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The Editors Cut

Episode 039: Edit Chats with Kimberlee Mctaggart CCE and Thorben Bieger CCE

The Editors Cut - Episode 039: Kimberlee Mctaggart CCE and Thorben Bieger

Episode 039: Edit Chats with Kimberlee Mctaggart, CCE & Thorben Bieger, CCE

Today's episode is the online Master Series that took place on May 19th, 2020. Edit Chats with Kimberlee McTaggart, CCE and Thorben Bieger, CCE.

The Editors Cut - Episode 039: Kimberlee Mctaggart CCE and Thorben Bieger

Thorben is a CSA nominated editor who has edited several series and a number of features including The Child Remains, Heartbeat et All the Wrong Reasons.

Kimberlee is a Gemini award winning editor of TV series, docs, and feature films such as Blackbird and the upcoming Little Orphans. Kimberlee et Thorben have worked together on several series such as Call Me Fitz, Pure et Diggstown. They discuss their work, and what it?s like to carve out a successful editing career while working and living in Nova Scotia.

This event was moderated by Amanda Mitro.

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The Editor?s Cut – Episode 039 – Edit Chats with Kimberlee Mctaggart, CCE  &Thorben Bieger, CCE

Speaker 1:

This episode was sponsored by Filet Production Services and Annex Pro Avid.

Sarah Taylor:

Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We would like to point out that the lands on which we have created this podcast and that many of you may be listening to us from part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that as long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met, and interacted. We honour respect and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions, and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action.

Sarah Taylor:

Today’s episode is the online master series that took place on May 19th, 2020. Edit chats with Kimberlee McTaggart, CCE and Thorben Bieger, CCE. Thorben is a CSA nominee editor who has worked on several series, and a number of feature films, including The Child Remains, Heartbeat and All the Wrong reasons. Kimberlee is Gemini award-winning editor of TV series, docs and feature films such as Blackbird and the upcoming Little Orphans. Kimberlee and Thorben have worked together on several series, such as Call Me Fitz, Pure and Diggstown. They discuss their work and what it’s like to carve out a successful editing career, while working and living in Nova Scotia. This event was moderated by Amanda Mitro.

[show open]

Amanda Mitro:

Welcome everybody to the masters series from Halifax, out in Nova Scotia here. I’m joined by Kimberlee McTaggart and Thorben Bieger. Thank you to the CCE for having us. And I guess should open up with introductions. Who wants to go first?

Kim McTaggart:

Thorben does.

Thorben Bieger:

Well, yes, this is exciting to be here. Anyway, my name is Thorben. I’m a picture editor. I live in Hubbard, Nova Scotia, and I have been working in the film and television business in one way or another for, I guess, almost 20 years now and editing for, I guess, the better part of 12 or 14 years. I’ve stopped counting anyway. I’m looking forward to having an interesting conversation about editing and related topics tonight.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’m Kim McTaggart. I’ve been editing for over 30 years now. Pretty much all those years in Halifax. The other day I added up how much I worked on different shows in Newfoundland, about a year and a half. So we’ll throw that in there too. I was one of those kids who loved television and knew from, I think the time I was in grade seven, that this is what I was going to do, was make TV shows. I went to film school at York University back in the ’80s when it was all film, there was no digital. I’m aging myself there. It was just shortly before digital started to come in. It was all on Steenbeck’s and Moviola’s and benches, and the first two or three of my career was all on Steenbecks and benches, actually probably the first six years.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Then we moved into digital and yeah, do I miss it? No. Digital has been the best thing ever. Yeah, so I’ve been working on in Halifax the whole time, did a lot with the National Film Board in the beginning, so a lot of documentary, but then I moved into drama, a lot of comedy actually, and I still do the odd documentary, corporate videos for the liquor store. That’s the thing about the East Coast editing, you do it all. But mostly these days I do television series and mostly with Thorben.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah, we’ve worked a lot together over the years. I guess I can add a little bit to my bio in parallel to what Kim was saying. I barely registered the existence of the film industry in Canada or film industry at all. Even though I liked watching movies when I was young, I went to university and studied sciences and worked in environmental sciences for six or seven years. Then somewhere along the way, it was a great gig, but there was something else out there for me. And once, eventually I guess my sister married a film producer and that gave me, opened my eyes to that being a possibility. My music recording was particularly of interest to me before that.

 

Thorben Bieger:

That was really my way into post production in recording and mixing music, a lot of similarities. With a couple of nepotistic breaks, I guess it was back in 1999, I took a leave of absence from my real job and came to Halifax to work as second unit boom operator on Lexx. That has happened to a lot of people on that show and that led to opportunities, battlefield promotions. And within a short time, I was doing recording sound on commonly called the second main unit. 

 

We would have five page scenes with all the stars on second unit just to [inaudible 00:04:58]. From there, I had some chances to work in post-production on the next season and I’m still on it 20 years later. So I guess I’m not going back.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Cool.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’m just going to add a little to that story. In post, I don’t know if other people have experienced this, but whenever the producer has a cousin or brother or brother-in-law and they’re going to put him somewhere in a department, they stick them in posts, because they think they can do the least damage. And we heard the brother-in-law is coming, I’m like, “Oh shit,” and then it’s torment. I’m like, “Oh, okay. Sometimes it works out really well.?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Work out well eventually.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Have either of you guys worked outside of Halifax or has it just been mainly the Maritimes for both of you?

 

Kim McTaggart:

For me, early in my career, I did a lot of what’s called dialogue editing back when it was still on film. And you basically, you checker boarded dialogue that people are probably … Well, these are all editors checker boarding on your digital screen. It was all done live with film audio. I would take all the production sound and checker board it all on big benches that were six feet wide, and reeling and all that sort of stuff. And nobody, Atlanta Canada did that. I would go to Newfoundland to do every film there was, and that brought me over there about three or four times.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Then I did it in my very first comedy series, television series I ever got national show was called Gullages, that it took place in Newfoundland with a local producer Bill McGillivray. That was my big break. That was two seasons of that over there. And also in my early days doing a lot of work with the National Film Board, one of my mentors was a sound editor from, who originally started in Montreal, Les Holman. He would take me to Montreal to work on a lot of stuff, [inaudible 00:06:43] things and that sort of thing. So yeah, in the early days when I was doing sound, I was traveling all over. But since then, it’s pretty much been confined to my basement.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah. That’s much the same for me. I’ve worked in Newfoundland a tiny bit. I worked on The Gavin Crawford Show in Toronto, I don’t know, 2003 or four or something like that for a few months, but for the rest of it, I believe almost everything that I’ve done has been in Halifax. And as Kim just mentioned also, for the last years I don’t know, six, seven years or more, almost everything I’ve done has been from my home office, and from my basement.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Did you find it different working, I guess in Toronto versus how you typically work out here?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well, there’s a reason, I guess why most of my work has been here. I like it here. There was a time when, of course, most people remember that post production was done in post facilities, still commonly is, but it was not really possible to do it anywhere else. There was a time when it was a fantasy to be able to have the equipment at home and very suddenly that became pretty straight forward. It’s always been, that’s always been the direction that I wanted to move in any way, rather than going to where the work is. It was exciting to work in Toronto for a while.

 

Thorben Bieger:

It was a break to work at the time I was working with Dean [inaudible 00:08:07], who was the editor, and he brought me along to work on the show and I lived in the edit suite. I’d gone in the Wellesley on the fifth floor of that building that some people might recognize in St. Nicholas.

 

Amanda Mitro:

So the both of you, I guess, have experienced the digital revolution in post-production, and maybe you guys can speak a bit to how things changed from working on like those big, massive machines to computers that you can fit in your pocket almost.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well, I’ll let Kim take that one because I came in and I started working on Avid, so I’ve seen the hardware, but I’ve never, never had the chance to work with it.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. Part of the reason I ended up staying here, not doing anything to further field is when digital did come in, I invested in the equipment and I would rent out the equipment. It was an older system back then called Media 100, which actually had a far superior picture, finishing picture. So we would, was doing a lot of online, more so than off-lines. But I ended up, I think I had four systems at one point, so they were rented out to various series and that kept me hopping. And then I’d be off cutting on other shows, usually on an AVID, which I really wanted to own. But then eventually I did buy a used one and then upgraded it to the top of the line model.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I remember that cost me $110,000. It was like, the whole system was probably about $120,000, but the thing is you would rent it and get lots of money for it. So it all worked out in the end. In fact, it was great. Yeah, I went right from when everything was outboard, you needed all this other stuff to make it work. I couldn’t work at home. I needed my office, and all of that, but as computers became faster and faster, you didn’t need that outboard stuff. The computer did all the work and now it’s like, what we do with a laptop is just astounding. There of course is no real rental market anymore, because everybody can own their own.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’ve seen it go the whole way. I don’t know what else to say about that, except I love where we’re at with it now. It’s just, it’s the best. And I mean we’re all going to be doing so much more of it now with this COVID-19. I mean  Thorben and I have been living the quarantine life for the last six or seven years, the way we work, so nothing will change for us. But I think we’re going to see more and more people working the way I do or the way we do here in Atlanta, Canada.

 

Amanda Mitro:

How do you think that’ll open up the possibilities for working with people further afield, like collaborations between countries and continents and just opening that whole thing up?

 

Thorben Bieger:

I think it will. Some producers that I’ve worked with are made it part of their style to, or just experience with working remotely and with putting together teams that are geographically distant, and others not so much. I guess it’s just what their experience is. I’ve worked on teams where there was an editor in Nova Scotia and one in Toronto and one in Los Angeles. This was just, they were quite familiar with that process and it was seamless. Other people don’t, other producers who hadn’t done that just might be more familiar with just centralizing things.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And apart from the fact that we’re going to be coming up with new guidelines and that kind of thing for social distancing and for hygienic productions, it’ll be easy to implement that in post.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. We’ve already implemented, I think and internationally, I think people work that way. Like everybody in Toronto all works a certain way. Everybody’s together in their place and all that. It’s going to be new and exciting them, and maybe it will open up their possibilities, but there’s still, as we were talking about tax credits and provincial borders, which will still make it difficult for us to get hired in Ontario and vice versa and all of that. But still it makes it more possible, so you never know. Should we show, clip and talk about editing?

 

Amanda Mitro:

Quick question before we go to video, Jeffrey Fish wants to know, do you think that software platforms like Premier Pro, pushing for a shared project platform will create more possibilities for non-centralized post team workflows, or is there still a great benefit to post teams being together?

 

Kim McTaggart:

Well, I mean, Avid already has, can already do sharing. Jeff, have you ever been in CBC? It’s all network sharing, all that sort of stuff. It’s all there. I think people will get a taste of it now, because they’re really utilizing it extensively. I think those systems were more for sharing within the one building, like is how it’s really been used. And now people are taking their systems homes, because they have to, and they’re sharing it that way. So, yeah. Is there a benefit to everybody being in the same building versus that? We’ll find out. For producers or for a lot of folks, it’ll be financial what works out best but creatively, what works out best?

 

Kim McTaggart:

I mean we’ve been doing this for six or seven years, but I think back to the last project we did where we were all under the same roof on Call Me Fitz, four of us, all crammed together doing our work. There really is something to that too.

 

Thorben Bieger:

You really miss it when you’re gone. I think it’s a real, there is a trade-off and collaborating by notes. Well, for one, it depends on the quality of the notes. Some people are very good at giving detailed notes, but even in those cases, there’s something that’s lost when you don’t have intense hours in the same room together, which sometimes we still do. It’s not uncommon for a director or producer to come to where I live in Hubbard and spend part of a day. That’s usually as far as it goes. We might sport together for some hours on two or three consecutive days.

 

Thorben Bieger:

I think the driving factor; it used to be that an edit suite costs what, a couple of thousand bucks or more a week to rent and the schedule drove this style of working long hours in the same space. I miss? there are pros and cons to the way we work. It always was, so it’s fairly solitary work, but it’s become much more so now with edit suite and at home.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Then of course there’s a whole issue of assistant editors who used to always be around and would see your work. I know on Call Me Fitz, we’d always make our assistant editor watch the show, because she had fine impeccable taste and would give us feedback and notes, like first person who ran through. You could still get that, but you tend not to, just because they’re not there in the room with you and they’re off doing their thing. You just don’t have the same relationship and the same reciprocal learning that goes on there. I don’t want to say the editor always passing through the assistant editor. It’s really a reciprocal thing. That’s a big issue in editing is the passing on of knowledge.

 

Thorben Bieger:

But I do think there’s room for the software to catch up with that or to create, for it to offer some functionalities that make that more possible. We were talking Kim and I just recently in final cut, and an earlier version had this desktop theater or functionality that allowed you to, it created a video chat in which you could stream your output to another person, and that you were able to see that person’s face on their web cam. There was actually, you could see facial reactions of the person you’re working with. And as long as your internet connection was good, after a few minutes of working like that, you’d forget that you’re not in the same room, and that feature was completely dropped and no one has picked up on it in the last decade, really.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And it’s surprising to me that that’s not being really developed further, because it seems there are no constraints technically to making that collaboration.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. Built in into all the Annalise will be that function to share.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Okay. Cool. All right. Did we want to do a clip?

 

Thorben Bieger:

I guess the first one that I would maybe present is called the Corridor. I think this one is interesting to me, it’s during the best years I think that I can remember as an editor in Nova Scotia. One of the great advantages of working here for me has been the variety of things that you could work on. In the really good times there’d be a series to work on in the summer and a telephone, and like a little bit to tell its own feature to work on, which often happened in the off season and maybe some short films or little things and things, really get how all kinds of different work and a nice variety.

 

Thorben Bieger:

The Corridor was a feature that I, it was around 2010 or ’11 I think, a science fiction feature shot in Nova Scotia. Had a cast of, an ensemble cast of five guys. It’s cabin in the woods, science fiction kind of movie. They discover a bizarre phenomenon that starts affecting their minds. I thought it was interesting to take a look at it because for one thing, it was a fairly small budget, and another thing that I found interesting over time, it’s been in some of the low budget features, people have tried to discover ways to get more, to go further with the small budget that they have. Sometimes that involves different shooting styles, doing a lot of oner’s or not shooting regresses. You get a certain style of films from that.

 

Thorben Bieger:

This one was interesting to me, because with the kind of ensemble cast that they had, it wasn’t really possible to do that. They didn’t really scrimp on coverage and lots of different angles, the sizes, because with five people in the room, you had to move around, but I’ll let you be the judge of that after you’re going to look at the clip.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Also, clip number one.

 

Speaker 10:

I think it’s talking to me. That’s signing. It’s given me a sign.

 

Speaker 11:

It’s insane.

 

Speaker 10:

Connect, connect, connect.

 

Speaker 12:

Wait. No, did this fuck up the rest of my tapes?

 

Speaker 13:

Oh yeah, because that is real important right now.

 

Speaker 14:

What’s that supposed to mean?

 

Speaker 13:

Well, it means who gives a shit.

 

Speaker 12:

You want to smack in the mouth?

 

Speaker 14:

Something bigger is happening here.

 

Speaker 13:

No, no, you’re right. You’re right. Maybe the time has come for us to set aside all these childish things, bobcat.

 

Speaker 12:

Says the guy who can’t come at all.

 

Speaker 13:

What did you just say?

 

Speaker 12:

You don’t know what to do with that. Why for yours, do you, hugsy? Do you need me to knock her up for you? Your wheel spins so fast, but the rest of you is just shooting blanks.

 

Speaker 10:

Oh, shit.

 

Speaker 14:

Thanks a lot fucker.

 

Speaker 10:

I swear to God, I didn’t say anything.

 

Speaker 14:

Oh, sure. Well, I guess you’re [inaudible 00:19:41].

 

Speaker 10:

Look, I didn?t.

 

Speaker 12:

I don’t know how I knew. I thought we all know.

 

Speaker 14:

This is what’s happening. The corridors changing our mind.

 

Speaker 13:

Do you know what; you don’t even deserve a kid. You are a kid. You never got past high school football, your big bump baby.

 

Speaker 14:

Would you just listen to me? Look, why shouldn’t that place cross our wires like I did with the snowmobile or your cell phone? It’s opening up some sort of pathway out there, right? Well, what if it’s opening up a pathway in here too. It’s driving us out of our minds and into everyone else’s, and the one that I have to share is sick.

 

Thorben Bieger:

I was proud of this movie and who directed it, I think his words, I wasn’t actually at the premier, but he said on the first day when he started shooting movie, his plan was to make the best movie ever made. 

 

And by lunchtime on the first day, he just wanted not to make the worst movie ever made, because of the number of compromises that happen every day, while you’re shooting and all the problems that you just, and the things that you have to, the ideas you have to throw away because you just can’t do this and that. But there was something, they really were kind of like a group of people ?

 

Thorben Bieger:

The film is a cabin in the woods movie, and things very badly, but I think in a way I think they also were a little bit off in the woods and focused on something. I don’t know, I can’t tell too many stories about it because I wasn’t there, but I think some of the cast may have known each other anyway. Anyway they seem to form quite a good ensemble. And for me it was quite exciting to work on and a great team to be part of.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Cool. I think Jenna had a question, Jenna, I’m going to let you talk.

 

Jenna:

Hello. Hey, one question, you were saying about being remote editor. Right now, you guys working as a remote editor or you guys are working on projects that you already were working before this whole mess?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Right now I’m not working on a project at all, other than sorting through things in my office and working in my garden. There’s nothing really happening to work on in Nova Scotia right now.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. And I’m not working on anything either. The way the production cycles go, if we’re on a series issue in the summer, we’re usually done by February and then you wait for the cycle to begin. And now, as we know, everyone’s in a holding cycle, so not much going on yet.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Thank you. So maybe Thorben, you can speak a little more about what your process is for, when you’re approaching a scene or a project in general, but I know it’s sometimes easier to take it scene by scene.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah. I’m not that methodical. Sometimes it changes. Some mornings I am or I approach things differently. Sometimes part way through, I realize that I’m making a mess. But if I? What I’ve gotten into the habit of doing, especially when I’m working, for example in a series, and there’s a lot of material to get through is on the first pass of watching dailies and starting to cut something, I no longer worry about leaving a complete mess on the timeline. Sometimes I used to have this fear that someone might see what, someone might look at my work and progress, and I think, “What is that person thinking??

 

Thorben Bieger:

But now, I’ve found that if I just go through the material, and throw anything that I like on the timeline, maybe in a few places that are actual cuts or in a few places, it’s just a few different takes of the same line, my first pass sometimes is just … It’s not a cut at all. It’s just basically some selects and a few ideas. And what I found is that, when I do that, when I come back to that and just use that timeline with the selects on there as a starting point, sometimes it’s a much faster way for me to start putting something together, because of course, I’m still going to go back to the other material.

 

Thorben Bieger:

But those clips that I’ve pulled are more as reminders or as markers of what I was looking at or what I was thinking. And then looking at those will make me go back to other shots and say, “Well, okay, here’s how do I might do that.” It’s basically the first step is more about, becoming familiar with the material before it’s not a new cut, because I think for me, it’s a mistake to start cutting too soon to get … The temptation is to start fine cutting very quickly. And by doing this, it really is creating a step in which the very first so-called cut is really just, not even a, it’s not even a rough cut.

 

Thorben Bieger:

It’s just some selects. But then there are other days when I, for some reason you caught up on the wrong side of bed, start working completely differently. I’m not strict in that routine, but if I’m under had a lot of time pressure and I have to get through all this, then that’s usually the approach that I’ll take.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Do you find it when you find things kind of crystallize, when you start collaborating, when you go into the director’s cut?

 

Thorben Bieger:

For sure. In my first cuts, in the first assemblies that I will present to directors or producers, I’ll tend to stay close to the script and there may be … I may start getting ideas. I may see something that I’m not in love with or I think, “Well, I don’t think that part is necessarily, there’s something not working.” But no matter how well I read the script or how well I think I understand the piece, there are always surprises. And to often find myself re-interpreting what’s there based on conversations with the director, for example, who will explain why it was done a certain way, what they were looking for, and suddenly something that may have felt like it probably isn’t, because my eyes have been just a bit open to it a different interpretation of it.

 

Thorben Bieger:

I try not to become too attached, I guess, to my own interpretation. I guess the other philosophy that I’ve learned is that, editing doesn’t really start for real until there’s an assembly, until there’s a cut of a whole piece. Everything before that is legwork. And sure, it’s a creative process, but really the whole purpose of all that tedious legwork of putting together a piece is so that, you can then start tearing it apart and seeing it and changing it. I like to make it as presentable as possible, to put music in there and smooth it over to make it feel viewable, but all with the goal, just making it viewable so that I could start tearing it apart.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And for me, that’s really when the fun starts. Some of the things that you have in an early cut may stand the test and not change much, but nothing is spared from scrutiny at that point. And because it’s only then that you really see it for what it is.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Yeah. What was it like cutting, I guess like The Corridor you were saying is kind of like a cabin in the woods, so how did you find cutting like a suspenseful horror style film? What was your favorite part about it?

 

Thorben Bieger:

It was actually one of the early … I have to dig deep into my memory now, because this was, I think it was 2010 or ’11. It’s been some time, but it was an early, one of the earlier projects that I actually did in my basement. I remember, it was quite fun. There were times, my father was here for a visit and he was just sitting there watching it. It was the first time that he was observing what I was doing, the whole editing process. He was kind of just shaking his head at it. Yeah, I live out in the, kind of out in the woods myself, and so certainly it didn’t hurt. I wasn’t frightening myself quite yet. But it was nice to work that way.

 

Thorben Bieger:

At the same time, this was also an example where, because of schedules and the fact that I was working at home, it was a challenge to work together with the other … It was hard to schedule the time to work with other people. And back then we all had fast internet, but uploading high resolution cuts and sharing files, wasn’t quite as easy as it is now. It was more of a hybrid version of what we were doing. And sometimes I’d load everything into the car and drive to downtown and set up an edit suite somewhere, just to work for two afternoons with someone, because it was the only way to get at the time.

 

Amanda Mitro:

And just kind of going to throw this in there, Anthony Pete posed the question, for someone who feels stuck in ads and commercials, what’s your advice in successfully transitioning into narratives, whether TV or features?

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’ll go. I would say just you got to cut stuff. You got to cut for everybody and anybody who let you kind of film, you’re probably in, I don’t know where you’re at Anthony. I’m betting, you’re not in Halifax, because there’s not a lot of ads and commercials cut here. I’m betting you’re in Toronto, but I would just try and get in with co-ops, anybody doing short films, cut everything you can probably for free but just build a portfolio. And the other thing is assist in editing is another way in. If you’re cutting already ads and commercials, it may feel like a bit of a step down, but it’s a foot in as well.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well this is something that we, Kim and I have a lots of common conversations about it. Assistant editing is really not what it used to be a lot of the time, because for me it was, and for many people, it was the way in. It was an apprenticeship opportunity. You get to work with material. First of all, you had access to an AVID back when there weren’t, when home computers couldn’t do this kind of thing. Over time, it’s become often a position that’s very much technical data management. There’s just not enough time on a typical editing room staff for the assistant to have energy and time, and the creative juices at the end of the day to start cutting scenes at night or whatever.

 

Thorben Bieger:

But if you can find your find opportunities to work in an editing department where there’s more than one assistant, where there’s a bigger team, that’s certainly a great way to get access to scenes. Even if it’s just in your spare time, even the editor doesn’t even know you’re doing it, you have those bins and all that footage there, you can cut it. I don’t know, don’t imagine that there are many editors out there who wouldn’t take an interest in watching what you’ve done and giving you feedback and encouraging that. I’ve had the opportunity to do it, but I don’t get to return that favor that much anymore these days, to give people that I’m working with scenes to work with.

 

Thorben Bieger:

If that’s an option to do that kind of thing, if there are opportunities for that, I would definitely look into it.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Assistants, they have a totally different job, and it doesn’t always lead into editing and that’s entirely true. And not every assistant editor wants to be an editor. If you are that type that do want to be an editor, make sure everyone knows it and that you do take those opportunities Thorben was talking about. And then maybe you will be given opportunities to cut. I know on a couple of my shows, usually I try and cut all my scenes right from the start, but there are times it’s gone so crazy, we just hand them off to assistants to cut a scene or two, and you don’t really worry if they’re good or, check your portfolio to see if they can do it. You don’t have time. You just say, “Please cut it,” and you get to see what they can do. The opportunities do exist there.







Thorben Bieger:

Yeah. In short films, Anthony, as Kim was saying before, film co-ops or any kind of opportunities like that to work on people’s short films. During the years that I worked as an assistant editor ?there were I don’t know if it’s, I guess there still those kinds of things here now, right? Because film [inaudible 00:32:11] and those kinds of programs, they’re really great ways, because during the time when you’re working as an assistant editor, you get to work on a scene here and a scene there, or maybe a section or some sound effects, whatever, but then working on it on a short film, it felt like a big step. You’re doing the whole cut and it’s a really good exercise I think. If you can get involved in any of those, it’s very useful too.

 

Amanda Mitro:

All right. Kim, do we want to look at one of your clips?

 

Kim McTaggart:

Sure. What I get up first is a clip from a show that is actually over 20 years old, but it’s still on my demo reel. I have reframed it for 16 by nine. I cheat, it’s actually four by three, because of course it was shot on beta cam or whatever the hell they were shooting on back then. But this is a show called Made in Canada, which just became available again on CBC Gem. So if you like what you see, go check it out. This was about a fictional film production company in Toronto, headed up by a bit of a buffoon, and his underlings one played by the showrunner/creator Rick Mercer and Leah Pinsent. So this scene has Peter Keleghan as the head of the production company, Leah Pinson and Rick Mercer.

 

Kim McTaggart:

What I loved about the show was, it was the first time we really got to cut comedy where the editing really played a big role in the comedy. I’d said I worked on a series before called Gullage?s, and it was show run and created by a feature filmmaker. It was a half-hour comedy with the heart of an art film. Whereas this one is very much fast paced. Comedy comes into cuts. It’s kinetic. Everything is shot with two cameras at all times. AB camera both for the most part were all usable shots. Often your B camera can be kind of karate, it’s just there because it is. But this one had a great shot, so I had tons and tons of coverage.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And I’m just going to show it and then I’ll talk a little bit about how I approached the scenes for this show. Anyway, so it’s a second clip Made in Canada.

 

Peter Keleghan:

And then it occurred to me, it’s only the characters in the shows that audiences are interested in.

 

Leah Pinson:

Not to the exclusion of story or larger themes.



Peter Keleghan:

Yes.

 

Leah Pinson:

What about say a good art film?

 

Peter Keleghan:

Come on, come on. Be serious. I’m talking about real stuff that people actually watch. It’s only character.

 

Rick Mercer:

What about special effects?

 

Peter Keleghan:

Okay. Granted, but only character in special effects. We’ve been wasting a fortune on scripts and story departments. It’s all character.

 

Leah Pinson:

On what do you base this?

 

Peter Keleghan:

I base it on all the bio pics and the biographies that are out there now and the walk of fame. Are there any television shows in the walk of fame? No, it’s all people. It’s celebrities.

 

Leah Pinson:

I think Lass he got a star.

 

Rick Mercer:

The dog, not the show

 

Leah Pinson:

The dog got a star.

 

Rick Mercer:

It’s a leaf. They give you a leaf in Toronto.

 

Peter Keleghan:

Anyway, that’s besides the point. What I’m saying is that television is essentially voyeurism. Our faces are the glass screen and we are looking in, not out.



Leah Pinson:

Can I quote you on that?

 

Peter Keleghan:

No. I think I may have read that somewhere.

 

Rick Mercer:

It doesn’t sound familiar.

 

Peter Keleghan:

I probably got some of it wrong, anyway.

 

Rick Mercer:

Well, Alan, I agree with you 100%. Anything else?

 

Peter Keleghan:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Beaver Creek hasn’t been getting any ink this season, hasn’t it?

 

Rick Mercer:

Well, it’s been on the air for a long time. All the stories have been written.

 

Leah Pinson:

Most of them weren’t that favorable.

 

Peter Keleghan:

Right, so we set up a romance between two of the characters on the show and a parallel romance between two of the actors playing the parts, and we let the information out and people start watching. Maybe they get married on the show, but it’s for real and they have kids. And then the kids are on the show.

 

Rick Mercer:

You’re talking about breeding the actors.

 

Peter Keleghan:

Yeah. You think the Screen Actors Guild would have a problem with that?

 

Leah Pinson:

It’s a page one rewrite on God’s Script. That’s probably Writer’s Guild jurisdiction.




Kim McTaggart:

Julie says Made in Canada was terrific show and it was, it was really a great show. Four seasons on Gem right now. But yeah, I loved working on that show. I was telling Thorben I was young and eager then, and I poured over every single frame in that show. I remember my method was, I’d sit down with the dailies and there’d be a ton of them. And I would watch every single take including all the non-circle takes, everything. I kept copious notes. My big thing was, and the big thing on that show was every gag, gags were important, more important than the story. If we were running heavy, if a show was a minute heavy and you had to take seconds out of it, it was really easy just to pull out a joke here and there, but you were not allowed to.

 

Kim McTaggart:

There was no joke pulling. You could take out story. We’d take out some … I remember some episodes; I’m amazed that people can follow the story because the jokes had to be in there. But anyway, so that was what I treated the jokes like gold. I would build everything around all the gags and would pick the absolute best lines I thought could work for each gag, which frame size I would use. So I knew how to build around that. And also the whip pans that was a real hit and miss, because there was always a camera whipping around doing things and every now and then it would just do a perfect land on the perfect line, and those were pulled out.

 

Kim McTaggart:

So I’d have on my timeline, a chunk here, chunk there, chunk there usually the gags, and then I’d build around that because that was the most important stuff. And also they liked to punch in, punch in on a close up of the gag. So you had to have, make sure you have good wide shots for some other stuff. So that was a really fun show to learn how to cut comedy, because, well, it was all in studio for one thing. So it was really, you didn’t have to deal with any of that location stuff, so there was no technical problems ever. You were strictly dealing with performance of the actors.

 

Kim McTaggart:

The cast was amazing and gave you just great stuff. I used to always watch my … Since that show 23 years ago, I’ve started watching my takes always in backwards order. So I’ll watch take four first and three then two. It was because I realized on that show, I’d always tend to gravitate to the one that made me laugh first. And it was never, it wasn’t often the best take. It took me a while to realize that. I would just find it hilarious and that was it. That was the one. I started watching them backwards for that very reason. Anyway, I just want to show that, because I learned so much on that show, cutting that show and working with the showrunners on that show, which was basically Rick.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Was it common to find yourself at a dead end? How did you deal with that if you had the perfect whip pan, and the perfect something else and no way to connect them? Did that problem ever happen?






Kim McTaggart:

Well, you know what, you would think it could, but because two things, it was such a great cast and almost every director on that show, maybe it was a different time, more money, more days to shoot, probably a five day shoot. Now it’s commonly just four days, but there was so much coverage. There was so much coverage that you could pretty much build around whatever you wanted to build around. So yeah, it wasn’t too bad. Oh, there’s some notes, favorite line from Made in Canada, what’s the porn version of Beaver Creek called? Beaver Creek.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah, that’s very funny. Then somebody says, “Yes, very funny, like Newsroom. Well, Newsroom is another great show that’s now on CBC Gem. If you’re a fan of Newsroom, you’ll remember the two reporters. One was Jeremy Holtz played one of them and the other reporter was played by Mark Ferrell, and Mark Farrell was the head writer on Made in Canada. I worked with him again later on This Hour has 22 Minutes. It had a real similar sensibility, funny yet just a touch mean.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah, and very … Kind of just that clip, particularly is a good example, is full of inside jokes that I laughed several times, but there were just comments on the industry that people who aren’t in the industry might not find this funny.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. I learned the term from Mark Farrell inside baseball. He’s a big baseball fan too. I’d never heard that term before, but that show is inside baseball lots. The other cool thing about that show was no soundtrack or no music, none whatsoever. The only music we ever used was tragically hip. The theme song was tragically hip. Then maybe in the entire four seasons, maybe five times I got a tragically hip song to do a montage for. That was always just the best, the best when we got to do that. But yeah. So no music, no laugh, track nothing, which was pretty neat to it.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Did they end up doing a lot of improv or did they stick to a script?

 

Kim McTaggart:

No, no improv on that show. No. And the actors, I think weren’t comedians, they were actors. It’s not like they’d start riffing and coming up with all their own funny stuff. They pretty much stuck to the script and they were really great scripts. That was the best thing about that show is the writing.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Kim, also doesn’t that … That was the fairly early days of shaky cam, right? It may not have been the first, but I don’t, know how much of that there was before.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Probably not a half-hour comedy format. There certainly was in drama, The Hill Street, not Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue or whatever it was called.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah, homicide [inaudible 00:41:45].

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah. Were they on homicide all those shows? Yeah, they were on, but yeah, you didn’t see it much in a half hour comedy, and probably not in Canada. I’m just going to answer a question here, because they see my name. Kim, you spoke about loving the digital world of editing. How has working with film helped or hindered your schools in your career with the digital editing world? Well, I said I didn’t miss it and that’s true, but how has it helped or hindered it? It certainly hasn’t hindered. I think the thing I carried from the film days that has stayed with me is, when I’m watching a cut, I always try to go somewhere else and I won’t watch it here. Well, a few years ago I put it on a DVD and took it home and put it in, watch it on my TV, in my living room just somewhere else.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I think that comes from the days of cutting film. You couldn’t watch it on your little Steenbeck that was this big, you’d go get a theater and watch it and it would be different. You’d have people sitting with you, and it was always a real good experience to watch it with somebody else, watch it somewhere differently, so you could almost disconnect it from it a little bit. That’s something, it can be hard to do when you’ve been working on something for three weeks or three months, and it’s hard to pull away from it. So always make sure I go somewhere else, and I think that’s from my film days.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah. Well certainly, it was an early lesson for me that, working on something and feeling really great about it, that feeling could evaporate painfully quickly when someone else was sitting next to you. You suddenly realize, “Oh, this is not … They’re not seeing that at all.” One’s own perception is so affected by being someone else watching the way an audience does, but I do the same thing, taking it upstairs, taking it anywhere other than … Even if it’s a different screen or a different room, and later on in the process with other people is … Because it does disconnect you from what you?ve kind of taken for granted. You assume that something’s working, but you notice very quickly if it’s not having the same effect on someone else, so you have to, resets your expectation.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Or you think it’s okay, “I’m not so bad. it’ll be okay, it’ll work.” Then somebody else sits with you and you go, “Oh God,” as soon as that cut comes up, you go, “No, it doesn’t work.?

 

Thorben Bieger:

It’s much more common for that to happen then for you to realize, “Oh, it’s not as bad as I thought [inaudible 00:44:09], but they laughed.?

 

Kim McTaggart:

That rarely happens.

Amanda Mitro:

There’s DGA [inaudible 00:44:15], what advice would you give students leaving college or university who want to be an editor? Secondly, what do you look for in a new assistant? What traits or skills make them attractive to experienced editors?

