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Finely Sliced: ‘The Proof Is in the Practice’ with Hasani Franke


Editor at WORK on his editing heroes and why he loves collaboration

Finely Sliced: ‘The Proof Is in the Practice’ with Hasani Franke

Hasani began editing full time at WORK in 2018. Within a year he had established himself as a well-respected editor of commercials, short films, and music promos.

Hailing from Philadelphia, he got his first taste of assisting on Bennett Miller's feature 'Moneyball', edited by Christopher Tellfsen. Further assisting introduced him to Final Cut LA and the advertising industry crafting his skills editing short films.

From commercials for the likes of Heineken, Target, and Coca Cola to sports commercials for Adidas and Nike, he has already earned him a loyal following, collaborating with Grey New York, Publicis, We Are Social, and 72 & Sunny and directors such as Lainey Richardson at Caviar, Zak Emerson at Ruffian, Femi Ladi at Somesuch.

Recently he has struck up a creative and collaborative relationship with the director Kevin Wilson Jr. resulting in the critically acclaimed and award nominated ‘Widen The Screen’ for P&G, created by Grey/New York which amongst others won a Silver Lions at Cannes and Kevin Wilson Jr. was honoured as best New Director for ‘Widen The Screen’

Settled in London and now firmly established as a destination editor for both directors and agencies. He has a distinctive creative style and an instinctive rhythm to his work and understands both the directors and agency needs.

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

Hasani> I actually start my process from the treatment and or the script. In my head I begin seeing scenes and thinking about how it will all come together. For me it is a really important place to begin, because I think it starts to spark my creative ideas. It also helps me to think about and recognise any potential hurdles. Sometimes this leads to an early conversation with my director to get their insight and to block it out together. Then I will start thinking of music ideas either based off of a gut reaction to the script or a direction from the director. For me, starting here gets me halfway to finding my rhythm for the edit. Then as I am selecting the footage, I am doing less analyzing of what was shot. Instead I am emotionally reacting and adapting seeing which stars align with my early visual, musical and rhythmic ideas. 

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?

Hasani> I believe that if you are starting and finishing with technically editing, you are missing ninety percent or more of what filmmaking is. There is an aspect of truth to “the proof is in the practice”. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Ten percent of film editing is technical. The rest of it is pulling from inspiration. Films or series you watch, stories you read, and emotional and visual aspects of your own life. Anyone can do that technical ten percent of editing. I technically can edit like anyone else, but what I bring to the film personally and emotionally is what separates me from others. I believe how I have developed that ability is by constantly developing myself as a human being and being open to new things and new experiences. Knowing how to marry my point of view and experiences with the technical side of editing to express the right emotion for the story is the key. 

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

Hasani> I think it’s very important, that goes without saying. What we do as filmmakers, from writers and directors to colour and sound, needs to be in tune with how to tell a story properly. If we as editors aren’t able to do this, then the film lacks focus or a clear point of view. Being able to properly tell a story through the edit is what brings it to life. It’s what sparks conversation and creativity in the edit suite and among the audience afterwards. 

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?

Again, for me it starts really early. To some extent quite subconsciously as well. I think each editor has their own natural rhythm in their gut that we push or temper depending on the film. I start adjusting mine while I am reading the script or reviewing storyboards. Then it really starts coming together while I am selecting through the footage, feeling out the timings of the shots and the dialogue or action within them. Then I am continuously tweaking and adjusting the timings of shots and scenes as I edit. I feel out the rhythm of the film overall depending on what the story needs and also what the footage gives me. Sometimes an unexpected beat can come because the footage gives you something undeniable to tell the story. Anytime that happens and I hear from my director “That part there, ohh I didn’t expect that there, nice!” that always makes my day. 

Picture and music is such a delicate marriage, once I have something assembled I know exactly which track from the bunch I've selected is best or worth trying out. I don’t really like cutting to music from the start, especially if the footage has recorded sound. I like to have a full emotional feel of the film before I start editing the chosen music. 

LBB> Tell us about a recent editing project that involved some interesting creative challenges

Hasani> A recent project was an ad exploring the dictionary definition of the word “Black”. It was a campaign to have the word redefined to include the socially positive definition and associations with the word. This was a tough one because I only had words, stock images, and a few clips of footage to edit with. There was a solid overall idea, but the creative team and I really had to develop this together. Discussing as well as workshopping different ways to put it together in a dynamic way was the challenge. It had to be built and crafted in the edit alone. The timings of each word and each definition needed to be very precise so that the audience was able to read and get the full impact of each. My background in graphic design REALLY came in handy here to understand how people's eyes would react to and move around white and black text, and around the frame itself. Knowing when you don’t need someone to read a full sentence, but how to use typeface weight and sizing of specific words to reduce the time needed for comprehension was helpful. It was a real moment where I had to take the lead on what stock to pull, music composition, and the crafting. With all that said, after we locked the edit, finding out the stock footage deal fell through and we needed to replace 80% of it while still keeping the same emotional impact… YIKES. But no editor is an island, the whole team worked tirelessly to get it done and grew very close during that job. 

