Live From Tribeca: Spotlighting Premiere Pro with Indie Films

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

On the heels of Sundance and SXSW, Adobe Premiere Pro made a splash at Tribeca and supporting filmmakers. ProductionHUB exclusively talked to the editors behind American FactoryThis is Not BerlinCRSHD and STORM – a few spotlight examples amongst the dozens of films that used Premiere Pro at the festival, exemplifying Adobe’s commitment to the filmmaking community and ongoing mission to build innovative post-production tools that help filmmakers tell one of a kind stories.


American Factory

Synopsis: 

In 2008, the General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio shut down, leaving thousands of Ohioans out of work. Years later, Chairman Cao Dewang, CEO of the Chinese company Fuyao Glass, opens an American wing of his sprawling, multi-billion-dollar company in that very same plant, hiring thousands of Dayton locals and kicking off one of the strangest tales of international labor and cross-cultural contact.

Aubrey Keith is Associate Editor, Cinematographer and Associate Producer of AMERICAN FACTORY.

PH: Can you describe how you got involved with the project? 

Aubrey Keith: Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert were two of my professors at Wright State University. Shortly after graduating, I was brought onto the project and worked with them from 2015-2019. I worked as a cinematographer and, at first, an assistant editor on the film.  As time went on, I became an associate editor and associate producer.

PH: As an editor, what role do you play in the pre-production process? How do you prepare? Are there special techniques you use to keep track of storytelling?

Aubrey Keith: There wasn't a lot of pre-production with this project. Julia and Steve were allowed access to shoot in the factory and from there we began shooting in early 2015 and continued until late 2017. Our brilliant editor, Lindsay Utz, came on board the film in early summer 2017. As the film was in production we created notecards to events we knew we wanted in the film. We filled a wall at our studio in Ohio, and Lindsay had an identical notecard wall in Chicago. Events and characters would be added to the wall, discussed, and then removed or remained into the next assembly. Lindsay, Julia, and Steve decided to organize the film with the plant being the biggest character. The film follows the events of a start-up company with human characters coming and going throughout the piece. This allowed the film to tell a story with many perspectives. 

PH: How many hours of footage were you sorting through? Can you talk about a few challenges you faced?

Aubrey Keith: We had over 1200 hours of footage. There were 5 team members shooting pretty consistently as well as additional camera operators. The challenge was really narrowing down the footage to tell a complicated, yet organized story.  Lindsay also spent the first months on the job screening footage and marking moments that stood out to her. She would then assign scenes to be selected by our group of assistant and additional editors. This helped us gain a grasp on what was and wasn't important to include in the film. 

PH: What was your favorite shot(s)? 

Aubrey Keith: My favorite shot is when Wong, a Chinese blue-collar worker, sits at his computer as a machine works in the background. It's dark behind him on 2nd or 3rd shift. It's a quiet, lovely, long shot that shows how factory jobs can have their moments of loneliness. It's especially compelling given the fact that many of the Chinese workers at Fuyao, moved away from their families for a few years in order to help the Ohio plant get started. 

PH: How did Premiere Pro allow you to achieve results on the project?

Aubrey Keith: Premiere allowed us to work with different camera formats, without transcoding, which was really helpful! A lot of our footage was shot with the C100 (MTS), C300 (MXF) and Canon 5D (MOV). For meetings and events that were shot with multiple cameras, we were able to nest sequences and then multi-cam them. This feature allowed us to screen potential scenes with all of the cameras accessible at once. The ability to merge clips and then use the " match frame" shortcut helped us access the original footage with synced audio in case we needed to view more moments in a shot.


CRSHD

Synopsis:

Best friends Izzy (Isabelle Barbier), Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar) and Fiona (Sadie Scott) are on a bubbly quest to lose their virginities before freshman year ends. They are provided with the perfect opportunity in the shape of a Crush Party organized by the coolest girl on campus—Elise (Isabelle Kenet). Their journey there is dotted by colorful and tongue-in-cheek reenactments of their social media and sprinkled with anecdotes from campus life. By the end of the night none of the girls have ended up quite where, or with the person, they thought they would.

Co-Editors Emily Cohn & Michelle Botticelli of “CRSHD”, premiering April 30th, 2019 at Tribeca Film Festival.

PH: Can you describe how you got involved with the project? 

Emily Cohn: I’m the writer/director/producer as well as co-editor! So I’ve been involved from the birth of CRSHD.

