Tag Archives: Hollywood Film Editors

Changing with the Times: Film Producer Angel Cassani

Film Producer Angel Cassani

A film’s creative power exists in the possibility it offers us to get lost in another world, and perhaps experience life from a new perspective, but at the end of the day, making films is still a business. 

Just as changes and advances in technology have affected nearly every other existing business model, the film industry continues to experience massive changes in its own right. 

From the way we watch films to the way films are produced there’s no doubt about it, everything is changing. To be successful as a producer in the modern film world means looking to the future and anticipating where the industry is going, something that renowned producer and finance guru Angel Cassani knows all about. 

“The industry has changed a lot, starting with the platforms with their new rules, ways of buying and demanding content. In recent times the industry has grown a lot, and there have been a lot of bad productions,” explains Cassani. “Because of this, it is necessary to take a lot of aspects into consideration when choosing a project, in order to have the smaller chance of loss and to give the investor major security, this is why we present a project accompanied by a business plan to the investors. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘Hollywood is Wall Street’.” 

It’s been over a decade since the Latin American finance expert burst onto the international film scene with his brilliant idea of adapting the colossal world of the UFC to the big screen.

Launching a career that marries his financial expertise with his passion for film and the UFC, Cassani quickly found himself climbing the ranks in Hollywood. In 2008 the reputable film studio Lionsgate offered him a six picture deal along with his partner, Argentinian film and television star and the former Kickboxing Champion of the World, Hector Echavarria.

The successful duo joined forces after Angel shared his impressive idea with Echavarria. 

Cassani recalls, “[Echavarria] had a spectacular film and television career in Argentina, where we had met a few years before. I had talked to him about my love of filmmaking, and I suggested I could help him with financing and production.” 

Merging Cassani’s success in finance with Echavarria’s on-screen talent, the pair teamed up for what would be the start of a very successful film collaboration.

Cassani recalls, “He [Echavarria] instantly agreed, and we produced the movie [Never Surrender] for Lionsgate studio in Hollywood.” 

Cassani effortlessly stepped into the producer role on the 2008 film “Never Surrender,” a fight-for-your-life thriller that exposes the brutal world of underground fighting, directed by and starring Echavarria.

The film also stars real life UFC fighters B.J Penn and Georges St-Pierre, who both played  fictionalised versions of themselves, as well as Patrick Kilpatrick who starred alongside Tom Cruise in “Minority Report” and James Russo of Tarrentino’s “Django Unchained.”

The film was the stepping stone to success that helped the duo capitalize on the popularity of the UFC, seeing the pair join forces on a total of eight films over a 10 year period. 

“Never Surrender” Movie Poster

Their collaborative success continued with the edgy 2015 film “No Way Out,” which was executively produced by both Echavarria and Cassani and starred Danny Trejo (“Machete,” “From Dusk till Dawn”).

Prior to following his dreams into his now successful career in filmmaking, Cassani was an established financial investor throughout South America. His advisory work earned fortunes for international corporations and clients such as BellSouth, Motorola, Avon and more.

His portfolio of financial success aided a smooth transition from finance to film, and his work since has proven him as a visionary producer who can predict trends. 

As the world continues to adapt to the towering urges of high speed internet and streaming services, industry figures are constantly being faced with the high demands of consumers who want to access films with the click of a button.

The increasing popularity of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are changing the way films are being made on every level, from the production and turnaround time to the budget and contract terms.

The phrase “Netflix & Chill” has literally become the latest form of dating, leaving behind the days of subtle arm-around-shoulder moves at the local movie theatre. 

Cassani reflects, “The platforms offer you to watch what content from the comfort of your home, this is why people stopped going to the cinema.” 

The demand for streaming services saw the once booming box office numbers begin to rapidly decline, forcing producers and industry figures to find a new direction to achieve success in  filmmaking. 

Using his extensive knowledge as a financial expert, Cassani took to the industry changes quickly. 

“The main challenge the studios are facing is how to adapt the new budgets to their productions,” he explains. “Investors are becoming stricter and are looking for more financially secure projects, for this reason it has become a prerequisite to have a good business plan in mind.” 

