Evidence of Indian talent in cinema is present all around for everyone to see. Satyajit Ray’s magical stark images caught the fancy of the world and influenced filmmakers around the world. Bhanu Athaiya the versatile costume designer showcased India’s amazing tapestry in Gandhi and was awarded an Oscar. Years later Resul Pookutty and A. R. Rahman won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Score, respectively, for the 2008 British film Slumdog Millionaire. And now, the editing skills of a young Indian assistant editor Aashish D’Mello were rewarded with an Oscar for his work in the best film of the year Everything Everywhere All At Once. It should be said he was part of a team that worked on the film.
For Aashish, it has been quite a journey. Responding to queries emailed to him he said, “Growing up in Mumbai, I loved music, movies and computers. I wanted to do something that involved all three, but I wasn’t sure how to pursue it as a career. I did my Bachelors in Mass Media at St Xavier’s College and majored in Advertising. Although I was always interested in creative media and arts in general, I never considered filmmaking as an actual career option until right after I graduated in 2013, when I started working at Apocalypso Filmworks under editor Anirban Dutta and director Pradeep Sarkar. I worked as an assistant editor there for 2 years, on multiple ads each month as well as on the 2014 Yash Raj movie Mardaani, under editor Sanjib Datta. It was an intense work experience, but I was able to learn the basics of the Avid editing software on the job as well as watch the editors craft stories”.
His parents were supportive of him, even though they didn’t know much about the film industry. Aashish started considering the possibility of honing his skills at a post-graduate film program. The editing course at American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles seemed like the best fit. He was accepted into the course and moved to Los Angeles in 2015. It was an intense experience. One of the short films he edited there was Sin Cielo, which was accepted into various major festivals and ended up being distributed by HBO on all platforms. He admitted that moving to Los Angeles was the dream he never knew until it had already started to materialize. Since then, he has been based in Los Angeles and working in the film and TV industry.
Editing a movie is a very specific skill set. A good editor is patient, has an ability to work under pressure, excellent time management and emotional depth. Aashish loved spending time with computers, and he got fascinated with using Windows Movie Maker to use existing footage and being able to create something new from it. As he puts it, “I loved fixing things, and editing seemed like a great way of putting together footage to create a story”.
When asked how he got the assignment on the film, he said, “I got the job as an assistant editor on the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once through the other assistant editor on the movie - Zekun Mao. We had both done our post-graduate degree course from American Film Institute in Los Angeles together and had worked on other projects together”.
When he is editing a shot, there are multiple factors he considers. He said, “If the shot tells the story that needs to be told in that moment, if the performance of the actors is good, if the direction has good pacing, if the shot has visual continuity (or atleast isn’t jarring) with the shots before and after”.
Born in Mumbai, the film industry is something that cannot be ignored. He worked in the advertising industry as an assistant editor on multiple commercials as well a feature film called Mardaani in 2014. He was open to working on a film if the story was good. This, he said, applied to every film industry. The script, he said, had to tell a good story. If a script was not interesting, he argued, it would be extremely difficult to make a good film out of it.
Asked what his plans were with regards to editing he said, “I want to be much more creatively involved, as that is what my passion is. I have edited smaller projects, but I want to do something bigger. To achieve that goal, I have been working as an assistant editor so I can learn from great editors and build my skills as well as my network. I plan to eventually become an editor on studio feature films, instead of being an assistant editor forever”.
With regards to visiting Mumbai and Goa specifically, he said, “I intend to visit Mumbai sometime this year. Schedules in the film industry are constantly changing, so it’s hard to predict exactly when, but I will definitely make the time this year. My Mom’s family is originally from Goa, so we occasionally go there for a holiday - if I visit Mumbai, I’ll be visiting Goa as well”.
When he was asked to give advice to Goans who could be interested in working in the film industry, Aashish was more than willing to do so. He said, “If you’re living in Goa, Mumbai is not far away at all. Mumbai is such a huge hub for Indian filmmaking. If you’re interested in post-production, look for courses that teach the software first - that is the foundation for your editing technical ability. There is so much information and videos available online these days for Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro. Watch a lot of movies and analyze the story - what makes it good or bad. Once you’ve started learning these, look up various post-production studios in Mumbai and apply for jobs there, even if it means an internship. That will eventually help you know more people and build a network. It takes time and isn’t cheap, but eventually things will work out if you work hard!”Amen to that.