Undercover with ‘The Mole Agent’

This post was written by Meagan Keane and originally appeared on Adobe blog on April 14, 2021.

A documentary filmmaker gives us an insight into their process.

Awarded a nomination for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, The mole agent tells the story of an 83-year-old man who is hired by a private detective to disguise himself as a resident of a Chilean old people’s home suspected of molesting the elderly. The film is surprisingly heartwarming and charming, while also offering the intrigue of a detective mission. It sheds light on the realities of aging and coping with the loneliness that can come with living in an institution. The mole agent received the Cinema Eye Honors Award 2021 for The Unforgettables.

We sat down with editor Carolina Siraqyan to learn more about how the film was made Premiere Pro. We spoke to her about the challenges she faced during editing, as well as her career, and how she overcame them.

How and where did you first learn to work?

I studied audiovisual communication in my home country, Chile. Editing has undoubtedly captured me in all areas of this profession.

I started working as an assistant editor with a Moviola 35mm in the 90s, with an editor who was very generous and shared all his knowledge with me. Since then I have learned through my experience of more than 30 years of work.

How do you start a project / set up your workspace?

When I start a project, I spend a lot of time deciding how to structure its order. I think that every project has a certain method of organization and its own details that need to be analyzed. This will enable fluidity in the future. In documentaries like The mole agentSince the order of the material is more complex, as there is no script, you need to order the material so that you can easily remember and quickly find shots that you can best combine.

in the The mole agentThere were 72 days of shooting and I had two months to visualize and catalog the material according to certain parameters I had set.

Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why you notice it.

One of my favorites, because I have some of them, or at least one that strongly emphasizes the message of the film, is when Sergio is in the garden talking to the old lady who is reciting a poem and then telling of her loneliness. That moves me too, after seeing it a thousand times. I feel like this scene perfectly expresses the reality of old age that cannot escape.

After several film screenings with colleagues sharing their thoughts and opinions with us, an important moment occurred during the credits when everyone was talking about their older relatives, their mothers, and not about the film. At this moment with [director] Maite Alberdi, we realized that we are on the right track and that we have the general structure of the film.

“The Mole Agent”Recognition: Gravitas Ventures

What specific post-production challenges did you face that were unique to your project? How did you solve it?

The biggest challenge was moving my office from Chile to Amsterdam for two months to work on the editing.

There I changed my office twice with different computers. The first one wasn’t a Mac that I usually work with, so I felt a little insecure about being unable to resolve issues with the operating system. But as soon as I could open it Premiere ProI felt comfortable as it was the same as it was on my usual Mac.

After that, we moved to another office with an iMac, similar to how I work. And as soon as the peak files were generated, I was finally able to work smoothly.

It was finally just a case of stress from the change. The program worked perfectly – it was like working from my own office.

What Adobe tools did you use for this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were you the best choice for this project?

I worked on the whole film Premiere Pro. One of the tools that I find very useful are the markers. I’ve used them very often to make comments and mark up segments.

I had over 300 hours of footage, 72 days of shooting, which I ordered during the day, using the markers with comments. I made a word document with the same points of the markings underlining the details of all the situations so that I can quickly find what I was looking for.

What do you like about Premiere Pro and / or any of the other tools you use?

I chose Premiere Pro for its versatility in all formats. I also like its playfulness and the flexibility of its timeline. I feel very natural – I don’t have to deal with anything technical so I can devote myself to the creative process.

I think and feel that it is a program that allows me to freely choose how I work and how I organize my material.

What’s your hidden gem / favorite workflow? Adobe Creative Cloud?

I have a lot of things that help me with my work, but if I had to choose, this would be the available material Adobe provides (typography, music and texture), especially with my promotional work, as it’s always a very good time is a demanding task.

It is also very helpful that you can switch from one computer to another and I don’t have to worry about my settings being carried over as they can be easily restored with one click Adobe Creative Cloud.

Recognition: Carolina Siraqyan

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

I have a lot of people who inspire me, I couldn’t name any. It always depends on the type of inspiration I need.

In a project like The mole agentI seek inspiration from the director because it is in her creativity that the essence of the film lies. I see her work and her inspirations and try to accompany her and to empathize with everything that can be found in the material, what she was looking for and felt when she made the film.

What was the hardest part of your career and how did you get over it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?

As an editor, I was undoubtedly stressed by doing more work than I should. However, the hardest moment in my working life was when my first son was born in the early 1990s. I felt that I had to be strong and never show weakness to be valued as a woman in my work area. At the time I worked with a number of directors, mostly in advertising. Since I was a self-employed worker, I had to get back to work quickly after giving birth. Between the hormonal changes and the emotional consequences of leaving my child, it was a very difficult moment to overcome. I was emotionally constrained and it was almost impossible for me to concentrate.

Over time, I was able to find a balance and organize myself with both my child’s needs and my own needs, and I received help from the director I had worked with who agreed with my situation. Now that I look back, I find that women are closer than ever to being their authentic selves and showing their feelings without being judged. I feel happy as a mother, wife and editor.

Share a photo of your workplace. What do you like best about your work area and why?

I have my office in a local post production house for picture and sound, “FilmoEstudios”. It’s a place not only with an attractive atmosphere, but also very cozy, and there is a group of people who work there and are very nice.

Recognition: Carolina Siraqyan

Recognition: Carolina Siraqyan

As an editor, I work long hours alone, so the moments I share with others have become really important.

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