Joel Yeaton is a Producer/Editor at Weber Shandwick in Boston who mixes it up as a mograph artist and colorist from time to time. He is currently working on videos for Oreo, Hellmann’s, Verizon, and Ocean Spray (to name a few). He has also worked on multiple short films that showed in the festival circuit (Sundance, SXSW, & Florida film festivals), as well as freelancing on projects for universities, television networks, automobile manufacturers, and apparal companies. When not editing, Joel can be found whittling down his Netflix queue, learning more about cooking, art, & scotch, or just editing friends’ short films.
What got you interested in editing?
I fell into editing and film relatively late in my career. In high school, I was on the AP track for math and science and my career goal was becoming an engineer or something similar. I was accepted to several colleges, but I was getting burnt out by my schedule and through a mix of apathy, genuinely not having enough time, and (with the benefit of hindsight) realizing subconsciously that I really didn’t want to pursue a career in engineering, I didn’t get my college paperwork in on time. Because of this, I took 6 months after high school to finish up my paperwork because the college said they would accept me for the January term if I got my paperwork in.
I also decided to volunteer at a camp to keep rounding out my resume. At first I was just doing dishes and cleaning. I had a Mac Laptop (and this was in 2006 just before Mac started to get more popular) and there was a guy who ran the AV Department who saw I had a Mac and started up a conversation with me about it. We became friends over it. A couple of weeks later, he needed some help and asked if I’d be interested, and then over the next 6 months proceeded to teach me about audio mixing, lighting, video editing and everything that went into putting AV on for a camp. That was when I got the editing bug.
How did you get started in editing?
After camp, I decided to go to film school, and there I really bunkered down and tried to teach myself everything I could about editing. Once I graduated, I had a ton of debt and this was right when the economy fell. NYC and LA weren’t looking great for jobs so I decided to move to the Boston area where I had some contacts. When I got up here, I picked up a job as the marketing director for an independent movie theatre doing their website designs/updates and print marketing campaigns. This job allowed me to start paying back debt while I was doing internships on the side and working freelance on the weekend. The internships didn’t really pan out. Boston has tons of students from the local film programs that are willing to work for free so some production companies have decided to use batches of interns that they switch out every 3-6 months, to do the work they would normally pay entry-level positions for. After doing a couple of these internships in the hopes that they would turn into something, I decided that I couldn’t afford to work for free anymore and started to politely turn down any free gigs that came my way. Once I did this, I started to get consistent paying editing work and have worked my way up ever since.
What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
I’ve been a FCP7 guy for a long time as that’s what I was taught in school. Also, I would say that Boston is probably a 70% FCP/30% AVID city. Lately though, FCP7 has been getting a little long in the tooth, and now that Adobe Premiere CC has been announced I think my work is going to switch wholeheartedly to it. It’s now very close to what I would want from the mythical FCP8. I have also edited in AVID and I like it as well, although I have not had a lot of opportunity to use it in Boston as of yet.
Give us a run through of your editing process
This process is currently in flux now that we are moving toward Adobe. It used to be: get the footage, compress to ProRes, sync cameras with pluraleyes, start editing.
Now it is: get footage, sync footage, start editing. We are saving so much time with Adobe.
For actually editing, I usually do a couple of first cuts myself, show the story to my producer, who may or may not make changes, and then start diving into massaging audio, music, graphics, color, etc. Being in commercials, there are many rounds of changes. First the account team takes a look at it. Then it goes up the corporate ladder, ending at legal. Finally, it’s finished and sent out to the client.
What tips were you given that were really helpful?
Map your keyboard out, and make the software work for you. When I learned about Top & Tail Editing in Avid, I made it in FCP7 using macros. Don’t use your mouse; you will be so much faster. Know when to cut. Sometimes the best cut is no cut. Also, there are three principles that I have been told about that I try to keep in mind and are very useful: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, Occam’s Razor, and the Peter Principle.
How organized are you?
Very. PostHaste is invaluable for this.
Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes, this is one of the most important pieces to getting hired. If you must have a script in order for you to be able edit, you are not a storyteller. You are basically a glorified factory line worker.
What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Favorite film is Amelie. Favorite TV show changes by the day because there is so much good TV today, but right now it is tied between Justified, Breaking Bad, and Scandal, which has gotten really great over the past few years.
What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Right now I am working as a corporate editor on commercials, but I’ve also done narrative which I love, and wedding (which is the worst type I’ve done because of the quick turnarounds and Bridezillas. Side note, you think your client is awful? Try a Bridezilla. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can make a career out of this type of editing because it’s such a volatile situation most of the time.)
If you could meet any editor, who and why?
I’d say it would be a toss-up between Hervé Schneid for his work on Amelie and Sally Menke, RIP. Her work was so inspiring to me.
What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Just break it down into pieces, and make sure you know your footage. Watch as much as you can before you start editing. I personally like to find my story on the timeline. I will just throw my synced footage on the timeline and start trimming out what I don’t want with Top and Tail editing. Then I will try to find the story lines in the footage and build small sequences. Then just play with it to find the story line you want to tell.
Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
It depends on what type of project I am working on. Being a Corporate editor, I straddle the line between Mograph and Editor on a day-to-day basis. Some days I am working on a commercial with a story, and some days I am making a sizzle reel in AE. For straight editing, I rely heavily on Plural-eyes. I love the Red Giant Suite especially Colorista 2. For anything in AE there are a bunch of plugins that make my work easier: RepositionAnchorPoint; True Comp Duplicator; RD: Pre-Compose; Sortie & Rift; Ramp Plus; and Twitch to name a few.
How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
In my workplace, it’s a Producer-Editor, but it works great. My producers are my gateway to the clients. They push my craft on, as well as act as a first line of defense if needed. Love those guys.
How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
Our office relies heavily on scope of work documents that we have the clients sign before we do any work. If it’s not in the scope or we have gone over the number of rounds of changes written into the document, we push back for more budget and get a new SOW signed.
What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
My philosophy of editing is I am a storyteller and it is my job to tell that story to the best of my ability. My tools enable me to do this, and while tools are not the end all and be all, I need to know my tools well. I should continually both hone my storytelling ability and add to my tool set whenever I can.
Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
You better know After Effects, and you better start playing around with C4D or a similar tool. In today’s world, people don’t want to hire just editors (unless you’re working on features, etc and even then its valuable.) You need to have a wide toolset. In my job, I swap hats constantly between editor, mograph artist, sound designer, graphic designer, and typographer. Don’t get tied into the mindset of “I’m an editor and that’s the only thing I do.” Also anything you can learn will open new doors and make you a better filmmaker. It doesn’t even have to be tools. Read. Go to museums, take classes not related to the field. The more well-rounded you are as a human, the better an editor you will be. Editing is storytelling, and storytelling is essential to being human.
Follow Joel on twitter @joelyeaton