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Masterclass on Editing by Ollie Huddleston Highlights Storytelling Techniques at MIFF 2024

Mumbai: “As an editor, you need to be involved in the story, fall in love with the characters—whether with fiction or documentaries,” said Ollie Huddleston, an award-winning film editor with over 30 years of experience in television and cinema documentaries. Huddleston shared his insights during a masterclass titled ‘Shaping Characters,’ organized on the penultimate day of the 18th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in Mumbai.

During the masterclass, Huddleston showcased his award-winning project ‘Dreamcatcher’ to illustrate his craft of character shaping through editing. The documentary, which has received several international accolades, offers a glimpse into a hidden world through the eyes of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former teenage prostitute from Chicago who overcame adversity to become a powerful advocate for change in her community. Brenda’s warmth and humor provide hope to those in need, making her story a beacon of inspiration.

“When people tell you compelling stories like that of Brenda, editing becomes an emotional experience,” Huddleston remarked. He shared numerous scenes from the documentary, demonstrating how his editing work brought Brenda’s character to life on screen. For Huddleston, storytelling in documentaries is about portraying the lives and survival stories of people. He emphasized the importance of the editor’s perspective as a storyteller, stating, “You have to take the viewer inside the story.”

Huddleston stressed that music and images should complement rather than overshadow the story. He also mentioned the strategic use of captions in documentaries to enhance the narrative. “Editing can add layers to the character,” he added, noting that there is no set formula for editing—it is a journey to uncover and portray the depths of a character. He expressed a preference for working on personal stories, where the emotional connection to the characters is strong.

While director Kim Longinotto spent two months in Chicago with the story’s characters, Huddleston did not meet them. He highlighted that filmmaking is a collaborative effort, with the editor’s role being to meticulously review all footage and make notes of the unedited material in a relaxed manner. “You don’t necessarily have to make an observational film to create a good documentary,” he stated.

Huddleston shared that Brenda herself saw the film and liked it, which he considered the highest reward and a source of utmost satisfaction as an editor. Summing up his approach to editing, Huddleston said, “Editing is about creating in the minds of the viewers a question mark or desire to know more.”

The masterclass offered valuable insights into the art of editing, emphasizing the emotional and narrative aspects of bringing characters to life on screen. Huddleston’s expertise and passion for storytelling resonated with attendees, underscoring the critical role of editors in the filmmaking process.

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