The Green Book is a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali that’s getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and veteran film editor Patrick J. Don Vito made the magic come together in the editing room.

Patrick J. Don Vito started his career in the early 90s, and today he’s on the verge of being part of an Oscar-nominated film. PopAxiom cut together this conversation with longtime editor Patrick J. Don Vito about making the different roles of an editor, Movie 43, and Green Book.

Let’s Ride

Long before the Green Book, Patrick’s first steps into a life as an editor began “… in high school. My brother is five years older than me. He ended up at Chapman University where he studied film. So I’d help him out with his projects.”

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Helping his brother sparked a thought “I can have a career doing this? This is fun!”

Soon after “… I went to Chapman and studied film. And back then you could do whatever you want. Check out the equipment and go out and shoot your film. I really gravitated to editing.”

During school, the young editor “… got an internship at a show called Trials of Rosie O’Neil as a runner in post-production. “So I worked for this show taking whatever they needed to wherever it had to go.”

The experience provided a lot of opportunities for Patrick to learn more “In my spare time, I would talk to the editors and assistant editors to learn from them.”

Office In A Morgue

Rosie O’Neil eventually ended “When the job was over, one of the editors went on to do Jason Goes To Hell, and I became his apprentice.”

Making movies is hard work, but it can be fun in some unique ways “Every morning I would walk through the morgue set and go through a door, and that was my office.”

As a horror fan, Patrick was lucky to watch one of the legends to play Jason at work “One day I came out, and Kane Hodder is standing there in full Jason outfit. And he was awesome. He used to put on headphones and listen to Metallica and other stuff like that and stomp around get into character.”

Patrick shares a moment with Hodder “So one day I see Kane there, and I ask if I can take a picture. A second before the photo he grabbed me by the throat and choked me out. So I have this photo of Jason choking me.”

From high school to intern to opportunities “But my first few jobs all started from that one show.”

About Green Book

The Green Book is a drama with comedy or a comedy with drama. Either way, it’s funny, and it’s sentimental and serious. But there was no formula to how much comedy or drama the film should have “It’s very much about feel.”

There was a critical aspect of the comedy that the crew kept in mind “Let’s make sure the comedy comes out of the scene. If it sounds like a joke, it’s out of tone with the film.”

Balancing the humor and drama was “… really about the balance of the tone.”

For editing, Patrick “What do I absolutely need to tell in this scene? Do I even need this scene? But I like to strip it down and then add back stuff if necessary.”

The Fixer

Some say there are always three movies: One that’s written, one that’s shot, and one that’s edited but is anything in Hollywood even that simple? “Ultimately, a good script you hope will get you 90% there but some jobs are sort of ‘fix it’ jobs where they bring you in to fix story problems. Those can be tough jobs.”

What does Patrick think about those ‘fix it’ jobs? “They’re fun. They’re fun because you’re coming in fresh. Everyone else has been living this movie for however long. You can come in and suggest all sort of things that they may not have thought of. You get to give people a fresh look.”

Movies are massive beasts of production “Most of the time when you’re brought in on a ‘fix’ it’s just to help because movies are such a big thing. Sometimes it’s about the studio wanting a new editor to come in and try something new. It gives the studio a chance to see the film in a new light.”

However, there are harsh realities as in any industry “In extreme versions directors are fired, and people are brought in to salvage a movie.”

Hugh Jackman’s Chin-Balls

In 2013, a movie called Movie 43 came out which featured dozens of short films. It was condemned by critics (currently holding four percent on Rotten Tomatoes) but has since become a cult film. And that was the plan “The idea was to make another Amazon Women on the Moon or Kentucky Fried Movie.”

However, selling the movie required some convincing “… the producers went out and shot that skit with Hugh Jackman and the balls on his chin. That got everyone on board.”

Movie 43 came together when “Charles B. Wessler put out a call for crazy short films and whittled it down to the best ones. In fact, one of the shorts was even a student film.” In case you’re wondering it’s the short titled “Machine Kids.”

For Movie 43, Patrick came and “… did the sequence shot by Steven Brill and then they had me stick around, and I got to recut all the shorts with the directors. So I got to work with Brett Ratner, Griffin Dunne, James Gunn, Steve Carr …”

Movie 43 isn’t a work of genius, Patrick defines precisely what it is which makes the critical response irrelevant “It’s supposed to be this filthy comedy … it’s not supposed to be high art.”

Wrapping Up

Patrick’s career has been going strong for nearly 30 years, so who’s influenced him along the way? “I think Jay Roach was a big influence early on when I was working on the Austin Powers movies. I love working with Donald Petrie he’s so much fun and a great storyteller.”

Green Book is likely to get plenty of Oscar nominations but for Patrick, the job is done. So, what’s next? “A movie I worked on hasn’t been released yet which is Three Christs, John Avnet’s film. It’s a true story with Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Walter Goggins, Bradley Whitford. Gere is a psychiatrist who has three patients that all think they’re Christ. So he puts them in a room together to see what happens. It’s really funny, but dark, and sad. It has everything.”

Thanks to Patrick J. Don Vito and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.