“It’s Kind of Scary to Think About Letting Anyone and Everyone Into the Edit Bay”: Jethica Director Pete Ohs On Twitch Livestreaming His Edit
Drawing from the world of gaming, writer/director Pete Ohs is embarking on a post-production experiment for his pandemic-shot film, Jethica: live-streaming his edit. “I know that YouTube is overflowing with editing and software tutorials but I’ve never heard of anyone actually editing a movie live,” he writes in an email, and I can’t think of anyone who has done this either. Beginning this week, Ohs is using Twitch to transmit his editing screen as well as webcam footage of himself behind the console, allowing viewers to track his process cut-by-cut.
“I imagine the audience for this stream is going to be extremely niche but I feel like it could be really interesting for certain filmmakers, particularly those earlier in their careers who haven’t had the chance to sit in on many edit, he writes. “I know I’m always curious to gain insights into other’s creative processes.” Indeed, Ohs’s generous experiment will undoubtedly prove useful to young filmmakers and editors. I tuned in for a few moments to watch Ohs cut a scene bouncing from a car traveling down a highway to a guy stranded at the side of the road. Asked a viewer in the chat, “How do you slide the footage over like that?” Ohs took a moment to verbalize what’s clearly muscle memory to him. “… Oh, it’s a shortcut I really love — option and then the less-than and greater-than signs. I imagine it like a Pac-Man — as you go left, it’s like you’re eating the clip. It’s a good shortcut when you’re making a fine cut and doing a one- or tw0-frame adjustment.”
Ohs and I chatted further over email so I could learn more about his livestream experiment as well as the film’s January, 2021 shoot.
The edit of Jethica, which is scripted by Ohs as well as his actors (Callie Hernandez, Ashley Denise Robinson, Will Madden and Andy Faulkner), can be viewed at the Twitch channel Edit Bay 4.
Filmmaker: When did you decide to livestream your edit on Twitch and what led to that decision?
Ohs: Part of the motivation for shooting this movie was so I could try livestreaming the edit. During the pandemic, I edited a series for Quibi. For the entirety of the project, I was working from home while sharing my screen with the director and producer via Zoom. This made me see it was possible and the seed was planted.
It’s kind of scary to think about letting anyone and everyone into the edit bay but scary things can also be fun and exciting. I definitely see it as an experiment. Is this interesting to anyone? And what does it lead to? I’m curious to find out.
Filmmaker: Livestreaming is a well-documented activity in the gaming world. Do you follow and watch gamers on Twitch? What sort of viewing experiences have you had?
Ohs: Back in 2017, I worked on a web series with a group of streamers in Austin, TX called ACHIEVEMENT HUNTER. It’s a group of guys just playing video games and making YouTube videos. They weren’t particularly good at the games. In fact, part of their shtick is that they are often very bad but I observed how their audience enjoyed them as people. Essentially, the audience and the streamers are all just hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company.
I’ve also followed the Dota 2 professional scene and it’s the only “esport” I follow. I don’t play the game but I enjoy watching. To me, it feels similar to watching a televised soccer or basketball game. At some point, I stumbled across the personal stream of one of my favorite professional players, a Finnish guy named MATUMBAMAN. You’re literally just watching him practice but you’re also getting a sense of the kind of person he is. I became aware of how much it endeared me to him and made me root for him even more. When he switched teams, my allegiance followed the player and not the organization. I found that interesting.
I also follow a streamer named PURGE. He’s a professional analyst and commentator for the Dota 2 pro scene who made a series of YouTube tutorials to help beginners understand the game. Again, I became aware of how comforting it was to watch him play. It’s not that I feel like he’s my friend but I do feel like I know him. Honestly, it’s strange. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a real sensation.
Filmmaker: How much will you be teaching editing as you go along versus just letting people follow?
Ohs: Mostly, I’m just going to be working on getting this movie edited. YouTube is already full of editing and software tutorials and I’m not looking to add to that pile of content. This is more about opening the door to the edit bay and letting people in to observe the process. While I know this stream is extremely niche, I could see it being of interest to both editors and non-editors. There are lots of creative collaborators on a film that never get to step into the edit bay but there’s so much to be learned by seeing how all the work that was done during production actually gets sorted, sifted and put together.
