Editor Alex Familian’s latest endeavour, Appendage, tells the story of a young fashion designer that must make the best of it when her anxiety and self-doubt physically manifest into something horrific.
In an exclusive interview with ProductionHUB, Alex discusses his favorite editing sequence, working with Premiere Pro, and collaborating with other production professionals.
PH: How long have you been in the industry and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Alex Familian: My first industry job was in 2012 as a post-production intern on Mo Ogrodnik’s Deep Powder, with Joe Klotz editing.
As an editor, first and foremost I draw inspiration from the director and their vision. However, I think it’s important to be inspired by your own life and experiences as well. Also, if you’re ever in a bind for inspiration just watch something cut by Thelma Schoonmaker and it’ll rattle you with ideas.
PH: What made you sign onto this project?
Alex Familian: Anna Zlokovic, the writer / director / producer, is also my wife so I’d heard about project when she initially was pitching it to 20th Digital Studios. When she asked me to come on as a producer and also edit it, I immediately signed on board. The film talks about anxiety and self-doubt in a way that felt incredibly honest and relatable, so I was very eager to be a part of the project.
PH: How do you know if a film is going to get into Sundance?
Alex Familian: The truth is: you don’t. It’s so hard to predict if the programmers will connect with your film. Or maybe they will connect to it, but it doesn’t fit in their line-up.
What I do know is, making Appendage was one of the smoothest experiences of my career. From a producing standpoint everything lined up. On-set we were all feeling like this was the best set we’d ever been on. Post production ran smooth and we locked picture early. Anna planned this film to a T, and it made the whole process so much more enjoyable.
PH: Can you describe what it was like collaborating with the other pros (like the director) about feedback?
Alex Familian: I love collaborating with Anna because she has such a clear vision of what she wants. The whole film was storyboarded and the edit didn’t stray too far from her initial boards. That said, Anna’s amazing at inspiring everyone on her crew to bring something of their own to the film.
PH: Do you have a favorite editing sequence? If so, what was it?
Alex Familian: It’s such a short film, but my favorite editing sequence is probably in Rachel Sennott’s character’s apartment as the Appendage creature is sprouting from her hip. Due to budgetary constraints, they were unable to film the Appendage actually growing under her shirt. Instead, we had to rely on the sound FX a lot to sell the moment. That was a careful dance that we went back and forth on a bit.
I’m really proud of how this scene turned out, and of how she falls down. Continuity went out the window, but I think it helps sell the panic that her character is going through.
PH: What were some of the editing challenges you encountered? How did you handle those?
Alex Familian: Like any creature-focused film, our biggest challenge was really about selling the Appendage.
Under Anna’s direction, our Special FX lead, Amber Mari, crafted the Appendage; an amazing robotic, practical creature. However, due to time and budget constraints, the Appendage’s eyes couldn’t move or look around.
After doing some tests, we realized we could replace the Appendage’s eyes in After Effects without too much of a hiccup. Rotobrush has gotten so fast and accurate we ended up rotoing the Appendage’s eyes in every shot. Then, we comped in 3D spheres, with photos of Rachel’s eyes mapped onto them. From there, I built a Null that you could basically just move around and the eyes would follow. This gave us full control over where the Appendage could be looking for every scene.
The whole team loves Practical VFX, so this was an awesome example Practical FX and VFX working together in harmony to create something really cool.
PH: Let’s talk about your experience using Premiere Pro. What was that like? How did it help you accomplish your work?
Alex Familian: It’s so easy to use. If you ever have an issue, it’s almost guaranteed you can Google it and the problem will be solved in a matter of minutes.
My AE, Jonathan Velasques, and I were also able to easily pass our project file back and forth without any trouble. This was great for when he’d build line-by sequences for us while we were in the middle of editing.
Also, if you’re an editor who also likes to do your own VFX, or even offline VFX, having dynamic link between Premiere and After Effects is invaluable.
PH: What advice would you have for directors on working with editors?
Alex Familian: Be open to collaboration and appreciate your crew. Whether you want to be an auteur or not, no one makes a movie on their own. You hire your crew, in particular your department heads, to be your creative collaborators. Be open to their opinions and skillsets and inspire confidence in them. That’s when people do their best work.
You can find him on IG: @alexjfam and at his website: https://www.alexfamilian.com/.