Michelle Botticelli: We had been connected through a good friend of mine. I saw the rough cut and immediately fell in love with characters. And then I met with Emily and we instantaneously understood each other and were able to talk in detail what needed to be done.

PH: As an editor, what role do you play in the pre-production process? How do you prepare? Are there special techniques you use to keep track of storytelling?

Emily Cohn: This was a particular case since I am the writer/director as well. Michelle, my co-editor, came on board once I already had a rough cut of the project that I’d been working on for a few months. But after sitting down together and really dissecting the issues with that initial cut, Michelle was super involved with planning out reshoots and pickups with me. It was a whole other writing process. I ended up making a visual guide of our edit to keep track of where the plot holes were. This film also has many layers––there’s the reality of our three characters, everything happening in their social media worlds and an animated component. So I color-coded the visual guide along with our Premiere clips to help us keep track of all that!

Michelle Botticelli: I started on CRSHD right before re-shoots so I can't speak to pre-production. But I definitely think it’s important for an editor to weigh in on a re-shoot. An editor can be extremely important in asking for shots or even a scene that can tie elements that aren't working together. Emily and I did a lot of that problem solving together on this.

PH: How many hours of footage were you sorting through? Can you talk about a few challenges you faced? 

Emily Cohn: It was about 50 hours of footage, but we kept adding as we did pickups. Our biggest challenge with every iteration was getting the first 10 minutes right. That’s where you risk losing the audience and I was
initially trying to cram in way too much. Michelle helped pinpoint what was actually needed and what wasn’t.

Michelle Botticelli: I started with a rough cut, but eventually you always go back to the dailies and see what you have hidden.

PH: What was your favorite shot(s)? 

Emily Cohn: I think my favorite shot in the film is this 30second tracking shot at the peak of the “Crush Party” in the film where we land on our main girl, totally defeated. It’s a moment where all the elements come together in the film, in my opinion!

Michelle Botticelli: One of my favorite shots is a wide shot of a scene at the campus bowling alley where one of the characters rolls out a physical representation of her Instagram. But I have many that I love.

PH: How do you determine where to make an edit? Can you describe an example? 

Emily Cohn: Since this movie is a comedy, it was a lot about finding the laugh and cutting on a scene’s “button.”

Michelle Botticelli: There is always a rhythm to a scene –– the reasons to make an edit really vary.

PH: How much reliance do you have on the script when editing?

Emily Cohn: I obviously knew the script very well in constructing the initial rough cut, but after that, the script basically went out the window and it was all about the actual material we had to work with. I’d say the final film is about 60% in-line with the script. There was so much re-arranged and added and cut in post for us. That comes down to ADR as well. We re-worked entire scenes and wrote new lines to fit.

Michelle Botticelli:  For the first assembly you tend to completely rely on a script––it helps to figure out beats, sub-text etc. But then as you cut away at the movie, characters begin to reveal themselves and the script
becomes secondary to the material in front of you.
 
PH: How did Premiere Pro allow you to achieve results on the project?

Emily Cohn: This was a very layered project with a lot of VFX. Premiere’s workflow with After Effects was extremely crucial for us. Premiere is also extremely accessible and intuitive, which helps in easily importing and testing new ideas quickly. We had so many different file types, from Canon ProRes to GH5 footage, animation, VFX and graphics, Premiere let me organize all of that easily and efficiently.

Michelle Botticelli: I am new to Premiere Pro (and actually Emily helped teach it to me for this project!). But it became clear quickly that because the movie is so GFX heavy, using Premiere was the best possible decision.


STORM

 

Synopsis: 

An unexpected user (John Bubniak) is accidentally launched through a series of turbulent splash portals when his government-enforced dating app malfunctions in his bathtub.

Will Kindrick is Director, Writer and Editor of STORM

PH: Can you describe how you got involved with the project? 

Will Kindrick: This was an intense passion project for me that I actually wrote and directed. I’m always involved heavily in post and edit most of my own projects whether it be music videos, commercials or narrative. I think the most fun happens in the editing room and that’s when the film really comes to life. 

PH: As an editor, what role do you play in the pre-production process? How do you prepare? Are
there special techniques you use to keep track of storytelling?

Will Kindrick: I come from an animation background so I’m a firm believer in the storyboard process! I usually sketch out every scene in preproduction on a post-it note or tablet and then edit together a comprehensive animatic completely with temp sound effects and dialog before I even shoot. I build my live action timeline over the animatic. 

PH: How many hours of footage were you sorting through? Can you talk about a few challenges you faced? 