 

Kim McTaggart:

Well, I would say if you want to be an editor, two things, be an editor and cut everything that you can anywhere, a wedding video, your sisters, I don’t know the high school project, whatever, just cut stuff. And two, tell everybody you’re an editor. If that’s what you want to be, introduce yourself, tell people you’re an editor and that’s what you want to do. I mean that’s the big picture kind of stuff to do. The more practical stuff is yeah, to go the assistant editor route, which I see your second part is what traits or skills make them attractive to experienced editors.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’ll go and then I know Thorben has stuff to say about that too. I think what makes a great assistant; obviously, you have to know the technical inside out. If you’re going to be working on the bigger shows, it’s going to be Avid. Know that Avid inside out and know everything that an assistant editor has to do and know it inside out. And secondly, what I’d be looking for is, assistant editors that want to be editors, I think is great. I mean  I’ve had both assistant editors who are just assistant editors. That’s all they do.

 

Kim McTaggart:

They have no aspirations to be an editor, and then others that do want to make that leap and want to do anything creative that you hand them, whether it be cutting the previously ons, putting in sound, doing your soundtrack, cutting scenes, anything like that. They just take it with great joy and do it. They may not be that great at it right away, but that’s all part of learning and they just do it.  So that’s what I would be I’d be looking for. Thorben?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah, no, I think back to my own, what did I learn from and what did it take me time to learn? Some of those things were letting go of ideas that maybe were mine, but didn’t serve the film, and also what’s another thing that took me a long time to learn was, how to feel comfortable around, when suddenly a producer or a director was in the room. It is actually kind of , for me was unnerving, but spending a lot of time as an assistant editor and … It’s a low pressure place to be. You can watch so much going on and quickly, some of the aspects of the work are tedious, being there and being willing to absorb whatever you can, someone who’s willing to try anything.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Sometimes it might be straining out dialogue, but basically it’s a combination of knowing the software so well, that you can be helpful and make things easy and keep things really organized, and being game for trying anything creative.




Amanda Mitro:

The one thing I would say if you happen to be in Toronto and once all of the COVID thing is over, the CCE does have a fantastic assistant editing workshop with Paul Whitehead. He?s kind of  like the godfather of assistants.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Join the CCE. And if you’re in Toronto, go to Edit Con and meet editors and talk editing.

 

Amanda Mitro:

All right.  And I see that Jenna Spinola would like to pose another question. Hello, Jenna.

 

Jenna:

Hello again.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Hi.

 

Jenna:

Just following up this assistant editor subject, in the case how you guys see like  someone that is an editor, like I forget the name of the guy that was asking that he was working on commercial. He’s already a seasoned editor on commercials and he wants to move to features, how you guys see like an editor that is already an editor that wants to assist to learn?

Jenna:

Is it a good thing or are you guys saying, “Oh,” maybe it would be like Thorben said start to cutting small films or something like that?

 

Kim McTaggart:

I think it’s probably a combo of both. You know if he was a brand new assistant editor or just out of college, like we were just speaking to the other gentlemen, you know then it?s assisting is a good way to go. And I say cut anything, but for somebody who is already an editor and they’re just going to be working in a different medium, they’re still bringing all those editing skills and sensibilities. You’re absolutely right. They should really be trying to cut some short films and get out there and cut some, not your sister’s high school project, but a young up and coming director who is doing a short film, just anything that they can get their hands on.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And it might be, it’ll be a little easier for them, because they are an editor and they do have some sort of portfolio, even if it isn’t in short films and people will look at it and see what you’ve done. And if they see something in you and want to take a chance on you doing it, then that’s great. So?





Thorben Bieger:

Well, I guess someone has to always be willing to hire you for the bigger project that you want to get. It depends on who that is, but it might be someone that you know, so that you have some kind of a relationship, with either they know what, you’ve worked with them before, maybe on a short film. But if it’s someone who’s completely unknown to you, you have to have some body of work to I think, to convince them. Or there has to be some kind of recommendation. Even when you’re moving from assistant editing to editing, sometimes in my own experience, there were times when I decided, “Okay, now I am an editor,” but I had to go back and do assistant editing jobs again.

 

Thorben Bieger:

There were times when I felt like, “At some point I’m going to not do that anymore,” but if the only opportunity that’s out there is assistant editor, in well, that’s what you do. And likewise, when you’re trying to maybe switch from one genre from commercials or from factual entertainment to drama, sometimes it might mean that you have to take a step back and make connections with other editors or with other, by working at a lower level in a different style, you’re meeting the other editors and maybe producers who then recognize you, and that goes all the way too.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Well, I’m just going to add one more thing. Just because there seems to be a lot of interest in how you get your jobs and everything, you know one thing I always say when you’re getting hired, how do you get hired? Do they know you? They already know your work and all of that. And yeah, that’s the answer, but really what it comes down to, I always say is trust. It’s what you’ve done your work, but it’s the trust that you built. They trust you. What I mean by they trust you is, you’re the one in there playing with this mound of material and pulling out the best takes and putting it together.

 

Kim McTaggart:

They have to trust your taste, your work method, that it’s going to be the best. When they come in and look at it and they like it, they go, “That’s great.” That’s probably, “She makes great choices.” So that’s probably going to be the best, something like that, but basically it’s trust between two people. So when you’re looking to become, meet other editors and you want to become an assistant and move up, make sure that that level of trust always is in everything that you do. Don’t flake out on anything. I always tell people, just work hard, just do your job and do it the hardest you can.

 

Kim McTaggart:

That helps build trust too. Let them know who you are. Don’t be afraid to talk about the films you watch and the television shows you like, because that helps give a sense of what your film sensibilities are and what you like, and that helps build trust too. So I mean maybe that’s a little esoteric, but I always think that is one of the biggest things besides your talent is that you build a trust with people.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Excellent answer. Did we want to do another clip?





Thorben Bieger:

Great. So, well, I guess, where do we go next? Maybe something completely bizarre and different. I worked on a very unusual show and as part of the fun of a good year in Nova Scotia, and the kind of mix of things that I enjoy working on, sometimes it’s very experimental. And a show that I worked on a couple of years ago was called Clay’s POV. It was a call itself the first ever, first person point of view series. I think it’s an interesting thing to look at because first it was very experimental. It’s people trying to come up in the world in the, in the size of budgets that we often work in here, it’s not possible to make anything that competes on the same level with shows like big cable dramas that everyone loves.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And so how do you do something different that doesn’t feel like a bad tone than something else? Well, this show is somebody who’s attempted at that. The concept is basically, it’s a travel blog type of series, but it’s fictional. It’s based loosely on a Japanese novel in which a husband is spying on his wife’s diary. But he’s pretty sure that she knows he’s doing it and the things he’s writing in it or she’s sending him messages through it. But then he constantly has to wonder if that’s the case or not. Maybe that’s the novel that it’s based on, and in this show there’s a Canadian hitchhiker who’s also a filmmaker, who’s traveling through Europe.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And the idea of this show is first of all, to make it through the eyes or through the camera of the main character. So you never see him, you only hear him and to use a very, very small crew and to use locations in Europe as sort of the production value, rather than trying to build big studios and big, you know or cool sets. They would take a very small crew and go on train to Amalfi Coast of Italy or to Pompei or Prague, and just kind of was very … There were scripts, but they often went off script. It was very documentary style of editing for a travel show, in which the travel?in which the  beauty shots are just incidental to the background.

 

Thorben Bieger:

But I guess, editorially the main challenge of this show was how to try to make a show work without reverses, basically to tell a story through the eyes of the main character. Maybe we’ll take a look at the clip, and talk about how well that works or not after you’ve seen it. It’s number four Clay’s POV.

 

Anton:

Here, check it out.

 

Speaker 20:

650,000 for that. It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand.

 

Anton:

Yeah. Well, the boy, his father is a fat cat banker who stole millions from his shareholders. Money’s nothing to him.





Speaker 21:

And look who.

 

Speaker 20:

I know him. Isn’t it-

 

Anton:

Yeah, Pietro Pancetta, or he used to be. Now, he’s [inaudible 00:55:30] and he’s in the fine art business. I bumped into him in rehab in France. We became mates.

 

Speaker 21:

In rehab?

 

Speaker 20:

Didn’t you wish you were a fish?

 

Anton:

No.

 

Speaker 21:

Not so much.

 

Speaker 20:

You’re so beautiful. I think either other there’d be a fish.

 

Anton:

Yeah. I think you’re around the twist now.

 

Speaker 21:

Peter paid Anton to make the first bid.

 

Anton:

Yeah. He’ll get the ball rolling.

 

Speaker 20:

Is it allowed?

 

Anton:

Well, technically legally, no.



Speaker 21:

Then what if no one else bids and you win the auction?

 

Anton:

Well, then the painting doesn’t sell. Look, if some rich wanker wants to buy the art, he just buys it, okay? No one’s forcing him. I was just facilitating the mood, adding to the excitement which I’m doing as a one-off favor to Peter. It’s not like I’m going to make a career out of it or anything. He’s been showing me the ropes in the fine art business. It’s basically just an income tax from rich drunk guys, which gets me thinking.

 

Speaker 20:

Thinking how?

 

Anton:

Well, thinking that some of these rich drunk guys need to experience the fine art of sharing some of their good fortune with Anton Von Pinkel.

 

Speaker 20:

Yeah.

 

Anton:

Yeah. Meaning they buy some art from me.

 

Speaker 21:

Anton, everyone knows the art world’s, but there’s a difference between a genuine bullshitter and bullshit bullshitter. They’re going to smell you coming a mile away.

 

Anton:

Mate, that might be true, except that these drunk guys at the auctions, know fuck all about the art they’re buying, except for the name on them, which means all I need is something with the right signature on it.

 

Speaker 21:

And how are you going to come up with something with the right signature on it?

 

Anton:

Old Pinkel has a plan mate.

 

Amanda Mitro:

So that was fun. So the camera is a character in that?

 

Thorben Bieger:

The camera is, yeah. Right in the main title sequence, the character introduces himself and says, “You can hear me, but you can’t see me.” And sometimes the main characters habit of filmmaking was useful and was there by design, because it allowed sometimes his computer or his phone or his camera to be a device for which you would see things as well. So sometimes he lifts the camera right up to the screen. You see it, and you use reflections or what’s on the screen to add the missing element of the reverse shot.

 

Kim McTaggart:

That was well shot too. It looked really cool.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well, and that’s another thing, one of the reasons why I chose that scene was because, it was always a challenge to come up with something. In this scene, it wasn’t planned. They found this location said, “Okay, we’ll stand around the aquarium,” and that way they could shoot through the glass and use that whole layer of fish, through which you could see the main character. It helps, at least I found it helped to get … When you’re cutting laterally from one character to another, without having ..without being able to go to the reverse, it’s finding ways to add density often helped.

 

Thorben Bieger:

There were times when they would try to do things in oner’s or try to do things with pens. And there were times when they would do things very experimentally, like let the camera roam around the room as if the person wasn’t interested in the conversation and was just looking at a corner of the ceiling. A lot of those things felt a little bit well, forced. It felt like he didn’t, it felt like naturally … It gives you that drunk feeling of being forced to look in another direction, when it’s not where your eye goes.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Whereas eventually after two seasons of the show, it was decided that it was better, to figure out ways to make cuts. For a lot of reasons, it was better to figure out ways to make cuts. And although it does take some adjusting, it starts eventually to feel  quite natural, in the same way that perhaps shaky camera watching different frame rates, watching 60 frames per second, at first it can be really off-putting or difficult to become accustomed to. But after a while, you just accept is as a part of the show and become accustomed to it and stop thinking about it.

 

Thorben Bieger:

It was a very interesting project to work on, because there were basically no rules at all. There was nothing that you couldn’t try. Often episodes were little bit parts didn’t work, or they ended up being late and you’d have to invent something. We had lots of footage, wherever they traveled they’d mount GoPros or cameras onto cars or motorcycles, to shoot time-lapses. So we have all kinds of generic, I guess, material. And sometimes you’d have to invent something through a fantasy or just sort of a poetic inner moment of watching clouds or whatever it might be.





Thorben Bieger:

There really was no limit to what you could attend, and sometimes in desperation to put things together. It’s a real contrast to conventional television but one that was quite fun to work on.

 

Amanda Mitro:

That’s very cool.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Hey, Thorben when I said … I had said that it felt like it should be panning because that’s the way his eyes-

 

Thorben Bieger:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Kim McTaggart:

Did you ever think of adding blinks? Did you try that? It’s basically Walter Murch come to life, the blink of the eyes when you change your ideas and stuff, so he’d look at something else. I don’t know, it just occurred to me watching this stuff.

 

Thorben Bieger:

We did tamper with that a little bit, like creating sort of  an aperture closing on … I mean there was hope of a third season. Because another thing we really wanted to do was kind of a VR version of this show. That would be a little more going back into the territory of Warners, but it definitely a show that could lend itself to a VR experiment.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Kim, do you want to do another?

 

Kim McTaggart:

I’ll do a clip. This is a show, it’s called Seed, did two seasons of it, 2013, ’14 or something like that. Seed is about a gentleman, you see him on the thumbnail there, who was a sperm donor and all his sperm donor families are starting to … They found out who the dad was. So they’re all connected now. He and three other families are connected because he’s sperm dad. So that’s the setup.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And the cool thing about this show was it was the first time I had ever used ScriptSync on a comedy show, which is where it just shines. I had used it on a feature just a few months before I did here, a feature that was half oner so it was still fun to have ScriptSync but it wasn?t?it didn’t utilize it to its fullest capacity. Whereas a comedy is just built. Script sync is just built for comedies where you’re line by lining everything just trying to find the funniest read on everything.



Kim McTaggart:

Script sync is just fabulous. So what we’re going to do is I’ll show you the clip and then I’m going to, because I’m a digital hoarder, I have all my projects and footage and everything from this seven-year-old show and my script. So we’ll just do a little screen share and I’ll just give you a quick little rundown of kind of how that’s set up.

 

Speaker 22:

Mild salsa, no, I can’t celebrate Father’s Day with this. Father’s Day is all about Zing.

 

Speaker 23:

Not going to happen.

 

Speaker 22:

Oh, hot salsa is happening.

 

Speaker 23:

Harry, Father’s Day is my time with Billy. It’s a tradition.

 

Speaker 22:

Yeah, that was before I came along. Now I can take over. You’re welcome.

 

Speaker 23:

I’m not losing this to our anonymous sperm donor. What part of Father’s Day is mine do you not understand?

 

Speaker 22:

The father part.

 

Speaker 24:

But Father’s Day is like Christmas to Michelle.

 

Speaker 22:

Fine. Then I can have Christmas.

 

Speaker 24:

But Christmas is my Halloween.

 

Speaker 22:

Okay. If you give me this, then you can have half of St Patrick’s Day and all of black history month.

 

Speaker 23:

No, I’m keeping Father’s Day. You can have Groundhog Day.

 

Speaker 24:

But Groundhog Day is my New Year?s.

 

Speaker 22:

What am I supposed to do for Father’s Day then?

 

Speaker 25:

This is the official agenda of our co Father’s Day this Sunday honored guests, Jonathan and Harry.

 

Speaker 22:

Well, at least someone wants to give me a Father’s Day. And I got us matching Father’s Day t-shirts

 

Speaker 23:

I’m with my princess.

 

Speaker 24:

Aw, my two gay dads.

 

Speaker 22:

It’ll work better with Anna between us.

 

Speaker 23:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Speaker 24:

I’m not wearing this.

 

Speaker 23:

But it’s such a good example of proper apostrophe usage. Fine, you don’t have to join us.



Speaker 24:

It’s Father’s Day.

 

Speaker 23:

It’s not Daughter’s Day.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Oh, that’s good.

 

Kim McTaggart:

So yeah, this was the first time I had ever used ScriptSync, which means I did not use any bins at all, I strictly used my script. It’s a great thing to use, it just means you have to have an assistant who will lay all this up for you. But the assistant I had on this show got so good at it. He was so fast, it was done in no time. And the time he took to do it, I would take that time tenfold I felt.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Where it really paid off is when I had directors and producers in the room and I could so easily go to every take, every line and do, for instance Father’s Day is like Christmas to Michelle, there it is, I could just go across and we could listen to every take. Because on the show, well, any show, I’ll do a lot of audio switching too. So I’ll keep the picture the same and I’ll swap out the audio so we just listen through every take.

 

Kim McTaggart:

So yeah, so now I rarely work without this. Even on a low budget show, if I don’t have an assistant I will take the time and do it myself because I really feel like it pays off in the end.

 

Amanda Mitro:

That’s really cool. And how how long has ScriptSync been an-

 

Kim McTaggart:

Been an Avid? It’s been an Avid since I can remember, for like 15 years. It had been in there even before it had voice recognition, you could still ScriptSync but you would have to kind of manually put where things are or it would kind a guess. The beginning is here, the end is here so halfway through must be there, and it would guess where things were, interpolate, if you will.

 

Kim McTaggart:

But now it has a voice recognition and it just literally recognizes the voices and creates the nodes of where everything is. So it doesn’t work on all shows. If you’re on a location with really noisy background, the voice recognition is tough to deal with, but the assistant can still manually do nodes so you can still use it. But on a show like this where it’s in studio with perfectly clean sound it works impeccably.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And it’s also great for your documentary editors out there. I shouldn’t say I just started using it. I used it way back in documentary. Whenever you have a transcript, this is brilliant for transcripts. If you have an hour and a half interview, you just lay that in there and you can just go to any word in your interview easily. So that’s where I really first started using it.

 

Kim McTaggart:

So I’ve been using it a lot longer than 2014, but that’s when I started using it pretty much exclusively now on dramatic shows too. Unless the assistant gets all grouchy and doesn’t want to do it and says they don’t have time and all that stuff. But really once you get used to doing it, it goes pretty quickly.

 

Amanda Mitro:

I guess that’s another tip for aspiring assistants, don’t be grouchy.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Don’t be grouchy and learn ScriptSync. Oh, somebody is asking how you cut with ScriptSync. Just like multicam. Oh, I’m sorry, I should have had that up there. I don’t cut it like a multicam show in the multicam mode. If you know Avid, it has a multicam mode. There’s no real advantage to that unless you have more than four cameras. No, I’ll just cut regularly.

 

Kim McTaggart:

But then even when the shot is sitting on your timeline, you can flip through and you can easily change it. And then whenever I have my shots in the source monitor, I usually have both shots up. It always surprises me how many people don’t use ScriptSync, like shows that do have lots of assistants and the ability to use it don’t use it.

 

Thorben Bieger:

[inaudible 01:07:17]. It’s learning a new thing.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And the other, just because we’re talking a little geeking out now, another feature a lot of people I find don’t use which I use all the time is the blue button. Do you use the blue button all the time, Thorben?

 

Thorben Bieger:

No.

 

Kim McTaggart:

No. See, I use it all the time, the replace button. If I?m trying out.. if I actually want to cut in a line, it’s easy just to play out through all five takes or whatever, but if you want to actually test it in your show, I’ll just land on a word in the middle of the take and then find that same word and then just blue button it in. It may not be exactly where it needs to be, but it’s quick and dirty and there’s no marking in and out and all that stuff, just blue button and boom it’s in.

 

Kim McTaggart:

So I use blue button all the time and it always astounds me that not everybody does. Although I know there’s a million different ways to do everything, and somebody probably has a much better way than the blue button.





Amanda Mitro:

Here’s a question for you guys, how does the camera choice affect your edit, whether it’s a, you know Red cam or GoPros or iPhone footage or all of that fun stuff, how do you guys like working with those?

 

Kim McTaggart:

It doesn’t matter. The only thing it affects is if it’s 4K you can punch in if you’re delivering. Well, now everybody wants 4K, so you can’t even punch in anymore. But it used to be if everything was in HD and they were shooting 4K, you could reframe so easily. And Thorben got into that more than I did. Thorben would reframe everything.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well, it was a bit of a craze. For me it may affect more of the decision of what to work with. By far I work with Avid most of the time but there are times when I’ll work with other Final Cut 10 [inaudible 01:08:53] or something like that. And if it’s a show, for example, that last one that we looked at, Clay’s POV, that was a show that was full of GoPros and DSLRs, all kinds of different cameras.

 

Thorben Bieger:

There were probably five or six or more different formats. And all it was shot pretty haphazardly. The sound was on the camera, sometimes sound was on a separate system. And I found actually for that project it was quite useful to work in final cut because of the ability to just dump everything in. It didn’t even take a lot of transcoding on a fairly standard iMac to be able to play 4K in real time next to Canon 5D footage.

 

Thorben Bieger:

It really was useful for that kind of jumble of different formats. So, again, the camera choice might not affect. It would only affect editing, for me, in terms of perhaps driving the choice towards a different platform.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And I’m pretty much exclusively Avid unless there’s a real raging reason. Like on the first year Call Me Fitz, I don’t know, Avid, wasn’t playing nice with the red camera. We used Final Cut Pro. Otherwise, no, I’ll stick with Avid.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Any recent trends in editing that you’re noticing like stylistically that you like or don’t like?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Well, there’s one that I’ve been noticing more and more. The first few times I loved it and now I haven’t had the chance to imitate it yet myself, but it seems like everyone else is, which is in particularly exciting moments to cut so hard on the last word of the scene that you actually cut off part of the word. I’ve seen it in comedies and in really serious movies.




Thorben Bieger:

It’s usually, even in a serious drama usually has a somewhat comical effect. And the first few times I saw it I thought it was really cool. It’s getting less cool with every video.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I still love it every time I watch a Better Call Saul, which is a brilliant show. I love the big slow master shot shows like that. But the opening theme music, they cut it off at the end and every time I just go, “Oh, I love that.?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Yeah, and I’ve noticed it in Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And just the other night I saw it in Killing Eve. It’s cool but everyone’s doing it now.

 

Amanda Mitro:

Yeah, Brooklyn Nine-Nine does it too.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I still love a good jump cut. Nothing I’ve done really we’ve gotten really into jump cutting. I remember when Call Me Fitz there was like a rule do not jump cut. It had to be very classical kind of stuff or you could jump cut to compress time but not a totally visual jump cut. I don’t know, I just love a really well done jump cut. Probably it excites me because I rarely get to do them in shows. They just don’t have that style.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I just did a feature and it was full of oners and stuff and I’m like, “Well, we’re going to have to incorporate jump cuts into the show.” And they’re just, “I don’t know.” I just love them.

 

Amanda Mitro:

And overall, for both of you, what is the most fun you have on the job? What’s the best part of being an editor? What just makes you want to go, “Yes, this is why I became an editor??



Thorben Bieger:

[inaudible 01:12:20]. Temp ADR



Kim McTaggart:

Yeah, it?s funny, we were talking about remote editing versus all being together, and that’s part of it. We did lose some of the fun. It’s really fun to be together in one place and work. And the last time we did do it it was on Call Me Fitz, where they wanted us to make sure we had 10 PDR for everything. And we would just fill in crowd scenes and we’d have these loop group nights.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And Sarah who’s on the call was in on that. We had so much fun. I just love doing that stuff. And Thorben and I still do it but we have to email back and forth. It’s still tons of fun, yeah. He jokes when he says it, but it is. It’s tons of fun.

 

Thorben Bieger:

For me lately one of my favorite parts has been the very, very late stage of editing. Sometimes when you’re close to the first few rounds of notes feel really constructive and you’ve put together a piece and made something, you’ve had your chance as the editor to affect what’s going to happen when you start working with the directors and producers and writers to make changes.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Then it starts going to the studio or to the network and you’re starting to get note fatigue and you feel like some of the notes that you’re seeing are things you may have already gone through, or there may be completely new. Still those all really become sometimes a little trying to get through the later stages of notes. But in my experience they still tend to be really helpful or things you shouldn’t overlook.

 

Thorben Bieger:

But then sometimes very near the end, new ideas come up late in the game. But I find that exciting sometimes when you don?t when  late in the creative process you’re still open to discovering something. And often I find it involves taking something out of the show, taking a line out or taking even a couple of lines out that actually make a scene better by dictating too clearly what someone is thinking or by letting facial expressions say something rather than dialogue.

 

Thorben Bieger:

When that’s happening later in the process I feel like you’re making changes that can have a gigantic effect on the piece and not compromising until the last minute. You’re still massaging or making changes at the very late stage. I find that quite fun to do.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah, I’ll agree with that too. And you’re probably speaking to a showrunner we just worked with who would … He’d fly in to picture lock. You’re pretty much done, it would go onto the network and he’d fly into picture lock and he’d come in and say, “Hey, what would happen if we took that scene out and maybe put it in the next episode,” or some really big, little but big thing like that. And you’re like, “Fuck.” Sorry.



Kim McTaggart:

And you do it and you go, “Wow. Well, yeah. Yeah. Okay. That’s great.” But I don’t know why he’d save those golden things for the bitter end. But yeah yeah you’re doing those all the way along at the end. And as Thorben says, usually it’s taking out. That’s what I find really fun too, is when you’re at the last stage and you’re going through it, and Thorben probably does the same thing, you’re looking for every line to have meaning or need to be there. And if it doesn’t, take it out.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And I do that right to the end, and I find that process one of the most fun processes. And another one I worked with, oh my gosh, Rick Mercer, I’m going to tell tales, on Made in Canada, would come in and he’d always preface his ideas with, “I know you’re going to get mad. I know this is just crazy, but just, please, please indulge me. It’s really stupid.” And I’d say probably at least half the time they were, and I crankily do it and we’d go, “Okay, thanks,” and go back.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And the other half they were freaking brilliant ideas, because all of them were like just totally out there, nothing I would have thought of. And he’d come in and do that and half the time we’d just go back and the other half it’s like, “Holy shit, that’s brilliant.?

 

Thorben Bieger:

Sometimes it does make you cranky because you feel like you’re so close and on a series perhaps you’re tired or there’s a lot of pressure to get things done. But I find more and more easy not to feel that crankiness at all, but to to think, okay, this is where we’re actually going to add you know 10% or we’re actually going to lift the show quite a bit with a few last changes.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And if someone has the idea and brings it up at that point, first of all, it’s probably a showrunner or a producer and you’re going to listen anyway, but it’s probably because they know the material really well and because they’re thinking of the series, of the whole season and the series on a bigger scale, and they also created these characters and they’re getting ideas, they’re inspired.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And maybe it’s something that’s been percolating in the back of their mind or they just thought of it right now, but either way, when those things come up, I think it’s really important to listen to them and to be optimistic about them.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And the other fun part for me, and it still happens is I’ll cut a scene and I’ll just, I don’t know, something happens. It’s just like magic and my heart starts to beat fast and I’m just so excited by the scene. It?s jJust so excited. It doesn’t happen all that often. I remember once it happened on Call Me Fitz and I was so freaking excited, I cut this. It was Josh walking through the jail.

 

Kim McTaggart:

It was a big follow behind why he was in jail. And I cut it to this particular song that I thought was frigging brilliant. So I immediately export and send it off to the showrunner, and I know our showrunner then, Sherry, no matter what she’s doing, if you sent her something she would sit and watch it. And sure enough, 15 minutes later … I was so excited, “You got to see this, Sherry.?

 

Kim McTaggart:

15 minutes later sure enough comes back and she’s like, “Nah. Nah.” And I was crushed. So crushed that I would not change it. It took me at least two times before I would finally change that music because I was so certain it was brilliant. But anyway, still those moments that make your heart beat fast. They’re not always nay moments, sometimes they’re really great, but I love when I feel that.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Music is funny like that because it is so subjective, and you may.. one person may just not feel what you’re feeling with the music. But another thing that I really enjoy is, and it happens on every show somewhere along the way that there’s just a moment that gets you every time. And it might be, whatever, it might be something that makes you teary or makes me laugh.

 

Thorben Bieger:

There’s usually something along the way that has the same effect on you every time you watch it. And I’m quoting someone here who said that, as the editor it?s kind your job to fall in love with the show, whether you like the show or not or whether it’s your kind of show. It might not be the thing that you watch on your own free time, but it’s your job to fall in love with the material, to make it?just to make it as good as it can be and to fully invest yourself in that show.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And usually what happens to me is that when you go into it with that approach you start to like the characters and you start to care more about it. And when the actor has a really good scene you feel it much more, and I think it just contributes in general to one’s whole approach to the rest of the show when you say this is going to be good as good as it can get.

 

Kim McTaggart:

I mouth the words. I get so invested in them when I watch those scenes you were talking about, I’ll see my lips moving and I’m saying their words because I’m so excited for them. It’s funny. Somebody asked me once, working on the show so long, do you get so sick of them like you never want to see them again and you’re glad they’re out the door?

 

Kim McTaggart:

And I can honestly say no. At the end of every show I’m done, I’m still usually madly in love with it. I mean I might be a little tired and be glad to be moving on to the next one, but no, I fall in love with them all even if I didn’t think I would or wasn’t in the beginning. By the time I’m done I know them all so deeply and have such a vested interest in them and I always love it.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And you notice it when you watch it five years later or whatever, because you spend so much time preoccupied with things that you see as problems or things that you want to fix that the parts that are good, the parts that don’t need that tension are easy to just … You take them for granted. They no longer affect you. For me, the closer I come to the end, the more I need feedback and the more I need to figure out ways to reset my own perception of it or to rely on other people’s feedback to work on it.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And it becomes a fairly microscopic process. And it does take some time to see it with fresh eyes, sometimes years. And there is a feeling. For me sometimes when I look at something that I worked on a long time ago, I often feel much better about it than I did, right at the end. But then suddenly I also remember the sandwich I ate that day. It’s all bundled together.

 

Thorben Bieger:

I remember I had a, whatever, a meatloaf sandwich from the Italian market that they were working on that scene and the memories are … I don’t think those associations ever completely go away. You never get to see it for the first time again, I guess.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Yeah.

 

Amanda Mitro:

All right, it looks like we have time for one more question. Didier Kennel has one, what will the editing and industry be like five years from now? What would you prepare for now to be viable then?

 

Kim McTaggart:

You know what, I don’t think there’s anything we can do to prepare for five years from now for one thing. I think we can just roll with the punches and see where we land five years from now. But this whole new remote editing is going to be something we all have to get used to and learn. And I think that technology is really going to build, as Thorben says, these programs to help us do that.

 

Kim McTaggart:

They’re just going to take over and we’re all going to be working this way. But that’s still just rolling with the punches as they come.

 

Thorben Bieger:

I think the editing industry five years from now will be … It’s more of a question of what production looks like. But I do wonder the more remote editing becomes, the harder it will be to make contacts, and that’s a really important part, especially when you’re trying to establish yourself. The more producers retire that we’ve worked with in the past, the harder and the less exchange there is with people.

 

Thorben Bieger:

And together with remote technology I think it could make it harder to meet people that want? decide they like something about you and they want to work with you. You’re often told there’s an interview for a job on a series or on a feature, but again, that also often comes after some kind of initial contact through a recommendation or meeting that you had somewhere.

 

Thorben Bieger:

So I guess what I would try to prepare for in five years is somehow still being maybe networking. And networking not so … Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s all social, maybe it’s all social networking that you do, or maybe what sets you apart is some way of contacting people or making an impression on people in person. But yeah, I think that might be part of the picture in five years.

 

Amanda Mitro:

All right. Well, thank you everybody for coming and talking editing with us, and thank you, Kimberly and Thorben, you guys-

 

Kim McTaggart:

Thanks Amanda.

 

Amanda Mitro:

… are awesome.

 

Kim McTaggart:

Thank you to the CCE for hosting this event.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Great. Thanks everyone. And if you have any burning questions that you think of later on tonight, which I understand probably you may not have them, feel free to send an email or something.

 

Kim McTaggart:

And a shout out to James who said there should be temp ADR awards, because Thorben would be up for many of them. So that’s a billion idea. He says, hint, CCE, they should think about that. All right. Thanks everyone.

 

Thorben Bieger:

Bye everyone. Thank you. Goodnight.

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks for joining us today, and a big thank you goes to our panelists and moderator. Special thanks goes to Jane MacRae and Alison Dowler. This episode was edited by Dennis Leyton. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in any way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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The Editors Cut

Episode 035: Behind the Cut with Susan Shipton

The Editors Cut - Episode 035: Behind the Cut with Susan Shipton

The Editors Cut - Episode 035: Behind the Cut with Susan Shipton

This episode is part 4 of a 4 part series covering EditCon 2020 that took place on Saturday February 1st, 2020 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

This episode is sponsored by Annex Pro and Avid.

2020 EditCon Panel 4 no script no problem on stage at TIFF

Multi-award-winning editor Susan Shipton shares her vast knowledge and experience from a long career in film and network television. Susan has over 40 feature films to her credit.

She has cut eight films with director Atom Egoyan (including Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter), as well as many critically-acclaimed television series such as The Book of Negroes, et The Expanse.

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The Editor?s Cut – Episode 035 – Interview with Susan Shipton (EditCon 2020 Series)



Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by Annex Pro and Avid. Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. We’d like to point out that the lands on which we have created this podcast and that many of you may be listening to us from are part of ancestral territory. It is important for all of us to deeply acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory that has long served as a place where indigenous peoples have lived, met, and interacted. We honour, respect, and recognize these nations that have never relinquished their rights or sovereign authority over the lands and waters on which we stand today. We encourage you to reflect on the history of the land, the rich culture, the many contributions and the concerns that impact indigenous individuals and communities. Land acknowledgements are the start to a deeper action. Today I bring to you part four of our four-part series covering EditCon that took place on Saturday, February 1st, 2020 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, behind the cut with Susan Shipton. Multi award winning editor, Susan Shipton will share her vast knowledge and experience from her long career in film and network television. Susan has over 40 feature films to her credit. She has cut eight films with director Atom Egoyan, including Oscar nominated The Sweet Hereafter as well as many critically acclaimed television series, such as The Book of Negroes and The Expanse.

 

[show open]

 

Just a warning that some of the clips played in this episode contain coarse language and sexual content

Stephen Philipson:

So, it is my great pleasure to introduce our very esteemed keynote speaker. She’s the multiple DGC award and Genie award winning editor behind many iconic Canadian films working in a range of tones and styles from art house cinema to historical drama, comedy and science fiction. Her films have been widely recognized around the world at film festivals and by little award shows such as the Oscars. Most notably, she’s collaborated with Atom Egoyan on all his films from The Adjuster , to his latest Guest of Honour, including the Oscar nominated and Cannes Jury prize winning, The Sweet Hereafter. She’s also worked with other world renowned directors, such as Robert Lepage on Possible Worlds and István Szabó on Being Julia, winning a Genie award and a DGC award for those films, but it doesn’t stop there. Her work continues on the small screen with Clement Virgo’s, critically acclaimed Book of Negroes, Nurses and Burden of Truth, The Expanse and the new Netflix series, Ginny & Georgia. Of course, I’m talking about Susan Shipton. Our moderator, Sarah Taylor, is the host of The Editor’s Cut. The CCE podcast, now making waves internationally. Yes, we have listeners from around the world. She’s an award-winning editor with 18 years of experience in documentary and narrative films. Most recently, she edited the short documentary Fast Horse, which screened at over 15 festivals and won a Special Jury Award for directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Annex Pro and Avid are very excited to welcome-

Pauline Decroix:

Sarah Taylor.

Stephen Philipson:

And Susan Shipton.

Sarah Taylor:

Hello everyone. What a great day. I’ve been taking lots of notes today and I’m going to take them back to my suite. So thank you for that. And thank you for coming and Susan, thank you for joining me on stage. We have a lot to discuss, so I want to start just briefly, you went to Queen’s University and you took film studies and graduated in 1992, which means you’ve been in the industry for over 30 years.

