Editor Graham Fortin dives into the world of wrestling with new Viceland series
Editing a film is far more than simply putting shots together. It is an art form, making connections where there weren’t any before. It is about discovery, figuring out how to turn endless footage into a cinematic masterpiece. It is about storytelling, captivating audiences by cutting together the most emotional takes. It is about passion, something Canada’s Graham Fortin knows better than most.
Fortin is a renowned film and television editor in Canada, working on many acclaimed projects that millions around the world have been entertained by. Films like Free Spirit, Roam, and Pour Retourner and television shows such as Mister Tachyon and Abandoned showcase his vast talent and versatility, and he has no plans on slowing down.
“As an editor, I can be away from most of the chaos and craziness on a set. Not that I don’t enjoy popping in from time to time, however, for the most part I like being alone in my edit cave and figuring out what I’m working with,” he said.
Fortin recently had the chance to show his country and the world his extensive editing skills with the documentary television series The Wrestlers. From the bright lights of Florida to the spotless streets of Japan and the chaos of the Congo, Damian Abraham dives headlong into the fascinating ways cultures around the world have embraced one of America's greatest exports: professional wrestling.
“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I know nothing about wrestling, and I knew that this was a world that was going to be filled with insanely colorful characters. Getting to sift through wrestlers living their lives outside of the ring was something I wanted to see and dive into. Learning about a world is one of the great joys of documentary editing,” said Fortin.
Editing documentary is different from any other medium, as you don’t have a script to go off of, and it is where the story is truly shaped. Fortin had a story outline for each episode, but often the outline that was arranged before shooting would change once he had the footage. He had to go through all the material extremely quickly to determine how to best convey the message and meaning of each episode.
For documentary, there is much more footage that a narrative film. Fortin enjoys going through interviews and picking out soundbites that stand out. From there, he takes the sound bites to structure the narrative and build scenes to support them.
“I liked being able to get to know a new set of characters every episode. The best part was sitting down to watch the raw footage and let it wash over you, of course then you get anxious about all the work you have to do once you absorb it. You’ve got to get that rough cut out the door as soon as possible. Just get something built to start shaping and make decisions. There’s so much material to dig through,” said Fortin.
The project aired on Viceland in the Summer of 2019 all around the world. It was very exciting for the editor to see both wrestling fans and casual audiences’ comments on YouTube and Twitter. The reaction was overall positive. One of the scenes from the episode Fortin edited about Death Match wrestling trended on WorldStarHipHop. The project took a year to complete four episodes, so it was great for him to see it out in the world. The show even took home a Canadian Cinema Editors Award for Best Editing in Docudrama/Docu-series.
“I think that when you hear the word wrestler you think of cheesy macho guys from the ‘80s, but there’s so many other forms of wrestling and wrestlers in the world. They’re as passionate about the art of wrestling as I am about editing. I think seeing a different side of the wrestling profession is unique. It’s important to see a different side of something,” Fortin concluded.
By Annabelle Lee
Photo of Graham Fortin by Katrin Braga
July 30th, 2019