Film Editor Zhe Song uses Post Production Storytelling to Earn Praise & Awards
Film Editor/colorist Zhe Song notes the importance of an editor’s role, citing the fact that from 1981 to 2016, every Oscar Best Picture winner, except one, was also nominated for Best Editing. Zhe, whose growing post-production experience includes being Film Editor and/or Colorist on over ten short film projects, says, “People always say the editor is the second director of the film. Sometimes, when there are problems, left from set, or pre-production issues, the editor is always the person who works with the director to resolve those challenges and hopefully make the film better.”
To sum up, after a film is done shooting, the editor, who works closely with the director, is the person to structure and put the footage together. This begins with an editor like Zhe needing to watch all the dailies, sometimes repeatedly, to view and get the best camera angle, best performance, and the best camera movement to give the film the best starting point.
For example, for Zhe’s work on Mix It Proper, he earned Best Editing Platinum Award at LA Shorts Awards, and also Best Editing at Global Film Festival Awards. Mix It Proper is about a pop star Crystal Tournbleu who’s pressured by her manager to re-brand herself as a sexpot but finds it difficult to leave behind her bubblegum image and young fan base. And, Zhe explains how he influenced this short film which has a terrific message about being true to oneself:
“The whole story happens in one day in one location, the recording studio, making it easier to edit than some complex story that I have to consider more things. However, where and when to make a cut becomes more important because of this, to show the change of the characters and how they react to each other.”
Above all, while analyzing the unedited footage, Zhe understood how the little fan girl was the key for the protagonist-singer to change, so emphasizing her in the film was essential. He continues, “I added the girl’s shots more and even borrowed some footage that doesn’t even belong there. Because the girl’s reactions are limited in the initially designed part, I reviewed all the footage of the girl’s coverage when the camera was rolling, even if it wasn’t from the same part of the film, to show the girl’s discomfort and disappointment with the singer’s new songs. Simultaneously, showing the singer’s reaction of herself singing those dirty words in front of a little girl, who’s a diehard fan of her, becomes powerful. Which makes the film work perfectly on delivering the message and feeling to the audience.”
Moreover, much in-demand Zhe has also gotten recognition for other projects, including for Victoria, he earned Honorable Mention for Editing/Short at LAFA Winners; and also Best Experimental Film at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Additionally, for Born in America as editor and colorist, he earned a Spotlight Silver Award at Spotlight Documentary Film Awards; and, for Qafas as editor and colorist, he also earned Best Student Film Jury Award at the Austin Film Festival.
Indeed, to perform such a key post-production role, Zhe has learned and uses a wide array of software skills, including AVID Media Composer, Pro Tools, Adobe Premiere, Adobe Audition, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Photoshop; and, he is certified as an Avid Certified User Media Composer, and Avid Certified User Pro Tools…
Growing up in Xi’an, China, a culturally rich city with over 6000 years of history, Zhe developed his taste for arts, and a sense of creativity. For instance, in elementary school, he learned to do flash animation from the 4th grade, and then by graduation time, he could make some simple flash on his own. Then, in high school, he shot some amateur videos and enjoyed not only filming them but also the post-production process, when he “actually felt” he was creating — “It was just some play for fun at the beginning, but I treated it seriously.”
However, even though he was “obsessed with the magical experience and the world it created” of the Harry Potter series, the world of IT took him to Zhejiang University which is one of the top 5 universities in China. He earned a Bachelor in Engineering, but one of his professor’s labs focused on image processing, including image encoding and decoding, image analysis, and all those related areas: “My original thought was becoming an engineer to work for movie companies like Dolby, IMAX or Pixar as an imaging technician. But, a student association had a department for making videos, which was fun. I soon realized I had to choose one of them to be my primary career, and I prefer creating stuff like being an artist. I made up my mind to become a filmmaker instead of an engineer and decided to come to the US to study film production.”
Subsequently, he earned an MFA in Film Production with an emphasis on editing from Chapman University, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. He learned how to structure a film, arrange a scene, and do mise-en-scène, and where to put a camera — all key factors in storytelling.
Most importantly, with his ever-widening and award-winning experience as a “post-production filmmaker,” Zhe has some exciting projects upcoming.
For instance, a short film, The Bright Fire, initially began taking shape at a class at the prestigious Sundance Festival. With a story about how the environment and people affect a child’s growth and personality, it was filmed in China. Zhe enthuses, “I’ve been editing and color grading this project in California, and the producers expect the film to not only get into film festivals in China, Europe, and America, but also to earn awards from key festivals. Then there’s Face-On, for which I’ll be working on color grading later this year.”
As for the future, Zhe senses that his portfolio of storytelling through editing films will be a great launching point to possibly make his own films one day, suggesting: “My goal in the industry is to professionally work on feature films that will help push forward film history and also to work on the films with originality, creativity, unique ideas and style.”
Above all, with those award-winning films already under his belt, and exciting new feature projects underway, Zhe Song brings his new take to storytelling.