Filmmaker: What made Jethica the right project to try this experiment?
Ohs: It’s hard for me to imagine a traditional producer or investor being okay with doing this. Luckily, this film has no producers and no investors so I’m free to try things, which is kind of the point of the whole project.
Beginning in 2019, I promised myself I would make a movie every year. Life is too short and filmmaking is too rewarding to not do it. (Even though I shot it in January of 2021, Jethica is my 2020 movie. I gave myself a one-month leeway because of the pandemic.) With each film, I’m looking for new risks to take and post-production presents another opportunity to try something I’ve never tried before.
This livestreaming thing might be a huge mistake. It might be bad for me, for the film, for the audience. But my intuition tells me there’s something interesting about it and worth exploring, so I’m trying it.
Filmmaker: What sort of protocols did you implement to shoot during the pandemic? How was the project creatively designed for the pandemic limitations?
Ohs: We all got tested in Los Angeles before the shoot and we drove out to New Mexico together in two cars. I was the entire crew so it was just me and four actors all staying together in a trailer home in the middle of nowhere which was also the main set and primary location for the movie. For the duration of the two and a half week shoot, we were a covid-free pod.
The entire story takes place between the four characters and our locations were either in one of our cars, in the trailer or on the side of a road, so we were never needing to navigate the rest of society. We kept everything extremely minimal and small and simple and contained so it could be a covid-friendly production which also happens to be a budget-friendly production.
Filmmaker: And back to the livestream — will there be any kind of interactive element? Will you be previewing different versions of scenes for audiences to edit? How will viewer feedback be incorporated, if it will be at all?
Ohs: There’s TwitchChat, which in the professional gaming world can be a toxic, vapid, hectic scroll of disconnected comments and emotes but on the smaller personal streams, it’s simply a chat room for the people watching to talk, discuss and pose questions. If there’s anyone watching and they have questions or comments, I’ll be happy to engage.
Right now, I’m working on the first assembly which is too early in the process to be considering feedback but as the cut comes together, I could see it being fun to share cuts and have a discussion afterwards just like any in-person feedback screening. Giving good feedback is a skill unto itself and benefits from practice.
I also like the idea of being a fresh set of eyes for other filmmakers. If they’re open to it, I could review their rough cuts, give feedback on stream, and we all get better at making films together.
Filmmaker: Any piracy worries?
Ohs: I thought about this for a moment and decided it’s not anything I’m going to worry about. If someone really wants to go through the trouble of sniping my stream, cobbling together the footage and torrenting that version of the movie, I’ll be impressed and flattered and I will probably download it and watch it.
Filmmaker: And now that you’re a couple of days into the edit, any thoughts on how it’s been going?
Ohs: The first day was strange. I was aware of the camera and being anonymously watched by one or two people somewhere else in the world and that I voluntarily chose to do this. I also caught myself trying to think of ways to “spice it up” but I was quick to detach from those thoughts.
I most definitely am not looking to become any kind of influencer or vlogger or Internet personality. I chose the generic username EditBay4 because I like imagining that there’s someone else in EditBay3 or EditBay5 working on their own films. And when we need a break, we can go peek into one of the other bays and be inspired by what each other is making.
Filmmaker: Finally, what platforms are you using? Is there anything unique about your approach to the software?
Ohs: I’m editing in Premiere. I used Resolve for the initial proxy transcode and I’ll return to Resolve for the final color.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about my approach to the software. I’ve used most of the different programs over the years. My first professional job was in Avid and to this day, my keyboard shortcuts are a descendent of Avid’s default layout. I loved Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere was a natural offshoot when that ended. Resolve’s NLE seems solid enough too. There’s nuances between all the programs but I try not to get too hung up on the technical stuff. Editing is editing.
I do find that editors have their own idiosyncrasies for how to set up a project, organize a timeline, or assemble a scene. Any time I’ve gotten to observe another editor work, I’ve picked up a new little trick to add to my toolkit. I like thinking that this livestream could provide some useful nuggets for others to take and put to use.