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To hire or to coach an editor

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Nicolette Hurnen
To hire or to coach an editor
on Jun 7, 2019 at 12:41:31 am

Hi there I've recently filmed a documentary at Ihumaatao, New Zealand about the injustices that have happened and continue to happen to the the Kainga Iwi (tribe). (Here's an article I wrote on the matter if you wanted to know more http://www.massivemagazine.org.nz/feature/death-of-whenua-ihumatao )

Although I'm really happy with what I've captured I've since realised that because I'm Pakeha (have English ancestry) and not Maori (the indigenous culture of New Zealand) it would be better and more culturally appropriate to have someone of Maori ancestry with a Maori point of view edit my documentary.

This would be my first time directing another editor and I was wondering whether it would be better to get someone who knows what they're doing and risk them taking advantage of the fact that I've mostly worked by myself in the past. Or to get someone who might not have had a huge amount of experience, like a student, so that we could both learn as we go?


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Mark Suszko
Re: To hire or to coach an editor
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:19:03 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:21:53 pm

You raise an interesting point but I'm not sure I entirely agree with what I'm understanding to be your premise; that only a Maori editor can "legitimately" edit a Maori-related program. Forgive me if I'm mischaracterizing what you wrote. If I got that part of what you said right, I'd say it's never a bad thing to teach anybody how to edit. Media literacy helps people communicate and reach minds. But it's perhaps a little paternalistic and not serving your deeper motivation to be fair to their culture, to -oversee- the edit -thru- a technician of a particular ethnic extraction. That's still colonialism, even tokenism. If your motivation is to help right the wrongs of history, and to show deference and respect, I feel you need to step back another whole level from the project; give them the tools and training and let them do the producing, writing, shooting, editing - all of it, autonomously.

You sound like you're really on their side, looking for the best way to respect and honor their story and their traditions, and I think that's great. If you mean that, I think you have to "let go", give up preconceived expectations of what it "should" look like, and be there only in an advisory capacity, if you mean to be true to your stated goals.

But let me get back to my first sentence.

I don't think you should feel guilty if you edit it yourself, just because you're not one of them. Part of our art... any art, really - is how we each uniquely interpret the elements we combine to tell a story. If you "train" a Maori editor, you're training them in your Western editing technique, to edit the way *you* would. You're imposing a european-derived aesthetic on the work, and the only difference is how that person filters what you've taught them thru their own cultural background when they make their aesthetic choices. *If they're allowed that lattitude*. Am I saying you should leave them struggling without any help? Re-invent 100 years' of technique themselves, just for the sake of "authenticity"? No. But, let me turn it around. Maybe you need the Maori to train *you*; To advise you on storytelling structure from their cultural perspective. Beginnings, middles, endings - three-act structure - plot arcs - I have no idea how their traditional storytelling differs from our established norms in these areas. But they can watch how you're shaping the story and advise you if you're not doing it the way they might. I think that should have been the plan from the start of the project, and maybe you did do that, and if so, I congratulate you.

I understand that indigenous peoples of NZ and AUS have a different cultural perspective, regarding time and the perception of it. It would be interesting to see that cultural perspective reflected in the way the video is edited. Likely it would look "unconventional", compared to Western media traditions. That can be a good thing. You've already shot the footage, though, so it's already a level down from being "culturally authentic", because you shot it from -your- perspective as an "outsider", and conscious or not, you've already imposed a certain ethos into the source footage by your choice of what you shot and how you shot it. To be dogmatically true to the premise of deferring to their culture, they should have done their own shooting. But what's done is done.

The TL:DR version of my response: teaching more people to edit is always good. Diversity in hiring and assigning creative work is great. But it doesn't automatically make your project any more "legitimate" just because you changed the ethnicity of the editor, if the editor is just executing someone else's vision. You may get a different interpretation and perhaps a more culturally-aware take on things, but never assume that's automatic, and artists cross cultural divides all the time, cross-pollinating ideas.

Finish your own edit this time, with their advice and guidance. Train them on the tools and help finance their next story, then sit back and enjoy the ride. Best of luck in what sounds like a wonderful and useful project!


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Andrew Kimery
Re: To hire or to coach an editor
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:24:09 pm

I'd say find the best editor you can that you think mesh well with you and with the project and also find a member of the Kainga Iwi to act as a producer on the film to help during the edit.

But as Mark already mentioned, you've already gone in as an outsider and shot everything so you should be open the the chance that a lot of what you shot is 'wrong', from a Kainga Iwi perspective might need to be scrapped.

Also, who is your audience for this film? Do you want to show it to non-Kainga Iwi so they better understand the plight of the Kainga Iwi? Is it for Kainga Iwi?


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grinner hester
Re: To hire or to coach an editor
on Aug 3, 2019 at 4:22:17 pm

ahhhh... to train or to pay for experience.
I have found paying for experience means another opinion, an after-work schedule, family, etc. Being that any monkey can learn what the buttons do, I'd rather tell someone what I need knowing they will do it how I want it.
... Hence editors' salaries being an all time low, never to raise again.



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Ross Ozarka
Re: To hire or to coach an editor
on Aug 9, 2019 at 6:05:04 am

"I was wondering whether it would be better to get someone who knows what they're doing and risk them taking advantage of the fact that I've mostly worked by myself in the past."

What sort of advantage are you afraid they'd take?


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