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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.

We’re excited to see that the 16th annual Show Me Shorts Film Festival programme, just announced, is bursting with our members’ work! You will find a list of them below and be able to catch these great films at the Festival in October.

June – editor Peter Roberts

Willow and David receive a serious diagnosis from their doctor and attempt to deal with the mundane as their world disintegrates in the following 24 hours. This one day for the couple holds raw despair, unleashing carnal natures but a transcendent occurrence offers them the hope of new life.

Milk – director/editor Celia Jaspers

When she sees an old man unable to pay for his milk, a young girl has a change of heart.

Bear with Me – producer Scott Flyger

A support group of toys come together and talk about their traumatic experiences with children. The group’s core belief is challenged by new member Stitch, who comes from a home with problems of its own.

Edamame – producer Roberto Nascimento

A tourist has a big night out in Tokyo and a LSD trip with a gorgeous local girl. It is a night to remember. Only problem is, he can’t. He turns for help from the most unexpected friends to uncover what happened.

These films were created by DEGNZ members and familiar faces from our Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator.

Sixteen – director/writer/editor Nahyeon Lee (Incubator 2021), produced by fellow member Julie Zhu

With an unplanned pregnancy and a strained relationship with her mother, life is not the K-pop fantasy Yaejin dreams of.

Green – director/writer Rachel Ross (Incubator 2020), editor Ben Chesters

An estranged father and daughter, both with life-altering illnesses, smoke marijuana together for the first time and it becomes healing in more ways than one.

Heart to Heart – director/writer/producer Lauren Porteous (Incubator 2018)

A prisoner’s only chance of escape is to become BFFs with the unpredictable woman holding her hostage.

Blood & Gold (pictured) – director Yamin Tun (Incubator 2016), editor Brendon Chan (Drama Editor Attachment alumnus)

New Zealand, 1861. Man’s hunt for gold is feverish. Through the snow-capped mountains a woman flees on horseback. When she encounters a horrific scene, she makes a decision which will alter the course of two lives…

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.

DEGNZ

DEGNZ invites emerging drama editors to apply for a Drama Editor Attachment to editor Dan Kircher on feature film Millie Lies Low, directed by Michelle Savill, and produced by Desray Armstrong and Angela Littlejohn.

The DEGNZ Drama Editor Attachment Scheme gives emerging drama editors the opportunity to advance their craft through shadowing and mentoring from an experienced drama editor.

Dan Kircher is a film editor whose feature film credits include The Changeover, directed by Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie, and Ant Timpson’s Come To Daddy. At the 2014 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards, he was nominated twice for Best Editor for Everything We Loved and The Dead Lands. He has also cut short films, web series and commercials.

Millie Lies LowWhen a broke and anxiety-ridden architecture grad misses her flight to New York for a prestigious internship, she decides to fake having made it to New York, while lying low in her home town, scrounging for another ticket.

This attachment would suit an experienced assistant editor/editor who has dramatic narrative editing experience on short film, web series, drama or features. The successful candidate will likely have a body of narrative work. The initiative is targeted at editors who want to progress their career into feature film editing.

Its purpose is to allow an emerging drama editor to:

  • 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.
  • get on-the-job feature-editing experience.
  • receive feedback and mentoring from an experienced feature film editor in a safe environment.

The opportunity for the attachment to get limited hands-on cutting experience is possible but entirely at the discretion of the editor, director and producers of the production.

This is a paid Auckland-based attachment and requires the successful candidate, depending on experience and flexibility, to start at the earliest in mid-March. If non-Auckland based, the candidate must cover their own travel and living costs.

The duration of the attachment would be up to a maximum of 20 full days broken down into a mixture of full days and half days over the shoot and post production period. The final schedule will be determined in discussions with the production team and successful candidate.

Eligibility

To be eligible, applicants MUST:

  1. Be a FULL member* of DEGNZ by the application deadline. The successful candidate is also required to be a Full member for the length of their attachment
  2. Be a NZ citizen or permanent resident
  3. Be fully competent with the AVID editing system

* Refers to Full Members on Tiers 1, 2 and 3.

To Apply

Application Deadline: 9AM, Monday 24 February 2020

Send your application in a single PDF to admin@degnz.co.nz with ‘Editor Attachment’ in the subject line.

Your application must include:

  • a maximum 1-page letter on why you would like to do the attachment
  • your CV and filmography, including links to a showreel/video samples that illustrate your dramatic narrative work
  • a completed Editor Attachment Application Cover Sheet.

Download the Editor Attachment Application Cover Sheet

 

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

We look forward to receiving your applications.

 

This attachment is brought to you with the generous support of the New Zealand Film Commission.