Q&A: Lindsay Utz talks Miss Americana, American Factory


Source: Lindsay Utz

Lindsay Utz. The editor worked on the Netflix films “American Factory” and “Miss Americana.

Rebecca Aizin, Assistant A&E Editor


When she was just a girl who liked to write, Lindsay Utz could have never predicted that one day she would be in the editing studio with iconic pop star Taylor Swift. Utz said she “wore lots of hats” in college, but quickly realized her passion for editing. Now, Utz is an award-winning editor, and is nominated for an Oscar for her work on “American Factory,” a documentary that chronicles the lives of workers at a reopened Chinese-owned factory. Her most recent work includes “Miss Americana,” a documentary following the peaks and pitfalls of fame and being Taylor Swift. The Daily spoke to Utz about her career and process as an editor.

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: What was your inspiration to become an editor?

Utz: I always knew my passion was in the editing room and I eventually made the leap into cutting feature films, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last over 10 years.

The Daily: What’s your favorite part about it?

Utz: Once I discovered editing, it was like writing but with a lot more tools in your toolkit. I could write with music, performance, dialogue, textures and sounds, and that was very exciting to me. Documentary editing is a form of writing because there is no script, so when we enter the edit we’re really writing the film there. Documentary editors are crafting a story after the footage has been shot, so my interest in writing led me to editing.

The Daily: How did you get involved with “American Factory?”

Utz: I was at a film festival with Quest, a film I had cut prior, and after a Q&A, Julia Reichert, one of the directors, came up to me and she was very interested in me and my work. She said she had a big project she was working on. We kept talking and there’s a dance that happens at the beginning where you have to assess if all the right pieces are in place. I have to like the material and it has to resonate with me, so I looked at the raw footage they had already shot,, and it did.

The Daily: What did the process of editing “American Factory” look like for you?

Utz: I cut the film in Evanston, not far from Northwestern, where I also cut Quest. I had a little studio over on Sherman (Avenue) and Main Street. For a few months in the summer, in the lead up to the Sundance submission, I went to Yellow Springs, Ohio where the (directors) live but otherwise I was in Chicago. It was a mix of working together and apart.

The Daily: Can you tell me about the moment you found out you were nominated for an Oscar?

Utz: I woke up really early because they announced it at 5:30 in the morning in LA. I was just streaming it on my computer. I was with my husband, and of course we jumped up and down. It was very emotional, I think I cried. I called my directors and we FaceTimed, got on the phone and talked to my whole team. We were really emotional because it’s such a long road to make a whole film, and for me just editing was over a year and a half. There’s so much passion, energy and time that goes into something so when you get that kind of recognition of course it’s thrilling.

The Daily: What’s this Oscars weekend looking like for you?

Utz: Sunday we go to the Oscars! It’s really exciting, a number of the factory workers are going to be there so it’ll be really lovely to have not only the crew together, but also some of the characters in the film.

The Daily: Let’s talk a little bit about the Taylor Swift documentary. Did you get to meet Taylor Swift?

Utz: Yes! She came a couple times to my editing room. She’s lovely. She gave the director and me total freedom, and let us lead the way in terms of crafting the creative direction of the film. It’s amazing for someone as famous as her to do that, and I think really brave of her. It’s incredible how willing she was to be vulnerable on camera and open her life up in a real way when she didn’t really need to. I was very excited to work on the project because of all the young women I think it’s going to reach and the ideas that are baked within it, ideas of not only what it’s like to be famous, but what it’s like to be a woman. Her story can resonate with other women, so I was very excited to embark on building up those ideas.

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Twitter: @rebecca_aizin