From the interior of Rio Grande do Sul to Los Angeles, Fernanda Schein moves through art. She collects awards and a weighty curriculum earned in an editing room, from great Netflix productions like “Neymar: O Caos Perfeito” to engaging shorts like “I See You”, her newest work that already has two major awards and is on display in Los Angeles.
Part of Campfire’s dream team, Fernanda received the story of one of the best-known Brazilians in the world, in her hands, as editing assistant and translation coordinator alongside Affonso Gonçalves, Brazilian editor nominated for an Oscar for editing “Carol”. “Neymar: The Perfect Chaos”, Netflix documentary series premiered in January 2022 and is in evidence again after the player’s call-up for the Qatar World Cup.
In Brazil, the publisher worked with important production companies in the advertising market. In commercial productions, he worked with Giovanna Antonelli and Alexandre Borges, in addition to the national sports idol Gustavo Kuerten, known as Guga. In 2014, the gaucho decided that she needed new experiences and left for California.
In Los Angeles, she completed her master’s degree at the New York Film Academy. From there, he continued with freelance work in award-winning local and international productions, such as the film “Forbidden Wish”, best feature by the Santa Monica Film Festival available on Prime Video and independent productions, such as “The Boy in The Mirror”, winner of the best short film award at the California Women’s Film Festival. Check out the interview!
Depicting the trajectory of one of the greatest highlights of the last generations of Brazilian football and at the same time with a controversial life, you gained great prominence in your resume when you worked as editor of the series “Neymar: O Caos Perfeito”, launched last year by Netflix . How was the experience of being involved in a production that received so much attention among the public?
It was one of the best professional experiences I’ve had so far. I worked as an editing assistant and coordinator of the translation and subtitling of the interviews, because only one of the editors was Brazilian, Affonso Gonçalves. Working with him was also really amazing, a great Brazilian editor with a super extensive international career.
The opportunity to learn from him and the incredible team that went into making this series was something I am very, very grateful for. In addition to the experience itself teaching me a lot, it also opened many doors for me. I’ve been working on editing Netflix documentaries since the end of the Neymar series, and I’ve met many people who have helped me expand my career.
In audiovisual, there can be quite a certain attachment of who made the direction and/or script of the production. As an editor, you are responsible for a step that involves selection and sometimes even changes to the “original plan”. How do you deal with this pressure from others and how do you balance this attachment to the material in yourself?
If a story has come to me to be edited, it’s because it’s too important to someone else. And if anyone wants to share this story, my role then becomes helping this director to make the best possible choices, within the material she filmed, so that the final result is as incredible as possible. I try to maintain a balance between humility and self-confidence.
Humility to understand that I need to be very open to understanding the story through the eyes of the person who is directing the film, and not just mine. The director may not be with me throughout the entire process, but she needs to trust that in her absence the decisions I’m making for editing best represent her vision.
And the self-assurance of knowing, that if I sit in a room with hundreds of hours of footage, and another editor sits in the next room with the exact same footage, it’s guaranteed that we’re going to make two completely different movies, even with the same direction. . I love the awareness that my choices are important for the film, I love talking to the director about the reason for my cuts, and allowing a healthy discussion to raise the quality of the project.
The biggest pressure for me is when it comes to presenting the first cut, but I realize that as I get more experienced this anxiety is reducing, I understand more and more that cinema is a collaborative process. I seek to transform the anxiety of receiving criticism into the excitement of perfecting my work with the help of others who love storytelling as much as I do.
Born in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul, you moved to Los Angeles and gradually accumulated great titles on your resume, especially in streaming. How was this move from RS to the United States and especially the construction of your vision regarding the international entertainment market?
Working with cinema and living in Los Angeles was something I envisioned since I was a teenager, so I had a lot of expectations when I arrived here. I needed to go through a process of deconstructing several of these ideas, and adapting to reality the way it is.
