Friday, June 21, 2024

18th MIFF Explores the Magic of “Shaping Characters” and taking them Closer to the Viewer

Editing is about creating in the minds of the viewers a question mark or desire to know more: Master Editor Ollie Huddleston

“As an editor you need to be involved in the story, fall in love with the characters – whether with fiction or documentaries”, said Ollie Huddleston, an award-winning film editor with over 30 years of experience in television and cinema documentaries, in his master-class organized in the penultimate day of the 18th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in Mumbai. Today’s editing master-class titled ‘Shaping Characters’ by Ollie Huddleston focussed on a storyteller’s perspective for making a film.

The master editor chose to showcase his award-winning project ‘Dream catcher’ to explain his craft of shaping characters through editing. The documentary film which has bagged several international awards, takes us into a hidden world through the eyes of one of its survivors - Brenda Myers-Powell. A former teenage prostitute who worked in the streets of Chicago, Brenda defied the odds to become a powerful advocate for change in her community. With warmth and humour, Brenda gives hope to those who have none. Her story is their inspiration. Through the remarkable story of Brenda from Chicago, director Kim Longinotto explores the cycle of neglect, violence and exploitation which each year leaves thousands of girls and women feeling that prostitution is their only option to survive.

Ollie Huddleston stated, “When people tell you compelling stories like that of Brenda, editing becomes an emotional experience” Showing a number of scenes from the documentary, the master editor spoke about his work that brought Brenda’s character to life on the screen.  For him, storytelling in documentaries is all about showing what happens to people and how they live and survive. He stressed that the editor should view the film project from a storyteller's perspective. “You have to take the viewer inside the story”, he added. Editing has to be suitably done to take the viewers closer to the character.

He firmly feels that music and images should not disturb the story. Captions may also be used in documentaries to narrate the story. Editing can add layers to the character, he added. “Editing has no formula, it is a journey to bring out layers of a character”. He likes working on personal stories, he added.

While the Director, Kim Longinotto had spent two months in Chicago with the characters of the story, Ollie didn’t meet them. In this context, he said that film-making is a collaborative work and the   editor's work is to go through all the footage and make notes of the unedited material in a relaxed manner and then to feel his/her way through the film. You don't necessarily have to make an observational film to make a good documentary, he further stated.

Ollie Huddleston said that Brenda herself saw the film and liked it, which was the biggest reward of utmost satisfaction to him as an editor. Summing up his work in a sentence, he said, “Editing is about creating in the minds of the viewers a question mark or desire to know more”.

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