By Amy Leland
At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, I went to a screening of the college comedy CRSHD, a feature film by first-time feature writer/director Emily Cohn. CRSHD tells the story of a group of college freshman trying to gain entry to an invitation-only “crush” party, in order to accomplish a pledge one of them made to lose her virginity before the end of the year. The story is told in part through dramatization of their social networking activity in unique and creative ways I hadn’t seen before. She also edited the film.
While I had initially set out to write something about editors working on feature films edited with Adobe Premiere, Emily turned out to be an interesting story all on her own.
A fairly recent college graduate, this enterprising and incredibly talented young woman managed to write her first feature, find a way to get it produced and handle the bulk of the post production process herself. I needed to know more about how she navigated all of this and ended up with a film that looked like far more than a first-time, small-budget indie.
You wrote, directed, edited and produced this film. What was it like bringing your baby to life?
While it’s been so much work, I never really saw it that way. When I look back at it, I’ve loved every step of the process, and I feel so grateful that through this process, I’ve had the most extreme film school boot camp. I was a creative writing major in college, but this was beyond any prior film experience I had, especially in post. I didn’t understand the full process of getting a feature through post.
When I was in high school and was part of the Film Fellows program at the Tribeca Film Institute, I thought that I wanted to be an editor. So that’s something that I really took to.
But on this film, I learned all about OMFs for sound deliverables, and XMLs and all of that. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of all this, because I’d been editing for a while. But for short films or web series, you don’t have to do the back and forth, the round tripping, you don’t have to worry about it as much.
Did that play a part in your decision to edit in Premiere?
Choosing Premiere was definitely a strategic decision. I learned editing on Final Cut, and then I was editing on Avid for a while. I was an assistant editor on a feature doc, doing transcoding and organizing the files in Avid. There was a big part of me that thought, “We should just use Avid,” but it’s an indie film, and I knew we were going to have to use a lot of After Effects, so Premiere was going to be the most streamlined. It was also something that I could operate on my laptop, which is where 90 percent of the editing happened.
What did you shoot the film with?
We had an equipment sponsorship from Canon, so we shot on the C100 with some really nice Prime lenses they gave us. The big question was, “Do we try to shoot 4K or not?” Ultimately, we didn’t because that meant I didn’t have to spend as much money on hard drives, and my laptop could handle the footage. Obviously, I could’ve transcoded it to work with the proxies, but this was all-around much easier and more manageable.
You used a lot of VFX in this, but nothing where having the extra resolution of 4K would make a huge difference, right?
It probably would have been better if we had shot 4K for some of those things, yeah. But it was manageable, and it’s … I mean, it’s an indie film. It’s a baby film. The fact that it made it to Tribeca was beyond cool to say the least.
You said something during the Q&A at Tribeca about focusing on the people using social media versus showing screens —you didn’t want to show technology that would look out of date as fast. That was smart.
I’ve done a lot of reading on it, and it’s a subject I’m very interested in. I’ve been to many filmmaker Q&A panels where the question was, “What makes you want to set it in the ‘90s?” and the answer was, “Because there are no cell phones.” That feels so sad to me.
I’ve read articles that say rom-coms from the ‘90s, or other other older movies, wouldn’t exist if they were set in the 2000s because you would just get a text, and the central conflict would be over.
Some people talk about issues editing long form. Some complain that the project becomes too bloated, or that things don’t perform as well once the project is too long. Did you have any issues like that?
I organized the project carefully. I know a lot of people who say the bin system in Avid is superior to Premiere’s, but I didn’t find that to be a problem, although I did have a major crash that I ended up solving. I do wish Adobe had some sort of help line because that would have helped a lot.
But that was toward the beginning, and essentially what it came down to was that I’m still running the 2017 OS on my laptop with no upgrade, because when I upgraded my OS, Premiere started crashing. It just needed it all to stay where it was, which, now I know!
In addition to After Effects, what other post tools did you use on the film?
We used After Effects for the VFX, Resolve for color and Avid Pro Tools sound. My cousin Jim Schultz, who is a professional music editor, really held my hand through all of that. He’s in LA, but whenever I had a question, he would answer it. Our whole post sound team, which included Summit Post, also in LA, was amazing and made Crshd feel like a real film. I loved that process.
Did you still keep everything grounded in Premiere, and roundtrip everything out to Resolve or Pro Tools, and then bring it back?
Yeah, I onlined everything in Premiere myself.
I’m so overwhelmed thinking about you doing all of this yourself.
I didn’t know any other way to do it. I think it would be a lot easier if I had a bigger team. But that’s also something that’s been really funny with the sales agents (which we secured through the Tribeca Film Festival). They’re like, “Can your team do that?” and I’m like, “No, that’s all me. It’s just me.”
I mean, I have a colorist and a really great sound team. But I was the one who onlined everything.
When the festivals are saying, “We need a cut like this,” you are probably the one pushing all of those exports and deliverables out yourself.
Yeah. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
During that whole process, did you have any parts where you were happy you did it in Premiere, or things that were frustrating?
The film is really funky. We have some YouTube clips in there, a lot of VFX and other types of footage. There were so many moments where I needed to test things out quickly and easily. In Premiere, you don’t have to worry about transcoding everything and different file formats. That was definitely the best in terms of accessibility and how quickly you can play around with your timeline and experiment.
My least favorite thing is, as I said, there is no real help line for Premiere. I was asking friends of friends of friends about a weird exporting glitch that I had. The forums are fine but, yeah, I wish there was a help line.
This film is your baby, but you did collaborate with some others in post. How did that process go?
I feel really lucky. I had an amazing post team. When I watch the movie, I’m happiest about all the things everyone else added that I never would’ve added myself.
One of the sound designers, Taylor Flinn — there’s a moment where our comical security guard character leans forward in his car, and Taylor added a little siren “whoop” sound. It’s so funny to me, and I like it more because I’m not the one who did it. It’s the one moment I always laugh at in the film now, even after seeing it hundreds of times. We had an amazing animator as well, Sean Buckelew. That was another portion of post for us.
I just didn’t realize how long it was going to take. We finished shooting in August 2017, and I was like, “We’re going to submit in December 2017 to Tribeca!” And then it was a full other year of insanity. I did a first cut by September 2017, did a lot of test screenings in my apartment and kept hammering away. I was working with another co-editor, Michelle Botticelli, for about six weeks leading up to submissions, and she was also giving her opinion on all of the future cuts and color and sound.
Any updates on where the film is heading next?
I hope we get distribution. It was at the Cannes marketplace, and we have sales agents. They came on as soon as we got into Tribeca. Tribeca recommended them, and I’m learning as I go.
What’s next for you?
I have a pilot and a show bible for the TV version of CRSHD. Then I have another rom-com that I’m writing. I’m still editing, and since making the movie, I’ve been doing a ton of other side work, like camera operating. But, ultimately, I hope to be writing and directing.
Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.