Doomed and Resurrected Relationships With the Ocean’s Andy Shen

Andy Shen
Andy Shen
Shen editing From the Ocean

Xiaoyao Shen (aka Andy Shen) gets approached by filmmakers to edit their productions on a regular basis. He’s received numerous awards including the Gold Award for editing from the International Independent Film Awards, and Best Editing at the Crown Wood International Film Festival as well as a number of others. These accolades raise awareness but it’s his ability to shape a film and contribute immensely that has made Shen the first choice of so many directors.

Bide Yuan wasted no time asking Andy to edit From the Ocean, approaching him at the LA Premier of the film Outdooring which Shen had also edited. The urgency is indicative of the attention this editor is receiving in Hollywood these days. Always searching for a way to bring something unique and special to his work, Andy Shen brought this personal ethos to the benefit of From the Ocean.

Andy Shen
From the Ocean (left to right) composer Ling Lu, Director Bide Yuan, Actress Elena Nicorici, Director of Photography Jon Schweigart, Editor Xiaoyao Shen

Yuan was confident that the footage he’d captured for From the Ocean was exceptional. What concerned him was the contrast of the pacing that is inherent in the subject matter of this film about relationships. From frantic desperation to heated arguments to moments of romance and even quiet desperation, presenting these contrasting experiences in the length of a film might seem bipolar if not balanced properly.

The story is about the comfortability and precariousness in a relationship. Additionally, the dual settings of city and an island possess their own natural tone and pace. The editing is the key to the balance in this tale. In the story, Alice and Jackson live together on an island. All seems well until Alice literally finds a message in a bottle offered up from the ocean.

The letter found in the bottle contains the story of a tragic relationship of another couple (Samuel and Rachael) who also lead their existence on an island until Samuel must leave for the city to find emploment opportunities. The same letter tells of a break up and a suicide between Samuel and Rachael. This story causes Alice to reflect on her own unhappiness in her relationship as she begins to blur the lines between reality and fantasy with Rachael as her confidant.

From the Ocean is the tale of two couples but it only succeeds in its aim by placing the audience in an emotional state that brings their own relationship challenges to the surface.  Manifesting this for the film, Shen approached the creation of this emotional space a number of ways that progressed further than scene selection and camera perspective.

Using the sounds of nature and the city to subtly communicate the serenity of nature (romance) and city (conflict), to convinving the director to punctuate certain moments with a new score, and even constructing an unplanned montage following the death of a main character; Shen’s viligant investigation of how to ideally communicate the intent of each scene and the filmmaker is profound in its effect on the film’s final form.

Andy describes his view on working with a director and just how far he’ll go to get the best film, stating, “Filmmaking is all consuming and can take over your whole life. You don’t get into this type of work because you expect money or fame, you do it because you want to create something amazing and touch people. When you are doing a feature length film, the director and editor might spend every day in a room together for months on end. Sometimes an editor will be a psychological therapist for the director.

This will not only relieve the intense mood in the room but also serves to speed up the editing process. I find that just talking or even leaving work for a while gets the best results from everyone in the end…whatever it takes.”This sentiment from Andy Shen is as relevant to the relationship between the talent who created From the Ocean as it is for the characters in the story itself. From the Ocean will premier at the at Golden State Film festival at the TCL Chinese theater.

Writer: Cecil McCoy