Susan Shipton:

I graduated in 1982.

Sarah Taylor:

  1. I wrote 92, okay 82. Well, you’ve been in the industry for a while. No, no, 1992, but I’m assuming you have a lot of great stories to tell us. And I don’t know the full story, but please tell us about your first job in the film industry.

Susan Shipton:

Well, I did graduate from Queen?s University and by the way, thank you for that beautiful introduction. That was really lovely. Thank you. And I had made a couple of short films at Queen?s as one did and really enjoyed the editing process, but my goal was actually to write and direct. But I really loved editing, and I really loved what I learned about filmmaking from editing. And it was always in the back of my head that you have to be in a cutting room to really learn what it is to be a filmmaker. So I came to Toronto with all my film school experience and landed my first job slinging burgers at Toby?s Bar and Grill on Yonge street. It was a chain at the time, long gone. And in the meantime, I had a friend who went to the same high school as I did, who was a few years ahead of me who was working in the industry.

Susan Shipton:

And when I was back in Belleville, where I was living with my parents, he said, when you come to Toronto, I’m working in the business. So give me a call and I’ll see what I can do. And so I did, and he was working on a show and he said, I don’t know if I have anything, but you know. And I was literally in the middle of an afternoon lunch shift at Toby’s with burgers in both hands. And the phone rang at Toby’s. This was pre-cell phone, somehow he had my work number, I guess that’s what you did. The phone rang at Toby’s. And he said, and I answered it, put my burgers down. And he said, I have a job for you if you want to come and get this job. And I said, Alan, I’m like in the middle of a lunch shift at Toby’s with burgers in my hands.

Susan Shipton:

I’ll drive down after my shift. And he said, the job may or may not be here for you if you do that. So I actually handed my burger plates off to the other aspiring filmmaker waiter who got it. He says, Susan, give those to me. I’ll never forget him. He said, give him to me, I’ll take your shift. So I went down to Lake Shore Studios to pursue my first job in film. And it was as a production assistant on a soft core porn television series. I really want to emphasize that I was a production assistant, even though my first job was in pornography. And it was a for Playboy First Choice. It was called Office Girls and all the clothes had to be made with Velcro in them so that they came off quickly. One of my best friends to this day, I met on that show and I had the contract for ages and maybe I’ll find it someday.

Susan Shipton:

Because it’s wonderful. It’s $225 a week contracted seven day week. It’s wonderful, in black and white, but I would have to, as a runner, I’d have to do everything including drive the bunnies around. But I had to drive the tapes because it was shot on tape down to Mag North, which was this editing facility, which is now a condo, a surprise in Toronto. And I would go, I would deliver them to the editor and I would, and they had jelly beans everywhere. Cause that was in the days when like tape editing was the coolest, and that’s where all the money was. So they had jelly beans and cookies and stuff. And I just thought this was glorious. I would deliver these tapes and I’d sit with him in the dark room as he cut this awful stuff. Anyway, life went on after that, but that was my start.

Sarah Taylor:

So the snacks enticed you to get into the editing room?

Susan Shipton:

Large part of it.

Susan Shipton:

My friends know there’s nothing I love more than free food, but it was also just that, what he was doing was really quite astonishing, even though the show was so awful, cause he, I would sit with him and he would show me what he was up against lots of this stuff that we’ve heard today. And he was a great editor and just the quiet, and that he was working by himself. So, yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

So then after you had that experience, you decided to pursue editing and you became an assistant.

Susan Shipton:

Yes. And that was through another crazy serendipitous Queen’s connection. Woman I knew at Queen’s was syncing rushes or dailies, which was an entry-level job into a cutting room in those days. And she had two jobs, and the shoot fell in such a way that she couldn’t do one of the syncing jobs and phoned me. And I went in and did it. And the editor was Roger Mattiussi, who’s remained a friend of mine to this day, and he kind of put me in touch to quickly just go there. I said to him; I don’t know anything. I can’t get into a cutting room cause I don’t have a skill and he said I’ll hire you. Which was lovely. And he did. He hired me on a CBC for the record where I met Sturla Gunnarsson. And then I got on a documentary as an assistant Jeff Warren and that Sturla Gunnarsson directed about the UAW, CAW, which was called Final Offer, which was an extraordinary experience because the thing about the film days is that you’re actually in the room with the editor.

Susan Shipton:

So like on all of those shows, because you’re just filing trims, you know? And so you’re in the room with the editor sometimes in another room, but often with the editor on Final Offer, we were all at the film board and we would, I’d be standing there filing trims or sitting at the desk with the writer and the director and the editor and very much a part of the conversations if I wanted to be. And they were very generous about that. That was a fantastic experience. And through them I met Patricia Rozema. Roger was friends with Elaine Foreman who was Ron Sanders’ first assistant at the time. And I said to Roger, I really want to cut feature films. And I want to work with the best people, who are those people. And Roger named them. And he said, but there were three men.

Susan Shipton:

And he said, but two of those men don’t hire women.

Sarah Taylor:

Interesting.

Susan Shipton:

I mean, it was amazing, and it was like, Roger just said it like as a statement of fact, right? Like it wasn’t really, and so one of the only one who hired women was Ron. And so I went to probably an introduction through Roger. I went to Ron’s cutting room and Roger had also told me, he said, he’s the only editor who’s doing pictures that are big enough, that’ll have an apprentice on them. And that’s how you’re going to have to start as an apprentice. And then just to say, how I got working with Ron was I went, I met him and that was like so amazing because it’s David Cronenberg’s cutting room and that great picture of Cronenberg strangling himself and he’s all blue.

Susan Shipton:

And it was just amazing. So, I said if you ever are hiring an apprentice, I would love to work with you. And then I get a call from his first assistant, Michael Ray they were between pictures. They said, Ron’s just got a picture called The Park Is Mine, which is with Tommy Lee Jones. Would you like to come on board as a second assistant editor? And I actually freaked out because I didn’t think I could do that. I’d applied to be an apprentice. And I was just sort of, Oh my God, I can’t do that. So I went back home to Belleville, and I said, I’ll think about it, the biggest opportunity. And I said, oh, I’ll have to think about it. So I went home and my parents and my dad said to me, you didn’t lie to get the job.

Susan Shipton:

You didn’t tell them anything that wasn’t true. They know your experienced they’re willing to take you on and do it. And so I did, and I ended up then doing The Fly with Ron as well as an assistant.

Sarah Taylor:

Wow.

Susan Shipton:

And another little movie, little MOW Ron and I did as well.

Sarah Taylor:

Was there anything from your experience working with Ron that you still like look to now and when you’re working?

Susan Shipton:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, I don’t know. In what way, I sort of took these things in, but I even know Ron is one of my heroes as an editor. I think his editing is beautiful. And I can’t even say specifically, but just watching him cut and watching and actually weirdly Ron’s own inarticulateness about what he does, what was taught me a lot, because it was all about feeling, it was like, why are you cutting there Ron? It feels right. You know, and that really is where a lot of it comes from. And he’s just been hugely helpful to me. I have called him a couple of times when I’m cutting things and said, yeah, Ron, would you mind having a look and he’s come in and looked and helped me over the years.

Sarah Taylor:

Wow. What a great connection.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah, it was.

Sarah Taylor:

Now, how did you get into your first opportunity from assisting to cut your first feature film?

Susan Shipton:

That was serendipity. Again, I had met Patricia Rozema at the National Film, but it’s all connected. It’s all these weird kinds of connections, right? I’d met Patricia we’d become friends. And I would go to her house for parties and Atom Egoyan would be there. And that’s how I met Atom. And one night at a party, I wore my coat backwards, and I thought it was hysterical. I thought it was like the funniest thing ever. And everyone started wearing their coats backwards. And I don’t recommend this, but people seem to remember me from that, Atom in particular.

Sarah Taylor:

Backwards coat lady.

Susan Shipton:

The backwards coat lady.

Susan Shipton:

It’s sort of like, I just think it put me in his mind somehow. But what happened with The Adjuster was he was looking for an editor. Oh no. I went up for another movie. I had quite a lot of experience by this time. I’d been an assistant for nine years and I’d assisted in foley and dialogues and effects and picture and I’d cut a short film and I went up for a film and didn’t get it. And the editor who got it, a man, was far less experienced than me. And he had to call me and ask me how to set up a cutting room and recognized when he was talking to me that he’d gotten the job from me. He was offered The Adjuster and he couldn’t do it. And he phoned me and told me Atom’s looking for an editor.

Sarah Taylor:

Nice.

Susan Shipton:

So it was kind of like, he felt bad. He didn’t realize that, that was a dynamic that had happened. And so there’s this weird, like theme of sexism that’s worked for and against me.

Sarah Taylor:

And then did Atom go, “Oh yeah, the lady with the backwards coat.”

Susan Shipton:

Yes, he did.

Sarah Taylor:

So you, you guys must’ve enjoyed your time working together. Cause you’ve cut all of his films.

Susan Shipton:

I was like the third editor, someone else was then offered The Adjuster and he didn’t take it because Atom wanted a co-edit and I was delighted because it was a big step for me. And I thought, “Hey, I get to edit. But I have the protection a bit.” I had no problem with it at all. So then when we started cutting it together, he acknowledged partway through the process we got on great. That what was actually happening was a more traditional director editor relationship. And he said to me, I’m just going to take an additional editing credit in the tails. You’re the editor. And so, yeah, that started a long relationship.

Sarah Taylor:

How has that relationship evolved over the years and maybe what is it about the two of you together that just works?

Susan Shipton:

You know, it’s almost a question for him in a way, but I guess what works for me is like, I’ve always found his films deeply moving and I’m aware that not everyone does with Atom’s films, right? There’s an intellectual kind of distance in some of the ways that he tells stories, but I’ve always been deeply moved by the characters also by the way of storytelling by his use of the camera. Like there are moments in his films that just take my breath away. So I think that I have a natural fit to those rhythms, but I’m also critical as well. So I think it’s comfortable for me. I mean, the relationship has evolved, but I think the big step was his, the very first film when he recognized that I was actually an editor.

Sarah Taylor:

He trusted you.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. And I think that from then on, we’d been on, but his filmmaking and his relationship to storytelling in the edit has really evolved.

Sarah Taylor:

You’ve helped make that happen too.

Susan Shipton:

Well, he does say. The one compliment he does give me is, he says, he shoots coverage because of the way I cut it, because he doesn’t used to shoot coverage. He was just like, string masters together. So I like that he says that.

Sarah Taylor:

So you taught him something, that’s good.

Susan Shipton:

I taught him something. Yes.

Sarah Taylor:

Was there any films, like obviously The Sweet Hereafter is a Canadian classic and it, is there any of his films that hold a special spot for you?

Susan Shipton:

Felicia’s Journey. I mean, is my favourite Atom film. There are those moments in Felicia’s Journey that are to me so beautiful and so perfectly realized. I mean, I also it’s one of the more linear–I did not cut Remember, that was Chris Donaldson and that’s a more linear one, but Felicia’s was oddly more linear. It had its flashbacks were more conventional flashbacks versus the multi narrative, which, I’m not saying that’s why I like it better, but it was different in a way. Right? And I think the discipline of actually staying in a more forward moving narrative was interesting for me. And I just, I love Bob Hoskins performance. It’s an extraordinary film to me. I love it.

Sarah Taylor:

And have you recently watched it?

Susan Shipton:

Yes.

Susan Shipton:

I did, and it totally held up for me. And that doesn’t always happen when I watched, previous.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, for sure.

Susan Shipton:

Older films. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, I think we should get into the details of your editing process. So we have a few clips that we’re going to show today. Two of them are from feature films and then one television clip. And the first clip is from Burn Your Maps directed by Jordan Roberts. Do you want to set it up for us?

Susan Shipton:

Sure. I picked this clip because in, it’s really hard on these panels I think to talk about editing and show clips, because so much of editing is about overall structure that spans whether it’s a half hour of television or a feature film, right. You move stuff around, there’s the flow and the pace and things. And then obviously we’re not going to sit and watch all Burn Your Maps, but we’re watching the first, I guess, three scenes of it. And I love the film, but I picked it because I can talk about a lot of aspects of editing in it. These three scenes were reordered endlessly in the edit, just so that the first scene of the movie as scripted, you’ll see when you see it, was the gymnasium. And then the next scene was the drawing. And then I don’t even actually remember where the therapy session came, but it didn’t come as early as it comes right now. Maybe, maybe third in, but maybe further back. I can’t remember.

 

[Clip plays]

Susan Shipton:

So I should probably give a little backstory on what the film’s about. Obviously they’ve lost a child six months old. I think it was a baby. The family’s in crisis and Wes, the little boy thinks he’s a Mongolian goat herder. So it’s about identity and it’s about a family in crisis and believe it or not, it’s a comedy, dramatic comedy. So the scene that you saw, the last scene where he’s making what you don’t need to know at this point, obviously, but he’s making a suit that he wears. Because he goes to school dressed as a Mongolian goat herder. So that’s what he’s making when he’s tracing and doing all that stuff.

Susan Shipton:

In the first script and the original assembly, the way that it was shot and cut, is that slow move in and the gymnasium, is the opening of the film. And then what actually happens is that a couple of kids who bully him, pardon me, although they’re not hugely important in the film, but they do bully him. They throw that book that he’s making, those sketches, is they throw rolled up paper and he looks up, and he just looks at them and they insult him and leave.

Susan Shipton:

And all that. And he’s looking. That’s his sister in the gym, again, you don’t know them. But he’s looking and he’s isolated, he’s alone. And there’s all that activity around him. So that’s kind of the point of the scene and that he’s also being bullied.

Susan Shipton:

But a couple of things, the bullies weren’t that interesting. They’re not really germane to the story they’re props in terms of understanding Wes’s character. They had the first line of the film. They said something awful to him. And it wasn’t a great performance. So it’s sort of like, “Why are we seeing these bullies”? But then the challenge became well, what’s he doing? And how do we get to it? And all of that, and the director went to Mongolia. The whole film was shot in Alberta, except he went to Mongolia to get some shots.

Susan Shipton:

And that very first shot of the film is a real goat herder in Mongolia. And that kind of sound design that you hear, we came up with in the cutting room with the goats. Obviously we animated it. So you can hear it in that traditional Mongolian music in there.

Susan Shipton:

And so that very first shot of Wes that you come in on, you’re supposed to feel that he’s thinking that. That that’s what he’s thinking about. And that very first shot of Wes is actually the shot from when he looks up at the bullies. I have every single frame possible because of course he just looked back down or whatever he did in the original performance, but because of the performance of the kid, Because he’s a blank palette, so that the editing makes you think about what he’s thinking about.

Susan Shipton:

So in one version we then went directly, and there’s a funny story about that insert of the goats that he’s drawing, I asked for that to be redone because the first time we had the insert, they look like cats or something. And so they did it again and they still look like cats. It’s like one of those moments, like that doesn’t look like goats. But anyway, they couldn’t do it yet again. So we have him scribbling cats, which are supposed to be goats. So then we go off that. And then we went for the longest time, right to him preparing his costume. And that was a really beautiful cut. And I loved that. Because you started the music over the goat/ cat sketch and went right into his room and it was really quite beautiful and quite lyrical.

Susan Shipton:

But then the big thing about that film is that scene in the therapy office, because it is tough. It’s really, really tough because the performances are really good. The subject matter is really real. It’s really raw. And it’s a really tough scene to put at the beginning of a comedy. The beginning of any movie, but I think at the beginning of a comedy. So that scene migrated around the first 30 minutes of the film. It just kept moving and we could never find a place for it. And the director, I can’t really remember where it was scripted for us somewhere around where it actually occurs now, if not there. But as I said, it migrated. And the reason I chose this clip is because I can address lots of things about working as an editor.

Susan Shipton:

And one of them was the fact that people, namely the producers, really had a strong, adverse reaction to having that so early in the film. And we eventually realized that they had a strong or adverse reaction to a woman talking about a blow job.

Sarah Taylor:

Interesting. Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And a woman talking the way she was talking in a therapy session. Because if you really investigated their issues, that’s what it came down to. And I’m not even saying that, then that’s a cultural thing, the scenes tough, but that just put it over the edge for people.

Sarah Taylor:

And it was too real maybe or something-

Susan Shipton:

They just don’t want to hear women talk like that-

Sarah Taylor:

I suppose so.

Susan Shipton:

Because the evolution of the cutting of that scene, it’s like I was saying to you, it’s ended up pretty much uncut, right? The coverage on that scene, there was closeup coverage, there was loose AB coverage. There was lots of coverage. And the first cut of the scene, I used a lot of it, and the performances were gorgeous.

Susan Shipton:

Vera’s performance to me is just like, it was just a treat. For me, editing isn’t just about picking performance, but we’ll come back to that. So when we had it cut on coverage, the reason why we caughtened on to the real issue around where it was, was because the producers kept asking us for the softer takes of Vera when she was saying those lines.

Susan Shipton:

And in general, softer takes of Vera, softer takes of Vera, softer takes of Vera. That was the one, probably the only note we got on that scene. And then we started going, “Mm hmm, I think we know what’s going on here. It’s a problem with the content”.

Susan Shipton:

And the director to his credit said, “Tough”. It’s going early in the film. And we tested it. And I’m trying to remember what the response was. And that was like somebody was talking earlier about, “How did you respond to a test”? And I think people struggled with that scene, but the director that was part of his vision and it was going to go at the beginning and that was what he was going to do.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, I think by watching the whole film, it makes sense for it to be there. It sets it up and I didn’t react like that when I heard it. I didn’t think it was harsh, but I can see how that’s the case. So when they asked you to do softer, softer, was that how you got to not cutting much in it? Or was it just because of some of the performance, you let those takes just-

Susan Shipton:

We recut that scene and recut it and recut it. And to be honest, the director really became, obsessed is too strong a word, with getting that scene right and getting it the way that he wanted it. And I think in a weird way, I think that there was so much good material that I think he had trouble dealing with that, honestly. Because there were just too many options. And then how we ended up at the two shot. That’s one of my favorite compositions is a two shot. And the tension between the two of them is so palpable in the two shot, because you get the body language, you get the awkwardness and then you get the moment of her reaching for him at the end and crossing a bridge over. You get all that. So when you went out of that, you always had good performance, but you lost that geography.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. That chemistry. Because then even at the end, when she recoils, you-

Susan Shipton:

Oh yeah, it’s tough. I mean, she allows him to come. She warms to him. But as soon as she does it, she pushes him away again. And by the way, the end of that scene, he gets up and he goes to the door, and it’s beautifully written, and it was nicely performed, he basically says, “Yeah, what about me? Don’t you think I’m grieving for my child too? Just because I’m capable of going to work every day, and I’m capable of doing these things, doesn’t mean I’m not grieving for my child and you’re not helping”.

Susan Shipton:

It was great, but it was too much. And it was super hard because it’s not his film either, it’s Vera’s and the kid’s.

Sarah Taylor:

And Wes.

Susan Shipton:

And Wes’s.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, speaking of Wes, I watched the film, I thought he was wonderful. But then I was like, that has a lot to do with you too. How was it editing a young actor? I don’t know. Did he have much experience? Like he’s little so-

Susan Shipton:

Well, he had done Room. And I knew some people that worked on Room. It was the same thing. There’s a thing with actors. And I think it’s what makes some actors into movie stars. I think it’s just the thing and he has it. But a lot of times, I think that’s what it is with child actors. They just have a presence, a rootedness, you don’t feel an artifice, they’re just kind of are. And he has that. Having said that, he was tough. The first scene, real scene, where he’s with Suresh in the carwash. And he meets this guy and the guy’s like, “What? You think you’re a Mongolian goat herder”? And he’s a young filmmaker and he wants to film him. Well, Wes, Jacob Tremblay, was falling asleep through the entire scene.

Sarah Taylor:

Really.

Susan Shipton:

And it was the first scene I got. And he was literally, he’d be sitting there and he’d be going. I was cutting around like, “How many frames do I have before he closes his eyes”? It was like that. And then almost every time I’m off him-

Sarah Taylor:

It’s because he’s sleeping.

Susan Shipton:

He’s got the noddies. And the reason for it, the director talked to him because I was like, “Ahh”, the director was kind of panicked, but Jacob being a kid, he’s on set and they’re candies and chocolate and everything. He gorged himself and then had a sugar crash. And so the director had to say to his parents, who are great, they’re great stage parents. They’re hugely supportive. Had to say to his mother, like “He can’t do that. He has to stay away from the craft table. And he has to go bed at a certain point”.

Susan Shipton:

So there were moments when he was a kid. I mean, he’s a kid. And he would get tired. But that thing that you see in his face, when he was doing well, that’s what you got. And he had a big emotional scene, which unfortunately we cut out for other reasons, and he was good when he was delivering that too. So he did have it.

Sarah Taylor:

You mentioned, at one point when we were talking, that when you were cutting David Wellington’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, that you honed a dialogue editing technique. And I wanted to hear what that was.

Susan Shipton:

It’s something that’s kind of haunted me. I cut that film in 1997 and it was, in my career, aside from Adam’s work, probably the most important and influential thing for me on the way that I cut. And I liked to actually think that I don’t cut any particular way because I want to respond to the material and I cut in a way that’s appropriate to the material. I think, like I was saying about Ron, you go in, you just, you respond to the material. It’s a rhythm. It’s almost a physical rhythm. It’s like, “Where do you cut? You cut where it feels right”.

Susan Shipton:

But editing is such a process. So that’s how you arrive at say the first cut, but then when you go through it and things aren’t working, then I become more analytical about why. And I pay a lot of attention, and this is a tool of analyzing more than an approach to editing, I pay a lot of attention to when dialogue scenes to where I’m cutting between characters on dialogue. And who owns the pauses, so to speak. Like, where are the pauses played and there’s power in pauses.

Sarah Taylor:

Totally yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And how you play them. And again, it’s not like I do it a certain way. One thing that I do, and this was, this is a bit the curse that I consciously try to rid myself of, I actually have a lot of problem creating a dialogue rhythm that isn’t already there in the performance. If I have to tighten something up. Tightening something up is not a problem for me as much as loosening it.

Sarah Taylor:

Making it breathe.

Susan Shipton:

Making it breathe, because if the actors didn’t do it, I find it hard to cut outside of their rhythms. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I’m not saying that it is, that’s why it’s kind of a curse.

Sarah Taylor:

Is it because you’ve watched that footage and you feel connected to that footage? Or why do you feel like it’s not right?

Susan Shipton:

I don’t know why really, because I think, I think it comes from Long Days Journey into Night, which was a stage play and the actors had done it in Stratford, and they were well rehearsed in it. And they did dialogue over. They did some overlapping and stuff like that, but I would actually cut the dialogue tracks and fit the picture in.

Sarah Taylor:

Okay.

Susan Shipton:

And I will still do that. I mean, it’s, it’s interesting because, in reality, people were talking about doing a similar thing.

Sarah Taylor:

The radio edit.

Susan Shipton:

And, I will do that, but I do find sometimes it’s hard. That’s the challenge for me. I find it hard to cut out any of the rhythms and the natural things that people do with their faces. And when they’re speaking to one another. But editing is a process, so I can do it much more easily on the second cut.

Susan Shipton:

On the first cut, they have all those moments and those are all in there. And then I can go through. I think because Long Day’s Journey was such a dialogue heavy film. And I really, really had so much opportunity to really look at the effect you have, for instance, when you cut in the middle of a clause versus between clauses. When you lay a word over or where you pre-lap, and there’s no right or wrong thing to do about that, it’s just paying attention to the impact that had on the story, the emotional story you were telling.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. And you mentioned that you pay attention to the pauses. What is it about the pause? What do you look for? Is it a feeling? Or is it the expression? Or just a natural rhythm?

Susan Shipton:

The actors that I find the hardest to cut are the ones that do a whole lot of things before their reaction. Because you’re going to cut it out, it’s just too long. But then I find that there’s an emotional transition missing. This is another thing that I’m really big on when I’m cutting dialogue, is emotional transitions. In other words, if you’re on somebody and they’re angry or they’re about to cry, and you cut away a couple of places and you come back and that person is in tears, it makes it look like it’s bad editing.

Sarah Taylor:

You lose it. Yeah. You lose that emotion.

Susan Shipton:

And that’s one of the huge challenges because maybe it took that person way too long to start to cry.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

So now what do you do? Now you figure out a way when something’s not working for me again, I look at it and I say, “Do I have the emotional transitions”? And frankly, sometimes you can’t. Like in Guest of Honour, in fact, there’s this incredible performance by David Thewlis. And we just went with it. It’s just one shot of him. It’s beautiful. And a lot of it, I think was ad-libbed, but it was too long. It’s already three minutes. We just stay in his face for three minutes and it was six or something before. So we had cut out the beginning of it. And I don’t know if anybody else will feel it. Now you’ll all look for it.

Sarah Taylor:

We’re all going to look for it.

Susan Shipton:

But when we cut away from him, we come back, I feel that loss of a little emotional transition. And I tried to fix it with a breath and some sound effects and stuff, but stuff like that makes me crazy.

Sarah Taylor:

I love it. Let’s talk a little bit about performance. And you say it’s not all about performance always, but it is in the rhythm and that side of editing for you.

Susan Shipton:

Well, it’s funny because I often hear editors say, “It’s all about performance. It’s all about performance”, and yeah, of course, it is. These are great performances, but that’s not the only reason why that’s that scene is played mostly on a two-shot. It’s played mostly on a two shot because we would have lost the physicality between them to do it otherwise. There’s another cut of that scene, that’s good. And arguably, I kind of wish I’d been able to bring it, you could say, “Yeah, it’s better”.

Sarah Taylor:

There’s more dynamics or something.

Susan Shipton:

Whatever. There’s no one perfect way to cut a scene. But editing is a craft as much as an art, or an instinct. And you use what’s given you. And that’s composition, shot composition, sound, pace. In some scenes, actually in the one that we’ll see in the dinner scene, this is another thing that we’ll all often do, not just me, is I will cut to somebody two or three cuts before I really need them. Because that’s going to set up that reaction, right?

Susan Shipton:

If you’re on, somebody, like in this dinner scene we see, he’s just sitting there like this. I’m setting that up for when he talks. Because he’s like a time bomb. So again, if I want to see that emotional transition, then I’ve got to go to that person before I really need to. So well, “Why am I going to him”? Well, there’s craft involved there, right?

Susan Shipton:

And I think the same thing with performance. There are some good performances and great performances in films I’ve cut that are on the cutting room floor. They have to be. I have an hour worth of dailies, not every great performance is in the cut. And I may say, I’m on a wide shot here, even though the performance is in the close, I’m on a wide shot here, because if I go in close, I just don’t have any gas left by the end of the scene.

Susan Shipton:

And I absolutely think as much, maybe I’ll never work again after I say this, but I think as much about shot size and composition as I do about performance. It’s film.

Sarah Taylor:

In a lot of the films you work on, you have really great actors who give you a lot of really great performance too, so that helps right.

Susan Shipton:

Having said that it, I’m not going to use a bad performance. But it’s one of the things that I consider. Because otherwise, I think, yeah-

Sarah Taylor:

Well then all the parts come together. That’s the joy of filmmaking. It’s not just about that great actor or that great cinematographer, and we all collaborate and make it good.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

You touched on the scene, we’re going to see it’s a dinner scene from the film, Barney’s Version directed by Richard J. Lewis. Maybe tell us a little bit about the film.

Susan Shipton:

So this is based on Mordecai Richler’s book, Paul Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky and his father is played by Dustin Hoffman. And his father is a tough cop. And Minnie Driver plays the woman that Paul Giamatti has met and asked her to marry him. And she comes from a very wealthy family. So, Izzy who’s, Dustin Hoffman, is like a ticking time bomb in the scene because you just wonder when he’s going to really embarrass himself.

Sarah Taylor:

It’s so good.

Susan Shipton:

The challenge in cutting this was, for me, aside from the comedy of it, was to keep the relationships alive. Because Barney, Paul Giamatti, loves his father. He loves him to death. They have a really strong relationship. He knows he’s rough around the edges and all of that. And Paul Giamatti is such an extraordinary actor that what he’s able to bring to it is, he’s a little worried how this is going to go. But there’s also a protectiveness about his father. So I wanted to bring that in. And Dustin’s character just is what it is. But I wanted to try and bring in Barney’s response to all this.

Susan Shipton:

But the real reason why I picked this was not because it’s comedy, but I picked it because it’s a dinner table scene. And I just find those so hard to cut. They fall under the category. I’ve actually picked an action sequence for the last thing. And it’s in the same category for me, which is, scenes in which many things happen at once. Ay yai yai. They’re so hard. And I think directors find them hard to shoot those kind of things. And everyone’s isolated, except they’re not isolated completely because there’s continuity issues, especially with Dustin Hoffman on this. And then there’s eye-line issues.

Susan Shipton:

And so I picked it because I find them really hard because you want to get to everybody, but you don’t want it to be cutty. And so I picked it for that reason. And the other two reasons I picked it is, it pauses, it’s playing pauses, setting up jokes as well, setting up moments. And lastly, I picked it because I think it’s about stardom because when I first saw the dailies, this is Dustin Hoffman’s introduction into the movie, and when I first saw the dailies, I thought, “Really”? In a big theater, that’s quite a wide shot.

Susan Shipton:

You can’t even recognize that it’s Dustin. And so I thought, “Really that’s Izzy? Dustin Hoffman’s character introduction”? And then I saw the door open, I thought, “Oh, that’s where I’ll start”. And then I actually went to the door open in one cut and it was way too tight and I was kind of worried about it. Not that I wanted, a drum roll or anything, but I wanted something more than a generic wide shot of a mansion. But we screened the film in L.A. at a test screening, and Dustin Hoffman got two words out of his mouth, and everybody knew who he was. And they laughed before he finished his line. I actually think it’s a perfect way to start the scene anyway now. But I thought that was so interesting to watch that.

Sarah Taylor:

You’re like, “Okay, I don’t have to worry about that anymore”.

Susan Shipton:

That whole audience just rock for an American legend, basically, as an actor.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, let’s, let’s watch this clip. It’s Barney’s Version.

 

[Clip plays]

 

Sarah Taylor:

So great. And I even, I felt awkward watching the moment where you’re like, Ooh, okay, that’s good.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. The thing that I remember most about cutting that scene, it was really, really tough to cut. All the editors in the room will recognize all the continuity potential there to try and build all those moments. Dustin Hoffman did not know his lines, so they were different every time. There were more lines in the scene than… But the scene was just too long, so it had to be cut down. All the usual stuff that we deal with. But the thing that I’m proudest of probably is the opening with him, with his fork. Cause that’s the first thing you have to do as an editor is decide how to start. And I find that the hardest thing. And I saw that in dailies and I thought that’s the beginning of the scene. And it’s before cut, or before action.

Sarah Taylor:

Oh, he’s just playing.

Susan Shipton:

Well, he’s just getting ready. And I just was… And I thought, just keep doing it. It’s so great. So I took every moment of it. And then I had to put a sound effect in, cause people were talking over it, and I amp the sound effect, which ended up being in the case just cause, and then I went back, I thought that’s just, I got to try a few other things. And I started on the wide, because there’s an incredible tension on the wide you come in the room, they’re all sitting there. But I ended up back with the fork. Cause it’s everything.

Sarah Taylor:

It’s really sets up his character.

Susan Shipton:

It totally sets up his character. And that was Dustin. I don’t think he was directed and he didn’t do it every take, but he did it once, so I got it.

Sarah Taylor:

But you saw it and you felt it, and you snatched it up.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great. Anything else about that that back and forth?

Susan Shipton:

All the editors know it’s really hard to talk about what’s not there, which is the work, right?

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

But I think it… I don’t know when I’m looking at, I just, again, it is, the performances really are beautiful. They gave me all that stuff that we were looking for because… I mean probably Dustin Hoffman less so because he’s just being Izzy, he’s just being kind of outrageous. And although, he’s this lovely, lovely moment where he goes back at Minnie Driver’s father, but then he saves it, which is such a great character moment for him. He gets up and he gives the toast. It’s a scene that just kind of goes like this, and I just really like it.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. When you were working on films with people like Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, do you have, when you’re first looking at dailies, are you the young you who started, PAing in the industry scene? Well, now I’m cutting these big names. Do you have any star struck moments or are you just like, no, we’re going to tell this story and we’re in it and-

Susan Shipton:

Oh totally completely star struck by Dustin Hoffman. Oh my God. One of the films that was my favorite film of my life was a Little Big Man. And, I love Dustin Hoffman. He was… And when I got this, I thought I can’t… I’m cutting a Dustin Hoffman movie? The pinch me moment, for sure. And Paul Giamatti. And there’s another scene in Barney’s Version, which is a dialogue between the two of them. And it’s really beautiful. It’s really, really beautiful. But Paul Giamatti I think affected me more than anybody because he is such a great actor. Yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

When you came on to, maybe we’ll talk about this film specifically or whichever film you want, are you coming in, the scripts already written and done and your… They’re about to shoot? What… Do you get to put input on the script side of things? Where does your creative component start?

Susan Shipton:

Well it depends. I get, when I work with Atom, he has sort of layers of people he gives the script to at different stages, and I’m one of the early ones. So, I read his scripts quite early and give him input and then he will give them out. Cause he recognizes that people at a certain point, you’re not fresh anymore. Right?

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, for sure.

Susan Shipton:

So I usually see early drafts of his. With Barney’s I saw… It’s produced by Robert Lantos and I was doing a lot of films with him at the time, so I saw a fairly early draft of that. And just, in terms of what I’m looking for in a script that I know is going to be challenging, and Barney’s Version was a great example of it, is subplots.

Susan Shipton:

And, Barney’s Version is a difficult book to adapt. The script was beautiful. Oh, this was another thing. The script was beautiful, beautiful script. It was 130 pages long. Right away, it should have been 110, 100. And they wanted to film around 110 minutes. And I said, Robert, you know, and he said, we’ll cut it down in the edit, Susan. And I should never have let him get away with that because that’s like you create a three legged table. Right? And the heartbreaking thing for me and Barney’s Version that I talked about killing children, I killed some children. It was awful. And it also left some of the kids that were alive, maimed,

Sarah Taylor:

Oh no. Those poor kids.

Susan Shipton:

And that, and I hate that. And I said that to the director and he said, well, Susan, I’m so glad to hear you say that. I really didn’t think it bothered you. I’m like, of course it bothered me. Here’s an example, there’s this whole… There are three marriages in the film. Right? And there’s… The first one was the one that suffered the most. And just because we… Test audiences all said it was too long. And they were right. So it had to be cut down. So, the first marriage, she’s frightened of storms, and there’s a big storm and he’s comforting her when they’re first married, he’s comforting her cause she’s scared. And he says, here have a banana, eat a banana, you’ll feel better, you haven’t eaten. And so she eats it and she peels it from the wrong end. And he says, why you peel it that way, and she said, I don’t know, I read somewhere that monkeys do it. And so that’s, I figured, they’d know. And it’s kind of funny and it’s lovely, right? It had to go.

Susan Shipton:

But in the end of the movie, Dustin Hoffman is handed a… Or Paul Giamatti, who has Alzheimer’s, is handed a banana. And he turns it around to be the way that she told him. And it’s so, and I love it when stuff is planted in a script that then pays off. Right? So it broke my heart that that set up for that. Now it plays. Cause you just think he doesn’t know… He has Alzheimer’s, and he’s struggling-

Sarah Taylor:

He forgot about bananas.

