DEGNZ member Chia Chi Hsu answers some questions about her experience shadowing Millie Lies Low editor Dan Kircher and what she learnt from the mentorship. Chia was selected in 2020 to take part in our Drama Editor Attachment Scheme, funded by Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission.

 


For anyone who hasn’t done an attachment, what does being a drama editor attachment through DEGNZ mean in a nutshell?

An opportunity for an up close look at the editorial aspects of a drama production, and be privy to meetings and discussions between the editor and others involved that one might not have the experience of attending before.


You finished your editor attachment not long ago. How long was your attachment and what was your schedule like with Dan Kircher?

The sessions were widely spread out so I got to see a bit of everything, from the rough cut stage till the end of the project. The attachment took well over a year because of Covid, but the lengthy period allowed me to take in and put to use what I had observed.


What’s something you learnt from Dan while observing him work with director Michelle Savill?

Always be prepared and be open to communication. Also I saw a good deal of trust and respect between Dan and Michelle, from which I think the film really benefited.


What was your experience like in later parts of the process?

Similar to earlier but just observing different aspects of the process. Also, I saw that the editor’s involvement carries on well after the locked cut; apart from colour grading and sound, Dan also helped with music clearance. I think being able to see a project through to the end must be very satisfying.


How has your attachment helped you with work that you’re doing?

During the attachment, I happened to be working on a web series. Bit by bit, what I had picked up from the attachment, I was able to apply them directly to what I was working on: from how to organise a project for a drama, how to tackle the notes, to tactfully dealing with tricky situations.


What’s one thing you discovered about feature film editing that was different to what you imagined?

How the extent of an editor’s involvement can facilitate the editorial process, and that being an editor is more than having the technical skills but also being able to communicate well, manage expectations, problem solve, all of which contributes to how well a film will turn out.


How do you think your attachment has contributed to your development as an editor?

With the many solid skills I have picked up during the attachment, I think they are helping me to be more confident, knowing that I have a few more tools under the belt, and more equipped to deal with projects on a larger scale.

 

What are you working on next?

I am working on a feature drama film at the moment, alongside Dan! The new project started just as the attachment ended, as if the attachment has continued on!

 


Chia Chi Hsu entered post production in mid-2015 as an assistant editor to documentaries, working with veteran filmmakers and editors on films and series, including Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, Yellow is Forbidden and Dark Tourist, among others. Her work includes editing on short film Memory Foam, web series Inked, the TVNZ anthology series episode Giving Up the Ghost; additional editor on Yellow is Forbidden and The Girl on the Bridge.

The DEGNZ Drama Editor Attachment Scheme was initiated to give emerging drama editors the opportunity to advance their craft through shadowing and mentoring from an experienced drama editor. Recipients learn through attendance during editing and later, at director, producer and/or funding body screenings, about the critique and response process so vital to the successful creative collaboration required of the feature film editor. The scheme is made possible thanks to funding from the New Zealand Film Commission.

Earlier in the year, DEGNZ member Brendon Chan took part in our Drama Editor Attachment Scheme, attaching to editor Peter Roberts on Matthew Saville’s feature film Juniper. He got to shadow Peter over the course of the edit – from assembly with the director’s intent in mind through to the final cut.

Read on to hear about Brendon’s experience.

 


How did your attachment to Peter Roberts start off?

I think at the beginning of it he did tell me, ‘I’m not here to teach you how to edit, you should know that already. You’re here to observe the feature film process, which is a process that not too many people get to observe at all, as editors.’

 

You were still working while you were doing your attachment, is that correct?

Yeah, I managed to take the time out where I needed to sort of run back and forth on certain days when I wasn’t working. Peter was working at Images, and then shifted to his house during lockdown.

 

You weren’t expecting a pandemic in the middle of your attachment! How did it affect your attachment and the production?

I know that the schedule had to extend somewhat, just because of COVID. They got separated obviously at Level 4; Peter in his household and then Matthew in his household built a bubble in Level 3 just so they could keep working.

