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.
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.
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.