LBB> How important is your relationship with the director and how do you approach difficult conversations when there is a creative difference of opinion? 

Hasani> I don’t know if there is a more important relationship than this. It is totally based on trust and creative expression. When it is flowing and working well it is the best room to be in. If there aren’t really creative and honest discussions going on, then none of us are doing our job properly. I think it has to be a space where we are all collaborating. We don’t have to agree all the time and if we aren’t, but are all coming from a creative place to improve the film, then I don't see the conversation as difficult but necessary to make the best film possible. Inspiration can come to any of us at any point. It's important to try things out. 

LBB> In the US we know that editors are much more heavily involved across the post production process than in Europe - what’s your favourite part of that side of the job?

Hasani> I think my favourite part is the collaboration of it all. The intention, mood, and storytelling are really put together in the edit. Everything I do is intended to evoke something to heighten the story. From temp VFX, to sound design and music. This for me is the start of a larger collaboration between talented people. Sound design and offline VFX are my favourites to do and where possible to be a part of until end. They both impact the story telling massively. With offline VFX, I love getting them as close as I can to what the vision is, so people don’t need to use so much of their imaginations. Sound design also has a big impact on the mood and storytelling of a film, so the sound we create in the edit is an important road map for the final mix. I always love going to mix sessions, to see something so important pushed even further.

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

Hasani> I will take too much material all day! It is so hard to create something without all the pieces you need. I personally would love all the options and know in my gut I am choosing the right one for the film rather than being forced to use something because it's all I have. 

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

Hasani> I honestly am very torn with this one. But I would have to say “Daniel Craig vs James Bond” for Heineken. P&G “Widen the Screen” is a very close second. Heineken just beats it because of the process of the edit and the timing of when I worked on it. It was very soon after I was made an editor at Work Editorial. The circumstances around it made it a real sink or swim moment for me. It is one thing to have your company show faith and trust in your talent by making you an editor. It is quite something else when you can confirm your belief in yourself. Also, nothing really beats editing to classic Bond music. P&G’s Widen the Screen I will forever be proud of because it was an extension of my trust in my creative and personal point of view. Also, working with the incredibly talented Kevin Wilson Jr. was amazing. Even virtually, we understood each others vision and perspective almost instantly. There was so much trust between us, it was a wonderful time creating something with such a powerful message that spoke to so many people. 

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?

Hasani> I am sure the change is there, we are in an age of shorter attention spans. I don’t believe that has much impact on my approach. I still need to tell a story. I still need to make an audience care about what and who they are watching. If I cannot do that first and foremost then it doesn’t matter what the length is.

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

Hasani> Oh boy the dreaded question! 

Eric Zumbrunnen will always be a hero of mine. The impact he had on me in such a short amount of time when I started in advertising is immense.

Walter Murch and Joe Walker are also up there.

Hero is a tough title. On a more personal level, editor’s I greatly admire and who have also influenced me are Bill Smedley, Rick Russell, Rich Orrick, Ben Jordan to name a few. I can just watch their work on repeat. Art Jones and Arianna Tomasettig show absolute precision in their edits. Stewart Reeves - because someone that damn good trusting me, believing in me and my instincts and being a reminder to always “move the needle” is something I’ve always kept with me. All of these people have helped to shape my approach and talent.

In terms of good editing? The Talented Mr. Ripley - don’t let the fancy cars, nice clothes, and incredible vistas fool you. There is an expertly crafted tension that builds from the start to finish in this film. An incredible colleague and good friend Niles Howard just put me on to A Bigger Splash, and in my opinion The Leftovers season 1 episode 3 “Two Boats and a Helicopter” and season 2 episode 8 “International Assassin” are what editing is all about. The Nike commercial 'Write the Future' is also a masterclass. 

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

Hasani> Short answer is time available. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in all three worlds. I think the goal is still the same across them all. I have a story and characters. I need to effectively share them, whether I have 30sec or 2 hours. For me the goal is the same. If I am not able to do that, then the length does not matter. The only difference is the storytelling hard choices I have to make as the lengths get shorter. There’s just nothing better than a director's cut.

LBB> Have you noticed any trends or changes in commercial editing over recent years

Hasani> Analytics tends to rear its ugly head now and again and unfortunately it is not going away. Saying that things need to happen at certain times in an edit or people will switch or swipe away can be really frustrating when it's contrary to the best edit. But we need to just work with it and roll it into the creativity of the film as best we can. 

More positively, I also believe that we are starting to see and hear a lot more stories from a wider range of people and perspectives from around the world. The inclusion of so many different viewpoints is such a positive trend, but only if the diversity doesn’t segregate itself. We cannot have a melting pot, sharing different experiences and points of view if we are not all working together. 

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WORK UK, Thu, 09 Mar 2023 08:00:00 GMT