Frame of Reference with Editor Evan Pease

Evan Pease has been an Editor for the past seven years. The past five of which, he has been a Broadcast Editor at ad agencies creating all sorts of video content, but primarily cutting TV spots. And it isn’t just Evan’s day job, either. Outside of work, he has recently finished cutting his first feature-length and has also edited countless short films (occasionally shooting them as well).

What got you interested in editing?
Music, oddly enough. I had always loved recording and editing tracks for bands I was in. Eventually, when I applied for the video production program in college, I had to make my first short film as a kind of audition process. It was a very cool way to dive in because they obviously hadn’t taught me anything yet. But I fell in love with the whole process and it was during the editing phase, where I had to fix all of my mistakes, where I realized just how creative it can be. It brought that concept of recording songs to a whole new place – telling bigger, richer stories. Fun fact: that first short film which got me into the program was called “Jack McFly: Private Eye,” hence my twitter handle, @Jack_McFly.

How did you get started in editing?
After graduating and hanging out on local film sets, the bug got me. So, along with a few colleagues, I started my production company. It was great for a while, especially as four white kids from the suburbs became the rap video kings for the entire scene. We shot & cut a TV pilot, corporate videos, web content, etc, but eventually, Buffalo’s video market just wasn’t as active as I had hoped. So I moved. Boom.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
There’s a lot to like about FCPX but she and I have too much of a love/hate relationship to even think about switching. So with FCP7 I shall happily remain (with a gleam in my eye for Avid). But at the moment, I just want to cut. With FCP7, it’s very familiar so I don’t have to worry about anything else.

Give us a run through of your editing process.
After all the project is set-up and transcoded, I typically like to cut a scene I’m either really excited about or I know is extremely important. Occasionally I might start with something I know will be the most challenging. Once I get a feel for how the important scenes play out, the cuts/scenes around it have a clearer direction to work towards.

What tips were you given that was really helpful?
Once, in high school, I was struggling with trying to draw a chair that was in the middle of my class room and my art teacher told me, “draw what you see, not how you think it should look.” I did, and it was worlds better. I think about that and put it to use in editing as a way to remind myself to step back and look at it as if I had never seen it before (like the audience) and not to just put a cut somewhere because it’s expected. It has to make sense and feel right first.

How organized are you?
Mentally? Oh, you mean my project files. Very. I’ve opened projects from other editors where it looks like a bomb went off; no bins, footage in the timeline that isn’t even in the project (just dragged in from the desktop!?), poorly labeled, etc. I want as few bins open and as few files showing as possible. Bin-liness is next to godliness.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Sure, but that doesn’t mean I should. Especially when I’m trying to convey a director’s vision. I’ll read the appropriate material (scripts, boards, etc) and know where I’m going from that. Creating the best story is the most important thing, though (and that may not always be what’s on the paper), so if I think there’s a better story/scene in there, I’ll just make an extra “Editor’s” cut and pitch that, too.

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Back to the Future – chock full of clever little nuances, the characters are great, the pacing is perfect, direction was solid, and it’s just a great, wholesome go-to movie. And don’t get me started on Huey Lewis. In a complete 180, Breaking Bad is my favorite show. Every episode is a lesson in writing, acting, and editing. AMAZING editing – highly recommend s03e10, “Fly,” that episode had me giggling like a school girl it was so good.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Narrative, documentary, corporate, and experimental (but let’s pretend you didn’t hear that last one). Narrative is where I shine the most though, easily my favorite.

If you could meet any editor, who and why?
Murch is a gimme, but other than him, definitely Michael Kahn – Spielberg’s long time editor is sure to have some handy tips and tricks up his sleeve about telling stories. But just to pick Robert Rodriguez’s brain about creating his own style would be cool too.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Swear jars can make you rich. Actually, if something is really just not working out, I like to flip the cut/scene on it’s head a bit and try to put something together that was never intended. If that version works out, great, but I do it primarily to look at the footage in a completely different way which tends to reveal a solution.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I have a great respect and admiration for the color grading process, but as I can’t afford a full-on Baselight system, I love working with Magic Bullet Colorista & Looks. Also, Pluraleyes has saved me countless hours. That thing is a godsend.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
Typically pretty well. Most director’s are pretty open to collaboration and understand the editor’s role. I like to get in on the ground floor of a project so I know the vision of it from the start. Directors typically like that too – a willingness to give their project my full attention. After that, it’s just a matter of communication. I like time and space when I work so I don’t get people pointing over my shoulder, but at the same time, I think it’s very important to regularly communicate with the director.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
Lord knows, there’s been a few. But in 30 years, I managed to avoid taking up drinking by recognizing those personalities quickly and putting my head down, pushing that edit button, blasting my favorite music throughout the edit suite, and thinking about what I can bring to the next project. There’s something to be said for offering differing views, but that’s part of the collaboration process. For people who don’t want to collaborate and just want you to “push that button, monkey!” I tend to calmly and quietly do what is being asked of me – burning bridges never helps.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
Editors are creative assemblers. We’re there to take what other people have meticulously planned out and worked hard to pull off and not just mash it together, but to finesse it just as meticulously into the best possible story we can make. The goal is to entertain, successfully deliver the director’s message, make everyone involved with it proud of the finished product, and arguably the most important part, do such a good job that your work goes unnoticed.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
A piece of universal advice is to enjoy your job. Try something else if you don’t. For Editors, enjoying your job means enjoying problem-solving, collaboration, and of course, telling stories. I’d tell an aspiring editor who’s looking for a job to go do stuff. Get involved in the process in whatever ways you can: internships, 48 Hour Film competitions, cutting something for a friend on the weekend, do as much as you can to familiarize yourself with the process and practicing the craft, but also, be discerning. Don’t just do a something for the money. Either bring something to it that you can call your own or find a different line of work.

You can catch up with Evan on twitter or his website.


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