Tag Archives: editing

Review: Blackmagic’s Resolve 15

By David Cox

DaVinci Resolve 15 from Blackmagic Design has now been released. The big news is that Blackmagic’s compositing software Fusion has been incorporated into Resolve, joining the editing and audio mixing capabilities added to color grading in recent years. However, to focus just on this would hide a wide array of updates to Resolve, large and small, across the entire platform. I’ve picked out some of my favorite updates in each area.

For Colorists
Each time Blackmagic adds a new discipline to Resolve, colorists fear that the color features take a back seat. After all, Resolve was a color grading system long before anything else. But I’m happy to say there’s nothing to fear in Version 15, as there are several very nice color tweaks and new features to keep everyone happy.

I particularly like the new “stills store” functionality, which allows the colorist to find and apply a grade from any shot in any timeline in any project. Rather than just having access to manually saved grades in the gallery area, thumbnails of any graded shot can be viewed and copied, no matter which timeline or project they are in, even those not explicitly saved as stills. This is great for multi-version work, which is every project these days.

Grades saved as stills (and LUTS) can also be previewed on the current shot using the “Live Preview” feature. Hovering the mouse cursor over a still and scrubbing left and right will show the current shot with the selected grade temporarily applied. It makes quick work of finding the most appropriate look from an existing library.

Another new feature I like is called “Shared Nodes.” A color grading node can be set as “shared,” which creates a common grading node that can be inserted into multiple shots. Changing one instance, changes all instances of that shared node. This approach is more flexible and visible than using Groups, as the node can be seen in each node layout and can sit at any point in the process flow.

As well as the addition of multiple play-heads, a popular feature in other grading systems, there is a plethora of minor improvements. For example, you can now drag the qualifier graphics to adjust settings, as opposed to just the numeric values below them. There are new features to finesse the mattes generated from the keying functions, as well as improvements to the denoise and face refinement features. Nodes can be selected with a single click instead of a double click. In fact, there are 34 color improvements or new features listed in the release notes.

For Editors
As with color, there are a wide range of minor tweaks all aimed at improving feel and ergonomics, particularly around dynamic trim modes, numeric timecode entry and the like. I really like one of the major new features, which is the ability to open multiple timelines on the screen at the same time. This is perfect for grabbing shots, sequences and settings from other timelines.

As someone who works a lot with VFX projects, I also like the new “Replace Edit” function, which is aimed at those of us that start our timelines with early drafts of VFX and then update them as improved versions come along. The new function allows updated shots to be dragged over their predecessors, replacing them but inheriting all modifications made, such as the color grade.

An additional feature to the existing markers and notes functions is called “Drawn Annotations.” An editor can point out issues in a shot with lines and arrows, then detail them with notes and highlight them with timeline markers. This is great as a “note to self” to fix later, or in collaborative workflows where notes can be left for other editors, colorists or compositors.

Previous versions of Resolve had very basic text titling. Thanks to the incorporation of Fusion, the edit page of Resolve now has a feature called Text+, a significant upgrade on the incumbent offering. It allows more detailed text control, animation, gradient fills, dotted outlines, circular typing and so on. Within Fusion there is a modifier called “Follower,” which enables letter-by-letter animation, allowing Text+ to compete with After Effects for type animation. On my beta test version of Resolve 15, this wasn’t available in the Edit page, which could be down to the beta status or an intent to keep the Text+ controls in the Edit page more streamlined.

For Audio
I’m not an audio guy, so my usefulness in reviewing these parts is distinctly limited. There are 25 listed improvements or new features, according to the release notes. One is the incorporation of Fairlight’s Automated Dialog Replacement processes, which creates a workflow for the replacement of unsalvageable originally recorded dialog.

There are also 13 new built-in audio effects plugins, such as Chorus, Echo and Flanger, as well as de-esser and de-hummer clean-up tools.
Another useful addition both for audio mixers and editors is the ability to import entire audio effects libraries, which can then be searched and star-rated from within the Edit and Fairlight pages.

Now With Added Fusion
So to the headline act — the incorporation of Fusion into Resolve. Fusion is a highly regarded node-based 2D and 3D compositing software package. I reviewed Version 9 in postPerspective last year [https://postperspective.com/review-blackmagics-fusion-9/]. Bringing it into Resolve links it directly to editing, color grading and audio mixing to create arguably the most agile post production suite available.

Combining Resolve and Fusion will create some interesting challenges for Blackmagic, who say that the integration of the two will be ongoing for some time. Their challenge isn’t just linking two software packages, each with their own long heritage, but in making a coherent system that makes sense to all users.

The issue is this: editors and colorists need to work at a fast pace, and want the minimum number of controls clearly presented. A compositor needs infinite flexibility and wants a button and value for every function, with a graph and ideally the ability to drive it with a mathematical expression or script. Creating an interface that suits both is near impossible. Dumbing down a compositing environment limits its ability, whereas complicating an editing or color environment destroys its flow.

Fusion occupies its own “page” within Resolve, alongside pages for “Color,” “Fairlight” (audio) and “Edit.” This is a good solution in so far that each interface can be tuned for its dedicated purpose. The ability to join Fusion also works very well. A user can seamlessly move from Edit to Fusion to Color and back again, without delays, rendering or importing. If a user is familiar with Resolve and Fusion, it works very well indeed. If the user is not accustomed to high-end node-based compositing, then the Fusion page can be daunting.

I think the challenge going forward will be how to make the creative possibilities of Fusion more accessible to colorists and editors without compromising the flexibility a compositor needs. Certainly, there are areas in Fusion that can be made more obvious. As with many mature software packages, Fusion has the occasional hidden right click or alt-click function that is hard for new users to discover. But beyond that, the answer is probably to let a subset of Fusion’s ability creep into the Edit and Color pages, where more common tasks can be accommodated with simplified control sets and interfaces. This is actually already the case with Text+; a Fusion “effect” that is directly accessible within the Edit section.

Another possible area to help is Fusion Macros. This is an inbuilt feature within Fusion that allows a designer to create an effect and then condense it down to a single node, including just the specific controls needed for that combined effect. Currently, Macros that integrate the Text+ effect can be loaded directly in the Edit page’s “Title Templates” section.

I would encourage Blackmagic to open this up further to allow any sort of Macro to be added for video transitions, graphics generators and the like. This could encourage a vibrant exchange of user-created effects, which would arm editors and colorists with a vast array of immediate and community sourced creative options.

Overall, the incorporation of Fusion is a definite success in my view, whether used to empower multi-skilled post creatives or to provide a common environment for specialized creatives to collaborate. The volume of updates and the speed at which the Resolve software developers address the issues exposed during public beta trials, remains nothing short of impressive.


David Cox is a VFX compositor and colorist with 20-plus years of experience. He started his career with MPC and The Mill before forming his own London-based post facility. Cox recently created interactive projects with full body motion sensors and 4D/AR experiences.

Edit house PS260 launches content studio, We Know the Future

Creative editorial house PS260 has launched its own creative content studio. We Know the Future offers in-house production capabilities and advertising solutions across all screens. These offerings will be available in NYC and LA.

JJ Lask, PS260’s co-founder, partner and editor, is leading the new content studio from the company’s LA office, with support from all PS260 editors and staff across both offices.

Currently, PS260’s We Know the Future partners with various creatives, from writers and directors to social media influencers, to support its content production with plans to build out the team in the next year. The first project from We Know the Future is American Counselor, which launched during the first week of July on PS260’s YouTube channel timed to the Fourth of July holiday. The link to the first episode is here, and the subsequent episodes will post each week throughout the summer.

