‘Prey’ editor Claudia Castello forging her own path  

(News4usonline) – When it comes to building her film portfolio credits, Prey film editor Claudia Castello is steadily chopping wood. The longer she works as a film editor, producer and director, the more notable her projects have become.

Castello has a total of 23 credits as an editor. That may not be a whole lot to some people, but the quality of projects she has worked on speaks volumes about the kind of work she does. According to her IDMB page, Castello got her first screen credit as a film editor when she worked on The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans.      

Amber Midthunder star’s in Hulu’s “Prey.” Courtesy of Hulu

Since her film editing debut, Castello has climbed the ladder in a hurry, overseeing one production after another with rapid ease. In 2013, she landed a notable gig in editing Fruitvale Station, which stars Michael B. Jordan. Two years later, she was editing Creed, another Jordan breakout film. And then the big one came along. She worked on the hit Marvel film Black Panther as a film editor in 2018.    

Just like stacking chips, Castello has been putting in the work as it relates to enlarging her editing portfolio. Her work is even more prolific because she is one of the few women in the movie-making industry working as a film editor.

According to a 2021 Celluloid Ceiling study, women comprised just 22 percent of all film editors out of the top 250 highest performing movies last year, only a two percent increase from 1998.          

Despite those numbers, Castello has managed to kick the lack of gender opportunity door wide open by producing a high-profile resume body of work on highly successful films. Now comes Prey, the heralded Hulu prequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Predator.

Claudia Castello is the film editor of Hulu’s “Prey.” Courtesy photo

Set some 300 years before Schwarzenegger’s Dutch character arrives on the scene, Prey tells the story of the first encounter with this alien predator going to war against the Comanche Nation. While the storyline focuses on the Earth invader, it also pays homage to Native Americans. Castello took some time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts about Prey with News4usonline Editor Dennis J. Freeman.       

Dennis J Freeman: What led you to become part of the Prey?

Claudia Castello: “The project came my way through my agent, and it immediately caught my attention for being a Predator movie with an indigenous woman in the lead role! As I am Brazilian and my country has strong indigenous roots, as does the whole American continent, I got really excited. The story was well written, then I looked up Dan Trachtenberg’s previous work. The next thing I knew I was jumping up and down ready to start! I knew it would be a great project.”

 DJF: What was the biggest challenge for you in editing this film?

CC: “The biggest challenge in most movies is to write a story that will stay the same throughout production and post-production. It’s nearly impossible since a movie is written/rewritten at least three times. The first being is the script (if the script is inadequate, the end result will never be good, and this script was so well written), then directing and lastly, the editing. Considering that there are so many unpredictable elements during production and post, the movie becomes a living thing. After the movie leaves the paper, it starts the process of becoming what it wants to be. In the editing room, we find out what it wants to be. That’s what happened with Prey. The challenge in the editing room is to be the movie’s best psychiatrist. Meaning that things have to be clarified, bridged, rewritten in words or images… And that is one of the most interesting and challenging component for me in the process.”

DJF: How much did working on previous projects such as Fruitvale Station and Black Panther help you in editing Prey?

CC: “Immensely. All the good things and bad things add up. That’s another thing I love about working independently. I can always try new strategies, bring what I’ve learned from previous challenges and start fresh again and again. It’s precious.”

DJF: What drew you into film editing? What aspects do you enjoy most about your job?

CC: “I became an editor almost by accident. I came to the U.S. after finishing my undergrad in Journalism to learn English, and I took a few community classes in broadcast and film because I wanted to do documentaries. One thing led to the other, I found myself working at a boutique commercial production company in Venice, California. I learned Final Cut and started doing extremely basic editing and told a friend I could edit her short movie, even though I had no clue of how to put a scene together. I like to learn and that was my fuel to keep going. The next thing you know, I started a post-grad degree at USC, and then I started a career in the movie industry and I am still learning every single day. I think that is what drives me. The possibility of being in movement, being like water.”

A scene from the “Prey,” starring Amber Midthunder (right). Photo courtesy of Hulu

DJF: What would you deem to be the biggest challenge to editing a prequel as opposed to doing a standalone film?

CC: “Even though Prey is a prequel, it’s also a standalone film. So, I dug into it and enjoyed watching all the Predator and AVP [Alien vs. Predator] movies. I’m a huge fan! There were many recurring Predator franchise elements that were fun to work with in Prey and important to care for to respect its culture. At the same time, we had the freedom to make it unique and enjoyable to watch for anyone.”

DJF: Removing extra footage is part of what you do as a film editor. With that said, is there footage that you wish you would have been able to keep in Prey?

“There are no regrets.”

DJF: Just how difficult is it to determine what footage to keep and what footage to discard?

CC: “As I watch dailies, I’m already editing in my head. I try to imagine where the camera needs to be for each moment, thinking about the audience’s best understanding and involvement in the story, then, I start picking the shots accordingly. I’m also very driven by performance, so it’s a negotiation between elements.”

DJF: When you look at the final product of Prey, what is your opinion on what you were able to capture?

CC. “I feel like I did my best with the material and time I had in my hands.”

 DJF: How would you describe your career?

CC: “As a constantly evolving challenge and I feel like it has been going well overall.”

Among other projects she has under her belt, “Prey” film editor Claudia Castello has worked on “Black Panther,” “Creed,” and “Fruitvale Station.” Courtesy photo

 DJF: What’s next for you?

CC: “I’ve just started editing the Hulu series by Kapital Entertainment Studio “Black Cake” with Executive Producer Oprah Winfrey. It is my first opportunity to work as an editor in a real female point of view project, which goes from writing, directing, producing, all the way to editing. It’s a beautiful story and I’m very excited about it.”

DJF: How much of an influence has Ryan Coogler been on you and your career?

CC: “Huge. I love him as a friend, a human being, and as an extremely talented artist. I owe a lot to our collaborations over so many years.”

DJF: “Are you ever satisfied with your projects when they’re done or do you feel the need to do more in the editing process?

CC: “I’m never fully satisfied with the ending product – and I think that’s ok.”

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DJF: How did you get into bodyboarding?

CC: “I loved the ocean since I was in my mom’s belly. And I grew up a block from a challenging surfing spot and cultural melting pot. I learned a lot and bodyboarding has been my biggest passion and surviving support since I was 14 years old. Surfing and bodyboarding give me most of the fuel to be alive and happy.”

DJF: Is bodyboarding a competitive sport or a way to relax?

CC: “Both. Big time. And it’s for everyone on every level.”