Audiences love a well-written story with twisting plots. These films are the result of layers upon layers of professionals both in front of and behind the camera. The path from the set to the silver screen is as complex as the actions and motives on screen. One of the professionals who gains the first glimpse to what “will be” is the on-set editor. Ziyang “Lucia” Wang was both editor and the on-set editor for the recently released comedy/crime film Free Ride. The fast pace of the film and its frequent use of VFX kept Wang on the edge of her seat in a manner similar to fans of this film. Even though it has barely had time to appear, Free Ride has already received awards from the Los Angeles Film Festival (Best Indie Short), the CineCina Film Festival, and the Transparent Film Festival (Best Comedy). Though not yet in wide release, Lucia offers an inside peek to the process of making this acclaimed film.
Free Ride is the type of film in which leaves you constantly guessing about who is the real danger. While transporting three dangerous mental patients to another state, the van driver loses one of them. During his search, he encounters a thief who is eluding the authorities. When the criminal offers the driver a cut off his loot, the actions and intentions of all involved parties becomes convoluted and suspect. Hot pursuit, questionable allegiances, and the X-factor of mental patients culminates in both nervous anticipation and hilarity.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the story is its constantly twisting and uncertain direction, by design. “What’s going to happen next?” is the sign of good writing and good execution in a film. This requires an incredible amount of planning and Ziyang was a part of this from the earliest of preproduction meetings. From storyboard layout to final presentation, her editing expertise was a major benefit for director Yi Qu in achieving her vision for this film. The tone of the story could be described as a sarcastic black comedy influenced by No Country for Old Men and Hell or High Water. There’s a palpable undertone which alludes to the human condition of always wanting more contributing to one’s downfall. Ziyang relates, “Free Ride is not only a tense movie but has a lot of craziness and cynical perspective to it. As a road film, it contains a lot of location changes that we needed to cover in a short amount of time. Our director was very worried about this during the pre-production but I showed her some short clips to convince her that in the world of editing, we don’t have to show every line, every sentence, and every second; jump shots work perfectly, especially in a comedic piece.” This approach is perfectly displayed when the criminal first jumps into the van. Lines of dialogue overlap and the back & forth editing perfectly complements this frantic moment. The silence that follows delivered by the punchline of the driver asking the robber to buckle his seat belt is even more gratifying because of this. Yi Qu’s confidence in Wang’s editing was so great that she even conducted a reshoot based on the editor’s input. Ziyang states, “In the original version of there is a scene in which the driver decides to strike the criminal with a taser. I felt there was a lack of drama for this peak moment in the story. I asked for a separate insert shot of the taser hidden under the driver’s seat as a POV shot. I cut it in this way: the driver hops off the van, looks down, and cut to the taser to highlight it as an important prop. Then I cut back to the driver looking up with this taser already in his hand…and now the audience knows what he’s going to do. Subtle tweaks like this are important and this shot totally increased the tension.”
In a variety of ways, Ziyang Wang proves that she’s not there simply to cut what others imagine but to reimagine ways of helping their vision be achieved. She’s not clairvoyant, she’s an editor. As a professional who is focused on making the work of others looking better, Ziyang is creating a reputation that will see much more work heading her way.