And they did keep me in the loop as well ‘cause I got sent cuts of the film to view, and I got all of Peter’s notes on them! He would add his thoughts for himself on every piece of feedback that he’d gotten, whether it was from the distributors or the producers or whoever, so I actually got to see a pretty interesting insight.

It was good, because despite the distance through the first lockdown, I was still able to be part of it. I think there were a couple of phone calls here and there as well – that was the best part about being in person – hearing him speak and listening to him talk about his approaches to things.

I think what I liked about him so much is he’s very honest. He’s not really sugar coating things, like that’s what I really wanted in the attachment anyway.

 

And that’s obviously the way he works as well with his collaborators?

Yeah. I mean, he’s honest, but that doesn’t mean he’s arrogant or anything. He’s very willing to admit, ‘Just go through the process.’

It’s almost like, from what I saw, yes, there is a process, but there’s an enormous amount of time you have to spend on the ups and downs and dealing with all the feedback because it has to get done eventually. And there’s only so much time you can spend doing it, that the budget can afford.

 

That must’ve been quite a new thing seeing how much feedback is involved in a feature?

I’d seen it on a very small level on shorts or TV commercials that I’d cut. But obviously this is a lot bigger and everything ‘cause how do you keep track of everything that’s in the film! If so-and-so said to take out this line about that, you’re still trying to be aware of how is this going to affect the rest of the film.

 

You got to sit in and observe the director and the editor before the producer meetings. How was that?

It was good. There were very measured debates that were going on about things. Sometimes it was like, ‘do we need this?’, whether it came from Peter or from Matthew. It was interesting going through their process and I think most of the decisions that were made were ultimately ones they both agreed with in the end. ‘Cause you know, so much in the editing is, weirdly enough, about losing stuff. About getting rid of things that are sort of superfluous.

 

Later, there was also feedback from the sales agent, right?

Yeah, I was looped in. I believe it was only emails through the sales agent because I think they were based in Germany? So there were lots of emails and everything that I was given access to by Peter, which was good. And again, he let me know his thoughts on everything, like how he reacted to it and some of it he would try to interpret.

 

Were you there during the test screenings?

I couldn’t go. But I was given – I think it was a 60-page document – from marketing. It was interesting because I’d never cut anything where the demographic was such a huge consideration.

 

So then you have to figure out what is relevant within that 60-page document?

Yeah, and it’s not just that. Probably while you’re editing, you’re very aware of the target audience and the film. Trying to think about that when you’re cutting was an interesting concept to me.

I believe for this film it was an older audience demographic. With a children’s movie you’re like, ‘Okay, yup, yup. I was a child once.’ But I’m not older than I am! Part of me was like, what would my mum like? [laughs] But you know, I’m not making decisions. I was just trying to picture it in my head.

Ultimately, you’re trying to please the director and you’re trying to appease whoever has the most financial interest in how it’s going to perform. And it’s about trying to strike a balance between that, trying to keep everyone happy, while feeling like you’re not doing something that you strongly disagree with. Ultimately, you want to work on something that the compromises you can live with.

 

What was your experience like observing them locking the film?

I went to Peter’s as it went down to Level 2.5. He’d sent me the last cut the night before to watch, and the next day I went round to his place and he took me through the final cutting to lock the film.

Peter told me that when you get to this stage, you should go back and look at your initial cut. I took this in two ways: to look at your initial instincts versus what you may have taken out to get the film down to a tighter runtime.

He told me that he’d gone back and looked at one of the first cuts on one of the more visually dramatic sequences that bridged the first and second act. He’d realised that the initial pacing of the sequence was far more effective in the earlier version. I don’t believe any of this was part of the feedback, he was simply trying to make the sequence more effective.

 

Did you find doing the attachment beneficial to you?

It was really beneficial. It sort of eased my worries about ever doing a feature a little bit. I mean in theory it’s the same thing, whether you’re doing a short film or a commercial or what have you. Everything has the same philosophy behind it. You cut for the same reason. You cut because you think it’s going to make the audience feel something, and it’s like you’re just applying it to something bigger and way more complicated.

