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July 21st 2006
Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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Hope you are enjoying these dog days of summer! In this issue we talk we with film editor Joyce Brand and the art of editing for indies...

A New "Brand" of Editing
by Karina Halle


Joyce Brand has made her mark on the world of Indies with her love of editing. Working her way up from editing intern to assistant, Brand managed to edit her first feature film in three years after starting out. Since then she has worked with filmmakers such as Eli Steele (What’s Bugging Seth?), Michael Phillip Edwards (Runt) and Mark David (Intoxicating). Her work on the “hilarious documentary” Outdoorsmen: Blood, Sweat and Beers was shown in theatres earlier this year, while her next project is American Cowslip, an edgy dark comedy, which has her collaborating with Mark David once again. I recently got a chance to talk with Brand about editing for Indie films.

How did you get started in editing?

I decided in 1998 that I wanted to be a feature film editor and everybody said it’s going to take 15 years to edit your first feature. But I said, “I want to do it, I think I can do it in three,” and sure enough I was editing my first movie in three years from the day I said that.
I started out taking editing classes at UCLA extension and one of my instructors liked my work so much that he let me intern for him. He then ended up liking my interning so much that he paid me from day one which let me do it for awhile. Later, he hired me as his third assistant and within three weeks I was his first assistant. I was totally unqualified to be his first assistant, but as he was looking to fill the position, I managed to convince him that he didn’t need to look for anyone else because I was able to do everything he needed me to do.

What is the best way for editors to get started in the business?

All the advice that everyone gave me didn’t end up working out. I didn’t go to film school. I don’t think going to film school is necessarily what you need to do, although taking editing classes is a good thing. Take the classes but don’t feel you need to take a two-year program. Meeting people is also important, as is finding a mentor, someone who likes your work and is willing to teach you. My mentor didn’t really spend much time teaching me as he basically just gave me things to do. If I asked questions or needed notes, he would give it to me but -- it’s mainly just having someone there telling you if you are doing it right or not.

Do you find that editing Indie films gives you more creativity, as opposed to studio pictures?

The thing that I like about working on independent films is that you work very closely with the creative person who is usually the director, or producer or producer/director. Most of the directors I have worked with have also been the producers, which is great because you can really work together on their vision, rather than getting producers and directors who may disagree with each other. That’s one thing about Indie films, you get to work with someone, one person who has one vision, rather than compromise between different creative ideas. With studio films you have so many people involved, producers, executives from the studios - you seldom have a writer/director. With all those different visions, when you compromise you often have to come up with something blander than if you work with one person who has got a unique vision.
One of my favourite people to work with is Eli Steele, who is deaf. But no one could think the way about sound like he could. If something was out of sync, he could tell it better than anyone because he reads lips. He has a very unique vision because of it.

What is the most important thing you have learned about the process of editing?

I just love the process so much and part of the process is the discovery. The most important thing that I have learned is just being open to all different kinds of ideas on how to put something together. If you are really communicating and open to the director’s vision then you can come up with ideas that can surprise even yourself. It’s really the collaboration between the editor and the filmmaker. That is why I love Indie films. That collaboration is the thing I didn’t really expect until I did it and in a way that’s the most important thing I have learned that I couldn’t have learned beforehand; how to let the director’s vision help me come up with more ideas.

Can you give any advice to editors out there?

Basically, just watch lots of films. See how people tell stories through editing. Notice how the editing makes you feel, the reaction you get from different- sized shots and the pacing and the different choices that the editor makes. You need to know a bit about the rules of editing to see how they are breaking the rules. You have to learn the rules, but most importantly, you have to know when to break the rules. It’s not really something that you can learn at school. By paying attention to films at what works and what doesn’t, it helps you develop that instinct.

For more information on Joyce Brand click here. For future story ideas contact me at Karina@ifilmalliance.com

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