PS260 and We Know the Future edited and produced American Counselor, respectively, and worked with the director of the 14-episode digital series, Brendan Gibbons. The series personifies both the liberal and conservative sides of the US as a husband and wife going through marriage counseling. Actors include Annie Sertich (2 Broke Girls, The Office), Ptolemy Slocum (Westworld, The Sopranos) and Marc Evans Jackson (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jumanji), who plays the American counselor.

In addition to American Counselor, Lask is working on a show directed at dads, called That Dad Show. It will appear on Facebook this fall and will be produced by the new content studio.

“The launch of PS260’s content studio is a response to a new advertising landscape,” says Lask. “PS260’s advantage is our visual storytelling talent. We are now leveraging that talent to develop, create and produce longer format episodic content combined with advertising solutions distributed across all the leading social channels.”

Roundtable: Director Autumn McAlpin and her Miss Arizona post team

By Randi Altman

The independent feature film Miss Arizona is a sort of fish out of water tale that focuses on Rose Raynes, former beauty queen and current bored wife and mother who accepts an invitation to teach a life skills class at a women’s shelter. As you might imagine, the four women who she meets there don’t feel they have much in common. While Rose is “teaching,” the women are told that one of their abusers is on his way to the shelter. The women escape and set out on an all-night adventure through LA and, ultimately, to a club where the women enter Rose into a drag queen beauty pageant — and, of course, along the way they form a bond that changes them all.

L-R: Camera operator Eitan Almagor, DP Jordan McKittrick and Autumn McAlpin.

Autumn McAlpin wrote and directed the film, which has been making its way through the film festival circuit. She hired a crew made up of 70 percent women to help tell this tale of female empowerment. We reached out to her, her colorist Mars Williamson and her visual effects/finishing artist John Davidson to find out more.

Why did you choose the Alexa Mini? And why did you shoot mostly handheld?
Autumn McAlpin: The Alexa Mini was the first choice of our DP Jordan McKittrick, with whom I frequently collaborate. We were lucky enough to be able to score two Alexa Mini cameras on this shoot, which really helped us achieve the coverage needed for an ensemble piece in which five-plus key actors were in almost every shot. We love the image quality and dynamic range of the Alexas, and the compact and lightweight nature of the Mini helped us achieve an aggressive shooting schedule in just 14 days.

We felt handheld would achieve the intimate yet at times erratic look we were going for following an ensemble of five women from very different backgrounds who were learning to get along while trying to survive. We wanted the audience to feel as if they were going on the journey along with the women, and thus felt handheld would be a wise approach to accomplish this goal.

How early did post — edit, color — get involved?
McAlpin: We met with our editor Carmen Morrow before the shoot, and she and her assistant editor Dustin Fleischmann were integral in delivering a completed rough cut just five weeks after we wrapped. We needed to make key festival deadlines. Each day Dustin would drive footage from set over to Carmen’s bay, where she could assemble while we were shooting so we could make sure we weren’t missing anything crucial. This was amazing, as we’d often be able to see a rough assembly of a scene we had shot in the morning by the end of day. They cut on Avid Media Composer.

My DP Jordan and I agreed on the overall look of the film and how we wanted the color to feel rich and saturated. We were really excited about what we saw in our colorist’s reel. We didn’t meet our colorist Mars Williamson until after we had wrapped production. Mars had moved from LA to Melbourne, so we knew we wouldn’t be able to work in close quarters, but we were confident we’d be able to accomplish the desired workflow in the time needed. Mars was extremely flexible to work with.

Can you talk more about the look of the film.
McAlpin: Due to the nature of our film, we sought to create a rich, saturated look color wise. Our film follows a former pageant queen on an all-night adventure through LA with four unlikely friends she meets at a women’s shelter. In a way, we tried to channel an Oz-like world as our ensemble embarks into the unknown. We deliberately used color to represent the various realities the women inhabit. In the film’s open, our production design (by Gabriel Gonzales) and wardrobe (by Cat Velosa) helped achieve a stark, cold world — filled with blues and whites — to represent our protagonist Rose’s loneliness.

As Rose moves into the shelter, we went with warmer tones and a more eclectic production design. A good portion of Act II takes place in a drag club, which we asked Gabe to design to be rich and vibrant, using reds and purples. Toward the end of the film as Rose finds resolution, we went with more naturalistic lighting, primarily outdoor shots and golden hues. Before production, Jordan and I pulled stills from films such as Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Black Swan and Short Term 12, which provided strong templates for the looks we were trying to achieve.

Is there a particular scene or look that stands out for you?
McAlpin: There is a scene when our lead Rose (Johanna Braddy) performs a ventriloquist act onstage with a puppet and they sing Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.”  Both Rose and the puppet wore matching cowgirl wardrobe and braids, and this scene was lit to be particularly vibrant with hot pinks and purples. I remember watching the monitors on set and feeling like we had really nailed the rich, saturated look we were going for in this offbeat pageant world we had created.

L-R: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Shoniqua Shandai, producer De Cooper, Johanna Brady, Autumn McAlpin, Otmara Marrero and Robyn Lively.

Can you talk about the workflow from set to post?
McAlpin: As a low-budget indie, many of our team work from home offices, which made collaboration friendly and flexible. For the four months following production, I floated between the workspaces of our talented and efficient editor Carmen Morrow, brilliant composer Nami Melumad, dedicated sound designer Yu-Ting Su, VFX and online extraordinaire John Davidson, and we used Frame.io to work with our amazing colorist Mars Williamson. Everyone worked so hard to help achieve our vision in our timeframe. Using Frame.io and Box helped immensely with file delivery, and I remember many careful drives around LA, toting our two RAID drives between departments. Postmates food delivery service helped us power through! Everyone worked hard together to deliver the final product, and for that I’m so grateful.

Can you talk about the type of film you were trying to make, and did it turn out as you hoped?
McAlpin: I volunteered in a women’s shelter for several years teaching a life skills class, and this was an experience that introduced me to strong, vibrant women whose stories I longed to tell. I wrote this script very quickly, in just three weeks, though really, the story seemed to write itself. It was the fall of 2016, at a time where I was agitated by the way women were being portrayed in the media. This was shortly before the #metoo movement, and during the election and women’s march. The time felt right to tell a story about women and other marginalized groups coming together to help each other find their voices and a safe community in a rapidly divisive world.

I’m not going to lie, with our budget, all facets of production and post were quite challenging, but I was so overwhelmed by the fastidious efforts of everyone on our team to create something powerful. I feel we were all aligned in vision, which kept everyone fueled to create a finished product I am very proud of. The crowning moment of the experience was after our world premiere at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Fest, when a few women from the audience approached and confided that they, too, had lived in shelters and felt our film spoke to the truths they had experienced. This certainly made the whole process worthwhile.

Autumn, you wrote as well as directed. Did the story change or evolve once you started shooting or did you stick to the original script?
McAlpin: As a director who is very open to improv and creative play on set, I was quite surprised by how little we deviated from the script. Conceptually, we stuck to the story as written. We did have a few actors who definitely punched up scenes by making certain lines more their own (and much more humorous, i.e. the drag queens). And there were moments when location challenges forced last-minute rewrites, but hey, I guess that’s one advantage to having the writer in the director’s chair! This story seemed to flow from the moment it first arrived in my head, telling me what it wanted to be, so we kind of just trusted that, and I think we achieved our narrative goals.