Will Kindrick: This film covers a wide range of locations, 14 main full crew principal photography locations shot on the Alexa mini, 9 skeleton crew flashback locations shot on a VHS cam, and 3 pick up shoot locations for our PSA that opens the short. Principal photography took place over the course of 6 days + an additional day for the VHS footage. It was an ambitious project to say the least, especially for a short, so we had to keep the momentum and move at a fast-paced schedule in order to make our days! We were limited to the number of takes we were able to get and this film revolves around kinetic match cut transitions that have to be executed just right. All of those shots were meticulously planned out in preproduction, but when you’re there on the day you have to adjust to multiple unplanned factors that arise. 

Another challenge was cutting around our naked actor. For the first half of the film, he’s supposed to be completely naked. Our actor wore skin color speedos for the first few days then graduated to more of a cover-up sock. It was a bit of a challenge cutting around the underwear or covering with vfx. 

PH: What was your favorite shot(s)? 

Will Kindrick: I loved all the sequences in the bathtub. The performances, cinematography, art direction, etc. I’m really happy with how all of that turned out. I’m also a big fan of the underwater shots when Blake and Natalie are taken out by the flash flood. 

PH: How do you determine where to make an edit? Can you describe an example? 

Will Kindrick: I follow my animatic fairly closely, but I always allow room for the story to evolve and take on a life of it’s own. I feel like once I’ve established the rhythm the cuts begin to fall into place. My favorite transition/cut is when Blake is at the restaurant and the woman at his table spits her drink in his face which then transitions to him being sprayed in the face by the old man with the garden hose. That had to be cut at the precise moment to match his reaction and the velocity of the water spray. 

We move through the splash transitions at such a fast pace speed that when we finally slow down to take a breath those moments stand out and feel earned. I wanted to make sure that nothing felt rushed or too frantic regardless of our breakneck speed, so it was important to find the right balance. I also play the drums and come from a music background so I like to approach the story from a musical perspective. 

PH: How much reliance do you have on the script when editing?
 
Will Kindrick: Once the animatic was finished I didn’t reference the script at all. That’s one of the advantages of editing a project you write and direct. I was so familiar with the material by the time I got to the edit bay.

PH: How did Premiere Pro allow you to achieve results on the project?

Will Kindrick: Premiere Pro is the only way to go! My work tends to feature a decent amount of visual effects so I’m constantly using the adobe dynamic link feature to jump back and forth from Premiere to After Effects. It was also incredibly convenient to update titles in Photoshop or Illustrator and have those changes reflected immediately in my premiere timeline.


This is Not Berlin

 

Synopsis: 

The year is 1986, and World Cup fever has hit Mexico. Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de León) and Gera (José Antonio Toledano) are two best friends from middle-class families who are starting to feel out of place in their sheltered, entitled milieu. But then they discover a liberating, mysterious world of art, drugs, and sex amid the underground clubs of Mexico City. 

Rodrigo Rios is Editor of This Is Not Berlin.

PH: Can you describe how you got involved with the project? 

Rodrigo Rios: I first became involved with the project during the second phase of editing. The director, Hari Sama had an almost 145 minute-long cut that he made using Ximena Cuevas. Antonio Urdapilleta, the film’s producer, found me. He proposed that I finish the editing process since they were at a point in which they needed an editor with a fresh vision that would make the film solid.

The truth is that when I saw the 145 minute-long cut, I immediately realized the enormous potential that This Is Not Berlin (Esto no es Berlín) had. I knew we had a lot of work ahead to achieve the best results for the film.

So I got together with Hari to talk, exchange ideas, and think about the challenges that lay ahead. I asked them for 3 weeks to become familiar with the material and prepare a new proposal. Fortunately, the cut I presented was very positive. This gave Hari a lot of confidence and a new impulse to continue working together until the film was completed.

I feel very fortunate to have been part of this great project. I consider it one of the best films in which I've worked on. This Is Not Berlin is an honest, rebellious and fresh film that talks about friendship in a particular moment of youth and art during the 80s in Mexico.

PH: As an editor, what role do you play in the pre-production process? How do you prepare? Are there special techniques you use to keep track of storytelling?

Rodrigo Rios: I think that the best way to prepare a film is when there is the possibility to talk a lot with the director about the conception of the universe he wants to create. Then, I try to materialize the concepts and the direct references to other films through an exchange of ideas in order to clarify and define the style and type of editing that is sought for the project.

