Editing: Netflix's <I>Disclosure</I>
Issue: September/October 2020

Editing: Netflix's Disclosure

Netflix’s Disclosure tells the history of trans representation in Hollywood. The film’s editor, Stacy Goldate, worked closely with director Sam Feder to bring his passion project to life, mining the archives of more than 600 films and 700 television shows identifying trans depictions, dating all the way back to the early days of cinema. 

Using Adobe Premiere Pro, Goldate seamlessly stitch together new interview footage of Laverne Cox, and other notable trans voices, with the wealth of archival clips they sourced. The project’s media spanned various frame rates, file types and aspect ratios, all of which were handled within Premiere Pro. Here, Goldate details her work on the project.

“When Disclosure’s director, Sam Feder, reached out to me, I was working on another documentary and didn’t think I’d be available, but I was so impressed by Sam’s passion and exhaustive research that I wanted to be helpful in whatever capacity I could offer. I recommended other editors and gave feedback on some clips for a fundraiser, and then, as serendipity would have it, the other film got pushed and I suddenly had a window of about ten months to edit Disclosure. 

“I think what initially attracted me to Disclosure was how this film would make connections between racism and transphobia in the earliest films in cinematic history, and how, in showing trans representations in the beginnings of film history, there could be no doubt that transness is not new. Trans and nonbinary people have always existed. Along with that, unfortunately, is the fact that the harmful tropes of trans people being jokes or deceivers or psychos – those tropes have been around doing much damage for a very long time as well. If we could make a film that brought all of this to light, maybe creators would stop perpetuating them. More importantly, maybe more trans and nonbinary people would be hired to be in charge of their own stories.

“I spent about 10 months editing Disclosure, beginning with watching the full interviews through to the Sundance delivery. Sam and producer Amy Scholder understood the value of bringing in fresh eyes, so they left me alone with the footage for the first few months. It was important for me to establish my own relationship with the interviews. At the end of each workday, I would post my reflections, takeaways and questions on Slack so they could get a sense of where I was heading and what I was seeing, and then we’d have morning Zoom calls. Those conversations became the foundation for thematic pods that evolved into the first rough cut. 

“We used Adobe Premiere Pro and we were working with every format you can imagine. The beautiful interviews, filmed by cinematographer Ava Benjamin Shorr, were anamorphic, and the archival ran the gamut, from 16mm and 35mm film transfers, to VHS and HD. We were fortunate that our assistant editor, Tony Deng, is skilled in tracking down the best possible quality copies of films and TV shows.

“No film like this had ever been made, and we knew it had potential to have a profound impact on the lives of transgender and nonbinary people, so we had to get it right. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to structure the film so that it would feel cohesive and cinematic, and not like a clip show. Critical to that structure was our decision to take a thematic and emotional arc approach rather than to follow chronology. We were perfecting the film’s structure til the very end, which gave us the constant challenge of finding creative ways to transition from one idea to another. We had to let go of some transitions that we loved, but it was more important for the ideas to land in the right places where they were earned and built upon in order to have the most emotional and intellectual impact.”