Avid Shines with Editors at Sundance Directors Lab

The prestigious Sundance Institute’s annual Directors Lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah enables eight participating film directors to partner with professional advisors, actors, production crews and editors to shoot and edit key scenes from their screenplays.  This year the month-long program was supported by Avid in a continuing commitment to foster the next generation of industry innovators and storytellers.

Fellows Represent International Talent

Avid provided the Directors Lab with eight Media Composer stations, the industry standard for professional film and video editing, running on HP Z820 Workstations plus an Avid ISIS 5000 media-optimized shared storage solution.

Leading editors teamed with eight fellows selected for the Directors Lab to help bring key scenes from the directors’ projects to life.  Editor Joseph Krings summed up the sentiments of his colleagues when he says, “Working with Media Composer, I never had to worry about delays, crashes or media problems…all my energies were put towards crafting the story.”

Representing an international talent roster, this year’s directing fellows and their projects were Pamela Romanowsky/The Adderall Diaries (USA), a story of the unstable terrain of truth and identity; Jan Kwiecinski/The Incident (USA), about the cover up of an accidental murder; Eva Weber and Vendela Vida/Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name (UK/Germany/USA), a tale of uncovered secrets; Russell Harbaugh and Eric Mendelsohn/Love After Love (USA), a story of grief, sex and family separation; K’naan/Maanokoobiyo (Somalia/USA), about a child soldier in war-torn Somalia; Ian Hendrie and Jyson McLean/Mercy Road (USA), tracing the spiritual odyssey of a housewife and mother committed to violence in the name of God; Meredith Danluck/State Like Sleep (USA), a tale of family secrets; and Miguel Calderon/Zeus (Mexico), the story of learning to face reality.

Hungarian director and screenwriter Gyula Gazdag served as Artistic Director for the Directors Lab.  Creative advisors included many well-known names in the film industry, from Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford to Kathryn Bigelow, Pablo Larrain, Ed Harris, Caleb Deschanel, Keith Gordon, Walter Mosley, Stanley Tucci and Alfre Woodard.

Editors Fall in Love Again with Avid

The Directors Lab afforded many of the editors the opportunity to get acquainted with Media Composer 7 and hone their skills on the latest version of the software.

“Coming from the world of independent film, all the editors, myself included were used to cutting on [Apple’s] Final Cut Pro 7,” notes Brooklyn-based editor Marc Vives who cut four scenes for Romanowsky’s The Adderall Diaries and four scenes for Weber’s Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name.  “But by the end of the four-week Directors Lab program we were all ready to leave FCP behind and switch to Avid.  Most of us learned on Avid, switched to FCP for cost reasons and look forward to switching back.”

Vives’s editing credits include the new feature Ping Pong Summer; I Used To Be Darker, which premiered at Sundance 2013; the features Walk Away Renee, Museum Hours and Septien, episodes of the long-running Nova science series on PBS and music videos.

Editor Joseph Krings was paired with Hendrie and McLean on Mercy Road and K’naan on Maanokoobiyo, cutting several scenes for each.  Like Marc Vives, he’s been cutting films primarily with FCP for the last few years and was “nervous about making the shift back” to Media Composer at the Directors Lab.  But thanks to Avid’s unwavering commitment to editing professionals Krings was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

“I didn’t expect to fall in love all over again with the Media Composer interface!” he declares.  “Suddenly, I was back in there making the intricate trims the way they were always meant to be done, even with Robert Redford and Kathryn Bigelow looking over my shoulders!  It was a very sweet homecoming.”

With so much packed into the four-week run of Directors Lab, “editing is all about speed,” Krings points out.  “You have precious few hours with the directors before all the advisors come in to evaluate your work.  Working with Media Composer, I never had to worry about delays, crashes or media problems.  Having the assistants keep us constantly updated with easily shared projects was instrumental.  It was smooth sailing every day from screening dailies to the final cut; all my energies were put towards crafting the story.”

Krings’s most recent new feature film is Towheads, which was part of the New Directors/New Films series at MoMA and Lincoln Center.  His latest documentary is Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.  Directed by comedian Mike Myers, it premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Avid Frees Editors to Focus on Storytelling

Julio C. Perez agrees with Krings about Media Composer’s speed and how it facilitates editorial creativity.  “Since I’m not thinking about buggy software or other unwanted distractions, all my creative energies can be channeled toward working on a cut or communicating with the director,” says Perez.  “Ultimately, I can concentrate on the storytelling.”  At the Directors Lab he worked on scenes for Calderon’s Zeus and Danluck’s State Like Sleep.

Perez finds Media Composer’s “keyboard mapping useful and intuitive.  I feel I spend more time on the keys and less on the mouse than other systems, therefore I’m quicker.  The time interval between an incipient idea and its execution on the timeline feels fastest to me on Avid.”

Perez is currently working on documentary about a subculture of underground drag racing in Cuba, tentatively titled Against The Clock.  His other editing credits include This is Martin Bonner, which screened at Sundance 2013; the new verite-style doc Dior and I; The Myth of the American Sleepover and Something Real and Good.

Avid technology also impacted the role of the assistant editors.  Devin O’Rourke, who worked with Joseph Krings, was responsible for file management and project organization.  “Our workflow demanded quick turnaround times for the editors to start cutting,” he says.  “The efficiency and stability of Media Composer made my job so much easier.  With other editing software I’ve had to deal with long render times, long transcoding times and crashes that kill momentum and delay the editing process.  With Avid’s AMA/Consolidation feature we were able to save countless hours and devote more time to editing.”

O’Rourke also calls the ISIS 5000 “a critical tool for sharing projects and media across our five or six different edit bays.  It ran beautifully.”

Avid a “Game Changer”

Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Feature Film Program at Sundance Institute, notes “The Directors Lab provides that rare creative opportunity for filmmakers to bring their visions to life in a pure workshop environment.  We are so grateful to Avid for providing Media Composer to our eight directors.  It is such a great tool for editing and is a game changer for the work of the Lab.”

With such a promising start and continued support from Sundance, the Directors Lab projects are sure to make their marks with audiences worldwide in the months to come.