[Frame of Reference] with Editor Robin de Jong

Robin de Jong

Robin de Jong is a film editor based in Amsterdam. He started at the bottom as a VTR operator and worked his way up quickly becoming an editor. He has cut several feature films including the award-winning “Regret!” and “Mike Says Goodbye!”, that are currently being shown at several festivals worldwide.

What got you interested in editing?
I saw The Fellowship of the Ring when I was 14 years old and my whole life changed after that. I was in absolute awe of what a movie could do to a person on such a deep emotional and psychological level. The movie had been a very cathartic experience for me. The only thing I could do afterwards was making films, even though I had no idea how to do it.
As soon as I started making my own short films I was immediately drawn to the editing process. It’s in the cutting room where everything comes together and the movie is actually being made. It’s your final re-write.

How did you get started in editing?
I did a two-year course on filmmaking, which covered every aspect in the first year, in the second I focused completely on editing and screenwriting. After that I started working as a VTR operator in a post-production facility. There I learned several disciplines within post-production, one of them being an assistant editor and eventually editor. After a couple of years the company filed for bankruptcy and I started working as a freelance editor. Because I didn’t was a VTR operator anymore, I had time to be an assistant editor on films. From there on out I started doing my first feature films.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
Avid Media Composer, it’s the only NLE that supports working with multiple editors on 1 project very well. Everything works out of the box, no need to buy extra plugins. It’s very stable, media management is perfect with huge amounts of footage and no matter what your post-production workflow is, place Avid Media Composer in it and it will work like a charm, especially since I work with a lot of different post-production facilities, all having their own workflows. That being said, I’ve also used Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro in the past, but at the moment and on large projects, Avid Media Composer is the only NLE I trust to get the job done fast and efficient.

Give us a run through of your editing process
When the rushes come in my assistant editor prepares them for the editing, converts everything to DNxHD36, syncs up the audio and makes bins per scene which look like storyboards. That way, if the director is sitting next to me, he just needs to point to what he wants to see. I start making an assembly of the movie while they’re shooting it, that way I can give feedback very quickly on what they’re doing on set. When the shooting is done I have a first assembly done as soon as possible. I review it with the director and producer and then the actual editing can start. When editing a scene I have several ways of approaching it. When there’s a lot of footage I look at it all to see ‘a way in’, the best way to tell the scene. When it’s a small scene, I first search for the things that are telling the story, what the scene is about, it can be a certain look of an actor, sentence delivered a certain way, it depends on what needs to be told. Then I build the rest of the scene around that. You have to watch everything and know your footage inside and out. When I have a cut with the director, we screen it several times, after each screening we change subtle things, change a character, how information is spread over the film, or larger things like changing the structure. It depends on what comes out of the screenings. When the day arrives and we reach picture lock, I hand over my things for colour grading, visual effects and to the audio department.

What tips were you given that has been really helpful?
Learning the insight of when not to cut and recognise all the things you need to tell a story properly. That, and that assumption is the mother of all screw ups.

How organized are you?
I’m very well-organized. All the extra time and effort you put in the beginning of the project organising, you get back 10 times later on in the project. I need to be able to go through and find footage very quickly. When there’s a director sitting next to me, I don’t want to waste our time by endless searching, just because footage isn’t organised properly.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes, you need to be able to tell a story, even without a script and finding a story within the footage. You are the last phase in the screenwriting process after all.

What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?
Favourite film would be The Fellowship of the Ring, directed by Peter Jackson. With TV shows it’s a bit of a tie between Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad and Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Mostly feature films, some commercials and a documentary.

If you could meet any editor, who & why?
Michael Kahn, he has such a vast work experience and seems like a nice person to chat with.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Make a cup of tea, edit the scene in your head while you’re making tea. Don’t sit behind your computer. After that just keep on cutting.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I don’t use any plug-ins.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
It’s very important you’re both on the same page and you understand what the story is your director wants to tell. Every director has his or hers own ways of working, so you need to adjust to that. But this goes very naturally. Always discuss and most important, listen. You need to create an environment in which your director can function at the top of his or hers game.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
Always listen to what it is they exactly want and what their problem is. Every person works differently, everyone requires a different approach.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
It’s all about story. You use your editing to contribute to the story that’s being told. Storytelling is one of the most important things in life, so you need to understand how and why you’re telling a story.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Cut, cut, cut! Cut as many things as you can get your hands on. When you’re trying to get into film, I suggest you learn as much of the technical side as possible and learn the Avid. That way every film editor can use your help and you can learn all the storytelling aspects of being an editor from other film editors. At the start of your career you get editing work from other editors.

