After all the production meetings, castings and lengthy shoot days are finished is when the story we see in a film or series really begins to come together. Naturally the writers and director have a strong idea of how they want their project to play out, but nothing is ever fully set in stone until the project makes its way onto the editor’s desk. It’s there that the best footage is identified and methodically pieced together into the unfolding story we enjoy as viewers.
Editor Ge Zhai, who is originally from Beijing, China is one of those genius editors who manages to turn hours of footage into a seamless story that grabs the attention of viewers around the world and keeps them watching.
Since moving stateside six years ago, Zhai has made a huge impact in the industry with her work as an editor. She got her start working as an editor for KO Creative, an LA-based creative advertising and strategic marketing group that creates audio/visual and print campaigns for domestic & international theatrical motion pictures, television and more. As an editor at KO Creative Zhai served as the lead editor on over 30 film trailers.
As the editor of the theatrical trailers for films such as multi-award winning director Chris Mason Johnson’s (The New Twenty) dramatic film Test and Coury Deeb’s ( The New Sudan) documentary BBOY for LIFE, Zhai managed to streamline each story into a concise and intriguing snapshot that made audiences want to go out to watch the films; and her success in cutting each trailer needs little further proof than the international attention received by both films upon release.
She was also the lead editor for the online trailers for several films including those for the Dutch film Boys, a coming of age tale about a homosexual teen and his budding relationship with a fellow teammate on the track team, which won the Golden Calf and Dutch Critics Awards from the Nederlands Film Festival and was nominated for an International Emmy Award; and, the Image Award nominated film drama Life of King starring Oscar Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Men of Honor, Selma).
In addition to sifting through hours of footage, selecting the most revealing and powerful moments, and creating a streamline story that would enthrall viewers, Zhai’s work cutting trailers at KO Creative meant she had to understand the divergent audiences each trailer catered to– something the value could be seen as no more integral than when it came to cutting sales trailers, as those are the visuals that actually sell the film to distributors and ensure the project actually reaches audiences. Without a strong and appealing sales trailer, a film may languish alone and unnoticed in a filmmaker’s library and never see the light of day. Thankfully for films such as Oscar Award nominee James Franco’s 2014 film The Sound and the Fury and Adam Levins’ horror film Estranged, Ge Zhai cut strong trailers that attracted the attention of distributors and helped each film make their way onto the big screen.
“I think in today’s world, there are so many choices as to video content, you got Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, with hundreds of thousands of films/tv/videos. So for an audience, why do they spend 2 hours on this specific film? The trailer is the first step to involve your audience visually following the poster. Trailers have to grasp their attention in 20 seconds and leave them wanting to see more,” explains Zhai.
“My strength is noticing details in a shot and maximizing them to convey the intimate emotion without relying on explanatory dialogue. I’m very good at telling the story of a film in a different way that is condensed, rhythmic, gripping, while remain true to the film. Plus, I have a good sense of music, which is super important to trailers.”
Though Zhai got her start as an editor in the industry cutting trailers for massively successful film projects, which is impressive enough in itself, she quickly moved on to cutting longer form projects, such as season 4 of the series Being featuring celebrities like three-time Grammy Award winner Erica Atkins Campbell and singer & movie star Tyrese, the comedy series According to Him + Her with Monica Collier (The Watermelon Heist), the poignant documentary Just Extensions and many more.
“Ge has the magic power to make ordinary materials look stunning. It was a blessing to have Ge on our team when we expanded from a trailer house into a full service post-production facility,” explains KO Creative CEO Kristi Kilday. “She was not constrained by her past experience when facing the challenge of editing long-form content like ‘Just Extensions’ and ‘Being.’ All the storylines and characters charged with emotion reflected her talent in editing.”
Zhai’s ability to breathe life into the characters we see on screen coupled with her ability to move each story forward with her natural (and virtually unnoticeable) cuts is one of the unique assets she brings to the table, and one of the driving forces behind her success that separates her from others in the industry. She doesn’t approach her work from a mechanical, step by step process devoid of emotion– instead she allows her creativity and emotional connection to the work and to the characters to guide the process. This is one of the reasons why the end products of those she’s lent her editor’s wand to have been so successful.
When it came time for the creation of season 4 of the series Being, Centric, the show’s network, which is a cable channel owned by BET, wanted to appeal to a more specific audience and embody a different vibe than that of previous seasons– that is where editor Ge Zhai came in.
Zhai explains, “‘Being’ previously had three seasons, but in totally different tone. For the new season they wanted to shift styles to better fit the rebranded network, which was catered towards educated African American women. I had worked with the same producers on the series ‘According to Him+Her,’ so they were aware of my skills, and at the end of the day that led to hire me to edit their number one show.”
Zhai’s storytelling skills as the editor of Being season 4 served as a massive asset in creating the season’s unfolding story in a way that touched audiences. Her ability to identify the tiny, but impactful moments that a lesser editor might miss, such as the expression of K.Michelle’s (Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta) eyes while sitting in church in season 4 episode 1 or six-time Grammy Award nominee Tyrese Gibson’s (Furious 7, Fast & Furious 6, Ride Along) joyful look as he revisited his childhood school in season 4 episode 4, were all tantamount to creating an emotionally touching story that drew audiences in and kept them engaged as the season played out.
Zhai’s work as an editor is proof enough itself, so much so that she’s climbed the ranks much quicker than the majority of her peers in Hollywood. Most recently she’s been working on the viral marketing video content for the sequel of the Chinese smash-hit Monster Hunt where her work has embraced millions of viewers.
From beginning her career editing trailers that have been integral to drawing audiences and selling films to buyers, to serving as the editor on highly-watched long form projects that have aired on major networks, Ge Zhai’s seasoned skill as an editor combined with her unique power as a storyteller have been integral to the success of a great many projects. This is one editor we know we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from as time progresses, so keep your eyes out for her name as the credits roll.