editor Joe Hunting on We Met in Virtual Reality |

A still of We met in virtual reality. (Photo: Joe Hunting)

Joe Hunting directed, shot, edited and produced We met in virtual reality, a documentary shot in virtual reality that follows a number of couples who met in virtual reality during the confinement during the COVID pandemic. Below, Hunting explains what his subjects taught him about the VR space and how he edited the film to try to make audiences forget he was in VR.

Director: How and why did you become the editor of your film? What factors and attributes led you to be hired for this position?

Hunt: It was valuable for me to constantly revise and edit as I progressed through production to inform my creative writing and direction at certain times. I’ve always edited my own films, so the process comes very naturally to me. We met in virtual reality was a complete passion project, which somewhat forced me to want full creative control.

Director: Regarding the progress of your film from its first cut to your final cut, what were your objectives as an editor? What elements of the film did you want to improve, or preserve, or disentangle or totally reshape?

Hunt: Assembly progression was largely driven by refining characters and moments related to VR and non-VR audiences. I was interested in enhancing spontaneous moments of observation that had a strong sense of truth behind the avatar incarnations, with particular attention to building a natural mood.

Director: How did you achieve these goals? What kinds of editing techniques or processes or commentary projections allowed this work to happen?

Hunt: The key to getting the job done was simply maintaining continuity. After the introductory edits and voiceovers introducing each protagonist, I wanted the audience to forget they were in virtual reality, and this was achieved by establishing parameters and using many variations of shots to create a world that happens. The pacing of the edit was driven by the emotional experience of entering and exiting virtual reality, beginning with chaotic edits and ending with slow, realistic cuts.

Director: As an editor, how did you get into the business and what influences influenced your work?

Hunt: I have always enjoyed relying on ambient sound and on-location recorded music to guide my editing, anchoring sequences in real context, unafraid of drifting into something more poetically constructed. Cinema verity forms of world building are what most influence my editing style.

Director: What mounting system did you use and why?

Hunt: I edited the entire film using Adobe Premiere Pro as I was already well trained before working on this project, and it had everything I needed as a solo band.

Director: What was the hardest scene to cut and why? And how did you do?

Hunt: Definitely the New Years sequence. Establishing a cultural context for each time zone/community celebration required a lot of attention to sound and some iconography. What brought all the different worlds together was the use of a bittersweet piece of music by Anna Meredith, which carries the emotional payoff at the end of the New Year’s scene.

Director: Finally, now that the process is complete, what new meanings has the film taken on for you? What did you discover in the footage that you might not have seen initially, and how did your final understanding of the film differ from the understanding you started with?

Hunt: It’s a loaded question, because the film has a lot of meaning for me personally. As I reflect on where I was at the start of this production, I realize how beautiful it is to really engage the communities and collaborate with the subjects in the process of making the film. Being a one man band, it’s easy to fall into a very lonely way of working, and I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t have the film I’m proud of without being entirely transparent and vulnerable with the film’s subjects. Personal issues aside, discovering how an avatar interacts with a user’s body and voice will continue to fascinate me. There’s a lot of meaning to be found just by listening to the body language of those who appear in the film.

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