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January 16, 2014
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Local hand in Sundance: Nevada Union High School grad edits film chosen for festival

This year’s Sundance Film Festival will include a movie with ties to the Grass Valley area. Curtis Grout, editor of “The Foxy Merkins,” is a Grass Valley resident who graduated from Nevada Union High School.

This is his second collaboration with director Madeline Olnek to be shown at Sundance. Their first film, “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same,” was screened in 2011.

“What I really enjoy and love about Madeleine’s movies is that they’re not the traditional gay and lesbian ‘coming out’ stories that I see a lot of. It just seems like there’s only one story that’s always being shown,” Grout said. “Madeleine takes a different look and makes it hilarious. She tells different stories in that world.”

Grout described “The Foxy Merkins” as an oddball buddy comedy between two female prostitutes — but there’s more to it than just that.

“It’s also more touching than that,” he said. “It’s about two people coming together, and figuring out what they want.”

Louise McFadden, an English teacher at Nevada Union High School’s Partnership Academy, said Grout showed an affinity for photography and video production as early as his sophomore year. Going into the film industry might also have been Grout’s way of following a family tradition.

“My dad and my grandpa were really good storytellers. That got me into it,” Grout said. “From there, my love of filmmaking developed. I went to San Francisco State and had a blast learning and talking about film.”

He fell into editing by way of circumstance. The cinematography classes were heavily impacted and difficult to enroll in.

Since his graduation in 2006, he’s spent the last seven years working as a professional film editor. During that time, he’s worked on a variety of projects, including a season of National Geographic’s reality TV show “Hard Time.”

The thing he loves about his work, Grout said, is that editors are the last stop before you see the finished project on screen. Some people call them the last screenwriter.

“It’s not only thinking about how each cut affects the specific scene,” he said, “but thinking about how each scene affects the entire movie.

“Editors are constantly looking for bits and moments from the actors. Not everything they say, but we’re looking at their breaths — their eyes — making sure the emotion is right for the scene.”

Comedy is all about timing, Grout said, adding the editor can make or break that aspect of a film. If he lets too little time pass between jokes, the audience might laugh through the next one. Too much time and an otherwise funny moment could get awkward.

“You’ve got to have a good feel for it and time out how long the audience is going to laugh,” he said.

Grout grew up here, but left home to pursue a higher education. He spent time in San Francisco and New York and moved home in June after more than a decade in two of America’s biggest cities.

“It’s kind of nice being back with everybody so friendly,” he said.

“The Foxy Merkins” will be showing from Monday to Friday in Park City, Utah. For more information about the movie or its crew, go to http://foxymerkins.wordpress.com/. You can find reviews and other content at http://filmguide.sundance.org/film/13939/the_foxy_merkins.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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The Union Updated Jan 16, 2014 10:50PM Published Jan 17, 2014 01:49PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.