Check out Robin’s website or check him out on twitter @robindejongedit

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Joel Yeaton

Joel Yeaton

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

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Michelle Tesoro

Michele

 

Chicago native Michelle Tesoro began her career at Abkco Music & Records New York as a DVD and Promo editor. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, she has cut high-profile television series and feature films including HBO’s THE NEWSROOM created by Aaron Sorkin, Netflix’s HOUSE OF CARDS produced by David Fincher, HBO’s LUCK produced by Michael Mann and David Milch, and NATURAL SELECTION which won Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, and garnered her an award for Best Editing.  Michelle credits Alan Poul and Rodrigo Garcia as key supporters early in her career which continue to influence her opportunities today.  She is currently cutting the film REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS, by directors Andrew Lau & Andrew Loo, produced by Martin Scorsese.

 
What got you interested in editing?
TV was my babysitter growing up, so when I was a kid I wanted to be an animator.  I would tape episodes of Tom and Jerry and rewind them and look at them frame by frame.  I think I was 10.  I got interested in photography, and took video production and 16mm film-making classes in high school.  In 1999 I transferred to NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and became interested in editing after taking a couple of basic production classes.  That was my best skill, and I got more compliments on my editing than anything.

How did you get started in editing?
There was a lot of pressure from my family to get a job right after college, so I started seeking part-time work right away.  My first job was a Video/Film Librarian at Abkco Music & Records, Inc. in New York.  It’s a music publishing company which owns the publishing and masters to a lot of big artists in the 60s such as The Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, The Animals, etc. In the beginning my job was to log old Ed Sullivan performances and interviews.  After 3 years there I was involved in the DVD production of some music films they helped produced: The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus and Sam Cooke Legend to name a couple.  I also got to produce and edit a music video for Fatboy Slim’s remix of Sympathy for the Devil.  Being at a small company allowed me to wear many hats.

My goal was to cut television and feature films, and at Abkco my hours were fairly regular, so sometimes I’d pick up odd jobs doing some assistant editing on a documentary, or editing on freelance projects in order to build a reel, and rack up some credits and get some experience.  New York post production in the early aughts was a difficult scene to break into, and some of my classmates had found success in LA so I decided to make the move while I was still young.  An editing professor, Lora Hays, recommended I apply to the ACE Internship Program.  She put me in touch with some other former students of hers, Paul Barnes (Ken Burns’ editor), Marty Nicholson, and Peter Frank.  I didn’t get the internship, but Marty had encouraged me to participate in the Internship Applicants week-long workshop then I moved to LA.  On his advice, I immediately joined the MPEG, and met an assistant editor at the workshop who told me of a Post PA job on a pilot he was doing.  I interviewed for the job and became the Post Coordinator on the pilot, which was for ABC called “Injustice”. The Associate Producer, Keri Young, was my boss, and she took a liking to me, and knew I was good at the avid and was in the guild. On her next pilot, she and Bruce Sandzimier, the ABC Post-Production executive, got me my first assistant editing job with editor Mallory Gottlieb. The pilot never got picked up, but the next pilot I did with Keri was with editor Peter Frank, whom I met back in New York through Lora Hays.

That pilot was SAVED, written and produced by David Manson.  It went for one season, but that is basically where my career really started.  After that show wrapped I went on to do another short-lived series with a producer and an editor from SAVED, called RAINES.  There I met Ron Rosen.  After we were cancelled, Ron and I left to do a pilot with Alan Poul called SWINGTOWN.  SWINGTOWN was picked up for mid-season and wouldn’t start till October of 2007, so I was looking for a job in between.  My friend Lisa de Moraes, the other assistant on SAVED, had assisted editor Lisa Bromwell (also editor on SAVED) on this new HBO series IN TREATMENT.  She said they were looking for a 3rd assistant for Michael Ruscio (also an editor SAVED).  I got the job since they all knew me.

