Award-winning Filmmaker Randy Wilkins (Bronx, New York) Talks Movie Inspirations & Editing for Spike Lee
Interviewed by William Bryant Rozier
Randy Wilkins’s name has been aligned with Spike Lee’s since the 38-year-old’s college days. Wilkins sat next to Lee once during a dinner at Franklin and Marshall College, his alma mater. That led to an editing internship with the Brooklyn-proud filmmaker and Wilkins’s idol, cutting and learning on “Inside Man” (2006).
Wilkins become Spike’s Lead Editor on 2014’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” and continued on the ESPN-shorts “Jesus Shuttlesworth” and “The Greatest Catch,” and HBO’s “Katt Williams Priceless” (2014). Wilkins’s impressive resume is abbreviated here for time.
Recently, he was the Lead Editor on Spike Lee’s Netflix binger “She’s Gotta Have It” (2017).
Wilkins is an accomplished filmmaker in his own right. He’s won Emmy Awards for his cinematography and is currently in post-production on his digital web series “Docket 32357.”
Film editors are universally regarded as the second most important job on a film crew.
William Bryant Rozier (WBR): A famous writer (Toni Morrison, maybe) once described her job as “putting the right words in the right order.” I can see that description modified to describe film editing (“putting the right scenes in the right order”). How do you describe your job as an editor?
Randy Wilkins (RW): I would say editing is where the true storytelling process comes to life in film. A story normally goes through three processes: the script, the production and the edit. The story is often much different in the editing stage as opposed to the script stage, and I always say a director is at the mercy of his or her footage.
So my job as an editor is to maximize the storytelling potential of the footage. Yes, it is cutting one shot to the next. Yes, it is creating a rhythm. Yes, it is putting together scenes and sequences, but at the end of the day my job is to build an emotional story that an audience will fully engage with and walk away thinking and feeling something they didn't experience before seeing the movie.
WBR: We both grew up in the 1980s; we didn’t have a Black Panther at the movies or many black superheroes anywhere really, except the comics. Did you notice an absence of culturally prevalent black superheroes in your life?
RW: I was totally unaware of the lack of black super heroes. I didn't think through that lens when I was a kid. I honestly didn't really feel the importance of seeing a black super hero until I saw “Black Panther” (2018). I didn't even make that realization when watching “Blade” (1998) or “Blankman” (1994). I'm not sure what that says about me making this discovery so late in my life, but I'm thankful for a film like “Black Panther.”
WBR: At least we had Bruce Leroy from “The Last Dragon” (1985).
RW: I was a HUGE fan of “The Last Dragon.” Bruce Leroy is a hood super hero now that I think about it.
WBR: I got hooked pretty quick watching your series, “Docket 32357.” You are in postproduction for the second season now. How are you different as a filmmaker now?
RW: Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm much more aware of how to build drama. I'm much better at digging into the emotional beats of a story and figuring out the best way to explore those beats. I have a better understanding that character drives story as much as or even more than plot. I don't feel overwhelmed by filmmaking anymore, which is a big step forward.
WBR: How has your working relationship changed now with Spike that you’re not as inexperienced as you once were? You're an award-winning filmmaker who has his own platform that you're building. You're definitely different.
RW: I don't think my relationship has changed much with Spike. He trusted me then and he trusts me now. I was overwhelmed because I was thrown in the fire and assumed every position in the post department. But Spike has always trusted me, and I appreciate that a great deal. He has put me in positions of great responsibility; I've responded well to every challenge. I think the biggest difference is confidence in myself. I'm good at what I do. I know that I can get the job done at a high level.
Wilkins’s “Docket 32357” web series tells the story about the commonality between two women who meet outside of a courtroom. To watch the series, and for mo’ about Randy Wilkins himself, hit up his website, pamsson.com.