The Apple TV+ documentary Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me takes a deep and personal look into the life of the young actress and recording artist. Gomez got her start on
Barney & Friends, and later went on to star in Disney Channel’s
Wizards of Waverly Place. She also provided voice performances for the
Hotel Transylvania animated film franchise. But while her career has found much success, she’s experienced a number of setbacks in her personal life, including a much-publicized split with boyfriend Justin Bieber, and health issues that include a Lupus diagnosis, and later, a kidney replacement.
Alek Keshishian (Madonna: Truth or Dare) directed the documentary, which takes place over a six-year span, beginning in 2016 when the star was preparing for her Revival tour. Already struggling with stress and health issues, Gomez suffers a mental breakdown mid-tour, which involved her being institutionalized for treatment. Gomez doesn’t hide from the truth, and instead uses the film as a platform to encourage others in need of mental health services to seek help.
Rodrigo Brazao (pictured, below), who served as one of the documentary’s editors (along with David Brodie, Danny Tull, Inaya Graciana Yusuf, Veronica Pinkham and Scott Evans), says that while the project’s tone is dark, the piece only represents a single chapter in her life.
“Her life doesn’t end where the movie ends,” says Brazao. “She is right now in a different place. Her life keeps changing, and I think that the end of the movie gives that impression.”
Brazao worked on the Amazon documentary Always Jane, and his connection with the team at Union Editorial in Los Angeles (where he would ultimately relocate to from New York), led to his involvement in this project. Union editor James Haygood has a history of working with director Alek Keshishian, and felt Brazao’s skills as an editor would be of value.
The feature drew from more than 200 hours of footage, much of which captured the Revival tour. The doc runs chronologically, and the tour, which takes place early in the film, is where cracks in Gomez’s well being become apparent.
“We had a lot of footage from it,” Brazao says of the tour. “But, we wanted to focus on what the ‘new’ movie was about — her mental health journey. So it was a long process of experimenting.”
Finding a scene that would shape the new direction of the film was key, and it came during one of the rehearsals, where Gomez finds fault with all aspects of the production — lighting, costumes, choreography — in spite of positive feedback from everyone else on-hand.
“Everything is amazing,” Brazao says of the rehearsal. “So we try to show that…and she’s not, so that ended up being our pivotal scene…Things got bad pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time working on [it].”
Veronica Pinkham and Scott Evans were among the first editors to begin cutting the feature, and Danny Tull lent his expertise to the musical segments. Editorial took place at rented space in Hollywood, with three Avid-equipped editing rooms connected to NEXIS storage.
“There was one for the assistant, and I could have one, and David (Brodie) was in the other one,” Brazao recalls of the setup. The edit was performed at 4K proxy resolution.
After her recovery, Gomez takes a trip to Kenya, where she is involved in school programs for local children. She knows that she’s doing the right thing by being there, but questions whether or not she is doing enough to make a difference?
“I worked for a long time on the Kenya trip, because we had a lot of different things that we wanted to achieve,” Brazao recalls. “She realizes that she can do more, but she just doesn’t believe in herself.”
Footage of her in Kenya, where she reveals her self-doubt, was then paired with confessional footage, shot later in her bedroom, where she acknowledges there is more work to do.
“She has this realization that [visit] was not enough, and that’s what moves her forward…When I saw it the first time, I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to make a good turning point.’”
For Brazao, one of the documentary’s most challenging sequences involved the Revival tour.
“We have a lot of footage from the concert, and we have a lot of footage from YouTube, and a lot of pictures and footage from Instagram,” he recalls. “It was kind of a technical mess to have everything there and to make it feel seamless. That was probably, technically, the most challenging part — having everything there together and it doesn’t look weird, like we’re moving around so many different types of media.”
Throughout the feature Gomez reads from her journal entries. The sequences appear as hand-written type over footage, along with voiceover that describes how she was feeling at that time. Ultimately, the entries are the basis for a song that appears at the end of the feature, tying them all together.
“The film always had the song ‘My Mind & Me’ as the end of it,” says Brazao of the director’s intent. “This [was] going to be the central moment for the end of the movie, so we wanted to have those clues of what was going to happen in the end.”