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Misty Wilson: In Her Own Words
Jan, 26, 2021
Misty Wilson: In Her Own Words
Originally from a small town outside of Durango, Colorado, video editor and motion graphics artist Misty Wilson fell in love with film as a teenager, when she created highlight reels to capture the spirit, excitement, and passion of her high school’s sport teams. To pursue her motion picture dreams, she moved to the Valley of the Sun in the fall of 2003 to attend film school and since then has called Phoenix home.
Throughout her career, Wilson, who is a member and serves on the Board of the Arizona Production Association, has worked on everything from feature and short films to documentaries and commercials, and over the past two years, she’s been integral to a team of Arizona-based filmmakers and actors who recently worked in collaboration with Phoenix Art Museum to produce a three-part series of short films in celebration of the Museum’s 60-year history. In October 2020, The First Time, the series’ first film directed by Chris Heck, edited by Wilson, and written as a love letter from the Museum to its community, was released to the public. Then in December 2020, after its world premiere at the Sedona International Film Festival, the series’ second film, Wish You Were There, which was directed by Kieran Thompson, written by Heck, and edited by Wilson, was released on phxart.org before it was awarded the Phoenix Film Festival 2020 Copper Wing Award for Best Arizona Short Film.
Next Friday, the Museum’s third and final film, Represent, will be shared with Museum audiences. Written and directed by Heck and edited by Wilson, the film chronicles the experience of a young boy on a school field trip at Phoenix Art Museum. Its world premiere was hosted last year in Rhode Island at the Providence Children’s Film Festival, where it was awarded the 2020 Hasbro Children’s Hospital Audience Choice Award. Represent has also been presented at various national and international film festivals, including the 2020 New York International Children’s Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying festival, and the Festival Brasil de Cinema Internacional, where it won for Best Production and was nominated for Best Short Film and Best Actor.
Here’s Misty Wilson, in her own words, about the art of filmmaking, editing, and her experience working on the Museum’s short film series. And don’t forget to save the date for Represent, premiering here on February 5.
“Life in the film industry is incredible and incredibly hard. It is rewarding and challenging. It can rob you of sleep while also making a positive impact that changes your life completely.”
Misty Wilson, Quantum Leap Productions Addy Award 2018. Keith & Melissa Photographers.
PhxArt: What inspired you to work in film and specifically film editing?
Misty Wilson: I’d have to say my desire to capture and share emotions. When I was in high school, I would shoot videos for the sports teams I was involved in, and toward the end of every season, when it came to the editing, my ultimate goal was to evoke emotion—laughter, pride, sympathy, inspiration, frustration, passion, anger, and love. But most of all, I wanted the video to be remembered, cherished. Sports on its own is riddled with emotion, and I thrived on bringing that to the forefront through editing highlight reels. (As a young editor, I literally used every transition available in the editing software, which now makes me laugh uncontrollably and cringe while watching). This experience, along with a video production class that my high school offered my junior year, encouraged me to seek out a college where I could focus on media arts.
PhxArt: Is film your primary medium, and in which genres do you primarily work?
Wilson: Yes, film is my primary artistic medium. Within that medium, I work with some brilliant directors and producers, and it really comes down to their focused genre. As a film editor, I act as a sort of translator to the audience—my focus is how the story needs to be told. My husband often jokes that it only takes a few minutes for me to get roped into watching any film, and he isn’t wrong. I live on connecting with characters, places, and feelings. Searching for and discovering those “hooks” in everything I watch truly fuels my passion.
At the Sedona International Film Festival (2020). Courtesy of Justin Wilson. From left to right: Josh Gonzales, Kieran Thompson, Chris Heck, Misty Wilson, and Christine Kellogg-Darrin.
PhxArt: Who are your greatest artistic influences?
Wilson: My goodness, it’s a list that continuously grows! I’d have to say my first editing influence would be the editor Walter Murch. His methods, workflows, and sense of storytelling really resonate with me. I’m also inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, with his gorgeous, whimsical anime films that not only point out the awful flaws in humanity but also the beauty and grace, and Wes Anderson, with his incredible style in film and storytelling. I’m fascinated by Jon Favreau and how he is constantly surrounding himself with brilliant, passionate filmmakers to push the envelope of filmmaking and the technology involved. Most recently, I’ve been struck by British artist and author Charlie Mackesy, with his sweet, inspiring, and thought-provoking story The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.
My first film influence was Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. It’s a brilliant, raw, heart-wrenching romance that really settled in my heart as a story that could have easily existed in reality rather than happily ever after. I love watching characters in their demise and their unexpected growth.
Wish You Were There (2020). Film still. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: Have you watched any films recently that have inspired you?
Wilson: I have a few favorites from 2020 that I found both inspiring and brilliant. Portrait of a Lady on Fire really stands out as the most inspiring. The editing was phenomenal—I found myself loving the long shots of Marianne while painting, and the intention behind every cut made so much sense to me, I was mesmerized. The use of silence throughout the film was brilliant—the impact it made on the characters and the story was so fulfilling. It’s one of those films that stays with you.
