Tales of the Future and Anti-Future with Conor McBride

May 11, 2019

 

The general public had greatly underestimated the role of a film editor until recent decades. While directors were given the vast majority of accolades (praise which they well deserved), industry professionals understood the truth that an editor is as important in shaping a story. Conor McBride is apprehensive to receiving lavish praise yet his work for Adobe, Mercedes Benz, Apple, and Facebook vets his skill and reputation among his peers. When applying his talent to actual films, his signature style of telling true stories in real and meaningful ways while cultivating an aesthetic style with the directors whom he works with, has culminated in captivating films of critical and public acclaim. Two of his upcoming projects are indicative of Conor’s career direction; fascinating in description and promising to be riveting when experienced. McBride’s official title may be that of editor but filmmaker is most definitely the surname which attaches to it.

 

  Conor is currently completing the editing of a feature length documentary film as of now known as the “Untitled Robot Project.” The film explores the philosophy of futurism as seen by one of the most important entrepreneurs and futurists of our era. While most of the world discusses what AI may take away from humanity, the “Untitled Robot Project” conversely investigates what this form of technology may learn from people; specifically, love. The main subject of the film is a social AI, based on the mindfile of the wife of this fascinating entrepreneur. The film follows the robot as she becomes the first AI to enroll in a university class “The Philosophy of Love.” This entrepreneur has pioneered communication strategies at NASA, conceived of and created the first worldwide satellite radio, and founded a biotechnology company which resulted in her being both the highest paid female executive in the US. With all of these scientific and business achievements, she proves that love is her greatest motivation in life with her attempts to ensure that her wife may never have to die. This is done via a commissioning of the world’s most advanced “AI mindfile,” transferring consciousness from a human to a technological body. This backstory creates the context for the film’s exhibition of this robot’s investigation and attempted assimilation to the human concept of love.

 

  The film depicts AI interacting in class situations with humans but simultaneously educates the human viewers of this film about AI. Conor wanted to craft the story in a way which focuses on the dual aspects of this relationship which is an unexplored world in itself. It’s disarming in the intense emotional concentration which the editor has molded. The warmth of this union is completely unexpected and captivating. Conor describes, “On the first day of class we see a funny and very real Skype exchange between the students in class and the robot with her handler. I thread this scene with individual interviews of the students with their reflections on this whole project. This opening scene, in which I marry verité classroom footage with one-on-one interviews with the students, perfectly sets up one of the major premises of the film. Is this an exciting, hopeful future we have with technology or is it a dystopian reality that will come crashing down on us? Is technology a hope for good or is it something we need to reign in before it takes control over us? This opening scene helps enrapture the audience and leads them to ponder the philosophy of our future.”

 

  Diametrically opposed to this high-tech progressive subject matter is McBride’s other current documentary film work known simply as the “Untitled Amish Film.” The story explores the current situation of excommunicated Amish woodworker living in rural Pennsylvania. Already a member of a community which has separated itself from main stream society due to their values, the fact that this man was ostracized from said community has both insulated and expanded his world. The film’s director specifically chose McBride for his prior work which displayed a strong visual mood communicating a deeply contemplative state. A story such as this is more about experiencing the main character’s internal emotions and state of mind than any action taking place. Conor confirms that he has worked hard to match the film’s temperament to that of its main subject. He comments, “It’s nearly impossible to boil the entire experiences of a real person’s life down to what will fit into a film’s length. Our subject has so many great anecdotes and philosophies but unfortunately, we can’t include them all. On top of this I wanted to make sure there is room for the film to breath visually. The visual language, all captured on film, is so important to the story. The film should have a slow and considered pacing while still educating the audience on this fascinating story and life philosophy. The director has kept a relatively hands off approach to how the film should be edited. I appreciate this type of partnership.”

 

  Perhaps the reason Conor McBride has been so successful in his career as an editor is his understanding of relationships. In today’s film industry, talent is a requirement for all; it’s the union of this and the insight to what will be fascinating to an audience that fuels success. McBride’s ability to fashion events in a very real manner but also in a way which draws the essence of our universal connection is the hub for these productions and their embrace by the public. Explaining his perspective, Conor notes, “There is beauty in mystery. If we had the answer and solution to everything, I think life would be less interesting. In a world where we’re trying to find the definition of everything, it’s refreshing that some things are undefinable.” While there are so many formulaic approaches to films, Conor McBride is committed to finding the uniqueness among the stories of everyday people.

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