You used a 70 percent female crew. Can you talk about why that was important to you?
McAlpin: For this film, our producer DeAnna Cooper and I wanted to flip the traditional gender ratios found on sets, as ours was indeed a story rooted in female empowerment. We wanted our set to feel like a compatible, safe environment for characters seeking safety and trusted female friendships. So many of the cast and crew who joined our team expressed delight in joining a largely female team, and I think/hope we created a safe space for all to create!

Also, as women, we tend to get each other — and there were times when those on our production team (all mothers) were able to support each other’s familial needs when emergencies at home arose. We also want to give a shout-out to the numerous woman-supporting men we had on our team, who were equally wonderful to work with!

What was everyone’s favorite scene and why?
McAlpin: There’s a moment when Rose has a candid conversation with a drag queen performer named Luscious (played by Johnathan Wallace) in a green room during which each opens up about who they are and how they got there. Ours is a fish out of water story as Rose tries to achieve her goal in a world quite new to her, but in this scene, two very different people bond in a sincere and heartfelt way. The performances in this scene were just dynamite, thanks to the talents of Johanna and Johnathan. We are frequently told this scene really affects viewers and changes perspectives.

I also have a personal favorite moment toward the end of the film in which a circle of women from very different backgrounds come together to help out a character named Leslie, played by the dynamic Robyn Lively, who is searching for her kids. One of the women helping Leslie says, “I’m a mama, too,” and I love the strength felt in this group hug moment as the village comes together to defend each other.

If you all had to do it again, what would you do differently?
McAlpin: This was one fast-moving train, and I know, as is the case in every film, there are little shots or scenes we’d all love to tweak just a little if given the chance to start over from scratch. But at this point, we are focusing on the positives and what lies in store for Miss Arizona. Since our Bentonville premiere and LA premiere at Dances With Films, we have been thrilled to receive numerous distribution offers, and it’s looking like a fall worldwide release may be in store. We look forward to connecting with audiences everywhere as we share the message of this film.

Mars Williamson

Mars, can you talk about your process and how you worked with the team? 
Williamson: Autumn put us in touch, and John and I touched based a little bit before I was going to start color. We all had a pretty good idea of where we were taking it from the offline and discussed little tweaks here and there, so it was fairly straightforward. There were a couple of things like changing a wall color and the last scene needing more sunset than was shot. Autumn and John are super easy and great to work with. We found out pretty early that we’d be able to collaborate pretty easily since John has DaVinci Resolve on his end in the states as well.  I moved to Melbourne permanently right before I really got into the grade.

Unbeknownst to me, Melbourne was/is in the process of upgrading their Internet, which is currently painfully slow. We did a couple of reviews via Frame.io and eventually moved to me just emailing John my project. He could relink to the media on his end and all of my color grading would come across for sessions in LA with Autumn. It was the best solution to contend with the snail pace uploads of large files. From there it was just going through it reel by reel and getting notes from the stateside team. I couldn’t have worked on this with a better group of people.

What types of projects do you work on most often?
Williamson: My bread and butter has always been TV commercials, but I’ve worked hard to make sure I work on all sort of formats across different genres. I like to make sure I’ve got a wide range of stuff under my belt. The pool is smaller here in Australia than it is in LA (where I moved from) so TV commercials are still the bill payers, but I’m also still dipping into the indie scene here and trying to diversify what I work on. Still working on a lot of indie projects and music videos from the states as well so thank you stateside clients! Thankfully the difference in time hasn’t hindered most of them (smiles). It has led to an all-nighter here and there for me, but I’m happy to lose sleep for the right projects.

How did you work with the DP and director on the look of the film? What look did you want and how did you work to achieve that look or looks?
John Davidson: Magic Feather is a production company and creative agency that I started back in 2004. We provide theatrical marketing and creative services for a wide variety of productions. From the 3D atomic transitions in Big Bang Theory to the recent Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom week-long event on Discovery, we have a pretty great body of work. I came onboard Miss Arizona very much by accident. Last year, after working with Weta in New Zealand, we moved to Laguna Niguel and connected with Autumn and her husband Michael via some mutual friends. I was intrigued that they had just finished shooting this movie on their own and offered to replace a few license plates and a billboard. Somehow I turned that into coordinating the post-Avid workflow across the planet and creating 100-plus visual effects shots. It was a fantastic opportunity to use every tool in our arsenal to help a film with a nice message and a family we have come to adore.

John Davidson

Working with Jordan and Autumn for VFX and final mastering was educational for all of us, but definitely so with me. As I mentioned to Jordan after the showing in Hollywood, if I did my job right you would never know. There were quite a few late nights, but I think that they are both very happy with the results.

John, I understand there were some challenges in the edit? Relinking the camera source footage? Can you talk about that and how you worked around it?
Davidson: The original Avid cut was edited off of the dailies at 1080p with embedded audio. The masters were 3.2k Arri Alexa Mini Log with no sync sound. There were timecode issues the first few days on set and because Mars was using DaVinci Resolve to color, we knew we had to get the footage from Avid to Resolve somehow. Once we got the footage into DaVinci via AAF, I realized it was going to be a challenge relinking sources from the dailies. Resolve was quite the utility knife, and after a bit of tweaking we were able to get the silent master video clips linked up. Because 12TB drives are expensive, we thought it best to trim media to 48-frame handles and ship a smaller drive to Australia for Mars to work with. With Mars’s direction we were able to get that handled and shipped.

While Mars was coloring in Australia, I went back into the sources and began the process of relinking the original separate audio to the video sources because I needed to be able to adjust/re-edit a few scenes that had technical issues we couldn’t fix with VFX. Resolve was fantastic here again. Any clip that couldn’t be automatically linked via timecode was connected with clap marks using the waveform. For safety, I batch-exported all of the footage out with embedded audio and then relinked the film to that. This was important for archival purposes as well as any potential fixes we might have to do before the film delivered.

At this point Mars was sharing her cuts on Frame.io with Jordan and Autumn. I felt like a little green shift was being introduced over H.264 so we would occasionally meet here to review a relinked XML that Mars would send for a full quality inspection. For VFX we used Adobe After Effects and worked in flat color. We then would upload shots to box.com for Mars to incorporate into her edit. There were also two re-cut scenes that were done this way as well which was a challenge because any changes had to be shared with the audio teams who were actively scoring and mixing.

Once Mars was done we put the final movie together here, and I spent about two weeks working on it. At this point I took the film from Resolve to FCP X. Because we were mastering at 1080p, we had the full 3.2K frame for flexibility. Using a 1080p timeline in FCP X, the first order of business was making final on-site color adjustments with Autumn.

Can you talk about the visual effects provided?
Davidson: For VFX, we focused on things like the license plates and billboards, but also took a bit of initiative and reviewed the whole movie for areas we could help. Like everyone else, I loved the look of the stage and club scenes, but wanted to add just a little flare to the backlights so the LED grids would be less visible. This was done in Final Cut Pro X using the MotionVFX plugin mFlare2. It made very quick work of using its internal Mocha engine to track the light sources and obscure them as needed when a light went behind a person’s head, for example. It would have been agony tracking so many lights in all those shots using anything else. We had struggled for a while getting replacement license plates to track using After Effects and Mocha. However, the six shots that gave us the most headaches were done as a test in FCP X in less than a day using CoreMelt’s TrackX. We also used Final Cut Pro X’s stabilization to smooth out any jagged camera shakes as well as added some shake using FCP X’s handheld effect on a few shots that needed it for consistency.

