Frame of Reference with Editor Marian Ene

Marian Ene is from Romania and has been a video editor for 10 years. He began his career in TV, but later found out that he liked freelancing much more. “On the side I do some grading and compositing when the budget doesn’t allow for dedicated people. I’ve done all sorts of edits, but most of my work is composed of TV commercials and music videos.”

Marian sat down with us for a one on one interview.

What got you interested in editing?
When I was a sophomore in high school, somebody donated the school a camera and a video capture board (it was a miro Video I think, a pre-Pinnacle Sys version). Not all students were allowed to work with it (it cost more than a car back then), but I managed to gain the staff’s trust, and I became the multimedia guy. This got me interested in video creation and manipulation, so naturally I applied and got admitted (on the 2nd try) to the Theater and Film Academy of Bucharest. I was aiming for Directing or Cinematography sections (editing didn’t look that glamorous to me), but because I felt better prepared with Physics than Literature – this was part of the exam for both Directing and Cinematography – I ended up applying for Editing section, thinking I’d switch majors after first year. Never happened.

How did you get started in editing?
First job as a video editor I got in the summer of 2002. MTV Romania was preparing to launch and they were hiring. A friend of mine who was majoring in Cinematography was applying for a job as cameraman and got me to tag along. I wasn’t fully convinced I wanted the job (me and my colleagues dreamt of working exclusively in film, TV was something icky), but I did need a paying job, and, hey, MTV! Most of the shows were just re-runs from MTV Europe, but we had some shows of our own, and because we had quite the creative freedom, it turned out to be more fun than work.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
For many years, Avid Xpress then Media Composer has been my go-to NLE. I discovered it when I started working with a studio that was making music videos (we used DPS Velocity at MTV). I struggled with it a bit in the beginning, but after a few months I realised it’s perfect for me as at its center was the timeline as a whole, while maintaining perfect control of the pieces. Sure, for TV work it’s terrible, but for narrative I had every tool I needed. Cut, slide, trim, slip, replace, sync, insert, overwrite, you name it. (trim and replace edit being my favorite by far).

Give us a run through of your editing process
Before starting an edit I like to gather as much data as possible on it – is there a message to be delivered, a story (in case of non-scripted edits); is the music already chosen or is it composed afterwards; what’s the target audience.
Next, I need to know the constrains: what length(s) should I cut to; what’s the intended medium (web video has less constrains, in both length and content allowed); is there anything in the footage that should be ignored (takes that the director or client didn’t like).
Then, I need to get familiar with what I have – the track if it’s a music video, and the footage. If there’s a script, I read it afterwards, otherwise I tend to look at the footage thinking on how to get to the script instead of thinking what possibilities I have.
I leave out the technicalities and the obvious steps like rough cuts, screenings etc, as those are inherent to the job.

What tips were you given that was really helpful?
Learn to sell your work. To the client, to the director, to the producer, but firstly to yourself.

How organized are you?
Depends on the complexity of the project and if I work alone or somebody else has to take over. Ofcourse, the more complex the projects, the better organized I get, otherwise the clutter will get me. Let’s say I’m exactly half way between OCD and total mess 🙂

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
I come from Eastern European school of thought in film making, where the editor has more freedom in building the story (storyboards are used almost exclusively in TV commercials, for films and music videos we use the director’s treatment, which is basically a script but with indications as to framing, pace, dialogues, etc). Plus, in the first year of film school, as an exercise to get familiar with the film editing room, we got leftovers from older student films and we had to make stories out of those. So, yes, I can build a story from what I have. Just don’t hold me responsible if I’m the only one seeing it 🙂

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Hmmm, favorite film. I’ll go with Wong Kar Wai’s In the mood for love, because all aspects of that film come together to tell a boring story (man meets woman, but they’re both married, ***SPOLIER ALERT*** so they don’t end up together, the end) in a way that makes you long for more.
For TV show, I’ll pick Boardwalk Empire for its no-BS approach to an otherwise over romaticised period of time.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Apart from news (not at all), and weddings (for a couple of friends, no paid work) I’ve done them all. Mostly TV commercials and music videos, and recently I finished cutting  my first feature on the Romanian sculptor Brancusi (it’s in grading & sound mixing stage now).

If you could meet any editor, who and why?
Herve Schneid – Amelie, Delicatessen, Alien: Ressurection, etc, to pick his brain on how he works with so many completely different directors and styles.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Stay organized. Whether you build it piece by piece, or you do a draft first then enrich it, stay organized. Find a structure that works for you (divide the assets by scene, by location, by time, by whatever), but stay organized. I had to learn it the hard way.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I use Magic Bullet Colorista the most, either for final grading (budget constraints). or for intermediate grading/CC for presenting to the client.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
Ideally we communicate and collaborate as indispensable parts of the storytelling. But I’ve had my share of both ends of the spectrum too (some only thought of me as a button pusher, others expected me to do everything).

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
To each, his own. As a golden rule, I don’t get mad (I only fake it with some directors), as getting mad/upset doesn’t solve anything. Some directors/clients are very stubborn, and I found no way to get my ideas across. Others could be tricked into thinking my ideas were their own. But I always remind myself that bad clients and directors come and go, but the feeling of accomplishment stays.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
The big picture is more important than the perfect take or the perfect cut. Choose the take that best serves the film/music video/TV commercial/corporate video/etc, not the one with best lightning or best acting. And make the cut so it serves the moment – whether the cut punches you or it slips through unnoticed.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
You’re part of a creative team. Not a button pusher, but neither the center of the universe.

Check out some of Marian’s work on vimeo and follow him on twitter.

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