 

What’s next for you?

I’ve got to pay the bills, so I’d like to do work with more of a financial incentive, which would give me the freedom to work on lower budget projects that might get me more exposure.

I’d really like to cut an indie feature as my first feature with some exciting filmmakers because it’s a good stepping stone. I’m sure I’d like to do more shorts, but I feel I need to step up to the challenge.

 


The DEGNZ Drama Editor Attachment Scheme is funded by the New Zealand Film Commission.

Juniper is set to release in 2021.

Editor Chia Hsu

The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ is pleased to (finally) announce DEGNZ member Chia Hsu as the attachment to editor Dan Kircher.

Originally, Chia was to commence her attachment in March of this year when the production of New Zealand feature film Millie Lies Low was halted by the coronavirus pandemic. Millie Lies Low is now in post production in Auckland.

“I am really looking forward to observing how Dan approaches editing up close, to learn how he solves problems, and to have a sneak peek at how he works his magic into a film,” said Chia.

She entered post production in mid-2015 as an assistant editor to documentaries, working with veteran filmmakers and editors on films and series, including Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, Yellow is Forbidden and Dark Tourist, among others. Her work includes editing on short film Memory Foam, additional editor on Yellow is Forbidden and The Girl on the Bridge.

Her experiences working on these projects and the exposure steered her towards a career path in film and TV editing.

“I am thrilled about the opportunity to be privy to the editing process of a feature drama film,” Chia writes. “How editors communicate and collaborate with directors and producers is an area I wish to gain further insight, and I would also love to know more about the editor’s involvement in the online process and post sound.”

The DEGNZ Drama Editor Attachment Scheme was initiated to give emerging drama editors the opportunity to advance their craft through shadowing and mentoring from an experienced drama editor. Recipients learn through attendance during editing and later, at director, producer and/or funding body screenings, about the critique and response process so vital to the successful creative collaboration required of the feature film editor. The scheme is made possible thanks to funding from the New Zealand Film Commission.

Millie Lies Low is directed by Michelle Savill, and produced by Desray Armstrong and Angela Littlejohn.

Director attachments on Vegas: Tim Worrall and Cian Elyse White

DEGNZ members Tim Worrall and Cian Elyse White have attached to new drama series Vegas with Greenstone TV under the Guild’s TV Drama Director Attachment Scheme.

Both attachments will get to follow their director from prep onwards, until the grade and sound mix.

Tim Worrall (Ngai Tūhoe, Te Arawa) is the successful Second Step attachment and will attach to director Mike Smith for his block, beginning in mid-October.

Cian Elyse White (Ngāti Pikiao, Tūhoe, Tainui, Te Whānau a Ruataupare) has been selected for the First Step attachment to Vegas lead director Kiel McNaughton. Cian is finishing the first week of her attachment, which goes until November 2.

We had an impressive response to our call for applications. DEGNZ warmly congratulates our newest attachments and thanks NZ On Air and Greenstone TV for supporting this initiative.


Tim Worrall

Tim has worked as a writer, director or consultant on a number of productions including: Pukana; Shortland Street; Jackson’s Wharf; Whalerider; Radiradirah; Kairakau; Only in Aotearoa; This is Piki; and Fresh. He is also a member of the Māori collective Steambox Films and has directed the award winning short films: The Road to Whakarae; Tits on a Bull; Meke; Koutuku Rerenga Rua; and Māori Time. Recently he has been a co-lead writer and director for the TV3 drama series Head High; writer of the feature film Whawhai Tonu – Struggle Without End (advanced development funding from NZFC); co-writer/director for anthology feature film Ngā Pouwhenua (scheduled for production February 2021); writer of the TVNZ documentary series Origins (currently screening on TV1); storyliner for TVNZ drama series Vegas; writer and director for Tappy, an episode of the new TVNZ supernatural drama series.

