Homeroom, the final entry in Peter Nick's & # 39; Oakland trilogy, couldn't have come at a more bizarre time. Amid the early days of the pandemic and moves to disappoint the police, the 2020 Oakland High School class prepares to step into an unforgiving world that fights for justice. Kristina Motwani, one of the movie's co-editors, shares how the film's arc has changed, but her goals stayed the same as the world around her changed more and more.
Filmmakers: How and why did you become the editor of your film? What factors and characteristics led you to be hired for this job?
Motwani: I was approached by Pete and Sean, I had worked with Sean before so he knew me and knew my job. I have quite a bit of experience working with a wide variety of non-traditional media. I co-edited the film Midnight Traveler, which is all user-generated media from the subject's cell phone. So it was exciting to think about how We could incorporate kids' social media into Homeroom's storytelling. I also specialize in character-based Vérité documents, and I'm particularly interested in films about young adults. After looking at some of the recordings, it was clear that they had found and built strong relationships with some wonderfully rich characters. That was very exciting for me.
Filmmakers: What goals did an editor have to take your film from the earliest montage to the final cut? Which elements of the film did you want to improve, preserve, extract or completely reshape?
Motwani: The film started in a very different place than it ended, driven by what was happening in the world and how the material spoke to us. We followed the kids at the same time I was editing. I started editing the film in April, right at the time the pandemic hit, which we hadn't planned on. So a lot of thought had to be given to how we would fit that into the story. How will we keep up with the children during this time, how do you convey the feelings of this time? At the same time, we had no idea how this would play out. Initially, home stay orders were only three weeks, but how long would that really take? I had a gathering cut of the film before George Floyd died. The characters' reaction and the events that happened clearly spoke in favor of what happened at the beginning of the year and that became a clear plot for us. After we better understood this backbone of the film, we had to turn to how we could include all of the characters we loved. I think it was worrying at first because we weren't able to add a story arc to each character but instead try to learn more of the world of the school and those kids inside and that those kind of intimate moments with the characters spoke to each other enough to that we could find a balance by following the journey of ACC and Denilson and also connecting with the characters who live next to it in this world. Despite the changes that happened in the course of events, I would say that the goal had always remained the same, namely to show this finite period in the life of this character, which moves from childhood to adulthood, in the year in which there was a global pandemic and social uprising.
As for the elements that I wanted to improve and bring out, it was mostly just the characters' intimate moments. Pete, Sean and Gaby had clearly built these strong relationships with the kids and they were so open and they captured such amazing moments. I wanted the viewer to relate to these characters, feel for them, be friends with them because I just found them so dynamic and amazing.
Filmmakers:How did you achieve these goals? What types of editing techniques or processes or feedback screenings made this work possible?
Motwani: I think in the beginning it was about identifying what moments we were having, we had a lot of footage with a lot of different characters and it was really an important part of the process to bring only the best moments to the surface just because we had a lot of footage . At one point in the edit we created detailed character roles and lots of social media compilations of each person and saw what kind of popped out and could stand on its own. Then we made cuts with different configurations of the scenes we loved and tried to weave our way in and out of the main backbone of ACC and Denilson. Rebecca Adorno joined our team about halfway through the roughcut in October and the fresh eyes and perspective really helped the edit as time was limited and we were so deep into the footage that we had to help turn some things on our head make check some scenes again. We also showed the film to some friends for feedback, but with COVID we never did any official feedback screenings. However, we worked as a very cooperative team so that everyone could have a say in the process.
Filmmakers: How did you get into the business as an editor and what influences have influenced your work?
Motwani: I have an art degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and I started editing by making weird art videos. I had a few small post production jobs as a coordinator or assistant until I got a job at ITVS, where I worked on the Independent Lens show at PBS. I cut promos and wrapped the documentaries and that was my first experience with documentaries. That was my day job and I started working on the After Tiller feature document on my nights and weekends. I then got a day job at Discovery Digital editing a scientific news program, DNews, and then continued working as an assistant editor for feature films in the evenings and weekends. Then I worked for Al Jazeera in the Short Doc department of AJ +, working on series and short documentaries. In the evenings and on weekends, I worked on feature document editing, including helping out with Midnight Traveler. I left my job in 2018 and have been editing the feature documents full-time ever since. I think my biggest influences were the people I worked with. I am a very collaborative editor and have had the opportunity to work with some amazingly talented people who taught me a lot of things and propelled me in a more creative direction. Also, I am a huge media consumer and very influenced by all of the different media I watch, from narrative films to documents to YouTube and user generated media. I always try to push myself to incorporate more creativity into my work and think the story in a more unconventional way.
Filmmakers: Which editing system did you use and why?
Motwani: I'm editing on Premiere Pro. I use Premiere because I love FCP7, hahaha! And Premiere comes closest to the FCP7 used by me.
Filmmakers: What was the hardest scene and why? And how did you do that
Motwani: I would say the most difficult scenes in the film were the school board meetings, there was a lot going on and a lot of the topics they talk about in those meetings, they are also very long! Trying to tie these together in an understandable way has been a challenge, and that was one thing I have to give Rebecca (Associate Editor) credit to. She helped us a lot with that. They had gone through many different iterations and I think the fresh eyes really helped make these a lot more meaningful, showing both the chaos and the heart of these meetings.
Filmmakers: What role did VFX or compositing or other post production techniques play in the final editing?
Motwani: We used VFX for social media but were pretty conservative in the way we used it. It didn't seem sensible to be flashy about the look of social media in this case. We wanted it to feel like you are looking at the phone through the kids' eyes when we go on social media in full screen.
Filmmakers: What new meanings does the film have for you after the process is over? What did you discover in the footage that you may not have seen initially, and how does your final understanding of the film differ from the understanding you started with?
Motwani: What I always tell everyone about the movie is that it helped me feel hopeful during this strange time. Youth resilience is inspiring. Their creativity, they are less tied to the things we are as adults and it gives me hope for the world.