Matt Lauterbach, who is the post-production manager at Kartemquin Films, is the editor on Unbroken Glass. Matt, who moved into documentary filmmaking from the teaching world, is a firm supporter of documentary as an educational tool, and believes that it is the most powerful way to communicate the experiences, emotions, and ideas of others. He recently helped complete The Trials of Muhammad Ali, is working on completing American Arab, after cutting The Penelope Project.
What is it about the editing process that you enjoy?
Editing is a very reflective process, and I love the challenge of crafting a film and bringing everything together in a way that is true to the film’s subject. It is also important that you take the viewer on a journey — one that is genuine and meaningful — so that is an aspect I really enjoy as well.
How did you get involved with Unbroken Glass?
Dinesh and I were in the same Kartemquin intern group together, and we began collaborating on projects together. Later, we got started on the intriguingly titled “Parent Project,” which would become Unbroken Glass. He was at the point where he really wanted to expand its scope, so he approached me to help out. I first got involved as kind of the person off-camera asking Dinesh questions. When it became a Kartemquin project, he was comfortable enough with me to ask me to come aboard as an editor. Trust is a huge part of the editor/director relationship in general, but particularly with this project which involves such sensitive material.
What is your approach to editing Unbroken Glass?
Dinesh came to me at a point when he was realizing that he was too close to the material and needed another set of eyes. It’s been nice because I’ve had the freedom to peruse all of the material and shape the ‘bricks’ that we are going to build the film out of. Right now, we are at a point where we are trying to get the chronological story of his parent’s time together completely straight. There are a lot of memories by a lot of different people, so what we’ve done is create chronological strands of his parents marriage, their immigration to the US, his mother’s decline, and his father’s science career and anger problems.
Sounds interesting, but also very challenging.
That is the part that I am really itching to get to: how do we make this into a film. We have a lot of different parts that individually have strength, but how we going to dip back and forth between present and past, and also ultimately, what is it all leading to? What will be our conclusion? There is so much that we need to try and test out, but that is the freedom of the editing room! You can try things and if it doesn’t work, that is okay.
Ultimately, what is your goal as an editor, and what do you want viewers to take from the film?
My goal as an editor is to be true to the questions and experiences inherent in the footage. In my view, editing is an act of perspective taking. It is an act of empathy. In Unbroken Glass, I think the subjects having to cope with the memory of trauma, figuring out how to find meaning in their parent’s death, and figuring out a way to talk about these things are some of the film’s central themes. However, as an editor, it doesn’t really matter what I think the film should be about. It is about the experiential reality of Dinesh’s journey, his siblings, and his family.
We should also note that Matt has a sharp smile and impeccable taste in Trader Joe’s frozen food, both boons in the doc editing world. Join Matt and the rest of the Unbroken Glass team on September 5th at Schuba’s for “Drinks in Progress.”