Sara Fgaier, Between analysis and instinct

Sara Fgaier

Between analysis and instinct

September 2015 - Sara Fgaier, 2012-2013 Film

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.

We decided to set up our own production company in order to retain the freedom to choose our own methods and set our own pace. Bella e perduta deals with the relationship between humans and animals. It looks at the soul, the human condition, and human and animal suffering. We began with the research phase and then created the fictional part of the film, written and developed directly on set by Pietro and by our scriptwriter Maurizio Braucci. It’s similar to the method used for making silent movies. The full cast and crew were present – writer, camera operator, director, producer and actors – with everyone working together day after day. Every person involved in making a film brings his or her own story to it. The documentary medium is just a tool, too. It’s not enough in itself: we need to bring something of ourselves to the films we make, drawing on our own personal stories. Film-making helps us process life experiences in a creative way.

What was it like to be a consultant on Sacro GRA, the winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion in 2013 – a highly experimental movie with another credited editor? How much work did you do on it? Was it challenging to analyze as an editor a film that had such a specific directorial vision?
Gianfranco Rosi is a friend of mine and another partner at Avventurosa. We met while he was working on that film, and we clicked straight away. We began working together in a natural synergy, and to this day we continue to support each other on projects made by him and others.

How did you approach having a baby and continuing your professional work?
I worked right up until I gave birth and then took only a short break. I felt the urge to return immediately, even for just a couple of hours a day. I’m carrying on with my daughter by my side: we go to the studio every day. Fortunately, she is very quiet – I am very lucky in that respect. This past month, because my daughter is still so young, I’ve mostly watched films at home. Two films stood out for me: Murder by Contract by Irving Lerner and Bresson’s first film, Angels of Sin (Les anges du péché).

Right now I live in Rome but city life is becoming increasingly difficult – stressful and tiring at times. I often reminisce about the quiet country life and my home town (La Spezia). I look forward to spending more time away from the city in the future.