Conor McBride on Crafting Deserving Tales
Conor McBride has a superpower. You would not perceive of this if you passed him on the street or at a coffee shop, which is the point of having a superpower; you use it to help others while being undetected in everyday life. McBride has an incredible ability to make the lives of others seem extraordinary. Of course, this editor will refute any implication that he is doing anything other than revealing the exceptionalism possessed by the subject of the films which he works on but the numerous directors who have made him their first-call collaborator will attest to his greatness. This son of Ireland has a knack for discerning what will truly connect with an audience. Documentary films are a challenging genre, recognizing the very real drama in the lives of actual people in a way that can be more inspiring than any other manner of storytelling. McBride’s talent for spotlighting these touchstone moments in documentaries has earned him fame in the film industry around the world.
Empathy is incredibly useful for a filmmaker. The very nature of Conor’s work allows him to relate to the subjects of these films and their often overlooked achievements. He communicates, “I think the role of the editor is often an invisible one. I don’t mind not being in the limelight! Anyone who knows much about film realizes that a documentary editor is often the beating heart of a factual story. Documentaries don’t have scriptwriters like narrative films. It is a documentary editor’s job to write the script using the words and shots that the director captures. Each film brings its own challenges. It’s exciting for me in that it never gets old or repetitive.” McBride is presently working with renowned creative director Sam Shahid on a documentary about a vastly under appreciated gay photographer in New York in the 1930s and 40s. Though the photographer received recognition for his photography of world famous ballet dancers, Hollywood movie stars, playwright Tennessee Williams, and other notables; the films investigates why he never received the household name status deserving of an artist who mingled with the likes of Picasso, Hemingway, and Matisse. It also communicates as much about America’s puritanical leanings and mindset as about the artist himself.
Shahid sought out Conor due to his recognition in the industry for a powerful aesthetic which is mindful of a spectrum of emotions. For the past decade, McBride has worked with many of the world’s leading documentary film directors, sculpting their footage and vision into a fully realized work of art. Whether it is a photographer, a director, or an editor; there’s a union where their understanding of finely honed creativity meets. Having spent time in Paris as the subject of the film did, there’s an intuitive sense to this editor’s understanding of what the photographer’s transition from New Jersey pastor’s son to artistic luminary must have felt like. Often the most successful artists are those who both possess the ability and the experiences which allow it to bloom.
Most recently, Conor finds himself serving on editor of two documentary films which explore the spectrum of present day life in America. The first of these projects is a depiction of a modern AI robot attending university classes in California in an attempt to understand the human construct of love. Commissioned by one of the most progressive and brilliant minds in the world, this AI may be the bridge between human and cyber relationships of the future and the very evolution of life on Earth. Exercising his diversity in storytelling, McBride is also editing a yet to be released documentary film about a Pennsylvanian Amish man who has been excommunicated by his community. Even though the subject matter is vastly different, the common thread of these films, which the editing so eloquently crafts, is that they show an individual placed between two worlds who is working to define themselves. It’s this struggle that is essential to drama and which attracts audiences to them. Conor confirms, “What I love about editing documentary films is jumping into the deep end of a world which I knew nothing about, becoming an expert on it, and then educating an audience on this. I find it so rewarding to be able to introduce people to stories they would never have heard before. I see storytelling as one of the most important aspects of being human. We can discover the world we live in through these stories. To be a storyteller and to work with such great teams, to tell some of the most important stories about the human experience…is amazing!”