“Kiss the Future” uses Premiere Pro, After Effects and Frame.io to Shine a Light on Sarajevo’s Struggles

Still from the movie "Kiss the Future"

Image Source: Tribeca Film Festival

Premiering on the opening night of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, “Kiss the Future” follows an underground community that worked and created through the nearly four-year-long Siege of Sarajevo. Directed by Nenad Cicin-Sain, the film portrays the struggles of Sarajevo citizens during the Bosnian War, highlighting how the determination of aid worker Bill Carter led to the involvement of U2 in bringing attention to the crisis. Eric Burton, editor of the film, used Adobe’s Premiere Pro, After Effectsand Frame.io to effectively depict and bring attention to the devastating conflict, while also capturing a snapshot of Europe’s tragic history.

Burton chose Creative Cloud for its seamless collaboration abilities that a team spread across several locations would need. He edited the film on Premiere Pro, while After Effects allowed him to create captivating motion graphics and text treatment. Additionally, the team relied on virtual live edit sessions and used Frame.io to easily share video links for review during the editing process.

“I’ve used Frame.io since 2015 and continue to. There are a ton of benefits and technical details as to why it’s such an important part of my workflow, but one of the most beneficial aspects is being able to have timecode specific notes,” shared Burton. “From pre-production to picture lock, I lived and breathed Adobe. I’ve worked with Adobe products for 20 years and have never had a reason to change course.”

“Kiss the Future” is set for its North American premiere on June 7. Read on to hear more about Burton’s creative and technical approach, and how he applied his 20 years of experience using Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools to edit the film.

Can you tell us about your experience as a filmmaker and how you got started in the industry?

When I think about when I first wanted to work in film, I always think of the Ray Liotta quote from Goodfellas: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster” - but for me, replace “gangster” with “filmmaker”. As a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, my friends and I would use my grandparents’ shoulder mount VHS camcorder to make our own versions of over the top action films with often questionable quality. After studying film in college in Chicago, I met a group of documentary filmmakers with a small studio and immediately began working on documentaries with them. We created a documentary about William S. Burroughs’ life called “A Man Within” directed by my friend Yony Leyser; another one called “Unauthorized and Proud of It'' about a comic book publisher in the late 80s and early 90s that published unauthorized comic book biographies about rock bands and later was murdered; and a documentary about German Jews who escaped Nazi-controlled Germany to join the allied forces and fight back against their oppressors. After working on about 10 documentaries, working for advertising agencies and in reality TV, I was given the opportunity to return to something I have experience in - artists, rock’n’roll, and war.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

In college I had a class called Editing the Documentary. For one exercise, we were given a drive full of camera raw footage of a Pygmy tribe. All the audio was in their native tongue and we were tasked with cutting based on gesture and inflection, trying to tell a visual story without knowing what words were being spoken. After the edits were submitted and screened in class we were told what the actual translation was, and for the most part everyone produced a coherent sequence. That type of visual storytelling has stuck with me since.

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

Having to deal with a significant amount of media from all sorts of sources for documentaries, what I’ve found to be the best practice for my purpose is working in Productions. Whether it’s just me or a team of editors, AEs, producers, etc., making individual projects is key - for each editor, for SFX, GFX, music, archival material (and within archival broken down into video, audio, stills) project bloat and endless scrolling through bin after bin is more or less eliminated.

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

There are so many moments that stand out, but if I have to narrow it down it would be the moment in the film when President Clinton authorizes the airstrikes through the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Up until this moment in the film (which is about an hour into the film) the pacing, music, sound design and editing have all had a kinetic momentum. When we finally authorize NATO intervention, everything is stripped back. We dial down the sound design, the shots last longer and we dip to black. It’s the first time in the film where we feel like something had actually changed. But what makes it special is when Bono starts to describe the reality of peace agreements, as deals being brokered under fluorescent light and eating stale cheese sandwiches. It’s bittersweet.

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

One of the biggest post-production challenges was actually a production challenge. Early in the process, the director Nenad and the team coined the phrase “collective memory” as a way to describe how we would approach storytelling. We wanted to capture the most authentic reaction to the stories and moments we were trying to retell. The solution was to have a large screen TV placed underneath the main cameras that I would playback curated edits on. I had a handful of cut archival footage (a propaganda reel featuring Slobodan Milosevich, U2/Sarajevo satellite linkup montages, and select song edits from the U2 Sarajevo show) that would be shown during the interview if it felt appropriate. Many of the participants hadn't seen this footage before, so we were able to capture these amazingly organic reactions.

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?

The Creative Cloud is where this film was made. I cut in Premiere Pro, GFX and titles were made in After Effects, the photo cleanup was done in Photoshop, and all exports for review and distribution were done exclusively through frame.io. I’ve worked with Adobe products for 20 years and have never had a reason to change course.

Do you use Frame.io as part of your workflow? If so, how do you use it and why did you choose it?

I’ve used Frame.io since 2015 and continue to. There are a ton of benefits and technical details as to why it’s such an important part of my workflow, but one of the most beneficial aspects is being able to have timecode specific notes.

If you could share one tip about Premiere Pro, what would it be?

Pancake editing! I can’t recommend this enough. Being able to stack multiple timelines on top of one another and then having the ability to lasso and drag chunks from one timeline to the next with a simple drag/drop speeds up the workflow exponentially. I like to do a selects assembly, then maybe a radio edit, then a sequence assembly. Stack the timelines and boom. A nondestructive way of assembling edits.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

Hands down Les Blank and Alan Lomax. They both provided a lens (Les with his camera and Alan his recording equipment) into music and culture without outside influence. One of the purest ways to capture moments in time. In Kiss the Future there is no voice over, no manipulation. We wanted to make sure any story that was told was pure.

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?

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable is the advice I can give. Leaving my previous job to take on this film was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my career. For several years I had secured a solid position with steady income working in reality TV as a supervising editor, moved from LA to Oklahoma City, and worked remotely with no issue even through the pandemic. When the opportunity for this film came up it meant I had to leave my steady job for something with a finite timeline. I took the chance and can say that those risks are what help you continue to grow and move up.

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

Still from the movie "Kiss the Future"

My workstation is ever changing and typically consists of several different computers so what I love the most is the versatility with Adobe Creative Cloud to be able to just eject a drive and slap it into another workspace. Home office? No problem. Oh, you need me to head out for a few weeks to work out of your studio? Let me toss my iMac in a bag with a drive and we’re good. 5 weeks in Europe? I have a backpack that can hold my entire mobile edit suite.