The whole time I was assisting, I kept editing.  Again, like I did in New York, I picked up odd jobs, usually free-bees or for low pay, to just get more cutting time and credits.  I did a web series with my friends form New York called MIMI AND FLO, I did a short with Rodrigo Garcia (a director/producer on IN TREATMENT) for Make a Film Foundation called PUT IT IN A BOOK.  I did a lot of free stuff.  We wrapped IN TREATMENT at the end of 2007, then the Writer’s strike hit, and the work dried up.  Lisa Bromwell, however was doing this super indie movie with Sebatian Gutierrez called WOMEN IN TROUBLE.  She asked for my help, and I assembled the editor’s cut, and cut these little photo/flashback sequences that are used as transitions in the movie.  The timing worked out where when I was done with that the writer’s strike ended and I was back assisting on SWINGTOWN.

Eventually, I got bumped up to editor for an episode on SWINGTOWN, and then again for the second season of IN TREATMENT.  That is the very long story of how I came into editing.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
Avid Media Composer.  The engineering of the software makes the most sense.  I don’t have to use the mouse as much as FCP.

Give us a run through of your editing process
The dailies come in and my assistant editor prepares them to my liking.  Post schedules are getting shorter and shorter, and usually I don’t have a lot of time to get an assembly together so the goal is to try to keep up to camera (keeping up with what’s been shot) by at least 2 days.  I have a little bit of an arduous process where I do what I call a “pulls” sequence.  I take every line and/or action of every character in the scene and line each setup, take, and camera in scene order.  So for every action and line I can see what all the possible options are.  I put a locator/marker at the beginning of every series with a brief description, so when I am working in the scene later on I can easily find different takes for different lines and or actions.  It’s sort of like having ScriptSync without the script.  I think ScriptSync is a fabulous tool and people swear by it, and of course they think what I do is a waste of time, but on a practical level I don’t want to get dependent on it because you first have to convince people to now purchase the software, you need an assistant editor to spend time syncing every scene (nowadays most assistants don’t have time), and for me personally, I have a hard time looking at text.  Also, because I do the pulls myself, I can familiarize myself with the footage quickly and organize how the scene is built-in my head before I do any cutting.  So after I’ve done the pulls on a scene I watch it (usually at the end of the day when I’m more physically tired), and mark selects.  After all my selects are marked, I duplicate the scene and then delete all the takes that I didn’t select so I’m left with a very rough assembly of everything that I think I should use in the scene.  So it’s sort of like sculpting, the pulls sequence being the block of clay that I whittle away at.  I try to save cutting scenes for in the morning when I’m physically and mentally more awake and the footage has had time to “rise” in my head.  So I start cutting the scene with my selects, and sometimes start switching out takes the further I get into it by referring back to the pulls sequence. If I had the luxury of more time I would probably want to first watch the dailies just like normal with no stopping.  There is something to just seeing how a take plays out.  If I can get my assistant to do my pulls for me, I might adjust my way of doing things.  I used to do it that way, but I found I would kinda get lost in the footage, and forget where things were, and miss something.  Plus it would be a pain to find diff takes especially if the director does a lot of resets in the middle of a take.  The pulls process is super micro, but I have found I get the best results doing it this way.

What tips were you given that has been really helpful?
Always cut the scene in your head before you attempt to actually cut it.  Visualize it thoroughly.  Hear the dialog in your head first too.

Some people say cut with music, others say that’s too distracting, you have to let the rhythm of the film play on its own.  I personally don’t like to cut with music, but I like to let music inspire a cutting rhythm.  So on the drive home I’ll listen to a track that I think resembles the tone of the scene and just get that into my head, then come back and cut the scene dry.

Watch as many movies and tv as you can!  Go to see a play at the theatre.  Go to see art, go to concerts.  Be inspired.

How organized are you?
Pretty organized, it helps me to make sense of everything when things are in their place.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes.  This is a very good skill to have in scripted film-making, because sometimes what was written and what was shot doesn’t work in the end, so you’ve got to make it work some how.  I really admire doc editors.

What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?
The toughest question!  There are too many film and film-makers I love to really answer that.  But I guess the films that inspired me?  I’ll qualify my answers.

The films that inspired me to want to be a film-maker: Reservior Dogs, Smoke

The film that I can watch over and over: When Harry Met Sally

The films that I quote all the time: When Harry Met Sally, The Jerk, Austin Powers (first one)

Favorite TV shows: The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Mostly scripted, little bit of documentary in school, music video, and promos.

