Film Connection student Isabella Jones edits full-length film!

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Film Connection graduate Isabella Jones, Hobbiton (Matamata, NZ)

Film Connection graduate Isabella Jones, Hobbiton (Matamata, NZ)

Say yes, and you never know just how far it can take you. Recent Film Connection for Film Production & Editing graduate Isabella Jones said yes to the challenges brought to her by mentors  Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett of Dream Team Directors (Los Angeles, CA). When they asked if she’d like to edit interviews for their informative web series dealing with the realities of being a professional in today’s film industry, Isabella said yes. When she was invited to serve as Assistant Editor on Dream Team’s co-produced socially relevant full length film, Tombstone Pillow, Isabella said yes again.

And ultimately, when due to creative differences, the Lead Editor bowed out of editing the film, Isabella said yes to the position of Lead Editor. Never mind the fact that she’d never edited a full length film before. Four months ago, Isabella put her head down and got to work, receiving direction and notes from Daniel, Bayou and other key team members along the way as she edited the film to completion, maintaining a level head all the while. Three days ago, Isabella took a breath. With Tombstone Pillow “in the can” and submitted to a number of big film festivals, only now is the young editor beginning to register the magnitude of her recent accomplishment.

Shot in the cemeteries of Manilla, the feature film shines a light on the communities who, due to economic hardship and rampant crime and corruption, are forced to live in “haphazard shanties, [on]top of graves and mausoleums.”

What got you interested in Film Connection in the first place?

“I have been editing for a long time. I mean, ever since probably 13. It just started out where I was just like, ‘How do you do that?’… I got fascinated by it…I would take clips from movies or TV shows and then I would just edit them together to music which was just something I loved doing. I’ve always loved film. I mean, my whole family, we just enjoy watching movies together. Originally, I was going to go to NYU for an English program, then life kind of got in the way, but it also led me a different way…It was never a clear-cut decision, ‘I’m going to be doing this.’ It was just something that my family had mentioned and I was like, ‘That would be really cool.’ …My dad’s wife was looking up places and she found Film Connection. Then, I did a lot of my own research about it to see if it was something I felt comfortable doing.”

Film Connection mentors Daniel Lir & Bayou Bennett with grad Mike Dusenka (right)

Then we sent you to interview with Film Connection mentors Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir of Dream Team. How did that go?
“I think it was just like an instant connection with them. I liked who they were as people. I also liked who they were as artists… Storytelling’s the most important thing to me in the world, and Daniel really understood that from an editing perspective as well, how editing can really skew a story and change it. So it was automatic, I knew I liked them, I knew I didn’t want to meet other people. And thank God for that, because they’re amazing.”

What led up to you nabbing the post of Lead Editor on Tombstone Pillow?
“Just by circumstance. It wasn’t meshing together, [the editor’s] style and what they wanted and whatnot. So they gave me the opportunity to do an opening scene for the film…I did a rough draft of that, [in accord with] what I felt the tone was, and I sent that to them. They really liked it, and they had me do another thing. I think they wanted me to extend the opening, do more of it. So I did that, sent it back to them, and they really liked it. So, very luckily for me they actually ended up having me be the main editor… It was my first time ever doing something on that scale. I was learning along the way…I opened my eyes one day and we were done with the film, and I was just like wow. It was just kind of a whirlwind…It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me. I am still thankful that it happened so young. [That] I can build my portfolio at such a young age, is just really awesome.”

May we ask how old are you?
“I just turned 20.”

Was Film Connection’s approach beneficial to you in learning and developing as an editor?
“Because I was homeschooled, I already had an idea of how I learn best. I don’t learn best in a traditional setting… Just for me personally, I learn better with hands-on work, when I’m actually doing it…We have a textbook [where] I was learning about film history and different parts of film…But I was actually able to apply what I was learning to actual work, and that was, I think, the best way for me to become an editor.”

What kind of work are you doing now and what do you see in your near future?
“Daniel and Bayou have kind of made me their go-to editor, which has been amazing. So we finished two commercials with a brand… I’m working on another kind of commercial-ish thing with a skin care brand…. I believe work is just work. Any work is good. You grow, you broaden your horizon a little bit. Right now I’m doing everything. I’ve done interviews, I’ve done commercials, I’ve done films…I definitely want to go down the drama route. I love period dramas. That’s what I want to do.”

What has your family’s reaction been?
“I have such a supportive family. I have three siblings, and two of them are artists, so it’s within the family. I grew up with my parents telling me that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I’m the only girl in my family. I know in this industry females are not that prominent. It’s definitely male-dominated, and I would like to change that. I never felt like any of my dreams of goals were not reachable. I always felt like I could grasp them…My dad has always been like, ‘Why do what you can do today, tomorrow?’…So it never was a question of, ‘Can I do it?’ It’s just, ‘When will I do it and ‘How will I do it?'”

What’s your advice for other Film Connection students on how they can make the most of their externships?
“Take every opportunity that’s given to you and make the most of it. I know that sounds super easy and simple, but it isn’t. I think not knowing how far you can go is what pushes you because if you’ve already set yourself limits, you’re not going to go as far as you can… Really push yourself and learn that you can do way more than you thought you ever could.”

Learn more about Film Connection’s programs.

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