Aeterna Spotlight: Brittonya Sanden

For Editor Brittonya Sanden, love of film was in her blood more than she realized. Oscar night viewing parties were a family tradition she knew. Her mother would order Chinese food, prepare champagne flutes bubbling with sparkling apple cider, placards reserving each family member’s’ seat, and of course, miniature Oscars adorning the tables. Brittonya hadn’t known that decades before, her grandmother left the island of Malta on a 21 day voyage by sea bound for America with Hollywood dreams in her heart. Although Brittonya’s grandmother wasn’t able to achieve those desires herself, her leap of faith set in motion the circumstances for her granddaughter to follow in her heart’s footsteps. Learning of this after enrolled in Film School, Brittonya now honors her memory with a Maltese Cross and her Nanna’s name tattooed on her ankle.


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Photo credit: Jessica Fritz

Did you always know you wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry?


I started out at a very young age writing creatively and loved stories of every type. At that point I thought I was going to be an author or possibly a journalist. But I always had a love for movies and wanted to somehow combine my passion for storytelling with the art of moviemaking. By the age of 12 I was well aware of the production process and became totally obsessed with how movies were made.


Which films/tv series from your youth do you think influenced your artistic voice the most?


Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and Rope to name a few. Even though these movies are older I see them as the epitome of great filmmaking. They have well written scripts, exciting plotlines, genuine actors, and so much attention to detail given by Hitchcock in all areas. (Set design, acting style, wardrobe, etc.) I found myself immersed in every story each time I watched a new Hitchcock film. I can still go back to them today and never cease to be completely entertained.


Were you always drawn to the editing step of the creative process?


Not in the beginning. I didn’t learn about post-production until college. I always thought I wanted to be a director, or at one point a cinematographer, but when I started at the film program at Scottsdale Community College I was introduced to post-production and the art of editing. I worked on a music video early in my college education, once it was finished I knew I had found my passion. Editing was like writing.. but visually. The process itself vibed well with my very detailed and perfectionist personality. I knew from that point that I needed to be an editor.


Do you think you needed film school to get where you are today in your career?


Personally, yes. It wasn’t until college that I found editing. I had to be able to try all the areas out until I found the aspect of moviemaking that fit me perfectly. I wouldn’t have had that if I didn’t spend time in college. And I was also surrounded by so many other people who thought like me and were so creatively driven; it was refreshing to collaborate with others who had the same mindset. If I was able to do it a second time around I would definitely choose college again.


When did you decide to make the move to Los Angeles?


A little over 4 years now. It was very last minute. I interviewed with an independent documentary in Los Angeles and told them I lived there so they would hire me. They said, “Ok! We’ll see you in two weeks!” I went back to Arizona, packed my bags, and was settling into my tiny little LA room by the following week. It was actually the jacuzzi room in the back of an old house in Echo Park.


First LA job?


I landed the position as assistant editor on the independent feature documentary called Girl Rising. I worked on it for a year and it was released on March 7, 2013. When it was released it made such an impact around the world and affected so many lives and so many young women. This will always be the most meaningful job experience I’ve had so far. I was blessed enough to see a piece of work that I dedicated a year and a half of my life to affect people on such a deep level on an international scale. This ultimately is the real point of making films for me personally.


Girl Rising has a unique blend of the traditional documentary format with narrative short stories, did that affect how the footage was organised and cut?


I don’t believe it affected how the film was cut. Instead, an editor with the right creative style was needed to pull off the unique format. Gillian was the perfect choice for Girl Rising and was able to tell the beautiful stories of the girls seamlessly using her creative touch.


Which girl’s story resonates with you the most?


This is such a difficult question for me. Since I was one of the few who watched every clip of footage that was shot I found myself feeling like I knew each of these girls on a personal level. Thier stories are such a testament of the strength and willpower of impoverished women worldwide. No one story is more important than the next.


What is the most difficult aspect of an Editor’s career? What is the most fulfilling?


The most difficult aspect of an editing career for me would be long hours in front of a computer screen. I tend to get so caught up in my work the hours fly by and I don’t realize where the day is gone.The most fulfilling part of an editing career would be when the project I’m working on starts flowing together. The music, the sounds, the picture, everything just begins to flow and dance together beautifully, and the viewer is triggered by what he/she is watching. It’s a great feeling. It’s exciting.


Which genres excite you the most to cut? Currently, and in the future.


I love love love anything out of the box and artsy. Any genre which allows for a style of cutting that is not “normal.” This is a large reason why I began my editing career cutting music videos. As an editor, there is usually a lot more room for creativity and uncommon editing styles in a genre like music videos. That being said, more and more I see movies allowing for fun editing styles that add to the storytelling.


Who do you wish was your film industry Yoda?


Alfred Hitchcock. He was director of course, but knew the editing process so well. He wasn’t afraid to step out of the box and push boundaries. His movies are a cinematic experience from beginning to end and have changed the course of filmmaking on every level.