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Finely Sliced: Building the Cut with Kamila Daurenova


Cut+Run editor on how the editing on 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' and 'Elvis' blew her mind

Finely Sliced: Building the Cut with Kamila Daurenova

Kamila Daurenova's body of work is punctuated with a powerful sense of dynamic rhythm and a passionate eye for supporting cinematic storytelling – often with identity at its center. Born and raised in Qazaqstan, Kamila moved to New York to pursue her passion for film. After studying film at NYU Tisch, she worked as an assistant editor at MTV and Saturday Night Live before becoming a rostered editor. She has since lent her talent to projects for such noted brands as Levi’s, Nike, Snapchat, Puma, Cricket Wireless, Vans, and Under Armour. She thrives on the rapid timelines and variety that comes with advertising. In addition to brand-supported collaborations, Kamila has a deep commitment to honouring her culture through alliances and projects with fellow Qazaq artists. A sense of community and passion for craft are driving forces behind everything she pursues. 


LBB> The first cut is the deepest: how do you like to start an editing project?

Kamila> Once I’ve watched through all of the footage, I like to set aside the creative brief and take some time to sit with the material to get a sense of it on its own. Taking that beat really helps open up the different directions a piece can go. When building a cut, I always work from start to finish. I’m not satisfied to move forward to the next section until I’m completely happy with how it works by itself and with what precedes it. 

LBB> Non-editors often think of editing just in technical terms but it’s integral to the emotion and mood of a film. How did you develop that side of your craft?

Kamila> I think that this side of our craft develops when we watch films and consume content. When I am editing, I put myself into the shoes of the viewer a hundred times and compare how each time feels. Also, I feel like there’s always such a jump in my own emotional response when I start bringing in sound components to a visual edit. Because of this, I like to start working on the soundscape from the very start to guide my decisions for the rest of the edit. 

LBB> How important is an understanding of story and the mechanics of story?

Kamila> I think my answer to this question has definitely changed over the years. Spending a lot of time studying story structure and mechanics during film school, I feel like I had a more rigid approach to its role in an edit. More recently I’ve been enjoying taking a step away from a formal story structure, allowing more space for experimentation. 

LBB> Rhythm and a sense of musicality seem to be intrinsic to good editing (even when it’s a film without actual music) – how do you think about the rhythm side of editing, how do you feel out the beats of a scene or a spot? And do you like to cut to music?

Kamila> I grew up playing instruments so musicality and rhythm is one of my favourite parts of editing. I love being as precise as possible but sometimes if I feel like something in an edit feels off I’ll pull up a metronome. Just like in music we get to establish a tempo in our edit and then shift it for the desired emotional or narrative effect. I also love cutting to music, but if I know that an edit is going to get custom music from a composer I’m careful not to fall in love with the temp track. It can be challenging at first but letting the footage and visual movement take charge in establishing the rhythm can lead to really beautiful results.

LBB> What’s harder to cut around – too much material or not enough? (And why?)

Kamila> I’d take too much material any day. There are definitely times when a deficit of material benefits a project by bringing about a push for creative decisions that might not have happened otherwise. I love playing around and trying to find different ways to use material so sometimes having less material creates a boundary that inspires creative exploration. But overall, having more material means having more opportunities to really explore what a piece can be.

LBB> Which commercial projects are you proudest of and why?

Kamila> I’m really proud of the short film 'Gold Token' that I edited for my friend Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah (of Greenpoint Pictures). We took our time with the edit - a couple of months in I started pulling archival footage to help support the story we were telling. I always get really excited about archival footage and the different ways you can integrate mixed media and I hope to have more opportunities to do that in the future.

LBB> There are so many different platforms for film content now, and even in advertising something can last anything from a few seconds to a couple of hours. As an editor, are you seeing a change in the kind of projects you’re getting from brands and agencies?

Kamila> I feel like the boundaries for branded content and advertising have really changed over the past few years. One change that really excites me is how short films are coming into play. There are so many ads now that sell how a company wants to present itself rather than a specific product and I feel like that’s really opened up space for more creativity.

LBB> Who are your editing heroes and why? What films or spots epitomise good editing for you?

Kamila> I learned so much from the editors I assisted - Kat Yi, Gianluigi Carella, Mah Ferraz and many others. Watching them work and prepping their projects taught me so much and they were all really generous with giving me feedback on my edits. Outside of advertising, I was really blown away by the editing in 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' and 'Elvis' this year.

LBB> How does editing in the commercial world differ from the film world and TV world?

Kamila> I think the shorter runtimes we work with can be really liberating in some ways. There’s only so much time to convey a message or evoke emotion - which really gives you the opportunity to go full out. I love maximalism and tend to gravitate towards fast-paced editing intuitively, so commercials provide an opportunity to really throw in one thing after the other in a way that would be exhausting to watch for a 90 minute film but is perfect for a 60 second commercial.

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Cut+Run US, Tue, 21 Feb 2023 11:44:00 GMT