The winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Film Editing, used stock footage in the final film. Here’s how Hollywood’s most beloved and beautiful movie of 2023 won big, with help from Pond5.
Imagine taking everything– your hopes and dreams, old report cards, every breed of dog, every last personal ad on Craigslist, sesame, poppyseed, salt– and putting it all into a movie. That’s essentially what the talented team of filmmakers who created Everything Everywhere All At Once did. This epic film recently swept the 2023 Academy Awards with seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Film Editing.
In the process of making the film, they sourced massive amounts of surreal, dynamic, wacky, and beautiful footage from Pond5. They then edited it throughout, giving (even more) depth and dimension to the multiverse-hopping movie.
Because the characters in this movie quickly jump between several surreal universes, the team at A24 needed to layer diverse visuals throughout the story’s entirety. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as ‘Daniels’) and their editing team knew from the storyboarding phase that stock content would need to be cut into the film to round out the look and feel they were going for.
Here, we speak to three critical players in sourcing and editing stock footage for Everything Everywhere All At Once:
- Aashish D’Mello, Assistant Editor
- Zekun Mao, Assistant Editor
- Carey Len Smith, Post-Production Producer
They take us through the variety of stock footage they purchased, how they collaborated through COVID-19 lockdowns, and how Pond5’s creative content enhanced the story.
How Stock Content Built the Multiverse
If you haven’t seen the movie, it can be described as this: An interdimensional rupture unravels reality. An unlikely hero named Evelyn, must channel her powers to fight surreal and outlandish evil across an infinite multiverse. The fate of the multiverse hangs in the balance as she and her family hop from one bizarre universe to the next, fighting for meaning in a world that can make one feel meaningless. Michelle Yeoh won Best Actress for playing the role of Evelyn.
The concept for this movie is highly creative and complex. Daniels had a very specific vision for how the film would look. A highly skilled team of editors helped them achieve Everything Everywhere’s famously fantastical style.
A few particular, widely recognizable scenes have stock footage from Pond5 cut throughout them. They are when:
- Jobu, the film’s antagonist, explains how she literally put everything on a bagel (can you spot this clip in the sequence?)
- Several fight sequences when characters hop across the multiverse (this clip makes an appearance if you can find it)
- A closeup on Evelyn’s face as the film skips across seemingly infinite versions of the character (keep your eyes peeled for this clip)
“The craziest sequence [is] the splashing across multiple universes when Evelyn meets Jobu for the first time,” says D’Mello. He explains that his team had to find very unique pictures and footage to complement what Jobu talks about in this scene.
“We were able to find very specific pictures of vintage dogs, which looked good,” he says.
Mao agrees that they were able to source most of their creative stock needs, thanks to Daniels’ vision and Pond5’s library.
“I genuinely feel like Daniels really know how to use stock footage, and how to make it benefit the film,” says Mao. “This use of stock looks natural in the film, rather than making you realize that stock footage was used. It was used for many scene backgrounds and in visual effects.”
The Pond5 Partnership
Nearly all stock clips for Everything Everywhere All At Once were sourced from the Pond5 library. In fact, D’Mello says about 95% of the clips they did not shoot originally came from Pond5.
“A lot of the time, what we were looking for was very specific,” says Mao. “We needed a stock website that had the widest reach of clips, in our opinion. That’s definitely one of the things that stood out to us about Pond5.”
The editing team was very particular about their final clip selections. They worked off a huge list of potential video and image possibilities to include in the film. Their Pond5 Creative Partners and Pond5’s research service helped with sourcing assets. Carey Len Smith explains that the team collaborated together on exploring, sourcing, and licensing footage throughout the editing process.
The directors were closely involved in this work as well, since it was easy to pin-point perfect footage and share clips amongst the team. This collaboration included tons of new creative ideas and quickly changing requests from Daniels. Luckily, Pond5’s usability and massive library helped the editing team remain agile throughout the production process.
“Daniels would just send us a link. If one of them liked a particular piece of stock footage, he would literally send us the link to it,” says Carey Len Smith.
Ease of collaboration was especially important when making this film, as teams had to cross-collaborate while working remotely during lockdowns.
A Special Look at Working on a Special Film
Today’s accessibility to technology makes a film like Everything Everywhere All At Once achievable. Part of what also made this movie possible was collaborative coworking throughout the upstart of the COVID-19 pandemic. The editing team had to adjust their workflows to accommodate for the lockdown, which went into effect just as editing for the film began.
“We went into a remote workflow. We had to figure out how to push post-production forward,” explains Mao. Unfortunately, teams were unable to shoot some of the footage they originally planned. Thankfully though, stock footage was able to supplement those needs. “Stock footage was pretty much our first choice, when it came to filling some of the holes,” she adds.
The editing team found stock content from Pond5 to be the best solution to challenges they faced during the early pandemic. “Honestly, it’s becoming more and more fashionable (to use) more stock footage,” explains Carey Len Smith, when describing the selection of videos their team accessed.
In fact, everything to do with editing came together so well, that their team was able to attend the Academy Awards. The team interviewed here attended the Oscars alongside Film Editor Paul Rogers, who graciously invited them to the ceremony. While there, they witnessed their work win the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. It was an achievement they didn’t expect, but were thrilled to receive after all of their hard work.
This was in part due to the team’s artistic skills, resourcefulness when collaborating remotely and sourcing stock footage clips, and creative visions, according to D’Mello. Because the film was visually dynamic, complex, and oftentimes chaotic, their talents truly manifested success in the editing process. Telling a non-linear story is difficult enough, but crafting the masterpiece that is Everything Everywhere All At Once is truly an achievement that both audiences and the Academy Awards loved.
“We all wanted to make it work . . . and I think that’s what matters in the end. We all figured it out.”