This is the third in a series of posts on POV’s Documentary Blog about the regrettably underappreciated process and craft of documentary editing. Our guide is 2016 Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellow.
Pedro Kos, one of Meyer’s mentors, is an award-winning editor and director known for his character-driven films. This past June, he was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His credits include two Oscar-nominated documentaries (The Square and Waste Land), The Crash Reel and The Island President. In this conversation, Meyer and Kos discuss the nature of the director/editor relationship and what happens when you have to be both at the same time.
Eileen Meyer: Tell me about the film you’re working on now and what the process of co-directing and editing simultaneously has been like for you?
Pedro Kos: It has been a very long journey on this one, it’s been by far the longest edit I’ve actually been involved with — a year and four months. Which for me is really long.
This film is about a group of pioneers in the global health movement who founded an organization called Partners in Health in the mid-eighties. They started a small little operation in rural central Haiti. From the small clinic they built in a squatter settlement in rural central Haiti, the work slowly began to grow, and their models and their methods slowly began to spread. Eventually, it began to have an enormous impact internationally.
This film posed a challenge because it’s a very interview-driven and archival based film. I’ve done archival based films before, but this one was different because it’s mostly driven by interviews, and both Kief [Davidson], my co-director, and I wanted to make it as intimate, personal, and as emotional a portrait as possible. It’s a film that spans over thirty years, is set in different countries, with a story that is very big and epic, and it could have veered towards being a very issue-driven film — so that’s why it was a long road. There was a lot of reworking and reframing sections to make it more personal and intimate.
Even though the general structure has pretty much stayed the same, the beginning and the end proved very difficult to get right.