Frame of Reference with Editor Kathleen Toomey

Kathleen Toomey is a passionate and friendly video editor in Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA. “I’m excited to be in this field and eager to learn everything possible. When I have a blank timeline in front of me, I see endless possibilities for stories to tell. I have a big imagination and think quite creatively.  I love to create, entertain, and inspire others. I only hope that I’ve sparked a deeper interest in my friends and people I meet who cannot resist the energy and passion behind my words when I talk about anything related to films. I feel very lucky to have been introduced to the awesome editors of the #PostChat community, which by the way is a great network of fellow video professional editors. Every week, I feel like I’m learning and growing as an editor.”

Kathleen currently works in broadcast spots & freelancing and hopes to cut feature films or tv series. I got a chance to chit-chat with Kathleen about all things Editing.

What got you interested in editing?
I’ve always loved movies, long before I discovered my interest in specifically editing. I would watch behind the scenes and interview with the cast & crew with an insatiable appetite. I don’t have a “I grew up knowing exactly what I’d be” sort of story. Rather, I stumbled happily across my love for editing while in college. I had been in the story-telling/animation track, editing & animating together some comic book stills in Director. I received such great feedback on it that… enough so, it got me thinking maybe I had a knack for this. I admittedly had moments where I thought there’d be no way some girl from Indiana could ever edit movies one day. Those moments of doubt will happen, yet can also be the time you let your fears spread into courage with a persistent confidence to face them no matter what. I never looked back or regretted that decision, and I’m very grateful to have discovered this about myself.

How did you get started in editing?
This goes along with my previous answer… to continue: I’d signed up for the introduction to video class with tons of enthusiasm and hope. When you are just starting out, the only way to go is up. The first step was to research and understand the tools that go into everything. Make sure story-telling and scripting ideas aim for solid & logical, so that you have the means to do them. Simply go out and shoot a video, maybe fail a few times with a few too-grand ideas, edit, rinse & repeat until you gain some experience. Your first few attempts will probably be something you look back on and giggle, but that’s the learning process. I consider myself entirely lucky that this was also where I met my very good friend & video editor cohort, Kylee Wall (@kyl33t). I have to say that my experiences might have gone differently had I not met her – full of confidence, ideas, and drive. She made me feel more comfortable with Mac & Final Cut.  We shot & edited many projects outside of class in order to get better. You will gain so much as a whole, more than just doing what’s required. If it’s what you love to do, you won’t just do it, you’ll want to do it & look for every opportunity to further yourself.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
I’ve been using Avid most of all these days. I try not to develop a favourite, because I’ll use whatever NLE is needed for the project or job. I started using Premiere Pro and have used Final Cut 7 as well. I went the longest time unable to get my grasp on Avid, and so my focus is there & CS6 as well. I think they all have pros and cons. It’s like riding a bike, really. Be ready for any of them.

Give us a run through of your editing process
After creating/opening a project, I’ll import all the assets necessary. I’ll quickly scan and make sure everything is labeled properly. Double check your settings, sometimes it’s so easy to accidentally forget you changed it from RGB to SD or ordered instead of even. It’s good making sure you’re set up to save on the proper area/HD. Get assets into bins, and prepare yourself for the style you’re cutting. Clear your head of stuff you need to do tomorrow and next week or 2 months later. Time to focus on only the story at hand. I know this might be a bit off topic, but make sure you feed yourself well as it’s incredibly hard to edit when you’re starving or over tired from a bad meal. Get up to refresh yourself as often as you need. You’ll do yourself no favors going hours without a drink or resting your eyes, and you’ll probably spin wheels over a small normally easy to do cut because your brain is frizzled out. Yes, we all do edits where this isn’t always perfect case scenario. Just try. Review all footage, cut, re-cut, don’t marry those cuts, even though it’s painful to take them out, and eventually you’ll find yourself at the refine process. Chip away little extras, slide in sound, color correct, effects, and you’ve now edited something. Now promptly proceed to nitpick your work and cringe or cast your eyes down every future time you view it. Woohoo!

What tips were you given that was really helpful?
There are some invaluable tips I’ve been given by my fellow editors every day. I’m sure I could fill well more than what this question intends. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten tends to run on the technical areas. If you want somewhere to get awesome tips & tricks, I’d advise following @NLE_Ninja & @TheEditingWhiz for starters. For learning Avid, I would suggest you look into getting @AvidAsstEditor’s book at here. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help.