The King of Staten Island stands out to me for its gritty comedy. It made me laugh and cry, and the character growth was wonderful. I have a soft spot for firefighters, and since my dad is a retired volunteer firefighter in my small hometown, I felt really close to this film.
Tigers Are Not Afraid is a sort of fairytale horror that I found incredibly unique, and the story was both devastatingly tough and quite touching. I love films that have children playing the lead roles and I found the approach and use of visual effects was fantastic.
Behind the scenes of Represent. Courtesy of Kieran Thompson.
PhxArt: For most people, the art of filmmaking is as much a fantasy world as the films themselves. What is it like to be a film editor, and what would surprise people to know about the art and process of it?
Wilson: I think the most surprising thing might be that being a film editor doesn’t mean all I do is work on films. In fact, I do a lot more commercial and corporate work in between working on films. Some might find that disheartening and unfortunate, but really, I love the challenges of all the work I do. Yes, films will always have my heart, and I am always ready to jump on the next one that comes my way, but having a consistent workload is important for any artist. The opportunity to hone skills, learn new technology, and test out new software, workflows, and plugins all help in keeping me ready for the challenges that might present themselves in the next film.
PhxArt: What about the collaborative aspect of filmmaking? How has working with other creatives in the industry influenced your work?
Wilson: Collaboration is key for me to be able to do what I do. I wouldn’t have anything to work on without the blood, sweat, tears, and passion of those working through pre-production and production. Their hard work provides me with the opportunity to edit a film truest to its original concept. I absolutely love when I get the opportunity to flush out a first pass on my own, to interpret the footage as it would be interpreted by an audience. Then I work with the director to refine, push and pull, test alternate takes, and really play around with things to create the final edit.
Broken Leg (2014). Poster. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: In addition to editing films, what other roles have you played in the filmmaking process?
Wilson: As an editor, I find it incredibly valuable to also work a considerable amount in visual effects. I’m often able to know when a shot is either unusable or salvageable when something maybe unexpected happens during production. I’m actually looking forward to sharing some before and after examples on my Instagram from Represent to showcase some instances when we chose to use visual effects to enhance the story.
PhxArt: How did you become interested in visual effects and motion graphics?
Wilson: I think my interest in visual effects came from watching the making of music videos on MTV in high school. In my junior-year video production class, we lined a small study room with green crate paper to serve as our green screen. We created everything from a fun weather forecast to a scene from Macbeth with one person playing the three witches. In the professional realm of editing, visual effects can be used for removing a light switch from a shot or replacing a sign. It can get as crazy as full set design and replacement.
My love for motion graphics probably came from making a million PowerPoint presentations and my constant need to make things more creative and engaging. I still believe a video is always a better approach when it comes to conveying information to an audience.
The Joe Show (2014). Poster. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What was it like working on the team that created the three-part, short film series for Phoenix Art Museum?
Wilson: A dream. Talk about an amazing group of people! Everyone really poured their hearts into each and every piece, and while I rarely get the opportunity to be on set with the production crew, I was able to be on set during the filming of Represent; in fact, I have a very brief cameo. Being on set for that one day was great, and seeing everyone in action was really fun. Overall, it was a truly incredible opportunity to work on three very different films all showcasing Phoenix Art Museum, each in its own unique way.
PhxArt: Having completed this project with Phoenix Art Museum, what can our audiences expect to see from you in the year ahead?
Wilson: One documentary I worked on through Quantum Leap Productions (QLP), Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera, will be released to the public in late February/early March, and another documentary also through QLP, Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time, is now available on Amazon Prime. I’m also looking forward to working with Kieran Thompson on his next feature.
Riders of the Purple Sage The Making of a Western Opera (forthcoming). Poster. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What advice would you give someone looking to work in the film industry?
Wilson: Love every minute of it, and don’t let it beat you down. No job in filmmaking is a breeze, so be ready to work! Do your job well, and put passion into every task, no matter how big or small, because people will notice, and when passionate filmmakers build their teams, they’re looking for those with an equal or greater passion. Life in the film industry is incredible and incredibly hard. It is rewarding and challenging. It can rob you of sleep while also making a positive impact that changes your life completely. The best advice I can give is, be ready—be ready for anything and adapt when it comes.
We’re curious how creatives are navigating the time of coronavirus. Misty Wilson shares what’s giving her life as a creative during quarantine.
Wilson: I’ve been really fortunate to be able to continue doing what I love while working from home. No longer having to commute, I’ve also really immersed myself in reading again. Some of my favorites have been Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah, Thrawn (Star Wars: Thrawn #1-#3) by Timothy Zahn, and Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon.
While I absolutely hate cooking, my husband says I’ve become a pretty great cook—I think he says that to help encourage me to like it, but I don’t think it’s working. I have found it tolerable if I put on an audiobook.
I’ve also been re-learning to play the piano. For my birthday, my husband, mother-in-law, and parents all chipped in to buy me an electric, weighted key piano. My mom is an incredible piano player, and while I took lessons growing up, I don’t think I’ve really played since high school. I’ve been teaching myself how to read music again. It’s been really fun—and much more challenging than I first thought—but incredibly rewarding and surprisingly relaxing! I especially love calling my mom up for help on chords I can’t quite figure out.