Jun Diaz has barely recovered from his most taxing project to date, cutting the critically-acclaimed documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, about actor-turned-mogul producer Robert Evans, directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein. "It's the most grueling edit I've ever had to do," Diaz notes of the movie, which garnered him an ACE nomination. Not only did he cut the film, but he also acted as creative director, having conceived a startlingly fresh technique that creates "footage" in After Effects out of the heaps of still photographs used throughout the movie. "It was almost a year of working on the graphics and the editing, and it was really painstaking building each scene shot by shot," he explains. "Most of the production occurred in the edit." Sheer exhaustion in no small part explains the editor's entry into spots two years ago, when he joined MacKenzie Cutler. Diaz had met Ian MacKenzie while the Antioch liberal arts grad was cutting another highly regarded documentary, Chris Smith and Sarah Price's American Movie, which took the 1999 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. The editors kept in touch, and during production on Kid, Diaz rang MacKenzie up. "I thought, When this is over, I'd like to cut commercials," he recalls. "When I play down a cut, I want it to be over in 30 seconds."
Despite the change of pace, the commercials medium poses its own challenges. "I was used to film breathing differently," says Diaz. "It's completely different in that you can make a cut feel epic, or you can accomplish a pacing that feels as slow as glue in 30 seconds." Nevertheless, his deft editorial touches remain watertight on his advertising reel, on spots for Red Stripe, in which languid rhythms heighten the hilarity of wooden performances; a visually-driven MasterCard spot; and a slew of work for FedEx, including the info-packed "Robocats" and "Joe's FedEx Guy," and several in the recent "Relax, It's FedEx" evolution via Frank Todaro.
On any given project Diaz's approach remains consistent. "I always go in thinking that there's never one answer. I'm not a documentary film editor or a movie editor. I basically edit to develop an idea." He continues to mix it up on new work for AOL directed by Pam Thomas and on another doc with Morgen and Burstein, about boxer Roy Jones Jr., which debuts on HBO this fall. Weaving stories of seconds or hours, Diaz remains fully captivated by what unfolds in the bay. "One of the most exciting things is when every part, the film, music, dialogue, syncs together and creates something that communicates in so many ways. You actually can create a new place that, hopefully, people get lost in. Seeing an edit work, whether it's a commercial or film, is an amazing thing. It's a very emotional process."