Editing continues on epic Film 33 project “Cora”

The film department class, Film 33’s,  latest project, the period epic “Cora”, continues to come together piece by piece in its weekly editing sessions.

The film’s beautiful shots stand still without an original score, since it cannot contain copyrighted music due to the nature of film festivals, which judge films based on their original content. The films produced by the Film 33 class thus far have garnered awards and acclaim at festivals as important as the Cannes film festival at France.

Other than that, the film undergoes constant changes, including a new introductory sequence that flows better than the beginning scene that it replaced, paced faster with an extended action sequence.

The head of the film program at Santa Monica College, Professor Salvador Carrasco, helps students put the film together and to help it flow as neatly as possible.

Carrasco holds the philosophy that he should not interfere with his students’ films as if they were his own, and it is necessary for students to complete a first cut of the film without his involvement for him to even begin to give his input on the editing. He views himself as more of a conduit through which the film students are able to achieve their own vision. It is a unique form of cinematic mentorship.

“The way we go about the editing is that the director and the editor work together very closely and they come up with a first cut of the film,” Carrasco explains. “Once they have the first cut, I come into the picture. And the idea is that now we work together. We assess it together, what works and why, what doesn’t work and why not.”

The film itself is not meant to play out like a typical in-your-face cautionary tale that preaches equality; it is instead focused on the human difficulties of the pre-Civil Rights era, where people of different color were discriminated against openly and coldly. This is largely due to the fact that “Cora” is based on director Kevin Maxwell’s grandmother’s life, who faced various race-related challenges.

“Writing this, the vision I had was to raise awareness for domestic violence and racial prejudice and to make sure that the audience would take away that you can get through any type of adversity,” says Maxwell. “It’s supposed to be inspirational for people, in a sense.”

Maxwell also aims to make the film accessible to audiences of all cultures, despite its specific backdrop.

“We wanted to make the film universal,” he says. No matter how specific the story is, it’s easy to find parallels between this African-American culture-based story and other cultures.

The film’s editor, Feriba Karakoc, mentions that she is able to see her own culture in the film’s portrayal of the pre-Civil Rights Movement in the south.

“I am from a Muslim country and I can see my country’s background, and I can see my own background here in the film,” she says.

However, Maxwell’s hopes for the film do not begin and end with its critical success; he also wishes to enhance the film program’s reputation through “Cora”.

“I think our hope for the film, for one, is quality,” Maxwell says. “I wanted to take the entire film program to the next level.”

When people think of a student film produced by community colleges, as Carrasco describes, they do not perceive an actually well-put together work of art. They think of a crude attempt at film, and that is something they want to move away from as a film program.

“That’s what we’re doing here, we’re dispelling those silly stereotypes. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of bias,” says Carrasco.

When it comes to the film in terms of quality, it certainly isn’t short of any. “Cora” is being edited on “Avid” media composing software, a program designed specifically for professional editors. It is not just any editing software: According to Carrasco, this is the type of software you would find editors at Paramount Studios using to put together their feature films.

After many more grueling hours editing the film to get it just right, the plan for the film is ultimately to have it ready to go by the end of the year.

Carrasco is sure that after “Cora’s” release, there won’t be any shortage of student films in the years to come as more, ambitious would-be directors join the program and hope to produce memorable work.

“The next project is already waiting for me,” Carrasco said.