In the Head of the Editor, or How to Cut a Feature Film in Public, Being a Director

Interview Sven Pape and Udo Flohr
Experience film editing live: Sven Pape and Udo Flohr make it possible | © Pixabay

The editing of a film usually takes place in secret. For the upcoming feature film “Effigie – The Poison and the City” by Udo Flohr, which is currently being edited by editor Sven Pape in the USA, the opposite is true: Here, director and editor open their treasure chest! You can watch them online and in real time editing in Hollywood. In an interview with Filmpuls, they explain how it works.

For the successful cutter Sven Pape, the disclosure of his wealth of experience from the cutting room is as much a secret of success as a unique selling point. He shares his secrets with a growing number of fans in an innovative way. On YouTube alone, over 200,000 people follow the Burbank-based film editor! His latest project “Effigie – The Poison and the City” is the first feature film by Udo Flohr. The feature film tells the true story of a female serial killer who murders 15 people in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century.

Interview with Sven Pape and Udo Flohr

Filmpuls:Udo, you have chosen an unusual way of postproduction for the editing of your first feature film “Effigie – The Poison and the City” together with the well-known editor Sven Pape. How did it happen?

© Foto: Udo Flohr
Udo Flohr

Udo Flohr has an M.A. in linguistics and psychology He studied directing at the filmArche Berlin, Media Academy Wetzlar, Adrienne Weiss’ School NYC and the Baltimore Film Factory. As a science and technology journalist, he previously worked for television and radio, wrote for Spiegel, the magazine Byte and worked for 15 years at MIT Technology Review.

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© Foto: Sven Pape
Sven Pape is editor and director, known through "L.A. Twister" (2004), "The Water Ghost" (1998) and "Effigie - The Poison and the City" (2019). mehr ...

Udo Flohr:Sven has published workshop episodes on his projects before – so I didn’t find the way to do it that unusual. I’ve been fascinated by it for quite some time, got an idea what makes it tick… – and at some point I thought: It would be cool if he edited my film! I had actually assumed that this would also take place partly in public. In the meantime, I could imagine working in a similar way with a composer, for example.

Filmpuls:Sven, was it difficult to get you excited about this kind of cooperation?

Sven Pape: Quite the opposite. I was actually just looking for a follow-up project. In 2016 I had edited the feature film “Flesh and Blood” by director Mark Webber and published the trial on YouTube for the first time. Still today you can see all 37 videos on my channel – from the creation of the project in Final Cut Pro to the premiere of the film. The next project (the documentary film “Alt-Right: Age of Rage”) I could only edit under strict confidentiality due to the explosive topic. Then I received a new offer, where I would have had to work in camera again – an important reason not to accept it.

Filmpuls:What do you expect from the public “shoulder view” and from Patreon in the editing for “Effigie – The Poison and the City”?

Sven Pape:Oh there is so much! At first it is very nice to find viewers who are interested in insights into the montage process. A deep dialogue develops and I have meanwhile gained many contacts in the industry through my Internet presence. Udo and I would never have got to know each other if I hadn’t done it like this before – and who knows where the next project will come from.

The insights into the assembly process create a deep dialogue.
Sven Pape

Udo Flohr: As a director you are happy about any interest in your “baby”. It is also attractive to receive a certain amount of feedback from the potential audience on “Effigie – The Poison and the City” from comments by Sven’s patrons even at this early stage. By the way, such intimate insights into the creative process are rare – I have learned a lot on YouTube and I am happy when it benefits others.

“Effigie”: Trailer | © 2019 GeekFrog Media

Effigie (2019) Trailer

Filmpuls:Patreon is still little known in this country. How does this work and are you successful with it?

