Written by Colin Costello, Reel Chicago
Jacques Gravett, ACE, is a respected figure in the film and television industry, recognized for his exceptional contributions as an editor. A distinguished member of prestigious organizations such as The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Motion Picture Editors Guild, and American Cinema Editors, as well as a Mentor on the Diversity in Editing Committee for the ACE, Gravett’s career has been marked by his exceptional talent and dedication in the editing arts craft.
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Gravett’s journey in the world of entertainment began after graduating from Rolling Hills High School. He pursued his academic aspirations at San Diego State University’s Fowler School of Business, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, accompanied by a minor in Management. However, his true passion for film led him on a different trajectory.
Upon completing his education, Gravett delved into the realm of production, securing a position at the renowned Paramount Studios. His early career saw him contribute to various television series, notably including iconic shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Enterprise. During this phase, his passion for storytelling through the lens of an editor began to flourish.
With time, Gravett made a pivotal transition to the role of an editor, embarking on a journey that spans over 29 years. His remarkable expertise in shaping narratives has earned him a well-deserved reputation within the industry. His editing credits are nothing short of impressive, featuring a diverse range of projects that showcase his versatility and mastery of the craft.
Among his notable works, Gravett’s collaboration with Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme on the limited TV series Shots Fired stands out. Premiering at the esteemed 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the series garnered attention for its thought-provoking themes and compelling storytelling. Gravett’s contribution to Shots Fired underscored his ability to enhance narratives with precision and creativity.
Gravett’s influence extends across a spectrum of successful projects. He played a pivotal role in crafting the Apple TV series Swagger, cutting the show’s pilot as well as serving as lead editor. He also worked on the critically acclaimed Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, the Golden Globe-winning series The Shield, and the Peabody Award-winning series Battlestar Galactica.
His recent endeavors include editing the second season of Starz’s hit drama series Power Book IV: Force, further solidifying his reputation as a trusted, accomplished, and in-demand editor in the industry.
What drew you to the project of editing “Power Book IV,” and what were your initial impressions of the material?
I needed a break from cutting pilots and first-season shows for the past few years. Force is the fourth spinoff in the Power franchise which obviously means it’s successful so it seemed like a good opportunity. Crime dramas are always fun to edit and it’s a genre I’m very experienced with having edited the final season of the series The Shield, which is where I originally met Force’s showrunner Gary Lennon. He contacted me to tell me he was taking over showrunning duties for season 2 of Force. I knew it would be great to work with him again.
I had concerns about the violence associated with the show. It’s no secret Chicago has struggled to control gang violence and gun violence. In my opinion – for the people that are caught up – it’s definitely a direct result of poor decision-making individuals make when they are faced with limited choices.
Season 2 goes deeper into the challenges law enforcement is faced with in trying to control the drugs and violence which is a good thing.
How did you approach the storytelling given its connection to the broader “Power” franchise?
Other than being true to Tommy’s character, I personally didn’t think about the connection at all.
Were there specific creative challenges you faced in maintaining continuity while also introducing new elements?
Not really. We’re in season two, so introducing new elements wasn’t an issue.
Power Book IV is known for its complex characters and intricate plotlines. Can you share any insights into how you tackled the character development and pacing during the editing process?
For starters, the main character of Tommy Eagen is the focal point and so popular that I had to make sure the way I was editing his scenes were consistent with the way his character has already been established. It was clear during dailies on my first episode – which was the season 2 premiere – that Joseph Sikora knows his character very well. He’s a very consistent actor and I typically have excellent choices in any given take. That not only makes my job easier, but it keeps it fun.
The pacing of any given tv show or film is always something that is tricky. You want to make sure that you are going in the right direction with that from day one. Since I’m invited to sit in on the episode tone meetings that our showrunner has with the director I’m privy to the creative discussions that take place. Therefore, I have a pretty good idea of what the pacing needs to be given what’s happening with the story.
The Power series has a dedicated fan base. How do you balance meeting fan expectations while also bringing fresh and innovative editing techniques to the show?
When I’m editing I don’t worry about fan expectations. I know if I do my job right then the audience will usually be engaged in the story and in the end entertained as well.
Could you highlight a particularly challenging or rewarding scene or episode you edited in Power Book IV, and tell us about the process of working on it?
