Meet Cave 76’s Head of Post-Production, Lizzie Minges!
After over half a decade at The Cave and a recent promotion, Lizzie finally comes clean about her past lives, her role as Head of Post, and what projects she’s got up her sleeves. (Hint: they involve life-size dinosaurs and an autobiographical montage of 10 years of daily clips!)
Did you always want to pursue a career in film?
Not in the least! Growing up, I actually had more of a passion for putting on live events as a musician and promoter. I sang in bands, worked as a performance artist, and was big into organizing small-scale concerts and tour stops in every city I lived in. Bangkok was home, but I moved around a ton growing up and found that putting together niche concerts was a quick and authentic way to find “my people” in a new spot. I guess organizing a seamless show for a live audience is a lot like being on set: you have your load-in schedules, your setlists, you have to keep your audience in mind – so the clues were there! But for a very long time, curating loud and ephemeral experiences for like-minded people was my art form of choice, both onstage and behind the scenes. Looking around and realizing that people were dancing – or singing along with strangers to lyrics in a language they didn’t know – was always the magic moment, and any artist is lucky if they get to experience that “OK, I’m here, I’m home” moment alongside their audience.
When did you know filmmaking was for you?
I graduated from SVA’s Social Documentary Filmmaking program, which was structured around students creating their own feature-length documentary as a one-person film crew. For my thesis film, I spent a summer filming a season with the cast of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. People had told me it was impossible to film there, that the performers carefully guarded their likenesses, and that I would probably be met with roadblock after roadblock as far as access went. Somehow – through either good timing, dumb luck, or because of my own oddball performance background – they let me into the family, and that summer at the beach was a really pivotal moment for me as a filmmaker and as a person.
I loved feeling like we were all working together as artists to tell that story, and to this day the piece of that project I’m most proud of is how genuine my connection with the cast and crew at the sideshow became over time. I would often get requests from them to come by with a camera to chat and “play therapist” for a bit or just to drink some beers on the roof after a show. As with anyone’s own student film, mine is hard for me to watch without cringing over the ramshackle cinematography – but I really am so proud of how true those bonds between us were and how tangible they are when you watch the film. Becoming that safe space wherein people can be fully in their element, free to share and create, is where the magic happens. I don’t think a documentary (or a production company!) really stands a chance without that emotional security.
Backstage at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow
Have you worked on anything interesting lately? Definitely! This year I edited two episodes of American Anthems – a PBS show centered around a musician crafting a surprise song for a local community hero. The topics were heavy, and the stakeholders in the project were spread out all over the US. It was the first time I had been tasked with such a large-scale post-production project conducted almost entirely remotely. The experience really taught me the importance of considering every voice involved in the post process. With so many tiers of assessment, it would have been easy to feel overwhelmed. I found that watching through the episodes with the gaze of each stakeholder in mind kept me from creating more work for myself down the line – for each version I sent for review, I usually had an alternate version within my project ready, in case there was a sudden request to make the episode more or less heavy.
I’ve also been chipping away at a project that’s been near and dear to my heart for the last decade: ten years ago I started a personal challenge of recording a video a day and creating year-in-review recaps with the footage. I started the project with the intent of documenting my repatriation – the very first clip was the view out of my plane window as I landed at JFK for the first time in 2012– and now that it’s been ten years, I’m determined to mold all those clips into a full piece! As annoying as it sometimes was to try to remember to film something daily, being able to watch it back and see life growing and changing over time is something really special.
What can you tell us about your new role as Head of Post-production? This year I was thrilled to be promoted from editor to Head of Post at Cave 76 – and I really look forward to using experiences from my past lives to bring our team together even further and deliver great work. Moving around as a kid, performing for different audiences as a musician, and editing with all types of people have really made me appreciate the value in meeting people where they’re at and setting them up to succeed. Making people feel truly understood is so crucial for any gig, but especially so at a production company. When you’re tasked with generating creativity at the drop of a hat, finding a little common ground goes such a long way.
The menacing entrance to Dinosaur Land, America
Do you have any film ideas you’re just dying to make? I think my dream project would be to make one of those on-the-road style documentary series about offbeat Americana. Neither my husband nor I grew up in the States, so we’ve spent the last decade making up for lost time by planning elaborate road trips structured around visits to old wax museums, haunted hotels, and illustrious sites like “America’s largest skillet” and “the world’s biggest pothole.” My favorite so far has been Dinosaur Land – an overgrown “educational forest” with eroding plaster dinosaurs and an inexplicable King Kong whose decaying paw you could stand in for a risky photo opp. I’m totally captivated by kitsch, and the lack of attention these bizarre landmarks get always makes me feel like I’m stepping into a weird alternate universe when I visit them. (That or setting myself up to be the easiest mark in horror movie history!)