Sometimes the best leader is the person who understands how to use the strengths of those around them rather than forcefully controlling everything themselves. Those in the film industry understand that a director’s most powerful confidant is the too often publicly unnoticed editor. Director Shuaiyu Liu set editor Yu-Ying Chuang to task on the Sci-Fi action film Underground, winner of the Gold Remi Award at WorldFest Houston. There is a lot of action and emotion in this post-apocalyptic tale and Chuang was just the skilled professional to sculpt the film to match Liu’s vision.
Underground is a glimpse of what life could be life for those who survive nuclear war. The main character Mars, saw the world as we know it destroyed by nuclear holocaust when he was four-years-old. He entered an underground shelter with other survivors. Twenty years later, he has almost forgotten about his previous life until a light from the outside world peaks his interest. Now he must face the determination of the leader of the underground shelter to stifle this desire less it spread to others and destroy their way of life. To complicate matters, The Lord of the underground shelter’s daughter [Phoebe] is romantically connected to Mars; proving that nothing is easy in a world after nuclear devastation, including love.
While directors can often be very specific about the editing, Shuaiyu stated to Yu-Ying that he was looking to portray the idea that there is always someone who is willing to stand up for love, friendship, and family in this story. It was up to Chuang to drive that point home. The editor notes, “The director gave me a lot of space to create. It’s really an epic film. Love, loyalty, the desire to return home; these are all found in the great works of film and literature.
Equal amounts of addition and subtraction were utilized in the editing of this film. Yu-Ying admits that though the performance of the actors in a quarrelling scene between Mars and Phoebe was great, it became cumbersome and required trimming to establish the proper intensity. Employing the opposite technique, Chuang describes, “TheLord of the underground gives a speech and calls out Mars for his plan to defect at one point in the story. As Mars tries to escape, the rhythm really needed to speed up. When Phoebe jumps in front of Mars to take a bullet intended for him, I went the opposite route and slowed everything way down. This heightened the tragedy of the moment as well as Phoebe’s sacrifice of her life for Mars and his dream of returning to the outside world. Ultimately, my job is to maximize the emotional impact of each scene so that the audience really feels it as much as possible.”
Yu-Ying concedes that there were disagreements during the making of this film between those like himself who worked so tirelessly to help it achieve its maximum potential. The goal of all artists is to work passionately alongside those of a similar drive. Underground’s thunderous reception at film festivals such as Worldfest-Houston International Film & Video Festival, International Independent Film Awards, and others confirms that this path is the one which results in great films for a massively appreciative audience.