Another area we had to get creative with was with night driving shots that were just too bright even after color. By layering a few different Rampant Design overlays set to multiply, we were able to simulate lights in motion around the car at night with areas randomly increasing and decreasing in brightness. That had a big impact on smoothing out those scenes, and I think everyone was pretty happy with the result. For fun, Autumn also let me add in a few mostly digital shots, like the private jet. This was done in After Effects using Trapcode Particular for the contrails, and a combination of Maxon Cinema 4D and Element 3D for the jet.

Resolve’s face refinement and eye brightening were used in many scenes to give a little extra eye light. We also used Resolve for sky replacement on the final shot of the film. Resolve’s tracker is also pretty incredible, and was used to hide little things that needed to be masked or de-emphasized.

What about finishing?
Davidson: We finalized everything in FCP X and exported a full, clean ProRes cut of the film. We then re-imported that and added grain, unsharp masks and a light vignette for a touch of cinematic texture. The credits were an evolving process, so we created an Apple Numbers document that was shared with my internal Magic Feather team, as well as Autumn and the producers. As the final document was adjusted and tweaked we would edit an Affinity Photo file that my editor AJ Paschall and I shared. We would then export a huge PNG file of the credits into FCP X and set position keyframes to animate the scroll. Any time a change was made we would just relink to the new PNG export and FCP X would automatically update the credits. Luckily, that was easy because we did that probably 50 times.

Lastly, our final delivery to the DCP company was a HEVC 10-bit 2K encode. I am a huge fan of HEVC. It’s a fantastic codec, but it does have a few caveats in that it takes forever to encode. Using Apple Compressor and a 10-core iMac Pro, it took approximately 13 hours. That said, it was worth it because the colors were accurately represented and gave us a file that 5.52GB versus 18GB or 20GB. That’s a hefty savings on size while also being an improvement in quality over H.264.

Photo Credit: Rich Marchewka

 

Editor Paul Zucker on cutting Hotel Artemis

By Zack Wolder

The Drew Pearce-directed Hotel Artemis is a dark action-thriller set in a riot-torn Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future. What is the Hotel Artemis? It’s a secret members-only hospital for criminals run by Jodie Foster with the help of David Bautista. The film boasts an impressive cast that also includes Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Jennie Slate.

Hotel Artemis editor Paul Zucker, ACE, has varied credits that toggle between TV and film, including Trainwreck, This is 40, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Girls, Silicon Valley and many others.

We recently reached out to Zucker to talk about his process on the film.

Paul Zucker and adorable baby.

How did you get involved in this film?
This was kind of a blind date set-up. I wasn’t really familiar with Drew, and it was a project that came to me pretty late. I think I joined about a week, maybe two, before production began. I was told that they were in a hurry to find an editor. I read the script, I interviewed with Drew, and that was it.

How long did it take to complete the editing?
About seven months.

How involved were you throughout the whole phase of production? Were you on set at all?
I wasn’t involved in pre-production, so I wasn’t able to participate in development of the script or anything like that, but as soon as the camera started rolling I was cutting. Most of the film was shot on stages in downtown LA, so I would go to set a few times, but most of the time there was enough work to do that I was sequestered in the edit room and trying to keep up with camera.

I’m an editor who doesn’t love to go to set. I prefer to be uninfluenced by whatever tensions, or lack of tensions, are happening on set. If a director has something he needs me for, if it’s some contribution he feels I can make, I’m happy, able and willing to participate in shot listing, blocking and things like that, but on this movie I was more valuable putting together the edit.

Did you have any specific deadlines you had to meet?
On this particular movie there was a higher-than-average number of requests from director Drew Pearce. Since it was mostly shot on stages, he was able to re-shoot things a little easier than you would if we were on location. So it became important for him to see the movie sooner rather than later.

A bunch of movies ago, I adopted a workflow of sending the director whatever I had each Friday. I think it’s healthy for them to see what they’re working on. There’s always the chance that it will influence the work they’re doing, whether it’s performance of the actors or the story or the script or really anything.

As I understand it from the directors I’ve worked for, seeing the editor’s cut can be the worst day of the process for them. Not because of the quality of the editing, but because it’s hard in that first viewing to look past all the things that they didn’t get on set. Its tough to not just see the mistakes. Which is totally understandable. So I started this strategy of easing them into it. I just send scenes; I don’t send them in sequence. By the time they get to the editors cut, they’ve seen most of the scenes, so the shock is lessened and hopefully that screening is more productive

Do you ever get that sense that you may be distracting them or overwhelming them with something?
Yes, sometimes. A couple of pictures ago, I did my normal thing — sending what I had on a Friday — and the director told me he didn’t want to watch them. For him, issues of post were a distraction while he was in production. So to each his own.

Drew Pearce certainly benefitted. Drew was the type of director who, if I sent it at 9pm, he would be watching it at 9:05pm, and he would be giving me notes at 10:05pm.

Are you doing temp color and things like that?
Absolutely. I do as much as the footage I’m given requires. On this particular movie, the cinematographer, the DIT and the lab were so dialed in that these were the most perfect-looking dailies I think I’ve ever gotten. So I had to do next to nothing. I credit DP Chung-Hoon Chung for that. Generally, if I’m getting dailies that are mismatched in color tone, I’m going to do whatever it takes to smooth it out. Nothing goes in front of the director until it’s had a hardcore sound and color pass. I am always trying to leave as little to the imagination as possible. I try to present something that is as close to the experience that the audience will have when they watch the movie. That means great color, great sound, music, all of that.

Do you ever provide VFX work?
Editorial is typically always doing simple VFX work like split-screens, muzzle-flashes for guns, etc. Those are all things that we’re really comfortable doing.

On this movie, theres a large VFX component, so the temp work was more intense. We had close to 500 VFX shots, and there’s some very involved ones. For example, a helicopter crashes into a building after getting blasted out of the sky with a rocket launcher. There are multiple scenes where characters get operated on by robotic arms. There’s a 3D printer that prints organs and guns. So we had to come up with a large number of temp shots in editorial.

The assistant editors, Gardner Gould, Michael Costello and Lillian Dawson Bain, were instrumental in coming up with these shots.

What about editing before the VFX shots are delivered?
From the very beginning, we are game-planning — what are the priorities for the movie vis-a-vis VFX? Which shots do we need early for story reasons? Which shots are the most time consuming for the VFX department? All of these things are considered as the entire post production department collaborates to come up with a priorities list.

If I need temp versions of shots to help me edit the scene, the assistants help me make them. If we can do them, we’ll do them. These aid in determining final VFX shot length, tempo, action, anything. As the process goes on, they get replaced by shots we get from the VFX department.

One thing I’m always keeping in mind is that shots can be created out of thin air oftentimes. If I have a story problem, sometimes a shot can be created that will help solve it. Sometimes the entire meaning of a scene can change.

What do you expect from your assistant editors?
The first assistant had to have experience with visual effects. The management of workflow for 500 shots is a lot, and on this job, we did not have a dedicated VFX editor. That fell upon editor Gardner Gould.

I generally kick a lot of sound to the assistant, as I’m kind of rapidly moving through cutting picture. But I’m also looking for someone who’s got that storytelling bone that great editors have. Not everybody has it, not every great assistant has it.

