Brown Gold is a feature length documentary that explores poverty, responsibility, the problem of aid to developing countries, and sanitation itself. Visually it`s an amazing game of leapfrog from a chaotic Kenyan slum to the icy crispness of Sweden, and back again.
I`ve been on board since the beginning of the project, researching and refining the story with Annika, participating in research trips in the US, India and Kenya, editing the trailers and co-writing the proposals. Our collaboration resulted in significant grants from the Sundance/Skoll stories of Change initiative, as well as development grants from Canada. We took the project on the road and have pitched it at Hot Docs in Toronto and the Good Pitch at the SILVERDOCS festival in Silver Springs.
With principal photography all but finished, we’re currently refining the structure and expect to premiere in 2015.
Brown Gold Official Site.
This was a biggie: my first editing job in Swedish, after being in the country just over two years. The director near central Sweden. One producer in Denmark. One in Malmo. And me, in the middle of nowhere.
Between on-line tech and good communication channels this doc about one woman’s horrible abuse, and the failure of the Swedish system to protect her was finished. The process of making it made me a better editor, helping me focus on the material that truly mattered to tell the story in the clearest and most respectful way possible, without falling into cliche or becoming too literal.
There are lots of accomplishments I’m proud of, but this one rankes up there with the top of the list.
Killing Time is an award-winning feature length documentary by Annika Gustafson.
I asked Annika one question before I began organizing the material: “what do you want people to take away from the film?” Her answer ended up in the middle of the bulletin board and stayed there as we jigsawed the film’s pieces around.
The answer was “I want them to respect the refuges.”
Covering the forced expulsion of a sixth of Bhutan’s population in the late eighties in a display of ethnic cleansing, the challenge here was in maintaining the dignity of people whose story is being told, of not reducing them to numbers or cliches. Another struggle was piercing the popular view of Bhutan as a peaceful Shangri-La where nothing of the kind could ever have happened. We were amazed at people’s resistance to the idea that a Buddhist nation were responsible for more than 100,000 refuges getting deadlocked in refuge camps in Nepal, waiting patiently and peacefully for a return to their homelands that would never happen.
The biggest nut to crack was how to cut a film where nothing really happens, where the central characters spend most of their time waiting.
Fortunately, shot in both Nepal and New York, we had an abundance of material to sift through, and the choices revealed themselves as the process unfolded. In that sense time became our friend. The people are beautiful, and their dignity shines on every frame. Letting them tell their own stories was the best choice we made.
A singularly rewarding experience.
dir: Peter Wiren
Ett skott från höften, Malmö
My first Swedish language work (not that there’s a lot of swedish in it).
A very fun project courtesy of Ett skott från höften, Malmö, a local event that puts teams of filmmakers together with a concept, gives them a week to fine tune a script, a day to shoot and a day to cut. A really well prepared shoot meant that I got a pretty simple batch of material to assemble. But then, as Mies van der Rohe always said, “God is in the details.”
Anyway, now I’ve cut films in 3 languages I didn’t understand. What more can you ask for.
JUST FOR LAUGHS / JUSTE POUR RIRE
Un canoë pour l’enfer
Juste Pour Rire, 2004
It’s good to laugh, so these were good gigs.
Between 2003 and 2008 I edited English and French galas for the CBC and Radio Canada (for French comedy), repackaged stand up sets for the BBC (putting the beeped out colorful words back in), short films and video presentations for the live galas (Un canoë pour l’enfer for example) and extended interviews with french stand up comics. If the true test of culture is what people laugh at, then I got a pretty good glimpse of what makes anglophone and francophone audiences tick by going back and forth between the two connected but very different worlds. The pressure for the galas was tremendous, a thrill ride to be sure with SNAFUS and blow ups galore. But the people and support were phenomenal.
Those folks really knew how to throw a wrap party.
THE FISHING ADVENTURER
The Fishing Adventurer: Kenya, 2008
Dir: Cyril Chauquet
Broadcasters: ESPN2 (U.S.), Discovery Channel (UK, Germany, Italy), CTV (Canada)
French Broadcasters (under the title Mordu de la Pêche): Évasion
The difference was the pace and the context. Shot on the fly, I’d get upwards of 60-70 hours of material per episode that would have to be condensed down to 52 minutes in a couple of weeks. That included logging and story writing based on quickly scrawled production notes. Kind of the antithesis of the “Property Shop” process.
The basis of a story would be there, including what the ultimate pay off fish or fishing scene would be. The rest was mine to play with. Did I mention that all the on cams were shot in French and English and I had to prepare cuts for both? Not as simple as it sounds when you’ve got to splice together the best bits of up to 15 takes per on cam, per language.
Anyway, that’s the trick isn’t it, making a fishing show to people besides fishermen. Exotic locations and interesting people play a big part. Dynamic cutting makes the difference. It was exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.
THE PROPERTY SHOP
Season 1, Ep 10
Whalley Abbey Media
The most resources I’ve ever had to work with, but also the most material in the tightest timeline. I was second to last in the chain of editors who shaped this program, from the a-rollers to the b-rollers to the fine, fine cutter at the top.
