When you experience life, it’s through the use of many senses. Your vision, your hearing, your touch, and other receptors are all combined to create an experience which causes you to “feel” what is happening. Depending on the strength of your emotions, reality can alter; time may even seem to shorten or extend. 

Though we cannot actually be inside someone else’s state of mind, filmmakers are the closest proxy to this that exists. Among these filmmakers, the most unexpected and responsible party for what we feel as an audience is the editor. The most skilled of these professionals, those such as Andy Shen, use their vast talent to create a world in which we can glimpse what it’s like to be another person, another race, another gender; the possibilities are nearly limitless. 

When done at its best, editing can help us deeply understand the actions and feelings of others in this world. This is perfectly represented in editor Andy Shen’s work telling the story of an African American man who battles with his family’s unawareness of his own homosexuality in the film Outdooring. Though Shen shares almost nothing of the life experience of the film’s main character Kobby, he has painstakingly manifested a perspective in which audiences can inhabit Kobby’s thoughts and emotions, making it seem as if Shen himself went through these challenging scenarios. This approach is a trait that has made him one of the most sought after young editors in the Indie film community today.

Outdooring is the story of an African-American man who is unable to come out to his family for fear of being rebuked by them. Kobby Ankrah is a young man who is in a happy relationship with his boyfriend but hides this from his family. When he attends a party for his young nephew, he is reminded of his family’s harshness towards another gay relative and is simultaneously moved by this relative’s openness and honesty about who he is. As Kobby struggles with his decision, the story moves towards a boiling point in the penultimate scene, after which Kobby and his family may never be the same. 

Editor Andy Shen concedes, “I may not share Kobby’s life experiences but that was actually beneficial in my role as editor for this film. An editor may take certain similarities between themselves and the film characters for granted and thereby not present important details that the audience needs to see to better understand the characters. Some of the subtlest points are vital to the story revealing itself in its own due time.” A number of editing choices made by Andy Shen for this film were both unorthodox and essential to communicating the emotional state of these characters. In one scene in which Kobby and his Uncle Red discuss how the family has treated this elder gay relative, Shen makes the decision to keep the keep the coverage on Uncle Red rather than cutting back and forth between the two; leaving the audience to wonder how Kobby is reacting and thus maximizing the suspense surrounding his secret. Shen utilizes a wildly different technique in the chaotic scene near the end of the film. Kobby has decided to kidnap his nephew rather than let such a judgmental family teach the boy homophobia. To manifest the heightened fear and anger of all these events, the editing places the shots out of chronological order, resulting in the transfer of disorientation from characters to viewers. Throughout the film, emotions are amplified and tension rises and subsides at the behest of Andy Shen’s skill and perspective. Testifying to the benefits of this are the copious accolades for Outdooring. These include being selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, Best Short Film at the Seattle Queer Film Festival, Best Short Film at PressPlay Film Festival, Best Drama Short at the International Film Awards, and an Official Selection at nearly twenty important festivals across the planet ranging from the Madrid International LGBTIQ Film Festival to the Brisbane Queer Film Festival, and others. Andy Shen personally received awards for Best Editing at the Independent Shorts Awards, International Independent Film Awards, as well as other nominations for his work on Outdooring. His work for this moving film has resonated with audiences across countless borders, proving that film is a powerful tool for entertainment and understanding.