Susan Shipton:

With how to eat a banana. But it had so much more resonance. And there are a lot of moments in Barney’s that suffered that fate from my evil editing hands.

Sarah Taylor:

How dare you.

Susan Shipton:

How dare I.

Sarah Taylor:

When you’re in that situation where you’re looking at this script and you’re seeing all these subplots and can you, do you say, yeah you got to ditch it?

Susan Shipton:

Yes. People need to tell the stories they need to tell. I think that the method of storytelling through limited series is much more liberating. I mean, I love feature films and I love the big screen, but the subplots, for instance, in Barney’s Version would not have been a problem in even a four-part mini series. Right? So, I mean I think that’s a good thing. I mean, Robert Lantos made a film years ago, a Hungarian film, I can’t remember the name of it now. It was so long. And I remember, I didn’t cut it, I remember seeing the hour and a half version that they cut it down to. And one of the sound editors on it told me the three hour version was way better. And, but they couldn’t go. Right? And, so that’s a film as well that would have benefited by a longer format. So.

Sarah Taylor:

We’re going to kind of shift gears a bit. Over your career, you’ve worked on many different types of editing systems. Steenbeck, Moviola. Did you say K-E-M or KEM? I don’t remember that one.

Susan Shipton:

KEM.

Sarah Taylor:

Pic Sync, Avid, Lightworks. I’m sure there’s many others. And I feel like even now, and the technology we’re in now, the systems are changing at a fast pace, and we’re almost chasing the technology. So, how do you approach this? Or what are your thoughts on how we are always having to do the next thing and or adding more to what the editor’s role is in the edit suite.

Susan Shipton:

It’s changed so much in the last 10 years that, when I was, I cut on a Moviola, I cut KEM, we cut The Adjuster on a Cinemata, which is an old Italian editing machine that they were using 40 years before me. Right? You’re lucky if you’re cutting on the same software four weeks from now. Right? I mean, imagine that I was actually, when I started, cutting on the same… In the same way that editors started cutting on. Right? And it was, I’m not that old, it was like a while later. So the changes that have occurred in the last 10 years, and certainly we’re not the only people in the world experiencing this. And I say 10 years, because it’s really 20, but the incredible fast paced change to me has happened in the last 10 years.

Susan Shipton:

And as I said, we’re not the only ones. This is the world that we’re… The great promise of technology was it was going to give us more tools and a better life. And it’s definitely given us more tools, but it’s also made… Increased the workload hugely. And it’s my concern about editors is I feel like we have a lot of skills, but I also, and it’s great, it’s a matter of balance really, because my concern is that we’re being turned into generalists. That we are having to acquire so many skills at such a high level, because a skill with music, a skill with sound, a skill with writing, those are all talents that we’ve all always had to have because it’s part of storytelling. But I think the level at which we’re required to execute and perform all of those roles, I think it’s worthy of a lot of thought and a lot of reflection and a lot of discussion.

Susan Shipton:

I don’t know how you initiate that. And I don’t know how you approach it because as I said, we are not the only ones experiencing this in the world, but in the film industry, I think we experience it at a higher level than other departments. I think probably the department next to us who experiences these changes as profoundly as us would be the art department. But, how do you find a balance saying I can put some music on this, to I’m doing 40 to 50% of the composer’s work.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. I’m doing all of the sound designing, I’m yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And listen, it’s not going to become less because the technology is only going to allow us to do more. And I guess I think the other thing that concerns me is yes, we do music, yes we do sound, yes we do color timing.

Susan Shipton:

But we’re not composers, we’re not sound editors, we’re not colors, and we’re not seen to be. Right? So, when we do those roles, I don’t think they get the same acknowledgement financially, monetarily they don’t, as they do when the real people come and do them.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And, I’m not… I don’t want to be seen as resistant because technology does allow you to play with those things. It’s just going forward, it’s just your use of words is really apt I think, is, are we making the technology work for us or are we running behind it trying to keep up all the time?

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And I think there’s a bit too much of the latter and less of the former.

Sarah Taylor:

And then do we lose some of what our skill is, which is telling the story and helping shape the story. Because now we have to make sure, okay, we got to fit an extra, however many hours today to make sure the color is all good so that whoever looks at our cut is not upset or… So yeah, it’s a discussion, when do we stop? And then also I feel like sound design and color grading and composing, those are all elements that make the film better, that enhance our performance, and enhance what’s there. And if some of that’s being taken away, then we’re losing some of that art.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. I mean, I really think, as I said, a supervising editor, had a lot of control and a lot of input over all of those elements, and as in the beginnings of the technology, when we first started working on Avid, there seemed to be a little bit more of a balance. It was like, ah, great, we can put some music on here, great. We can smooth these soundtracks. And now it’s like, you could broadcast this stuff out of an Avid, or there’s that expectation, you can’t… There’s that expectation. And I… The picture editors that I know, when we get together and talk, we either talk about the latest technology, or mostly they talk about storytelling.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

Picture editors see themselves as storytellers. That’s what gets them going. That’s what interests them, us. And I think to diversify so greatly is a disservice to that talent.

Sarah Taylor:

I agree.

Susan Shipton:

You know?

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

I don’t know what the hell you do with that, but.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Next year. We’ll talk about it next year.

Susan Shipton:

I mean, I do have some ideas.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, you can share.

Susan Shipton:

Well, I mean, I think that using the technology to more efficiently and in a more sophisticated manner bring the departments together.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

That’s what I would say. I totally get why a composer doesn’t want to do a temp track. Listen, I wouldn’t either. It’s a different part of the brain, right, if I were them. But I do think that, why is the music department-

Sarah Taylor:

They’re not there.

Susan Shipton:

Not more involved? Why has that become us so exclusively? When did that happen? I missed that part. Right? And I know why, because they’re not on generally – on most things I work on – they’re not paid to be on till later. Well is there a way to bring them on sooner? And yeah, we’ll have that conversation, we’ll put it on. But involve people earlier.

Sarah Taylor:

Bring it back to that collaboration.

Susan Shipton:

I’m really afraid that people don’t know how to look at cuts anymore without them sounding like they’re ready for a TV and that’s that ain’t going to change either.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. Well, speaking of TV.

Susan Shipton:

Yep.

Sarah Taylor:

Yep. You’ve worked a lot in the television realm, and the process is different. You got your time constraints with the actual time that is being broadcast, the time constraints with the schedule, keeping the arc of your series. So let’s touch a little bit about the process that you take going into a television cut, and then we’ll show our TV clip after that.

Susan Shipton:

The process is the same for me. Well, no, it’s different. On a feature, I have more time. My process on a feature is to look at the dailies and make notes and find those bits that I like. But, given, as I said, that I also cut with composition and rhythm in mind just as much, I do still make notes, obviously of that’s a great moment, that’s a great moment. But television is different primarily because there’s a lot more footage, right? Or I should say, if there is a lot more, then I have a different approach, whether it’s a feature or television. I don’t have the time or the attention span, frankly, to look at three hours of dailies and make detailed notes.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

I think that’s great if people do, honestly, I do, I’m not being flip, I do, but I don’t. So what I feel I’m obliged to do is make sure that by the time I’ve got that scene in the first assembly, I’ve looked at all the dailies.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

So what I’ll do is I’ll take… I’ll kind of scroll through them. I’ll look carefully at the selected takes, the last two, and drop them in and get a structure. Cause also and every editor is different for me, psychologically looking at dailies and a completely uncut scene is really difficult. I need to… I’m much better and much happier when I have something.

Sarah Taylor:

Something it’s daunting if it’s–

Susan Shipton:

Exactly. And I know some editors are really meticulous and that’s the way they work, but I need something. So I’ll get that together as quickly as possible. In fact, I have a word for it. I call them slappers.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah.

Susan Shipton:

And I’ll slap it together as quickly as possible, cause I know that at, on every cut, every choice I’ve made, I’m going to go back in and look at the dailies and recut.

Sarah Taylor:

You make me feel really good right now. Cause I used to feel guilty that I didn’t sit there for five hours and watch all the footage, cause I’m the same way, I want to put it down. You’re still going to watch it all, but you need to do something.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. I got over the guilt a long time ago.

Sarah Taylor:

I’m going to take… I’m going to throw that away now. Thank you very much.

Susan Shipton:

I’m not sure that this way of working is more efficient, however.

Sarah Taylor:

Well maybe I won’t then.

Susan Shipton:

I’m not sure, I’m not promoting it as a way of working. It’s just for me mentally, I have to have something to work from.

Sarah Taylor:

Typically when you’re on a series, how many episodes are you cutting? Are you coming in at the beginning? Are you getting your scripts ahead of time? How does that kind of work for you?

Susan Shipton:

Unless I’m cutting the very first one, I don’t necessarily get scripts cause they’re still writing them on TV. Right?

Sarah Taylor:

Okay.

Susan Shipton:

The Book of Negroes was different cause that was a limited series and it was a passion piece by Clement. And I did get episodes one and two, I think early on, with time to give input. Too long. Killed us. But generally, no, I don’t get a script until a couple of days before or whatever. And I would do, on a 10 part series, do two or three episodes. I usually do about two or three, depending on the length of the series.

Sarah Taylor:

Okay. Well we have a clip from The Expanse. Do you want to set it up?

Susan Shipton:

Yeah, this is like the dinner scene weirdly. It’s an action scene totally, and couldn’t be more unlike the dinner scene, but like it because it’s lots of things happening at once scene. I found this so challenging to cut the scene. Oddly, it’s directed by an editor, because literally everything happened at once. There’s… I don’t really remember what’s happening except that our heroes are in the outfits, and in the uniforms, you know them from The Expanse, if you know the show, and the bad guys are coming in the back. So the hotel desk is here, the bad guys are coming in the back. They’re also coming in behind them. And that all happens at once. And gun things happen.

Sarah Taylor:

And the biggest challenge I had was the geography, right? In order for there to be any real stakes that our heroes are going to get shot, you have to know who’s going to shoot at them and create that tension. And there’s lots of eyes going around like this, right? But because it all happened at once and they were in one another’s shots, it was super hard to find the air in there, to put it together because it was… I mean, all the editors know what I’m talking about. What I find, and it’s funny, I watched it again for this clip and what I’ll tell you what bothers me about it, but.

Sarah Taylor:

Let’s watch it, the last one.

 

[Clip plays]

Sarah Taylor:

There’s a lot happening.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot happening. I mean, the thing that bothers me about the scene but it doesn’t bother me a lot, because I know I tried to fix it, is I need a master out there more often than I had, because to set the geography. I think, and I just didn’t have it, because literally everything … There was a master shooting that way and a master shooting back that way. I had them, but I’ve used it every single place I can to help with the geography. But that was my frustration about that scene. And it’s funny, because there was a fair amount of footage, but somebody was talking about it earlier, and my expression is, there’s less here than meets the eye. Once you get into it and you realize, oh, there really is only so many shots of Amos doing this, or so many shots of the couch, whatever, it starts to get smaller than it first appears. Which is also why, psychologically, I think I like to get a cut, because then in doing that, I’m also getting to know the dailies as well. But what I love about this scene is the music.

Sarah Taylor:

That was my favourite part.

Susan Shipton:

And that was… We had a music supervisor on that. So, that’s an old hotel lobby, right? And it’s got all these Caribbean kind of things, so I asked the music supervisor, “So can you give me some cheesy lobby music that would be in a Caribbean kind of thing?” And so, she sent like five or six choices and I picked that one. And then everyone said, “Oh, you have to put music on, you have to put music on when the gunfight starts.”

Sarah Taylor:

No.

Susan Shipton:

Well, they made me put music on, because I was like, why? There are guns going. That just is like, I heard this expression the other day, a hat on a hat. Why would I do that? And it was hard. So, I went and I tried. I got it from a John Carpenter soundtrack, and I put this music on it. And then the showrunner, who’s a brilliant showrunner, he’s like, get the music off it. It’s just going to be so funny when that gunfight goes and then dee de dee at the end. So, I liked that those decisions were made the way that they were made. And the zip and stuff. I would have put that in the first cut, Amos’s zip sound. And there were a couple of other sound effects, not many.

Susan Shipton:

And “The Expanse” was a fun show, because we had comp artists. So, those visual effects that you see of the tablet and stuff, I would have had those not right away to work with, but fairly early to work with as comps, or as temps before they were actually done by the vis effects people.

Sarah Taylor:

How long would a scene like that take to do your assembly?

Susan Shipton:

I don’t even know how long it would have taken me to do that, because I nibbled at it.

Sarah Taylor:

Right. Yeah. It’s a big one.

Susan Shipton:

I nibbled that one. Yeah. I would’ve slappered and nibbled it.

Sarah Taylor:

That’s good. When you’re in the throes of an edit, whether it’s a feature or a series that has a tight schedule, what do you do to make sure that you stay sane or healthy?

Susan Shipton:

Assuming I’m sane. That’s a huge leap. I think I actually like writing, and I work on short film ideas and stuff like that. But except for that, I do things that are as unrelated as possible to being in an editing room. I get outside as much as I possibly can. That’s just what I like to do. Play with my dog, gardening. Anybody who’s on Facebook with me sees endless pictures of my dog. But that’s just a totally separate thing. So, I think it’s whatever a person enjoys in life, you just try and do as much of that as possible. I don’t know.

Sarah Taylor:

Make sure that you still have a life out of the edit suite.

Susan Shipton:

But by the way, I think these hours that this panel was talking about in reality is just…

Sarah Taylor:

It’s long.

Susan Shipton:

It’s horrible. I just think that’s horrific.

Sarah Taylor:

Let’s make that stop.

Susan Shipton:

I have such a problem with that. And I think it is symptomatic of what happens when you’re expected to do far too many things. Because if you’re going to be expected to do all those things, you need more time. People are making a lot of money out of those shows. Anyway. Get off the soap box, Susan.

Susan Shipton:

No, I find that deeply upsetting. I do not work those hours. I don’t. First of all, I don’t. I mean, I’m working a show right now where the hours are tougher than I’ve ever experienced. I’m out the door by seven at the latest, usually. I’m happy to work later if it’s required, but a lot of times I’ll leave at six. Now, “Barney’s Version”, we worked pretty late. But generally, I don’t think that long hours are necessary in editing, and I don’t think they’re beneficial. My brain is fried.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah, I agree.

Susan Shipton:

We’re working on computers.

Sarah Taylor:

Eventually you’re just sitting there wasting time. You’re not doing anything.

Susan Shipton:

Well, I compare it to writing. And I know there are writers that work long hours, but not very many of them. Because on set, it’s a lot of… And I don’t think they should be working the hours they’re working either. But it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Whereas in editing, if you’re sitting in front of an Avid, you’re editing, right? Unless you go to the bathroom, you’re editing. So, you know, yeah.

Sarah Taylor:

Yeah. This is our last question before the Q and A. What do you hate to hear from directors, showrunners and other editors?

Susan Shipton:

The thing that is bugging me right now is when people say “don’t cut, line cut.” Don’t… I don’t want to be in this edit on everybody when they’re speaking. It falls in the category to me of, that’s not a direction to an editor. What do you want to see? You know, and it’s about saying I’m not a certain kind of editor, whatever that is. It’s about saying I’m not a bad editor. So, as soon as somebody says that to me, it’s like saying, please don’t be a bad editor. Okay. You know, I just, I don’t like directions that aren’t useful, that aren’t really about storytelling, Right? And don’t, I mean, I’ll cut every single line on a character when they’re talking if it works. Or not, it doesn’t usually work, but you know, or not, right? Another favourite, unfavourite direction is “just fuck it up a bit”.

Sarah Taylor:

What does that even mean?

Susan Shipton:

I know, a showrunner says that, I want to say, “How much do you get paid a year to tell me, to come up with that direction?” So, I don’t like that. I’m not particularly fond of “just have fun” either, because these are all things that I’ve heard, and they aren’t directions. Now, having said that, sometimes you get a problematic scene and no one quite knows what to do with it. And they say, you know what? I worked years ago on a really bad children’s MOW and the director was a sweetheart and a very good director. And he was stuck with bad performances and his schedule and dah, dah, dah, dah. And he said to me, he said, “Susan, don’t ever say I said this, but just cut a lot, okay? It’s going to help.” And he was right. We just went in and when in trouble go fast, we cut a lot and I let him get away with that, because he was super smart when we were in trouble. But as a general kind of direction to editors of, you know, “just fuck it up”, not so much.

Sarah Taylor:

Or insert funky montage.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah. Oh, that’s another thing that bugs me, is no one shoots montages anymore, but they ask you to cut them all the time. What’s up with that?

Sarah Taylor:

You got all the footage. What are you talking about?

Susan Shipton:

Just make it a montage. Okay. Just because the director didn’t make it a montage.

Sarah Taylor:

On that note, let’s open it up to the audience for any questions.

Audience Question:

Hi. I was having an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine last week, about how filmmakers that don’t have lives make films about making films. And I think that you kind of touched on that when you were saying like, you should get outside and walk your dog or whatever. How does who you are colour your work, and how do you put your own little signature on things? What would you say your signature is?

Susan Shipton:

I really hope I don’t put a signature on my work, actually. Yeah. I feel pretty strongly about not putting my signature on my work. What I want my work to be is good, you know? And I think good editing serves the drama. I want, and I’m not saying I am, but I would want to be a person who can cut different genres, different types of films and adapt my so-called style to that. And that’s hard. It’s challenging, right? To do that. And I’m not saying I’m successful at it, but I think that would be a goal, I’d like to…

Susan Shipton:

This sounds terribly arrogant, and I don’t mean it about me, but I think the goal would be to be a good editor and have people say the style is good editing versus… And it kind of connects with what we were just talking about, is like laying a style or an approach over a project. I think when you go into something and you want people to feel you, that’s what happens. I want the story to be served. And sometimes the editing can be quite self-conscious to serve that, for sure. But it needs to serve the story.

Audience Question:

You were talking earlier about the amount of work that editors have to do and if other people were coming in earlier, and it reminded me of something I heard about “Joker”, where the composer wrote something, shared it with the director, the director shared it with Joaquin Phoenix, and that’s how he came up with that dance that he does in the bathroom, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, which is extraordinary. And so, it made me wonder about all of this technological change that we’re going through, and we’re still dealing with an industry that’s based on 20th century workflows. Do you see anything when you look into the future about how we might work better or different?

Susan Shipton:

I think that that’s possible and desirable, for sure. I don’t have, I’m not a technological innovator, so I don’t have that vision, but I sure hope there are people working and thinking about that, because you’re talking about “Joker”. It’s budget, because on bigger films like that, for sure they’ve got the composer involved earlier, for sure, right? And on some television series, even lower budget Canadian television series, I know producers do that. I think that what’s happened, and I wouldn’t say it’s our fault, but we’ve allowed it for it’s just happened, is that we have taken all of that on and it becomes increasingly difficult to divest yourself of those increased responsibilities as we go along. And I don’t know. And again, I’m not resistant to working with being able to take advantage of the tools we have and work with music and sound and all of that. It’s just a balance.

Susan Shipton:

And the other thing, I think it’s a terrible disservice to composers, because they bring something quite unique. And I’ve been around long enough, I remember when they hated temp tracks and they didn’t want to see stuff with temp tracks on it. Now, they’re kind of addicted to them, I think, for the most part. That was another one of my things I hate. I hate it when composers complain about temp tracks in a demeaning manner, because they’re a hell of a lot of work. And I think picture editors are taking a lot of the bullets. We’re trying this stuff. It used to be the composer that would have to try that stuff. And no, no, no, that doesn’t work.

Susan Shipton:

So, it’s just, it’s the balance. So, I think it’s a good question, and I think it’s where a lot of discussions should be going, because it can, the technology is not working as well. It’s not just a matter of lifestyle, but though, I think that’s hugely important. It’s also are we pulling all the best creative energy into a project through our use of technology? And I don’t think so yet. And I think the wrong people are probably controlling it, right? Wrong in that they don’t have that as their modus operandi when they’re developing technology and selling it. Be great if that’s what’s their biggest concern is, amalgamating stuff and workflow and quality of life, but that’s not.

Audience Question:

Have you done any directing?

Susan Shipton:

Yes. I directed a short film many years ago, and that was, it’s something that I would like to do, so hopefully I’ll be able to do it again. I came second in the DGC short film funding contest. Second was nothing. I know.

Sarah Taylor:

Try again, that’s what they say.

Susan Shipton:

I will try again.

Audience Question:

Hi, first off, thank you very much for the panel. It’s been great. I just, curious question, but is there any kind of uncharted territory in terms of editing that you’re looking to explore maybe? Just out of curiosity.

Susan Shipton:

Oh, that’s a good question. I hadn’t really thought about it, actually. There’s always… “The Expense” was a big one for me, because I’d never done that kind of work before. You know what I would really like to do? I would really, and it’s probably never going to happen for me, but I would love to work with a team of editors on something. I love, and it’s one of the things I really love about television, is I really love working with other editors, and depending on those people and the project, I love walking down the hall and going, “Can you look at this?” And I just think that would be so exciting to do that, to work on a big show, a big movie with other editors. Yeah,

Susan Shipton:

I did it once on a film called “Mr. Nobody”, and we had two editors. I was the second editor. The first editor was a Belgian, because it was a co-pro and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, he was the lead editor, but the director and the lead editor taught at the Belgian film school. And they were always, they were inviting their film students all the time to come and cut. It was a riot. I was sitting cutting away, and this young woman comes to my door and says, “I’ve got a cut of that scene, if you’d like it.” But it was so fun to have them around and to, I don’t know, so that I’d like to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

Audience Question:

Thank you for the talk and sharing information. I have a question about Atom Egoyan’s approach to filmmaking, and you mentioned this earlier, there’s an intellectual distance, and yet you wanted to bring out the emotional impact of this story. And so, how do you find balancing the two? Or do you… I guess I’ll leave it at that. How do you find balancing the intellectual distance of his approach with getting the emotional pull, if that makes sense?

Susan Shipton:

Yeah, it does make sense. Hm. That’s a good question. I think I just keep responding to the material the way I respond, and it probably is on a more emotional level. And as I said, I do find a lot of his, a lot of the performances, a lot of the characters deeply moving, right? And I think he does too. It’s just that Atom… Atom… As an intellectual construct on his work, he’s always felt uncomfortable manipulating people. I remember that from the very first job interview I had when I did “The Adjuster”. We’re sitting at the Amsterdam having beer, I’ll never forget it. And I read the script, and every time the scene got to the emotional part or got to a build, he cut away, right?

Susan Shipton:

And I asked him about that. I said, “I just kind of feel like you can squeeze a couple of those together, because we go here and then we go somewhere else and we come back to that scene, but we’d been somewhere else, so by the time we came back”. And he, and I still remember he said to me, “I just, I’m so uncomfortable manipulating people’s emotions, right?” And that’s where he comes from as an artist. So, on some level, but he’s also like, I know he comes from an emotional place too, because it’s there and I connect to it, right? So, I think it’s… I don’t know if that answers it. He has a whole crazy way of working we could talk about too.

Sarah Taylor:

Maybe a whole other panel.

Susan Shipton:

Yeah.

Audience Question:

I was just wondering how you deal with theme and subtext in a film, second layer stuff, second level stuff. If the film is, the plot is about one thing, but the theme and the subtext that the director is trying to get across is something else. Or it’s… I don’t know if I’m articulating this properly, but do you feel there’s a tension between the two when you’re editing and you have to balance the two?

Susan Shipton:

I don’t think, no, I don’t, because theme and subtext is not my wheelhouse. I’m all about what’s in front of me on the screen. And I’m all about how the drama is playing out emotionally, and the overall structure, how we can tell the story, right? And whatever kind of thematic construct someone places on it, or a critical interpretation of it later, is for them. Because, and it kind of speaks a bit to the question the other gentleman had too, about the theory versus the emotion. You’re always, always telling a story, always. And the story may be a person getting up and walking across the room. That’s a three part story. They got up, they walked across the room and they left. So, the broader… It always fascinates me when I hear people talk about the writing of a piece, right? And they talk about all those kinds of things you were saying. I’m like, “Oh, really?” I just thought she should be crying then, because he said something that upset her. So, you know…

Sarah Taylor:

That’s great.

Audience Question:

I’m just wondering, what do you like those director and how did director communicate with you? I mean, in the positive way. We know what we don’t like about what kind of director, but what do you like about, and…

Sarah Taylor:

That’s a good one.

Susan Shipton:

That’s such a great question. Thank you for answering that, otherwise we’d be on the record with my gripes.

Sarah Taylor:

Like, oh, she’s cranky again.

Susan Shipton:

I only had three little ones.

Sarah Taylor:

I’m just teasing.

Susan Shipton:

But for public consumption. Trust is everything. And it has to go both ways. And I think it’s very easy for people to imagine that a director has to trust an editor. An editor has to trust a director, because we are creative people and we do put ourselves out on the line. When you take somebody’s work and cut it together, the first assembly can be a gut-wrenching experience, right? And the great thing about having repeat offenders like Atom in my life is that there’s a trust there. And I know that, it’s not even that I can experiment or not, because I know I can, it’s that if he laughs, it’s not going to be horrible.

Susan Shipton:

I mean, I trust that he takes me seriously. I trust that I have that relationship with him, no matter what happens. And he comes from a place of respect with his creative collaborators, and trust and respect is huge. And so, what people say, other than please don’t say fuck it up, but what people actually say to me in terms of directing is less important than if, or editing is less important than where they come from. If they come from a place of respect, their direction is going to be better too.

Sarah Taylor:

Well, thank you so much, Susan, for sharing all.

Susan Shipton:

Thank you. Thank you.

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks for joining us today, and a big thank you to our panelists and moderator. A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae, Maureen Grant, and the CCE board for helping create EditCon 2020. 

 

The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in a way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 033: This Year in Dramatic Film

Episode 033: This Year in Dramatic Film

Episode 033: This Year in Dramatic Film

This episode is part 2 or a 4 part series covering EditCon 2020 that took place on Saturday February 1st, 2020 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

This episode is sponsored by IATSE 891.

2020 EditCon Panelist 2 group

There?s no formula to a festival hit, but the three editors behind the recent critically-lauded feature films Freaks, Mouthpiece, et Genesis will share how they did it. In this panel discussion Mathieu Bouchard-Malo, Lara Johnston et Sabrina Pitre talk about their process, career trajectories and what lies ahead.

This panel was moderated by Justin Lachance, CCE.

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The Editor?s Cut – Episode 033 – ?This Year in Dramatic Film? (EditCon 2020 Series)

 

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by IATSE 891. Hello and welcome to the Editor’s Cut. I’m your host Sarah Taylor. Today I bring to you part two of our four part series covering EditCon 2020 that took place on Saturday, February 1st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. There’s no formula to a festival hit, but the three editors behind the recent critically-lauded feature films Freaks, Mouthpiece, and Genesis, will share how they did it. This panel discussion will focus on the process, their career trajectories, and what lies ahead.

 

[show open]

Jane MacRae:

These films have made waves on the festival circuit in Canada and internationally. As a group, they’re a fantastic demonstration of the film industry’s regional successes representing Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Each powerful engaging film was brought into existence through very different creative circumstances. An adaptation of a play, with two actors playing conflicting sides of a young woman’s inner dialogue. A uniquely structured drama, contrasting the lives of two teenage half-siblings. A science-fiction hybrid grounded in compelling dramatic performances. As editors, each film presents a unique experience and opportunity to find the performances, tone, and the arc. In 2018, all three of these films landed on TIFF Canada’s top 10 list. Their international festival journeys have been vast and all have received critical praise and award recognition. We’re here to celebrate the editors behind these films whose work is sometimes imperceptible, but always present.

Jane MacRae:

Our moderator Justin Lachance is well acquainted with the festival world, having had his work screened at fests including Sundance, Berlinale, South by Southwest, and TIFF. He’s also known for his work on a couple of little shows you might have heard of, Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects. IATSE 891 are pleased to welcome Lara Johnston, Mathieu Bouchard-Malo, Sabrina Pitre, and moderator Justin Lachance.

Justin Lachance:

So, I just want to say to start this off that this is amazing to see you guys all here. I mean, I’ve been to EditFest in the states and I know that ACE is amazing, but this just gives a great platform as Canadians. It talks about our reality and I’m just very proud and happy with what the CCE is doing in Canada. So, let’s get this started.

Justin Lachance:

Who here understands French? Okay, not bad. So, Mathieu is from Quebec, the editor of Genesis. And because it’s a little hard to explain the intricacies of editing in your second tongue, Mathieu will be answering in French. So, I’ll be here to direct translate. So, please, have a little more patience. Now, Jean Luc Goddard said, “Stories should have a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order.” And that’s what we do as editors, we agonize over the absolute best way to tell the story and in scripted fiction, we have a blueprint that sometimes needs to be shuffled to find the soul of the story. So, right here we have three incredibly talented editors who have done exactly that and with the three of the most interesting films that the Great White North has produced this year. So, first I’d love to get you guys to introduce yourselves, small explanation of your career path, and introduce your film also, talk about what it’s about.

Lara Johnston:

Hi, Lara Johnston. I worked on Mouthpiece. I started many years ago as an assistant editor. I did not go to film school formally, I went to U of T for Film Studies. I mean I fell into film studies when I was there, I took a film course and just loved it. I thought I would be a writer or journalist or something. But, I started working on little Super 8 films and stuff just because I really liked making them. As soon as I left U of T, I worked on a couple small films made by artists and there was a granting system where they would get a person as a grant to sort of help them.

Lara Johnston:

So, I kind of worked on every aspect of it and kind of was production secretary and assistant to the director. And then they liked me, so, they kept me around for the editing and that’s where I sort of found my happy place. And then back then it was really easy to get into the DGC, you just paid $500 and went in to work the next day. So, that’s what happened to me. I met Susan Shipton on my first movie, It Was All Caught On Film. And then just worked my way very slowly up as an assistant editor. I worked in LA, I got into the union there. Kind of went back and forth between Toronto and a few other places and met Patricia on the way and yeah, here I am.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, because you have a relationship with Patricia on different projects. Is that right?

Lara Johnston:

Yes, yeah.

Justin Lachance:

So, tell us about Mouthpiece and how you got onto that one.

Lara Johnston:

So, I had worked with Patricia many years ago on this weird little … thanks to Harvey Weinstein, good old Harvey. Patricia was doing this TV movie, I don’t even really know how … she came on after somebody else. And Harvey Weinstein decided it could be … it was Wrinkle in Time, it was a TV movie, Wrinkle in Time. And Harvey decided in all of Harvey’s wisdom, that it could be Harry Potter for girls. So, brought Patricia in to try to do that while someone else was making the TV movie. So, we just for six weeks we took all the TV movie footage and tried to make a feature out of it. I was the assistant editor. We had an audience preview in New Jersey. Everybody hated it, we’re like, “Okay, bye, see you later.” And then Harvey called the next day and was like “Let’s keep trying.” And then eventually after another preview where everyone hated it, it sort of formally died. But, that’s how I met Patricia and she really liked me.

Lara Johnston:

Our paths crossed a couple of times over the years. I worked as an assistant on Grey Gardens and she was the writer on that. And then an editor that I worked with she brought in … No, actually I didn’t even work with him. He came onto Grey Gardens after it went back to LA and I was by then living here. And that editor, she really liked the work that he did on Grey Gardens and so, she brought him to reedit, to do additional editing on one of her films and then I happened to work with him later. And he invited us both to a screening at TIFF a few years ago, and I bumped into her. And she asked me what I was doing and I was teaching, so, I sort of left the film business and started teaching. And she said, “Oh, you should come out of retirement and edit this film of mine.” And I was like, “Hahaha.” And then, it sort of echoed in my head, hahaha, for a couple of months.

Justin Lachance:

Sound effect.

Lara Johnston:

But, I didn’t do anything about it because I knew she was joking. And then, I think a friend of mine interviewed for the job and he called me and I really have no idea why he called me because I don’t think he could do the job but, he kind of wanted … I don’t think he even knew that I worked with her, but he just called me to talk about it randomly. And I was like, “Oh, she joked that I should do that movie.” And he said, “You got to do that. It’s totally you, it’s your style. Call her.” And so then, I called her and she’s like, “Yeah, well, that sounds interesting.” And I’m like, “What?” Because I haven’t worked on anything for six or seven years and I never had a solo editing credit, I always had second editor credits and stuff. But, she seemed to really consider it and I went through the script like crazy, a lot. And then I met her and we had a nice meeting and I gave her a lot of my ideas. And then I didn’t hear from her for a month and I was sort of not surprised by that, but I was also really depressed. And then-

Justin Lachance:

That happens all the time.

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I was like, “Aw, what did I say, what did I do, why did I say that?” All those things you do. And then randomly, and I don’t really, I’ve never asked what happened in the interim and who they talked to and who they couldn’t get and stuff, but three days before they went into production, she emailed me let’s do this. We do it and it worked great. We just got along, we’d always had fun conversations and stuff. I think the whole making of the movie was just one long fun conversation.

Justin Lachance:

That sounds amazing. How about you Sabrina?

Sabrina Pitre:

I’m originally from Toronto, but I went out to Vancouver to attend UBC and do the film production program there, which was fun. We got to shoot on actual film which was an experience and that was about as much film experience as I have actual tactile film. But, from there, I just got a job essentially loading tapes at night for The Shopping Bags show. Kind of just went from there. There was a studio in town that sort of pumped out B movies, that was what they did and they were hiring people as employees and so, I got a chance to join that team as an assistant editor, again, at nights. But, what was nice about that is you get to work with so many different editors, directors, producers who coming in out of that place that your list of credits grows quickly in the span of one year. So, as an assistant, I was able to get so much experience in the few years that I worked there. And then they eventually went bankrupt in 2009. And so, I continued to assist, but I got my first break as an editor in 2011 on a feature film called Sisters & Brothers, directed by Carl Bessai. And the only reason I got that was the editor that I often assisted for threw out his back in a skiing incident so, it was sort of just-

Justin Lachance:

Vancouver accident.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, right. So it was really just one of those lucky chances, one of those lucky breaks that you get. And he recommended me to the director and so I had an interview with him, and I did not sell myself at all because I was really just intimidated and I didn’t know what I was doing and I wasn’t sure I could pull this off. A feature was so overwhelming at the time because all I had done were short films on my own. But, they didn’t have a big budget so, I think they needed me for the cheapness. And I needed them for the experience, so that was a perfect marriage. And it ended up working out really well. I got along so well with the director and he pushed me in a way creatively that we got to a place with the film that I’m really happy with and I ended up winning a Leo for it. And so it was really good encouragement anyway.

Sabrina Pitre:

I went back to assisting for about one year after and just couldn’t take it anymore, essentially. So, once you get that first taste like we were talking about, you can’t really go back. So, essentially, no one told me I was an editor now, but I just said that to myself and just sort of refused assisting work and took only editing jobs. And it was a little bit of a dent in the pocketbook, but eventually, people get to know you, you change their minds about what they think of you as. And eventually you get calls for editing gigs and you just kind of go from there.

Justin Lachance:

Kind of like what happened with Freaks?

