“If I could tune in right away, I would,” said Dawn Porter in one of the many enthusiastic testimonials sprinkled throughout Full Frame’s “The Creative Power of BIPOC Editors,” an online launch/celebration. from the BIPOC documentary publishers database. Expertly edited (surprise surprise), the quick event (about an hour) took place on June 3rd but is still well worth the detour. Whether you’re a seasoned producer looking to hire beyond the usual (white) suspects, or a student just getting started building your reel, this BIPOC Hiring Best Practices Guide Database Instruction Manual/Table round/presentation of the diversity of BIPOC work (completely forgot that Jason Pollard edited Dylan Bank and Daniel DiMauro Get me Roger Stone) is packed with stellar advice. (Not to mention entertainment. The “Editor Habits” segment includes a breakdown of “Must-Have Snacks”: “Does coffee count as a snack?” “Cheetos with chopsticks – otherwise your keyboard will get dirty.”)
Highlights included three star speakers, all of whom cut for decades (while racking up too many awards to mention). And all could talk both about their own personal experience as the only BIPOC person in the editing room, and why it’s crucial for the industry – and society as a whole – that it doesn’t stay that way. not so (87% white!).
Sam Pollard began with opening remarks, which was introduced by longtime editor Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez – his apprentice since Spike Lee. jungle fever. Having been in the business for more than four decades, Pollard was quick to notice that although he was usually the only African American in every room, his relationship with black mentors – most notably St. Clair Bourne – inspired not only his work but also his conviction. in the need to bring those in marginalized communities to rise through the ranks with you. Indeed, the critically acclaimed editor (and director-producer-screenwriter) described it as a “responsibility” to bring BIPOC into the editing room. And he was convinced that, because directors and producers hire people they know – that is, other white people – BIPOC’s database of documentary editors would be a crucial tool “to expand their landscape.
The second speaker to address the virtual audience, Jean Tsien, can, according to Roger Ross Williams, “get straight to the point”. Tsien, who immigrated from Taiwan in the early 1970s and got her start as Larry Silver’s assistant editor, stressed that “no job is too small to take.” She urged aspiring cutters to attend film festivals, screenings, parties — whatever and wherever — to bond. Tsien also revealed a touching anecdote early in her career, when her fear of public speaking led her to turn down an opportunity to advise at the Sundance Edit & Story Lab. To date, it’s one of her biggest regrets — not for herself personally, but because she missed the opportunity to represent her Asian American community. And when he was recently asked to recommend an Asian American for an associate editor position? His immediate response was, “Why not an Asian American publisher?” “Don’t treat us like a front to meet your diversity quotas,” she added, calling out the unconsciously white men’s industry. “BIPOC editors bring a perspective you don’t have.” Concluding her speech, she concluded with the hope that all BIPOC editors, including the undocumented, would be inspired by her words to continue pursuing their dreams.
The editorial triad was rounded out by the oldest stateswoman on the panel, Lillian Benson, who gave the final keynote address. The first African-American woman invited to join ACE (in 1991 – WTF?) and the editor behind it Eyes on the Prize and Maya Angelou and still i rise (among his 82 IMDb credits) began by asking, “Can we really tell a story in a completely authentic way if our crews and editing rooms look like 1950s America?” His main suggestion for improving the cutting rooms? Be proactive about mentoring and certainly don’t leave this task to BIPOC professionals, who have been going it alone for decades.
She also urged those at higher levels to be proactive about feedback. “Don’t just tell us the bad things, tell us the good things too.” Everyone must take it upon themselves to be the one to promote the BIPOC crew. Benson also felt it was crucial to dispel “industry myths that are actually lies.” To that end, she’s compiled a comprehensive list of the most egregious: “White = good.” “People of color are never good enough.” “An ‘objective’ stranger has a more valid opinion than someone who has lived the experience.” People who believe these lies unfairly hold BIPOC editors higher than their white counterparts.
That said, Benson also acknowledged that there are often consequences to speaking out on behalf of BIPOC, regardless of race – “that retaliation is real.” She noted that history tells us that it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write, and that for white people who broke the law, the fine was $2,842 to $5,684. But for a slave who helps another become literate? This resulted in 39 lashes on a bare back. In other words, there are different sentences for the same “crime”. White allies may indeed suffer alongside those they support – but they don’t suffer the same way.
Concluding her speech, the seasoned writer reminisced about something a friend once told her: “Don’t forget the bridge that took you across.” She quoted Eyes on the Prize director Jackie Shearer, who never forgot. And that she never forgot. Shearer’s honest and heartfelt assertion, “You have no idea how good you are,” early in his career was life changing. Then she simply said, “We should all lead with love.” ‘