Editing: Oscar winner <I>My Octopus Teacher</I>
Issue: March/April 2021

Editing: Oscar winner My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher won the Oscar for Documentary Feature at the 93rd annual Academy Awards. The Netflix Original documentary film was directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, and documents filmmaker Craig Foster’s time building a relationship with a wild octopus in a South African kelp forest. 

The 85-minute feature was culled from 3,000 hours of material shot over the course of eight years.
Ehrlich and Dan Schwalm edited the project using Adobe Premiere Pro.

“The film was initially cut together by Pippa,” Schwalm explains. “At this stage, all the octopus footage was already in the film. After this first cut, the decision was made to film Craig’s interview and have him on-screen to tell the story. I came on board at this point, working closely every day with Pippa and co-director James Reed, to cut this new footage into a slightly-new structure, and to generally re-work the scenes to reflect any shifts in tone and emphasis. It was a very collaborative process, with us all striving to find the right emotional balance. One scene that took time and involved many conversations, was when we first see Craig swimming deep underwater, exploring the kelp forest, getting the sense of wonder, and the right feeling and pace of this scene was a big challenge.“