Sabrina Pitre:

Kind of like what happened with Freaks. Well, so the way I met the guys, I got hired onto my first union show for Disney called Mech-X4 and Zach Lipovsky was one of the exec producers on it as well as the showrunner. And Adam Stein was one of the directors that they had brought on board to direct some of the episodes. And so I got to work with both of them very closely and we got on really well and found that we were kind of on a similar wavelength terms of creativity. So, once that show wrapped up, the guys, they had a longstanding relationship and they had been writing script together for the longest time called Freaks. And they approached me about it and sent me an early draft and asked if I’d be interested in editing it. And I was like, “Hell yes, absolutely.” It just seemed like the right thing to do at the right time and I couldn’t say no, so.

Justin Lachance:

It’s perfect. And Mathieu?

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

Okay, so Mathieu started off as an assistant editor. He studied cinema in Montreal and then got a job at a post production facility, with one of the rare ones that actually had an Avid back then in the ’90s, so.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So then, he was only an assistant editor for a year, which is impressive. And then, one of his friends asked him to start a post production facility and he was the in-house editor for a while.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So, after doing music videos and commercials and tons of different formats, he finally was able to do a feature film that was called Full Blast by Rodrigue Jean that actually played at the TIFF, at TIFF Festival. So, I mean it’s called Fest anyway. And then, now, how did you get involved with Philippe Lesage, the director of Genesis?

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

Okay, so, that was a long sentence. Philippe was coming back from Denmark and he his studies down there and he came back to Montreal and was hired to do a Making Of a film that he wanted to make into a much bigger production, a documentary about that making of. The production wasn’t necessarily warm to it, but Mathieu decided to join forces and brother in arms, they made it together. And then they progressed on to making documentaries together and Philippe would do camera, sound, and everything. And Mathieu would do everything for post production like color and editing and assistants and everything. So, they were kind of a one stop crew film shop.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So, there’s an admiration from Mathieu towards Philippe’s work and the documentary language was easily translated into the fiction world. And as he was working on documentaries, he was always thinking about the next fiction and how to make that work.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

And I think it’s both language … two language documentary and fiction, but I think it’s very interesting to merge at the certain point.

Justin Lachance:

Absolutely. And Genesis does that perfectly. There’s some points where you actually feel like you’re watching a documentary because it’s just like long shots that are drifting, you’re just following what’s going on. So, let’s have look at what that looks like. Let’s play that trailer of Genesis from Mathieu and we’ll continue the talk after that.

 

[ Clip Plays]

Justin Lachance:

So, we had asked you for a clip of the film and there was a discussion where we’re just like, “You know what? What clip would we choose because they’re all very, very long.” And the strength of the film is let’s watch this happen. So, that’s why we chose a trailer, but a lot of this happens with young actors. You have sequence shots that take a long time and how did you guys work with that? Because young actors and sequence shots are sometimes the hardest thing to deal with as an editor. So, how did you guys work with that?

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

Okay, so the decision, it didn’t cause any problems to work with younger actors with less experience, but Philippe had a very specific decision or he wanted something very specific for each scene, so they just sometimes shot 30 takes per shot. And so, it wasn’t a difference in performance, not necessarily anybody flubbing a line, it was just that he was so specific with that’s what he wanted.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

And sometime, the first or the second take is almost perfect on [ Mathieu continues in French]

Justin Lachance:

First, I’ll translate and then I’ll ask him another question. Basically, what would happen is that, in the beginning of the first shots, there would be … the performance was actually pretty fresh and really great, but sometimes the technical aspects of the shot were not as great, so, they would continue and perfect that. And then, it would become mechanical in performances, so, then it wouldn’t work as well because you would kind of feel the acting. And then eventually, as the later takes happen, they would all be like, “Oh okay. They’re kind of tired, the actors are tired.” So, they just act more natural in that situation, and then, the technical parts would be great. And then, if it wasn’t in the first takes, it was in the last takes, the 30th take. And so, he would spend a lot of time watching all the takes though, in the edit suite. And was there any time you just decided to choose a middle one? Did that happen?

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

Yes. [ Mathieu continues in French]

Justin Lachance:

So, Mathieu has the chance to work on a lot of films d’auteur. I actually don’t know how to translate that, do you guys know?

Audience:

[inaudible 00:24:37]

Justin Lachance:

Auteur films, there you go, sure. And a lot of them have very specific narrative qualities, and that’s what he’s passionate about. And one thing with those kinds of films is that you have a lot more time and you have a lot more time to experiment and propose new ways of editing the scenes and you can really finesse it. And with Genesis …

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

That was the case with Genesis. [Mathieu continues in French]

Justin Lachance:

So, usually, he starts editing a film while it’s shooting and he doesn’t have the chronological order of the text. So, this time with Genesis, it was actually a little different, he started editing after they were shot, so you could really watch it unfold.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So, he was able to do an assembly very quickly and he was able to really follow what Philippe … the intentions and the rhythm of every scene.

Justin Lachance:

So, I’m going to go over to Sabrina too because you also worked with younger actors, specifically Lexy Kolker. And, but, you had completely different approach. There was no long shots and stuff like that. How did that work?

Sabrina Pitre:

Well, there were long shots, but they workshopped almost every one of her lines. So, they’d have her read it over and over again and with different intentions. They wanted her performance to be as real as possible. And so, I think similarly to Mathieu, the directors wanted something specific out of her and they just kept her going until they found what they wanted. Sometimes they didn’t know what they wanted and they just gave me the options and I kind of decided in the edit suite, sort of how … There were a lot of different ways to take it as a result because we had so many different reads that it gave me an immense amount of freedom, for sure.

Justin Lachance:

And you kind of masterfully got her arc perfectly. Every emotional build was really well done. How much of that was done in the edit room because you had so many options? How-

Sabrina Pitre:

A lot of it. Just because it was piecemeal in terms of how we were getting her lines. And plus her working with Emile, Emile was great at helping her get to those levels that she needed to have intensity in some scenes. He’d keep pushing her and she would push back and they’d kept growing, growing, growing, growing together and you’d get some really great back and forth. So, ultimately, I got everything that I needed out of those performances. It’s just a matter of picking and choosing, really.

Justin Lachance:

That’s amazing because she’s phenomenal in the film. She’s really, really great.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, I mean, really. She made the job easy. She’s a very talented little girl.

Justin Lachance:

She’s the main focus of the entire thing, so.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, she needed to carry the film, so getting a strong actress of that age was instrumental.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, amazing. Let’s watch that clip of Freaks.

 

[Clip plays]

Justin Lachance:

That is intense.

Sabrina Pitre:

I feel like that needs a lot of explanation if you haven’t seen the film.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, I guess if you haven’t seen the film, you’re just like what is coming out of her eye? But, why this clip?

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, so, this was an interesting turning point in the film. Before all of this, Chloe had been kept inside her house by her father, he’d been telling her that there are these dangerous people outside, never to go, they’ll kill you. And so, he has all the windows taped up and boarded, but she happens to meet this stranger who spots her from a window that she’s peeping through and coaxes her to actually come out. So, she unbeknownst to her father, had already left the house and met this person. And he gave her this sleeping powder to give to her dad, so she could continue to explore the outside. Up until that point, Chloe was very much sort of commanded by her father. The power was all in his side, and so, this was the first time that we weren’t even sure that she possessed any kind of powers herself or even that powers existed. It’s all very vague in the beginning. And so, this was the first time that she took control of the situation and did what she wanted.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, and it was interesting because there was just enough information to figure out okay, what’s going on here? And it kept you hooked the whole time and it was very well paced for that. I hear, that you guys did quite a few test screenings.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yes.

Justin Lachance:

And I’m just wondering, did that help with the comprehension or the pacing of everything like that or?

Sabrina Pitre:

It did actually. It ended up helping quite a bit.

Justin Lachance:

How many test screenings was it?

Sabrina Pitre:

14 test screenings.

Justin Lachance:

During post production?

Sabrina Pitre:

It nearly broke me, but yeah, 14 test screenings. Yeah, I mean, it was seven done in … all simultaneously done, seven in Vancouver, seven in LA. So we were getting kind of a lot of different feedback based on those two groups.

Justin Lachance:

What were you looking for? What kind of questions would you ask? That’s a lot of information.

Sabrina Pitre:

I know. So the big thing was, comprehension and just, it is a slow burn. And so, we were concerned how long we could keep audiences on the hook with before they lose interest. That was very good lesson in terms of these test screenings because we learned very quickly that we have to reveal little pieces. We have to give the audience something at certain point in order to keep them invested. So, yeah, I found the feedback we got from audiences for those test screenings was very, very helpful just to help us craft that. I mean, from how it was scripted to how it ultimately ended up here is quite different.

Justin Lachance:

I imagine. And then, so, how did you resolve those kind of decisions because you were working with a director duo who are also producers and have experience editing and also the writers? So how were decisions processed?

Sabrina Pitre:

So, after a test screening, the guys would sort of summarize everything that had been discussed at the test screenings. And then we would come back into the edit suite and just essentially intensely work for another week trying to solve those problems in the way we thought could work obviously while maintaining the integrity of their own vision as well. Because it’s easy to try and appease everybody, but you can’t to a certain degree, so. Yeah, it was just a matter of taking one issue at time. Okay, so, we notice that they’re really confused here, how can we solve that by bringing in something earlier that gives a little release. So, it was really just problem solving and just really trying to figure out things and little bit along the whole way until finally when you sit back. After every session that we had, we were convinced, this is it guys, we’re done, we did it, yes. And then the test screening would happen and we’re like, “There’s still questions. Oh god. Okay, well we got to figure this out.” So, yeah, the guys even called me at one point, they were all very serious and were like, “Sabrina, we know we’ve been in post for a while and we know we’ve had” … this is probably after the 10th test screening and they were worried I was just going to walk because I don’t think they’ve ever done this to another editor yet in their career.

Sabrina Pitre:

We’re all very similar in age, as well, so, they’re young filmmakers as well, so. They were worried that they were going to lose me at some point. But, it’s one of those projects, it’s so ambitious. I was invested from the beginning, so, there’s no way I was going to walk away.

Justin Lachance:

Absolutely. It was marathon.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, yeah. I think it was about six months in post.

Justin Lachance:

Okay, well, Lara, you also with Mouthpiece had a lot of test screenings, but not quite as many.

Lara Johnston:

I thought we had a lot, but then I met Sabrina.

Justin Lachance:

How many was it again?

Lara Johnston:

We had four. Yeah.

Justin Lachance:

That’s still considerable because usually it’s around two or so.

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, yeah. It’s still a lot for a Canadian film I think.

Justin Lachance:

Did it help with the story telling?

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, it was incredibly helpful. The whole movie’s kind of based on a conceit, if you haven’t seen it. That it’s one person who kind of becomes two people. So, kind of our early screenings were about comprehensibility, would people actually understand that? And our first screening was really small, it was actually just some … not just some editors … some editors. So, we had I think three editors and one person who was friend of mine come and they understood what was going on, but because they were editors, and it’s a great experience to show your film to editors, although you do get a lot of feedback, but it was about sort of the structure. And so, the film is two stories, kind of woven together. The woman’s mother dies and then it’s kind of about her dealing with her grief, but it’s woven together with flashbacks of her mother. So, the way the film was originally structured in the script was that we met the mom very late on, I think two-thirds of the way into the film. Yeah, and so, the main feedback from the screening was just that they really liked the mom, but by then, you’re kind of, you don’t want to get to know another character.

Lara Johnston:

So, we had to pull her story up to the beginning of the film. And that constituted a lot of work. I’d say if you look at the amount of time we spent working in that area, it was up here and everything else is down here. And again, if you’ve seen the film, there’s an escalator ride that just goes on and on and on, two escalator rows in the bay. And that was partly because we had this … kind of these flashbacks that were all locked together and had to bring them to the front. So, we had at least two screenings to try to kind of get it to a place where we were pretty happy with. But, then we also just got really specific with screenings. Patricia liked to do … she’s made some studio films and with studio films you do cards where you fill things out. And it’s pretty awful in a studio film because the studio will put it front of your face and go [inaudible 00:39:15]. Whatever, you need to put more of this character in or make this character more likable or whatever.

Lara Johnston:

But, she kind of does it because she really wants the person’s direct first impression rather than the mob mentality that you get after when everyone’s talking together. I mean, I find the talking together after really helpful too as an editor because someone will say something and then another person will go, “Oh yeah, I agree with that.” And then you get a sense of sort of consensus.

Lara Johnston:

But, one of the things that was really interesting that came out after one of the screenings, so there’s a plot point in the film and it was this screening was kind of breaking up and it had been a really good screening. We sort of felt like oh we’re done. We always picked our audiences, we wanted it to be the demographic for the film. And it was never trying to appeal to anybody we that we didn’t think was the demographic. But, just someone was standing around talking to Patricia after and just sort of mentioned they didn’t like this one thing in the plot. And it was like I don’t know why we never thought of it before, but she just said it seems kind of devicey. So, the mother’s supposed to take some pills, she decides not to take these pills and then dies as a result of not taking the pills and it’s directly the result of something her daughter has said to her. And this woman said it felt very devicey. And we were just kind of like yeah. Because it was a device.

Justin Lachance:

And that would have affect the entire rest of the film because that was at the beginning where you learn that somewhere, and yeah. Your perception of those characters is completely changed.

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, yeah. So after that, we said, “Well, why don’t we try taking it out?” And we did and it came out so easily, it was just sort of a clue that it was a device and it really wasn’t woven that organically in. Except there are a couple scenes where I really had to do some hack jobs to sort of get around the talking about it and stuff. But, it was really useful for that and then also just, everyone here I’m sure has experienced it, that feeling of watching something with an audience tells you so much, right? You just don’t even have to ask them anything, you just get-

Justin Lachance:

You feel the vibe of the room.

Lara Johnston:

You feel it, yeah. And sitting beside Patricia, and she’s looking at me and going like this. They were incredible helpful in that regard.

Justin Lachance:

And there’s this feminist undertone throughout the whole movie that’s basically the essence of the movie. And it’s wonderfully done and beautiful to watch. But, there’s also this moment where Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a cut. She says flat out what is the message and it’s powerful, it’s very powerful because what a great spokesperson. But, I was just wondering, how did that come to be?

Lara Johnston:

That was in the script and it happens to fall in the … Patricia and I call it the escalator ride to hell. So, it’s one of the areas I just felt was too long anyways, so I strongly did not want it to be … It’s just you go to the escalator, you go to a flashback of the mom, you go into these weird musical numbers, and then come back to the escalator, and then you go to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I’m like we don’t need that. I felt like it was already very sort of there in the film. But, a lot of people, when we showed it to audiences and young women especially, it really resonated with them. And I felt like it was something I could’ve fought harder to take out, but the audience reaction to it did really resonate with me. And so, it’s kind of that line of deciding it’s not my favorite moment in the film and I feel like why do you just go there for one time. It’s not woven in, but it was important to people and they really liked it. And so, you decide things to keep and things to lose. That’s deep.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, you pick your battles.

Lara Johnston:

Exactly. Yeah.

Justin Lachance:

No, but, it is a very powerful moment in the film. It does take you out a little bit and you’re like wait, what just happened? But, that message is so clear and it really resonates throughout the whole film. It’s wonderful. So let’s watch a clip, this one’s in the grocery store of Mouthpiece.

 

[Clip Plays]

 

Justin Lachance:

That’s an amazing clip. Why did you choose that one?

Lara Johnston:

I was talking to Mathieu about that before I don’t … I didn’t know we could pick a trailer.

Justin Lachance:

Oh really?

Lara Johnston:

No, it’s really hard to pick a clip because it’s not so much about the scene. But, I mean I did pick that … the movie only has two musical numbers, so it’s actually not really indicative of what the movie is, but the language of the film is something we … it kind of evolved as we were editing. And there was a third musical number which got cut and there’s sort of a shot that I couldn’t figure out how to use that they shot for the scene. And I ended up using these flash cuts to use the shot to get into the musical number. And everyone really liked that. So, then I tried it with this scene. They shot this on the last day and they sort of had liked the earlier scene, so it kind of wove, had the dialogue go back and forth so we could kind of do it going out of the scene too.

Lara Johnston:

And also the musical numbers were much longer in the script and shot longer and the musical numbers were always on the chopping block because they were left from the play, so this is based on play. And they were very much of the play’s DNA and some people, Patricia included, she kept on saying, “I hate musical numbers. Why am I doing these musical numbers?” But, some people really liked them and they’re very much part of the theme of the film and the performative aspect of being a woman and her having to kind of come up with what she’s going to say about her mom. And so, the happy medium we came up was just making them shorter, which I think they’re great.

Justin Lachance:

Yeah, absolutely. And there’s also a device that you used throughout the whole film too that kind of helps those transitions. I know it’s during heightened emotions there’s flashes and there’s a specific one where a bathtub where she’s drowning in the bathtub. How did that devise?

Lara Johnston:

That was again, that was left over from the play, but in the first act, they do get into the bathtub, but there was a scene where they sort of have a fight in the bathtub. And it’s sort of supposed to frame the fight that they have at the end and that early audience we had of editors, yeah, if you want to feel bad about your film, show it to a bunch of editors. They’re like, “Oh yeah, we just feel knocked around at the beginning.” So, part of the beginning was taking stuff out and really figuring out what needed to be there. When I read the script, it was almost like train spotting, sort of the opening and it couldn’t be further from that, it’s very slow sort of getting into it.

Lara Johnston:

So, there’s this bathtub scene and the footage is pretty cool and we ended up putting a shot of it in the credit sequence. And then, there’s this scene where they have this feminist awakening in the bathtub. And I always … I didn’t quite feel like the scene went far enough and so one day, I just put in a bunch of the bathtub footage and I sped it up. And everyone’s like, “That is so cool. I don’t know what it means, but let’s leave it in there.” So, it was just kind of trying to use stuff and for me, it was a little bit about what’s just boiling inside of her.

Justin Lachance:

And just being overwhelmed, completely overwhelmed. It was wonderful, it was beautiful. I had talked with Richard Comeau who’s an editor, really great editor from Quebec and he’s done a bunch of films here. He said that the difference between a documentary editing and fiction editing is, documentary you’re always asking what do I put in, and in fiction, you ask what do I want to take out? I don’t know if you guys had any input on that kind of stuff. But, I feel like when you’re rewriting scripts and stuff like that and the third writing of post production, there’s always that kind of idea of removing scenes.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

Oh, wow. We’ll just carry on. I’m sorry.

Sabrina Pitre:

Similarly, yeah, I find with scripted you have this sort of bones of a scene, but once it’s shot and once you see how the actors have interpreted it, things change dramatically. And so, a lot of the test screening too helped us determine whether or not some characters just needed to be lessened or whether some scenes needed to be pulled because the father was coming across too harsh. That relationship was a very delicate balance between him and Chloe. And so there were some early scenes of him punishing her essentially that were just removed because we found the audience just wasn’t connecting with them as father-daughter. So, yeah, it’s like the script is sort of just the foundation and then you can kind of take that and just mix it up and do what’s necessary to get really the core of the story coming through and the themes that you want and it all kind of has to be harmonious, so it’s never set in stone what’s written down anyway.

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, I guess. Like our film was … Patricia kept on saying it’s film about a woman who does errands for the day and writes a eulogy. It’s not terribly action heavy, so I think that really drove, whittling and whittling and whittling. And there’s some really kind of fast cutty stuff in it, but then part of it is you just have these moments where you want just to kind of go into this kind of very lull where she’s just in her head and she’s kind of thinking and stuff. And I think for those moments to kind of resonate, you kind of wanted the other moments to kind of move quickly. And so, yeah, I mean just sort of finding that balance between the two kind of tones I think was helpful.

Justin Lachance:

That pretty much sums up our job. I’ll open the floor Q & A. Is there anybody, yes?

Audience:

Hi. My question is how do you work with the director and how much room you have from the director, how you communicate with the director and what kinds of director that you think is fantastic to work with?

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So the director is on set always asking questions and they have to have answers constantly. And they’re bombarded by decision making and they have to be on all the time and so, in the post productions situation, the time and the possibility of questioning themselves and really trying things out, gives them a lot more freedom and that is for an editor, you’re supposed to nurture that and help that along.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

And so, depends on the director, some are hardly there, sometimes you just work on your own, sometimes they’re always there constantly. And so you have to stay a little bit open to different kind of ways of working.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, I think Mathieu covered that really well. Essentially, you have a relationship with the director, director-editor. It’s like a collaboration, so I think the more you take that to heart, the better really. The idea that you can experiment together in the edit suite and there’s isn’t any set way necessarily to achieve something, it’s just you kind of find your way there together. Obviously, getting the freedom to experiment alone is always helpful too as an editor just because I feel if you don’t have somebody watching over you the whole time, you have a bit more freedom to do something incredibly bad and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s not going to work.”

Justin Lachance:

And then you feel like you’re God because it’s like, “Oh this is perfect.”

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, right. So, yeah, it’s really just giving that, having that flexibility and building that relationship with your editor. It’s sort of symbiosis really.

Lara Johnston:

To feel safe, to try crazy stuff and there are a couple scenes where I cut them completely different than she wanted. And she was like, “That’s interesting, but let’s try this.” And we ended up doing it her way, but then we used some of the ideas in a different spot. You have to feel like you have the freedom to do that and Patricia just really nurtured that, she said that to everybody on the crew, just go crazy. It just created such a great sort of environment.

Audience:

I have a question about test screenings? And I know two of you, Lara and Sabrina, mentioned test screenings. I don’t know for you Mathieu for Genesis, are there comments you get back from test screenings that you completely disagree with and fight for those edits to stay in and have you been successful?

Lara Johnston:

Yeah, I mean, one thing …. and Patricia right from the beginning was like, “We’re only going to do the things we agree with.” And that wasn’t that she wasn’t open to other comments, but it’s kind of a way of confirming something that you already have doubt about or if there’s something you’re disagreeing about, that it can kind of give you … And for me, it’d be Bader Ginsburg and there was one other … There was many versions where we had a title card in the beginning because some people didn’t understand the whole conceit of the movie until very late and it upset them. And so, it was just always a balance between the ones that are helpful and then the ones that aren’t. It’s different with studios because sometimes you have to do them, but not in Canada, which is what’s so amazing about it.

Justin Lachance:

Yes it is.

Mathieu Bouchard-Malo:

[Mathieu answers in French]

Justin Lachance:

So Mathieu said that he hasn’t really done big test screenings with a giant room full of people, but he has done with a select few people who have been nicely chosen. And sometimes you can fight against those notes, but they always come back in your brain and they always start making you think about this current thing. And it’s like okay, let’s try some things. It can usually help.

Sabrina Pitre:

Yeah, I mean for the most part, you’re always going to get those comments. Like, what the hell, come on. But, it’s always going to be a mixed bag, but it’s more I think about maybe how many of the similar comments like those you’re getting. It’s important to weigh sort of the percentages of how many are saying the same thing. But, ultimately, it is your vision, so, it’s up to you whether you want to take it to heart. But, it’s just a way of kind of pulling you out of sort of a tunnel-vision that you can get sometimes about your film.

Audience:

My question’s for Sabrina. Did you notice a difference between the comments you got from LA and the comments you got from Vancouver?

Sabrina Pitre:

Yes, yes we did. Yeah, that was interesting. We actually found the LA people were a little less in tune with the vision we had for the film, oddly enough, I think they’re used to a certain budget level, a certain … yeah, just way of going about things. Maybe the slow burn they weren’t a big fan of that either, ultimately. So, we did have to take a lot of those comments with a grain of salt sometimes without compromising the vision of the film. But yeah, but, it was interesting because ultimately, you want your film to appeal to a wide range of audiences, so you don’t want to … I think the guys were very specific about choosing people from various backgrounds and doing these multi-city screenings in order to get as much kind of varied feedback as they could. So, ultimately, it was quite helpful.

Justin Lachance:

Well, thank you very much for the film panel.

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks for joining us today and a big thank you to our panelists and moderator. A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae, Maureen Grant, and the CCE Board for helping create EditCon 2020.

 

The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in a way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. ?Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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The Editors Cut

Episode 004: Crossing the 49th

Episode 004: Crossing the 49th

Episode 004: Crossing the 49th

This is the final episode of the EditCon series, and it covers the ups and downs of working in LA.

att Hannam, CCE, Stephen Philipson, CCE and Andrew Coutts, CCE share their experiences with Chris Mutton

Matt Hannam, CCE, Stephen Philipson, CCE and Andrew Coutts, CCE share their experiences with Chris Mutton about cutting shows like Star Trek: Discovery, American Gods et The OA as well as indie feature films in the United States.

Editor Andrew Coutts, CCE

Andrew Coutts, CCE

Andrew Coutts tells us about some of the differences he found working on the LA based series Star Trek: Discovery.

Editor Matt Hannam, CCE

Matt Hannam, CCE

Matt Hannam talks about the difficulties of getting into the American unions and his work on Swiss Army Man.

Editor Stephen Philipson, CCE

Stephen Philipson, CCE

Stephen Philipson explains why he chose to make the big move to a highly competitive environment.

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the EditCon panelists

EditCon Series Produced by

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Animé par

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Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 008: The Story Behind the Edit – Drama

Episode 008: The Story Behind the Edit - Drama


Episode 008: The Story Behind the Edit - Drama

This episode is part two of a two-part series covering the Vancouver Women in Post event that took place on June 16th, 2018.

The Vancouver Women in Post series was generously sponsored by IATSE Local 891

This episode features award winning drama editors Daria Ellerman, CCE, Lara Mazur, CCE and Nicole Ratcliffe, CCE as they discuss with moderator Karen Lam some of the impactful projects, they have worked on in their editing careers. 

editor Daria Ellerman, CCE

Daria Ellerman, CCE

Daria Ellerman, CCE discusses her work on the feature film The Bird Watcher and the importance of knowing when not to cut.

editor Lara Mazur, CCE

Lara Mazur, CCE

Lara Mazur, CCE, talks about the importance of the film On the Farm.

Nicole Ratcliffe, CCE

Nicole Ratcliffe, CCE

Nicole Ratcliffe, CCE, shares with us a scene that she cut from the series End Game that didn’t go according to plan but was a great lesson for the rest of her career.

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Que voulez-vous entendre sur L'art du montage?

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Lara Mazur, CCE

Nicole Ratcliffe, CCE

Karen Lam

Kelly Morris

Prith Singh

Jeremy Cowie

Luis lam

Alison Dowler

Jane MacRae

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The Editors Cut

Episode 009: Interview with Bryan Atkinson

Episode 009: Interview with Bryan Atkinson

Episode 009: Interview with Bryan Atkinson

In this episode Sarah Taylor interviews Toronto based editor Bryan Atkinson.

Episode 009: Interview with Bryan Atkinson

Bryan has been a passionate student of film since the age of 14, and an award-winning editor of motion pictures for the last fifteen years.

Sarah and Bryan talk about his time at the Vancouver Film School, the Canadian Film Centre and discuss his work on Closet Monster, Mary Goes Round et Paper Year as well as the critically acclaimed short film Hole.

Check out some of Bryan’s work below!

Hole

Heritage Minutes: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Heritage Minutes: Jim Egan

Heritage Minutes: Jim Egan

Hole (short film)

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Dino Harambasic

Jonathan Dowler

Alison Dowler

Jane MacRae

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The Editors Cut

Episode 014: Films Making a Difference Cutting Content with an Important Social Message

Episode 014: Films Making a Difference Cutting Content with an Important Social Message

Episode 014: Films Making a Difference - Cutting Content with an Important Social Message

This is part one of our four-part series covering EditCon 2019.

The EditCon 2019 series was generously sponsored by Deluxe

Episode 014: Films Making a Difference Cutting Content with an Important Social Message

Unarmed Verses et Sgaawaay K’uuna (Edge of the Knife) are films that have intertwined themes of social justice into compelling stories, bringing important social messages to the screen in their respective genres of narrative and documentary film.

Meet editor Andres Landau and producer Lea Marin of Unarmed Verses and editor Sarah Hedar and director Helen Haig-Brown of Sgaawaay K’uuna (Edge of the Knife). The duos behind both of these films discuss the process of collaboration, sensitivity approaching the subject matter, and what each role contributes to the crafting of a powerful narrative. This panel was moderated by Michèle Hozer, CCE. Unarmed Verses (Trailer) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Unarmed Verses

Sgaawaay K'uuna (Edge of the Knife)

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the EditCon Committee

Alison Dowler

Jane MacRea

Boris FX

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EditCon 2019 Panels Recorded by

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The Editors Cut

Episode 017: This Year In Dramatic Film

Episode 017: This Year In Dramatic Film

Episode 017: This Year In Dramatic Film

This is part four of our four-part series covering EditCon 2019.

In this episode we will hear from indie feature editors Michelle Szemberg of Un Traductor, Christine Armstrong of The New Romantic and Isabelle Malenfant, CCE of Pieds nus dans l’aube. There?s no formula to a festival hit, but these three editors, each with a recent feature film on the circuit, shed light on their respective experiences.

This panel discussion, moderated by Lisa Grootenboer, CCE, focuses on their careers in indie film, their process in editing these films, getting a festival run, and what lies ahead.

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Cathy Gulkin

Hosted and Produced by

Sarah Taylor

Design sonore du générique d'ouverture

Jane Tattersall

ADR Recording by

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Mixé et masterisé par

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Commandité par

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Catégories
The Editors Cut

Episode 026: Interview with Ricardo Acosta, CCE

Episode 026: Interview with Ricardo Acosta, CCE

Episode 026: Interview with Ricardo Acosta, CCE

In today?s episode Sarah Taylor chats with Ricardo Acosta, CCE an editor based in Toronto, Canada.

Ricard Acosta IMDB profile picture

He is an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Member and internationally renowned Film Editor, Story Editor, Creative/Editorial Consultant. Ricardo Acosta has been awarded with an Emmy, and has been nominated several times for Genie, Gemini, CCE and CS Awards. Ricardo came to Canada from his native Cuba in 1993, where he studied and worked at the world-renowned Cuban Film Institute in Havana.

He has been a fellow of the Sundance Institute (as alumnus and adviser) for several years for the Documentary Editing and Story Lab and The Composer and Sound Design Lab.

His film Sembene! (2015), premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and at the Cannes Film Festival.

Marmato (2014) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

In this episode we discuss Ricardo?s role as a story rescuer and his work on Shooting Indians, Heman’s House, The Blessing et I am Samuel

Herman's House Trailer

The Blessing Trailer

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The Editor?s Cut – Episode 026

 

Sarah:

Hello, and welcome to the Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. In today’s episode, I talk with Ricardo Acosta, an editor based in Toronto, Canada, but he started his editing journey in Cuba, where he studied and worked at the world-renowned Cuban Film Institute in Havana. Ricardo is an alumni of the Sundance Institute, as well as a teacher and advisor. His outstanding work and keen sense of human condition has contributed to the success of several award-winning films that have premiered in film festivals around the world, including Venice Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and Cannes. In this episode, we discuss Ricardo’s role as a story rescuer and his work on Shooting Indians, Herman’s House, The Blessing, and I Am Samuel.

[Podcast Intro]

And action!

This is the Editor’s Cut.

A CCE podcast.

Exploring the art-

Of picture editing.

 

Sarah:

Ricardo, thank you so much for joining us today on the Editor’s Cut. You are currently in Toronto joining us via the internet, so thank you for sitting down with us.

Ricardo:

Thanks to you and very happy to talk about my experience. I really like your program very much.

Sarah:

Oh, thank you so much. We’re going to discuss more things about ethics of editing, documentary specifically. But I want to give the audience a bit of a summary of your career journey and where you started and how you discovered editing was your passion.

Ricardo:

I wrote something for the Canadian Cinema Editors about how  I became an editor and I don’t know if I should read that.

Sarah:

Sure, if you want to. I remember reading that. It was so poetic and beautiful. If you’d like to read it, go ahead.

Ricardo:

I think I should do it. Yeah, I will try. First came the broken dream of becoming a classic ballet dancer. I was 10 years old and I was fixated with classical ballet. My mother and I agreed that I would go to the National Ballet School audition. For weeks, I rolled my feet on a wine bottle in search of the perfect arch. Audition day arrived and my mother and I were getting ready to travel to Havana. My grandmother asked my mom, “Where are you going?” My mother answered, “El Nino wants to be a dancer and we are going to the audition at the National Ballet School.” Long silence. Angela, that was my grandmother’s name, look at me slowly scrutinizing my body, my nervousness, my dream, “A dancer,” Angela exclaimed. “A classical ballet dancer. Have you any idea of the danger you are exposing El Nino to?” She asked my mother.

Ricardo:

I was left alone in the living room while Mama and Abuela argued behind closed doors in my grandmother’s bedroom. “No, no. Mama, don’t do that to him.” I heard my mother scream. The door to the bedroom opens, my mother comes out crying and pushes me into our bedroom. “Mi Amor,” she says, “Abuela doesn’t approve of you going to ballet school. You know our situation right now, we are living under her rule and I have no other place to go with you and your little brother. I can’t afford to fight Angela. We have to wait. Maybe there will be another time, you will dance.” I cried and cried and cried until my shattered dreams got so wet with my tears that it melted into nothingness. I took refuge in reading poetry, metaphors were my pills for pain, my tickets to travel, my weapons to fight.

Ricardo:

Time passed and I became a young man studying art history at the University of Havana. Throughout those years, I had been an amateur ferocious actor, director, and theater was my way of expressing myself and conversing with the world. One day my lover, [name] was an editor at the Cuban Film Institute told me of a brand new class that the institute was launching in search of new talents to join the world of filmmakers. I went to audition. I impressed the committee with my poetic approach to storytelling, the moves and mannerisms of my dancing body, the passion of my history, the history of my delivery. They were infiltrated with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this strong ambitious man who looked like a dancer could be one of the new talents that they were looking for.

Ricardo:

They welcomed me at the Cuban Film Institute. You want to be a director, a photographer, a sound designer, a producer? No. Editing was my choice. Why? Because it is the intersection of movement, history, art, poetry, soul, politics, emotions, and humanity. Because it is the ultimate scenario where cinematic choreography is born, the rest is history and it is still unfolding. That’s what I wrote.

Sarah:

It’s so beautiful. It’s a touching story. How did you then end up in Canada, Toronto doing documentary work and being known as the Story Rescuer?

Ricardo:

This is a long story. I knew from the beginning that editing was the work where I could write, basically. I don’t know why my mother always put me to bed reading me poems. She was a little bit eccentric and I really appreciate her. But then I came to Toronto after being here a few times and I knew that Toronto was a city where I have friends and was having a very inspiring artist scene in the early ’90s. It was a place where I could reinvent myself and heal and start from scratch. I have a lot of desires and needs to do something, so I arrive and I connect with a few artists. The first films that I edited were with Ali Kazimi, it was his film Shooting Indians: A Journey With Jeffrey Thomas about an Iroquois photographer.

Ricardo:

Of course, when I came here I was faced with that question that was kind of strange for me at the time. ?Are you a picture editor or a sound editor?? I would go, “What, what is that?” I was formed and raised to be an editor, someone who approaches the story with all the elements of it. That’s why, for example, soundtrack, the moment of scoring music in the editing suite is so important for me. Not something that you put in a lame way but something that really adds another layer of emotion to the story. Of course, I immediately say, ?No, I am a film editor. If I have to choose, a picture editor of course.?

