Fans of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may remember the film for its award-winning performances by actors Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Others may remember its distinctive plot set in multiple universes.
However, some may overlook the work that went into the film behind the scenes, including the editing that helps put the entire piece together.
Jing Niu, Graduate School ‘14, worked as an assistant editor and post-production coordinator for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which won seven Academy Awards in 2023, including one for Best Picture.
Niu worked on the film for five months. She would receive and ingest footage from the set, then compare the footage to the notes from the film’s script supervisor daily. She also cut scenes, edited the blooper reel, created sound designs for scenes and put together character playlists for Paul Rogers, the film's editor.
“Editing is kind of like the unsung hero because we're in this black cave for years, actually putting the story together. But it's amazing,” she said.
Since “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was “an extremely indie production,” everyone working on the film was able to wear “different hats” and hold responsibilities that differed from their assigned role, according to Niu.
In addition to her editing responsibilities, Niu enjoyed the opportunity to help out with other aspects of the film’s production, including set design.
After realizing that there was no Chinese member of the art department team, Niu had some worries about how the main characters’ apartment would look like. In response, she helped the team design the apartment by making Pinterest boards and going on set to provide designers with advice.
“It's kind of like a relay race where we're all kind of just picking it up where we can and overall just trying to do the best job,” Niu said.
Life in and beyond filmmaking
Niu grew up in Durham and attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem for high school. She then obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before completing her master of fine arts in experimental and documentary arts degree at Duke.
Niu began making films as a teenager for fun with her friends. She always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the arts, and editing and directing were the best “fit for [her] overall” and a “really exciting place to be.”
After her five months working on “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Niu was called away due to her younger brother's passing. She moved back to Durham for a year and worked odd jobs that allowed her to grieve and heal with her family.
“I was just figuring out my life because I was very close to my brother, and I had even had dreams of becoming a director duo with him eventually,” she said.
Niu was unsure whether she would reenter the filmmaking world at all. However, over the past few years, she has begun directing and editing again, currently working as a freelance film and music video director and editor.
Since working on “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Niu has directed a music video and several commercials, including a few for President Joseph Biden. She is currently an assistant editor for Jennifer Lopez’s new digital album, a role that she described as “nonstop.”
A rewarding Duke experience
Niu met several of her best friends at Duke, who still regularly talk to and support each other. She added that her friends at Duke taught her “how to find and make allies in [her] practice” and provided her with people to lean on as she learned how to navigate Los Angeles and the film industry.
Niu said that creating a film for her thesis project helped her learn the most professionally and gave her “a leg up in filmmaking” as a “young, contemporary voice from the South.”
Her thesis film, which was about her upbringing in Durham, was displayed in a show at the Nasher Museum of Art after she graduated, something Niu found “shocking” as she was still trying to “figure out what [her] voice was” at the time.
“It was really cool to be validated in that kind of way, to be like, ‘Oh yeah, even though I'm starting out my career, my voice still really matters,’” Niu said.
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Holly Keegan is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.