Cooking up mouth-watering meals with Julia Child

Julia Child in “Julia”.

Image source: Sony Pictures Classics.

From the dynamic director duo of RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen, JULIA tells the story of the legendary cookbook author and television superstar who changed the way Americans think about food, television, and about women. Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, the film celebrates Julia’s life as well as her passion for the making and consumption of delicious food.

JULIA editor Carla Gutierrez, ACE, used Premiere Pro and After Effects to piece together Julia’s compelling journey to becoming a cultural icon, balancing exclusive archival footage, close-ups of food, and interviews. We spent some time with Gutierrez to find out more about her career and work on the film.

Source: Sony Pictures Classics.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

I started doing a bit of editing in college when I took an experimental video class with filmmaker Liza Johnson. Back then, I edited very short experimental videos with found footage on Media 100. Later, I went to a graduate film program and edited four short documentaries.

How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?

I generally work with an Assistant Editor (the unsung heroes of documentary filmmaking!), and we agree on how to organize the raw footage and archival material. I love to watch as much raw material as possible at the beginning of post-production. After many conversations with the directors, we come up with an initial narrative arc. Then, I start getting super messy on a timeline.

Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.

One of my favorite scenes is when Julia Child arrives in Paris with her husband and starts exploring the city and enjoying the French way of life — good food, good wine, and good conversation. We used single archival shots of Paris in the 50s from many different sources to paint a colorful vivid picture of what Julia Child experienced and fell in love with. When I edit archival, I try building complete scenes so that the viewers feel as if they were walking alongside our protagonist. It was incredibly rewarding to see this segment improve with every revision.

What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?

The biggest challenge when working on a heavy archival film is that you’re dealing with many different media formats and that has the potential of bogging down your system. A feature length documentary has hundreds and hundreds of hours of archival and the timelines can get very long. So, we try to be extremely organized with our media management from the start of the project.

Julia Child in “JULIA” workspace.

Image source: Carla Gutierrez.

What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were they the best choice for this project?

We edited in Premiere Pro and After Effects. We used multi-cam sequences to sync two cameras and external audio for our interviews. We had about 25-30 interviews on JULIA and multi-cam sequences kept the post process moving and the transition to the online smooth. I love being able to use a single keyboard shortcut to jump from one camera to the other on the timeline itself.

What do you like about Premiere Pro, and/or any of the other tools you used?

In recent years, I’ve worked on massive archival films and Premiere Pro has provided excellent tools to manage our media. One of my favorite things about Premiere Pro is that it allows me to be very messy as I’m starting to build segments and very precise as I’m finalizing scenes. I use my timelines both as a loose workspace as I assemble my thoughts at the beginning of the process and as a surgeon’s table when I’m executing very exact edits at the end of the editing journey.

Carla Gutierez Instagram post.

Image source: Carla Gutierrez­.

What’s your hidden gem/favorite workflow tip in Adobe Creative Cloud?

The integration between Premiere Pro and After Effects helped our team tremendously as we were playing with temp graphics.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

I find inspiration in all art forms — from fiction books to paintings, music, and dance. I just started reading a book about the history of quilts which I’m finding incredibly inspiring.

Also, I always find inspiration in other editors’ work. Recently, I was very moved and excited to see how Joshua L. Pearson weaved together archival footage on Summer of Soul and how Janus Billeskov Jansen edited the magical jumps between dialogue and voiceover in the animated documentary Flee. These films captured my imagination and opened possibilities for me creatively. There is amazing work out there that simply feeds the soul. It sounds cheesy, but it is true for me.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?

My biggest challenge has always been to truly believe I belong in this industry and that what I have to offer as an editor is valuable. As a Latina and a woman of color, you often get the message that you have gotten access to opportunities only because of affirmative action or diversity efforts. I’ve internalized this message and I’ve questioned my own skills in the past.

I would tell aspiring filmmakers to look for mentors, watch as many films as they can, and try to build a community around them. I’ve been tremendously lucky to have been mentored by extraordinary editors. They have had a huge impact on the development of my craft. I continue to learn from watching every type of documentary — films that use classical cinematic forms, experimental documentaries, verité films, etc. — they are all sources of inspiration and provide me with fresh lessons as to how to approach a story. Finally, having a community of editors and filmmakers that you can draw energy from is crucial. We editors often work in isolation, and it is important to connect with a community that can provide us with feedback and support.

Julia Child in “JULIA”.

Image source: Sony Pictures Classics.

JULIA is in theaters in New York and Los Angeles today.