by Patrick Gillespie, Chance Multimedia Editor and Production Assistant
This project was a host of different firsts for me. My first professional documentary edit, my first feature, the first time I cut a documentary that I did not produce and direct. Coming into the project after all production was complete was by far the most difficult part for me. Sitting down in front of a blank timeline with days of footage and nearly a hundred pages of interview transcriptions from characters I had never met was daunting to say the least. I figured the easiest way to go about it was just like any other film I’ve cut, bit by bit. Start small, take an idea or a theme from an interview and cut together one scene. Pretty soon a couple seconds are down, then a small sequence. It does start to come together, bit by bit. Pretty soon you’re creating a story.
Or rather, the story begins to create itself. I began to see the characters beyond their transcriptions, as people with emotions and histories. These began to fall into place into a greater context- one character’s stories from WWII evolved into an exploration into the little-known history of Manila in WWII. The struggle of a family living within the cemetery walls was revealed to be a small piece in the same puzzle that also included the perils of overpopulation and a Reproductive Health Bill in limbo in the Philippine Congress. It’s been a process of evolution, discovery, and constant reconstruction- much like Manila itself. Sequences were added, deleted, re-worked and added again. There were the inevitable dull moments, yet surprising instances of excitement- finding parts of a crucial interview that I was unaware existed. The sheer labor involved in editing a film was thankfully not much of a surprise. Pulling a single sentence from a transcribed interview in Tagalog into the timeline and subtitling it often took five minutes or more.
The author in a moment of repose.
As the film started to come together, I felt a sense of nervous pride as I played through it for the 1000th time. It truly is about the compassion, the resilience of the characters living in a situation that most couldn’t even conceive of. Their lives are the true story, one which we were fortunate enough to document. The direction I had over the story was a gift, one that I am grateful for. We’ve created a film here, each of us playing our respective parts, different in their own ways. I’ve felt fortunate to be a part of this process and a part of this team, challenged to take on a role and dedicating myself to see it through.
Pat did an amazing job with this edit. We're so grateful to have him as a part of our team! - Jessica Chance