There is so much minutiae on the technical side of being an assistant editor that you run the risk of forgetting that you’re working on a movie for an audience. And, indeed, some assistants just do the assistant work. They never cut scenes, they never do creative work, they’re not interested or they just don’t. So I’m always encouraging them to think like an editor at every point.

I ask them for their opinions. I invite them into the process, I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me what they think. You have to express yourself artistically in every decision you make. I encourage them to think critically and analytically about the movie that we’re working on.

I came up as an assistant and I had a few people who really believed in me. They invited me into the room with the director and they gave me that early exposure that really helped me learn my trade. I’m kind of looking to pay back that favor to my assistants.

Why did you choose to edit this film on Avid? Are you proficient in any other NLEs?
Oh, I’d say strictly Avid. To me, a tool, a technology, should be as transparent as possible. I want to have the minimum of time in between thought and expression. Which means that if I think of an edit, I want to automatically, almost without thinking, be able to do a keystroke and have that decision appear on the monitor. I’m so comfortable with Avid that I’m at that point.

How is your creative process different when editing a film versus a TV show?
Well first, a TV show is going to have a pre-determined length. A movie does not have a pre-determined length. So in television you’re always wrangling with the runtime. The second thing that’s different is in television schedules are a little tighter and turnaround times are a little tighter. You’re constantly in pre-production, production and post at the same time.

Also, television is for a small screen. Film, generally speaking, is for the big screen. The venue matters for a lot of reasons, but it matters for pacing. You’re sitting in a movie theater and maybe you can hold shots a little bit longer because the canvas is so wide and there’s so much to look at. Whereas with the small screen, you’re sitting closer to the television, the screen itself is smaller, maybe the shots are typically not as wide or you cut a little quicker.

You’re a very experienced comedic editor. Was it difficult to be considered for a different type of film?
I guess the answer is yes. The more famous work I’ve done in the last couple of years has been for people like Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. So people say, “Well, he’s a comedy editor.” But if you look at my resume dating back to the very first thing I did in 2001, I edited my first movie — a pretty radical film for Gus Van Sant called Gerry, and it was not a comedy. Eternal Sunshine was not a comedy. Before Girls, I couldn’t get hired on comedies.

Then I got pulled on by Judd to work on some of his movies, and he’s such a brand name that people see that on your resume and they say, “Well, you must be a comedy editor.” So, yes, it does become harder to break out of that box, but that’s the box that other people put you in, I don’t put myself in that. My favorite filmmakers work across all types of genre.

Where do you find inspiration? Music? Other editors? Directors?
Good question. I mean… inspiration is everywhere. I’m a movie fan, I always have been, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m always going to the movies. I watch lots of trailers. I like to keep up with what people are doing. I go back and re-watch the things that I love. Listening to other editors or reading other editors speak about their process is inspiring to me. Listening and speaking with people who love what they do is inspiring.

For Hotel Artemis, I went back and watched some movies that were an influence on this one to get in the tone-zone. I would listen to a lot of the soundtracks that were soundtracks to those movies. As far as watching movies, I watched Assault on Precinct 13, for instance. That’s a siege movie, and Hotel Artemis is kind of a siege movie. Some editors say they don’t watch movies while they’re making a movie, they don’t want to be influenced. It doesn’t bother me. It’s all in the soup.


Zack Wolder is a video editor based in NYC. He is currently the senior video editor at Billboard Magazine.  Follow him on Instagram at @thezackwolder.

Nomad adds editor Jojo King to its New York roster

Editorial house Nomad has expanded its New York roster with the addition of editor Jojo King. King brings a diverse resume and has cut music videos for Janelle Monae’s new single Pynk and Moses Sumney’s Worth It, as well as films and spots for Vogue, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas Originals, Marc Jacobs and Victoria’s Secret.

He recently edited a music video for indie star Lykke Li (directed by Iconoclast’s Anton Tammi) and wrapped jobs with Droga5 and Johannes Leonardo. Adobe Premiere is his editing tool of choice.

“Jojo coming on was perfect timing,” explains Nomad executive producer/partner Jennifer Lederman. “When we expanded Nomad New York, we were determined to make it a place that focuses on the creativity of our team. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary in our new space, and we’ve grown our VFX and support staff a lot in the past year, so it was the ideal time to add on a new editor. We got so lucky that Jojo found us, as he brings a new style to our offerings. He combines this intense artistry with the narrative arc, which leads to his cuts being fun and surprising. He brings that artistic sensibility into our office every day, and his reel is something I love to show.”

Nomad also has offices in Santa Monica and London.

LACPUG hosting FCP and Premiere creator Randy Ubillos

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group (LACPUG) is celebrating its 18th anniversary on June 27 by presenting the official debut of Bradley Olsen’s Off the Tracks, a documentary about Final Cut Pro X. Also on the night’s agenda is a trip down memory lane with Randy Ubillos, the creator of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Aperture, iMovie 08 and Final Cut Pro X.

The event will take place at the Gallery Theater in Hollywood. Start time is 6:45pm. Scheduled to be in the audience and perhaps on stage, depending on availability, will be members of the original FCP team: Michael Wohl, Tim Serda and Paul Saccone. Also on hand will be Ramy Katrib of DigitalFilm Tree and editor and digital consultant Dan Fort. “Many other invites to the ‘superstars’ of the digital revolution and FCP have been sent out,” says Michael Horton, founder and head of LACPUG.

The night will also include food and drinks, time for questions and the group’s “World Famous Raffle.”
Tickets are on sale now on the LACPUG website for $10 each, plus a ticket fee of $2.24.

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group, formerly the LA Final Cut Pro User Group, was established in June of 2000 and hosts a membership of over 6,000 worldwide.

EditFest London sets lineup

The American Cinema Editors (ACE) have set its lineup of editors for EditFest London, which takes place on June 30 at BFI Southbank. In addition to film panels, this year’s event will feature editors drilling down on their experiences editing television crime dramas, followed by a panel discussion focusing on the jump from assistant editor to editor.

EditFest, which was launched in Los Angeles in 2008, allows attendees to talk with panelists and colleagues throughout the day, over lunch, and then during a post-event reception.

The editors at EditFest will share experiences and insights from their work on a variety of feature films, documentaries and broadcast and streaming content. The day’s schedule includes:

Cutting for Crime / Editing Crime Dramas for Television
Moderated by Adrian Pennington, International Editor, American Cinema Editor magazine
• Andrew John McClelland – Line of Duty, In Plain Sight
• Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Three Girls, The Missing
• Stephen O’Connell – The Name of the Rose, Howard’s End
• Elen Pierce Lewis – Rellik, Luther, Marcella

Making the Jump/Assistant to Editor
Moderated by Robbie Gibbon (Assistant Editor, Mission Impossible-Fallout, Dr. Strange)
• Eve Doherty – Hang Ups (Assistant, Game of Thrones)
• Adam Gough – Roma (Assistant, X-Men First Class)
• Charlene Short – Dagenham (Assistant, Peaky Blinders)
• John Venzon, ACE – The South Park Movie, Storks (Assistant, Fight Club, The Game)
• Steven Worsley – Jamestown, War & Peace (Assistant, War Book, War & Peace)

From Dailies to Delivery/ Editing Features
Moderated by Stephen Rivkin, ACE (ACE President; Editor, Avatar)
• Eddie Hamilton, ACE – Mission Impossible: Fallout
• Alex Mackie, ACE – Out of Blue
• Tania Redden – Denmark, Cordelia
• Martin Walsh, ACE – Wonder Woman
• Joe Walker, ACE – Blade Runner 2049, Arrival

One on One/A Conversation with Chris Lebenzon, ACE
Chris will be joined in conversation by journalist Carolyn Giardina

Award-winning editor Chris Lebenzon, ACE, (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood, Top Gun, Armageddon) will talk about his work, collaborations and perceptions from his career. He is currently in London working on Dumbo with his long-time collaborator Tim Burton.

