible.