I had the pleasure of speaking with film editor, Carmen Morrow, to discuss her most recent film project, Rich Kids. Carmen, a Canadian native, explained what it was like moving to the U.S. and working on projects like X-Men 3: The Last Stand and YouTube Original Impulse. Because of her experience, find out what it’s like being an editor on a feature film!
Describe a day in the life of a film editor?
Well, film-making has different phases. A typical day is very busy as you are basically working all day. I’ll assemble the scene and then go back and look at it again. Then, I refine it and start to build the whole film in that same process, scene by scene. Once that’s all put together and we’re in a Director’s Cut, it’s a much more collaborative day. I’ll work with a director, they’ll watch something and give their notes and ideas. That’s my favorite part — working with a director and really refining the story to get closer to what the director wants to say.
What was it like growing up in Vancouver and then making the move to California?
Growing up in Vancouver was a real blessing because it’s a very multicultural place. I felt very nurtured and supported by Canadian culture. It’s rainy out there so that’s maybe a downside. The positive side is that I was exposed to a lot of diversity there. Overall, I had a very graceful entrance into the film industry and into L.A.. I was very lucky to be a production assistant on X-Men 3, which was a big blockbuster. It was shot in Vancouver and I was the Editorial Production Assistant. Since I’m a dual American and Canadian citizen, they were able to ask me to join them on the American side of post production. I think without that opportunity, it would have been a lot more difficult. I was given the chance to be around three top notch A-list Hollywood editors on one of my first jobs. And I’ve maintained those relationships up ever since.
How did you know you wanted to get into the film industry? Was it always a dream of yours?
No, I didn’t know that. Both of my parents are political activist types. Growing up, I always felt a sense of importance to share and express ideas with people. I recognize that this is what advances culture and our understanding of each other. I’ve always wanted to do something communicative in a way that could reach many people. I was influenced by my dad, who was a journalist and a publisher. He reaches a lot of people through books and print. I had an interest in photography in high school. I got really into black and white photos and developing them myself, so I gravitated toward the power of a photographic expression and that led me to storytelling.
The medium of film-making is something that is incredibly collaborative. It’s like working on a team where you have so many arts and crafts. The way they all come together in synergy to make something greater than the sum of its parts really appealed to me. There’s writing, photography, acting, music, color, sound direction, art direction, costume. It’s so fascinating to me how all these people who are really good at what they do come together. Together, they make something very special that potentially reaches millions of people. I’m still fascinated by this process.
Rich Kids was very rewarding because I was given so much creative freedom. Plus the story is important to me. I was able to bring on a lot of my music friends to this project. Music is another aspect that I gravitate towards. I love coming-of-age stories and stories about people who aren’t represented enough. I felt so supported by Laura, the director and all the actors put their hearts into their performance. It’s a timely story that can help shift hearts and lines about some serious matters that people are going through. It really was a labor of love. It had a lot of meaning for me and it made me feel proud to have worked on it.
What has it been like to see Rich Kids at film festivals and hearing all the positive reactions?
Endlessly rewarding. I feel like we put something out that resonated in the right way with people and can help shift people towards greater understanding of others. That’s one of the most powerful aspects of film: to have empathy for people that you may not meet in real life. It’s amazing to be in a room where people are laughing and responding. You come out afterwards and everybody feels like they’ve been transformed, even just a little bit, for the better.
Laura is all heart. She was so supportive and appreciative, listening to my ideas and give me a lot of creative leeway, especially with the music aspect. She had already written and directed a very good film. All the ingredients were there for us to work with, so it wasn’t difficult per se; it was more about refining. Working with her was just kind of a dream and we’ve become great friends.
I’m inspired by her courage to make a story. She could have chosen any number of topics or stories to dedicate her first film to. And she dedicated it to representing voices of teenagers who are not from her demographic. I think she should be commended for that.
Finally, what advice would you give to people trying to make it in the film industry?
PICK A LANE. I often see young people not pick a lane early enough and kind of take what they can get. Which is okay when you’re starting out but don’t leave it too long before you decide what you want to do. If you really want to write, don’t take jobs and cut in editorial. If you want to be a director, find projects to direct. You have to come from a true place in yourself. Nurture that spark or fire inside you that got you far enough to even want to do this. Listen to that intuition inside and don’t ignore it. Honor the feeling inside you that makes you want to say something and keep listening to it, keep feeding it and keep being around other people who have that same feeling.
Ciera Thompson is currently a rising junior at Appalachian State University. She is majoring in Broadcasting and Electronic Media with a focus in Production. Ciera grew up in Durham, NC. As the Video Associate for Creative Allies, Ciera brings her video expertise to the team and works to create content on a day to day basis.
Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.