Boasting over 130 million viewers today, in 2018 Netflix spent an estimated US$13 billion on original content; and at the tail end of 2019, multinational mass media and entertainment providers Disney and Apple recently unveiled their streaming services

With these companies securing deals with some of the industry’s biggest stars for their original series, it’s becoming more apparent that the future of Hollywood is now swiftly moving towards online streaming.

Just when the industry grew accustomed to these changes, Hollywood found itself on a standstill recently when it was faced with it’s biggest challenge yet. 

The unsettling Coronavirus dilemma has had a significant impact on the film and television industry, just as it has on the rest of the world. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 people will have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

Cassani adds, “Nowadays we have to pay the most attention to enter into negotiations with the platformas, due to the Coronavirus crisis we don’t have cinemas open and we don’t know when they are going to open.” 

While COVID-19 is causing multiple cancellations, postponements and changes to film industry schedules, platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are comfortably reaping the quarantine benefits. 

With strict lockdown laws in place forcing millions to stay inside, and many without work and waiting patiently for the world to reopen, indulging in daily episode binges and movie marathons seems like the most comforting way to spend the time. 

While it’s easy to focus on the negative impact of COVID-19, not all hope has been lost in Hollywood. Streaming platforms are seeing an incredibly high demand in sourcing new content, with industry profilers finding a new burst of creation whilst in lockdown. 

Angel has kept his creativity flowing through his work alongside producer and award-winning filmmaker Joel M. Gonzales. In 2019 the pair founded Matte Pictures and have three upcoming films in pre-production; the action packed “The Sister Assassins” which again stars Danny Trejo, as well as “Power and Glory” and “Can You Hear Me.” 

When speaking on the exciting partnership between him and Gonzales, Cassani says, “We have a relationship based on respect and creative freedom, I have always felt that Joel gave me my space to exhibit my ideas.”

Cassani is also busy working on the upcoming series “DNA,” a short form series of 20 minute episodes that focus on the sudden shifts in perspective that people experience in their ordinary life. 

Illustrating a different story through each chapter, the series will bring to life subjects that could potentially have an impact on society, another impressive way in which Cassani stays relevant to change. 

“The industry is currently experiencing a lot of changes, with one of those being the platform,” Angel states. “Youth are used to watching what, when and where they want… the duration of the content is increasingly shorter.”

With online streaming services and worldwide pandemics keeping Hollywood on it’s toes, having the creative ability to adapt to change is the key to success. 

An industrialist in his own form providing expertise on all levels, Angel Cassani not only remains at the head of the game, he predicts trends that are fundamental to filmmaking today.

Sought After Editor Aijia Li: A Master of the Cut

Aijia working on a new upcoming feature film.jpg

No matter how powerful the actors’ performances, how brilliant the director, or how adept the cinematographer, the film that audiences ultimately see is only as good as its editor. When tens to hundreds of hours of footage reach the editor’s desk, the success of the film is in their hands. Like a conductor who turns the unbridled chaos of an orchestra into the most beautiful of symphonies, a great editor can create a timeless masterpiece from a million disparate pieces, and that is exactly what editor Aijia Li accomplishes with every project she takes on.

Hailing from Changchun in northeast China, Aijia developed a passion for film and photography when she was just a teen. She spent her youth hungrily absorbing every movie she could get her hands on. By the time she reached college she’d accumulated a huge collection of movies, and was falling more in love with filmmaking with each passing day.

“I’ve had a passion for telling stories since I was a kid, and then I started writing stories and novels. But film has always been my spiritual food,” Aijia recalled. “In junior high, I spent all my allowance on DVDS, and now my parents still have a few boxes of my collection in the house.”

It was during college that Aijia seriously began experimenting with creating and editing her own films. She discovered just how crucial the editor’s job was to the overall process and realized that she had a natural aptitude for the delicate and often-arduous job. But editing films was not just something she was good at — it was something she loved. As an editor, Aijia was able to work hand-in-hand with the director to shape and define the story as they envisioned it. It’s not much of a stretch to liken her role to that of a midwife, guiding the film through the last critical stages before it enters the world.

