Coming Back to Media Composer to Edit Colombian/French Feature Film ‘Anna’

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

My collaboration with director Jacques Toulemonde started in 2006. Back then, I was interning as an editor at a small production company in Paris. Jacques was looking for a producer to help finance his first feature film, Dérive – a gutsy Cassavettes-meets-Greengrass descent into a guy’s self-destructive journey set in modern Paris – and so he contacted me. I told him I’d be delighted not only to help him out but to cut the movie as well! As he was dead set on making the movie quickly and had little patience for the money side of things, he decided to finance the film himself and with a $10,000 budget and lots of goodwill from the whole team he shot the movie in under three weeks. We then edited it during one whole summer in my tiny student room. We were 23 and didn’t care much for anything besides trying our best to do quality cinema. By the time we were done we had become friends. That’s when he first told me about Anna, the new script he was just finishing up.

Juana Acosta stars as Anna

It is the story of a mother struggling to keep alive her relationship with her 10 year-old son, while fighting her inner demons and her ex-husband’s attempts to stop her from seeing her child. In a desperate move, and without the father’s approval, she and her boyfriend take the kid and leave for Colombia, her native land, where she hopes to start a new life by the sea…Since the story was loosely based on his personal experience and echoed some of mine as well, I was immediately drawn to it and couldn’t wait to start working on it. Little did I know it would take eight years for it to finally happen!

Kolia Abiteboul Dossetto plays Nathan, Anna’s 10 year old son.

Fast forward to 2014. After numerous setbacks and several script versions, the movie finally started shooting in the spring and so we got to edit it once again in the summer, only this time we had a true edit suite. The producer, Julien Naveau, felt more reassured that the project be cut on Avid Media Composer, so I had to prepare a bit and dust off my MC knowledge as it had been a while since I had last cut on it. So for me it was also about rediscovering the software, especially since it had gone through some significant changes.

Bruno Clairefond stars as Anna’s boyfriend, Bruno.

It was a pretty straightforward project from the technical point of view: there was only one ARRI camera shooting Prores 444, which got ingested as DNxHD 36, almost no vfx to be done, and, given the very naturalistic approach to the story, no use of extradiegetic music or heavy sound effects. Color, sound editing and mixing, as well as finishing, were not handled by me. And fortunately the budget was sufficient for me to have my wonderful assistant, Marine de Contes, sync up dailies and set everything up, as well as handle deliveries to other departments. So all I had to do was cut, a welcome change as often in other independent projects with low budgets you end up doing so much yourself!

I have to say at first I was a little weary I’d find the Avid too constrictive or slow for some tasks, but after a while I really enjoyed cutting in it, especially using the fantastic trim tool which, in a dialogue-heavy film like this one, is truly a life savior. Little things like auto-patching, and not so little things like being able to recall with a single command your last 14-track asymmetrical head scratching trim (thank you Alt+U!), really won me over, as did the extensive options to customize the interface. There are of course always things that could be better: a keyboard command to simply move a clip from one track to another, anybody? What about carrying audio track metadata from sound production onto the timeline? And speaking of Alt+U, what about keeping a trim setup history you could use to navigate back and forth between trims? Would love sometimes to setup in a heartbeat that trim you used 5 or 10 minutes ago and now have doubts about! In any event, it was a great ride and I certainly look forward to seeing how the software keeps evolving and making life for us editors just a little bit easier.

Being able to name audio tracks is one of those nifty little things that make the edit experience smoother.

Anna first premiered in the international Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and was released in Colombian theaters on March the 31st 2016. Actress Juana Acosta (Anna) won a Special Award as Best Actress at the Colombian International Film Festival New York.

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I am a freelance editor working in Paris. After studying film and literature, I went on to edit several independent documentaries ¬¬– ranging from an ethnological study of ritual music used in the Balkans, to a portrait of the life and struggles of women in rural Colombia – as well as fiction pieces, including Jacques Toulemonde’s first unreleased feature film, Dérive. Find me on Linked In at linkedin.com/in/mauricio-lleras-b624b32b.