Editing Everything… Mumbai boy’s Oscar journey
Growing up in Mumbai, I loved music, movies and computers
Growing up in Mumbai, I loved music, movies and computers. I did my Bachelors in Mass Media at St Xavier’s College and majored in advertising. My college days were some of the best days of my life. St Xavier’s places a lot of emphasis on balancing academic and extracurricular activities, and I was able to participate in many inter-collegiate festivals, especially Malhar. I was able to participate in music and film events, and collaborate with so many interesting people. It made me fall in love with the arts.
Although I was always interested in creative media and arts in general, I never considered filmmaking as an actual career option until after I graduated in 2013, when I started working at Apocalypso Filmworks under editor Anirban Dutta and director Pradeep Sarkar.
I worked as an assistant editor there for 2 years, on multiple ads each month as well as on the 2014 Yash Raj movie Mardaani, under editor Sanjib Datta. It was an intense work experience, but I was able to learn the basics of the Avid editing software on the job as well as watch the editors craft stories. My parents were supportive of me, even though they didn’t know much about the film industry.
I started considering honing my skills at a post-graduate film program, and the editing course at American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles seemed like the best fit. I was accepted into the course and moved to Los Angeles in 2015. One of the short films I edited there was Sin Cielo, which was accepted into various major festivals and ended up being distributed by HBO on all platforms.
Moving to Los Angeles was the dream I never knew I had until it had already started to materialize. Since then, I have been based in Los Angeles and working in the film and TV industry. I have worked on multiple short films that screened at film festivals around the world, including The Last Ferry From Grass Island, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021.
I got the job on the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once through the other assistant editor on the movie - Zekun Mao. We had both attended AFI and worked on other projects together. The experience of being on this movie’s editing team was as crazy as it sounds.
Being able to watch the film as it went through various stages of editing was all part of a wild and wonderful process that lasted for more than a year. We were entirely remote for most of the editing process - filming completed in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. There were 3 of us on the editorial team - editor Paul Rogers, and 2 assistant editors - Zekun Mao and me.
The movie contains dialogue in 3 different languages - English, Mandarin and Cantonese. One of Zekun’s responsibilities included subtitling all the non-English footage before it was edited. A big part of my role was coordinating with the visual effects team, headed by Zak Soltz, regarding what shots needed visual effects and what didn’t. Because of the complexity of the film’s narrative, the use of visual effects shots was constantly evolving in the edit. We had approximately 550 visual effects shots in total.
Because the film was nominated for Best Editing, we were able to attend the Oscars as Paul’s guests. It was a surreal night. As we made our way down the hallway into the Dolby Theater, I thought of how lucky I was. The fact that it was being broadcast live around the world made it feel even more special - that so many people were watching what was happening in the theatre we were sitting in. The most memorable moment was seeing Paul win Best Editing. We had all worked so hard on the movie, but seeing Paul win was extra special because editing this movie was so challenging - from a creative and technical standpoint. We knew we were working on something unique, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how big a phenomenon the movie would turn out to be. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
(The author is the assistant editor on the Oscar-winning movie Everything Everywhere All At Once.)