Ricardo:

I worked on a few things but I have the luxury of from the beginning to be able to continue working with artists who were working outside the conventional work. Then reality TV arrived and those shows started coming in. I have nothing against people who work in reality TV, but I cannot do it for myself because I find that it sometimes very problematic with the way that things are manipulated in the name of the show and things are orchestrated and how ethics are so elastic and flexible and how the subjects are twisted and sometimes disrespected. I believe that you should be doing something that you enjoy and that you also understand and respect and feel validated and happy with, and that was not the area. I was very clear about no, it’s going to be this way.

Ricardo:

Also, documentary versus fiction. I have nothing against fiction, but I felt that the work that I want to do and the conversations that I want to have with society are more reflected through the genre of documentary and that’s where I feel at home in many ways.

Sarah:

Then you got your chops as a documentary editor and then you became known for your storytelling skills and were often brought in to rescue the story in many feature docs. I want to talk about how  that came about. How do you approach coming into a project that has already been worked on by somebody else?

Ricardo:

It’s difficult.

Sarah:

I can only imagine.

Ricardo:

Sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes … First of all, you have to come with a lot of humbleness. At the same time knowing that you are coming in not to follow something that may have been that it’s not working. To be honest, brutally honest, and to come in understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about the story. It’s not about the director, it’s about the story. What for me is important is to really understand the relationship that the director has with the footage. What is the story that is behind it? The layers of tension that are sometimes put on top of it in the way that it is told. To us, very important questions depending on the material.

Ricardo:

For example, in the case of Ali Kazimi, he was making a film about an Iroquois photographer and he had been working with very brilliant editors who were all people who I adore. Because Ali was being too serious about how he was approaching Jeffrey, the photographer. When I entered working with him, I asked, “What is it that you have that makes you the person to tell this story versus somebody else? What is your unique connection with this? In which way do you connect as a person with this story you are trying to tell?” For me, it was like an Indian from what is called India in South Asia looking at another kind of Indian. The name of Shooting Indians comes from that. I felt like unless you put yourself in as part of this journey and enter the story from a humble and honest place of what seduced you and interested you about Jeffrey, so that in many ways brings you back to your own process, to your own journey. That can’t be done by anybody else. What is your uniqueness?

Ricardo:

It’s complicated sometimes with a director, a producer of a movie and I would not recommend that in most cases, but when it’s good and when it works, it could be beautiful. It’s another way of owning a relationship with the story. When he saw that possibility, he empowered himself and the inner voice. His relationship with the subject became different. Now, he became a subject in his own movie. It’s a film that is very beautiful. Whenever I see it, and I show it in my master class, we both really feel that it was done yesterday. I think it has to do with the layer of honesty that we are seeing. But then I realize, we need to really then address the whole film. When you change one scene, other scenes may have to be changed. Sometimes it is better to start from scratch than to try to fix something. I don’t know if I answered your question.

Sarah:

No, I think you did. It just shows how there’s so many levels that you touched on. You go in being humble and it’s not about your ego or you as a human, but you’re looking for the essence of the story, of the subjects, and then even touching in on the director and the fact that you have an awareness to say actually, you need to be part of this film too, really shows this insight that you have on the whole process of storytelling and you can catch and see what’s there. It sounds like even when you wrote your story about becoming an editor, you clearly from a young age, have had a sense of art and story and the essence of being human. I feel like it’s instinctive, but how did you realize that that’s what you need to do to make these documentaries honest? To make, like you said, that this film still resonates today and you worked on it in the ’90s. How does that work for you? How do you know that that’s the way you need to pursue the story and the editing?

Ricardo:

I don’t know, Sarah for me, every story has an emotional narrative, even if it’s about a building or an object, which is different than being melodramatic or sensationalist or opportunistic about using pain in an exploitative way. Every story has a pulse, a subtext and a spirit underneath. I don’t know how to say it, but for example, in Herman’s House …

 

[Clip from Herman’s House]:

I can only about four steps forward before I touch the door. I’m in the cell for 23 hours a day. I’m used to it and that’s one of the bad things about it.

*

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not rich and I’m not powerful but I’m an artist and I knew that the only way I could get him out of prison was to get to dream.

*

What kind of house do a man who is out there dream about? I don’t dream about no house.

*

That kitchen looks really great. I wanted it yellow, which is like totally ’70s, he’s been in solitary since 1972.

*

In the front of the house, I have various plants and gardens. I would like for guests to be able to smile and walk through flowers.

*

Jackie, this is the one for the 30 years. Yeah, this is the one he’s in now.

*

The majority of my life, it’s been in a cell in a cage. The majority of my life.

*

Solitary confinement is solitary confinement. Yes and no. Some people deserve it and some don’t.

*

This guy has been in prison three times my life. How can I be like this dude here where he’s just at peace.

*

I need help. I’m doing this by myself, Herman. I need help. I know. This is the [inaudible 00:15:27], kiddo. All right? I hear you.

*

It was never my hope that he would have to rely on his house to get out of Angola.

*

Whether I live in the house or not, it makes no difference. It is the symbol of what this house is all about.

 

Ricardo:

We also have made a choice, a very important choice based on the fact that I was dealing with a story that was a fragmented population of many phone calls that were from five to 15 minutes long interrupted by the voice of the penitentiary in between Herman and Jackie. Those phone calls were going to happen whenever they allowed him to talk, not when you wanted or you expected. But it is very important that we did not have access to Herman. Herman also at that time, has been 35 years imagining our world and living in solitary confinement in a six by nine cell.

Ricardo:

One day I have this very strong premonition and epiphany that was coming from a place of frustration and anger that said, he had to imagine us for all this time. I think the audience would have to imagine him and dream of Herman because we are not going to show the audience how he looks. At that point, I went from spending two months or three months paralyzed looking at footage or listening to phone conversations and not knowing how to touch this, how to address it, how to enter, how to talk to the material. Until I realized okay, it’s this way. Then it became a political act but also a sensorial relationship with the audience.

Ricardo:

I love when you tell stories using the senses. I like to say that today the audience is extremely privileged and there is this expectation that the audience don?t have to think. Everything has to be told and then showed, which is the other way around for me. There is this tendency that everything has to be given to the audience because they are entitled to it, and I don’t think it’s true. I would say that when you walk into one of my films, you are taking … It’s now on your own and I respect that you want to see it, but you’re on your own with your own emotions with experience and take responsibility for it. The idea of a film where you don’t show the subject also brought this huge question, which was beautiful, how do you do that?

Ricardo:

Then it became this aesthetic challenge, which was okay, let’s do it with animation, but no illustration. Let’s do it with what I call abstract impressionism circa 1960s. Let’s do a homage to the National Film Board animation studio. We knew what we wanted. We didn’t want anything sleek or trendy or chic or all that kind of being hip that is so current. We want something that also relates to it. It was that act of finding a way in, which we were able to talk to the material and to Herman. That was for me the turning point, the moment in which I was able to enter the story.

Ricardo:

I have to enter the story as an editor. I cannot exist as a disconnected person that works from nine to five. The story becomes a child and the characters are part of it and I have to take care of them. I do not have to say, I don’t think you go through the same experience when you are working in fiction. Perhaps, it’s a different process. In a documentary when you have 400 hours of material and 20 or 60 subjects and only four can make it to the story, it’s a lot of casting that you have to do. In that casting, you are casting with your respect, with your honesty, with your sensibility, with also understanding the little story and the big story.

 

Ricardo:

Herman’s House is a beautiful example for me of how I cannot force the process. At the beginning, I was paralyzed and I was paralyzed because I was just being a passive receptor of that material. Then when I found my way in, then we started seeing the movie and the rest is history. But one thing that was very important and we also knew that we could not work with anybody that would not understand or respect our choice, who was we will not show you Herman. Some people from CBC to others came ?just if you want it, here’s the money, basically. But you have to show Herman.? We would say, “No, you are not for us and we are not for you because that’s a different movie.” Or they would say, “We have in Jackie. We’re interested in Herman.” That’s a different movie, go and make it yourself. These are the kind of conversations that I don’t know, I’m very privileged in the sense it’s the kind of conversation that you have when you work, of course, in a film for many, many years.

Ricardo:

Then the Ford Foundation came and they came because they understood what we were trying to do. Then we were super lucky because we knew that we were in good hands. Then the Sundance Foundation came – The Sundance Institute –  but those are the people that we needed. We needed people who respect and who nurse our creative process.

Sarah:

That’s so important and then getting that … I think as editors we all get those moments where you’re kind of paralyzed. You’re like, where is the story, what are we doing? When you get that spark of creativity, or you find that whatever it is that you need to find, I sometimes say the creative genius comes through, then you’ve got to run with it. The fact that you both stood your ground and said no, this is the way that we need to creatively tell this story. This is what the story is. It’s just cool, I don’t know, I think it’s just really inspiring that can be done. That we can stand our ground and we can still, as editors, have a say because we are such an integral part of the process of creating the film. Thank you, thank you for sharing that.

Ricardo:

I think it’s important for me, I really feel that we have a lot of power and enough passion that we can put in our work. It’s part of our gift and our responsibility also. We are there to take care of the story.

Sarah:

You mentioned to me the film you are working on called I Am Samuel. You talked about the ethics of storytelling and also the care of the subject. Can you talk that a little bit, about how that story evolved, and how you actually helped make sure that the people who participated in the film were safe.

Ricardo:

This is a very beautiful question and experience for me. Peter Murimi is an amazing Kenyan artist filmmaker who lives in London, who is a very gifted journalist and photographer. He was making a film about what will be the first story about a gay Kenyan man from the working class who decided to come out to his family, to his friends, to society in a country where you have a penal code that criminalizes homosexuality. That’s very difficult to do and very courageous to do. The complexity of the story is that Samuel, who is the main character, has a lover named Alex. Samuel has parents who live in the countryside and he is in Nairobi, the capital, trying to make a life and living.

Ricardo:

When they showed me the rough cut that they had and they were editing for while with another editor in London, I have what I will call a physical reaction. I just felt that the film was told in a way in which Samuel was a hero and his father was a horrible person. But I could not buy it, and I talked to Peter and to Tony, the producer. Why? What has he done to hurt his son? The issue with the father is the father was a Jehovah Witness pastor. Other than being not in accord with his son’s sexual orientation, not understanding homosexuality, which is not a crime, it’s a state of mind that you can have. That doesn’t necessarily automatically make you a bad person. I myself, didn’t understand myself for a long time. That’s also part of who I am today.

Ricardo:

I asked the question, what has he done to hurt his son? He said, really nothing. Why are you profiling his father as a bad character? What I see here is a man, you’re seeing a father that is using the tools that he has, the weapons he has, which in this case is religion to wrap it around his son so he doesn’t get hurt. I would do the same if I would be a parent. When I sat down, he looked at me and said, “I have been trying to say this but my editor was not listening. This is important for people to know. He was an experienced person in that editing suite and I was a director making my first feature film documentary. At some point, it felt like I had to bend to this other power and the way he was taking the film.”

Ricardo:

At that point, he asked me, “Do you want to work with me?” I said, “I would love to because I feel that there is an injustice being made here. If I can help to fix it, I would love it because there is nothing more painful than to profile people when you yourself don’t want to be profiled.” To profile a subject it’s in the wrong way. It’s something we can do, we have the power to do that as editors and directors working in documentary. The difference for drama, fiction is that those characters are fictional characters. You can kill them, maim them, abuse them, do whatever you want. But you cannot do that to a subject, they are human beings. Their life is super important.

Ricardo:

I went to London and started working with him for over two months and we now have a new film that is the same footage but it’s different. Different story, different spirit, and in his film that we have now, his father happens to be the most progressive character and the only subject who evolves in the film. Somewhere at the beginning of the film he is someone who is coming out and he looks at the world like I did when I was his age, everybody is wrong and I’m right. His father is the one who go from dealing with his own masculinity crisis with his own values to somehow making peace with his own ethics and values but also with his love. I also choose a way of telling this story from a place of love and not from a place of exploitation.

Ricardo:

The other thing that I thought was important and beautiful is how the director and the producer knew that Samuel was making an incredible contribution to society by sharing with us his coming out in a country where you can be burned on the street for being gay. I find it problematic when we go out and we ask people to do and say things that put their life in danger but we don’t actually create any mechanism that will protect them from being hurt after that. I think that’s a problem. There are cases in which it has been very problematic because the person, the subject has been hurt after.

Ricardo:

In this case, the director knew that by the time I Am Samuel will be done and the film is out and premiering, Samuel will need to be somewhere else, away from Kenya, so he could be safe in case there will be any retribution. I am happy to say that all of this is in place and he is going to Germany to study. His partner is already in Germany. They both will be at university for a while. The movie is very beautiful. I am very biased about that. And I feel very proud that we were able to understand something, which was this is a story in which it’s not me coming in and imposing my values of a city boy living in Western society.

Ricardo:

If you want to understand the issue of sexual orientation and coming out in Africa in a traditional family, you need to count with the family. Because there is no way you’re going to solve the problem, just by being on your own. Your parents count a lot and I needed to respect that and not to edit and tell the story as if I was Samuel, but to have some distance to also protect his father from Samuel’s arrogance. I’m dying to be able to share this film with the audience. I think it’s going to be a film.

Sarah:

I really look forward to seeing it. I think it’s so beautiful that you do take so much care of the people in your films. I feel like often we kind of forget, or not even that we forget because I even know for myself, I cut documentaries and I’ve done some short docs where the documentary really impacts my life and makes me feel like I’ve become a better human from the things I’ve learned. But I don’t the people, those people that the story that I told, I don’t actually know them but I feel that they’re now so integral to who I am. I think it’s a really interesting place to be as an editor in the doc realm where you get to learn so much about somebody and yet they have no idea who you are, but you do still need to respect them as humans. I don’t know, it’s just such a fascinating position to be in, in life sometimes.

Ricardo:

I like to say sometimes in my master class I talk about the bad characters who are the most special characters in a film, the ones that I have to protect the most because it’s so easy to cartoon them, to be unjust, to just abuse their integrity, this humanity. I don’t think it’s right. I think it’s also much more powerful to see how repulsive they may be or not if you show it the way that’s a little bit more, has more flesh, more depth and not just as a dot. There’s a tendency to do that, to punish the scenes you don’t like. We have to be careful with that. It’s a conversation I have with many of my fellow editors sometimes. You are not a judge, you’re a medium right here to shine on somebody else’s story, not to punish them.

Sarah:

It’s so much, inspiring things. I feel like in society right now it is so common and so easy just to paint everybody, okay you’re the bad guy, it’s so black and white but we’re all human, so we all have bad and good and there’s so much gray in the world. I think by the films that you help create, we show that there’s so many sides to everybody. I think it’s just beautiful.

Ricardo:

Also, because Sarah I think it’s very easy to make a story to preach to the people who are already converted.

Sarah:

Totally, yeah.

Ricardo:

The real challenge for us, the real artistic, the real accomplishment is when you can affect a little bit the perception, the emotion, the feeling, the way they think on the ones who are on the other side of the issue. The power of the stories that we tell is to become difficult conversations but to become a forum, not to be a monologue about us and how great or how victim or whatever we are where there is no room for dialogue, where there is no room for the other person to look at you and for a moment feel different. It’s very important to remember that. That’s why I always try to say conflict and ideology which I was abused by as being raised in a Communist country, are not tools I would use when it’s about people’s lives.

Sarah:

Have you worked on something where you’ve had to struggle with your own morals and values to try to shape the story of say the villain or the bad guy so that you actually yourself had to step back and be like hey, this is kind of against who I am but I still need to tell their story.

Ricardo:

Yeah, I have. I think in every film there’s a moment where you feel you know in Marmato I had a character that was a Canadian prospector. It was such bullshit in the way he expressed himself, his colonialism. He was brutally honest and he was genuinely interested in those people to exploit them, whatever, but he was. In the film, we have a scene where Lawrence is inside the mine with the miners and he said to them, he said, “I don’t want to be lying. What’s going to happen here if you don’t sign and you don’t agree, one day they will come and they will bulldoze your houses and you will be out of here.” For me, I respect him so much for that gift. There’s a difference between an activist saying they are going to call members of their houses and take them out of here or the villain saying to the victims, they will come, bulldoze your houses and take you out of here. That is what I call in terms of dramatic narrative storytelling, a gift.

 

Ricardo:

That?s what I need.  Without his confession, everything else could be my own conspiracy theory. He gave us an incredible gift to make the story powerful and concrete. For that alone, I respected him. There were moments in which it was just ugh, but the reaction I had from friends was, why are you giving him so much time? You are making scenes with him that are kind of eerie, it’s like he’s one of my heroes in a negative way. He’s a protagonist. In his repulsiveness, he is also giving us something very important for the story, so I have to be generous.

 

Sarah:

I just love the way you look at it and the way that you let yourself just observe and be there for the characters. Even if it’s against you or not, something that you would do, you still honor them for who they are. As you said, they become your hero. It’s fascinating and makes me think of different ways to observe the footage that I have in my suite and I’m sure the audience will agree. Do you ever find that you bring too much of yourself and your heart and your soul into your work and have to step back in order to protect who you are and protect yourself? Not so much because you’re telling a story that’s hurting you or something but because you can just put so much of yourself into your pieces or is that part of how you work? That you need to put your whole being into the work you’re doing to make it be amazing.

Ricardo:

That’s a very good question, Sarah because I don’t know the midterms. I’m passionate. Poetry for me is very important, emotion. I always said that for example, the historic dot of an event in a history book when you find it there, I’m telling you the emotional history of the event. What happened to the people who lived that event, how they were affected. That’s what really makes history interesting for me. Not just the disconnected, rational narrative. It’s really when you mix the witnesses of that story that the story becomes meaningful for me because then you understand it. It’s about the lie and the consequences and the suffering and the waiting and the acrimony of the two brothers who live one on one side of the Berlin Wall and the other one on the other side. It’s not about what the Berlin Wall signified, that’s just a line. That’s something you can find anywhere. But what you cannot find anywhere is what happened to those two that could happen to you too if another wall is built. For me, I have to be able to connect. Yeah, involvement is problematic sometimes, I get too involved.

Ricardo:

I remember once Karen Merdez from the Ford Foundation now, at the time she was at Sundance, said to me, “I love you because the way you protect your storytelling.” I said, “Yes, I accept the dialogue, I accept the feedback, but what I don’t accept is when you start abusing my story in the way you do not understand it or disrespect it because then I will push back. Because I know here to take that, I want an elevated discourse.

Ricardo:

That’s why for me it’s so difficult to decide who do you invite to a screening. Sometimes people go to a screening and what they want to tell you is that you got it wrong. Let me tell you how to make your film. It’s like hold on a second, back off. It’s my film, not yours. That perspective needs to exist. I have to be involved. For example, in Herman’s House, I never cry during the storytelling of the film. Then the day that Herman died, I cried for too long, I cried for almost a day, I couldn’t stop crying. I realized I was crying because someone who was very close to me has died. It was almost like a father.

Ricardo:

That happened when Asencion from Les Silence of Others died. I felt very touched by him, very, very touched. All the emotion, all the control, the feelings I hold back when I was editing that difficult sequence of 11 days of exhumation, finding the body of the father. All of that, I released at that moment perhaps. Because we do establish a connection, it’s about humanity. I don’t know, I have the specialty of always dealing with very complicated issues. Maybe I should start making movies about flowers.

Sarah:

It might be a little bit lighter but I don’t know, the flowers die sometimes too.

Ricardo:

Exactly.

Sarah:

You touched on something, I could step back into a personal experience for myself where I worked on this, it was just a short piece, but I really felt a fondness for the character. She was this beautiful woman and she was teaching us some traditional Cree basket weaving. Anyway, she was beautiful and I really enjoyed what I learned from her. During the process of this bigger project, she ended up passing away and I was so emotional and I kind of felt like hearing you tell that story made me realize like I didn’t … I kind of felt weird about it. I was like, why am I so upset? I never even met this woman. But I was helping her share her tradition with the world and it felt like it was so important and then she also taught me so much. We are in a really lucky spot as editors and as filmmakers to bring those stories to the world but also to ourselves. We get the privilege of really getting to know somebody on an intimate level without actually knowing them. I don’t know, it’s just so interesting.

Ricardo:

It’s very interesting. You?re a medium. I think it’s really important to have empathy for the people who have put themselves in such a vulnerable place to give you a part of their life to play with.

Sarah:

Yeah, totally.

Ricardo:

I think it’s good to cry for whatever is the time.

Sarah:

How do you approach telling stories of underrepresented people and what are you mindful of?

Ricardo:

I think it’s very complex sometimes. Maybe we should talk about The Blessing.

[Clip from The Blessing]:

If you have no respect for the earth, it’ll take your life. You don’t just go digging it up and destroying it. These mountains are sacred. Last night I prayed, please do not forsake me mother earth. I walk in two worlds.



Ricardo:

The Blessing is a story of a Navajo father who works in a coal mine and he has four children. The directors were after me for almost a year when I was in Spain editing. When I came back to Toronto, I finally watched their story and they were so persistent, so persistent. I saw something that was very conflicting that I could not get away from it. It was very problematic. I felt like it had a lot of potential. They flew me to New York and I told them what I thought. I said, “I don’t think your movie is about the coal mine. The coal mine is a monolithic object in the background of the life of these people. What do you have of these people? What happens if we flip the values of this story where the coal mine goes where it belongs in the background, the people come to the foreground?”

Ricardo:

It was a magic process. I really respect directors and producers who have the courage to go after whoever they consider the best advisor that they can have who is also capable to know when a movie is in trouble, don’t know exactly how to fix it, but we are going to find that person that will help us to fix it. That’s a gift. It has nothing to do with being weak, it’s the opposite for me. Then they start showing me all this footage and all this footage and then the film became about something else. What was so important in that story was that I like to present the movie as this is the story of a single parent of a middle class, single parent father who happens to be a Navajo. That’s the way I want the audience to see it. I don’t want the audience to see the poor Navajo that live in a coal mine. No, that’s the cliché. That is the way that we have badly represented them.

Ricardo:

The other thing that was important for me was I realized that they gave him a GoPro and to be honest with you, I didn’t know what to do with that footage. I felt like I don’t know what to do with this. Then one day I started looking at the footage and I went like, wow. He’s giving us access to a kind of beauty and honesty and tempo and color of his personal life that is not filtered by the presence of our cameras, our crew, our visit, our time with them, our privilege. I said to the director, I think he needs to be a collaborator and not just be a subject. That was very powerful for us. Only for me to understand that, then the way I found how to use his footage through the film, you have different texture but also who compliments what we are saying. It was a very difficult balance. I don’t know how we got it. If you saw the film, you can tell me if you think it works or not.

Sarah:

I thought it worked.

Ricardo:

Thanks. It was a way of giving him respect. Those are things that for me are important, super important. When we talk about cultural appropriation and other issues that have to do with who has the power when we’re sharing the story, those things are important. I am against the idea that stories can only be told by people who belong to a community, because then we will be living in a world of walls and indifference. Stories need to be told from a place of awareness and collaboration and respect and empowering the people that you are also storytelling about if they need to be empowered.

 

Sarah:

Another thing I want to touch on is to me it sounds like you were helping to write these films, but often editors don’t get the writing credit. What are your thoughts, and I think I know what your thoughts are, but what are thoughts on editors getting the writing credit for the writing that we’re doing in the suite.

Ricardo:

This is a very important ethical conversation about what is the collaboration and who does what? In retrospect, I think I have been a co-writer of pretty much all the films I have helped to craft because that’s the kind of editor that I am. That will be one reason that you will work with me. Where do you write a documentary, when you have 400 hours of footage? You write in the editing suite. That’s why I also talk about in one of my classes is, is documentary the fiction of reality? Surely it?s the fictionalization. It’s something that you invent, and de-invent in one day. But the difference is that as a documentary filmmaker I’m working with reality not with fiction. But to pull down a five-hour event into a beautiful four-minute scene that has a heart, that is three dimensional, there is no, that word I hate so much, wallpaper, it’s really an experience. I have to work with all the elements of storytelling. So I’m writing. Writing is not to write for parts.

Ricardo:

Also, when you structure, when you define what are the different narrators of the story, what are the values of the storytelling, what are the storylines? That is writing. And I?m very much an active collaborator who put in all my gifts, and all my drama sometimes. And the sad aspect is for a long time, I didn’t ask myself. The directors and the producers would take it for granted. We have the credit of writers. Sometimes producers who will not even write, they just will correct the grammar will be co-writers and it is not. For example, something very beautiful that happened in The Silence of Others, Robert Bahar is the producer and the partner of Almundena Carracedo, the director. He called me one day and said, “Rickie we need to talk about the writing credit.” I said, “Writing credit, what’s up?” He said, “We had four writers.” “Who are they?” “Almundena, you, Kim Roberts, and me.” I honestly start, I have tears. I feel so emotional because I never had a situation where a director or producer have that quality of saying we all want to honor what we did.

Ricardo:

They were nominated for the Alma Awards for Best Screenplay and we won that against fiction films. That was also very wild apart from of course winning the Goya which is Spanish Oscar for Best Documentary. But from that moment on, every film that I work on, I discuss at the beginning of the film about the writing credit. A writing credit I cannot take for granted. If you give me some paperwork, a paper cut and I am just a pair of hands, cool, that’s not my writing credit. But if I am going to work in a process where I put in all my complexity as an artist, we know that the film gets to be richer in the editing suite. I think it’s fair, respectful and important that it is recognized. That is discussed and agreed upfront because again and again and again every day there are editors who are not given that credit when they should have it. This is not something that we need to do alone. This has to be done with the complicity and the respect and the collaboration of the directors and producers.

 

Sarah:

Yeah, that producer basically gave you permission to actually ask for that in the future, the fact that he came to you and said, you’re one of the writers. Then you’re like, wait a minute, I am. It gave you that agency to say, I am a writer. I think you telling that story can allow other people to step forward and say actually, this is the way I work. We are collaborating in the suite.

Ricardo:

I think it’s important. I don’t see Nick Hector as anything else but a writer. Cathy Gulkin nothing but a co-writer of every film she worked on.

Sarah:

For sure, yeah.

Ricardo:

That’s why I also teach young editors when they work with me, what do you bring to the story? What are the tools that are part of your gift and your responsibility? This whole business about the writing thing needs to really be discussed. Not for a passive/aggressive way of oh, it’s my credit. It’s really understanding what’s your contribution. It’s a conversation that needs to happen more and more.

Sarah:

I might start doing that myself, thank you very much. I think one of the things that even if you’re starting that conversation with somebody when you’re first working with them shows that you are collaborative, work like you want a collaborative working relationship. I find for myself when I’m feeling like I am in an authentically more even-leveled collaborative situation, the film is always heightened because we are both putting fully ourselves in. I think if you start having conversations like that at the beginning, you’re going to get those moments I feel a little bit easier, maybe. You mentioned working with younger editors and stuff and I’m curious, what kind of tips would you give young editors or just editors in general in the documentary world?

Ricardo:

Demo reel. I think that it is disrespectful, insulting, against what we do.

Sarah:

You can’t show how you tell a story in three minutes.

Ricardo:

Somebody will call you and say, do you have a demo reel? No, I have the right to say, I am sorry that is not a question to ask. People need to know that. Since I’m changing that level, does that mean the conversation is becoming less important, less sophisticated, less valuable. You are devaluing, disrespecting your craft and your gift. No, no to demo reels yes to: do you have time to watch the work that I have done? Let me give you three samples. To know that it’s okay to say no. Also, very important too, you as an editor are also entitled and encouraged, I think, to ask questions, to interview the director. It’s not one way, it’s both ways. I think that it is very powerful and very important that you talk about story when you are looking for a potential job. That is story talking, that way in which we realize if we are clicking or not, there is already a connection, there is an energy that will be a good omen to what can happen or not after.

Ricardo:

It’s important that you also ask questions, that you also interrogate, that you also know that you are there as a collaborator, not as a staff. I also don’t like the word product. I don’t do products, I make films. Clients, my directors are collaborators are artists are people who I respect and they respect me. We work and I don’t have a client.

Sarah:

That’s interesting you say that because I often say, I have a producer coming over or a director coming over and it sometimes feels funny to say client also in the edit suite. You spend so much time with somebody, they become your friend.

Ricardo:

I can understand they’re my friends. I also think that for me it’s important to understand what is feasible, doable, right, respected, and a mature schedule for making this film happen. You spend six years filming and you are giving me four weeks for editing. No, I don’t want to work with you. If you don’t have the respect for the editing process and fight for it, then it’s going to be a disaster. I know that we are drawn and you want the job and if they say to you eight weeks, stories don’t get to be made in eight weeks. Some of them do but I’m talking about really thinking about with time and because a practice has been implemented doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right practice. It’s healthy to really have these conversations or even to say, well I have this schedule but let’s agree that we may be over by three weeks, and have that preliminary conversation.

Sarah:

To be realistic.

Ricardo:

To be realistic and to know that workaholism is not going to make you better. It’s important that you also know what are those films that you can be good for or not. I’m not the right storyteller or the right collaborator for every story or every filmmaker, absolutely not.

Sarah:

I think that’s something that comes when you have experience too. I know for myself, when I was younger, I just took everything. Then I’d work with people that I was like, I’m not comfortable with and then I got to a point where I was like, why am I in that situation, I can say no, and to be allowed to say no is something that takes practice.

Ricardo:

It takes practice, it’s complex.

Sarah:

But it’s important.

Ricardo:

It’s definitely important. I also think that you need to be able to take control of your editing suite because it’s your temple, not them. Everybody always is a visitor, but it’s your temple, it’s your house.

Sarah:

Yeah, for sure. That totally makes sense.

Ricardo:

It’s very important that that also is respected. I don’t know, the point of knowing as an editor, you are someone who is there to inspire, to ask difficult questions, to come out with amazing solutions, to have fun, to collaborate, to be passionate, to fight really for whatever you think is the right way to go. Sometimes when our egos, that we all have, get in the way, have the capacity to say, ego, let me alone. Send the ego for a walk. For a long time, I have been having the pleasure of working, having as an assistant editor someone who I think is very talented and is John, Chris, Jordan. Ever since then, you don’t have to grade editors. One is David Casella who is fantastic and I adore. We are very different human beings, very different. We compliment a lot.

Ricardo:

I love it that he has been able to experience his creative process in those two environments. I love the idea when I’m working in a scene, I will just go and tell Jordan, “Let me tell you what I am doing.” For me it was very important if he was going to be my associate editor or my own assistant who I saw that had all the potential to be a great editor that he understood the reason why that scene was that way and no other way. He loved that kind of conversation, which for me was a way of grooming – not of giving him some of the experience, I don’t know. Those things are not rushed, I think they come from a place you don’t own, they are within you. But the way I put a scene or not, is something I don’t even know when I’m starting to work on it, but I need to channel it. I love sharing that with an assistant editor.

Sarah:

I think it’s so important because we don’t get that very often anymore the way our industry is to even have those moments.

Ricardo:

Yeah, we don’t. I had the privilege of being an assistant editor in the time of 35mm prints. I will be sitting there absorbing and observing and once a while [my editor] will say, “What do you think Ricardo?” I will go blah, blah, blah. That was an amazing class to be in an environment where I was being taught how to tell a story but also what is the role that you play as a storyteller when you are an editor. The moment we become passive/aggressive and we start saying, oh sure, I will do that. That’s the moment that we start doing the wrong thing with the story.

Sarah:

Yeah, and I think we’ve all come to that where you get frustrated.

 

Ricardo:

It’s painful, very painful when you do it. You know that you are just punishing you and the story and it’s toxic. Also, to be able to know when you need help and to have a brilliant mentor or partner or another editor that you consider someone that you respect that you can share your work and show your belly, share your vulnerability and that person is not going to hurt you or the story. That?s going to give you very meaningful feedback. I have those and they are different for every film.

Sarah:

That is so important. It is really scary to sometimes share that, especially if you know it’s not working because we all want to be perfect. We all want to be the best, and the more we share in those hard moments, the better we can be, all of us can be. Even watching somebody else’s work and giving constructive feedback in a gentle way makes you a better editor too.

Ricardo:

Absolutely, and for me I am the product of my privilege, of my community of friends, editors who I share my work with, that share their work with me. I learned that with many years of collaborating with being part of the Sundance documentary program and being in a lab as a fellow and being in a lab as a mentor, it’s a great circle. You’re on both sides of that. It’s the beauty of knowing that in that circle, in that moment, the people who are giving you advice are doing it in a very respectful way, but they are all also brilliant storytellers. Those are advice that not necessarily you have to take. They’re powerful because they empower your process, your critical process of thinking about what you’re doing, how it can be better or worse. I don’t think we have a lot of that in the Canadian context.

Sarah:

I don’t think so either. I think we need more of that, for sure.

Ricardo:

This amount of solitude that we spend alone, not having any support. I do a lot of work more and more as a story editor, as a consultant, I don’t know what to call it anymore. I work for both, for the director and for the editor, and I did that on many films. For me, it’s important to work for both. Sometimes the editor needs to be alone and the director doesn’t know how to do it, and I will say hey, back off. Let me work with him. The editor doesn’t know that he can say or she can say, ?I need space.? I feel very proud when I have been able to do that. I probably have more advice but those are my….

Sarah:

Everybody is going to want to come and visit you and learn from you after listening to this episode I think. Thank you for sharing so much insight into your process and your thoughts on what story is and how important characters are and how important we are as human beings. I found it really inspiring, so thank you for taking the time to share with me today and to share it with everyone who is going to listen.

Ricardo:

Thank you to you, Sarah. We will see each other some time in Toronto.

Sarah:

I hope so, yes. 

 

Sarah:

Thanks for joining us today, and a big thank you to Ricardo for taking the time to sit with me. I’m happy to let you know that I Am Samuel is having its world premier at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival. Check out hotdocs.ca to find out more. A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall, additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blaine. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. Until next time, I’m your host, Sarah Taylor.

[Outro]

The CCE is a nonprofit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member, please visit our website, www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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The Editors Cut

Episode 028: Moving from Assisting to Editing

Episode 028: Moving from Assisting to Editing

Episode 028: Moving from Assisting to Editing

This episode is the the panel Moving from Assisting to Editing that was recorded on October 16th 2019 at Finalé in Vancouver.

Moving from Assistant Editor panel

The assistant editor is the foundation that holds the edit suite together, and is to the editor what Robin is to Batman.

But you may not want to be Robin forever. How does one make the move from assisting to editing?

How does Robin become the Batman? 

Have a listen to this informal Q&A session with Vancouver editors Justin Li and Greg Ng.

Moderated by director Kaare Andrews.

Justin Li

Justin Li is a television and film editor based in Vancouver, B.C. His genre of work include drama, horror, comedy and science fiction. Notable projects include the television adaptation of the Douglas Adams novels, ?Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency?, CBC’s limited series “Unspeakable”, and historical horror anthology series ?The Terror: INFAMY?. Justin enjoys long walks, standing desks and ergonomic mice.

