Sundance Film TikTok, Boom. examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic, and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app.A cast of Gen Z subjects, helmed by influencer Feroza Aziz, remains at its center, making this one of the most needed and empathetic films exploring what it means to be a digital native.
We spoke with editor Seth Anderson about his experience collaborating with Director Shalini Kantayya and using Premiere Pro to make the film come together.
PH: How long have you been in the industry and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Seth Anderson: I’ve been in the industry for about 27 years. I draw my inspiration from the filmmakers around me. From the work of my peers.
PH: What made you sign onto this project?
Seth Anderson: A friend of mine had originally been booked to cut Tiktok Boom, but he had to drop out before the edit began. He suggested me to Shalini. After I watched her previous film “Coded Bias”, I knew this new film would be just as revealing. The pre-production treatment went through all the important topics she wanted to explore in the film.
PH: How do you know if a film is going to get into Sundance?
Seth Anderson: Well, I think everyone HOPES their film will get into Sundance. I think if you choose a subject that hasn’t been done before or that often, something that can feel fresh and new, that always helps. (also don’t make it too long, festival programmers have to schedule out the screenings. A long film is harder to program)
PH: Can you describe what it was like collaborating with the other pros (like the director) about feedback?
Seth Anderson: Editing is normally a very collaborative process. While Shalini was shooting, I assembled all the verité that had come in. We then worked together more on the interviews. Feedback is the heart of making a film. You can’t have blinders on about what you’ve built. On this doc, sometimes when Shalini wanted to ruminate on a scene, I’d copy it to a separate sequence for her to play around with. Meanwhile I’d carry on with other notes. We had a tight schedule, so there was always tons to do. When she had finished her pass, I’d clean it up and add it back to the film.
PH: What were some of the editing challenges you encountered? How did you handle those?
Seth Anderson: Our biggest challenge was an abbreviated timeline. I started at the beginning of July, and we had to have a worthwhile cut for the Sundance deadline. Then we continued cutting with plans to lock by the holidays (hoping we’d be in Sundance and needing to hand off to sound and online.) We had an archivist on from the very beginning, since there was a massive amount of news about the rise of Tiktok and all the controversies surrounding it. Also, with billions of videos uploaded to Tiktok , we knew it would take time to find the elements we wanted to use. A process that continued pretty much till the morning we locked.
PH: Let’s talk about your experience using Premiere Pro. What was that like? How did it help you accomplish your work?
Seth Anderson: This was my first feature length job on Premiere, so it was a steep learning curve. Premiere was a huge help with the archival nature of this film. The story was international so everything we didn’t shoot ourselves, came in at different frame rates, different sizes. Not to mention dealing with all the vertical videos from Tiktok itself. It helped to be able to drag any downloaded videos straight into the project, since we’d be finding new elements all the time. We used Productions, so Shalini and I could each have projects, and the AE, Tim Cunningham, was free to access what he needed. When we needed extra hands to make a tight deadline, we could easily add a project for an additional editor.
We edited remotely using Jump desktop to run the system and Evercast to work with the director, Shalini.
PH: What advice would you have for directors on working with editors?
Seth Anderson: Communication is always key, between the editor and the director. Don’t get to locked into the footage currently in the film. When a scene needs to be shortened, that can require far more than simply removing stuff. Sometimes it will require going back to the source footage. The elements to make the scene the best it can be, maybe different when it’s shorter. And that may require the time it takes to dig into the raw again. (This is a bigger issue with docs than narrative.) Also, some things will take a bit of time, and the first pass won’t always be right. A pet peeve is the director/producer thinking every time the editor hits play, the scene is ready to watch and perfect. Just because the editor is watching down a scene, that doesn’t mean they are done. They don’t know how it feels, or if they even like it, till they watch it as well. When the editor thinks it’s ready to watch, they’ll say “what do you think of this”.