This documentary editor sifted through years of footage to convey an emotional story.
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Acasa, My Home, which debuted at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the International Documentary Competition, follows the Enache family, nine children and their parents, living contentedly in the Bucharest Delta in Romania. The film studies the difficult topic of gentrification and depicts what life is like for the family as they’re forced out of their home and must adapt to living in the city. The director, Radu Ciorniciuc, uses his background in investigative journalism to craft a heartfelt and compelling story.
The film’s editor, Andrei Gorgan, sifted through four years of footage to piece together the most memorable moments of the family’s journey.
We spoke with him about where the turning point in the story lies, the challenges of identifying only 86 minutes out of more than 250 hours of footage, and his unique outdoor editing space.
How and where did you first learn to edit?
I learned editing on linear systems, flatbed editor and digital NLE systems in film school and at a post-production studio in Bucharest. I had the chance to start editing during the transition from analog to digital, so I could compare all the systems and, of course, see the superiority of the digital NLE software to the older systems.
How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?
It depends on the type of project I work on. If it’s a TV product, usually a series, I organize my bins and sequences before getting the raw footage, because I already know what to expect and foresee the final product. If it’s a more creative product, I prefer to import all of the footage first to watch it and to organize it later in sequences and bins based on the selections I make.
Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.
In Acasa, My Home, a family that lives in the middle of a natural park situated at the edge of Bucharest is about to be evicted and relocated in the city. While they still live in the park, the father of the family has a discussion with one of the managers of the park and tells him that he’s going to plant some willow trees, something that he’s been doing regularly in the last 20 years. The manager tells him that he can’t do this anymore, since the area became a natural reserve, and he will need approval for anything he would like to change. Although there are more dramatic scenes in the film, I like the one where the family is evicted from the park. For me, this one was like a turning point of the story: it’s a first sign that their paradise was invaded by the rules of civilization.
What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?
I think that the biggest challenge for this project was the big amount of footage I had to manage. At the beginning of the editing process there was about 150 hours and at the end of the project, another 100 hours of footage was added. At the end, the project had about 170 sequences, which included a lot of rough-cut versions, so it was quite a problem to navigate through this huge amount of stuff. Not to mention, because we worked with the original footage and not with proxies (which, from my point of view represents an advantage in Premiere), the project and the sequences were opening quite slowly in the latter stages of the edit. The solution was to delete the sequences that I considered unnecessary in the newer versions of the project, but this was also a quite difficult task, because in such a documentary anything could become useful at some moment.
What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were they the best choice for this project?
I usually stick with Premiere Pro and Media Encoder and rarely use other tools, I find everything I need there, including the pre-grading for some shots, the titler or caption for subtitles, and the font for the title and the end credits, which were picked from the Adobe font collection.
What do you like about Premiere Pro, and/or any of the other tools you used?
What I mentioned above, the fact that all you need as a film editor is basically in there, you don’t need much more for an edit lock. In terms of editing style, maybe it’s subjective matter, but this is the interface and way of working I am used to and what I like the most since I started editing: working on multiple sequences and versatility to organize the footage. Another big advantage is the fact that, if you have a decent workstation, you can easily work online with different types of codecs without wasting time on creating proxies.
What’s your hidden gem/favorite workflow hack in Adobe Creative Cloud?
It’s not that hidden, I would rather call it my most recent find. For Acasa, My Home we needed to deliver a lot of formats for different televisions or film festivals. Before this film, I usually made 2-3 masters, and that was enough. I was quite surprised that I could deliver a big variety of formats, with different schemes of channel mapping, using only the 5.1 stereo and audio stems and the video master file. Maybe I was afraid it would be a difficult task, but it was actually very easy for me and a remarkable thing.
Who is your creative inspiration, and why?
I could mention a few film directors, although their style of cinema is quite different: David Lynch, Michael Haneke, Ruben Ostlund, Lars von Trier, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, and Thomas Vinterberg. The main criteria for this rather eclectic selection would be the solid knowledge of filmmaking from these directors, doubled by a very visible, unique and striking style. There are things that you can learn from every masterpiece created by them.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?
In the second or third year since I started my work as an editor, I had a big project for a couple of months, an electoral campaign for an important Romanian political party. I was the only one working on all of the video post-production, meaning besides editing, I did all the graphics packages. It was a huge amount of work with minimum 14 hours a day and 24 hours being quite regular, and I even had 48 hours of nonstop working. It’s true that I had my reasons to do this, hoping that my contribution will be appreciated later, but I was wrong. So, my advice for rookie editors would be not to work more than 12 hours a day for projects they are not passionate about.
Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?
My working desk is like any other, what is special about this studio is the small garden attached to it and the fact that, until recently, it was next to the building I lived in.