“Film can [only] be film because of editing. A good editor can save the director’s life. I think in the digital age, the editor as the director’s closest partner may become more and more important,” Aijia explained. “The relationship between the director and the editor is like a marriage. After they finish shooting the film, the director spends more time with the editor than their own family. A good director understands that the film is the editor’s work. Before editing, what the director has is only the raw material.”

Editor Aijia Li
Film poster for “The Moon Also Rises”

Nowhere is the power of that partnership between director and editor more evident than in the quality of Aijia’s work. Time and again she faithfully executes the director’s vision, blurring the line between art and science with equal measures of calculated efficiency and creative instinct. The 2018 drama “The Moon Also Rises” is a perfect example of Aijia’s unparalleled editorial prowess. Simultaneously moving and thought-provoking, “The Moon Also Rises” is an existential exploration of the impacts that people have on the lives of those around them, and the lasting traces they leave when they’re gone.

“This film is different from any other film I’ve edited,” Aijia said. “In the process of cross-editing, the difference between the images and the proportion of the frame gives the audience a strong sense of the drama’s conflict… The director of this film is a pure artist.”

Faced with the daunting challenge of creating a final product that lived up to director Yao Yu’s lofty expectations, Aijia’s work on “The Moon Also Rises” was a trial by fire. The resulting film is a testament to both her technical expertise and keen creative instincts. Impressed by the film’s concept and execution, judges at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival included “The Moon Also Rises” in the festival’s 2018 lineup of screenings.

Aijia had already cultivated a stellar reputation as an editor prior to “The Moon Also Rises.” Among her earlier works was the inspiring 2016 film “Short Term” about the unlikely paternal bond a homeless man develops with a young boy he finds living on the streets. Written, directed and edited by Aijia Li, “Short Term” explores the perennially-relevant subjects of poverty and racism and the impacts they have on the most vulnerable members of society.

“As the editor, the only way to make this kind of emotional story great is to edit by heart. I understand the characters, I feel them…,” Aijia explained of her process. “Another thing is, less is more. I don’t cut too much when there’s a heavy, emotional moment. I hold it. Because good editing is not just about skill and it’s not an editor’s showreel. It’s a story.”

Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Short Term”

That philosophy guided Aijia’s work throughout the editing process, and when critics and audiences watched “Short Term” it was obvious she had a gift possessed by few others in the field. The film immediately caught the attention of festival judges across the country. In addition to winning top prize at the 2016 Women’s Independent Film Festival, “Short Term” was also a semi-finalist at both the Los Angeles CineFest and the Hollywood Screening Film Festival. It was also an official selection at the International Family Film Festival, the Lady Filmmakers Festival and the Glendale International Film Festival — where it was also nominated for two additional awards.

Among some of Aijia Li’s other masterful works as an editor is the recent film “Float,” which earned multiple prestigious awards from the 2017 European Independent Film Awards, Hollywood Film Competition, London Independent Film Awards and the LA Shorts Awards, and Pantha Rahman’s dramatic film “Deceased,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival, Bucharest International Film Festival, Indian Peacock International Film Festival and more.

glendale film festival
Editor Aijia Li at the Glendale Film Festival for the film “Short Term”

“I have encountered many editors during my time in the film industry, but Aijia was my only choice to work on this film. Aijia has the best feel for editing out of any professional I have ever worked with,” admits “Deceased” director Pantha Rahman.

“I was incredibly impressed by the high level of emotion she added to my film… Ms. Li’s unlimited knowledge and understanding of editing was evident in every single cut she made… Her vast knowledge and wealth of experience were essential in building the film’s narrative structure… Without Ms. Li as the editor of ‘Deceased,’ the engaging visuals and sentimentally resonant narrative would have never come together, making me forever grateful for her work on the film.”

Editor Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Deceased”

A great editor understands a film’s story and characters as well as they understand the technical aspects of the job. In many ways a film is a lot like an unassembled puzzle when the editor’s job begins. Only, this puzzle includes hundreds of extra pieces and there is no picture to reference. The only way to know where the pieces go and what they’ll form is to fully understand what the director’s vision is and how to bring it to life. In the simplest terms, that’s what Aijia Li does — from thousands of scrambled, disparate pieces, she builds stories with the power to move audiences to laughter or tears.