Frame of Reference with Editor Kyra Coffie

Kyra Coffie started editing as an Army broadcast journalist and after she got out, she decided to pursue editing full-time.  “I’ve been editing for about 15 years and love every facet of it.  I also wrote a book for assistant editors called The Avid Assistant Editor’s Handbook which helps AEs with their jobs and hopefully make the transition to editing.  I’m based out of DC am working for National Geographic on a kid’s show.”

What got you interested in editing?

I was transitioning out of the Army and they asked me to choose one part of my job that I liked the most.  I chose editing because unlike shooting, it has air conditioning and unlike anchoring, I didn’t have to wear makeup.

How did you get started in editing?

I can thank the Army for that.  They trained me to be a broadcast journalist and after learning tape-to-tape editing, my first duty station in Taegu, South Korea had an Avid Newscutter, which I hated to the 9th degree.  However one day I wandered into the Media Composer room and having just missed Avid training, read the Avid manual cover to cover and loved it.  I couldn’t get enough of changing my track colors!

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?

I definitely prefer Avid over FCP and Premiere because of the forced organization.  I love the structure and everything having it’s place or project.  Although, FCP’s ability to map just about anything to the keyboard is pretty groovy.

Give us a run through of your editing process

I like to get hands on and see all of the footage (if possible) that I am working with so I know what I have available for the edit. That also allows me to see storylines from a different perspective than the producer’s because I am a new set of eyes.  From that point, I do a stringout and go through scene by scene adding music, sfx and cutaways.  I tend to cut linearly despite being on an NLE.

What tips were you given that was really helpful?

Watch your cut.  That tip has saved my butt more times than I care to count.  I can’t believe how many editors pass off their cut without taking the time to watch it.

How organized are you?

I am incredibly organized.  I find it a waste of time to spend time looking for things that proper organization will put at your fingertips.  I think I should be able to leave my project and another editor start the very next day only spending 5 minutes getting acclimated to my organization. The less time I spend being messy is more time I get to edit.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?

Absolutely! In reality television, this is how some storylines develop and you need to be adept at finding that story and fleshing it out into a watchable scene.  I enjoy receiving a script like the next person because I like bringing a script to life but I also love digging through the footage and finding stuff that might have never seen the light of day.

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?

My favorite film and I say this without an ounce of shame is The Mummy.  I don’t know what it is about that movie but I know it almost forwards and backwards.  Watching that with me is an exercise in frustration and annoyance for my friends and family!

I don’t have a television but try to follow Southland, Breaking Bad, In Plain Sight and The Closer.  Southland is very gritty and real (according to my cop friends) and Breaking Bad is a marvel to behold.  Between the script writing, performances and editing, I can’t get enough of those two and will be very sad when they end.  In Plain Sight and the Closer feature some strong female leads and sometimes you just want some butt kickin’ girl to help you get through a rainy Saturday.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)

Ummmm, I’m going to say everything except for documentary and wedding.  Would love to do a documentary but haven’t had an opportunity to do it.  And wedding videos? Haven’t done any but wouldn’t be averse to doing one for a really, really, really close friend.

If you could meet any editor, who and why?

An editor I would want to meet?  Of course Walter Murch is on every list but the editors from Southland and Breaking Bad, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter are at the top of my list.  I like it when an edit creates a reaction from me and sucks me into the story and I lose sight of everything but the movie.  I love that immersion and would just want to pick their brains about their process and how they just get things done.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?

Cry. Just kidding!  Advice on a complex edit would be to do what you can and try different versions of your cut because once you have it, you will know it.  Sometimes, I’ve done different versions of a scene and then I get it and it is so satisfying.  As editors, we are professional puzzle assemblers – we just don’t know what the end picture will be and that is what I LOVE about our field.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?

I don’t use a lot of plug-ins but love having Sapphire at my disposal if I need it.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?

I’ve never worked with a director before! The next best thing would be a producer and I love getting the creative juices flowing to see where we want the edit to go.  I really enjoy collaborating with people cause you frequently come up with ideas you might not have come up with by yourself.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?

Kill ‘em with kindness.  Problem clients tend not to know what they want and/or not know how to verbalize what they want and I try my best to break things down and go over exactly what the problem is so that we can come to a resolution.  The client is a key component of the editing process and I want to make them as happy as I can without compromising the integrity of the final product.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?

Give the story life.  I want my viewers to feel like they are a fly on the wall and I want them to jump back, hold their breath, laugh or cry as the story dictates it and I never want to take that away from the audience.  That is what I enjoy about watching films and want to produce emotions every chance I get.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor

Write everything down cause one day that little note is going to make the biggest difference.

You can always find Kyra on twitter or her website.

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