By Katie Chambers
NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Director Rocky Roggio uses her own complicated history as the queer daughter of a minister as a point of departure to bring us this fascinating personal investigation.
Woodward’s other editing credits include the feature documentary This Is Paris, about Paris Hilton, selected for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020. She also worked on the documentary Get Me Roger Stone, the television documentary China Queer, and the film Divide & Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. She has edited segments for PBS, videos for organizations such as the U.S. State Department, TIME.com, plus her own independent short films.
She spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.
How did this project come to you?
The director, Sharon “Rocky” Roggio posted on a platform called the D-word.com looking for an editor. I was intrigued and we determined we were a good fit for each other.
What was the biggest challenge during the editing process? And the most interesting discovery?
One big challenge was determining the emotional arc of the story while staying true to the academics, which was essential to Rocky’s vision.
I was fascinated by Kathy Baldock’s insights on history since Biblical times. Although it didn’t become part of the film, I found it amazing that historically people thought that a human baby was produced only with sperm and the woman served more or less as incubator only. They didn’t know about the egg! It’s an example of how little was known about human sexuality and reproduction in Biblical times. If anyone wants to know more, they should binge watch Kathy’s YouTube presentations, which is exactly what Rocky did while determining she wanted to make this film.
The film pulls a lot of content from various sources – online video testimonials, still photos, traditional documentary interviews, animation and more – to make a concise argument as well as highly emotional and personal portrayal of the subjects. How did you establish such a smooth throughline?
We used all of these sources to track both Rocky’s emotional journey as well as provide a tour guide to the audience through the dense material. In the end it made sense for Rocky’s personal story to be centered as she meets the other characters and begins creating a film.
Rocky spoke online a lot during the pandemic to talk up her project, so we took advantage of some of these podcasts and TikTok stories that she published throughout the filmmaking process. We needed a few lines of formal narration to smooth out the narrative.
Your work often tackles hot button political and social justice topics. Why are you drawn to those stories?
I feel most fulfilled when I’m working on subject matter that I think will get people talking. Often we also need to remind younger generations what happened before, so they can understand the context we find ourselves in today. I would personally like to live in a world that is more just and equitable.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
I hope people watch the film with an open mind and are entertained and moved. I can’t ask for more than to just give it a chance.
What’s next for you?
A series I worked on for the Peacock Network will be out November 29, Casey Anthony: Where the Truth Lies. Next I would love to work on another juicy feature documentary.
Bonus question – I saw on your website that for fun you perform with the Hungry March Band, the L Train Brass Band, and you are an amateur fire performer. Wow! Tell us more about that!
Editors have this stereotype that we never leave a dark little room, but I need balance in my life, and doing this fun physical activity can help with creative problem solving. I do percussion, and that is very complimentary with editing, as they are both rhythmic.
Regarding the fire spinning, I do it only very occasionally, but it’s a thrill to whip fire around your head.
In Hungry March Band I’m a dancer and sort of hype girl that provides a connection between the audience and musicians, and an invitation to participate. I think that is not dissimilar to what an editor does, which is help connect the audience to the story that wants to unfold.
Learn more about documentary editor Jill Woodward at www.jillwoodward.com.
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