How organized are you?
I try to be fairly organized as possible. Even for the short broadcast spots I cut a lot these days, it always helps to have things where you need them. Sometimes there’s not enough time to do everything as you like, such as a tight deadline like with 48hr film competitions, so you have to try to be flexible.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes, it’s possible. Sometimes it can be a very rewarding experience to see what you’re capable of. Try to get a hold of some footage you’ve not participated in if you can. Craft whatever story you feel from it. It will take quite a bit more time than if it had been all organized and laid out, but you can learn so much from it. You may inherently watch it all and lay out an entirely different story than what was intended. Also, through making mistakes, you’ll know why a story is good, what it’s missing, why you edited this angle in here or left it holding on that shot there…

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Favorite film would be Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’m hard pressed to give only one since I enjoy many styles of films. TV series would be between Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and True Blood.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
I have done a variety of editing thus far, including short films, documentary, wedding, broadcast spots, live events, corporate, and promotional. I would like the chance to try my hand at a tv series & feature film edit. My dream is to work on a book to film adaptation.

If you could meet any editor, who and why?
There are so many inspiring and admirable editors I would like to meet. I can think of several who edited films I absolutely adore. However, I would most like to meet the editors of #PostChat. I’ve been attending the chats every week for quite a while now, and I have gained so much perspective & knowledge through these editors. I didn’t get to go to NAB at this year’s meeting, but I intend to meet many of them in the future. 🙂 (okay okay, also it would be cool to meet Thelma Schoonmaker, as she’s one amazing lady editor with a great perspective) “People expect artists to be too normal, I think. I’ve been around enough of them now to see that they’re very extraordinary human beings who behave differently than ordinary human beings. If they weren’t as sensitive as they are they wouldn’t be great artists. They are not the same as us. People should just learn to accept that.” – Thelma Schoonmaker

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
The best advice for a complex edit? Work through what you can, push to your maximum capabilities, don’t be married to your cuts, and then know when it’s time to take a break. You’d be surprised what a set of fresh eyes can do for an edit you felt entirely blocked off from completing. Try duplicating the sequence and cutting it entirely on instinct. Do it again with a new twist. Do it once more where it goes against what you think is *the* story. You may find you run across those glorious “happy mistakes” whereby your story has suddenly taken an interesting turn. Keep everything as organized as possible in your bins, so you can speed along this process being able to find what you need.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
Ohhh, that’s a tough one! I would have to go with Dual/Plural Eyes (because it made life easier), Automatic Duck, & Magic Bullet Suite/Colorista. Always be on the look out for plugins to make editing easier.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
I think it’s an important relationship that requires collaboration. There is certainly a balance to achieving the vision of the director, but still having the chance for your own suggestions and input. This varies depending on each director and your own personality. Again, I don’t think it’s necessary to adopt a completely fake attitude towards others in this regard – be who you are, collaborate, get over differences quickly, and people will respect that. I think your aim should be to try to edit the best story possible & get through each challenge as it presents itself as a team. Victory is not as sweet alone.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
This is a situation that changes from project to client. Everyone needs to work as a team, but not everyone will always get along. We’re all here to do our jobs, so all you can do is try your very best with people. Rather than trying to be perfectly agreeable when it goes against something important, learn to voice your thoughts without causing burned bridges. Realize there are many personalities and people will remember those who had a good sense of humor while getting the job done. Revel in each step forward on the project or film. Consider it a bonus to yourself if you quickly move past little snags. You need to know when you’re being disrespected, ignored, or when to eat humble pie with others. The film networks eventually all come together at some point, so leave an impression you won’t be ashamed of. Let bad clients go if this issue is repeated, so you can surround yourself and focus on positive projects or people.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
We’re storytellers. It’s easy to get caught up in everything else from plugins to NLE’s, but remember, it’s always about a good story. Know your audience, your overall story, and keep yourself focused. Be patient, I try not to rush through things. Cut, snip, chop, and re-do it all again until you want to scream, and then you’ve made something awesome. Acknowledge your strengths & admit your weaknesses. Be open to learning a new way of doing things. Never stop researching and honing new skills. Organize EVERYTHING. Enjoy the ride.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Don’t give up! 🙂 There will be a lot of struggle in the years ahead. Go to Creative Cow and other awesome forums or websites for inspiration or help. Find yourself a network and utilize it for knowledge, advice, & comradery. Keep moving forward and stay positive. You will make it to your happy edit cave one day.

For more info on Kathleen you can find heer on twitter or his blog.

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