Greg Ng

Greg Ng is a film and television editor from Vancouver, B.C., and though he doesn?t like being pigeonholed into one particular label as a multi-faceted human, he feels comfortable identifying as such for tax purposes. He is an alumnus of the UBC Film Program and the Canadian Film Centre, and has worked on documentaries, fiction films, and everything in between. In addition to these facts, he has won several awards for editing, which validated his professional insecurities and made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. Some recent credits include the VIFF 2018 People?s Choice winner, Finding Big Country, Viceland?s The Wrestlers, and Epix?s rock doc series Punk. 

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The Editor?s Cut – Episode 028 – ?Moving from Assisting to Editing (Vancouver Master Class)?



Sarah Taylor

This episode was sponsored by Finale ? A Picture Shop Company. Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host Sarah Taylor. Before we dive into this episode I have a message from DOXA. The 19th Annual DOXA Documentary Film Festival returns June 18th to 26th online. Committed to cultivating curiosity and critical thought. DOXA will present both short and feature films from across Canada and the globe representing some of the best in documentary cinema. The online festival will include live and pre-recorded conversations with filmmakers as well as industry specific events. More announcements including programming to come. Visit doxafestival.ca for details and further updates. Today I bring you the panel Moving From Assisting to Editing that was recorded on October 16th 2019 at Finale in Vancouver. The assistant editor is the foundation that holds the edit suite together and is to the editor what Robin is to Batman. But you may not want to be Robin forever. How does one make the move from assisting to editing. How does Robin become the Batman. Have a listen to this informal Q and A session with Vancouver editors Justin Li and Greg Ng. Some of Greg’s recent credits include the VIFF 2018 People’s Choice Winner Finding Big Country, Viceland?s The Wrester and Epic?s rock doc series Punk. And Justin’s recent credits include Dirk Gently?s Holistic Detective Agency, CBC?s limited series Unspeakable and historical horror anthology series The Terror: Infamy. This panel was moderated by director Kaare Andrews.

 

Kaare Andrews

Well I think we should start. I’d like to just set the stage with like how you guys got into this where you were your background is are you from here. Are you from some other faraway land. Greg you grew up here and is that right. Or where did you how did you where were you born.

 

Greg Ng

I was born in this city. Yes. And then I went school Richmond. blah blah I went to UBC for the film program and that was very good. Very small kind of program. It?s still small. Then I went to the Canadian Film Centre in 2008.

 

Kaare Andrews

You’re from here as well.

 

Justin Li

I am from here. Yeah I was born here I grew up in Coquitlam just like a suburb outside of Vancouver for those not from here. And then I actually didn’t know films or want to get into. I watched a ton of movies growing up my parents took me every week to cheap Tuesday didn’t matter what the rating was probably not the best parenting but worked out for me. I went to SFU I studied Communications. Then I went to BC IT for broadcast actually and I used to work in sports and news just in various things shooting, graphics ?

 

Kaare Andrews

Let’s back up a little bit a little bit. We’re racing ahead to education but really most people here their love of film starts at an early age. So Greg how did it start for you. What was the what was the what was the turning point for film and then how old were you when you realized that some could be an editor of a film. When did that. When did that happen. That’s secret information.

 

Greg Ng

It’s Star Wars. I loved that. And I got a box set. So the making of and I was like holy moly these guys made aliens and spaceships. I want to do that.

 

Kaare Andrews

When did you when did you realize that there was such a thing as an editor do you remember? Was there a moment when you when it was like oh there’s a whole list of people here that have done different things.

 

Greg Ng

You know I can’t remember the specific moment but I do remember when I wanted to make a movie with my home video camera. I was like How am I supposed to get from this shot to that shot? But without you know they I just like you into the stop start movie making? So I was like there’s gotta be a better way to do this.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah. Your family had a handy camera was it a friend?

 

Greg Ng

Yeah my family had a handicam. It was cutting edge at the time and had a color viewfinder.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Justin how about you when did you get into it like wonder with the love or film one of that kind of emerge?

 

Justin Li

Love of film just came with watching a lot of movies with my family growing up. Yeah. It was always innately there. The first time I saw it as a career opportunity something that I would actually be interested in especially specifically editing was in SFU. I was in a class regarding technology and society and our final project for the class was to do a five minute video documentary on any subject related to the course so my group did online dating. No one knew how to edit, shoot, make anything. I was the most comfortable with computers so I took on editing, pirated some software. I taught myself how to use it I think Sony Vegas or something. That’s how long ago it was. But I taught myself to edit. I got all the footage for the project two nights before our final was due, stayed up for 48 straight hours and was very happy at the end of it and really enjoyed every minute of it. After that I was like Yeah I can do this and I kind of sort of sought those opportunities out.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Greg When was your first when’s the first time you edited something?

 

Greg Ng

I edited in school in elementary school. Doing the two VCR system was probably my first editing experience and I went overboard with like my favorite song of the time and there was some projects I don’t know what it was exactly. We had to remake a Shakespeare scene in modern day times and I took an entire song and had this huge build that only remember the band and it was magic because I was like Can’t you feel the emotion that’s happening right now. The music’s gone all these things and it was very complicated though to time the VCRs with the whole thing.

 

Kaare Andrews

And you been pretty tech savvy since I’ve known you that as it is that what did that lead into. What you liked about editing?

 

Greg Ng

Yeah for sure. I it was a big fan of tinkering with computers and recording devices played music and recorded it. I pirated some software as well. Now that’s not something I do, I?d just like to clarify that I subscribe to all my software. But yeah tinkering with all the gear and sort of knowing how to record things and sort of embellish them and play them back was always really fun.

 

Kaare Andrews

There’s a big connection between music and editing for a lot of people. Is there is there with you Justin? Were you into music at all?

 

Justin Li

I like music but I don’t think it related to editing for me. I like that you can take two images that were totally unrelated. Juxtapose them and just like infuse meaning into them. I think that was something that really caught caught my eye about it. Looking for meaning, creating meaning and I think and you know just empathy was something that was really interesting to me because you could take something and hold it for an extra second and it feels wholly different. Knowing that that’s how it would affect people. I think that that part of it was really interesting. Yeah it sounds like I’m super manipulative.

 

Kaare Andrews

But that’s the job isn’t that manipulative?

 

Justin Li

Yeah I think that’s what holds my interest in it.

 

Kaare Andrews

OK Now let’s get into the school. So Justin when you started school you weren’t initially I’m going to be an editor. In film. You were telling me you were gonna give me Give me the rundown of your school.

 

Justin Li

I went to school for broadcast after I made that discovery about editing. It was more that I also wanted just like work and like you know pay off debts and things like that. So going to BC IT was a quick way to earn a job because I would graduate right when the 2010 Olympics came here. But I knew that we covered production in the course. So I was using that kind of as a back door in and through that met a lot of the editing instructors and that’s actually how I got my first assistant gig.

 

Kaare Andrews

Through one of the instructors at school?

 

Justin Li

Yeah. So he is a post producer in town and I kind of just asked him after this they have these conferences with all those staff and you can ask them questions as students and stuff and try to improve the program. And I went out to him afterwards and I asked him if I could take his course at night or anything in addition to my broadcast course. And he let me audit it for free. At the end of that course they had everyone apply for jobs to be a first assistant on one of his pilots that he was doing. And the editor chose me and that was my first gig.

 

Kaare Andrews

Oh that’s cool. That’s great. Greg how did your first job come along?

 

Greg Ng

I actually had a similar story? UBC. Yeah I went to the film program there when I finished the program one of the teachers knew somebody who is a post supervisor and was looking for a post P.A.. And so right out of like I graduated and started working at Bright Light Pictures where I learned a lot about you know how movies actually got made.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah. Now let’s say what that first job were you prepared for that job. Was it overwhelming and was it easy when was that what was it like to see.

 

Greg Ng

I mean the first one being a post P.A. it was like just being a production assistant you know for post-production and was pretty it was pretty light. There was you know getting lunches. I built a lot of spreadsheets a lot of I built a database a lot of sort of that sort of stuff I procured certain things for certain people that are now legal. There was not part of the description but it was something that fell upon me.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Justin how were you when your first job what was that what was that experience like?

 

Justin Li

It was good. I mean it is you don’t really learn too much about syncing and dailies paperwork and all that stuff in school. So you know you go there and you lean on another assistant if they’re there or you know they train you in afternoon and it’s kind of trial by fire it’s sink or swim I didn’t delete all the footage my first night ? everything got sunk I was ready for everyone in the morning you know it’s like yeah it’s kind of it you just get thrown into the deep end. But yeah thankfully it worked out for me. I was just comfortable enough with technology and computers and stuff that I think I was able to muddle through it.

 

Kaare Andrews

And what about what about the first time. You you’re now working started your your your career working as a lower position. The first time you started you were you editing your own material on the side or how did that. Did you have time even. I mean it’s very busy.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I think for me once I made the jump fully into film you grab anything you can edit I mean you’re not getting paid for it. I think that’s probably what everyone needs to understand is you can’t get a editing job that’s going to pay you right out of the gate. You need to build credibility and also prove yourself to people. So for me while I was assisting assisting was great it paid the bills and it gave me a real a real life like opportunity to learn from masters of the craft and people that I consider like the best editors in town. And then on the side I’d be cutting everything I could shorts, reels? like whatever people will give you and let you mess with. And I think that by far accelerated my learning and my ability to do so.

 

Kaare Andrews

And how did you how did you get those little things. How did you get those shorts and those reels?

 

Justin Li

Word of mouth. There you go. You go network. I think we didn’t have the VPA back then. That’s something that we have here now that you can go to networking events for. It’s talking to people in other departments on shows that you’re working on I think you know at your entry level there’s someone at an entry level in Camera, in ADing, whatever and they all need editors particularly free ones so there’s opportunities there. I think it’s just making it known that you’re interested in those opportunities to anyone that will listen and eventually someone will ask them and they’ll pass your name on.

 

Greg Ng

When I’m on set. It’s. Like it’s like everyone’s always making their own projects. Yeah I guess it’s just finding those people that are making their own projects and to make things with.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Greg, what about you? When you were at Bright Light and were you cutting shorts and things like that Bright Light?

 

Greg Ng

Yes I was. I was cutting things on the side and then I would do all this sort of fast film competitions that were happening. I did a lot of 48 hour competitions a lot of the 24 hour all the hours. Crazy eights. Yeah. And so that was kind of like I met new people and did fun things on the weekend and lost a lot of sleep. Working on short films Yeah.

 

Kaare Andrews

How long did you spend at Bright Light and doing these shorts and stuff on the side. And then when did you leave. Like what what was what happened next.

 

Greg Ng

I think I was there for three or four years. Kind of post P.A. working and then eventually evolving into assistant editor. Learning the ropes from the other assistant editors that were working there.

 

Kaare Andrews

By the time you jumped into assistant editing. Did you understand the job or was it still a very new experience?

 

Greg Ng

It was I think the I mean there’s a huge difference between assisting and editing. Editing is you know the emotion whenever I like putting them together the creative side and assistant editing on a feature scale is you know is a huge sort of organizational nightmare. And still lots of you know tracking viz effects shots and I think I learned a lot about sort of just managing this sort of monstrosity that a movie can be when it’s big on a short film. You know my organization and I think in the beginning like working on Final Cut 7 or whatever it’s all just like everything in one folder and you know it’s happening in 48 hours I don’t need to remember the footage scrub the footage and like where’s the shot. We don’t have it. But on a feature you know I learned a lot about organizing and know how to just like simplify and refine and all that sort of stuff just through assisting. I think taught me a lot about how to break things down into their elements and sort of make things manageable.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Justin when did you start officially assistant editing?

 

Justin Li

I think it started around 2000. I did that first one in 2010 but I was still working broadcast for a while. So I went into it full time in about 2012.

 

Kaare Andrews

How did that happen?

 

Justin Li

It’s just opportunities came up. I was able to roll on to from like a MOW to a limited series to a series kind of back to back to back with overlap.

 

Kaare Andrews

Kind of with the same core people?

 

Justin Li

You know like similar Post Supervisor. You know when I got into that series there were four editors I got to work with three of them two or three of them. One of those editors and I hit it off and he took me to another post supervisors so that my network you know, grows. And you know from there then I got to work on a different series and you need more editors and that’s kind of how it is for assistants. I’d say it’s wonderful to build rapport with the same post supervisor because that’s how you’ll ultimately get opportunities in the end when they trust you and you put your time in with them. But at the same time you can’t put all your eggs in that basket. And I think not being afraid to take chances and work with new people is is something that’s important because when you work with new people your network grows and then there’s that many more opportunities flying at you especially if you’re good.

 

Kaare Andrews

What was that initial learning curve like when you were just into it?

 

Justin Li

It was you know it was intense and was fast paced but it was something I was very passionate about so you know I think on those shows like I would pull all nighters sometimes just because I was given like an action scene and I wanted it and they’re just like oh can you do sound for this and I’m like Okay I’m going to crush sound for this. And I stayed up like the entire night went home to shower came back to work and you know and that’s ultimately the editor that took me onto another show with him. So it’s like you know it was steep. The other thing too is I would say if you’re in opportunity where you get to work on a series or there’s multiple First Assistants or assistant editors in general talk to each other like teach each other stuff because the amount of stuff I’ve learned from them. Like James Lawson’s in this room as an assistant editor. I don’t know how much stuff James taught me. Like most all of my templates and stuff are from James. It’s like so you know talk to each other and don’t don’t be kind of protective of your skills. I think sharing them with other people and other assistants is only gonna make you better you need to. You need to support each other and have each other’s backs. And I think for me like that allowed me to grow as an assistant editor and ultimately as an editor too much more quickly.

 

Kaare Andrews

So some of those first things you can do to really prove yourself was like sound design things like that temp sound.

 

Justin Li

Yeah sound design. I think it’s a sound design temp visual effects like I didn’t really know how to use anything but you know we have YouTube now. You can get a tutorial for like anything whatever is asked of you. Just give it like go for it and then try to figure it out. Like even if even if what you did isn’t great. Ultimately if you try people will appreciate it and they’ll take notice of it and you’ll learn and the next time you get asked to do the same thing you’ll do it that much better.

 

Kaare Andrews

I’ve worked with editors and they’re like oh there was this other assistant on the show and I demanded he was my assistant cuz? he does amazing things with sound or whatever there was you know certain things that people get known for. And Greg, what was the first what were the first areas you could like prove yourself as someone who could do things in a way that was exceptional.

 

Greg Ng

Well similarly I had an action scene. Lots of bullets to ricochets lots of big boom. There was definitely something that I prided myself and was like working with sound like? how can you take a sound that’s there and sort of bend it into something that became like you know as polished as possible for? there?s sort of the attitude that it just has to be good enough to you know sell the idea for it the scene to work. And then there’s the idea that it has to be you know just polish that scene as much as possible so that people don’t have to necessarily rely on their imagination to make it work which translated into temp effects. And other such things. So I learned how to do after effects and whatever smoke 3D stuff and whatever like just to make it pass.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah I know for me when I’m when I’m doing my director’s cut and there’s. Great sound design temp sounds in the cut I know it’s going to it’s going to make the sound designers rise up to at least that level. Like it or not you’re trying to beat it. You know yeah it’s super important to have not just placeholders but like good work there.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I think to your point I like doing temp sound may seem frivolous because it’s ultimately all gonna get replaced but it’s a really great way to show your taste level and ultimately becoming an editor is? it’s about your taste like the whole job is based on your opinion and I think if you can showcase that you have that high level of taste or a level of taste that’s in sync with what the director the showrunner the other editor wants. I think that’s a good way to inch your way into being given scenes to assemble because they’re like Okay I trust this person. They clearly know how a show should look sound and feel. So let’s give them more chances.

 

Kaare Andrews

So what what were some of those early chances that you were given in terms of OK here’s what you do run on this. Justin?

 

Justin Li

Yeah. I mean like for me it’s like you know you did sound and then be like oh like this guy can understand music you understand kind of like sound design a little bit like you don’t need to be a master at it but it’s something something you can work at. I mean we all watch TV and movies you should have a rough idea of how things are supposed to look and feel and then yeah you do that for editors and they?re like Hey this is pretty good. I’m getting slammed I have nine hours of dailies today. Can you take the scene off my plate and the answer’s yes. See you do it. And then hopefully that goes well I think and then that will snowball right.

 

Kaare Andrews

Do you remember the first chance to show yourself?

 

Justin Li

I think it was just the dialogue scene. I mean most editors will start you off small. They’re not going to give you something with a ton of coverage because they ultimately need to know that coverage inside and out but they’ll give you a dialogue scene three or four setups and then you just I think it was something like that as you’re just cutting back and forth between two people talking? And and that goes well enough and they give you a bigger scene and the bigger scene and then eventually you’re cutting something like 26 setups. And I think you know and it’s it’s all frozen. He’s just learned a long way.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah yeah. Greg what do you remember the first kind of chance you were given really prove yourself in a scene?

 

Greg Ng

You know I can’t exactly when I think back to that time. There was a lot of energy drinks and a lot of late nights in my memory it was kind of foggy of those holes so I don’t? I do remember one particular scene in a movie that I was given a chance to do some cutting on and it involved the Taliban running through fancy gardens chasing after Hitler or something. It was just bananas.

 

Speaker 34

What movie was this?

 

Greg Ng

Uh Postal, I think? Yeah I was assisting for Julian Clarke and it was he was very knowledgeable and it was a fun wacky time.

 

Kaare Andrews

When you say he?s knowledgeable like what what did what did you learn from him or one of your other editors you worked with around that time that stayed with you? You just kind of starting to be given these chances to prove yourself. You’re kind of you’ve kind of learned things technically. What were some of the early points of advice that really helped get you know get you where you’re going.

 

Greg Ng

Well I think we were just talking about sort of you know polishing the scene and refining and refining and I do remember not one thing that comes to mind right now not from Julian but from the movie I worked where they I didn’t like I knew people were using test scores but I didn’t know the certain level to which temp scores were being used where like they were really they were pulling like from one scene there was like pulling from like a dozen different movies and each one of those things were like a tiny little sting to make you know make the movie sound like it was fully scored. And that was the first time I saw a temp score being used so meticulously and I there was a period of time where I just couldn’t wait to work on any short film so I could mess around with the temp score from Indiana Jones or whatever like the biggest movies possible just to give it like a huge sound but to time it to your own movie.

 

Kaare Andrews

And then specifically for like someone like Julian was it was there a thing that sticks out like his approach to something that that inspired you to do try things a new way or?.

 

Greg Ng

I will say he was very inspiring but I couldn’t tell you like a nugget of wisdom that he may or may not have told me. I remember I picked him up one morning and we were driving to the office and or maybe we were driving home. It was a foggy time and he was looking out the window and said something like he was like looked over and he’s like I think I must be daydreaming because I just was like looking out the window and be like you know this window needs some matte bars because it’s not the right aspect ratio.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Justin what about you? Were there any early mentors or editors that?

 

Justin Li

Yeah totally. I’ve had lots of editing mentors which is what I’ve been very lucky about. A lot of guys in town that have brought me up taking me under their wing I think building on what I was saying earlier about proving yourself to them and then being given some trust in assembling scenes of stuff. It’s great to assemble and it’s always nice when you click on that bin later and like there’s been very few changes. But ultimately all that assembling is not gonna help you a lot from a learning standpoint unless you have someone that’s willing to discuss it with you. And that’s ultimately up to the editor but if you get a chance to work with someone and they are okay with you assembling I think it’s important to make sure that you ask to see if they can talk through that edit with you after especially after they’ve done changes you know they might ask you why you made certain decisions which is an important skill to learn because once you’re working with someone like Ari and it comes in the room and he shot the special and you don’t use it you have to explain why. So I think breaking down your assemblies with that editor is is where I got most of my wisdom from from these editors. Like they they tell you they basically take the position of the producer or the director and you have to explain to them like they would explain to someone else why certain decisions are made. So I think that’s most of my learning was from editors in that way. Yeah. And I think also just like just building on that. And if you get past that point and you have a really good working relationship with the editor sometimes it’s just being in the room with them it’s like you probably learn more from you’ll probably learn a ton from Julian but you can’t peg a specific thing but being around him and seeing how he conducted himself I’m sure it was helpful for me when I worked with editors that I was close to and I was able to be in the room with them when they’re working with directors and producers and show runners and you can be in there with them as they’re doing their cuts. It’s great to be a fly on the wall. You see how they talk to them. The types of questions they get asked what it’s like to be in that kind of environment. I think if you can work with that editor where you’re in the chair even to a certain degree like it’s it’s a great way to learn. You have someone telling you trims that they want and things like that and then you’re in the hot seat on the controls while someone else is pushing you for what they want. So that’s another thing I would suggest. And even if you have you know if your editor?s too busy or isn’t up for that that’s fine. If you have other assistant editors maybe do that with them as an exercise.

 

Kaare Andrews

So that’s essentially because that’s also the second skill set right. One is just the creative aesthetic taste and two is working in the room with either a director or producer or a showrunner. That’s a different skill. But it has to be wrapped up in the same job.

 

Justin Li

And that’s something that you don’t necessarily learn from an assistant editing standpoint. I mean you have to work in a team and there’s interpersonal skills which are always important. But in terms of how to operate within that dynamic and navigate the politics of being an editor I think you don’t get that unless you can be that fly on the wall.

 

Kaare Andrews

What were some of the early things you learned from that dynamic that let’s say let’s say working with the director. Yeah. What are some of the lessons you learned early and like how that works.

 

Justin Li

However much you may critique the footage in private. Don’t do it in front of the director. Nothing is a problem. It’s just could be better. Like you know those kinds of things. It’s how you speak to someone how you conduct yourself I think. And also just like in how you can gain trust so that they’ll take your opinion seriously and also how to offer that opinion without offending them.

 

Kaare Andrews

Because different directors too, I mean I came up making shorts, learning to edit myself because there was no editor to work with until? maybe like Greg but some directors have no technical ability at all and just rely on you as? for that entirely and somewhere some are very tech savvy and know what you’re doing. Like what is that difference?

 

Justin Li

It’s like the skill sets are important. And I think you need to quickly gauge how it is someone likes to work whether that’s them micromanaging you or not micromanaging but whether it’s right or whether it’s them being like two frames one frame one frame or someone being like I want this faster. Like as a global note. So it’s like everyone works differently. And it’s also learning how to interpret that information and execute it quickly.

 

Greg Ng

Or someone saying two frames two frames they really mean faster. But they’re trying to micromanage?.

 

Justin Li

And like you know and you need to figure out how to navigate that rapport that you’re hopefully building from the moment they walk in the room and then make suggestions to them or be like you know like Is this what you wanted. Yeah.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Greg I know we’re just working on a movie now and during shooting what I like to do with editors call them every day. Just like recap what happened the day before. Because to get a clean perspective of like what what actually happened beyond the drama of the set and late nights and you know all that all that stuff things not happening things compromising all that stuff like. How do you how do you like to work best with directors in general on a film.

 

Greg Ng

Well I sort of started by saying. Coming up sort of in the sort of indie world or whatever working on a bazillion shorts or whatever. I was I was not always but I have a strong preference and would continue to work with people that would have good rapport with or trust or like we can have a good banter because like we?re? Justin was saying it’s all about your opinion and you don’t want to have to conceal anything or you know we’re supposed be critical about what’s happening no matter how many great specials there were or how many hours had to go into whatever the crane shot like. We have to look at it and judge it for what it is. And so I you know having to be able to be able to trust the people you’re talking to and that they could trust you if it went so you can if you have that sort of rapport everything becomes easy.

 

Kaare Andrews

It’s like I’m like an honesty in editing right. Yeah like it’s when you have to be honest with what was the what do we have? Yes sometimes you have shit right. You nothing there. And if you’re not honest with each other and you just try to pretend something’s there it’s gonna wreck the whole project. Or maybe you have to adjust. Maybe there’s still three days left to shoot and you can fix it if you’re honest with each other and if you’re not there’s no chance.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah. Everything is wonderful then the movie may not be. Yeah you know you have to be able to be very frank without having any ego on the line when it comes to that. Like if you’re calling me I have to be able to tell you. This was shit. And also you have to be able to tell me what you’re doing is shit if it’s shit and I have to be able to understand that you know it’s you know you get to sort of leave the ego at the door. It’s everyone’s movie and you need to make it the best. It’s not like in the edit room it’s nice to sometimes think look at this great movie I?m making it and I’m going to the big bush here and then we’re going to cut to the thing and then you know it’s not my movie to sort of you know I like the movie to be the best it can be but we have to work together to sort of make it.

 

Kaare Andrews

Let’s just back up a little bit. When did you start. How did you start. Now you’re assistant editing. You’re cutting on projects on the side. What was your first big break in in editing a big project and how did that happen?

 

Greg Ng

My first feature was directed by a woman named Tracy Smith who was working at Bright Light and had her own script that she wanted to shoot. She did a no budget movie and raised her own money did like there was like 50 producers you got a you could buy a producer credit for 500 bucks or something. Everyone was volunteering the whole thing. I’ll say you know it’s not a great movie but I learned a hell of a lot on it about just editing you know multi camera stuff long form being you know thinking sort of about you know what how does is this movie making sense which you know working with the director and kind of like having that relationship or calling them up and being like this looks like a student film at certain points can we please reshoot some stuff.

 

Kaare Andrews

Why did Tracy choose you. How did that work?



Greg Ng

Because I was free. It was a large one. I had cut a short film of hers before too. I think we got along really well which you know goes a long way.

 

Kaare Andrews

So no money at the time. How much time did you give to the project. How long did it take?

 

Greg Ng

I couldn’t tell you. It was all after work. Kind of weekends and after work for months I remember there was one summer where I didn’t have the summer I spent it looking in front of a computer trying to make this movie happen but it did happen and then that obviously led to other movies. You know people saw people that were involved knew that I cut it and then you know we’re good around this guy cutting some movies or cut this movie and they got you know a bunch of other shorts.

 

Kaare Andrews

And how did you meet Tracy to do the first short film?

 

Greg Ng

When she came downstairs where the editors were at Bright Light and she was like looking for a who’s gonna cut this thing for me. I need eight cuts in this short film. And I said Yeah. Like. I can do that.

 

Kaare Andrews

Because you volunteered to do that short. It allowed you to volunteer your whole summer away to do the feature. And do you think that was the key? That was the key that that opened up that?.

 

Greg Ng

It was a key I think in the way that I sort of look at it. You know I worked with a lot of filmmakers. I think I cut 50 or something shorts or more out of all those people that I worked with the filmmakers I worked with maybe 10 percent of them went on to do something bigger and then eventually they all came up with projects. You know working on fast films and building relationships with filmmakers you know at the time like when you’re making something on you know mini DV on a weekend and you’re not sleeping it may not seem like much but down the road somebody is gonna call you back and be like Hey!

 

Kaare Andrews

Like when you’re doing a film directors pick their editors. I mean they have to get approvals but if I?ve done a shot with you and had a good experience and we?ve already built up our trust. I know I can trust you with my feature film in a way that maybe I’m working with a very experienced editor. I would be wary that they would use their position to override me or or politicize the process or like take it over or like it’s almost more effective as a director to work with an up and coming editor that you’ve worked with on a smaller project because you know how it’s gonna go and you have the trust already and you want to prove something you know and you wanted to prove something like like you know you have that energy you gather you’ve already built in the two of you can go against the world in a way that if you’ve got a very experienced editor maybe it maybe you won?t feel so empowered or so like you’re fighting on the same team? Justin what was your what was the what was your very first big project and how did that exactly happen.




Justin Li

I think probably like a really big break for me was a TV series called Dirk Gently and that was something I started off on as an assistant and I was it was a producer I’ve worked with many times, editors that I was familiar with so it?s again people I’ve had relationship with for a long time. Ultimately they needed someone to fill in because you know an episode needed attention. I think the pilot was taking quite a while and then in the rotation they needed someone to fill that next slot and assemble and they’d been around me long enough that they thought I could handle it and they asked me to do so so I assembled while doing all of my regular duties as a first assistant I didn’t let any of that stuff slide because I was assembling I think the assembly for me was a bonus. So I would stay late and work on those kinds of things. And then you know after the first season that episode went well and they were kind enough to give me a credit on it even though the editor took over down the line. I took it through director’s notes and the first producers pass. So I got to take it pretty far. I think there was one more producer pass?.

 

Kaare Andrews

So it was the first time sitting with the director in the room?

 

Justin Li

Yeah that director in that situation he was in L.A. so it was remote notes which also made it easier because I could talk things over with the editor if there’s things I was uncertain about. But yeah I mean that that was kind of a big break and I think it ultimately led to them giving me my own show the following year because I asked for one I think I felt like I earned it and things went well and I think when you feel that opportunity is there it’s OK to ask for it if you ask for it too soon you may not like the answer and it could make your relationships a little weird but so you’ve got a time that.

 

Kaare Andrews

Well I’ve been on series where an assistant editor was given an episode. And it’s it’s like it’s a it’s a celebratory thing in the production like people want to do it and when they do it everyone’s so excited that it’s happened like it. I don’t know if it happens a lot but I know I’ve seen it firsthand where people were so excited to give this person a shot at their own episode and was like everyone really supported that process ? was it like that for you?

 

Justin Li

Totally I mean my whole team and the other assistants like banded together to help me find time to do these things like you know on the second season when I got my own episode I was still a first I said I would come back as a first if I could and they made that happen.

 

Kaare Andrews

So then you put that out there. I’ll come back if I I could have one episode. Yeah. Do you think would’ve happened if you didn’t ask that demand you think that demand actually was the thing that made it happen?

 

Justin Li

It wasn’t so much a demand it was a request. I would say to speak to that I felt comfortable enough doing that because I was really tight with my team particularly my editor which is something advice that I’ve gotten from a lot of editors I’ve worked with and why they said they would give me a chance in the first place because I had their backs it’s like if you’re a great assistant and you take care of your editor when the producers and directors ultimately are deciding whether or not you can have an episode they’re going to ask your editor is this guy ready. Is this girl ready. Is this someone can they handle it. Like are they good enough and you need to have that support and you need to prove yourself as an assistant so that editors will give you that time of day. And also when push comes to shove and someone comes asking them about you they’ll say you’re ready.

 

Kaare Andrews

I’m not that quite a lot especially in TV this you know and every level of production it can be like a grab for power in so many different areas all at once. Like I think if you if you can have someone back. That means so much especially in the TV landscape. I think that’s such a necessary quality to then return the favor later on.

 

Justin Li

Yeah. And I think it’s like they want to support you and they want to see you succeed. I mean there’s always the risk that someone like if you’re too good an assistant someone doesn’t want to lose you as an assistant. But you know I think if you have a good relationship with the editor they’ll look out for you. So I mean and that’s the biggest thing I think for some assistants that maybe struggle to make that jump to the next step is they’re in too much of a hurry. Like to them assisting at least in my situation like assisting is isn’t something that interests them and that’s fair. I think that’s why I admire Greg’s path so much because I think you just want straight to the source. Like you went and found directors and filmmakers that you could just work with and cut for immediately. I think for me I didn’t feel as ready to cut right away. So I chose assisting as an opportunity to continue to work and also work on projects I knew ultimately I would want to cut one day but to hone my craft and learn from these people and like and kind of like slowly do it that way. I mean I assisted for five six years I think maybe more before I really got?.

 

Kaare Andrews

It really is the opposite path because?.

 

Justin Li

I think that’s what’s so interesting and I was like I totally admire Greg like he? I don’t think I had it in me to go out and knock on doors and just like do all those things cuz I didn’t feel like I was ready to handle it.

 

Kaare Andrews

But also for series. Directors don?t hire editors. The director is assigned to the editor. Right, it?s like a different a whole different paradigm from getting those jobs.

 

Justin Li

Yeah. I mean and that’s true. Like for me like I really I mean I want to do like more features and stuff as well. But TV for me is fun and I think because there’s the opportunities for multiple seasons. And like you know repeat business on like the same crews and teams and stuff is a lot easier for me to build that credit. I guess so. And it’s a and it’s like a fun safe environment with like a lot of like team I think with features sometimes it’s like an assistant and editor and then maybe like the director in a room right. Like whereas on a show you might have like three other assistants and then like three or four editors to learn from. So for me it was a really big pool of like people’s brains to pick from and stuff and to learn lots of different skills. I think even now cutting I borrow little tricks and stuff from all the various editors I have assisted over the years.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Greg have you I don’t even notice if you’ve done TV?

 

Greg Ng

I did two documentary series. But yeah but not a dramatic drama.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Justin have you done features at this point?

 

Justin Li

I have done some. Yeah. I for a while especially and this is goes back to me saying try to assist on what you ultimately want to cut on. For me I always want to keep a toe in that pool. So when I was assisting I would purposely try to assist on a feature and a series every year at least one of each if not more if I could fit it in schedule ? wise. I think it gave you an exposure to different styles different workflows different people and networks. So that’s a good way to diversify too. I mean I never ultimately got into reality or docs but I really like scripted both features and series yeah.

 

Kaare Andrews

Now they say this is what they say that you don’t learn from success. Cuz there?s no lessons. You only learn from failure. That’s where you learn everything and the more you can fail and more quickly can fail the more you learn. So what I want to know if what I want to know is now that we’re all so humble as you stated very early on what was was big failure a big fail you really learn from somewhere along somewhere along the way? You don?t have to name names but like what was a situation that really like I learned a big lesson today.

 

Justin Li

The only one I can kind of think of. I don’t know if this totally ties in but it was really early on in my career as an assistant and I just felt like I was getting kind of a raw deal from the show like working like really ridiculous hours like no OT. Like just not being treated well. And then ultimately I spoke up but not in a nice way. I think I kind of snapped. And at that time I actually was making demands and it did not go well.

 

Kaare Andrews

Right you let it build up a little bit too much.

 

Justin Li

Yeah. And I think for me like as my lesson there as an assistant and I still carry it in everything I do professionally is like you’re not owed anything. So you could be an amazing assistant amazing editor no one owes you anything. It’s like like if if you build those relationships and you still have to be good but if you build those relationships and you put in the work maybe someone will take a chance on you and that’s all you can kind of do it’s like plants a lot of seeds. But yeah ultimately no one owes you anything and I think that’s an important thing to remember because sometimes people are in such a rush to get in the big chair or to get to that finish line that they forget they got to put the work in first then and have people actually give them a chance. I think it’s you try to surround yourself with people that you want to ultimately kind of emulate. For me it was like and that I was very specific about what editors I liked assisting and what types of shows I like to be on. For me it was is about kind of like forging that path and making sure that I had like a lot of good influences around me.




Greg Ng

You know as a failure in the short term but I think like there’s been a couple projects maybe more than a couple. I won’t put a number on it that I had the incredibly tough decision to leave for perhaps a another project or? because like it wasn?t jiving or I thought the movie was gonna be something and then it was turning out to be something else. And you know that sort of trust wasn?t there. And so you know I chose to walk off certain projects you know which is tough because you know there’s something? you always want to see it through. You always want to finish it you don?t wanna be a quitter or like you leave a project that’s a big sort of deal to sort of leave something behind. And I don’t think anyone really likes to have some unfinished business or you know to walk away before it’s done. But it wasn’t because anyone was you know yelling at me or? there was nothing there was no hard feelings. It was just sort of the project was not for me. I was not a good match. And you know I’d had to leave which taught me you know when you when you’re picking your projects it’s like you’re asking someone out. It’s like you’re getting married to the project. You know you know we’re gonna be spending a lot of time and it’s a commitment that you feel you need to make and it’s it’s hard when you have to sort of when you know it’s not working though it’s really in the best interest of all parties to sort of quit before it gets too late or you know those tensions build up.

