My job as an editor is to gently prod the attention of the audience to look at various parts of the frame. And that – I do that by manipulating how and where I cut and what succession of images I work with.
In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.
I’ve been editing Passing Grounds, these first stages are all about watching the footage I’ve collected over the 10 weeks of filming. I conceptualized the film, and made somewhat binding rules on the film — necessary constraints to allow my attention and interrogations of the subject matter to breathe in and breathe out, so that film would grow on it’s own. Now, as I stare at the footage, noting anything from my filming habits (mumbling to myself), to my style of interactions with strangers (usually one out of humility), I’m scared.
That fear is natural. It’s comprised of every conversation that every artist/cultural producer has with their inner critic. It speaks of your impending failures for the weakness of your method, speaks to the gap between intention and execution.
So, to assuage these fears, I do several things: I write, call, groan in anxiety to my friends, and family. I step away from the footage, letting my eyes rest. Also, and maybe somewhat unconventionally, I read.
I read graphic novels/comic books, sometimes I’ll read a film book (usually I read film texts during pre-production), but I focus my energies on texts that I feel are thematic kins to Passing Grounds. Most recently, I’ve been reading (and re-reading) Ta-Nehisi Coates’, Between the World and Me, and Jeff Chang’s Who We Be: The Colorization of America.
I’ll be reading more for sure, but I’ve been calmed by what Coates has to reveal to his son, and Chang’s framing of seeing America is helping me see deeply into the long takes of Kajieme Powell’s memorial, or Adrian Parra’s non-memorial.
In effort to keep this entry short, I’ll simply ask you to review what attorney and civil rights advocate, Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness, another must read) has to say about Between the World and Me. Also, peep these pieces on Jeff Chang’s Who We Be.