When I was told to write my experiences related to documentary editing, honestly I was very excited, as I have never penned down my thoughts on my profession as a Video Editor. In fact, I never thought of doing so.
Turning hours of footage into a well-polished film requires creative mind, hard work, complex judgement about what should make it to the final cut and a careful division of technical and creative working between director and editor. This is the most challenging part of my job. But, the most thrilling part as well.
Let me introduce myself to you, I am Parul. I work as a Senior Video Editor with Carrot Films. I’ve been associated with Carrot Films for more than two and a half years and till now I have worked on a number of social, human-interest films and majorly on three big documentaries which I am listing down in a chronological series:
- Say Cheese– This is a story of a street child named Sheru who wanted to be a photographer.
- Songs from the Valley– This one is the story of a Kashmiri youth who has chosen music to express his dissent.
- Slumdog Actor– A story of Aadil who lives in the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai with his mentally challenged mother but dreams to become a Superstar in the Indian Film Industry.
Well,I just realized while writing this that all these projects start with the letter“S”.
Editing a documentary is altogether a different process unlike film editing. One major difference is that because of its unscripted nature, documentaries hardly have happy endings. And that’s what fascinates me as an editor to shape up the film keeping in mind the realism, failure and hope because that is what most of everyone’s life consists of.
Whenever I start a new project it’s always like I have been thrown into a sea of footage and now I have to get my way back to the shore. It all begins when the camera cards reach my desk finally after long hours of shooting for multiple days. Dumping the footage, logging it properly so that it saves time. The next step is to listen to the hours of interviews and surf through loads of footage. And that is when I finally start chopping.
As an editor, it’s very important to develop a relationship with the character, mentally and emotionally. Even though I hardly get a chance to meet my protagonist in person, I make sure that I spend enough time with them on the edit table to understand their nuances. Of course, it requires a lot of time, hard work and patience.
I remember editing the documentary “Songs from the Valley”- a film about Kashmiri youth who make songs to express their dissent. I was working on it for a long time but somehow, I wasn’t able to connect with it. However, I had to complete the film anyhow. So I came to office on a Sunday to work on it. I spent some good 8-9 hours with the project alone and it finally connected with me. I started understanding the story better, the character better and the film better.
While working on such projects I realize that many times my long nurtured beliefs about things don’t match with the beliefs of my character. For eg. while working on ‘Songs from the Valley’ my protagonist says “Koi Kashmiri Hindustan Ke Jhande Nahi Lahrayega”.
Here, my thinking would be different from the character because I am on the other side of their reality. But then, I realized that as an editor it is my job to work on my film without being biased or judgemental and present the story without tampering their beliefs and faiths. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair to the story as well as the character. It was the day when I started looking at the story without any personal notions.
Later in the day, my director surprised me with a cake because it was 10th of June, which happened to be my birthday. It was a special birthday, even if I didn’t celebrate it conventionally.
Every time I edit a documentary, it makes an impression on me. Sometimes, it’s so intense that it totally shifts my vision about that story. I personally get very attached to the protagonist and start thinking like them, which I think helps me bring out the story better.
And then, all said and done – what’s a cut that doesn’t bleed?
In my career I have been exposed to a lot of stories as part of my job and what I majorly learnt in Carrot while editing these documentaries is to stay raw and play with natural ambiance as much as possible. There is no wrong or right take in a documentary. It is all in the moment – and all with the flow.
Every project has taught me something special but the best thing is that every project is new and different so isthe way it can be made. Many times I have to unlearn few things to learn something new.
Here is the first film that I ever made after I associated with Carrot. It is not a documentary, but the first story that I edited.
“In the end, each cut in my timeline is based on my own feelings and instincts which eventually makes it the Right Cut”.