Most of us saw the pandemic as a time to stay at home and observe the global momentary pause that the situation required. Filmmaker Youssef Gouda initially took this approach but quickly found himself rebuking the notion of a professional time-out. When he reconnected digitally with childhood friend and filmmaker Max Raimi during the pandemic, Raimi suggested that Youssef edit a film with a nearly impossible set of parameters. Within a ridiculous timeline, and fueled by dangerous amounts of coffee, Mr. Gouda delivered The Third Wheel in its final form, sight unseen. He confesses, “Neither Max nor I saw the final cut before we submitted it. So the screening at the Regal’s LA Live theatre was nerve racking, we had no idea what to expect. But it killed. The audience loved it and every joke landed. Max and I were delighted and relieved.” The Third Wheel was awarded the Audience Choice Block in addition to other accolades at the Best of Los Angeles in the 48 Hour Film Festival in 2021. The lesson in this scenario is that artistic instinct when left to its own devices will resonate profoundly with an audience of critics, peers, and the public.
Youssef has become known for his ability to tap into the dark humor that presents itself so often in life. His work on films such as Doris, an Official Selection of the Beverly Hills Film Festival, illuminates his artistic leanings to look for levity in pain. Having been friends and fellow filmmakers for quite some time, Max Raimi perceived that bringing Mr. Gouda on as the editor of The Third Wheel would add clarity and precision to the comedy he envisioned for this film. Youssef confirms, “Max’s ideas are very specific and very much in his head, clear as day. But sometimes those ideas are only clear to him, especially when he doesn’t have the time to fully explain his vision. It really started to come together when Max was in the room walking through the many jokes throughout the film. We share the same sense of humor and so that wasn’t hard and I believe part of the reason he brought me on. We didn’t spend a lot of time debating what was funny, we both knew it when we saw it.”
With comedy, it is the delivery of the joke which allows the audience to recognize the humor. The care with which Youssef crafts the edits in The Third Wheel focuses the targeted joke with a delicate yet confident scope. The story revolves around a first date. David is a man in his twenties who has been pining for a date with Joanna. As the film opens, we see him practicing his conversation in front of a mirror. The arrival of Joanna to David’s apartment is one of the most impactful of the film, and testifies to the immense skill of Youssef. This scene begins with tension as David answers the door, then switches to a tender romantic moment between the two, and just as quickly descends into shock and fear. Joanna has brought Jeff, her lifestyle guru, with her. Jeff begins to assess David throughout the date with a series of negative judgements, essentially taking on the role of Joanna’s inner monologue. The close ups which vacillate between David and Jeff allows the audience to feel the anxiety of having a demented third wheel on an already precarious scenario. Mr. Gouda’s choices during the back and forth of these moments communicate so clearly the nervousness of a first date, multiplied by ten.
The Third Wheel achieves what so few films can, it possesses its own voice. The jokes are plentiful and unexpected. They may be hyperbolic but this is what’s most enjoyable about The Third Wheel; it understands that your emotions are a heightened perception of reality and allows you to see your own situation through the lens of humor. The contributions of editor Youssef Gouda are monumental in achieving this throughout the film. Displaying his versatility, Mr. Gouda is presently working alongside Emmy Winning editor Julie Janata on the film Fuego for Sundance Lab in addition to working for Nancy Forner A.C.E. (of Primetime Emmy Award Winning Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) on an indie documentary about the York College Hillel. Youssef relates that whether it is a comedy film or a documentary, the challenge of crafting the unique is what drives him to work.
Writer: Arlen Gann