Filmmaker Andrew H. Brown on collaboratively cutting Tribeca’s “Between the Rains” with Adobe Premiere Pro and

Image source: Andrew H. Brown, Between the Rains co-director, co-producer, cinematographer, and editor

For the Turkana-Ngaremara people of north Kenya, climate change not only dries up rivers and erodes the soil—it eats away at the very fabric of a society that has lived in harmony with nature for decades. This is the fragile world depicted in “Between the Rains”, a new documentary from award-winning filmmaker Andrew H. Brown, and Kenya-based filmmaker Moses Thuranira, which charts the experiences of Kole, a young shepherd coming to terms with changes in the environment and his community.

Filmed over the course of four consecutive years during record low precipitation in northern Kenya, “Between the Rains” is a collaboration between co-director and co-producer Brown and a local team that includes journalists, teachers, and advocates for climate change action. Together they uncover the personal tragedies and conflicts that menace a vulnerable society at the epicenter of a global catastrophe.

The long duration of the shoot resulted in more than 800 hours of footage. To speed up the editing process without compromising the creative voice of the filmmakers and their subject, the team used Adobe Creative Cloud, including Premiere Pro to create the final cut. also played an essential role, enabling the international team to work together seamlessly from multiple locations while reducing review cycles and quickening approvals.

Before the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, I asked Brown about the importance of the collaborative process, why Premiere Pro is his editing tool of choice, and how he handled an eerie night-time shoot for this intimate documentary.

Image source: Andrew H. Brown, Between the Rains co-director, co-producer, cinematographer, and editor

Can you tell us about your experience as a filmmaker and how you got started in the industry?

I always had a love for photography, but I never had a thought about becoming a filmmaker until I was deep into the first feature documentary that I produced called “When Lambs Become Lions” (Tribeca 2018, Best Editing). I was doing a lot of humanitarian work in East Africa and somewhere along the line I picked up a camera and started capturing stories to share. That quickly moved into video and my career came together organically from that point.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

I learned how to edit on the fly. I produced and helped shoot my second feature documentary “Kifaru  (Jackson Wild 2019, Best Editing). After three years of principle filming, when we reached postproduction, we were completely out of the funds needed to hire a proper editor. Thankfully, I had the story in my head already mapped out. I just needed to know what buttons to hit to cut it together. I watched a few clips online on how to use Premiere Pro and jumped straight into cutting my first feature film.

How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?

Every project is different for me. For “Between the Rains”, I was the director, director of photography, and editor. The entire process started with trying to organize just over 800 hours of footage shot over four years. Our editing team was divided between Kenya and the U.S., so it was important that we were all able to speak the same language regarding media management. One of my favorite things about Premiere Pro is no matter where you are in the world, it is the standard for editing. Everyone on the team can use the same language and stay on the same page much more easily than with any of the other editing platforms I’ve used over the years.

Image source: Andrew H. Brown, Between the Rains co-director, co-producer, cinematographer, and editor

Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.

My favorite scenes in “Between the Rains” would have to be where Kole (the main protagonist) has to perform night watch whenever villagers hear lions or hyenas at night. While I wasn’t a huge fan of being out in the Kenyan bush at night, with only a camera in hand and protected by a young teenage shepherd with a spear, those scenes were a lot of fun to cut. The only light source was Kole’s small flashlight and the fires he would start around his family’s livestock pen—the darkness really allowed us to play in the edit. Our goal with those scenes was to give viewers a small glimpse of the paranoia that comes with every rustling bush or footstep. It allowed us to hide cuts and play mind tricks without having to bend the overarching story or tone, which is something that you’re not often able to do in documentaries.

What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?

Ultimately, the most difficult challenge we faced in the edit was how we were going to organize and manage more than 800 hours of footage, all while the team was on opposite sides of the world. Premiere Pro allowed us to tackle that. Premiere is intuitive enough for team members that have never used it before, but still offers all the features to tell the story creatively in the way we wanted.

Do you use as part of your workflow? If so, how do you use it and why did you choose it?

Yes, we used I was in the U.S. and all the other team members were spread throughout northern Kenya’s rangelands, so we used during the entire project. First, because Moses Thuranira (co-director) and I only know English and Swahili, our Turkana translators were able to make the timecode subtitles after we loaded all the footage. Later, when we got into the edit, we used it during team spotting sessions at each milestone, as well as making timecode notes whenever we shared scenes and the film with the community to collect their feedback.

If you could share one tip about Premiere Pro, what would it be?

My advice would be to jump in headfirst. When I first used it, all the tools were intimidating at first glance. But the thing I like most about Premiere is that there is always something new to learn. There are always innovative technologies and tools to save time and be more efficient. As an independent filmmaker, who often works with very small crews, that is lifesaving for a sustainable career making documentaries.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

Honestly, during my current stage of life, my biggest inspiration is my two sons (ages seven and four). They teach me every day to find joy and beauty in small, ordinary moments and objects. As a filmmaker who has to do many things at once, it’s easy to get stuck in your head. But my kids teach me to be a better watcher and listener of the world.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?

Unfortunately, the most difficult thing in my career has nothing to do with production. It’s simply being able to make a living as an independent and freelance filmmaker. Ultimately, it’s having to wear many hats, including being an accountant and sales team. When you’re in the field, you’re probably not prospecting and building up new clients and stories. I think I’ll always be chasing after that balance between being a businessperson and a creative. That said, I’m constantly trying to observe others and do research so I can learn ways to become more efficient with limited time and resources.

Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?

Image source: Andrew H. Brown, Between the Rains co-director, co-producer, cinematographer, and editor

My favorite place to work is in my home studio. We bought an old coppersmith’s home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in a colonial Moravian community originally founded in the 1700s. During the Covid-19 pandemic we decided to rebuild the old coppersmith’s 1 ½ story workshop and turn it into a studio. My favorite thing about it is the ability to have team members come stay whenever we need to get deep into the edit. Just having a dedicated space to create without the commute is amazing. I can’t count how many times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with an idea for an edit and then been able to just pop out to the workshop in my backyard.

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