EditFest takes place during one day at BFI Southbank. Panels, box lunch and a cocktail reception at the end of the day are included. EditFest LA will take place in Los Angeles on 25 August at the Walt Disney Studios.

Behind the Title: Uppercut Editor Alvaro del Val

NAME: Alvaro del Val

COMPANY: Uppercut

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Uppercut is an editing boutique based in Manhattan. It was founded three years ago by editor Micah Scarpelli and now has five editors who have been carefully selected to create a collaborative atmosphere.

We share a love for creating emotionally driven stories and challenging each other to get the most out of our creativity. It’s important to us that our clients, as well as staff, experience the camaraderie and familial vibe at our office. We want them to feel at home here.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Editing is storytelling. Generally, we jump into a project once the shoot is finished. We get the dailies and start thinking about how to get the best out of the footage, and what’s the best way is to tell the story. It’s a very creative process with endless possibilities, and it’s non-stop decision making. You have to decide which elements create a memorable piece, not only visually, but also in the way the story unfolds.

Kicking Yoda

It is often said that a film is written three times: When it is written, when it is shot and when it is edited. Editing can completely change the direction of a film, commercial or music video. It establishes the way we understand a plot, it sets the rhythm and, most importantly, it delivers the emotions felt by the audience — this is what they ultimately remember. A year after watching a film, you may forget details of plot, or the name of the director, but you’ll remember how it made you feel.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Many people think that editing is just putting images together, that we follow a storyboard that has been done previously, but it is much more nuanced than that. The script is a starting point, a reference, but from there, the possibilities are endless. You can give the same footage to a hundred editors and they will give you a hundred different stories.

People are also surprised by the amount of footage you have for a 30-second commercial, which can easily be five or six hours. Once, I was given fifteen hours of footage for a sixty second commercial.

As Walter Murch said, “Every frame you see in front of you is auditioning to make it into the final piece.” You are making millions of decisions every day, selecting only the best few frames to tell the story the way you want.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
In some ways, editing is like a sculptor carving a block of marble and discovering the figure that has been contained inside, working little by little, knowing where they are going, but at same time, letting the story unfold before them. That creative process is my favorite part. It is so exciting in the moment when you are alone in the room and everything starts to make sense; you can feel it all coming together. It’s a really special and beautiful moment.

I also love that every project is a new experience. It’s amazing to work at something you love that brings you a new challenge every day. What you can offer creatively changes along with your evolution as a person. It’s a field that demands that you learn and evolve constantly.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part is that it can be hard to balance your personal life with your professional life. As an editor, you often need to work long nights and weekends or change plans unexpectedly, which affects the people in your life. But it’s part of the job, and I have to accept it to be able to do what I do.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
It depends on where I am in the project. If I’m starting to build a story, the evening is definitely my most creative and focused time. There are less distractions in terms of phone calls and emails, and I’ve always been a night person. But I love mornings in order to judge something I’ve done the night before. Coming to the edit room with fresh eyes gives me more objective vision.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would definitely work as a photographer. I got my first camera when I was seven years old and haven’t stopped taking pictures since. I used to work as a photographer in Madrid, years ago. I loved it, but I didn’t have time to do both, and I loved editing too much to let it go.

Editing is what brought me to the most creative city in the world, so I’m really thankful for that. Walking around the city with my camera is definitely one of my favorite things to do.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with visuals, photography and films. I had a natural connection with that way of communicating. My camera was a way to express myself… my diary. In college, I started studying cinema, working on TV and making my own films, which is when I discovered the magic of editing and knew that it was my place. I felt that editing was the most special, creative part of the process and felt so lucky to be the one doing it. I couldn’t believe that not everyone wanted to be the editor.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
One of my more recent projects is a short documentary film called Kicking Yoda, which is doing the festival circuit and received a Los Angeles Film Award for Best Documentary. It’s the story of Doug Blevins who, after being born with cerebral palsy, became an NFL kicking coach nominated to the Hall of Fame. I love stories of overcoming obstacles because they are relatable to everyone in one way or another.

Fitbit

I recently worked on a Fitbit campaign called Find Your Reason, which was comprised of true stories about people finding their path in life through athletics. It has been nominated for best editing in the 2018 AICE Awards, which are coming up this month.

YOU HAVE WORKED ON ALL SORTS OF PROJECTS. DO YOU PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT WHEN CUTTING FOR A SPECIFIC GENRE?
Absolutely. To begin with, it’s completely different to edit a 30-second commercial than a short film or a music video. What drives the story changes; the rhythm and the structure differ so much.

In long pieces, you have more time to create a different, more profound kind of interest. I think advertising is moving more toward longer format pieces because they create a stronger connection with the audience. Television commercials are becoming the teaser, allowing you to discover the whole story online later.

The visual language also has to adapt to the genre. The audience needs to understand what kind of story you are telling, or you’ll lose them. You always need to have the audience in mind, understanding to whom your piece is addressed and on which platform it will be released. Your attention span differs depending on whether you are eating dinner in front of the TV, sitting at your computer or watching in a theater. You need to adapt with those circumstances in mind.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
The project I’m most proud of is Volvo S90, Song of the Open Road. It’s a beautiful campaign that was awarded Best Editing in Automotive in the 2017 AICE Awards (Association of Independent Commercial Editors). It was very special for me, not only because I was able to be part of a team with world-class artists, like composer Dan Romer, DP Jeff Cronenweth and actor Josh Brolin, but also because of the freedom I had in the creative process. I think that collaboration, as well as the nonlinear storytelling I was able to use, is why the campaign has the poetry and emotion I always pursue in my edits. Additionally, the story inspires you to live freely and pursue your chosen path. I feel it’s a story that makes you think and stays with you after watching it.

WHAT DO YOU USE TO EDIT?
It depends on the needs of the project, but typically I use Avid Media Composer. I sometimes use Premiere, but I really prefer editing in Avid. I find it’s faster, deals better with large amounts of footage and is generally a much more stable software. It’s true that if you want to end your project in the edit suite, Premiere does a much better job in terms of using effects and exporting. But in a workflow with external color grading and conforming later (in a Flame for example), I would definitely go with Avid.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLUGIN?
It’s not strictly a plugin, but the Motion Effect Editor is fantastic in Avid. The freedom and control you have over the speed curves when creating time warps is really outstanding. The tool is really visual, which helps me in terms of creating nice speed changes. For me, it’s an important tool, as I love editing sports commercials. For action scenes with a lot of movement, it’s a key resource to have.

ARE YOU OFTEN ASKED TO DO MORE THAN EDIT?
Nowadays, mostly in the American market, the editor has become kind of the director in post. We are involved in the sound design, the mix, the color grading, the conform and the final deliverables; we have to be in control of the whole process. This happens because the director is normally not around, which doesn’t happen in Europe. But here, the market asks for quick turnarounds and editors work hand in hand with agencies to get things done in the right amount of time for the client.

