Welcome to the second of our four-part interview series with RAOR editor Franco Pante. In this segment, Franco describes his working relationship with director Katrin Bowen, compares his experiences on RAOR with Amazon Falls, and gives us deeper insight into his editing process.
S: So, is it accurate to say that the tools influence your ability to be an editor, in terms of your craft of storytelling and composing?
FP: Yeah, and every editor will approach it in their own way, I guess. I mean, the tools are something that you have to master to a certain extent, right? And some editors are way more technically adept than others. It doesn’t mean that the ones who aren’t as technically adept aren’t as good storytellers, or maybe better storytellers. Because certainly in features, TV, drama, or whatever, we’re trying to tell a story. And with any film, even if they’re experimental or documentary, or what have you, you’re trying to tell a story – that’s what it’s about.
S: So there really is a technical and an artistic side to what you do?
FP: Yeah, for sure. There’s certainly both going on, and you don’t want the technical to get in the way of you telling your story, so you need to be adept enough at it that you’re not struggling with it.
S: So you can just stay in the flow of what you’re doing?
FP: Yeah, exactly.
S: So, how does that flow work? When you sit down with a fresh project and you’ve got all this footage, what do you do?
FP: Well, I’m always excited when new material comes in, because I’m the first audience. So it’s the most fun part, really, because you’re getting to see all this material. So, you watch your dailies just to get a sense of it. Many editors have different approaches to that. Some are really methodical about note taking.
S: So, note taking – they’re jotting down ‘this take…this take’?
FP: Yeah: ‘I like this,’ or whatever, first impressions…you want to approach the material fresh and let it influence you without preconceptions. You’ve read the script, but this is all new material now, this is it, this is what you have to work with, this is what the scene is.
You’re looking for what’s this material telling you, where does it want to lead you? And also, obviously with the director’s vision. That’s ultimately what you’re trying to do, is get the director’s vision out in the best way, right?
S: Does the footage you receive ever speak to you in a very different way than the director’s vision?
FP: It depends. Often you’ll get some notes from the directors with their preferred takes, or maybe even some notes from them saying ‘Oh, I really like this bit.’ By watching all the material you can usually see what the director was intending for a particular scene.
Sometimes if they’re not sure, they’ll shoot a lot of coverage if they have time and then decide later in the edit room which way they want to play it.
S: So, are you saying that you’re actually doing a rough assembly while production’s happening?
FP: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
S: And then you’re doing a separate process during editing?
S: Can you explain that?
FP: As the shooting is happening, I’m receiving the dailies as we go along. So, I’ll start assembling scenes and at the end of the week I usually try and give the director the scenes I’ve been able to assemble from that week, so they can get an idea of what they’ve shot so far, how it’s coming together, and if they have any notes at that point, then that’s great to get them, but during production, they’re usually so slammed that they’re lucky if they get a chance to see those scenes.
It’s also a time when they can see, ‘Oh, I really need to do an insert here,’ or a pickup shot of something.
S: So it’s like feedback for them.
FP: Sure. As they’re working on set, in their heads, they will be putting together the scene, but it’s nice for them to be able to see something at the end [of the day or week]. Hopefully they’re pleasantly surprised if it’s not exactly as they thought it would get put together. So, it’s an opportunity for them to also see another way to approach the scene.
In the edit room, you’ve got to be able to try anything, and in the end, it’s not my film, it’s the director’s film and it’s the director’s vision that we’re trying to get to, and the whole process in the edit room is a back and forth.
S: What is your relationship with the director? Do you prefer to collaborate, or is it a more hierarchical relationship?
FP: You want to be a collaborator. You want to work with the director to make the best film. Sometimes you might have a different opinion and so you have to have that discussion. If you think a certain cut might be better, or a certain way of taking a scene might be better, you discuss that. I’ve found that almost every director I’ve worked with is very open to that. That’s my job, to present what I think is the best film, the best footage, the best performance.
And, once you’re heard, then the director can make a choice. Because it’s a choice. It’s not good or bad; it’s a choice. So, if they want a film to go in a certain direction, we’ve got to go there. And if that’s different than what I thought in a particular scene, that’s fine, as long as we can have that discussion and they know that they have that other option.
S: So it’s informed.
S: How’s working with Katrin? You worked with her on Amazon Falls, also. Can you comment on that process and how it compares with other films you’ve done?
FP: Well, with Amazon Falls, it was a really low-budget shoot, but it was a great collaboration with her. She has a strong opinion and a strong sense of what she wants, and she brings that into the edit room, but she’s also open to seeing things. So, it’s a great back and forth and we can have our discussions about things, and in the end I think the film is stronger from that back and forth.
S: Any differences between Amazon Falls and RAOR?
FP: Well, sure, it’s a bigger budget. It’s still a low budget and they’re making do with a lot less than what they would really want to have, ideally, so there’s still the limitations of low-budget.
Yet it’s a bigger cast, it’s a much more ambitious film.
S: The story line’s more complex, I understand.
FP: Absolutely, and there’s many more characters that we’re following, and it weaves comedy as well as some drama, as opposed to Amazon Falls, which was a lot heavier on drama, and any comedy was pretty dark, a much heavier story. So, I think with this film, the audience won’t be going through the wringer in the same way. Hopefully they’ll come out with more of a smile on their face but still have a great journey.
Still great performances, and we were really lucky with that.
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We will post part three of this four-part interview next week. In that installment, Franco talks about working from the perspective of an audience member and how that helps him tell the best story possible.
Franco is a freelance editor in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com