Molly McKinnon

Molly McKinnon post Production Mortal Engines

What course did you complete? Post Production

Current role/Employer: Freelance Assistant Editor

How did you come to work on Mortal Engines?

After graduating from South Seas and with some great advice from the Head of School, I made contact with WingNut Films, and expressed my dream to work on dramatic features. Around the same time I was exposed to a fantastic film called Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I loved it so much that I managed to contact the editor, and told him how much the film inspired me. He replied to me within a day and passed on the number of his cousin, who it turns out is a seasoned trailer editor in New Zealand. I called him, and he was kind enough to pass on the details of the owners of a boutique post production house in Auckland. After meeting with them, I managed to score an internship there.

Through this internship, and subsequently through the DEGNZ, I made contact with renowned editor Annie Collins in Wellington, after which point (along with wanting a change of scene, and sneakily wanting to be closer to WingNut), I decided to move there. Over the course of 2016, Annie became a mentor. I frequently visited her and learnt from her, both in an assistant and editing capacity.

Partway through the year, Park Road Post Production announced that they were to host a 10 Day Industry Intensive course for up and coming filmmakers to learn the ins and outs of post production. I applied with the help of Annie and got accepted. At this point, I had also had the opportunity to meet with WingNut Films Editorial where I was told about the Apprentice Editor role on Mortal Engines. After the course at Park Road finished, and with the help of references from some of the people who had taught me there, I got the job.

What work did you do on Mortal Engines?

My role as Apprentice Editor on Mortal Engines was widely varied and it will be impossible to touch on everything I did, but I will do my best to outline a few key things.

Throughout the course of the shoot I had two main responsibilities every day. The first was keeping track of and filing scriptnotes. The scriptnotes were for use by the assistants and our editor, as a reference point while they were processing the rushes, and when receiving them after they were prepared by the assistants. They were also kept as a bible of sorts that could be referred to if needed down the line, when the film was being cut.

There were a number of occasions throughout the shoot where I got to visit the set which I greatly enjoyed. Seeing the sets, all the equipment and the amount of people there was super cool and made me realise how big the movie actually was. It also made me realise how lucky I was to be in such a comfortable cosy space back at Park Road, surrounded by only a small group of people and some computers.

While the film was being cut, out of all the jobs I did, my favourite was finding specific shots or lines of dialogue for the editor to use. Given how busy the editor was, it was often myself and the assistants who got to know the footage in greater detail, therefore we could offer insights into where things might be.  I found that using my memory like that, often in time-pressure situations, was very satisfying.

Throughout post we had various screenings of the film, where my job was to create a document called a Continuity Report that could be referred to. This report detailed every scene in the film, what happened and exactly how long it was (down to the frame). This took a long time and was a meticulous process. I grew to really enjoy making it though as I got to know the movie inside out, and felt I became hypersensitive to any changes that were ever made. As it was solely my responsibility to put it together, it felt like my own little window into what the movie looked like, only in text format.

Towards the end of the project another part of my job became delivering reels to the sound department. This involved taking reels of the film, breaking them down into various files for the sound department and sending it to them. I was lucky enough to visit the mix stage during the final mix. Sitting there watching something you’ve only seen on your avid for ages, now on a huge screen with everything incredibly loud, was amazing. Layers of sound that I’d accepted as commonplace being played back and finessed over and over at huge volume, all of a sudden completely transcended what I’d heard previously, and gave it new meaning. It was now something huge and goose-bump-inducing. It made me realise the scale of everything and that, “Of course… this is an actual proper movie that will play in cinemas! And I’m watching it getting made – that’s so cool and weird because all actual proper movies I’ve ever seen before have already been pre-made!”

How do you feel after your experience on Mortal Engines?
I am so lucky to have worked on Mortal Engines, especially as an apprentice in the department where I want to pursue my career. I was eased into my role and gradually progressed into doing things that had more responsibility.  None of this would have been possible without the knowledge, help and friendship of the best editorial team.

What skills did you learn at South Seas that you found really helpful whilst working on Mortal Engines?

On a practical level, I learnt a foundation of Avid Media Composer skills which definitely set me up for my transition into the film industry. I gained a solid understanding of the different departments that were taught at South Seas, and their scale in relation to how a production ran, too.

This all helped a great deal when I began my job on Mortal Engines. Although there is nothing quite like working on a movie and seeing it all for what it actually is, I went in having a good foundation of knowledge that I would say was essential for navigating what I was doing when I started out.

For myself, though, I learnt something that is ultimately much more valuable: the importance of relationships, working as a team and putting aside fear or ego when it comes to learning. I remember our tutor said something to my class once: “If you are confused about something, it is highly likely that at least three other people are too, so put your hand up and ask”. Obviously you have to pick your moments, but I think being willing to make yourself vulnerable, to admit you don’t have all the answers and to simply be completely curious and open to learning anything and everything will open you up to so many opportunities, relationships and conversations.

The amount of questions I asked those around me on Mortal Engines was a LOT, and even that is an understatement. Caring and being passionate about what you are doing, even if that translates into concentrating really hard on this technical thing you’re doing that you don’t screw up, is essential. If you are not doing this, you are putting yourself before the work and it is never about you, it’s about getting the job done.

What did you love at South Seas?

I loved working on projects with other passionate people. The opportunity to have such creative control with so many resources and knowledgeable people around to help you is a rarity.

It’s unlikely you’ll come across opportunities like that for a long time if ever, so make the most of it and make cool stuff! The only slight battle I would say is finding people who you gel with and share a similar vision with. If you can be bold, strategic and lucky enough I’m sure you will find those people. Then, not only will you make a kick-ass end of year film, but you can keep those relationships for life and rule the world!

What is a life lesson you have learnt so far in the industry?

The number one thing I have learnt is that everything is about relationships. Yes, you need to have practical skills and some talent to keep you afloat, but in the end it all comes down to relationships with people. If you are passionate about films, then you are passionate about stories, which means you are passionate about people, or at least the study of the human condition.

The foundation of all of the opportunities I have been presented with over the past few years has been the result of reaching out and forming connections with people. A huge part of landing my job on Mortal Engines was deciding to email an editor in Los Angeles, whose work I admired.

There is no rule book and it should not be a mechanical process to get you from point A to point B, though. If you are in the right industry, I think the urge to connect with like-minded people and to join forces in the pursuit of truth and meaning will come to you. After all, isn’t that why we watch films in the first place?