Finding the rhythm in the cutting room — New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization

Photograph of Bill Murray at a podium giving a speech.

Image source: Andrew Muscato.

New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization captures one magical night with Bill Murray as the prolific actor gives the final performance on his and cellist Jan Vogler’s European “New Worlds” tour. The documentary, out now, was cut at Vamanos Post, a feature film post-production company based in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia and owned by husband and wife editing team Jon Connor and Cristina Valdivieso.

Below Connor takes us through his workflow setup, his favorite Premiere Pro hacks, and what it was like to jam out in the editing room with Bill Murray.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

I’m going to date myself here but I still have the first thing I ever edited on the original VHS tape in my edit suite. My friends and I made our own version of Robin Hood for a middle school project back in the mid 90’s. Back then, the only way I could edit was using the old “pause-record” method between my video camera and the VCR. I eventually went to school for filmmaking after high school but I think my real education in editing has been an ongoing process since I started working after college. The more you edit the more you develop a sort of muscle memory and finding solutions for real world editing problems builds a strong repertoire of tricks and techniques to draw from.

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

The crux of the film is the live concert which had been shot at 4K (4096x2160) with seven camera angles. I knew that Premiere Pro was essential to managing the multicam workflow. I also made proxies of all the footage directly from my Premiere project, which I love so much because when we needed to reconnect to the full res footage for the online it literally took a couple clicks and we were good to go.

Image of Bill Murray.

Image source: Andrew Muscato.

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

I’d have to say my most enjoyable moment from the project was down in Charleston when I was editing the concert with director Andrew Muscato and Bill Murray. It was such a great collaboration between us. When we really got into a rhythm with the multicam it felt like they were conducting an orchestra. They’d call out “Go up top to six” or “Let me see four.” At one point Bill said, “I’m having fun! Jon, are you having fun?” I laughed and said, “I’m having the time of my life.” Editing can be a pretty solitary experience at times. You spend a lot of time alone in a dark room so to have the opportunity to be in a room with Bill Murray jamming out is an experience I’ll never forget.

Image of Bill Murray.

Image source: Andrew Muscato.

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

This project started before COVID and so we had to adapt to a remote workflow on the fly. We were already using but it became even more integral in being able to be in completely different locations but still get Frame-accurate feedback imported directly into my timeline.

Multicam timeline.

Multicam timeline.

Image source: Jon Connor.

What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them?

These days I don’t touch an edit without using Premiere Pro and The multicam workflow in Premiere Pro is really fun for me. You're able to really get into a rhythm — it's almost like playing a musical instrument. You just start jamming out when you're assembling the edit and it's extremely easy to go back in later and fine tune the cuts.

Why were they the best choice for this project

It’s really revolutionized the post process for me and I’m not saying that hyperbolically. Frame- accurate notes imported directly on my timeline with sequence syncing between and Premiere Pro has saved me so many hours of time that I would have wasted trying to decipher notes from an email. The proxy and multicam workflow in Premiere Pro allows me to get the boring technical stuff out of the way quickly and do what I love the most, which is editing.

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

I love using a combination of Label colors and markers in Premiere Pro. On the surface it may look like a pretty basic function, but it really is such an intuitive way to separate sections of a film. I used the markers to leave myself searchable notes. For this film, I color coded the different musical numbers so when I zoomed out on my timeline, I could quickly get to any part of the concert without wasting time. If I needed to drill down to a more specific moment, I could just search for the keyword in the Marker panel, click the thumbnail and immediately be where I needed to be.

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

My favorite hidden gem has to be the ability to load 50 clips into the source monitor. You can pull selects so fast without leaving the keyboard with a couple of custom keyboard shortcuts.

With my keyboard set up this way, I load 50 clips into the source monitor. I use JKL to navigate through the clip in the source monitor and then set my in and out points with I or O. Then I hit H which puts the desired portion of the clip directly into my timeline. When I’m ready to go to the next clip I hit Shift+L. If I need to I can always come back with Shift+K. This method allows me to tear through footage without ever taking my hands off of the keyboard.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

I’d have to say my family. My partner, Cristina Valdivieso, is an extremely talented editor and we’ve really learned from each other over the years. Open communication is important in life and in the edit suite. I’m able to really push the boundaries creatively on how I edit because I know she will encourage me to trust my gut but also be completely honest if something isn’t working. We share a very similar taste and sensibility so it's invaluable to have someone that you can trust on that level. We have two daughters, Olivia and Stella, and they also inspire me everyday. They have such great imaginations and are a constant reminder not to lose that sense of wonder and excitement about life.

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?

Early on in my career, the toughest thing I had to face was knowing how to say “no.” It’s very important to be able to set healthy boundaries and to be confident enough to walk away from toxic work environments. There is this fear sometimes that if you don’t take a job you’re never going to work again. If you love what you do and you’re nice to people, it will work itself out. My advice for aspiring filmmakers would be that if you can afford to take time early on to work on passion projects that really speak to you, I think you should. As you get older, being a part of projects that don’t pay the bills becomes difficult if not impossible in my own experience. I think it’s important to create the type of work you want to be hired to do if you can.

Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?

Workspace of Jon Connor.

Image source: Jon Connor.

Cristina Valdivieso editing at Vamanos Post.

Cristina Valdivieso editing at Vamanos Post.

Image source: Jon Connor.

I think my favorite thing about my workspace is that it’s been designed so that collaborators aren’t staring at my back. My editing station is set up parallel to the theater chairs in my suite so when we screen something we can have a collaborative conversation as opposed to directors giving notes to the back of my head. It feels like a much more inclusive environment. Also having a theater setup in the suite is incredible. It’s nice to be able to watch down cuts in such an immersive way.

New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization is available to watch in theaters now.