Editor Ting Yu: Shaping International Films

(Editor Ting Yu)

Some people might think that an editor is simply the person who cuts and splices different pieces of footage together to achieve the final result that matches the director’s wishes; those who have this view are sorely mistaken. An editor is usually the equal to the director in terms of shaping the way we as the audience receive the story being displayed. A great editor not only does their job correctly, they improve and emphasize the footage, music, and other elements to fashion the final product we watch. The demands are immense on an editor; a fact that editor Ting Yu can most certainly confirm. Her eclectic resume boasts such diverse projects and accolades as Between Two Ferns starring Zach Galifianakis, the Motion Picture Sound Editors (USA) Golden Reel Award nominated series Start Up which stars Golden Globe Winner Ron Perlman and Oscar winning actress Mire Sorvino, and a Ghana Movie Award for Best Editing for the film Like Cotton Twines. Ting knows diversity in tone and has become comfortable with uncomfortability in regards to the types of stories she edits. From documentaries that elicit change on a global front to dramas that present real human struggles, Ting Yu’s work is impactful and full of gravitas.

Those who are unaware of the versatility and impact and editor has on a production might understand it better through the work of Ting Yu. Starkly contrasting the visual of an editor sitting in a suite toiling over footage (although this happens as well), Ting is known for having a massive influence on films which utilize her exceptional skills. Director Temi Ojo invited Yu on the set during the shooting of Seedless in order to take advantage of her opinions. This highly unusual method paid off overwhelmingly when Seedless (a short film) procured investors to be made into a feature film based on the strength of this initial production. Ojo stipulates, “Ting was the only editor who could have tackled a film as complex and emotional as this one.”

Director Shelby Baldock was creating a film about kidney transplant recipients titled Faceless but Remembered and acquired Ting to help him communicate the story in the most compelling and gripping manner. A real life kidney transplant beneficiary himself, Shelby was adamant about relating the importance of the subject. The film takes place in a gas station on New Year’s Eve centered on one night between an uncle and nephew who are coworkers. An astounding thirty-one cuts were edited by Ting with the final version being screened at such events as the Irvine International Film Festival, Indie Memphis Film Festival, and Hollywood Shorts Film Festival. With an ending that delivers an unexpected twist, Ting’s ability to hold the truth close to her chest was paramount to the impact of the story and praise from audiences and the film community.

Producer/director/actress Phyllis Stuart had worked with Ting multiple times on the WIN (Women’s Image Network) Awards. The production features names such as Golden-Globe-Winner Rosanna Arquette, Oscar-Nominee Sam Elliott, and numerous others praising the talent of female leaders. Ting’s work on the WIN awards had more than proven herself as exceptional and self-sufficient, which is why Stuart asked her to edit her documentary Wild Daze. The film’s footage was obtained over a five-year period and displays the horrific poaching of elephants in Africa. Interviews presented in the film feature internationally recognized authorities like Jane Goodall, Russell A. Mittermeier, and many others. With a subject so polarizing, Ting made a conscious decision to not cast anyone featured in the film in a negative judgmental light. She communicates, “Phyllis got special footage from a hunter who has been doing this for years. He treated the whole thing as a business, and to his point, there is no one to blame. The first cut I made presented him as a bad guy in the film but later, I changed the cut because I think that ultimately it’s the audience who should have the right to decide whether his point is right or wrong. To be honest, it was extremely difficult to just look at some of the footage. All kinds of tragedy. I thought of backing out during the first month but then Phyllis talked with me about what she had witnessed all those years; this was the reason for making the film, so we can draw more attention to the situation. As a citizen of China, I was so touched that before our film was released, the Chinese government actually banned the ivory trade and the demand for Ivory went way down!” Wild Daze has received glowing praise from renowned wildlife foundations such as The Pollination Project, Wildlife Works, Enough, and others.

Ting Yu may not consciously make an effort to elevate beyond the perspective of one culture but she does so all the same. The range of projects from feature films like the comedy/adventure Almighty House to a sobering documentary like Wild Daze are a means of displaying that all of us care deeply about similar things regardless of where we call home. More importantly, her collaboration with other filmmakers around the world ensures that the industry and the audience will continue to investigate the topics that lay a bedrock for entertainment and information in the future.

An LA based writer with more than a decade as a staff writer for NYC based Drumhead magazine, Kelly is also a contributor to a number of outlets.