If you could meet any editor, who & why?
Thelma Schoonmaker.  She seems like a real nice lady.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Take a break, take a walk, get feedback, think before you cut.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
Animatte – I don’t think that is a plug-in.  I heard Shake is good.  I don’t really use plug-ins.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
You want a relationship where you have the same tastes and the same goals for the film.  It’s kind of like a marriage (not that I know anything about marriage).  You’ll spend a lot of time together and you grow to love or hate each other, and be fine with both.  You must work with someone who loves and respects you for what you bring to the table.  In the end, it’s the director’s vision and you must be on board with taking it where they want to take it.  So it’s better for your soul if you have the same vision as they, especially with all the hours on and off the clock you put into any given project.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
Therapy and exercise!  Ha!  You gotta stand up for yourself.  Sometimes directors and producers forget you are a human being.  Life’s too short to put up with people being rude in the cutting room, or yelling at you, or not treating you to your liking.  I mean, we’re not saving lives here, we’re just clowns.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
Story is most important.  Without that no one really gives a crap, you’ll be totally forgettable.  If you want to be unforgettable, tell people a story that resonates in their hearts.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Don’t do this if you want to call the shots, at least there’s a limit to the shots you can call.  Editing is a bit of glass ceiling, so you have to be happy with assisting others with realizing their visions.

Follow Michelle on twitter @mtesorito  or check out her website.

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Matthew Smith

MS

 

Matthew Smith has been working Post jobs in LA for the last decade. “In 2004 I cut a feature film named, ‘Fish Without a Bicycle’. In 2006 I started editing Reality shows and have cut many since.” Most recently, Matthew was an editor on Storage Wars: NY. He’s currently an Assistant Editor on Glee.

What got you interested in editing?

In high school we had a TV studio, and I would shoot news stories and then edit them on the tape to tape system we had. In college I learned to edit on a flatbed and then Avid / FCP. I enjoyed all fascists of production, but I was actually pretty good at editing. Senior year I was cutting some stuff for a professor that had been a producer for CBS News for a while, and she told me that when I got to LA (I was planning on coming here after graduation) I should try to be an editor, and that I would be good at it. I took her advice.

How did you get started in editing?

I had an internship on a Travel Channel show. They hired me as a PA after a few weeks, and I pretty quickly became an AE.

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

Avid. Multi-user support. No other NLE can allow multiple editors and assistants to all be working in the same project as well, and with minimal hassle and workarounds. ISIS is a great system. At home I have FCPX. I know everyone hates it, but something about it fascinates me. It just seems more modern than the rest of the NLEs.

Give us a run through of your editing process.

I like to “radio cut” first to get a skeleton. Basically I just go through and get the story laid out so it sounds right if you’re just listening to the show, then I go in and actually figure out how to tell the story visually. I find it easier to build off something though, hence the radio cut.

What tips were you given that has been really helpful?

I had lunch with a veteran TV editor when I first moved out here. He told me to work hard and stay out of rehab. It’s good advice.

How organized are you?

Very. You have to be.

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

Sure. That’s what reality TV is all about.

What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?

Probably depends on the day. I just saw Gravity and it was amazing. I’m re-watching The Wire right now and it is fantastic as well.

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

Documentary/Feature/Reality/Scripted TV/Music Videos/Web Series

If you could meet any editor, who & why?

Walter Murch. He literally wrote the book on editing.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?

Just make the first cut, and keep pushing forward. Eventually it will start to look like something. I’m always intimidated by the empty timeline, but you just have to dive in. You’ll make sense of it eventually.

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

Not a big plug-in guy, Animatte and Stabilize get used a lot though. I put an EQ and Compressor on my dialog tracks (not that it matters, because the show will get sent off to sound mix before it airs).

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?

Fine. I don’t have much of an ego about my cuts, so I’m always happy to try things a Director (or Story Producer in the reality world) want to. I’m pretty easy going.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?

Finish the show. Move on. I’ve only ever quit one show before, and it was more of just a career thing. It wasn’t a very good show, and I was getting offers for better gigs.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?

Get the story right and people won’t notice the editing. I’m not big on flashy editing that draws attention to itself.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor.

Work hard and stay out of rehab. Also, working a low level job with talented people you can learn from is much more important early on than working a high level job on a bad show. I.E. Work as a PA on a good show. That has a lot more upside than editing a web series or something. That said, edit whenever you can. When I was an AE on reality shows, I would constantly cut music videos on the side. It was a little extra money, and good practice.