That answer is definitely episode 10. There is a jaw-dropping scene that was emotionally hard to cut and creatively challenging. However, since it hasn’t aired yet that’s all I can say about it now. Sorry, no spoilers.
How closely do you work with the director, writers, and other members of the post-production team to achieve the desired outcome?
I work very closely with them. It’s a team effort and everyone gets involved at a different phase of the process. Each member of the post-production team as a whole works very hard and is a tremendous asset to helping me only have to worry about the creative process. While an episode is filming, it’s just me and my assistant editor working together on my editor’s cut.
My assistant editor, Spencer P. Thompson, is very important to my process. He organizes all the dailies footage for me as it comes in each day and also does sound work for me. That allows me to work on cutting picture and music. After filming is completed on set, I have 4-5 days to get my editor’s cut ready for the director. I’ll work four days with the director making sure his or her creative vision for the episode is represented on screen, but also careful not to deviate too much from Gary’s overall vision for the series. After the director’s cut is finished, the director is done and the cut is sent to the producers.
I’m now in the producers’ cut working closely with our showrunner Gary, doing whatever notes he may have as well as notes from the other producers he has received and wants to proceed with. During this time, I will also start working more closely with our music composer and music supervisor getting much more specific about my choices there. When the producers’ cut is complete, it is sent to the studio and then the network for any final notes and or feedback. Once we get approval to lock picture on the episode, my final step is attending the re-recording mix where sound and music are put together for the locked picture.
Power Book IV explores themes of power, loyalty, and family dynamics. How did these thematic elements influence your editing choices, and can you provide specific examples?
It seems dysfunctional families make for interesting drama. The Flynn family definitely has a unique set of power, loyalty, and family dynamics. In season 1, Vic’s character was in love with a woman his father didn’t approve of basically because she was bad for his corrupt family business. She ends up getting killed, it’s devastating to Vic, and now he has real hate for his father.
In season 2, Vic is still picking up the pieces from his loss of love. In editing his scenes in the premiere, I had to make sure my editing choices were consistent with him still feeling that loss. It sounds silly, but I tapped into my personal feelings of recently losing loved ones that were close to me in order to sympathize with Vic. It doesn’t matter who you are when that happens to you in life; your world is really turned upside down. Everything is a total mess – just like Vic.
The Power series often features intense action sequences and dramatic moments. How do you approach the editing of action scenes to maximize their impact on the audience?
I had some very fun action scenes during season 2 of Force. I like cutting action, and for me the first thing is to really study the dailies closely in order to begin to formulate how the scene will come together in my head. I will make notes or use locators to mark key moments I really like within a take. Once I do begin editing the first pass of the given action sequence, I try to do it as quickly as possible. It is typically not a cut I’ll use or one anybody other than me will see because it’s just too rough.
But it’s the best way for me to make an exciting scene. Once I have a scene cut that I’m comfortable with, it’s great to be able to show it to other people and have discussions about it and try to keep making it better.
Power Book IV has its own unique tone and style while still adhering to the overarching aesthetic of the franchise. Can you share your insights into maintaining this balance in the editing room?
When I’m cutting a scene on Force, I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Generally, I don’t have to be too stylistic when editing on this show. The characters drive the story. I believe the writers make sure the stories adhere to the aesthetic of the franchise so that’s half the battle right there.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring editors looking to work on high-profile series like Power Book IV? Are there any lessons or experiences from your work on the show that you believe are particularly valuable for emerging talent in the industry?
The advice I would give aspiring editors is the same advice I give to my assistant editor: Work on mastering your craft. I’m not the first person to say that, but I believe it’s some of the best advice. Do the best job you can with whatever is in front of you – no matter if the project is high profile or not.
Even if you are given just a small scene to cut, do your best with what you have been given. Your experiences now will help you be better prepared whenever a bigger opportunity comes your way.
A damage control technique that has worked very well for me as an editor is to make sure you communicate with your post-production team at the first sign of any potential problems with dailies footage or story development you encounter. It may very well go away as the episode comes together, however in the event that it doesn’t your team will be prepared to deal with it.
Through his dedication, talent, and extensive body of work, Gravett has left an indelible mark on the world of film and television editing. His journey from a passionate film enthusiast to a respected industry professional showcases his unwavering commitment to the art of storytelling.