A mountain of material was sifted through to isolate the true story nuggets (bless those assistants) and all the writers, producers and other editors were available in an unparalleled display of cooperation, to craft the best show we possibly could.
Demanding, but the most fun I’ve had on a TV show.
UNE FEMME DE BIEN BONNE HUMEUR
dir: Marie-Hélène Panisset
10 min. 37
Best experimental film and Special jury mention
International Short Film Festival Kratkofil, Banja Luka, Bosnie-Herzégovine, 2008
My second collaboration with Marie-Hélène, and in one way a bit more fun. The film was designed to accommodate effects heavy cutting, and was liberating because of it. There was a script (which I didn’t read) but on the whole the cutting was decided as we went, meaning that decisions were being made right up to the end of the effects stage. On a personal note, I felt like I finally understood dance a little. Not well enough to appreciate it much more, but well enough to be inspired in the cutting room.
HOW IT’S MADE / HOW IT WORKS
Dir: Gabriel Hoss
prod: MAJ 2 productions
Broadcasters: Discovery Channel (Canada), Science (U.S.)
The most mechanical of my gigs by far.
The director would be with me the whole time, necessary because of the intricacies of any given subject and the time frame : 1 day per subject, 4:20min capsules, up to 3 hours of footage, and no real time to figure out how everything fit together without some serious help.
A good exercise in collaboration, though not the most creative work in the world. At the very least I got a good look at destructive manufacturing processes (the plastic, my god!) that turned me off of unsustainable products and some fascinating tools, assemble lines and interface. You wouldn’t believe how toothbrushes get made.
Also: briefly worked on the prototype episodes of the show’s spin off, “How it Works”, which was far more interesting from an editing / sound design point of view.
THE SHELDON KENNEDY STORY
As a native English speaker who also speaks perfect french, my skills were perfectly suited to this piece, shaping the nuances of the English content to the minutest detail and coupling it with the french.
I was brought in to take an hour and a half content assembly and shape it into the final program. B-roll material and music was delivered bit by bit, so I did a bit of my own archival research and discovered some material that was even more disturbing than what the producers had found. That’s when I realized that I’m a great information hunter.
It’s a depressing project ( in terms of story) to discover it with, but even so.
DIARY OF A MADMAN
What can I say. This one came straight from the heart and alienated lots of folks. It didn’t help that I ended up having to play the part of Stuart because my first casting choice kind of was mad and backed out at the last minute. But I do think it stands as a testament to obsession and free form adaptation. A writer friend of mine said, and I quote ”I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I took it as a compliment. Which it was.
Anyway, I also see it as a display of the power of open-mindedness. The film was meant to have roughly 50 cuts. It ended up with well over a thousand. Whether it’s successful or not is beside the point. I was simply proud to go beyond my own judgement and take the film somewhere I hadn’t planned to.
LE BONHEUR EST DANS LES PRÉS MAIS PARFOIS C’EST AU FOND D’UN OCÉAN DE SOUFFRANCE QU’ON FINIT PAR LE TROUVER
I wouldn’t say I have any particular passion for dance, but rhythm certainly speaks to me. Marie-Hélène saw the work that I’d done with her colleague Julien Knafo (Noir, Magasin and some other stuff), and decided to give it a shot. The result was a curious blend of her dance aesthetic and my dark flair that informed how the material fit together. Mix a fairy take into the middle of all that and out comes the first of two collaborations with her (and an award winner at that!)
dir: Julien Knafo
I forget where, but someone asked Julien at some party “what kind of market is there for a medium length film?”
“None,” he replied.
That didn’t stop him from putting together a damned impressive team and shooting a lovely little piece.
To be honest, I even built some of the props and set, though the real work happened in the edit suite. It’s safe to say that Julien’s ambition overshot his means, not by much, but enough that certain compromises on the set had a direct impact on how everything fit together. We worked hard together to find the right tone with image and sound design. I think we ended up with a piece that exceded the script.
Actually, it was just a lot of fun to cut.
dir: Julien Knafo
Gold Award for Fantasy/Horror Short, WorldFest, Houston, USA
My second collaboration with Julien. Aside from the fact that we were both young and chain smoking fiends, we found a great mutual passion for a particular film aesthetic, one that challenges and absorbs the viewer in its world. It was his first independent post university production, and one of my early digital cuts. I learned a hell of a lot about what to do when the footage doesn’t measure up to the director’s intentions. A lot of fun.
TAXI TO L.A.
dir: Bashar Shbib
Everyone’s got to start somewhere.
Forget about the quality of the film, in many ways this was the single most formative gig of my career. The challenge of finding usable material and concocting a story out of limited footage shot on the fly, practically in real time, played a major role in learning what NOT to do when you make a film. Working alongside Rosella Tursi, we (somehow) cut a feature film that fit together, in spite of amateur performances, 60 different film stocks, and a focus ring that fought Jay Ferguson’s fingers every step of the way. The result… Well, you get to see a still here, not a clip. Let’s just say that Bashar’s role in my work was more important than I’d care to admit.
To him at least.
(And hey, it was my last gig on a Steenbeck. There’s nothing like holding that big, beautiful workprint in your hands.)