The role of a film director and editor is a double-edged sword of sorts. An editor or director can be praised if a movie is received well by audiences, hailed as a genius in some cases even. On the other hand, if a film flops, the director often takes the majority of the blame. As is such, only the most confident, creative, and inspired editors and directors succeed in making a niche for themselves. One such film editor and director making waves within the indie film scene is Ran Ro, an ambitious talent whose works have been showcased at the most renowned film festivals for young stars in the country, including the annual NFFTY held in Seattle. With her background in dance and choreography being matched with an uncanny aspiration to make it in the tough-to-penetrate Hollywood, Ro is one of the more well-rounded creative minds among her colleagues. We had the opportunity to ask Ro about her biggest moments as a film editor and director, as well as gain some insight about her most recent works.
While studying film and television in college, what sparked your passion for film editing?
I initially started editing when I worked on contemporary dance films that I also directed. I had a little bit of dance background before I got into editing, and because of that background, I had a very clear idea of how a dance performance should be shown when it is in the form of a video. When I collaborated with dancers to build choreography pieces, I also planned for shots that I wanted to get during production, knowing how I would like the shots to be arranged when edited.
What was your role in the creation of Lay Your Head Down as well as Transcendence, which were both shown at the renowned NFFTY film festival?
I directed and edited both Transcendence and Lay Your Head Down. Transcendence was one of the first films I ever made – It’s a short film about “going beyond the limit.” Instead of using dialogue, everything is expressed through choreography and the facial and bodily expression of the dancer.
I decided to use dance as a medium for storytelling, as I felt that it is easier to express a dynamic range of emotions through movements rather than words. A year later the film was shown at the NFFTY film festival, which influenced me tremendously as a filmmaker even up until today. I met a lot of young filmmakers with strong voices and immense talent. This experience became a turning point which encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and collaborate with other filmmakers to create meaningful content.
A year later, I directed and edited Lay Your Head Down with the same dancer I worked with on Transcendence, but this time I worked with a film crew and the project was made with a high production value. The film was shown at the NFFTY film festival again, and I felt very appreciative since to me it personally represented growth and progress as a filmmaker.
How do you creatively approach editing for a project that largely relies on sound and music as its driving components?
When I edit a project that is highly driven by music and sound, I think of editing as a construction of dance choreography with story arcs. Once I establish arcs within the music, I find the best ways to utilize details I see in the footage that would complement music or certain sound cues – it could be as subtle as the movement of the eyes of a subject or more distinct like a camera movement that is in sync with music.
Did you learn anything particularly valuable about the film industry that you couldn’t have learned in an academic setting while you were a post-production intern at the distinguished Sony Pictures?
During the post-production internship at Sony Pictures, I had the opportunities to watch the award-winning editors and sound mixers work on Sony’s feature films – even if they were brief moments, it was incredibly inspiring to witness the work in progress of such incredible films that would be seen by billions of people across the world. I also gained valuable experience and knowledge about the inner workings of post-production business.
Who have been some of the bigger influences and/or role models for you during the course of your career?
Nat Sanders has been my role model as a film editor. He edited films such as Moonlight and Short Term 12. I think that he understands director’s vision and materializes it through editing because both of the films that he edited exhibit very distinct styles of the directors while the editing is seamlessly natural but very edgy at the same time. I would watch those films over and over again just to see how every single shot is cut.
Ryan Heffington is a choreographer behind incredible videos like Sigur Ros’ Fjögur Píanó, Sia’s infamous music videos with Maddie Ziegler and most recently, he choreographed movements for Spike Jonze’s Apple HomePod commercial. He also choreographed for a narrative TV series and even a feature film like Baby Driver. His movements bring so much vibrancy and liveliness to the subject and uplifts the quality of a project, in my very humble opinion, of course! I referred to so many of the projects he choreographed when I was directing my own dance projects as he is a great role model for projects that involve body movements.
Also, Wim Wenders. He is a German filmmaker behind the creation of Pina, a documentary about the renowned dancer Pina Bausch with stunning dance sequences. I think that he pushed the boundaries of documentary storytelling. Pina really influenced me to make content with dance elements and has always been a great reference when planning for projects.
Are there any particular directors you aspire to work with?
I aspire to work with Joe Swanberg, who wrote, produced, and directed Easy, a Netflix series. His work often encompasses ideas that aren’t often talked about in TV shows and films. He also produces, directs, and edits his own work. In addition to the unique stories, I love the natural pacing in the scenes in his films and TV shows. I would love to see how he creates momentums in his work through editing.
Another director that I aspire to work with is Daniel Askill, who directed music videos for Sia, such as Chandelier, Elastic Heart and many more. Accompanied with stunning visuals, his videos convey such powerful emotions by incorporating dance with high energy. This is what I admire so much about his videos, and it would be a dream come true to be a involved with the process of such incredible work.
What type of content have you edited and produced while working with Elite Model Management?
I edited and produced a teaser video for Elite Model Management. Me and the director pitched an idea to Elite about making a promotional video that would showcase the models in the new face board at Elite. The reason behind the idea was that we noticed that model agencies often have showcase videos with a low production value. We thought that there would be a better way to represent models. Once the project was approved, I recruited people who I believed to be the best fit and selected a piece of music, knowing that I would be editing the project. We used “White Leather” by DEDE, which is very dreamy and slow-paced. To shoot the footage to be at the same pace with the song, we decided to shoot everything in slow motion. In editing, the footage blended well with the song and the client was very happy with the final video.
Is there anything specifically that draws you towards dance and music-related projects?
I think it’s liberating to use movements to express unexplainable, raw emotions that have not been formed into words yet. Also there is more freedom in directing and editing these types of projects as people tend to emotionally connect with music more instantly than they do with dialogue which could require a little bit more of patience.
What excites you most about working as an editor in a day and age where media is increasingly abundant?
It’s very exciting to think that the content that I edit could reach millions across the globe and that I get to indirectly communicate with all of them through my content. I also feel responsible for the type of story that is being conveyed through my editing. It motivates me to be involved in projects that are emotionally resonant and thought-provoking.
Would would you personally consider to be your proudest achievements? What was special about these instances?
One of the proudest moments that I’ve had as a filmmaker was when my short film In Between was recognized at film festivals. It was very meaningful to me since the project was written based on my childhood experience of growing up with my grandmother. On top of that, the project was the first narrative film ever I have ever directed after making dance films. During pre-production, I didn’t have enough confidence that I was going to be able to get the message across since the film involved scenes that are set in otherworldly places that seemed complicated to execute at the time – and of course, we had to pull it off with a low budget. However, with the help of my crew, we were able to make it happen and I had such an amazing experience of seeing the story come to life and working with such passionate and talented actors and filmmakers. It was very rewarding to see the viewers emotionally resonate with the story.