Follow Matthew on twitter @m67smith

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Tobias Beul

Tobias Beul
Tobias Beul is a film editor based in Munich, Germany. He studied Film Editing at the Bavarian Academy for Television and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Literary Studies.
 Tobias currently works in advertising, TV commercials, social media and corporate films for clients like BMW, MINI, Siemens, KFC and Playboy. He has a love for narrative and experimental storytelling and is always keen to get involved with compelling projects.
 While his work has extended into almost all parts of post-production, he has developed a particular fondness for color grading. He also loves to write and just started a blog on editing and post-related things.

 
What got you interested in editing?
While in university I was a bit of a competitive gamer and used to engage quite heavily in an online community for the video game franchise Tekken. Now this was before YouTube and high-speed internet. I think Google had just been invented :-). Still, people on the forums would record videos showing off their gameplay and share them through FTP servers. At some point, I decided I wanted to step into the spotlight as well and have a video of my own. And that decision inevitably made it a necessity that I edited my recorded video game footage into a watchable form. Which meant I needed editing software. But I obviously had no idea about anything. On Amazon I found a piece of software called Magix Video Deluxe :-D.
 My first edit then was a miraculous experience. A revelation really. While I always had a very expressive mind, I was rather introverted as a kid. If that makes sense. This visual language of editing now allowed me to shape and articulate my thoughts precisely and reach people through it.
 In essence, I had stepped into my very first edit out of necessity with my focus on playing a video game. And got out of it with a love for cutting.

 
How did you get started in editing?
A career in filmmaking seemed like something ridiculously unrealistic at first. But the more I edited my own little projects, the more I directed my studies towards film theory, the less I was able to imagine doing anything else. So having finished my Bachelor in Media and Literary Studies, I went on to study Film Editing in Munich. After that, I had to learn the hard way that no one in this industry cares about your grades, degrees and qualifications. No one hires you if you have no experience to back up your expertise. Which is why, after some pretty rough months of vain job applications, I grudgingly accepted the fact that I would have to go for an internship first and slowly climb the ladder. I got one at a post-house in Munich and a year of hard work later I was steadily employed senior editor at that company.

 
What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
Avid, wholeheartedly. 
I’ve cut projects in FCP “Classic”, Premiere and even FCPX and all of those have their strong sides and get the job done: Premiere is about horsepower and interoperability, FCPX about metadata and FX plug-ins. Media Composer, however, is about the actual Editing. Because at the core of what we do is how we interact with our footage, how we manipulate and arrange images to tell our stories. So all performance benefits and database features become secondary to that.

 
Give us a run through of your editing process
My approach depends a lot on the type of project I’m cutting. It will differ from scripted narrative to storyboarded TV ad, to go-wild web clip, but whatever the preconception for any project is, the one constant in my process is that I try to look at the footage without bias. I always want to look beyond what was written on the page, unaffected by the intricacies and side-stories of the shoot and see the raw material for what it is. I also make special note of my very first time watching footage. My initial response to everything I see. I try to conserve the memory of that, because you get so used to the images, even the most mesmerizing ones. It is important to always stay conscious of the impact any image has on the unbiased viewer.

 
What tips were you given that has been really helpful?
“Kill your Darlings” is the one that always rang truest to me, I guess. It’s so easy to fall in love with a particularly beautiful shot or a fun little montage you spent lots of time creating. So much so that you can’t stand even the mere thought of removing it from your cut. Even if it compromises your scene, if it’s wrong for the mood you need to build or simply not adding anything else to the story but running time. But if something is not truthful in context, it needs to go. The other one that I cannot stress enough is that performance always trumps continuity. Never let something trivial influence your take choices. Gaffer complaining that you picked a shot with a C- stand in the background? Oh well. Your actress’s hairdo shifting from cut to cut?! Too bad. If you remained true to making your decisions only about performance, your audience won’t even notice.

 
How organized are you?
A lot. And it’s tough because the digital end-to-end workflows have brought about this feeling of immediacy. You sometimes have to fight for your time to organize and actually WATCH all of your footage before committing to your first cut. Some people get impatient and just wanna dive right in. Only to end up getting lost in the footage. So it’s important to step up for a workflow that doesn’t neglect the organization and orientation process of an edit,because you need to know your playing field.

 
Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Absolutely. And I do believe there are certain formats that just have to be “found” in the cutting room. I love writing and conceptual work, so I enjoy these kind of jobs, too!
 That being said, nothing inspires me more than a well-conceived script or concept. A clear vision is the strongest foundation for any creative endeavor. Still, working With a script is never a “connect-the-dots” kinda process either. I always have to be the interpreter of that script and still find the story and build it accordingly from the materials at hand.

