Hey Viktor! Tribeca film actor Cody Lightning wearing a feathered headdress

Editor Sarah Taylor on why Adobe Premiere Pro is her go-to editing tool for films like Tribeca’s “Hey Viktor!”

Hero image source: tribecafilm.com/Hey Viktor!

Hey Viktor!” pays homage to “Smoke Signals”, a groundbreaking production widely recognized as the first full-length film written, directed, and produced by Native Americans to reach an international audience. Editor Sarah Taylor used Adobe Creative Cloud, including Premiere Pro, to bring  Hey Viktor!” to life.

Released in 1998,  Smoke Signals” starred child-actor Cody Lightning who plays his grown-up self in “Hey Viktor!”, which he also directed and scripted with co-writer Samuel Miller. At the start of  Hey Viktor!”, Lightning is wallowing in the past — watching VHS reruns from his glory days while struggling to fund a zombie movie that he rewrites endlessly with his creative partner (played by Star Trek: Discovery’s Hannah Cheesman). When his friends stage an intervention, he redirects his energy into “Smoke Signals 2”, with the support of an unhinged investor and a hastily assembled cast and crew. As the project descends into chaos, Lightning is forced to confront unresolved issues from the past and come to terms with the community that raised him.

“Hey Viktor!” is a smart meta-riff on the challenges of filmmaking and the transience of fame. But it wears its mockumentary-humor lightly, exploring serious themes from  Smoke Signals” including inter-generational tensions and the challenges still faced by the Native American community. It’s also funny, thanks in no small part to the skills of editor Sarah Taylor, who used Premiere Pro to cut the dark comedy. Leading up to the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Festival I asked Sarah about the challenges of editing “Hey Viktor!” and some of her favorite Premiere Pro tips.

Can you tell us about your experience as a filmmaker and how you got started in the industry?

I attended MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I took a program called Digital Arts and Media. That’s where I discovered editing and found that I would lose track of time in the edit suite. After graduating, I pursued editing jobs and landed at a television station called Access (part of CHUM TV). I was able to learn from a wonderful group of editors and producers, some of whom I still work with to this day!

How and where did you first learn to edit?

I learned the basics in post-secondary on a system called Media 100. It only had two tracks of video, so you had to get creative! Since then, I’ve learned new techniques on every project which is one of the things I love most about being an editor.

Image source: tribecafilm.com/Hey Viktor!

How do you begin a project?

Recently I’ve had the privilege of working with an assistant editor, Blair Drover (yay to AEs!). I now receive a project file with synced proxies and organized scenes. I then dive into each scene and, bit by bit, I piece together the film.

Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.

I loved the scene in “Hey Viktor!” where Kate tells Cody how she’s been feeling and lets it all out. I found the performance really moving because it was intense and cathartic. I also have to mention the improvised moments—at times I couldn’t cut because it was so darn funny!

What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?

The production team did a pretty fantastic job of getting what was needed. The initial assembly was very long so most of the challenges came from deciding what scenes or beats weren’t needed.

What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were they the best choice for this project?

I used Premiere Pro to cut “Hey Viktor!” For me Premiere Pro is like a second language so it’s always my first choice. I don’t have to think about how to use the software so I can just focus on the creative.

Image source: tribecafilm.com/Hey Viktor!

If you could share one tip about Premiere Pro, what would it be?

Just one tip? That’s tough! I’d say use the proxy workflow and multi-cam for syncing your footage. Get familiar with keyboard shortcuts like Q & W for ripple trim edits, use pancake editing and the transcription tools. These were all game changers and made me way more efficient.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

I get my creative inspiration from everywhere: movies I watch, podcasts, and just living life with my daughter, husband, and pups! I’m also fortunate to host The Editor’s Cut podcast where I get to interview editors that inspire me. I recently chatted with Paul Rogers from “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and Timothy Good and Emily Mendez of “The Last of Us”. I learn something new from every editor I talk with.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?

When I first started out there weren’t many women editing in my local community. I felt like I had to do more to prove myself and I didn’t feel like I could admit it if I didn’t know how to do something. I eventually found people I trusted in the industry and was able to admit I didn’t know everything.

Now I do my best to share all my editing knowledge with my peers and aspiring editors. This is partly why I host and produce The Editor’s Cut—I believe the more we can share our craft and lift others, the better we all become! For all the aspiring editors out there, don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire, admit when you don’t understand something, ask for help, and be kind to everyone you cross paths with.

Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?

Image source: Sarah Taylor

I love having a bright workspace with artwork created by my daughter, photos of my loved ones, and lots of plants! My biggest must haves that aren’t in the photo are my edit pup Penny and a large cup of coffee!


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