2020 in Review: Film Editor Bill Ebel reflects back

(The film editor sits down with Reel Chicago to talk 2020)

Editor’s Note: In 2020, the world changed right before our very eyes. Ad agencies, production companies and post houses were forced to adapt and begin a “new normal” working, living, exercising and entertaining out of home. Now that we have just entered 2021, we asked around our industry friends to reflect back on the year and how it changed them.

When it comes to experience, working with Bill Ebel is just that. An experience you’ll remember. It’s a chance for filmmakers to work with an editor who adds his creativity and emotional storytelling to many award winning films, commercials & documentaries.

Bill’s humble personality won’t tell you about his great work, but the work itself speaks volumes about the man and his talent. He has helped shape movies like Overcomer, Courageous, Fireproof, and The Girl Who Wore Freedom, just to name a few.

We sat down with Bill and asked how 2020 affected him, both personally and professionally.

How did you adapt to working remotely? Do you prefer it, or can’t wait to get back into the office?

For me, things didn’t really change much. I have been doing most of my projects remotely from my office here in Columbia Tennessee, outside of Nashville. I think the biggest change may have been from my clients getting more comfortable using the online tools that let us work really well from a distance.

Being able to work out of my home office really gives my clients better access to me and quicker turnaround when notes come in at strange hours. I can just walk out to my office, make whatever changes are needed, and send them a new cut much faster this way.

What was the most challenging project you worked on this year? 

The most challenging but also the most rewarding was cutting my first feature documentary this year. The Girl Who Wore Freedom was directed by a good friend of mine in Chicago, Christian Taylor. This was her first documentary as well, so we figured it out together. I have edited four scripted features before this, but documentaries are really an entirely different thing.

I loved working with Christian to find the story and bring out the best parts of what she had filmed and bringing all the stories within the film together to tell one cohesive story. In some ways, my time at Ebel Productions working with my father, Bob Ebel, on unscripted kids spots helped a lot. It was very similar work in terms of finding the story in the footage, but in a much longer format.

ALSO READ: 2020 in Review: Top Chicago advertising campaigns

What project are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of The Girl Who Wore Freedom. Not only for the work that we did on the film, but for the story and message that it brings to people. It is an unconventional love story between the people of Normandy, France, and the American GI’s who freed them from Nazi occupation in 1944.

The film has won some nice awards during its festival circuit run, including Best Editing and Best Documentary at the Boston Film Festival. I am so proud of the work we did to tell this much needed story of love, honor, and remembrance, especially during this divisive and difficult year.

All things considered, was 2020 a good year or a bad year for your business?

Financially, it was a slightly down year, since a few of my bigger projects pushed to 2021. But it was a great year in terms of the work I was able to be a part of. I cut my first documentary feature this year (The Girl Who Wore Freedom), my first Christmas Rom-com feature (The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland), and got to do some commercial work with some of my good friends/clients in the Nashville production community that make all the hard work worth it in the end.

Do you think 2020 changed us permanently?

I definitely think 2020 has changed us. I hope the good things are permanent, like appreciating time with friends and family more. And I hope the bad things, like the political divisiveness that we’ve experienced this year, fade away.

I am hopeful that we can do that as a country. We all have so much to be grateful for and so much in common with our fellow human beings. If we focus on that and work toward a better future for all of us, we will be better off in the end.

What goals have you set for 2021?

I am hoping to reconnect with old friends/clients in Chicago and meet new ones around the country. I love meeting and working with new people and doing great work together. I am also wanting to hold on tight to the family time I have enjoyed this year as long as I can. I have three adult children who will be making their own way in the world this year, so I am cherishing the time we have together until they launch out on their own.

Did your team gain or lose weight in 2020?

Let’s just say I’ve had to donate some pants this year. 😉

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Barbara L. Roche is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Reel Chicago and Reel 360. She can be reached at Barb@reelchicago.com