 
What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?
Wow, I couldn’t possibly narrow that down to a single one. I’m already having a hard time not listing more than just a couple :-).
 Lost In Translation is a film to which I cannot find the words to describe how deeply I feel about it. It’s the one truly unique film to me. Kill Bill is the first Tarantino film that I got to see in the theater and not on VHS or TV. So it has a special place in my heart therefore alone. This is only surpassed by the fact that it samples and remixes a lot of the old Kung Fu and samurai films I dearly love and grew up with.
The Matrix might be the One film that made me want to become a filmmaker. I was addicted to movies ever since I was a kid, but seeing that one in the theater kinda reconfigured my perspective on film. It’s my perfect escapist phantasy. And there’s the Kung Fu references again ;-). And as far as German film is concerned, Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen is one brilliantly funny and sincere film.
 For TV shows: Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, True Blood, Walking Dead. I’m seriously addicted and will drop everything to watch any of these.
 BUT, my one and only favorite TV show of all times is Avatar: The Last Airbender. And if you’re chuckling now because that’s a childish cartoon series, let me tell you I have never seen as stringent and elegant, heart wrenching storytelling in any other series or any story of that proportion. It is amazingly good. And naturally, it got Kung Fu in it.

 
What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
I currently work in advertising mostly, but will pick up any interesting narrative project I can get my hands on. So accordingly, I’ve cut everything ranging from TVC’s to short films to web shows to short form documentaries, music clips, corporate films and trailers.

 
If you could meet any editor, who & why?
I always was a great admirer of Sally Menke and was devastated when she passed. Such iconic film work went through her hands. And I feel the influence of editing is especially pronounced in Tarantino’s films.
 William Chang is the editor of Wong Kar-Wai’s films. Whose works are so rich in mood and extremely stylized in terms of editing, yet everything’s always integral to the story. I’d love to talk to William about his process and how he approaches that kind of work. But the thing I love about Twitter is that I interact daily with amazing editors from around the world now. You can exchange stories, ask questions, bond over similar experiences. I’m very grateful for having that kind of community.

 
What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Know your footage inside out. Watch, re-watch, make notes, cut select reels, create subclips, categorize by subject, color-code, whatever system works for you to mentally structure it. Then step away for a while and let your brain process. It will lead to a clearer overview of where you stand and thus inform you where you should go with the edit. And in case you get lost in the edit, I find that watching a cut in the presence of others automatically makes me look at it from the outside again. And lets me usually spot any issues instantly.

 
Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
Video Copilot Optical Flares for obvious reasons. Frischluft Out Of Focus is an amazing DOF plug-in. Neat Video is the cleanest noise reduction I’ve ever used.
 If for whatever reasons I have to grade in After Effects, I will look to Magic Bullet Looks for that. During offline I usually don’t need much else than the native NLE toolsets for resizing, splits and timewarps.
 Not necessarily plug-ins, but I use Cinegrain overlays for all my grain needs (and I do love me some fine, gentle grain on everything I finish) and have been getting some quite lovely grading results using Film Look LUTs by Juan Melara and VisionColor OSIRIS LUTs provided through Color Grading Central.

 
How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
It should be honest, sincere, lighthearted. Based on mutual respect at the least, trust and friendship at best. Because you need to be able to challenge one another and speak your mind without egos getting in the way. It helps to have similar sensibilities though. So that even if you look at something from different angles, you still share the same overall intent. That being said, I do prefer to have the initial editing pass for myself. Because every film has sort of its own verbal system and having that initial time with the material allows me to become literate in the film’s speak to arrive at a point where I’m just as knee-deep in the story and all its elements as the director is.

 
How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
Yeah, there comes the time when you have someone in the edit suite who likes to flip his fingers for suggesting cut points. That’s when you know you’re in trouble ;-D! 
For me, it is important to remain integer to the project no matter what the personal circumstances might be. Filmmaking is a collaborative art and I believe that being able to handle very different kinds of personas is an essential skill to have in this industry. However, once someone’s actions or demeanor threaten to diminish the outcome of a project, it’s a different story. People who always take the easy route not contributing to their utmost or who abuse their leading position to enforce their opinions for whatever egotistical and/or narcissistic reasons, who basically undermine everyone else’s mutual efforts. I try to steer clear of those. And just in case the heat is about to be on in the cutting room, there’s a rule of thumb: The more someone likes to frame f*ck, the more receptive he is to the phantom trim ;-).

