Bringing the heart of mariachi to the big screen: Editing Going Varsity in Mariachi with Daniela Quiroz using Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Frame.io
Image Source: Going Varsity in Mariachi Still.
Going Varsity in Mariachi, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year, documents the journey of Edinburg North’s Mariachi Oro 2021-2022 team, a talented group of Texas high school students competing to win the title of the state’s best mariachi band. Along with spotlighting the band’s tireless journey, the film explores the unique coming of age experiences of these young individuals growing up in a US border city while embracing their Mexican-American identity and strengthening a core part of Mexican heritage Mariachi music. Directors Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn trusted editor Daniela Quiroz, who proficiently used Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Frame.io, to bring their heartwarming documentary vision to life and showcase the students’ dedication to win the state championship.
Daniela chose Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools because it gave her the ability to make executive creative decisions and allowed her to use the entire Adobe suite with ease. “First, the ability to toggle between proxies and raw footage at the click of a button is the most helpful and time effective tool I have come across on any NLE. I also love using the sound effects panel to quickly make adjustments, corrections, and creative choices so we can start to see what a final mix might sound like,” she shared.
While Vasquez, Osborn, and Quiroz began their collaboration on the project remotely, Frame.io was another integral tool to their creative process as they needed to build a level of trust to ensure their creative visions were aligned. With the help of Frame.io, Quiroz was able to share selects and assemblies early on, allowing the directors to determine which characters were shining and how they can make adjustments to their shots while they were still on site and shooting in the RGV.
Despite the film delicately addressing social issues, Going Varsity in Mariachi is centered around the hard work and commitment needed to establish a thriving Mariachi band, with the music being a significant element of the culture. We spoke with editor Quiroz about her approach to using Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools to execute the directors’ creative vision for the film. Scroll down to read more and be sure to catch the film at SXSW this month.
How and where did you first learn to edit?
I learned to edit my last semester at college when I took a film class with one assignment: to write, direct, and edit a short student film. The film was about a closeted housewife, and if I were to remake this film today the one mistake I would change would be not to pan away from the final kiss. While I enjoyed every aspect of making this film, I was completely enthralled by the editing portion. I spent hours in the computer lab, ate meals in front of the screen to not miss a moment, and if friends or my girlfriend wanted to see me during these few weeks they had to come watch me edit. I don’t think I worked as hard on any other school assignment. So, technically this is where I first learned to edit but I continued to learn with every new job and to this day one of the things I love most about editing is that there’s always something new to learn or a new skill to develop through this storytelling tool.
How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?
I love a clean workspace. So it’s really important to me that the project be organized by an amazing assistant editor that ingests footage, creates sync maps, and organizes all the day’s footage by scene to a corresponding sequence. That way by the time I come in, I can preserve their work and start cutting things apart in my own Editor bin. I start with a methodical approach to wrap my head around all the footage so that when it comes time to cut a weird or quirky scene, have a goofy moment, or to take creative liberties, I know what footage would be best to make it work.
Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.
I have so many favorite scenes from Going Varsity in Mariachi, even some that got left on the cutting room floor. But the scene that resonates with me most right now has to do with the queer love story that unfolds throughout the course of the film. All the students are in a place where they have their whole future ahead of them and they each have a lot of decisions to consider while choosing their own individual path. But unlike other characters, the two women that are dating go through a thought process about where it would be safe for them to be music teachers, both for job security and their own personal sanity. While the film is ultimately a joyful story, we do touch on a couple important issues that affect all of us. But this scene really offers viewers a rare insight into a conversation not everyone needs to take the time to have. And ultimately, these two students plan to make these choices together, and who doesn’t love a young queer love story.
What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?
One interesting and unique post-production challenge was to decide how much of the film we wanted to translate through subtitles. A lot of the culture in this part of Texas involves a kind of Spanglish that is part of the everyday vernacular. We wanted to make sure audiences understood what the content was, but at the same time we questioned how many subtitles were necessary. There was a point where we had no subtitles, then we overcompensated, and then we found that right balance that gave you just enough information when you needed it and when to trust the viewers to make an educated guess. I loved the elegant way we chose to execute this particular challenge.
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?
I used Premiere Pro to edit the film. First, the ability to toggle between proxies and raw footage at the click of a button is the most helpful and time effective tool I have come across on any NLE. I also love using the sound effects panel to quickly make adjustments, corrections, and creative choices so we can start to see what a final mix might sound like. Another great tool is the Lumetri color panel so that we could start to see early on the beautiful visuals that the cinematographer took great care to produce. I also love being able to quickly use the whole Adobe suite seamlessly, especially Photoshop and After Effects to help us visualize graphics early on.
Do you use Frame.io as part of your workflow? If so, how do you use it and why did you choose it?
Integrating Frame.io into our workflow was integral to our creative process. For the first few months while I was editing in NYC, the Directors Vasquez and Osborn were still on location filming the last few months of the school year. But we really needed to develop a rapport between the three of us so that I could fully understand their vision for the film, and we could start to build a level of trust between us all. So when we couldn’t be physically in the same room Frame.io helped us share selects and assemblies early on so we could start to see what characters were shining, and what, if anything was missing that Alex and Sam could still capture while they were still living in the RGV.
If you could share one tip about Premiere Pro, what would it be?
One of my goals as an editor is to one day be able to edit on the keyboard the same way we write sentences and hardly ever have to touch the mouse. So, my one tip would be to learn as many keyboard shortcuts as you can early on, to the point where it becomes muscle memory for your digits. This really makes the technical aspects of editing much more efficient, that way you can focus on creative tasks that affect the story.
Who is your creative inspiration and why?
I am constantly inspired by my colleagues and fellow filmmakers. Everyone that takes the time and energy and puts in the hundreds of hours of work to take an idea and then execute a fully realized film is no small feat. It is exhausting, daunting, and all consuming. And I am so in awe of every single person that takes this on to tell stories that we get the opportunity to live, enjoy, and learn from.
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?
There are a lot of external factors I had to overcome to break into a male dominated space as a queer Latinx woman. But what I will say is that the toughest thing I had to overcome was my own self-doubt and to start to believe in myself. Editing is hard, and for most of the time that you are editing it isn’t very good until finally all the hard work pays off and the pieces start to fit together, and you wonder why you didn’t just put them in that order in the first place. A lot of people give up before they get to the point where they see their efforts and hard work pay off to finally have a sequence comprised of clips and scenes that work harmoniously together in a way that makes sense and is entertaining. My biggest advice is to be okay with failure because you get better every day. The other piece of advice that has saved me countless times is to build your editor/filmmaker community around you to help raise you up and draw inspiration from, and even recommend you for jobs in the future.
Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?
My favorite thing about my workspace is my standing desk, because even when I was young I felt old and rickety while editing. Now I can edit for hours and I can avoid throwing out my back. I know, not as fun as an inspiring movie poster, or a Yoda bobble head. But I’m a Taurus, and we value comfort above all things.