Sven Pape:Patreon is a platform that brings artists and audience together, also in financial terms. Already in Mozart’s time, artists had patrons who enabled them to concentrate on their work. Today, thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, similar opportunities arise. Amanda Palmer, for example, is a visual artist who paints, writes poetry, makes films and music, and is 100 percent financed by her fans. Every month Patreon remits more than 70,000 US dollars from her 14,000 mini patrons. In my case this is even more prosaic: so far I have 260 patrons who enjoy a whole series of thanksgivings: From software plugins, worksheets, sneak peeks, bonus videos, raw material to create your own versions of a scene, to direct access to me and other professionals for questions and discussion.

Filmpuls:In the editing room, the director literally “drops his pants”: Here it becomes painfully clear whether the production works and bears the acting performance. How do you handle it?

Udo Flohr:Of course the editor is a kind of confessor from whom I cannot hide my sins – after all, this is a prerequisite for his work. I’m relaxed about it: Creative work needs risks! For example, I expect my actors and actresses to expose themselves. And of course I had first class cast and crew behind me on this project – so hopefully things will go smoothly. In addition, we almost always shot with two and often with three cameras. This not only helps the actors in their performance, but also reduces connection errors.

Sven Pape:There is a special relationship of trust between director and editor. An important part of my job is to protect the director, the actors and the script. But you also have to realistically assess possible weaknesses in the script or the production in order to be able to address them at all. The audience is often unaware of it, but on average you can manipulate a lot. And in the initial phase I am often the driving force and tell the story as I like it. Sometimes I anticipate some tough decisions. The second phase is to make sure that the director is the ultimate voice of the film and that I deliver exactly the end product that he can reconcile with his claim.

Of course the editor is my confessor: creative work needs risks.
Udo Flohr

Filmpuls: Do you think that you can shoot a film “on connection”? Should maximum freedom set the pace in the editing room or simply copy the script?

Udo Flohr:It is indeed important to first rebuild the script – mainly to realize that it doesn’t work that way. As a director, I have a film in my head that I would like to see realised first – so that my head is clear and I can take a step back. In the case of “Effigie – The Poison and the City”, this rough cut was done by our assistant editor Andreas Farr, who already started working on the set.

Sven Pape:That was very good, because Udo and I could immediately think about how to rebuild a few things. Now we’re in the phase where we experiment and rediscover the story in an average way.

Udo Flohr:In general, I am convinced that Sven can only do his job well if I give him rather general “guidelines” at first. First of all, we only discussed what is important to me psychologically and structurally.

Filmpuls:The actor John Malkovich says that art needs the craft more than the craft needs the art. How does this work during editing?

Sven Pape:Often art is only created by sitting down and simply doing something. In the meantime I know that the best ideas come to me when I cut together settings in a virtually haphazard way. This works very intuitively, but at first it was sometimes bumpy and accompanied by a lot of brooding. The craft was not yet properly developed, there was a lack of experience and above all the self-confidence that on average just about anything is possible. Well, I agree, art needs craftsmanship, but it’s the art that counts.

Udo Flohr:One must master the craft before art is possible – but craft is not the only ingredient.

Filmpuls:Udo and Sven, we thank you for your time and for this interesting interview. We will soon report again on the progress of “Effigie – The Poison and the City” (link to review the finished film: see below).

In addition to the interview with director Udo Flohr and editor Sven Pape: Photos of the shooting | © Photos: GeekFrog Media

“Effigie – The Poison and the City” was shot in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Bremen in autumn 2018 and is scheduled to be released in cinemas in 2019. Camera: Thomas Kist, N.S.C. Script: Peer Meter (after his own play), Udo Flohr, Antonia Roeller. Set design Christina v. Ahlefeldt-Laurvig and Knut Splett-Henning. Assistant director Max Gleschinski won at the Hofer Filmtage at the end of October with his own debut film
the Förderpreis Neues Deutsches Kino.

Shooting for “Effigie – The Poison and the City” | © Photos: GeekFrog Media

Further Information

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About Pavel Sokolov 37 Articles
Pavel studies film editing. He likes François Truffaut, Terrence Malick, Dr Pepper, his Thermaltake View 71 TG, music by Seeed and all things related to the color red but not causing pain to any living creature.

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