 
What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
Georg-Stefan Troller is a German documentary filmmaker. When he visited our editing course during my studies, he said about his work: In all things that concern life, it’s about finding a form. To give structure where is chaos in order to create meaning. To channel the loose ties of human life, processed and put into context, to form stories out of the uncontrolled stream of experience, insight and coincidence. To strive for sincerity, devoted to the undisguised truth, yet with a keen sense for situational poetry and emotional momentum. He called his approach “lyrical documentation” and put in words what I think I’ve always felt editing was to me. An interpretation of life. A system to understand it a little better.

 
Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
The great thing about these times is the availability of resources. You have amazing ways and sheer endless possibilities to practice editing. Editing software is so cheap now. Cameras are even cheaper, relatively speaking. Write a scene, go shoot it with friends and cut it. Go download some raw footage from forums and edit it into something, grab a short film from Vimeo and make a trailer of it. Every little thing you make will be a step towards proficiency. Ironically though, the technical democratization in our industry has kinda made it become all ABOUT the gear and gadgets. Don’t get caught up in that and always remember that it’s never mainly about the tools. Because in the end, they’re just pen and paper. And learning how to read and write is one thing, employing those skills to tell a story is another.

 
Tobias Beul Twitter: @MyMasamune Blog & Portfolio: www.tobiasbeul.de

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Tom Daigon

Tom

Today we have a short and spicy interview. We go inside Tom’s head to learn about his process and why he chose to become an editor. Enjoy!

“After trying to pursue a career as a rock and roll guitarist (still play) I realized the lifestyle would soon kill me, so I got a scholarship to attend San Diego State University. Taking TV/Film production classes and working at KPBS on the crew was a great experience. After graduating I got a dream job offer at a large production facility in Salt Lake City. It had all the stuff I always wanted to work with like CMX, Grass Valley, Chyron, Avid.etc. I started as a junior editor and worked my way up. It was a great way to learn the craft. I worked there for 18 years until the video production landscape started to change. I moved to Las Vegas and worked as the senior editor at a small boutique for 8 years. Then the economy plummeted and I discovered the world of freelancing. So I built a great edit bay in my house with the latest everything. I started my career as a cutter , then realized motion graphics would be a good thing to learn. Currently I am expanding on that by adding some skills with Cinema 4D. Its a good thing I like learning new stuff since there is so much to learn in this business”.

What got you interested in editing?
As a little kid I always liked making collages. In college I worked at the radio station then transferred to San Diego State to get my degree in Film and TV Production. But I never got real hands on until I went to work as an assistant editor at a very large facility in Salt Lake City. It had million dollar edit bays with all the bell and whistles. I was hooked.

How did you get started in editing?
At SDSU I got an internship at Cox Cable which gave me my first taste of linear tape based editing.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
At this point Adobe Premiere Pro is the one I prefer. I love its innovation and integration with AE and PS. And Adobes attitude of listening to what editors want is refreshing.
Give us a run through of your editing process
Talk to clients to get their vision then help shape it. Review all material. Come up with some kind of unifying concept (music, graphics, cutting style) and DO IT!

What tips were you given that was really helpful?
Never assume anything and be organized.

How organized are you?
Its my nature to be organized. As an editor in a large facility that traded off projects to various editors, it was a requirement.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes. I can improvise on the guitar AND in the edit bay.

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Bladerunner. Law and Order (Burn Notice a close second)

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
I’ve done them all.

If you could meet any editor, who and why?
I actually enjoy meeting any editor that enjoys talking about their craft.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Learn to deal with stress. I’m still working on that one myself  😀

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I can’t limit it to one so I will say the Trapcode Suite.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
It’s great when there is synchronicity.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
The older I get, the less I suffer fools. But I am very diplomatic, to a point.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
Try to sculpt out the central message or story from the mountains of content.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Love what you do because these days it’s a difficult way to make a living.

For more info on Tom, you can visit his website or follow him on twitter.

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Freddie Smith

Fred_Dubrovnik 001

 

Freddie Smith is a passionate offline/online editor and assistant from London, with a keen sense for pace and style and a particular interest in character-based drama.  As a freelancer, Freddie enjoys travelling with work and is now looking for projects in Copenhagen.  Back home, he is currently cutting the Independent, British feature, ‘Fraternity‘ and is the assistant editor for Horror web-series, ‘Bloody Cuts‘.

