This weekend is no ordinary homecoming for Phoenix native Carol Martori, but rather a cause for celebration.
She was scheduled to be on-hand at Harkins Valley Art in Tempe on Friday for the local premiere of “Waiting for Lightning,” a rousing skateboarding documentary that she edited.
Born and raised in the Arcadia neighborhood district, Martori attended Xavier College Preparatory, where she will be speaking to students while in town this week. She has served as editor for a number of documentaries in the past 10 years, including multiple episodes of “Gangland” for the History Channel and the in-depth Willie Nelson biopic, “The King of Luck.”
With “Waiting for Lightning,” she helps illustrate the uplifting true story of pro-skater Danny Way, who broke several world records for his risky but courageous leap over the Great Wall of China in 2005. The East Valley Tribune recently chatted with Martori, who discussed the challenges she faced in editorial, her favorite sequence in the film and how it feels returning to the Valley.
Q: How did you get involved with “Waiting for Lightning” and were you already pretty familiar with Danny Way when you signed on?
A: Yeah, I had met Danny Way, actually. My husband has been in the pro-skateboarding industry as a creative director for a number of years. I was actually working on a documentary about Willie Nelson called “The King of Luck,” which was directed by Billy Bob Thornton. I was working at Bandito Brothers, which was the production company that made “Waiting for Lightning.” I started hearing rumors around the office that they’re doing a documentary on Danny Way with Jacob Rosenberg, the director of the film.
We started to chat about it and I said, “I know (Danny) and if the timing’s right, I’m totally interested. If you’re looking for an editor, just let me know.” So, you know, just kind of timing-wise, it worked out really beautifully. I finished the other film and they were just about to start their film and it was just right place, right time, so it was great. It just kind of slid right in there.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced editing the film and how long did the process take?
A: Editing a documentary is always a challenge. You have a lot of footage, you don’t necessarily have a clear story yet — you have an idea, of course, but it always changes when you’re in editorial. It’s always filled with lots of challenges and things like that that actually become positive things in the end. Usually in editorial, if you’re on a project like this, you take awhile to figure it all out. We were in editorials for a year and a half.
Part of the reason it was such a long process is because there was so much material. Danny had been a pro since he was 14 years old and he’s been filmed that whole time ... He’s in his late 30’s now. Not only was there tons of material, there were long interviews that were between two and three hours long. Originally Jacob, the director, and Tony (Johnston), the writer, wanted to structure it with the X Games 14 being the backdrop of this film.
At first that sounded like a great idea ... just a very, very dramatic moment in Danny’s career, and they even cut it short — I didn’t do it, some other editor did ... It’s like “Wow, that’s really great, dramatic stuff.” At that X Games he crashes and then he comes back from that, I mean, it’s just a really amazing moment. We realized, though, that we wanted (the documentary) to have a wider appeal, like “Man on Wire.” We were really trying to wrap our heads around what that meant ... X-14 isn’t really a wide-appeal kind of event but the Great Wall of China is. It’s something that we all know of; every human alive knows of the Great Wall of China.
It just so happened that (Danny’s) mom told a really beautiful story about his father’s ashes and giving them to her son there. I remember I went home after I watched that interview Jacob had told me about. He was like “Yeah, it’s a really cool interview, you have to check it out, and it’s a really good moment.” When I went home that day, I just thought in my head, “Whoa, this is really cool.” I just really felt it; it was just such a good moment. You kind of get that inkling of a feeling — you’re not really sure what it is yet.
After we proposed that, it just took us awhile to shift gears and get on board with it because we still wanted to highlight X-14 in some way, it just kind of took us a long time to figure out how. I’d say that was kind of the biggest challenge throughout and really honoring that material in the right way, telling the story the right way and trying to have the widest appeal possible. I think we were able to achieve it.
Q: Do you have a favorite sequence that you edited in the movie or one that you’re particularly proud of?
A: I’m particularly proud of the part in the film where we finally land in China and then the story just totally unfolds from there. I think that whole act was something that was just really crystal clear in my mind, particularly the day of the jump: the tension you feel just watching it ... I just love how that unfolds in particular. That whole act I just feel really good about.
Q: How does it feel to be coming back to Phoenix this weekend for the film’s opening at Valley Art?
A: It feels great ... That’s a dream we all have: You want to do well; you want to feel like you’ve been able to achieve something in life and be able to come back to your hometown. This is the first time that I’ve had a film distributed in a theater ... released in theaters. It’s a rare thing for documentaries. It’s a real honor and a real pleasure, and it’s just a great honor to be able to work with this team and bring (the film) to my hometown. There’s really not a better feeling than that. It’s cool.
Q: Why do you encourage people to check out “Waiting for Lightning,” even if they’re not skateboarding or sports enthusiasts?
A: We all face troubles, struggles and obstacles in our lives and the way that Danny perseveres in the face of the unknown and deals with those in his life, it’s a very inspiring human story. It’s something we can all relate to and I think can all connect with. It’s something we can be inspired by and bring into our own life. It’s something we can all learn from.