A lot of people come to Los Angeles, and a lot of people leave because they can’t stand living here. They say it’s a cruel city, with fake people who only relate to each other out of interest. This is nonetheless true, and after my first two years in Los Angeles I had a period where I was very depressed, questioning my talent, my personal and professional identity, and the veracity of the relationships I built here.
Many things helped me to gradually learn to deal with life away from Brazil, from home, from my family. I made a wonderful group of friends here, many of them Brazilian. I live abroad, but I still feel connected to my culture and that gives me the strength to keep working for my dreams here.
I also learned that even in a city that thrives on the audiovisual industry, which prioritizes image and success above all else, it is still possible to remain centered on our values, just redefine our own vision of success. The hardest lesson I learned was that in order not to compromise our values, sometimes we are forced to make difficult decisions – and that easy decisions sometimes have more immediate returns, but that to build a consistent career and a satisfied life, what comes quickly is not always better.
Before moving to California in 2014, you worked for some time in advertising agencies here in Brazil. Regarding entering the international industry, what were the main challenges you faced at the beginning and how was the reception from the American teams? What do you consider to be your ultimate career goal right now?
The biggest challenge was that I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles. Nobody at all, I came completely alone, so I needed to learn ways to literally insert myself into the places I wanted to be. I had business cards made with my website (where my portfolio is), phone and email and I went to networking events alone, which I found on the internet, to meet people. We have to overcome the fear of showing our faces and telling others what we want.
As my resume in Brazil was about editing for advertising, I immediately started looking to make contacts in that area first in order to stabilize myself financially. Then I started putting together the necessary equipment to do bigger projects. I worked between advertising and independent cinema for a few years, until I got the opportunity for the Neymar series, when I managed to migrate from advertising to streaming.
At the moment, I’ve been working mostly with documentary editing and television content. In the mid-term future, I would like to migrate to narrative content and the big screen. One step at a time. I am very satisfied with my current situation.
Currently on display in the city of Los Angeles, his most recent project was “I See You”, a short that already has two major awards. Could you talk a little more about the backstage of this project and what do you think of its reception?
This project was a delight, and it’s already my fourth project with director Michael Carnick, who I love working with. This one always chooses to tell peculiar stories and take unusual approaches. “I See You” tells the story of a man and a woman who meet in the ICU of a hospital and start a romance. The film has no dialogue, only music – so the images say a lot.
Love between older people, especially physical contact, can be taboo, and for many people uncomfortable to watch. I love how Michael set out to break down those barriers and show such sensitive images in such a human way.
He also gave me a lot of creative freedom to experiment with editing. It’s been really nice to see the positive reactions from audiences at film festivals.
You’ve been a Yoga instructor for over 10 years and the practice seems to be a big part of your life. How does Yoga influence your work in audiovisual?
There was a period in my life when it was very difficult for me to understand how these two sides of my personality would integrate. They looked so divided.
Or I was connected with Fernanda Yogini, who wants to wake up at sunrise, meditate, eat plant-based food and live a peaceful and spiritual life; or I was connected with Fernanda Editora, who wants to spend 12 hours a day sitting in front of three monitors working, living off convenient meals like pizza or fast food, and having a life of cinema and glamour.
Gradually I realized that every time I spent too much time with one Fernanda, I ended up frustrating the other. Fernanda Yogini had peace, but she didn’t have creative satisfaction because cinema is my passion. And Fernanda editora had momentary satisfaction with the results of her work, but she had physical discomfort and constant mental stress.
Nowadays, I light to edit the same incense that I light at the end of the day to teach Yoga. I thank you for the peace, comfort and satisfaction that Yoga brings me, taking away the expectation that my career needs to completely fulfill my satisfaction. I use Yôga techniques every day to work in Cinema.
The long hours of assembly don’t harm my body’s health because I know how to relieve tension and restore mobility to it. I have no trouble concentrating at work because daily meditation teaches me how to direct my attention. I deal well with stressful situations and with other people, because I use breathing techniques that keep my emotions in check.
