Students who want to make movies shouldn’t study filmmaking – at least not at first, said Alex O’Flinn ’03. “You need to read books and know history and look at art,” he said. “The more knowledge you have from different disciplines, the more you bring to the table.”
O’Flinn works as a film editor in Los Angeles, his most recent project being “A Girl Who Walks Home Alone At Night.” The film, an artsy, feature-length black-and-white vampire story set in Iran and told in Farsi, received some critical buzz at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Beguiling in its strangeness, yet also effortlessly evoking recognizable emotions such as loneliness and the feeling of being stuck in a dead-end town and life, this moody and gorgeous film is finally more about atmosphere and emotions than narrative – and none the worse for it.” The film is making the festival circuit, looking for a distributor.
O’Flinn was an English major at Kenyon and said he didn’t have a clue about filmmaking – he didn’t take a single film class as an undergraduate. But when he decided to make a film for an assignment instead of writing a paper, it opened his eyes to the idea of visual storytelling. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and eventually enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, to work on his master’s degree in fine arts in film production, which he received in 2009. While there, he met Ana Lily Amirpour, the director and screenwriter for “Girl,” who later asked him to be the film’s editor.
A film editor’s key role, O’Flinn said, is to sift through all of the footage from the wide shots to close-ups, and decide what to keep and what to cut. “The irony of film is that it starts in a written form, but once it’s translated it has to change,” he said. Maybe dialogue can be cut because what the actor says is apparent in his face. Or perhaps a whole scene can be cut because it slows down the flow of the overall story. “It’s a lot of balancing of how we can tell the story in the most efficient and effective way.”
Someday, O’Flinn hopes to work on a feature-length film of his own, but right now, he’s happy with editing because it takes four to six months to complete a project as opposed to directing, which can take years from script development to final production.
When he’s ready to make the transition to director, he believes he’ll be ready, in part because of Kenyon. “It’s easy to learn a craft, how to hold a camera,” he said. “But the hard part is the idea. You have to come up with that yourself and discover what you want to say and why you want to say it. That’s where Kenyon enters.”