Editing a Peruvian Feature Film from a Tiny New York City Apartment

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

If you had told me five years ago that I would be editing a Peruvian feature film from inside my tiny New York City apartment, I would have been a little confused. Throw in the extra comedic touch of the film’s language being one I do not speak, and I would have commented that my career had taken an interesting turn. Yet here we are.  Director Adrian Saba’s second feature film El Soñador follows the story of Sebastian, a young man from Lima, Peru, who desperately seeks an escape from his life of crime.

Elisa Tenaud and Gustavo Borjas play Emilia and Sebastián.

The film morphed into existence after receiving sponsorship through the Peruvian government. The director wanted to tell the story through the lens of shifting time and dream sequence, using moments of surrealism to better express the internal thoughts of the main character. The placement of these sequences within the film has proven to be one of the more difficult challenges of the project.

Herbert Corimanya being photographed by director of photography Cesar Fe in a scene at the police station.

Gustavo Borjas and Adrián Du Bois in front of the camera.

The fluidity of the content in the timeline in this part of the process has amazed me. We are constantly shifting huge chunks of the story in the pursuit of clarity and understanding. Just when you think that you cannot manipulate the material further, a test audience reveals countless new possibilities. The complex nature of managing the story arc through all of these structural changes has kept things interesting in the editing room.

Timeline of the Peruvian feature film 'El Soñador'.

Our current timeline represents the midway point for the picture cut.  The director and I are now taking a one-month break, which will allow for a fresh set of eyes when driving towards picture lock, sound editing, score, and color later in the year.

Justin Beach in his edit suite.

I was lucky enough to be in the position to choose the editing system that I wanted to work with for the film. Given the scale of the project, and the fact that I would be acting as my own assistant editor and liaison between later partners in the post production process, Media Composer was the logical decision. We shot on the ARRI ALEXA, converting the ARRIRAW files to DNxHD 36 with DaVinci Resolve, before fast importing into Avid for the offline edit. The small size of the editorial team necessitated a system with rock solid stability that could play nice with the rest of the post production universe.

Gustavo Borjas walks through the Peruvian jungle during filming.

Gustavo Borjas playing the lead role of Sebastián, following actor Américo Zúñiga through an orphanage.

The word overwhelming lacks the adequate punch necessary to describe the process of piecing together a 93-minute film. Add the sweltering heat of summer in an air condition-free apartment, and even the strongest of friendships, like the one between Adrian and I, are tested. However, there comes a point around 1 AM each night, generally while some distant siren pierces through the ambient noise of the city, that you remember how lucky you are to be playing with picture and sound.

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I am an editor for film and television working in the New York City area. I have edited for a large variety of projects ranging from scripted and documentary, to reality.