April 20, 2024

Maria Abegail San Juan Lara, or “Abbie” has a unique love affair with film editing.

For the past two decades, her world revolved around a kaleidoscope of emotions: happy, sad, excited, bored, confused, disappointed, amused, contented, pain, fear, health issues and kilig moments. This bespectacled petite woman is a bombshell.

Behind that smooth façade lies so much talent all rolled up into one and  angst  probably brought by being cooped up during the pandemic.  

She goes for unusual hairstyles and classy outfits design to fit her. She is a graduate of the College of Languages and Mass Communications, Major in Broadcasting at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Above all,  she has Kidlat Tahimik, National Artist for Film, as mentor in film editing and documentation.

Nuong tanungin ko si Abbie hinggil sa kanyang trabaho, “Parang napagod ako na yun at yun lagi ang ginagawa ko. Nanawa ako dun sa routinary work na parang, gagawin ko siya, submit sa magchi-check ng inedit ko. Tapos, ibabalik na naman sa akin, “I-cure mo ito ulit.” “Ha?” Yung parang, ayoko na! Pagod na ako! So na-burn out din ako sa kanya. Iniyakan ko yan when I was working in TV. Pero parang mas iniyakan ko siya ngayon.”

May pagmumuni-muning ikinuwento ni Abbie ang kanyang buhay sa Baguio. “Iyung time ko ngayon sa Baguio as a freelance editor working on projects, unlike the daily-grind, adrenaline rush work I had on TV,  gave me more room time to finish.But it also uncovered, to the disappointment of the people I had worked with and soiling of the good record I had built for the last 23 years as an editor.  It was about how I was treating my editing work as a whole. I realized I had no work-personal time boundaries.  With the  projects I was getting  in Baguio,  I had more time to work on them, before the deadline, or so I thought.  There were times that I would work the whole day until I could not work anymore. This was followed by waking up too tired the next day. And this would go on for weeks and months until I felt burnt out.  What  happened?  All I knew was that I  couldn’t keep up with the deadlines or  I was overwhelmed with the demands of  other work piling up on the side. I had totally neglected this precious livelihood that was taking care of me and disappointed people who believed in me.”

Abbie’s professional experience involves media production, documentary filmmaking, conduct of  media training and education. She is at present acquiring skills on digital archiving. 

One can say that Abbie’s  love affair with film editing can be divided into three aspects: Philippine television, freelance work, and professional development. We already got a glimpse of how freelancing affected her.

Her notable experiences in television focused mainly on her work at GMA 7, GMA News TV Channel 11 and Probe Productions.

According to Abbie,  Probe under Cheche Lazaro really trained her holistically on  work ethics and values. Her first job  actually started three months after graduation working as a clerk at Rustan’s.

In December 1997, she got a call from the Probe Team’s Love Anover, who was her schoolmate. She was being trained to be a production assistant and producer. The work incorporated travel, shooting, writing and editing  special segments.  

Her first assignment was “Gameplan,” followed by “5 and Up, then “I-Witness: GMA 7 Documentaries work with hosts Sandra Aguinaldo, Kara David and Howie Severino,” “24 Oras,” “Saksi: and Jessica Soho’s programs.

In climbing the ladder of film editing, Abbie became aproducer, production assistant, editor, linear editor, videographer, writer, assistant director, field  director, and visual consultant.

Her professional development included being a panelist, resource speaker, trainer, team leader  and facilitator in video documentation, workshop master, participant and focused groupdiscussion facilitator.

How did she get to work with Kidlat Tahimik and be his editor in residence?

Kidlat Tahimik was her “thesis” in college. She made a story of Kidlat’s life in Hapao, Hungduan, Ifugao.

In 2012, tatay Kidlat got her as assistant field videographer  and editor of his “Memoirs of Over Development” and other succeeding projects.

Abbie sort of adapted Kidlat’s  “pukpok-tastas” rhythm of work in his editing and building projects. Abbie is now Kidlat’s “editor in residence.” With Kidlat, she developed much of her creativity and art in film editing.

Abbie defines her relationship with film editing as “Iyung relationship ko with editing is like a relationship between a husband and wife (though I’m not married) or between romantic partners. That after going through a tough time sa relationship and you came out of it intact, survived it, you now see and live your relationship in a mature, more loving way.”

She continued: “The paradox of this pandemic-triggered self-questioning of my talents and skills as a filmmaker and editor, also brought me to assess a clearer picture of where I am at this point, personally and professionally.  With self-help books,  yoga, meditation,  my mental health situation, I knew I had to  back to self-care. I had to focus more on myself, as well as my job.  I need to take breaks when the  editing jobs  get too stressful.  I believe I am doing much better now. That is, in terms of giving myself time to appreciate the big and small things in life, to stop and smell the Baguio flowers, to play with the dogs and cats, to draw, to window-shop sa wagwagan. These are things that will make me happy.”

“I have also come to realize that  film editing is not only my bread and butter but also as a way to express my artistic streak.  My training in Probe was influential in my editing style.  I was painstakingly slow in my editing in Probe and GMA-7 because I made sure that my  edited works did not need to be corrected or revised much  visually or audio-wise.  I made sure  that when I wrote the script, there was already  a certain flow or rhythm and my bosses would like the finished product or would suit their taste.  I view raw footage and try to do my own version that would enhance,  add, improve,  explore other ways of telling the film director’s story. I treat other people’s films as my own. Video editors were once unsung heroes in the film profession. But now, there are invitations to talk to in film seminars or workshops. Recognitions from award-giving bodies  are signs that editing is now highly regarded as one of the crucial elements in making a good film.”

Abbie’s love affair with film editing has gone a full circle. It is our wish that her love affair goes well from now on.

Cheers Abbie. Cheers to your love affair!