Sonia Godding Togobo is a film and television editor to know. Her rise in the industry is nothing short of prolific. After 20 years, she has acquired an assortment of credits including editing television programs for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Channel 4, The Discovery Channel, HGTV and the BBC.
This is a collaborative industry but unfortunately a lot of times the editor is not acknowledged. We know that Sonia is a great storyteller to work with and without a doubt we want the world to know that her foresight, technical savvy, and responsiveness as an editor greatly contributed to the success of Mr. Jane and Finch.
If you ask Sonia, she also credits the success of Mr. Jane and Finch to both director Ngardy Conteh George and producer Alison Duke’s willingness to collaborate in a way that was mutually respectful with no space for egos when it came time to make decisions.
“You gotta make sure you have the right ingredients. You put your icing on the cake and that’s what makes the segment or the documentary or trailer what it is” says Godding.
By the time the Mr.Jane and Finch team decided to make a film about Winston LaRose, he had amassed over 5000 hours of footage. Alongside Godding, Conteh and Duke understood that these archives were tied to LaRose’s identity as an advocate and community leader and crucial to Black history in Canada. It was clear that Winston’s community work was a big part of the story and filmmaking was a big part of his community work.
Throughout the editing process Godding, and Conteh focused on telling the story of Winston as a documentarian and archivist but slowly graduated to the more urgent story: an 80-year-old man running for office in the municipal elections.
“The election was coming up in October, it was a historical election. Once the team handed in the first cut it was very clear that the broadcaster was leaning into that arc as well says Godding.“That meant turning the film around.”
And that they did.
Godding and the team swung into full gear and worked towards focusing on their new narrative.
In hindsight, Godding reflects that it makes sense for the team to have chosen that route. They still wanted to use the valuable archival footage Winston had amassed over the years but they just didn’t know how.
The creative team’s eureka moment came one Sunday afternoon when Conteh declared that the archives represented the why of Mr.Jane and Finch, they represented Winston’s philosophy: pan-africanism – and it was why he was running for councillor. “She came in and she cracked the code,” says Godding.
For Godding, the art of documentary storytelling is as much about surrender as it is about editing.
“There are going to be weeks where you are like what the hell is this film about?” she says. Conteh and Duke trusted Godding and gave her the time she needed to absorb and ruminate on all the footage. “The more you can stay in that pocket the more magic that is created.”
Godding believes that during the editing process, the editor has to surrender their preconceptions to the actual story. The more willing you are to go through that process and accept it, the better the film ends up she says. “The story has its own life,” and it’s something we should all respect.
Sonia has an assortment of creative projects ahead of her: editing drama, directing more and getting into show running. When asked what she’s looking forward to she responds with a nervous chuckle: “Anxiety!”
Sonia is also a filmmaker in her own right. Check out her website: www.sgoddingtogobo.com