At the Frame’s Edge: Editing Cameraperson

In her award-winning 2016 film Cameraperson, documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson turns the spotlight on her own work and yet rarely appears on camera. Instead, we hear her voice off-screen, emerging intermittently throughout the film’s elliptical assemblage of outtakes, which are culled from her twenty-five years of traveling around the world with directors such as Michael Moore and Laura Poitras. From a boxing ring in Brooklyn to war-ravaged rural Bosnia, the landscapes she juxtaposes offer a portrait of an artist intimately attuned to the ethical dilemmas involved in image-making and the complex relationship between nonfiction filmmakers and their subjects.

Our edition of Cameraperson, out this week, includes a new program about the process of editing the film, with reflections from Johnson, producers Marilyn Ness and Danielle Varga, and editors Nels Bangerter and Amanda Laws. In the excerpt below, Bangerter and Johnson discuss the methods they used to subtly establish the filmmaker’s subjectivity and her presence at the edge of the frame.

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