Due to this model, I increasingly prefer to be involved in preproduction when the idea is conceived. That way, I have a better understanding of the project and I can get the director’s insight so I am able to maintain the essence of his vision later on. It is also a good opportunity to share ideas that will help later in the editing and post process.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Of course, we all feel nowadays that we cannot live without our phone and our computer. All our music, films, photos and social world are contained there. It is amazing to think that we used to live without all that in the ‘90s, but technology has changed the game.

Besides those, my cameras are my main pieces of technology. I love my versatile Fuji X-T10 that I bring everywhere, but also my Canon 5D, which I use for portraits and trips.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
We all need to disconnect from time to time, and sports are my first escape from stress. I do rock climbing and cycling and I love to ride my bicycle to my beloved Prospect Park. And as a good Spaniard, soccer and tennis are my main sports. I’m a big Rafa Nadal fan.

Besides sports, I love taking advantage of all this city has to offer culturally. I love going to the Bowery Ballroom or Brooklyn Steel for live music, checking out what’s going on at The New Museum or The Whitney and enjoying the opera at The Met every time I have the chance. BAM is also one of my go-tos, as their program is outstanding all year long, from cinema to dance and theater.

Carla Gutierrez on editing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc, RBG

By Amy Leland

We live in very interesting times. Specifically, when an 85-year-old Supreme Court justice has become a viral sensation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, the queen of the dissent, is the subject of memes, t-shirts and coffee mugs. She has earned the ardent following of a younger generation that sees her as a somewhat-unlikely pop icon and an inspirational figure.

Carla Gutierrez

She is also now the subject of an equally surprising documentary, called RBG. When one thinks of a film about a Supreme Court justice, it would be easy to assume the result would be something mostly academic and serious. But RBG is delightfully entertaining and funny, and unexpectedly emotional and touching.

After seeing the movie, I had the additional pleasure of speaking with the film’s editor, Carla Gutierrez, about the story and how she and the rest of the creative team brought it to life.

How did you become an editor?
I went to grad school to study film. I had a big interest in the production of art and social issue stuff, and I was watching on a lot of documentaries after college. I applied to grad school, and I quickly realized that the stress of producing wasn’t for me. I started gravitating toward the craft of editing, and I just loved it so much.

It’s interesting because there are a lot of editors that ultimately want to jump into the director’s role, but I never had the desire to do that. I love the collaboration that happens in the edit. I feel really lucky to be doing this kind of work, and to get a project like this… I’m incredibly lucky.

How did you end up focused on documentary work?
Before getting into film, I knew I wanted to focus on documentaries. I knew that a very structured educational setup always worked best for me. There are a lot more now that focus on non-fiction, but at the time there were fewer. So I went to the Stanford graduate documentary program, which is a very small program. And we were taught to be a one-person band: produce, develop and do everything on your own.

Before I got into actual filmmaking, I didn’t really have any experience. The biggest lessons I learned, and that I still learn, are from watching all the films. Whenever I need to get inspired or to be shaken up a little bit, or think about things in a different way, I go back to film.

How did you end up involved in RBG?
Somebody at CNN Films recommended me to the directors, Julie Cohen and Betsy West. We met, and from the first email exchange, I knew I really wanted this job. I was lucky because I was working on another film that also had a lot of interview and archival material. They seemed to like it, and they hired me.

The film is surprisingly funny, both because of how much everyone talks about how funny her husband is, but also how witty she is. When I see a job for something that’s comedic, they almost always say editors must have experience working in comedy. Did you find that it required a different skill set?
You do have to think about rhythm — to give people time to actually react to things. But I think it’s very similar to the way I tackle all the work that I do. I pay attention when I’m watching the footage early on. I pay attention to what makes me laugh, and to the things that make me feel something. Then I build around those moments.

That was the same with this film. I remember watching the Saturday Night Live imitation of her — I don’t know how many times that day — because it was so incredibly funny. RBG cracked up when she watched Kate McKinnon’s impression for the first time. We played her laughing at it in a loop for a whole day. It makes me so happy, and you have to laugh. When we watched the interview with her high school classmates, it was really clear that these moments made us giggle.

I’m as aware as I can be when I am watching the dailies for whatever touches me — whether it’s a sad moment, an emotional moment or funny moment — and I try really hard to make room for that in the film.

I’m happy her husband was such an important part of the story. The way you kept weaving him throughout showed the important role he played in supporting her through everything — it was really beautiful.
Again, you just have to remember what moves you when you see the dailies. There is a moment in the confirmation hearing, his reaction when she’s speaking about him, and he’s smiling and just kind of looking down. That was the moment where it felt like he needed to be completely central to the story. We had a very clear idea that we had a great love story, so that needed to be very present in the film. When I saw that, and when he touches her hair when she got confirmed, I thought, “Okay, its not only the love story, its not only something that we have to touch on, but its something we can beautifully see in the footage.”

Did you feel a sense of responsibility making a film about a person who’s still alive, and also someone who is such an important person in the world right now?
It was an interesting time. They started shooting the film before the election, so people in the interviews were aware, and they were reflecting on what was going on.

Also we were leading to the first days of the #metoo movement when we were editing the film. So there was definitely a sense of responsibility. But with every story you do, you have to have a focus. And when they shot this film, they had a very sharp focus on her work toward the advancement of women’s rights. She has been involved in so many more cases, and there’s so much more about her life that just didn’t make sense to put in this particular story.

As I was working on the film, I found a new, deeper understanding of what women were going through, only about 50, 40 or even 30 years ago. I hope that shines through in the story that we told. Academically, I understood the women’s movement, and I understood the kind of inequality that people experienced, but working on this film really made me feel emotionally close to that reality. I hope that we’re doing that for the audience.

The sense of responsibility was very strong throughout the entire process. When we were getting close to the premiere, it was the first time that the Justice was going to see the film. We were very nervous about how she was going to react. It was like we had an audience of one in that theater that first time, and we were all looking at her while she was watching the film. She really loved it. I think we did justice to the Justice, as Betsy West likes to say. I think that we portrayed her life the way that she would have liked it to be told.

Not only is this a film about a pioneer of women’s rights, but you also had a creative team that was entirely female. How did that affect the experience of making this particular film?
I think that we all came with immense amounts of respect for the subject matter, because the subject matter has to do with our lives. I knew her as Notorious RBG and The Dissenter. Then I discovered what she had done for all of us in the ‘70s. So there was a special sense of responsibility, but also respect toward the subject matter that we were working on.

There was a special sense of pride when you’re working next to women who have achieved so much already. It was a great learning opportunity for me to work with Julie and Betsy. I gained so much from that collaboration and seeing how they work and how they carry themselves. Being on an all-female team, doing a female-centered film… yeah, it was a really rewarding and special experience.

To get a little more technical, what software did you use to cut the film?
We edited in Adobe Premiere Pro. This was a film with a lot of archival material, and it was like a puzzle, with lots of tiny pieces. We had a large amount of material, and the way my mind works, I throw a lot of clips in my timeline. I find Premiere to be incredibly simple, but it also has a lot of complexity — you can do a lot with it. With a film like this, which is kind of massive, it also opens up a lot of simplicity to be able to navigate that… placing the material really quickly and easily.

Also, I work with an amazing associate editor — Grace Mendenhall. I like to be very organized at the beginning because that speeds up the process as you keep going. We were very, very careful at the beginning with our media organization and our workflow.