Tim Worrall

Cian Elyse White

Cian has had an extensive career in professional theatre, TV and film as an actress. In 2017, Cian wrote her Te Reo Māori short film Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) which received the Fresh 30K grant in 2018 and won the 2020 NZIFF Best Shorts audience award. Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) has also been selected for Show Me Shorts, ImagiNATIVE, Asinabka, Hawaiian International Film Festival and was the first NZ film to be selected for Geena Davis Bentonville Film Festival in August this year. In March 2020, Cian was one of eight selected to partake in FilmUP run by Script to Screen. Cian is currently in pre-production for her next short film PUHI.


Cian Elyse White

NZ On Air, DEGNZ and Greenstone TV logos

DEGNZ invites applications from directors for two TV Drama Director Attachments with Greenstone TV on the TVNZ 2 drama series Vegas.

Vegas will be produced by Greenstone TV Ltd in collaboration with 10,000 Company and Steambox Film Collective with support from NZ On Air. An action thriller, Vegas follows a young, untested leader who wants to free his people from the curse of methamphetamine, but finds he can’t do it on his own. The story is based on the novel Inside The Black Horse, and will be filmed in Rotorua.

The aim of the attachment programme is to:

  • develop and upskill new television drama directors,
  • contribute to the ongoing production of quality future television drama and
  • provide another training pathway to the limited opportunities currently available.

These attachments are for New Zealand directors who want to move into directing drama for television and already have significant directing experience.

Greenstone TV will train a first step director and a second step director. Each attachment will be present for the duration of the director’s block. Both attachments will attend HOD meetings, will be present for the whole of the director’s prep, receive training on preparation for the shoot, script mark-ups and rehearsals. Each attachment will have time in the edit suite with the director, and will be present for some of the on-line, including the grade and sound mix.

The prep and shoot for both directors will take place in Rotorua. Both attachments will be paid and their accommodation and per diems covered.

First Step Attachment

The successful candidate will attach to lead director Kiel McNaughton and needs to be available for prep and shoot from 21 September to 2 November 2020.

At the full discretion of the director and producer(s), the First Step attachment may be offered the opportunity to direct some scenes within the block.

Second Step Attachment

This Second Step attachment is intended for those directors with significant narrative experience who are ready to make the move into fast-turnaround TV drama, including those who have already done a First Step attachment under the DEGNZ TV Drama Attachment Scheme. The successful candidate will attach to director Mike Smith and needs to be available for prep and shoot from 12 October to 22 November 2020.

At the full discretion of the director and producer(s), the Second Step attachment may be offered the opportunity to direct a full episode within the block.

Eligibility

Applicants must have past dramatic narrative directing experience and a keen interest in television drama.

To be eligible, you MUST:

  1. Be a FULL member of DEGNZ, and
  2. Be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and
  3. Have either:
    • Two short film credits publicly screened to a paying audience at an NZFC recommended short film festival*, OR
    • Held a position as the first assistant director of a publicly distributed and released feature film or TV drama series, OR
    • Significant experience directing scripted short-form narrative content (short film, webseries or commercials), OR
    • Won an award for a short film at an NZFC recommended film festival*.

*NZFC recommended film festivals

To apply

Please download the application cover sheet and checklist (PDF 126KB), and submit the following in a single PDF by 5PM, Wednesday 26 August 2020 to admin@degnz.co.nz with ‘Vegas Attachment’ in the subject line:

  1. Completed Application Cover Sheet with links to examples of your directing work. You may provide excerpts from longer-form work. NO showreels.
  2. A CV with a bio and filmography
  3. A reference (from a senior screen industry practitioner)
  4. A maximum 1-page letter that tells us why you think you are suitable for the attachment and what you hope to gain from it.

We will ask you to indicate on the cover sheet which attachment you are most interested in applying for. Shortlists will be developed from applicants. An interview may or may not be required.

DEGNZ will notify you as to whether or not your application has been successful at the latest by 7 September, but no further correspondence will be entered into regarding your application and the decision will be final.

Questions?

Please contact us if you have any questions about the attachments or application requirements.


This initiative is made possible with the support of NZ On Air and Greenstone TV Ltd.