Azi Rahman is an award-winning editor who enjoys employing his talents in a wide variety of settings. He consistently works crafting stories about personalities in all walks of life such as Tanisha Scott (triple MTV VMA-nominated choreographer), The Wolfpack Brothers (subjects of the film The Wolfpack which won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 31st Sundance Film Festival), and others via his work with VICE. You’re as likely to see his professional fingerprint on a commercial spot for the Olympics (as in his work for Uproxx Media) as you are in a feature film like Drake, for which Rahman won an Action on Film International Film Festival Award. This acclaimed editor’s work is a template for the modern film professional, one which proves that talent crosses all boundaries and is recognized for excellence rather than simply association.
-You grew up in London. Do you feel that there is a style that editors/filmmakers attain based on the culture of their origin in the same way that musicians have an “accent” (for example: West Coast Rap, K-Pop, New York Jazz vs. French Jazz, etc.)?
I feel as an editor there isn’t a regional bias on how you approach the work. It solely comes down to the type of project it is and the sensibility of the director/client. Each project is different and you have to constantly change your perspective and adapt your skillset depending on what you are editing.
-Your work has been a part of movies, TV, advertising campaigns, and even Social Media. Does your work differ based on the manner in which it is presented (i.e. these different formats) and if so, how and why is this difference beneficial to each different format?
They do differ but one common through line is they all want to tell a story or convey a message of sorts. I feel formats are blending into each other and this serves to make the work more innovative. For example, a commercial I edited for Target in conjunction with the show Revenge was all based on a narrative story line from the show. What was unique about this was that you were able to buy everything in the scene from Target. Normally a commercial brand would want to focus on the details of the product but with the changing ways we are telling stories and selling products, this was quite an innovative move. There have been times where the only way to tell a story was through text on screen and archival images and videos. This technique was used for the work I did for the Olympic Channel. I recently did a campaign for a feature film Itsy Bitsy. It was a creature horror but for the social media campaign, the client hired Andy Dick to voice the CGI spider. It was shot in a mockumentary style with a lot of comedic moments. I had to edit down these moments for social networks. I created an extended version for YouTube and Facebook which I further trimmed down for Instagram and Snapchat. A gruesome spider is eating people is not very social media friendly so the client and director turned it on its head for the social media campaign.
-What has been the most beneficial technological advance for editors in the past 5-10 years and why?
I think the accessibility of NLE (non-linear editing) systems. Every Mac comes with iMovie or you can download Adobe, FCPX, and Avid quite cheaply to get up and running quickly. You can even edit on your iPhone now. There are tons of editing tutorials online that allow one to teach yourself, you just have to put in the hours to perfect it. When I was growing up in the 90s I didn’t have access to this; I had to enroll in a college program or study it at university (which I did). The democratization of filmmaking has definitely been the most significant thing.
-As technology continues to make editing/filmmaking easier and more intuitive, what do you think will define the skill and vision of an editor as the process becomes less difficult?
Skill only takes you to a certain level. Experience has taught me that understanding what the client/director wants is paramount. Can I grasp the story telling of the project in question? Can I help the client bring their vision to life and do they trust me to do so? This is where I feel experience has no substitute. When problems arise in the edit, which they always do, you can draw from experience and creatively problem solve. It’s always been my motto that “every problem is an opportunity to make something better”. Being an editor is all about relationships. You’re effectively the last part of the jigsaw to hone a project into fruition so it’s an amalgamation of skill, experience, and being open and collaborative in reaching the end goal.
-There is an assumption that the life of an editor is one of a solitary existence; is this true or false?
It’s not necessarily a solitary existence. You are constantly in contact with client/creatives about progress, problems and solutions. I sometimes work remotely from home which does become solitary. But for me, it’s all about the work. I enjoy what I do whether I am collaborating with people in close quarters or working remotely.
-Can you watch entertainment productions without noticing the technique of the editor involved?
A lot goes into losing yourself in a movie or tv show. The writing, directing, acting and the editing all play a part. The only time I feel disconnected is when those elements are not at a high standard. It can just take one of those elements for me to break my suspension of disbelief. For narrative productions, I feel the strength is when you don’t notice the editor. That is probably the highest compliment you can give. The job is to make the shots feel seamless and appears like you’re almost experiencing it in real life.