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Editing Tips from our Editing Lab Participants
Editing a Documentary is no easy task, especially when most of the crafting of the story takes place in the edit bay. In Docs By the Sea, our editing lab participants are given 4 days to work with their editors and mentors, to strengthen their rough cuts and trailers to pitch in the Docs By The Sea pitching forum that takes place right after the lab. For this article, we talked to Docs By The Sea 2017 editing lab participant, Fanny Chotimah and Hang Pham Tu.

Fanny Chotimah: An Indonesian Documentary Filmmaker. Docs By The Sea was the first pitching forum and lab that she has ever attended. Her film, ‘You and I’, tells a story of two female ex-political detainees who have been living together ever since. With one of them having dementia and stroke, the two continue to take care of each other and are inseparable. This project is also her first Documentary Feature film.

Hang Pham Thu: A Vietnamese Documentary Filmmaker. She has previously directed a feature film called Hard Rails Across A Gentle River that won an award in the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. Her film ‘The Future Cries Beneath Our Soil’ tells a story of the intangible yet haunting consequence of the Vietnam-American war that is sculpted in the relationship of love and hatred among men living in a village right at the boundary of North and South Vietnam.

And below is a list of takeaways that they’ve learned from their experience, that you can also apply to your own projects!


1. Find the universal theme of your film

Fanny Chotimah: When I first joined the lab, I was not completely sure about the focus on the story of my film. As an example, we knew the historical background of my main subjects was important, but we weren’t sure how to place this inside the story, especially as there are some sensitive topics. The discussion that took place in the lab helped me to see the universal theme in the film that became the focus of my story. Themes such as love, aging and loss are something that all humans can understand and empathize with. By focusing on these universal themes, I felt that my film was able to be accepted more despite the sensitive issues behind it.

2. Follow your intuition

Hang Pham Thu: What I learned is that if you are sure about what you want to do, just keep doing it despite what other people’s opinions on it. I worked with several editors who gave me different perspectives on how they see the film. However, I was very strong in the direction that I want to take and I was confident in how I can shape the theme of my film. The mentor who then became my editing consultant helped me realize this. He was the one who encouraged me to continue the concept that I want to do for my project. It helped me to be more sure about the project and about the shape and the form of the film should be. This is the most important thing that I came across, that is to follow your intuition.

3. There are no rules in editing

Fanny Chotimah : ‘You and I’ was my first feature film and I learned to take my time experimenting with the footage. I learned not to focus too much on how the film will look like when it’s finished, but to see how the story can be shaped around the characters in my film.

Hang Pham Thu : There are no rules in editing. If we have a reason for something we want to do, then you should follow that direction. You’re very much based on your own perspective and approach towards your project.