Adobe’s Premiere Pro is seeing growing popularity among filmmakers. The software was used in the editing of Everything Everywhere All At Once, which won both “Best Film Editing” (Paul Rogers) and “Best Picture” Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards.
Navalny, also cut in Adobe Premiere, won the Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature Film.”
According to Adobe, as many as two-thirds of this year’s entries into the Sundance Film Festival were cut in Premiere Pro. And, many films that appeared at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festivals in March also made use of the editing software, a few of which we’ll look at here.
Appendage (pictured, above), edited by Alex Familian (Premiere Pro, After Effects, Frame.io), focuses on young fashion designer Hannah, who seems fine on the surface, but secretly struggles with debilitating self-doubt. Her buried feelings leave Hannah physically sick and sprout into a ferocious growth on her body.
“When cutting Appendage, I used Adobe Premiere on an M1 MacBook Pro with all the media living on an OWC SSD RAID,” Familian explains. “The cold open was definitely the most challenging scene to edit. Something we went back and forth on a lot was establishing the exact ‘trigger’ for Hannah’s initial appendage burst. In the script, it was quite nuanced, which worked really well on the page, but when we cut it together, we realized her mom’s dialogue needed to be just a hair more harsh. We were fine-tuning this scene until the day we picture locked.”
THE LONG GAME
The Long Game was edited by James K. Crouch (Premiere Pro, Frame.io), and tells the story of JB Peña, who moves to the small town of Del Rio, TX, to take over as the school district’s superintendent. His dreams of joining the prestigious, all-white Del Rio Country Club are quickly squashed, but he soon meets a group of high-school students who happen to caddy at the club. They, too, are prohibited from playing the same course because of the color of their skin. The feature is based on “Mustang Miracle,” by Humberto G. Garcia, and stars Jay Hernandez, Dennis Quad and Cheech Marin.
“I edited this project in Premiere Pro,” Crouch explains. “I personally love this NLE for many reasons, but for this movie, its sister software, After Effects, came in handy very often for us.”
According to Crouch, director Julio Quintana and his brother Alex, who served as cinematographer, had the idea of shooting high-speed footage with a 135 degree shutter speed.
“[This] allowed us the option to speed up the footage if we wanted it to play out like it was 24fps,” Crouch recalls. “Typically, if you do this, it will not look natural sped up, but since they shot with a 135 degree shutter speed, we were able to put the shot through After Effects and add motion blur to make the shots look completely natural. It really saved us in a lot of scenes — mostly in the montages. High speed is great, but if you have too much of it, it can easily be excessive. I think the entire opening sequence was shot that way, and we ended up speeding the shots up.”
BLACK BARBIE: A DOCUMENTARY
Black Barbie: A Documentary was edited by Heidi Zimmerman using Adobe Premiere Pro. The doc looks at the story behind the first black Barbie doll and starts with filmmaker Lagueria Davis’s 83-year old aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell, who posed the seemingly simple question: “Why not make a Barbie that looks like me?”
According to Zimmerman, the project was edited using Premiere Productions.
“My assistant editor, Jayda Cardoza, and I used LucidLink to share the Premiere Production folder, but our media was stored locally on identical RAIDs.”
This allowed the editors the ability to work on the film at the same time without having to swap project files, import sequences or create duplicate clips.
“We just had to ship a few shuttle drives and copy material,” she explains. “We created all our transcripts within Premiere using transcribe in the text panel. We also used LucidLink to pass archival material from our research team lead by Rebecca Kent in New York. The director, Lagueria Davis, and our producer, Aaliyah Williams, are based in Los Angeles, and I’m based in Portland, so we knew we’d be leaning on more than just Zoom to collaborate. We used a Google Jamboard to brainstorm themes and outline the structure of the film in place of a whiteboard and sticky notes. To share stringouts, cuts and edit ideas, we used Frame.io almost daily. Frame.io is very user friendly, allows you to comment directly on the cut, can be integrated into Premiere through a panel, and has fast upload speeds.”
One of the most interesting challenges the team faced was how to handle some of the documentary’s secondary characters.
“On an interview-based documentary, you rarely know what the scenes are until you start laying out themes and topics,” says Zimmerman. “After the first pass of the film, we realized we wanted to get to know some of our Greek chorus personally and hear the impact of dolls on them. We cut about eight ‘character capsules’ — scenes that told about someone’s upbringing, their relationship to doll and how black Barbie affected them.”
Each capsule runs approximately five minutes, but to include all of them at that length would have be too much for the film.
“They were all fascinating and engaging, so to figure out who to cut, we asked questions: What’s important for the audience to get out of their story? How do they juxtapose with the primary storyline? How do they relate and play off each other? What are they saying about the value of representation?”
Ultimately, the team decided to use just three profiles to show different perspectives on how having — or not having — a black Barbie can affect one’s self-image.
“Once we figured out how these stories were serving the film, it was a matter of being ruthless and cutting them down to only two minutes,” notes Zimmerman. “Everything said in a capsule had to be in service of their function or take the character through the emotional beats scene.”
Whenever Zimmerman works on a documentary, she says it’s a deep dive into that specific topic.
“I’m watching weeks of material and learning so much that will never be included in the film. On this project, that was a thoroughly enjoyable process. I loved hearing the stories from a diverse group of black women about their childhood and their relationship to dolls.”
GOING VARSITY IN MARIACHI
Going Varsity in Mariachi, from directors Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn, looks at the competitive world of high school Mariachi, where musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must work with a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians to rise to state champions.
Daniela I. Quiroz edited the feature, using Premiere Pro and Frame.io.
“Probably the biggest challenge, as with most ensemble films, is the first 15 minutes, and usually it's one of the last things you end up figuring out as you see how the rest of the film progresses,” Quiroz explains. “We had a lot to set up with our characters, setting up the location, what encompasses a Mariachi band, and a brief history of both Mariachi and ENHS. We wanted to really capture audiences' attention all at the same time while they were falling in love with the subjects and the music.”
Ultimately, the team all sat down together and figured out what was the least amount of information that audiences needed to know in the first 15 minutes in order to not have any pressing questions.
“Once we established that, we built up the sequence from there and added flourishes, complexity, personality and rhythm,” Quiroz explains. “One of my favorite parts of working on this film was honestly being a part of a team of hardworking, passionate, driven, smart and gentle human beings that welcomed me into the family. I looked forward to every day I sat at my edit desk to get a glimpse into the joyful world of Mariachi, and witness these students handle day-to-day life amidst a pandemic with their whole future ahead of them. It was an inspiring experience all around!”