Producing New Film Stories Through Postproduction

CDC Spotlight on Student Employees

Elodie Munezero ’16, Film Studies Student

Elodie  turns her back on the television screen in the Williston & Miles-Smith Library. The CNN Live coverage is of little interest to her. Munezero, instead, loops her fingers through the heart-shaped necklace dangling from her neck on black string and focuses on her passion – film. For two weeks this past summer, Munezero worked in the industry. She got hands-on experience with producer Beth Dembitzer. During her time in New York City, she learned the power of postproduction. “When you edit, you transform the footage.” Munezero said, “It’s like creating another story out of the story you already have.”

Born in Burundi, Munezero’s family moved to Belgium when she was only two-years-old. She lived in one of Europes economic and political hubs until the age of 12, when her family decided to return to Burundi. Cinema allowed her to once again see the world through an international lens. “If you watch a movie made in Japan, you learn so much about the area it was filmed in.” Munezero said, “Film is a way for me to explore other cultures.” A spring admit, Munezero met director Jay Craven when he visited the campus during her first semester. Craven encouraged students to apply the following year for his latest project Peter and John at Marlboro College. Once she knew the credits would count towards her Film Studies major, she applied and participated in the program the spring of her sophomore year, 'Movies from Marlboro'. Afterward, Munezero went on to work on a single project with Dembitzer during the summer in postproduction.  

During the application process, Elodie sent a cover letter highlighting the fact that she wanted to expand on her knowledge in postproduction. “I said, I had just finished a production job, and so I wanted to expand on postproduction.” When she started, Dembitzer, who has produced works such as Today’s Special, first requested that Munezero transcribe interviews for her. She recalled the routine during those two weeks. Munezero said, “The worst thing that you can do when you edit is not be familiar with what you have.” After transcribing a single interview for five hours, Munezero would meet with Dembitzer and an editor. The editor would create the transitions and insert the music for the duo. Munezero recalled that she and Dembitzer would review the clips one more time and make sure to highlight the scenes they wanted. Munezero said, “It’s easy when you edit to make somebody say this when they’re actually saying something else.” Part of postproduction, Munezero clarified, is to ensure that no speaker is misrepresented and that their quotes are not taken out of context.

After two weeks of working with Dembitzer, Munezero’s perspective of the industry changed. She realized her boss was not earning a profit from this project. Munezero said, “People will say that two weeks isn’t that much, but for someone as busy as her, two weeks is a lot of time to give for free. She’s not just producing short films or advertisement videos just because she can get money out of it.” Dembitzer exemplified passion for the work and the industry, no matter the price. Munezero discerned that to survive in the field she would have to stray from preferences, such as narrative filmmaking, and work on a variety of projects. She said, “When it comes to the industry, you’re never going to be able to do only what you like.” Every project, however, presents the opportunity to practice. Munezero also noted that to succeed in any venture, humility was essential.

Aside from learning more about the industry, Munezero also understood how she could counter her weaknesses. A lack of experience in post production at first made her frustrated, but then Munezero realized that asking questions would be the best solution. She said, “It’s better to let them know your limitations and then they’ll be able to teach you even more, because then they know what exactly you need to learn.” She applied her liberal arts education that helped her approach film with a different perspective. Her classes, from philosophy to Swahili, gave her a broad knowledge of the world. Munezero said, “To be able to understand the world for what it is, that helps you when you try to apply your knowledge into film.” 

In order to gain the internship experience this past summer, Munezero needed to connect her work to her Film Studies major as part of a F1 student visa requirement. She needed to decide between independent research and the LEAP Symposium to fulfill the government requirement. She chose the fall 2014 LEAP Symposium as a way to connect career to classroom experience.

In the panel, Take 4! An Exploration of All Things Film, Munezero placed emphasis on how students could sell their creativity and get into the industry. She said, “I realized when you network you dismiss a lot of people, because you just focus on the titles.” A wide range of connections was the key to Munezero working with Dembitzer. Her college counselor from the African Leadership Academy, Laura Kaub, spoke to Dembitzer about Munezero. The producer then sent an email to the student requesting her to apply. Her connection with Dembitzer then led her to secure a position with the African Film Festival for this upcoming winter break.

Dembitzer was aware of Munezero’s interest in African films. With that in mind, she introduced Munezero to Mahen Bonetti, a member of the African Film Festival Board of Directors. In January, Munezero looks forward to assisting in the festival in New York City. In terms of summer plans, Munezero knows what she wants to explore next – screenwriting. She has already attempted a few drafts. She said, “It’s really hard. You need to keep in mind that whatever you write is not supposed to be read – it’s supposed to be viewed on a screen.” If she secures a position, she intends to utilize her Lynk Universal Application Funding.  

For students that want to pursue a similar path in film, Munezero stressed practice. “If you’re doing film, you need to produce something.” Munezero continued, “You need to just write, take a camera, shoot, edit.” From YouTube to the silver screen, the first step is simply trying.