How Netflix's Editing course has honed the talent of some of India's best film academics and technicians 

Netflix partnered with New York Film Academy (NYFA) to train and upskill 23 Assistant Editors. The month-long course began on April 24 and ended on May 20
Netflix logo | Pics: Netflix
Netflix logo | Pics: Netflix

In the eternal words of Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The film is made in the editing room". While this statement might be debated depending on which side of the filmmaking process someone is, there's no denying that post-production is among the most arduous stages.

In recent years, especially over the last year, films have changed their address. With theatres shut, most films have released on OTT platforms like Netflix. The streaming giant not only ensures that it delivers top-notch content, but it is now also looking at training the upcoming generations of filmmakers, editors and other technicians. In a recent virtual training pilot for assistant editors in India, Netflix partnered with New York Film Academy (NYFA) to train and upskill 23 assistant editors in the field. The month-long course began on April 24 and ended on May 20.

To find out more about the course and how it could be beneficial to upcoming assistant editors, especially those from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Whistling Woods International, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India (SRFTI), who attended it, we chat with Amitabh Shukla, Post-production Manager at Netflix India. Excerpts:

Tell us about the virtual training pilot to train assistant editors. What was the selection process?
Netflix’s Assistant Editor Professional Development Course was curated in partnership with the prestigious NYFA to provide a comprehensive module for improving skills and enhancing the knowledge of assistant editors in India. It was taught using a variety of instructional methods, including lectures, class discussions, guided application, in-class activities, and independent projects. The course also had panel discussions with experts such as Michael Tronick (Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Mr & Mrs Smith, Scent of a Woman) and Kevin Tent (Otherhood, The Descendants, Monster-in-Law) who shared insights with the participants on their craft. The course had participation from working professionals from across the editing departments of films, series and non-fiction content and people who are just starting their careers. 

Amitabh Shukla, Post-production Manager, Netflix

What were some of the key takeaways? How will these courses enhance the learning of film school students?
In India, the assistant editor position is looked at more as just a stepping stone on the journey to becoming an editor. While that is certainly true, the increasing scale and complexity of content today has elevated the assistant editor position into a specialist role all by itself. With the large volume of content, there is a need to have efficient workflows to enable edit teams to work faster and smarter. Therefore, the primary objective of the course was to provide the participants with an understanding of the role of an assistant editor as it is seen in the global industry, the responsibilities that come with it, and to equip them with the latest tools, techniques and best practices being used in various parts of the world. 

Faculty members from Film and Television Institute of India (Pune), Whistling Woods International (Mumbai), Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute of India (Kolkata) attended the course as observers and found both the content as well as the delivery of the course extremely helpful. We are currently engaged with them to explore opportunities around weaving this material into their syllabi to expand the impact of this course.
Will Netflix offer any job opportunities to these Assistant Editors?
All the participants are associated with Netflix titles in some manner/capacity. We look forward to working with them and applying these learnings on our series and films. 
What sets the course apart from other courses out there for editing?
The course provided a focused and in-depth skill development programme for the assistant editors that is currently not available in India. The course offers a very technical deep dive into various activities that the assistant editor would be responsible for, from the preparation mode of the project all the way through to final deliveries and archival of the project. It is designed to be NLE (Non-Linear Editing) system agnostic — so all of it can be implemented irrespective of the choice of the editing system.

The course also introduced two things into the country for the very first time, a Digital Codebook — a virtual database and record of all assets and information relating to a project — and ScriptSync, a tool that automates the ability to find specific words or lines from the script in the material shot or recorded on set. Both these tools bring a lot of efficiency to the assistant editors' workday, thereby freeing them up to engage more in the creative aspects. 

Why do you think such courses are important? Is it the same doing it online rather than offline? What would have been better/worst had it been offline?
Knowledge sharing and skill development are extremely important for the growth of any industry. The vast number of Netflix productions across the globe provide us with very valuable learnings in content creation. Specialised courses such as these allow us to share that information with the local creative industry.

A well designed and delivered course can be effective in either the offline or virtual mode, and this course lends itself very well to the virtual mode as well. With the COVID-related restrictions, the post-production industry has very quickly pivoted to work from home and remote workflows for virtually everything. This was made possible by the fact that all the building blocks for the content, the images and the sounds are already in a digital form and can be moved and leveraged over the internet. The online delivery of this course is merely an extension of the change we are seeing in post-production workflows globally.

What are some of the courses that you're planning in the future?
We are continuously evaluating where we could make an impactful contribution to the skill sets of the creative industry and we hope to be bringing many such initiatives to the country.

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