I also try to establish the analysis and proposal of the transitions between sequences so that during the editing process we can have many options to link the sequences in an organic and powerful way. This gives me very good results.

During the filming process, it is very important to me to order the material in an efficient way that allows me to evaluate and optimize my time before I properly start editing. I also select the best shots prioritizing the actor’s work.

PH: How many hours of footage were you sorting through? Can you talk about a few challenges you faced? 

Rodrigo Rios: I do not remember exactly how many hours of footage we had but it was a lot. Hari filmed with a lot of freedom and we had a very intense film. One of the main challenges we faced was the need to shorten it and decide what to leave out so the material represented the rhythmical and narrative priorities of the film.

We knew that we had a challenge with the rhythm, especially in the 2nd act. We dedicated time to debug the cut. We discussed a lot about the meaning of each sequence of the film and re-edited some sequences that were long and shone when compacted.

It is incredible to realize that moving and removing 3 or 4 sequences of a film can generate such different sensation and general perception. For example, in one of the cuts, we took out a couple of sequences in which Carlos and Gera played. There ended up being a long moment of the second act when Gera practically disappeared as a character and this resulted in the disappearance of one of the most important central axes of history, which was the friendship between them. So we realized that this cut was not satisfying the film’s needs so we had to reformulate the strategy to avoid losing this bond between the characters, which is the driving point of This Is Not Berlin. We finally achieved the final cut which lasts 105 minutes.

PH: What was your favorite shot(s)? 

Rodrigo Rios: I think that several moments of the film are sublime. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite shot is the sequence when Carlos goes up to Nico’s apartment and discovers the group of artists in the midst of creation, sex, and drugs during the party.

I also really like the sequence in which we see Carlos developing the robot and the video is being filmed in super 8 mm for the collective’s performance outside the Azteca stadium, all
this, while Carlos’ family is watching the Mexico 86 World Cup inauguration.

PH: How do you determine where to make an edit? Can you describe an example? 

Rodrigo Rios: That is a very interesting question. I think that you feel the cut in the stomach. Unlike the a structure that is very rational, the cut is more physical, more instinctive— you see a shot and suddenly there is a feeling in the gut that tells you “here, here is the right point”.

Obviously, we always look for natural cut points, like movements. Most of the time you look for an invisible cut, so natural and fluid that the viewer does not perceive the change of the frame’s value and position.

This effect is very important in our profession because it is thanks to this that we have the feeling that cinema is something we observe as a continuous act in space-time, when in fact we are creating it through small fragments.

PH: How much reliance do you have on the script when editing?

Rodrigo Rios: The script is definitely a very important guide when you start editing. As an editor, you translate and interpret what was first conceived. This helps us to understand the approach and what is being sought in the project.

But in reality, when you edit, you do not work with written words anymore, you work with the essential elements with which cinema is written: image and sound. So the script goes to the background and the editor starts to evaluate the material. We go from the abstract idea written on paper to the concretion of the shots, where we look for the perfection of the interpretation, the internal rhythm, the best-executed camera movements, etc.

In summary, I think it is essential to get rid of the script so you can rewrite the film during the editing process. Most of the time, editing first on paper works well; but when you are already running a set of sequences, it sometimes stops working. When that happens you must be alert to understand how you should move the pieces within this wonderful language that is the cinema.

PH: How did Premiere Pro allow you to achieve results on the project?

Rodrigo Rios: Premiere Pro seems to be a very good tool since its way of working is quite friendly and intuitive. You think about what you want to do and it is very helpful to be able to do it almost immediately without going through complex technical mechanisms for its realization.

This is very important for me because it is essential not to waste time or stagnate in solving technical problems. The important thing is to optimize time to find creative solutions and proposals that contribute to the style and universe of the film you are working in.

Throughout more than 15 feature films that I’ve had the fortune to edit, I’ve had the opportunity to try different software. I started with Final Cut 7, with which I worked for several years until it was discontinued and became obsolete. It was at this point where I had to decide which would be the future software to work with and I decided that I had to try the available ones. I worked first with Avid on a series for HBO. The change was difficult
at first since Avid works with a different principle regarding the approach to editing.

Although I found things that I liked, I was never satisfied and I always found the internal logic of the software very complicated. So when I tried Premiere, which was much closer to Final Cut 7, I could also map my keyboard integrating the things I liked most about Avid and Final Cut 7. I was very happy and the new innovations were a plus. I constantly use them when editing with Premiere Pro. At this moment I think Premiere is the platform I will work with on my future projects.

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