Stephanie Korski’s Work Reveals the True Power of a Film Editor

Historians point to the dawn of modern man as being when we first began creating art — those haunting images of wild beasts and epic hunts painted on cave walls thousands of years ago. There is a profound beauty in this idea that our species began with our ancestors huddling around a fire and becoming lost in the words of an Ice Age storyteller. Our love of stories hasn’t changed in the millennia since, but the mediums and methods used to tell those stories have. Now, in the digital era, the storyteller’s role has been crowdsourced.

From set designers to writers, every person who works on a film is telling a piece of the story. As each individual works to create their own part of the whole, it’s up to editors like Stephanie Korski to weave those threads together like a tapestry. Her job is to be the tie that binds the entire filmmaking process. Editors like Korski act as a sort of extension of a film’s director. She has to understand and share a director’s vision and intent better than anyone, which is deceptively difficult and demands an intensely creative mind. Korski’s job is also highly technical, as turning raw footage into a theater-ready film requires a mastery of the most advanced tools and technologies used in the industry today.

Korski has spent years working in virtually every level of film production. She’s performed on stage for audiences, written and directed her own films, and worked as a cinematographer behind the cameras. She knew early on she was meant to work in the industry, and it was while studying cinematography at film school that she discovered her true passion lay in the cutting room.

“Editing gives you the ability to play with context and story and intent in a way that cinematography couldn’t give me. And ultimately, for me, it was all about the storytelling,” she said. “The story is very important to me, and I need to immerse myself in it.”

Korski is a comedian as well as an editor. Years of performing improv on stage has had a huge influence on her career, which in part explains her skill as an editor. Editing, just like comedy, is all about timing — cut too soon or too late and a scene can be ruined. Korski understands the importance of timing better than most, and relies on her quick wit and improv experience to guide her decisions in the editing room.

“I love getting to play in the edit. Sometimes you get to just let loose on your material until both you and the director are in stitches, and then you’ve both stumbled onto something golden,” Korski explained. “When no choice is too silly or too out there, I love that kind of freedom.”

Korski is extraordinarily talented and her work in every genre is exceptional. But because of her experience as a comic performing with the internationally-renowned Second City improv troupe, she shines brightest and feels most at home working on comedies. Her comedic timing is perhaps her greatest strength, and she used it to full effect as the editor of the aptly named “A Comady.”

“‘A Comady’ is a film about a woman who imparts her biggest secret to her comatose husband, only to find out that he has a secret too,” Korski described. “I co-wrote this film to create material that would attract the great crew that we had in mind, and we did just that.”

Hilarious and thoroughly unpredictable, “A Comady” is a fantastic film and a perfect example of Korski’s collaborative approach to the filmmaking process. Having co-written the story, she had an added stake in the success of the film, which only fueled her determination during the production.

“The best thing about this film is that the first and second acts are very dramatic, and Kali was able to separate the comedy in the third act without compromising the weight of the first part of the story,” Korski said. “She was a joy to work with. We ended up with so many hilarious outtakes because everyone was having such a great time.”

Once shooting was wrapped, Korski began the meticulous process of cutting and editing the raw footage and shaping the resulting scenes into the final cut.

“The film was essentially both a drama and a comedy. We went from slow, emotional dolly shots to the chaotic, comedic, handheld [camera] scenes in the third act — the film was suddenly in unexpected territory,” she described. “I wanted to keep that reveal buttoned up until the very last minute, so I edited the film in two separate segments.”

Deftly walking the line between drama and comedy, Korski meticulously weaved “A Comady” into a hilarious and suspenseful film. But while Korski’s greatest strength lies in comedy, she has never been restrained by genre. Presented with the challenge of editing the tense thriller “Last Lodger,” she leapt into action. “Last Lodger” is a modern retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and capturing the unsettling tone of the original tale required Korski to enter new editorial territory.

“This was my first time editing a thriller, but I knew the key to success in the genre is to keep the audience uneasy and on their toes. As I was reviewing the dailies with the team I made note of anything that made people tense,” Korski explained. “Anything that gave me a weird gut feeling, I kept in the film.”

Transitioning between a comedy and a thriller meant she needed to approach each project in completely different ways. But from the moment Stephanie Korski signed on to each, she followed her instincts and crafted fantastic and wildly-different pieces of cinema. Every decision Korski makes as an editor, she makes for the benefit of the story. That is, after all, what first made her fall in love with filmmaking. She’s a born storyteller, breathing life into what once lived only in someone else’s imagination.

Over the years Korski has edited nearly 30 projects and while she’s made a strong name for herself in film, she’s also proven herself to be an editing powerhouse on a range of commercials, PSA’s and most recently the Indiegogo campaign video for “Gideon’s Bible” directed by LAIFF April Award winner Felipe Mucci (“Vlado,” “Two Sides,” “Pambolero”).

About Korski’s work as an editor Mucci says, “She is calm and extremely organized as well as very collaborative and supportive, but one of her best qualities is that she pushes the filmmaker she works with to make the best project possible. There is no ‘It’s good enough’ working with her. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it will be the best it can be, and that is a rare quality on an editor and one that I treasure every time I have the chance of working with her… Her timing as an editor is flawless and her collaborative nature make her a wonderful editor to any project.”

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