In the credits, you had an online assistant listed, but no assistant editor. Instead, you worked with an associate editor? Was that relationship different than the traditional editor/assistant editor one?
Grace actually set up the project as our assistant editor. She was doing all of the organizing of the media at the very beginning. I started like that. I actually started as a translator for a film that had an incredibly generous and experienced editor. To me it’s really important to be able to give opportunities to people who are serious, and people who really want to learn about the process.

From the moment we met, that’s something that we talked about. Grace really wanted to be in the room and learn from the process, so she quickly moved from doing only assistant editing work to handling scenes. She would also give me notes on the work that I was doing. Just like the film’s all-female team of collaborators, we had that with the post process, but with the two of us.

What would be your advice to somebody who wanted to get started in the world of documentary editing?
Find a mentor. I think tenacity is the main thing. It’s asking to be present in the room. That is really important for people who are just starting out. If they have a lot of technical knowledge, that’s really great, but I’ve heard a lot of people get stuck in the assistant editor position. Yes, you need to know how to use the program, but you really need to understand the decisions you are making with all of these technical resources that you have. And that comes from learning about storytelling. Long-form documentary storytelling is a bit of a beast; you’re talking about hours and hours of footage, and you’re writing the film for the first time in the edit room. There can be numerous films within that footage.

I learned editing by being around all the time, by being quiet and respectful. Then they would ask for my opinion, and I would give my opinion, and I could see how people think about structure and long-form story telling.

The worst thing that you can get from asking to be in the room is a “no,” but if you get in the room, you can learn and absorb so much from just being present during the process.


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.

Making the indie short The Sound of Your Voice

Hunt Beaty is a director, producer and Emmy Award-winning production sound recordist based in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Nashville, this NYU Tisch film school grad spent years studying how films got made — and now he’s made his own.

The short film The Sound of Your Voice was directed by Beaty and written and produced by Beaty, José Andrés Cardona and Wesley Wingo. This thriller focuses a voiceover artist who is haunted by a past relationship as she sinks deep into the isolation of a recording booth.

Hunt Beaty

The Sound of Your Voice was shot on location at Silver Sound, a working audio post house, in New York City.

What inspired the film?
This short was largely reverse-engineered. I work with Silver Sound, a production and post sound studio in New York City, so we knew we had a potential location. Given access to such a venue, Andrés lit the creative fuse with an initial concept and we all started writing from there.

I’ve long admired the voiceover craft, as my father made his career in radio and VO work. It’s a unique job, and it felt like a world not often portrayed in film/TV up to this point. That, combined with my experience working alongside VO artists over the years, made this feel like fertile ground to create a short film.

The film is part of a series of shorts my producers and I have been making over the past few months. We’re all good friends who met at NYU film undergrad. While narrative filmmaking was always our shared interest and catalyst for making content, the realities of staying afloat in NYC after graduation prompted a focus on freelance commercial work in our chosen crafts in order to make a living. It’s been a great ride, but our own narrative work, the original passion, was often moved to the backburner.

After discussing the idea for years — we drank too many beers one night and decided to start getting back into narrative work by making shorts within a particular set of constrained parameters: one weekend to shoot, no stunts/weapons or other typical production complicators, stay close to home geographically, keep costs low, finish the film fast and don’t stop. We’re getting too old to remain stubbornly precious.

Inspired by a class we all took at NYU called “Sight and Sound: Film,” we built our little collective on the idea of rotating the director role while maintaining full support from the other two in whatever short currently in production.

Andrés owns a camera and can shoot, Wesley writes and directs and also does a little bit of everything. I can produce and use all of my connections and expertise having been in the production and post sound world for so long.

We shot a film that Wesley directed at the end of November and released it in January. We shot my film in January and are releasing it here and now. Andrés just directed a film that we’re in post-production on right now.

What were you personally looking to achieve with the film?
My first goal was to check my natural inclination to overly complicate a short story, either by including too many characters or bouncing from one location to another.
I wanted to stay in one close-fitting place and largely focus on one character. The hope was I’d have more time to focus on performance nuance and have multiple takes for each setup. Realistically, with indie filmmaking, you never have the time you want, but being able to work closely with the actors on variations of their performances was super important. I also wanted to be able to focus on the work of directing as opposed to getting lost in the ambition of the production itself.

How was the film made?
The production was noticeably scrappy, as all of these films inevitably become. The crew was just the three of us, in addition to a rotating set of production sound recordists and an HMU artist (Allison Brooke), who all agreed to help us out.

We rented from Hand Held films, which is a block away from Silver Sound, so we knew we could just wheel over all of the lights and grip equipment without renting a vehicle. Wesley would would primarily focus on camera and lighting support for Andrés, but we were all functioning within an “all hands on deck” framework. It was never pretty, but we made it all happen.

Our cast was incredibly chill, and we had worked with Harry, the engineer, on our first short Into Quiet. We shot the whole thing over a weekend, (again, one of our parameters) so we could do our best to get back to our day-to-day.

Also, a significant amount of re-writing was done to the off-screen voices in post based on the performance of our actress, which gave us some interesting room to play around while writing to the edit, tweaking the edit itself to fit new script, and in the recording of our voice actors to the cut. Meta? Probably.

We’ve been wildly fortunate to have the support of our post-sound team at Silver Sound. Theodore Robinson and Tarcisio Longobardi, in particular, gave so much of themselves to the sound design process in order to make this come to life. Given my background as a production recordist, and simply due to the storyline of this short, sound design was vital.

In tandem with that hard work, we had Alan Gordon provide the color grading and Brent Ferguson the VFX.

What are you working on now?
Mostly fretting about our cryptocurrency investments. But once that all crashes and burns, we’re going to try and keep the movie momentum going. We’re all pretty hungry to make stuff. Doing feels better than sitting idly and talking about it.

L-R: Re-recording mixer Cory Choy, Hunt Beaty and supervising sound editor Tarcisio Longobardi.

We’re currently in post for Andrés’ movie, which should be coming out in a month or so. Wesley also has a new script and we’re entering into pre-production for that one as well so that we can hopefully start the cycle all over again. We’re also looking for new scripts and potential collaborators to roll into our rotation while our team continues to build momentum towards potentially larger projects.

On top of that, I’m hanging up the headphones more often to transition out of production sound work and shift to fully producing and directing commercial projects.

What camera and why?
The Red Weapon Helium because the DP owns one already (laughs). But in all seriousness, it is an incredible camera. We also shot on elite anamorphic glass. Only had two focal lengths on set, a 50mm and a 100mm plus a diopter set.

How involved were you in the edit?
DP Andres Cardona singlehandedly did the first pass at a rough cut. After that, myself and my co-producer Wes Wingo gave elaborate notes on each cut thereafter. Also, we ended up re-writing some of the movie itself after reconsidering the overall structure of the film due to our lead actress’ strong performance in certain shots.

For example, I really loved the long close-up of Stacey’s eyes that’s basically the focal point of the movie’s ending. So I had to reconfigure some of the story points in order to give that shot its proper place in the edit to allow it to be the key moment the short is building up to.

The grade what kind of look were you going for?
The color grade was done by Alan Gordon at Post Pro Gumbo using a DaVinci Resolve. It was simply all about fixing inconsistencies and finessing what we shot in camera.

What about the sound design and mix?
The sound design was completed by Ted Robinson and Tarcisio Longobardi. The final mix was handled by Cory Choy at Silver Sound in New York. All the audio work was done in Reaper.