 

Kaare Andrews

So here’s a good question. So Justin have you ever walked away from a job? Have you ever been in a position where you needed to?

 

Justin Li

I have not walked away from a job but I have left probably a little sooner than I had originally planned. This is much more recent and it’s one of the people that I kind of left in a bind is in the room which is why I am laughing as I say this but I had an opportunity to go do something. If the schedule according to plan it would have been a decent time to leave. I mean ultimately is another one of those things like I built enough trust in my team that they had my back. They let me go and they kind of covered for me and they made it work because they are all really awesome people that I was working with and they saw that I had opportunity.

 

Kaare Andrews

So you found a way to do gracefully.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I would say if you’re ever presented with that kind of situation definitely be honest. It’s a small city. Vancouver especially people are going to find out if you’re lying. I think everyone wants to see each other succeed especially if you’ve worked together a bunch of times. I think they’ll understand if you have an opportunity to do something? to kind of like better your career. I mean everyone gets that. No one’s going to fault you for it and there’s proper ways to do it. And I think like you know I mean I’ve probably actually done this a few times which is really unfortunate but there’s another time I was assisting on a show and then I got offered to cut a movie but I wasn’t done assisting that show for quite a while. So I tried to give them as much notice as I could. We tried to get another assistant in to fill in for me. No one was available so I asked them if they’d be cool with me cutting there at night or during the day if things are slow and I said I would hang out as long as it took for them to get another assistant. They were OK with it. The movie was okay with me taking the footage there and then I ended up doing that for like months and they never found another assistant and I finished the show as I finished the show anyways and then I went and I finished the movie. So it’s like you know like for me ultimately I didn’t want to burn any bridges. And when push came to shove I kind of took it on my back instead and I’m like fine I’ll be the one that loses sleep but I’m not going to let any of these shows that I make commitments to suffer.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah I mean it sounds like both both of you have taken these opportunties in a way that you know you just you you’re. You’re making them happen by putting the extra effort in.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I mean it’s like and like I said it’s a small city like your reputation means a lot. I think people will give you more opportunities. And I think if someone knows you have integrity and that you’ll never put their show in a bad position no matter what happens then they’re willing to kind of give you chances.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah speaking of the politics of it. So I know both when I direct TV or films there’s always people that want to watch those director’s cuts before they’re allowed to. I always get these calls from my editors being like: ?can I let them I don’t I don’t want to.? And sometimes I have to be ?No? and sometimes if its a showrunner I really know, I?m like ?yeah, I don?t care, show them.? Depends on the situation but have you been in that bind?

 

Justin Li

Yeah I’ve been in a bind as both an assistant and as an editor you know it’s a it’s a tricky situation. There’s a chain of command in film I think anyone who’s assisting knows you’re an assistant you have your editor?s back above everyone else. You’re an editor you have your director?s back until like the DGC is out of the way and then like they they’re not allowed to do anything anymore. But like you I think just do everything by the book be upfront with everyone. I think again with as with anything else it depends on the situation. But there’s a right way to go about it. I’ve had it before where I was like had a director’s cut in my room that I was doing sound on or something and I went to bathroom and came back and the showrunner?s in there and he knows to hit spacebar on the avid. And then I walk in there and he’s watching the cut. I’m like ?Get out.? Well I mean sometimes you can?t help it but you do your best to be upfront with everyone I think. Same thing with editors or anything. If producers of something are doing something shady I think they’re they ultimately have the experience and the know how to navigate those waters so lean on them for advice on what you should be doing.

 

Kaare Andrews

Greg you were born? I guess with film it?s probably less so.

 

Greg Ng

Most of the projects I’ve worked on have always been very director driven and all that sort of thing. But I do remember when I was the Post’s P.A. walking down the hallway with a FedEx ready to go of a cut of a certain movie and this like happily waltzing down the hallway and passing by the editor was like ?oh how?s it goin?? I’m like oh I?m just fed-exing the movie to blah blah. And he’s like ?What?? And he was unaware the director was unaware and then there was the little storm but I’d learned at that point that everything needs to be copacetic. I was just the messenger.

 

Kaare Andrews

How have you dealt with a difficult personality. Producer? director? No names but like? Like you know it’s a stressful situation. Even the nicest people can be can lose their minds in the pressure cooker of it all.

 

Greg Ng

I generally avoid situations and personalities that I think lead into that but ultimately. Things happen. I think I’m generally a quiet person. I feel like in a situation where people are getting big I think it’s always best to just you know Yoda your way through it and just remain calm. You know I can’t think of a specific example I’m willing to share.

 

Kaare Andrews

You ever had that big personality lose their mind in the room?

 

Justin Li

Yeah I mean it’s film we?re all weirdos. It’s like you can run into like all kinds of personalities and I think at every level you just need to learn how to deal with that. I mean for me in the room I’ve worked with some pretty crazy producers but I keep it about the work. I think if if it’s something that doesn’t jive with you from your personal standpoint like you can’t connect with them on a human level which happens sometimes keep it about the work, stay focused and like you know I think they’ll respect that kind of professionalism side of you. If you really want them out of there, just do everything they ask for as quickly as possible and like especially if there’s timing further down the chain to fix it. But I think yeah it should be professional.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah well I will say maybe not some who’s lost their mind in the room but someone who’s been under the pressure in that room it is nice to have a stabilizing person someone who is not trying to get into the conflict by your side to help ease you off a little bit.

 

Justin Li

Mean it goes back to that whole thing about being a fly on the wall in the room when you can as an assistant because I think you see how people manage those difficult personalities. And I think as an editor your one of your greatest assets to the show you’re working on is that you’re impartial you don’t know what’s going on on set you don’t know how long it took to get that shot like ultimately the story’s the only thing that matters to you and the cuts only thing that matters to you so you can put that out of it.

 

Kaare Andrews

And when you’re editing how important is it to think maybe there is a difference between film and TV I don’t know how important is it to follow the written page and how important is it to find the story that’s underneath the words.

 

Justin Li

Oh I mean yeah I think all storytelling is the same film, tv, docs it’s like you’re finding what that thing you’re working on is about and what kind of emotions and feelings you’re trying to evoke from that. I think the story is a story it doesn’t really matter the format. Dealing with difficult personalities? I think from our standpoint is another thing that’s interesting about it is as an editor you’re kind of a therapist in life too a lot of times like you are organized you’re literally organizing the chaos into a timeline a sequential linear timeline. The madness that happened and also just the person that you’re locked in a room with. I mean you’re you’re gonna spend 12 hours a day in a room with a director a producer it’s like you know for some directors when they see the rough cut sometimes it’s like the worst day of their lives because they think they just they just wasted like hundreds of thousands of dollars. And like all of their time. So you need to talk them off the ledge and learn how to do that. Yeah like you need to be like everything’s going to be OK.

 

Kaare Andrews

A lot of therapy on your end Greg?

 

Greg Ng

Yeah for sure. Lots of listening to people talk about their stories on set and so forth as you know. But I will also add to that that there is I mean I’ve worked on I think I don’t know how the difference is guess future worlds and doc I think especially in the docs that I’ve worked on I myself go bananas and I need someone to talk to. And you know there’s the sort of writer’s block and the editors block that still happens because maybe there’s some words on the page that don’t necessarily translate to the thing and you?re just like Oh my God what am I doing with my life. You know I go through that pretty regularly I think and I think it’s a healthy sign. So but you know not during those times I think it’s terrible but in retrospect. I was thinking about this, I don’t know if this is related at all. But I feel like you know when you’re assisting everything is kind of technical and organizing. I mean there?s still organizing in editing but I think a big part of it is a sort of emotional side of things which I feel like weirdly like somehow deep down inside you know underneath this incredibly emotionless stoic person is like a really emotional crybaby. And I somehow can manipulate myself into feeling these things when I’m watching the movie and like I don’t know? like I know it?s sort of working when I can tap into that emotion. But at the same time maybe that makes me susceptible to you know contemplating my existence and you know?.

 

Kaare Andrews

That sounds exactly like Justin you were saying earlier when you first started editing that magic of finding the empathy and manipulating the emotions shot to shot. Like that is the job. So if you could give three things people like things in threes three things that if they could take away three things tonight: Transitioning from Assistant Editor to Editing.

 

Justin Li

Actually a lot of the advice I’m giving you guys tonight is from Mike Bennis who’s an editor that I assisted for for a long time and gave me a lot of opportunities. So Mike if you’re listening to this podcast thanks. I think it’s kind of like actually when Greg and I met we met the other day briefly just to see what we’d gotten ourselves and two for this. And one of the things we said and this is probably number one for both of us is do it like just cut everything you possibly can get your hands on. I think it’s like I laugh at all those YouTube videos where people repurpose trailers to different genres and stuff but it’s actually probably a good exercise. It’s fantastic. But yeah I think like cut everything you can. Someone asks you for a reel on a show do it. Someone asks you for like like a gag really which I loathe but it’s good experience do it because you’ll end up getting notes from producers and stuff that you have to work on. So I?d say one is just to go out and cut everything you can. Except for unpaid wedding videos. You’re going to get asked a lot. Those are the ones that aren’t worth.

 

Kaare Andrews

It goes back to choose your projects wisely.

 

Justin Li

I think to build on that one which is kind of too I think if you’re working on a show and you have the opportunity to assemble, I think start small and work your way up. Start with scenes, take those scenes build them into acts, take those acts build them in two full episodes or movies. I think that’s the other thing with a lot of assistants. They think that they do a scene assembly they’re ready. There’s a lot more to it than that. I think you need to know how to put an entire show together. So build yourself up to that level and get lots of feedback from people that have been doing the job for longer than you and get regular work like ask them for advice. Lean on those more knowledgeable than you, don’t think that you know everything because you don’t. I mean I’m learning every day still. Every time I work with new editors especially if they’re open to it. I like seeing if they’re open to watching my cuts or having me watch theirs?.

 

Kaare Andrews

You share a lot of cuts with the team?

 

Justin Li

I do when I can. Yeah I think it depends who you work with some editors don’t like it and that’s fine. I think it’s kind of a personal thing. Like with any other artists you don’t want to show your work when it’s not ready and it’s something that’s kind of personal to you. But for me like I I work with some editors a lot that I know are open to that and we will usually watch each other’s cuts like before editor?s cuts go out and give each other notes and feedback and it’s like totally open and honest. And I think it only makes you better. And I think you do that with other assistants like cut multiple versions like work with other assistants and talk about why you like different versions better like all of that is a learning opportunity. I think don’t think of assisting as like this roadblock that is in your way to cutting and then be so excited to get away from it. I mean some people just don’t like the work and that’s fine. I got to that point too and that’s what pushed me to fight for more opportunities. But I think while you’re cutting there’s a lot you can learn and that’s something that you just need to remember.

 

Greg Ng

I’ll just add I mean just add three things. Well you stole some of my answers but I? You get to go out, meet filmmakers and work on films like you can’t cut movies if they’re not happening. You know if those opportunities and those people aren’t making them you know we lost a lot of sleep working on 48 hour movies and fast films and whatever and working after work you know all those relationships having paid off a lot and were super fun to work on. So you know it gives you a lot of chances to like you know I guess the beauty about working on shorts is that they’re always changing, they?re always different, you could work on a western, you could work on scifi, could do a drama and then just sort of little snippets of you know greater genres or whatever so it gives you a lot of room for experimentation just whatever and just you know I think coming together for something like this is super cool because editors, people in post don’t necessarily you know mingle a lot together but it’s nice when there’s community and you know people that are in sets are sort of they’re fighting the battle staying up late whatever eating and their crafty all together and in editing everyone is kind of like in your own room or whatever so it’s nice ? come out of your room and talk to other editors you know share your cuts if you can. That’s definitely I think my first go to is showing other editors the stuff that I have worked out because I have a rapport with them we can talk editing and then you know it doesn’t get I think getting notes from other editors they understand where you’re at like they don’t know like they know it’s a before the rough cut or you can watch a scene with no audio and still kind of get a sense of things because you know what it’s all about.

 

Justin Li

Actually one really important piece of advice I forgot which is something that when I was talking to other editors about coming to this event they all told me to say so I almost forgot: train your replacements. As an assistant if you want to move up, train more assistants. And it’s that same thing where you need to it’s a collaborative art form like you need to be open with everyone and you know it’s a lot easier to get an opportunity and get bumped up to assist if they know there’s another assistant waiting in the wings that can take your spot. I think if there’s like a gap behind you then you know someone might not want to lose you as an assistant editor especially if you?re good so I think you need to take it upon yourselves to train more train more people and make sure that there’s like there’s people there to fill those holes. And you know and selfishly down the road you’re gonna need an assistant too.

 

Kaare Andrews

That’s a good note to end on. And so let’s open up the floor to some questions.

 

Audience Question

I?m just wondering if you guys are still assisting or are you just taking editing jobs?

 

Greg Ng

I’m just editing.

 

Justin Li

I am not anymore. No but I mean now I thankfully am fortunate enough to get steady work as an editor that I haven’t been compelled to assist. But that being said when I first got into cutting I was asked by a lot of people like ?is this your last assistant gig? ?is this your last assistant gig? and I’d be like No I’m totally open to assisting. I think you get to the stage where you assist on things that you might have an opportunity to cut on but I’d never close that door. And I think you know some people need that push to drive them into taking chances to cut more. But for me I just like I said I don’t I didn’t see assisting as a roadblock. It was still a good chance for me to build relationships and learn to cut. So I bounced back and forth between the two for a while until I got steady enough work and I edited.

 

Kaare Andrews

So it is possible though like you were saying you were given your first opportunities while you’re still assisting. Are you able to balance that that for a while. Both assistant editing and then also be given your first couple episodes. How long did you juggle both?

 

Justin Li

I probably bounced back and forth for like a couple of years. I mean it’s people gonna have to want to give you things to edit. Also I think you know you when I’m saying go and cut everything you gotta know that 90 percent of the everything you’re going to go cut is not paying you any money or? like assisting is a great way to learn and pay your bills and then you cut and you grow your career on side.

 

Kaare Andrews

And Greg we’re used still assisting while you were still when you first started to cut bigger things are was there like a hard?.

 

Greg Ng

I had a hard out when I went to the Film Centre. I made a commitment to myself that I was like from now on I’m going to only edit because I figured that would be the best way to evolve and learn. And if I was to sort of dabble then I wouldn’t exactly make that a clear line to everyone else.




Kaare Andrews

So I mean the Film Centre is pretty cool. Can you briefly just tell them what it was like in the editing program.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah it’s like going to a 48 hour film festival for five months and making films all the time full time. Like it was nothing but short films all the time and all kinds of experiments and? one of the coolest things that they did and I think they’d still do it was they tried to find a movie that none of the editors have seen and they gave everybody all the footage, the script, all the whatever and each editor cut a version of the movie that they thought and at the end we watched four different versions of the same movie that were completely different.

 

Kaare Andrews

They give you all the footage all the entire movie just go just do it.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah. Make the best thing you can. Good luck. On the side while we do all these other short films. So they do a lot of very cool things like that but sort of give you a pretty crazy idea of how influential every step of the way is they would also give one writer?s script to all the directors and then each director would direct the same actors and however they saw fit and then yeah all kinds of super cool things.

 

Kaare Andrews

And when you’ve done that hard out if you didn’t hadn’t gone to the Film Centre or you still would have done it.

 

Greg Ng

I don’t know it would have been harder because they wouldn’t have had this reason I guess but it definitely was not an easy transition. I mean I had worked on assisting and I’d saved up you know to be able to afford to go to the Film Centre. I think there was some scholarships from the Arts Council and you know when I came back it was hard to? I couldn’t find work right away. I worked on this doc and yeah it was you know slow? the phone didn’t ring for a long time but I found people that were making movies and I had enough time and I guess savings to kind of afford to do it.

 

Kaare Andrews

Yeah and at that point a lot of the filmmakers you had worked with earlier were starting to get to do projects.

 

Greg Ng

Sure yeah like it worked out well that you know a lot of people that I met working on shorts some 48 hours were making movies that had hundreds of hours or at least a hundred.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I think to your point though about establishing that clear line with people about what position you’re doing that is something that is a struggle I think for a lot of people when you first start out and you’re wanting to transition from assisting to editing. For me it was I would still get calls for assisting jobs all the time while I was cutting and I feel like and it was a good opportunity but ?Oh like I’m already working thanks like I’m actually cutting this thing now? and it’s finding ways to let your old contacts know that you’re you’re doing this now and you’re able to do this and like look I don’t know about for you how hot was reaching out to all your old contacts and establishing to them that you’re also editing now or you’re only editing now like that. That’s a hurdle that you’ll have to go through when you’re leaving assisting.

 

Kaare Andrews

People know you one way and you need to announce to them that you’re?

 

Justin Li

Yeah. And in a lot of ways I mean that’s the frustrating thing is you have to start from scratch almost again. It’s like yes all these people know you but they know you as an assistant. Like they don’t know that you can actually hold your own in an edit suite.

 

Kaare Andrews

Where there some dry spells in that transition?

 

Justin Li

There were. Yeah for sure. I mean there were like chunks of time where I wasn’t working in particular like there was an editing opportunity that I had locked in coming up but it pushed. And you know assistant gigs are long especially if you’re on a series there are usually like five to six months. Right. So for me like I had to keep turning down work because I was holding out to do that to cut that show down the road. But it was like three four months away.

 

Kaare Andrews

And it worked out?

 

Justin Li

Yeah it totally worked out. I mean that show actually led to another show and then led to another show actually that’s that gap is the last time I assisted. So it totally can work out. But you know in that time while I’m getting work, I was like ?Oh no I can’t take it I’m going to cut this thing.?

 

Kaare Andrews

What were you doing in that dry spell? Were you just waiting or were you?

 

Justin Li

I was doing a lot of chores. I was cleaning my house, cooking dinner all that kind of stuff. But yeah I mean I would reach out to people? but actually no that’s not true. I cut an indie in that time. It was something that I told them I’m like I have this pocket of time I’d managed to hear about this indie which was fortunate.

 

Kaare Andrews

Like a non paying job?

 

Justin Li

It paid like a flat and I cut it in my second bedroom. But you know it’s like you fill those times. But yeah but I think that’s that that’s the big hurdle. I think everyone should be aware of and it’s something you need to navigate. I’ve heard of people just cold calling or emailing every producer in town that they know, being like ?I’m an editor now!? And like well not to them you’re not. Like you still need to kind of prove that and I think it’s it’s good to for them to know that it’s something you’re interested and you’re capable of doing. And you know actually truthfully that might work out. They might give you a chance but it’s something you need to kind of figure out based on your connections with people.

 

Kaare Andrews

I think at different times again I think right now right is pretty busy. There’s like most of the others are working.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah and assistants it’s so hard to find?.

 

Kaare Andrews

But it’s a good time. It’s a good time to look for those opportunities if you if you have a reel you can show. If you’re if you’re ready if you’re on that edge.

 

Justin Li

Yeah. I mean reals are an interesting thing too if you’re an assistant and say you’re only assisting you’re not cutting shorts and stuff on the side what are you gonna show someone when they ask you for a reel you know like here’s my temp visual effects that I did? amazing sound here? So that’s and that goes to cutting shorts and other things on the side that you can show. I mean for me actually I still don’t have a reel that’s like a whole other subject because I think reels are silly doesn’t show that you can cut a story at all. It shows that you can push buttons and pace things to music. But it doesn?t really show you edit.

 

Greg Ng

So I was just going to reiterate the exact same thing. You can’t gauge an editor by a demo reel. You can gauge the demo reel by the demo reel.

 

Justin Li

But to refocus it that is something people ask for. So I think making sure that you’ve done enough work on different things that you have something to show when someone wants to see your work that’s important because just being like ?reels are dumb I don’t have one? that’s not going to work either. So you still need to like make sure you’re creating content.

 

Audience Question

Another question. It’s kind of like building off of what you talked about focusing on editing and just editing and when you guys decided in your life that you really want to be an editor. Was there still a point in time where you had to make detours like what you said when you had dry spells when you decided to make detours and said Oh I think I’m not good enough and these other aspects of filmmaking because I guess we all started out as filmmakers. And did you ever make those detours as like directors or writers or producers and do you encourage that sort of thing? Because I mean am I my circle. We kind of fall into that as well because some of us were like I want to be a director but they’re like Oh I think I’ll produce a little bit or AD a little bit. Do you think that?ll help or?

 

Justin Li

I can’t see how being multifaceted could be a detriment. I think if you understand every level of the process that’s only going to make you better at anything you do. I think if you understand the limitations of production and what they have to deal with on set that will make you more sympathetic in the room and understand how to navigate the footage. Think if you understand how things are finished afterwards and online or sound or whatever that will also make you a better editor because you’ll know how to plan for those shortcomings or perhaps you’ll you know they’ll save your ass later on. As far as thinking you’re not good enough. That’s something I think all artists would deal with. I still think I may get fired on every show I?m on.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah me too man.

 

Justin Li

I think you need that insecurity and that drive to to make you better. I think if you walk in and you think that you’re always right you’re gonna have a hard time editing because it’s collaborative. And if you’re not and if you’re not willing to listen to other people’s opinions you’re going to have a really bad time and every every time someone makes you do a note because they will make you do a note you’re going to be miserable.

 

Greg Ng

Yeah. I agree. Like I don’t think you know just because you professionally might be editing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing other things you know to compliment your work or your your creative output. So for sure. Like the more you can do the better. But that being said I do remember that it was when I was in film school this writer came and gave a talk and I often think about what he said where he was like the only thing I know how to do is write and I made it that way so that I would have to write in order to you know feed myself. So he only would write and would take no other work and just like just write and write and write because that was what you did until he was going to do that until someone started paying him. And so you know there’s some value in that too. But balance everything out though.

 

Audience Question

This is more of a freelance editing 101 question. I’m just wondering mostly in indie projects and when you are starting to take on indie projects, how did you navigate like setting your rates and you know getting proper value for the labor and if you had the choice would you suggest to go on like a daily rate, weekly rate, or? You know a flat? From my experience mainly what is offere?

 

Greg Ng

That’s a complicated question with many answers I’m sure. Certain you know jobs if you know the project is super cool you could you know take a look you know do it so that you get the job take maybe a cut or you know a lower rate so that you can have that under your belt. I think ultimately you’ve got to think long term and so in the moment maybe it’s not a good rate but if it’s gonna be a cool project with super cool people that are going to be making movies later down the road it might be worthwhile to do that even then even still I mean today like I work on projects that aren’t massive but you know full of heart and may not have a lot of money but there’s what’s the what’s the word not sweat equity but something along those lines where you know you’re working with a bunch of passionate people that are gonna make something super cool so it’s worthwhile doing it for less than maybe what you’re used to.

 

Justin Li

And I think ultimately that’s a decision you have to make based on the project but from a practical standpoint if you’re looking for just kind of like a 101 on negotiating I think it’s you need to understand what you’re willing to take and take on before you go to the table. I think you have to establish those kinds of boundaries: how long you’re going to work especially if it’s flat, how many revisions, all those kinds of things. I think just to protect yourself. I mean I’ve gotten burned lots of times so I think now I just try to like and it’s super uncomfortable because you’re trying to build relationships but at the same time you have to be blunt and kind of protect yourself. But I think you need to? everyone understands being upfront. I mean that’s kind of the nice thing about emailing and a lot of ways. It’s there’s no tone to it. You can say whatever. Just put a little smiley face haha. But but I think to protect yourself just be upfront with all that. And yeah. And to Greg’s point like you need to gauge what that project is also worth. You like the intangibles of it beyond just the money. If it could lead to something more. If it’s something you’re interested in. If it’s just money. Ask for a lot. Then if they say no, then you don?t have to do it. And if they say yes, you get a lot of money.

 

Kaare Andrews

So that is a very complicated question. That’s a whole nother talk I think?

 

Audience Question

I was at EditFest in August and there was a panel that was talking about reality versus scripted. One thing that they’re going on about which I think really applied to Vancouver, I just wanted your opinion on it was kind of the reality editors find that there?s the stigma against them when they come into scripted and vice versa. And they?re expressing on the panel that when they came from reality to scripted that they’re going to have a bit of an advantage because they’re able to use a lot of the skills that they learned in reality in their scripted work.

 

Justin Li

I think no matter what kind of branch you’re working in in film industry there’s stigma. I think for me trying to jump into features is hard because I have a lot of TV credits. Maybe for someone working in reality it’s hard to jump into scripted. It’s like there’s all those kinds of avenues. I think that kind of goes back to what I was saying about working on the stuff you ultimately want to be cutting even as an assistant because if you’re an assistant in reality it will ultimately lead to editing opportunities in reality and then you’re cutting reality. So that’s something to think about and plan ahead of time. And it’s really unfortunate because for me I think reality editors have it harder than? reality assistants have it harder than assistants on scripted which I’m sure a lot of you can speak to like it’s just way more stuff to deal with.

 

Audience Question

I think there’s a little bit of a stigma this said it’s kind of in Vancouver but it doesn’t really exist to much outside of Vancouver it seems.

 

Greg Ng

I do feel that I mean I haven’t worked in reality I’ve worked in some doc things but there’s for sure snobbery that exists no matter where you go you know what? whatever industry and so but? yeah I do agree that people that are assistants and editors that are working the reality where everybody’s working super hard. It’s just you know the end product may not have a movie star in it or may not have visual effects but it’s still you know the work still good.

 

Justin Li

So yeah and I’m not saying to like quit your job assisting on a reality show because you don’t want ultimately cut reality. I think there’s value in all of that and in working like you’re going to learn something from every show. But you know it’s important to have range and that way you know if someone if someone’s asking you for your credits. Down the road even if you’ve done like reality scripted reality scripted you can give them. If that job is for a scripted show you can give them a CV with just your scripted stuff right. Or if it’s reality show I can give them a CV with just your reality. So I think it’s important to like just have your toe in a lot of different pools so that you can? is that even an analogy? Have your hands and a lot of jars of whatever? just put put things in a lot of other things.

 

Kaare Andrews

I can answer that question as the director. Because my very first feature, that Greg declined to edit, we ultimately used an editor who was a reality editor and this was a scripted thriller and he was editing that cupcake show back in the day. How we ended up being okay with that because it was a you know it wasn’t just me it was like producers in L.A. and Australia and Canada was that he came recommended by Julian Clarke. So it was a process of he had a recommendation of someone who was very esteemed in the genre and we just took a chance we liked him we just took a chance but his credit was the cupcake thing and we had to have this talk. Like explain to these producers that in Vancouver, it?s a smaller industry and there’s the great editors that will work across the spectrum of TV, reality, scripted and features. That’s just the way it is. But it was his relationship with other people that could vouch for him that really helped us get over the hurdle of being able to hire him. But I’ve had the same conversation with films like ?oh he’s a TV guy? or TV ?Oh he’s a film guy? like there’s always that. But I think from my point of view when I when I can hire editors on films it’s like if I can see stuff. Like shorts or other indie features no matter what they’re working on at the moment if I can see an example of how they can translate those skills into something along the way. That’s what I need to see. Like I would I probably wouldn’t just hire someone with only reality show experience to do a drama film unless I could see an example of the drama work even it was a short it was it’s awesome short. That’s great. Like I would you know that’s enough so we’d be looking for those opportunities to showcase the other side of what you could do.

 

Audience Question

Health in Post? Like it’s a sedentary and very stressful aspect of the industry?

 

Justin Li

What’s our advice for staying alive? I’m by nature I’m a very sedentary person. I’m well trained in sitting for long periods of time. So it’s been an easy transition for me. That being said I have had back issues and I know a lot of people that work in post have back issues. So you get us saying let’s go to physio. If you’re in the union, use your benefits. Drink a lot of water so you have to get up and walk to the bathroom.

 

Kaare Andrews

Have you start experiencing eye strain?

 

Justin Li

Eye strain? I’ve not yet I’m shocked that I don’t have glasses yet because everyone in my family has glasses.

 

Kaare Andrews

I start using those blue blocking glasses.

 

Justin Li

I did but that made my eyes blurry because the glasses weren’t very good. So I mean so far I’m OK I turn the blue light filter on your phone then I guess so. Give yourself downtime when you’re not working but yeah?.



Greg Ng

I would say definitely. I don’t know for I rode my bike to work and I think that has saved my life. I got a kneeling chair I got a seating chair I got my standing components so sit stand kneel whatever you know jump up and down if you can. And I think ultimately also in living you’ve got to maintain your health because you’re whole everything is all connected. You know you’ve got to be healthy you think healthy the whole thing. You know when you when you come to work as a healthy person you’re gonna make healthy work so you can you can’t neglect that.

 

Audience Question

What about agents? When did you get an agent?

 

Justin Li

That’s a great question because we have a couple agents in the room actually. I do not have an agent at the moment. It’s something that I’m like I’m definitely thinking about I’m not totally sure if I’m ready for it or not from the people I know who have agents and loved them, it’s it’s a great way to take some of the stress off you. I think going back to the last about health. I think for me the most enticing part about having an agent is expanding a network. I think for me I know who I know. There’s a lot of people I don’t know. There’s a lot of things I don’t hear about until after they’re stuffed up. I think that something that’s really interesting to me especially if there’s different types of work I want to do and I find that I’m stuck in a bit of a bubble. So I think that’s very valuable. From a practical standpoint, yeah they’re negotiating and all of that. I mean how is it for you because you have an agent?

 

Greg Ng

Yes I do have an agent. I still think most of the work comes to me directly but it’s nice to have my agent sort of looking out for me doing promotion because networking whatever maybe he drops my name here and there I don’t know. But you know I’m pretty socially awkward and it’s nice to have an agent who’s out there you know possibly saying ?Oh yeah Greg Ng he’s cutting stuff too! How about him?? You know if he’s just doing that that counts for something.

 

Justin Li

Yeah I think it’s nice to just have someone that can help you navigate the industry. I think for me in lieu of an agent I’ve been leaning on like my friends my co-workers like colleagues and stuff. And that’s kind of been my way of surviving so far without it.

 

Kaare Andrews

I think what you find though I get friends with directors like that they just don’t necessarily get your work. Yeah that’s what really. It’s like they are the buffer between the work. So if there’s money issues, or schedule issues or personality issues they can? it’s nice to have that middle man to like not make it personal. Yeah. A person to not make it personal.

 

Justin Li

That’s a really great point because I’ve heard that before it’s like you know there’s things you want and I think this kind of goes back to what we were saying before about how the emails don?t have a tone I think having an agent also kind of doesn’t have a tone in a way. Like I think they’re they’re doing their job and everyone understands that when they’re asking for things like they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing and no one takes it personally. So it gives you that kind of that layer of protection and a buffer protects you from damaging your relationship. I guess in a lot of ways.

 

Greg Ng

I do think that before considering an agent they can’t necessarily sell you if you haven’t sort of built up a sort of rapport, a bunch of credits, it will be a hard sell to be like ?Oh yeah how about this person cut a bunch of shorts? you to give him this feature?? I think part of? I resisted getting an agent for ever because I just felt like I wasn’t sort of ready for it until I had like enough credits behind me. And then when I did get an agent I had a several sort of exclusions based on people that I’d already worked with and I knew I would regularly work with.

 

Audience Question

I’m relatively new to film. I’ve been told that trying to get IATSE membership is super important. I hear other people say

 

Justin Li

That’s a great question I think especially right now because we’re very short on assistant editors in IATSE I think it’s really? anyone correct me if I’m wrong? getting permittee status in IATSE is super important right now because you know if there’s no one to fill those chairs they go to the permittee list and you might just get a call. I’ve also heard of shows that I’m on like shows very recently that we’re looking for a second assistant editors or to work during the day and they kind of interview people, hired them, and then ultimately couldn’t get them on the show because they couldn’t? they weren’t permittees yet. And it was like it’s taking way too long to get them on. So then they ended up having to give it to somebody else. So I think as with learning while you’re assisting and then getting a permittee status like you have to be ready for when opportunities come knocking. So I would say yeah definitely worth just like I think 100 bucks or whatever you like to get your permittee status. Make sure you’re on the call list because right now people are calling. The town is super busy for post right now like as busy as I’ve ever seen it it’s a good chance for assistants to try and get options cutting especially smaller stuff. And it’s a really good chance for you to get in as an assistant on stuff that maybe you wouldn’t have access to normally, especially if you can show that you’re competent.

 

Kaare Andrews

There’s no one more question. One final question to bring us home. Who’s got that no pressure. Well this will be the most important question of the night.

 

Audience Question

What?s the big dream for both of you?

 

Greg Ng

I always say when I’m talking to various people including my agent I get me onto Empire Strikes Back. That’s what I want. You know. But now that I think about things and my love of Star Wars has shifted since I was a child. But yeah I still have this lifelong dream of eventually working on Star Wars of some kind. The Yoda offshoot movie just the Yoda movie.

 

Justin Li

Definitely not specific. I mean it’s hard. I don’t know if I really have like a dream thing right now. I mean it’s I?m kind of really happy just working and cutting like I didn’t think I’d get to cut full time this quick. So I’m still kind of figuring out the next step. I think for me, I just want to make one thing that I would honestly say is in my top 10 things the whole time I think you spend a lot of time working on stuff especially in the city where we get all range of budgets that you probably would never watch on your own. I just want to work on something that I think I would be really proud of and love and honestly could say that I would have gone and seen that and really really liked it.

 

Kaare Andrews

Great. Before we go. I’m going to ask. Greg and Justin?.

 

Justin Li

You said that was last question!

 

Kaare Andrews

It was the last question from the audience. I just want to refocus once again on this idea transition from Assistant Editor Editor. So there’s one point one thing that you think people could leave with tonight even if it’s restating one thing you’ve said in this past couple hours. But one thing to send people away with to think about on the way home?.

 

Greg Ng

I believed it was Macho Man. But I looked it up and it’s not Macho Man.

 

Justin Li

It was Macho Man Randy Savage.

 

Greg Ng

Macho Man Randy Savage the wrestler rest said it’s like ?Success is when opportunity meets talent.?

 

Justin Li

Yeah just go do it go out and cut it. That’s what you want to be doing. Go out and find those opportunities. Hunt them down give yourself the best possible opportunity and put yourself in a position to succeed. Whether that’s getting a permittee status, being in the ear of people who can make decisions and give you jobs. Learning from every opportunity and every like every assistant gig you get. Find ways to learn and make yourself a better editor. I think it’s when you start showing up to work and it’s just a paycheck and you’re just filling out continuity forms or whatever and not even caring like it’s gonna be harder and harder. Grow because you can get stuck in a rut. So I think chase down those opportunities and make sure that you know if someone comes knocking you’re ready to kill it. And then that’ll lead to more jobs.

 

Kaare Andrews

Great. Well I want to thank Justin and Greg for giving us their? but I’ve learned more more than anywhere else probably here today. It’s all brand new information to me so let’s give them a hand and thank you.

 

Sarah Taylor

Thank you for joining us today. And a big thanks goes to our panelists and moderator. A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae, Sabrina Pitre and Finalé. This panel was recorded by Mychaylo Prystup. The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. Until next time I’m your host, Sarah Taylor.

 

Outtro

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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