Beast Editor Dean Gonzalez Cuts Green Day’s ‘Heart Like a Hand Grenade’

’Heart Like a Hand Grenade’ is a new documentary recording the making of Green Day’s 2004 Grammy Award-winning album ‘American Idiot’. Shot and directed by John Roecker and edited by Dean Gonzalez from Beast, the documentary opened in theatres in the US on 15 October 2015, following the director’s intention that the film not be released until at least 10 years after the album’s debut.

When John Roecker was invited to film the recording studio sessions, he avoided holding interviews and instead chose an observational style, capturing the whole project with one handheld three-chip camera. Consequently, ‘Heart Like a Hand Grenade’ gives viewers an unusual level of access to the band, known for guarding their privacy, mainly through his efforts to remain as unobtrusive as possible during the sessions.

Studio Sessions

Over nine months, he captured about 350 hours of footage in total, during the studio sessions and at a live concert performed at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles shortly after the album’s completion. “The amount of interesting footage that we had to work with was almost overwhelming and we had to find our way to the story organically. We wanted to really showcase how this album came to life, though we had no way of knowing how massive it would be at the time,” said editor Dean Gonzalez.

Photo credit: Marina Chavez

After nearly six weeks of organizing and digitizing footage, Dean was ready to actually cut the film, which took nearly a year. Throughout the project, he worked alongside John Roecker, and the band regularly reviewed the updated cuts he supplied to them. In order to let the film give viewers an unbiased perspective on the band’s artistic process Dean and John decided to track the progression of each song by cutting together clips from rehearsals, the recording studio and the concert.


“I edited the project on Avid, and it’s funny but over the last 10 or 11 years, the creative process hasn’t actually changed that much. It’s just much easier now,” said Dean. “Previously It took longer to load in footage and lay things off to master tapes, and the quality wouldn’t hold up as much, but creatively it’s largely the same. I’m at a different point in my career now and I’m a better editor in many ways, but I still love the edit of ‘Heart Like a Hand Grenade’ just the way it is. It really holds up, and I think it’s perfect for the project.


“The goal of the film is to track the band’s creative process as they make this album, and therefore the footage is purely observational and contains no interviews. Also, because it’s a concept album, the band had a specific idea of how they wanted the music to be heard. There was a deliberate flow to the way one song would move into another. We wanted to honour their vision by presenting the footage in a way that synced up with the order of the album,” he said.

“So we broke it down by song. I first organized the different sections of footage – rehearsals, recording sessions and the live concert footage. Then I would further break down each of those sections into the individual songs. This made it easier for me to go back through and look at all the footage from each song, at every stage of filming.”


As well as commercial and long form editing, Dean Gonzalex has considerable music video experience behind him for bands ranging from Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to LL Cool J, Kid Rock, Nicki Minaj and 30 Seconds to Mars. Dean had also worked with Green Day before and did not engage in any special background research before starting on this project. “I knew their music, so I was already well-prepared. I did attend the live concert with the director. We spoke with the band ahead of time to discuss how we were going to shoot it, so that they would be aware of where the cameras would be placed while they were playing.”

Beast-Dean Gonzalez
Editor Dean Gonzalez, from Beast in LA.

Because of the deliberately straightforward nature of the shoot, Dean feels that nothing would have made the film truly biased. “It’s just about finding the best moments and letting the creative process speak for itself,” he said. “Green Day had never let anyone into the studio before, so it was essential to act as a fly on the wall and just stay out of their way so that they could focus on creating the album.

“It can be annoying to have someone with a camera asking questions while you’re trying to stay in that creative flow, so John opted not to do that – many times the band forgot he was even there. A lot of documentaries try to feed the audience one particular viewpoint, but John’s approach was pure and unfiltered. It was an absolute thrill to work on and remains one of the highlights of my career.”