Film editor Sara Fgaier has learned that tenacity is key to moviemaking. She ranks it with “talent,” a “smattering of culture”, and “a very clear idea of the project you’re dealing with. Other than that,” she adds, “it’s important to have experience, which is something you can only acquire over time.”
She’s been acquiring it rapidly in the two years since her term as a Rolex protégé to the film-maker and editor Walter Murch. Fgaier has edited and consulted on films that won accolades at international festivals, and has helped establish Avventurosa, an independent production company based in Rome. She has also given birth to her first child.
Fgaier regards Murch not just as a mentor, but also a friend and an exemplar. “He is a man who has made a lot of films, he’s collaborated with a lot of people and has had the good fortune to edit extraordinary films at a historic time when cinema had a lot to say."
Just as Murch has worked with the most accomplished directors of his generation, including Francis Ford Coppola, Philip Kaufman, George Lucas and Anthony Minghella. Fgaier looks “for directors I feel affinities with. I look for films that will grip me, that I can fall in love with.” At Avventurosa, she and directors Pietro Marcello and Gianfranco Rosi “have become producers, too, so that we can carry out our projects and those of others we believe in and who we want to support."
Rolex Arts Initiative: Having been so close to Walter Murch’s editing of Particle Fever, Mark Levinson’s documentary about the CERN collider, how did you react to the finished film?
Sara Fgaier: I was so excited to see the finished product. I think it’s a very powerful film: it touches upon existential issues through some extraordinary real-world protagonists, who experience discoveries, difficulties and defeats with incredible intensity. The viewer is struck by the irony and modesty of the men and women working at CERN: their enthusiasm is contagious. The editing was crucial. Walter chose a structure that makes the film exciting, engaging and compelling. He created a constant flow of thoughts and emotions that captivates the viewer.
Has your own aesthetic evolved, becoming more analytical or instinctive? And has the mentor and protégé experience given you a new angle on your work?
It’s hard to say whether it has changed at all: Everything one does is part of an ongoing process; nothing is predetermined. I tend to seek a balance between analysis and instinct. They are both essential elements of my work. I simply go where the story leads me, and that means giving intuition free rein and being prepared to make mistakes.
I don’t think it’s all about the method. Circumstances and experience play an important role. I think Walter has helped me at a crucial time in my career. I’m sure I’ll continue to change, but I hope never to lose my sense of curiosity and my drive to try and change that instant – that “blink of an eye” – that’s at the core of what’s called “editing."
Since you continue to be credited as both a film editor and a producer, which description fits you? How early do you engage with the material?
I am an editor but I’ve become part of a small production company to support films that I feel strongly about. When I work with the director Pietro Marcello, it is always important to join the project from the very beginning. His films do not follow the typical film production process but instead progress more freely. They are written progressively, on the move. The script is always changing and evolving, and constantly projecting ahead. Screenwriting also takes place during filming and editing: it’s an ongoing process. During editing it becomes the most adrenaline-filled activity because you get to see the film on screen, envisage changes and additions and go back and shoot again. It is a method of screenwriting that reflects real life.