Sharing the beauty of hummingbirds using Adobe Creative Cloud

Still image from the film “Every Little Thing” . Image source: Sundance Film Festival.

Every Little Thing” follows a woman in Hollywood who cares for injured hummingbirds. While nurturing these birds and witnessing their resilience and fragility, Terry Masear experiences her own personal growth and healing from her past. The story unravels a visually captivating and magical tale of love, fragility, healing, and the delicate beauty in tiny acts of greatness.

Editor Tania M. Nehme took us on a deep dive into the film and shared how she used Adobe Premiere Pro to piece together this heartwarming story.

“Every Little Thing” premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 21.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

I started as an assistant editor working with 35mm picture and sound. There were large teams in post-production, and the rigor and practice of watching edits, talking to editors and directors, and sharing ideas was always encouraged. The community of people in post was huge. Editing was labor intensive, rigorous, and the discipline was intense.

During that time, a director I was working with suggested doing the one-year editing stream at the Australian Film TV and Radio school. The first film I edited there was nominated for an Australian Film Industry award, which was very encouraging. I’ll never forget the seismic shift from handling 35mm to non-linear digital editing. After eight years assisting various editors, I began editing feature films.

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

I log my own rushes and create a shorthand description, so I can find footage quickly. Then I break down and pull selects from rushes onto timelines. I also do the same with dialogue, atmospheres, fx, music, etc. Flicking across the shots on the timelines often allows moments of tonal discoveries. This is a really useful mindset in terms of being more experimental with what needs to be expository and what can be evocative. Also, discovering moments that happen by chance are magical — I’m always open to mistakes informing an edit.

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

Hummingbirds are exquisite, smart, fragile, and aerial gymnasts. We had abundant rushes, archives, and slow-motion phantom shots of birds in constant motion. I never tired of seeing these graceful birds.

Seeing them through Terry’s eyes as she takes them through the rehab process is equally inspiring. When birds come to Terry, they are no longer wild animals separate from her humanity — she is right there with them. She sees herself in them and provides boundless love and protection. Terry’s personal story also parallels the birds’ precarious position, and the uncertainty of their survival becomes a bigger story about the human condition. Her connection is integral to building character information of not only them, but also herself.

I particularly like the emotional storytelling around the Sugarbaby scenes. The people who rescued Sugarbaby also contributed to the bird's deterioration. Her anger as she observes the burnt wings is raw and palpable. This scene captures the emotional weight of the story and is one significant part to the interesting whole.

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

As a freelancer, I usually do my own assisting and organizing. On “Every Little Thing”, I was employed by Wildbear Entertainment, and I appreciated the support from their huge technical post team. That said, I wasn’t there at the beginning to discuss the presentation of rushes. The shot and timecode information on the bottom of the screen is huge, and I don’t like cutting with so much information over the image, so that affected the cut for me. Normally, I make these smaller without black opacity.

Also, we had a lot of Phantom footage of hummingbirds. Getting to know each bird required accurate and precise logs, and Tangled Bank Studios provided us with detailed documents full of information, which was huge. Of course, handling and organizing hundreds of hours of footage was intense, and I fear I didn’t do that well enough in the end. I don’t think we used Premiere Pro to its full potential.

What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Were there any other third party tools that helped enhance your workflow?

On Premiere Pro, I used the transcription tool (Speech to Text) to save money, and another transcription tool for the longer interviews. I also used Media Encoder, and I discovered at the end of the edit. I used it to make grade notes, which was helpful for delivering notes quickly and accurately. I look forward to learning more about

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

Walter Murch and Thelma Schoonmaker are my inspirations. Both filmmakers have a huge history, and they continue to inspire. Walter Murch considers every aspect of the picture and sound edit. His insights to film editing are entertaining and continue to offer insight and inspiration to me. I could listen to him speaking for hours. Editing with sound design is important for my process.

Thelma Schoonmaker is a constant collaborator with director Martin Scorcese. When you’re working with one director over a long period of time, you develop a short hand interaction. Working relationships are important to me. Feeling safe to take risks, push boundaries, and build on the director’s ideas, is a vulnerable process — you need trust between you, and it’s a significant relationship. I love it when the process is seamless and works.

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?

Giving constructive notes is an art. Sometimes I watch people with their heads down writing away, and they miss significant storytelling moments, which can be hard to see. Watching a film for the first time is a one-off thing that you can’t get back, so I would encourage people to view the film first, and then look at it a second time to take notes.

Also, keep taking risks to inspire yourself and the director. Sometimes, it can be hard to show your work and go deeper into exploring additional ideas, but it’s important to take the time to take risks and try new things. Good things have come from doing this.

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

Having a large space that reflects a lounge room is important. I love having a couch, a stand up desk, a great sound system, and a huge TV. Standing, moving around, sitting on the couch — this all helps me stay focused. I keep changing my relationship to the screen.

Workspace of Tania M Nehme, “Every Little Thing” editor.

Image Source: Tania M Nehme, “Every Little Thing” editor.