And above all, I know the stories I want to tell because I am deeply connected with my moral values, something that only years of Yoga and self-study could show me clearly. And yet, there are days when one of the Fernandas is more active than the other, and that’s okay, because in fact, despite being a little contradictory, they’re still the same person. Seeking to maintain balance is the key.
In the United States, you joined the New York Film Academy, one of the most respected performing arts teaching institutions in the world, and that ended up opening doors to work in award-winning productions, such as the film “Forbidden Wish”, best feature by Santa Monica Film Festival available on Prime Video and “The Boy in The Mirror”, winner of the best short film award at the California Women’s Film Festival. What did this training mean for your curriculum and what were the main learnings you had while studying at the academy?
I love NYFA and am so grateful for everything I’ve learned and the wonderful people I’ve met there. But to be honest with you, NYFA doesn’t even have that much notoriety here in the US. If you look at the ranking of film schools in the US, it will appear at the bottom. Because it is a small institution, and it is mostly attended by students who come from abroad.
When I got accepted to NYFA and I started talking to my coworkers in Porto Alegre that I was going to study there, some of them showed me on YouTube student films made there, telling me that they weren’t good films and that maybe I shouldn’t study there . But it was one of the only schools that allowed you to do the Master’s in just one year and then give you a temporary work visa for one more, and I wanted to graduate quickly because I wanted to work soon.
And what I replied to these friends was that in Brazil I studied at one of the best advertising schools in the country (ESPM), with one of the best learning structures and very modern equipment. And yet, I had classmates who spent their entire college complaining about everything. And while they focused on the problem, they failed to take advantage of the privileged teaching they had instead of valuing it. So even though NYFA wasn’t the best university, I knew I was going to make the most of what it had to offer, because I had a lot of desire to learn.
When I started the course, and understood that part of the program was to make several short films, I also completely changed my view about those student films that I saw as something bad. Because now I was a student: and even with state-of-the-art equipment, help from excellent instructors, and the same cameras they use on TV… I made terrible films! Because we learn by making mistakes. And to make good movies, we first need to make some bad movies. The greatest filmmakers in the world have works that were considered failures. And not everyone who studies at the best university is the best professional.
The question is, what kind of person do you want to be? The one that lets opportunities pass you by because you’re too concerned about complaining about what you already have, or the one that recognizes and uses your opportunities to the fullest, and then opens up opportunities for others, with less access?
In one of your quotes, you say that to work with cinema, you need to know what message you want to pass on to the world, mainly because you deal with people and their feelings. What do you believe is the factor that most moves you within this type of art and what is the satisfaction of receiving feedback from your audience? Is there a moment that most marked your career?
What inspires me is the desire to tell stories that raise the awareness of the world. As a Yoga practitioner, I am on a journey of self-study to raise my own consciousness, and as an instructor, I take responsibility for helping others on their own journey. Cinema becomes one more tool to do this.
It is human nature to listen and tell stories, and when a story touches us, it changes us. Have you ever watched a movie that carried you through so many emotions that it even seemed like those characters were real? Didn’t you leave feeling different from this experience?
Cinema encourages us to think, to question, to see life from other perspectives.
One of the most defining moments of my career was when I traveled to Washington to present my short film “The Boy In The Mirror” at a festival. This film tells the story of a character with multiple personality disorder. At the end of the screening, an audience member approached me to tell me that there was a very similar story in her family, and that the film was an opportunity for her to process her feelings about it, while watching these fictional characters deal with a situation which is true for her. This humanity of cinema is always my greatest inspiration.
Already for this year of 2023, you already have three productions that are about to premiere on streaming, namely “Poisoned: O Danger in Our Food”, the feature “Farewelling”, directed by Rhodes Phire and the short “Last Minute”, by Joel Jr. How are your expectations for the premieres?
Waiting for the premiere is the worst part! Because the dates always change. Honestly, a year ago I thought these three productions would be available today and here we are still waiting for the launch. I’m looking forward to them leaving soon. These three projects are completely different from each other, but they are all very important to me. I can’t wait to be able to share them with everyone.
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*With Júlia Vasconcelos