Growing up in Beijing China, Minghao Shen always loved film. Unlike many who enjoy watching a movie, he would think about how it was being made. The details behind how each scene was put together were what captivated him; he wanted to be a filmmaker. Eventually, the nuances and strategy behind editing caught his attention, and he knew that was where his future was. Now, he is an internationally celebrated editor.
Shen has worked on countless critically-acclaimed projects, earning him a reputation as one of China’s best recent film editors. His work on films such as Inside Linda Vista Hospital, Stay, Cartoon Book, and Red String has allowed worldwide audiences to see what he is capable of, showing without a doubt why he is so respected in the industry. His work on the horror film Emily perfectly encapsulates what the editor is capable of.
“It is a simple but tense horror film. The movements of shots and the whole visual style are really outstanding. I knew that there would be challenges, but that it would be a great chance for editing,” said Shen.
The film tells the scary story of a woman named Emily. Emily dies giving birth at home after her husband, John, abandons her. However, she will have her revenge from beyond the grave when she returns as a ghost set on killing her widowed husband.
“My favorite part of the whole production was talking about the story, because we found out that there were multiple options would work for it. Although each of the options would have been great, but couldn’t mix them all together, otherwise the tone would be chaos. As an editor, having to narrow this down and figure out how to properly tell the story and convey the right tone was great,” said Shen.
Shen’s instincts proved to be spot on, as Emily went on to do very well at several prestigious film festivals. It was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles CineFest, the SoCal Creative and Innovative Film Festival, the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival, the Action on Film International Film Festival, the California Independent Film Festival, and the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. It won Best Overall Micro Film at the Indie Gathering International Short Film Festival and at the Accolade Global Film Competition it won the Award of Excellence.
“I had many complex feelings when I discovered the film was getting a lot of awards. It was a blend of excitement and satisfaction after the hard work everyone had done. We know that we took a bunch of time and work on the film, so I was so glad that our hard work got such encouragement from the festivals,” said Shen.
None of this could have been possible without Shen’s editing talents. He spent his time taking notes every time he met with the director, ensuring he still achieved the vision of the film while bringing his own touch to it. After the first rough cut, there were a lot of points that needed to be ironed out and redone, but based on notes he did originally, it greatly assisted to the time it took.
“Horror film is always about beats, so the director worked really hard with me to specify each second to make the film the best,” said Shen. “I talked with the director about our thoughts and he trusted me for the style based on my previous experience. There were always some different editing choices between me and the director. He is a talented and continuously brainstorming how to make the film better, so I always let him know more than one choice to let our minds be more open, so that we could avoid some useless change and waste of work time. We actually had some different thoughts in some parts. After a lot of meetings, we finally compromised our differences and both of us thinks this made the finished product better than what just our own ideas would have.”
The director, Jun Xia, agrees, and knows that without Shen his film could not have achieved what it did. The two have worked together on multiple projects since Emily, and Xia knows that Shen’s talents are essential to making a good film.
“Minghao and I had worked together for a few times before, and he is always a good listener. He can take feedback and produce more ideas all the time. Minghao is an experienced editor. We talked a lot about a lot of different ways to make Emily better, and it did. He can always come up with unique thoughts when it comes to editing,” said Xia.
Everyone that works with Shen is continuously impressed by his editing skills. Without his work on Emily, audiences may not have been on the edge of their seats, terrified about what would happen next.
You can watch Shen’s impressive editing work on the short film Emily here.