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Professionalism in Practice – Editor on “The Art of My Scars”

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The Art of My Scars is a documentary that focuses on Kay J Browning, a transgender man from Tiverton, Devon (the director’s hometown), and how he utilises various art forms as a form of expression to communicate his pain and life story.

I agreed to edit James’ documentary a few months back as I thought it would be an interesting challenge to edit a documentary as I have never really cut one together before, especially a documentary such as James’ which is quite unique and hard to categorise as far as documentaries go.

Throughout the editing process, James had a very clear idea of how he wanted to visually represent the three different period’s of Kay’s life which greatly helped me try and figure out how best to make the three segments mesh well together. The very fact that James had such a strong idea of what he wanted was invaluable to me as his editor as when I was unsure of how to cut a certain sequence together, James’ input greatly helped me figure out what I was I needed to do.

Paper edit of the film's initial structure

Paper edit of the film’s initial structure

The two most challenging sequences to cut together were the hip-hop sequence in the middle and the dance sequence at the end. Both sequences required a lot of fast editing, but that wasn’t the major problem. One of the problems I had encountered whilst cutting these scenes together was that there were either inconsistencies in the quality of the shots (some shots out of focus, shaky cam etc.) or there were inconsistencies in the performances of the subject which made match-cutting in time to the music a nightmare. This was made doubly hard in cutting the hip-hop sequence together as I had to cut that performance together whilst showing as little of Kay’s face as possible so there were other angles that were better in terms of performance and shot quality that I could not use because it showed too much of his face.

The dance sequence was tricky in that the first cut I put together of it, I used a wide angle shot of the dance routine that was shot on the Panasonic GH4 as a master, whilst intercutting it with various other angles that were all shot on the Blackmagic. The end result was a dance sequence where the colour palette of the GH4 shots were drastically different from the shots on the Blackmagic. As I am not that experienced with colour grading, we were unsure as to whether or not we could get the footage from both cameras to match visually so we decided to abandon the GH4 shots and focus on cutting together a dance sequence using only the Blackmagic shots. The end result for this was a poorer cut compared to the one with the GH4 shots as the quality of the dancer’s performances were much better and sharper in the GH4 wide shots than the Blackmagic wide ones.

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After getting some technical assistance from Anna Barsukova and conducting a colour grade test between the GH4 and Blackmagic footage, we realised that we could in fact grade it to make the shots match. This freed me up to recut the dance sequence using the GH4 shots and the final result ended up with a much faster and smoother cut of the dance sequence as I had more angles to cut to.

All in all, I am very pleased with the final outcome of the film, especially with the positive response to the film people gave at both the rough cut and fine cut screenings. I have learned a lot about editing and storytelling through editing this documentary and hope that I’ll be able to utilise the skills and experience I have gained working on this project in any future projects that I edit.

 

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MDA3400 Secondary Roles

As part of my dissertation assessment critiera I am required to participate in at least two of my cohort’s productions in a secondary role. I have managed to attach myself to five projects this year, each of them requiring me to adopt a different creative approach to filmmaking.

The five projects I am a part of are as following:

Screenwriter on “Cellular”
Co-writer & 1st AC on “Tony”
1st AC on “Cigarettes & Alcohol”
Editor on “Dancing out the Dark”
Gaffer on “Hand in Hand”

For the short film Cellular (directed by Mantas Beginskas and produced by Andre Meehan), I’ll be writing the screenplay from a story devised by Mantas. This ties in with my pathway for my dissertation as it would allow me to improve upon my screenwriting skills. Mantas is a filmmaker with a very strong visual sensibility, so his direction would be a key learning experience for me to write the screenplay for his film in a very visual way. In the past, I’ve had the tendency to overwrite dialogue and not focus on the visuals that much but with this project, I’ll be setting a challenge for myself to overcome this habit.

For the short film Tony (directed by Killiesha Bancroft and produced by Amnah Pervaiz), I’m attached as co-writer along with Killiesha. This film is a social realist drama focusing on the effects of mental health. This project would challenge me to write a mentally ill character as realistically as possible, therefore I would need to conduct research around the mental illness that would be portrayed in the script in order to represent it as accurately as I can. This links to my dissertation script in the amount of research I would have to do; most screenwriters working in the industry today have to conduct research to write about topics they are unfamiliar with so this would be a valuable experience for me.

On both Tony and Cigarettes & Alcohol (directed by Nick Toth and produced by Andre Meehan) I’m attached as 1st assistant camera. I have never been a 1st AC before so this would be a valuable experience for me to learn what it’s like for camera operators to work under a DP.

For the documentary Dancing out the Dark (directed by James Land and produced by Emily Mitchell) I’m attached as editor for this entire project. I’ve always enjoyed editing and it was one of the pathways for my dissertation I was considering along with directing and screenwriting, but ultimately chose screenwriting as I could not figure out how to pitch myself as an editor the best way I could. Dancing out the Dark follows the story of how transgender man Kay J Browning uses his art (poetry, hip hop, dance) to express his lifestory and experiences. This documentary isn’t a conventional one in the sense that it isn’t just talking heads with intermittent footage. This project would involve me trying to construct a story using an assortment of archive footage, photo stills and captured footage centred around Kay’s aforementioned artistic outlets. I’m very much looking forward to cutting this film together as I’ve only ever edited one documentary before in my first year at my prior university which was more straightforard than this one. I feel that this project would help me grow as an editor as I would have to approach cutting this film with a different sensibility as opposed to cutting a narrative film together of which I have a good amount of experience.

On the music video “Hand in Hand” (directed by Fred Iyeh and produced by Amnah Pervaiz), I’ve been attached as gaffer. During second year, I had a fair amount of experience lighting different projects (Tremors, Ordeal etc.) so I feel confident about lighting the different scenes required for this music video. Drawing on what I learnt from Ian Liggett’s lighting workshop last week, I’m looking forward to trying out the different techniques and theories that was covered during that workshop.

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Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project