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Fine cuts: The art of a Mumbai-based Hollywood film editor!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
By A Staff Reporter

Film editing is an often-overlooked aspect of film-making, but for Aashish D’Mello it’s a unique way to collaborate on and shape a film in a way that’s narratively and emotionally engaging

Choosing the best camera angle, the best performances in a scene, creating and releasing tension, and seamlessly stitching it all together to make sense - it’s all in a day’s work for Aashish D’Mello, who hails from Mumbai and is currently working in Hollywood as a Film Editor.

“It’s like editing a book or a newspaper - you choose only the best material to convey the story. You weed out things that are slowing it down, confusing the audience or not getting you the emotional impact you want.” Aashish says. Aashish discovered Windows Movie Maker at a young age and was intrigued by the concept of putting existing images together to create something new. “I’d watch films all the time, but didn’t know that this is what happens behind the scenes - that something so inconspicuous plays such a defining role in the medium.” Aashish, however, never really considered editing as a career until he was pursuing his Bachelor’s at St Xavier’s College. Being self-taught in multiple editing software, Aashish worked as an Assistant Commercial Editor at Apocalypso Filmworks in Mumbai and thereafter was Assistant Editor on 2014’s Mardaani, produced by Yash Raj Films. He also edited a few music videos for `Awkward Bong’ and `Subsystem’, two local independent music artists. The videos have gone on to win Best Editing at the Paris-based International Music Video Underground Festival. Aashish also directed and edited a short film Notes which won best editing at the Calcutta Cult International Film Festival.

Aashish joined the American Film Institute Conservatory (AFI) in Hollywood, Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film Editing. AFI’s intensive course has consistently been ranked among the top film programmes in the world, and is well-known in the global film-making community. “I felt that AFI was the best place for me to hone my skills and work towards excelling at what I do”.  Aashish was also one of the few recipients of a partial scholarship sponsored by AFI - a rare occurrence for international film students.

During his two-and-a-half years at AFI, Aashish edited over eight short films, two of which were his MFA thesis projects - `MAGIC ‘85’ and `Sin Cielo’. MAGIC ‘85 received the prestigious $25,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Production Award.  MAGIC ‘85 started its festival run a few months ago and has already screened at Mumbai’s historic Liberty Cinema. It has also screened at two Oscar-qualifying US film festivals - the Atlanta Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia and won an award at the Hollyshorts Film Festival.  Another film edited by Aashish - Our Way Home, also screened at the same festival.

Aashish’s other thesis, Sin Cielo, is a Romeo and Juliet-esque tragedy and touches upon the subject of human trafficking.  Sin Cielo has been received incredibly well, having screened at four Oscar-qualifying film festivals, including the Palm Springs International ShortFest - one of the largest short film festivals in the world, where it won the Young Jury award. Sin Cielo has also screened at the HBO New York Latino Film Festival, Brussels Short Film Festival in Belgium and it was selected by the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival’s January, 2018 edition, where it won Best Short Film and Aashish was awarded Best Editing. Sin Cielo  has also screened along with MAGIC ‘85 at the Atlanta Film Festival.  Another film edited by Aashish - American Dream, screened along with Sin Cielo at LA Shorts - one of the largest film festivals in Los Angeles.

Collaboration plays an important role in the projects Aashish edits. “It brings together different perspectives and experiences. For me, the director-editor relationship is the most important. An editor helps the director accomplish his/her vision. The editor and director shape what you finally see on the screen.”

Post-AFI, Aashish has served as Additional editor on an independent feature film Sanzaru. He has edited numerous short films, such as Our Way Home, Philharmonic and Arrow and Oil - all of which have been critically acclaimed at various film festivals.  On having worked in both the Indian and American film industries, Aashish says “The creative process is almost the same - the editor shapes the film using the language of cuts. What matters most is the story, I feel lucky to have worked with such a wide range of collaborators and stories.  Editing can be lengthy and tedious - but it’s all worth it once everything comes together and you see the audience’s reaction to something you created. It really does become movie magic!"

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