Building Batman

By the time Ben Murphy graduated in 2015, he already had a pretty impressive resume that included directing a documentary and associate producing a film with an all-UT cast and crew. In less than two years, he’s parlayed his student accomplishments into a gig as assistant editor on the recently released LEGO Batman Movie.

It was a connection made during his internship with American Cinema Editors (ACE) that gave Murphy a leg up on the assistant editor job. Just a few days after Murphy joined the Motion Picture Editors Guild, the editor of The LEGO Batman Movie, John Venzon, offered him the job as part of the Warner Animation Group.

“If you had asked me a year ago, I never would have dreamed I would be working on The LEGO Batman Movie,” Murphy says.

Murphy’s primary job on the film was, of course, to creatively assist the editor. As opposed to editors on live-action films, animation editors come in at the beginning of the moviemaking process and help plan the story and put together a story reel, complete with temporary music and sound effects—essentially helping to build the movie on the front end.

Some of Murphy’s tasks included hunting down lines of dialogue that might work in a particular scene, setting up scenes with the newest animation for Venzon to edit, editing in or supplying Venzon with sound effects, recording temporary dialogue, photoshopping stills for new shot ideas, and breaking down dialogue from voice records. Murphy also acted as a distributor of the film from the editorial department to other departments like sound, music, and marketing.

“Every single day was so much fun,” says Murphy of the production. “For me, the best part was collaborating with the passionate and talented crew.”

He worked with a crew of people on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles that included the movie’s director, Chris McKay; Venzon; another assistant editor; and several others. There was another editorial unit located in Sydney, Australia, where all the animation was created.

While he’s seen the movie more times than he can count, he says, he still laughs out loud every time. “It pokes fun at all the stereotypical things in Batman movies, while also giving Batman an emotional arc we’ve never really seen before on screen.”

When he gets some time off, Murphy says he’d love to return to Knoxville to speak to current students in the Cinema Studies program. He was in the first graduating class of the program and attributes much of his success to its faculty.

“These classes are where I grew as a filmmaker—from discussing classic films to understanding screenplay format to classroom critiques about our short films. Paul Harrill, Dr. Maland, Dr. Legg, and Dr. Larsen shaped my entire film education. I can never thank them enough. Their guidance over the years brought me to where I am today,” Murphy says.

Image at top: Ben Murphy (at right) and his brother, Scott, pose with the “stars” of The LEGO Batman Movie after the premiere.

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