What got you interested in editing?
Initially, when watching skateboarding videos as a teenager, I recognised the effectiveness of matching the rhythms of skating to the music as well as leaving a dramatic pause after particularly impressive tricks – it made such a difference.  For me, a lot of the excitement came from the introductory montages, the pace and the storytelling, rather than the talent.  Many of these techniques still inspire my editing today, and I always remember the time I first saw them in action.

How did you get started in editing?
I started experimenting with VHS machines, then discovered NLE software and produced short narratives on DVD with two friends, an actor and a writer.  I settled in the editing dept. only after exploring many other roles, including focus puller, spark, producer, 1stAD and continuity and I still regularly find that experience useful.

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
I use Premiere Pro a lot at the moment as it has great native workflow options for RED.  I also like the slick timeline navigation, search options and customisable user interface.  The option to replace a clip with an AE sequence is extremely useful for graphics-intensive edits, and CC seems to have stylishly closed the gap between PPro and FCP.

Give us a run through of your editing process
Here’s my editing process with narrative drama:
– I start by re-reading the script, then syncing audio and familiarising myself with all the material that has been approved by the director, while marking notable moments in each take.
– I create an Assembly by layering and syncing all of the video and audio, taking my timing from the Master, or any MW where the actors have equal on-screen presence.  I then chip away at the layered block, disabling unused clips to save them from deletion.
– The Assembly timeline looks like a giant chequerboard, so I flatten it, tweak it and roughly mix the audio to create the first Editor’s Cut (EC1).  Every cut is made from a combination of function and intuition, and is entirely subjective.
– I’ll revisit the scene after a few days to add it to a longer timeline of scenes (up to 20 mins) for context and pace, then re-watch and tweak further, creating EC2.
– I export the EC2 of the whole section as an H.264 and send to the Director.  Hopefully I’ll get a promising txt!  I’ll visit him to hear feedback and create DC1 on the spot, including placeholder shots if needed.
– DC1 is usually revisited a fortnight later to add in the newly shot placeholders and to measure the pace as objectively as possible, then shown to a private audience for feedback until locked and ready for the Online.

What tips were you given that have been really helpful?
My face lit up when I was first shown how to ripple delete hundreds of gaps in FCP7 – create two slugs on the above track at the start and end, then hold the delete key in the space between.  Magical!

How organized are you?
Meticulous…  When working with hundreds of scenes, each with several different cuts, it’s a huge waste of time not to be organised.  I liaise with the script supervisor and keep all the information I need on spreadsheets.  Also, as a freelancer and assistant I’m used to sharing project files with other editors, so I think it’s rude not to be clear with a handover.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
The script is so rich with subtextual notes, I wouldn’t want to work without it.  However, during a six-minute foreign language scene (with an English script), there was little choice but to sculpt it intuitively from the footage.  Sometimes it is important to work without the constraints of a script, for example when creating city establishers, action montages or feeling states – there’s so many golden nuggets you could inadvertently miss out.

What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?
Recently I saw the beautiful, French film, The Intouchables (2011), which admires the relationship between a wealthy, disabled aristocrat and the pitiless working-class man from the street he employs to become his carer.  The storytelling, the humour, the pace and the highs and lows of the characters all combine to make this an immersive treat…  I can’t wait to see it again.  Christopher Cain’s Young Guns (1988) is also an old favourite of mine.

On TV, I was gripped and inspired by David Yates’ State of Play (2003), edited by Mark Day who won a BAFTA for it.  Since then I’ve really enjoyed Mad Men for its subtlety, production design and dangerously good script.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
Most of my early work was in corporate video, which taught me clarity of delivery and where an audience’s focus lies on the screen.  Cutting mini-documentaries shifted my attention to building up a character’s on-screen personality.  I then began feature-length wedding films as a challenge in cinematically unfolding a story, maintaining momentum and exploring feeling states and tonal montage.  I am now most interested in independent narrative drama where there is tremendous freedom to sculpt the characters and dialogue and unlock even greater meaning from the script.  It took me a while to feel comfortable enough to begin cutting drama but there’s no way I’d hold things together if I’d taken a shortcut.

If you could meet any editor, who & why?
I’d love to ask Michael Kahn how he sculpted the Omaha beach landing in Saving Private Ryan, and how much planning of such a scene he recommends making before the shoot.  I like to make a verbal or written first cut of a scene in my head, with the director in pre-prod, though I’ve wondered what an optimum amount of planning might be to still leave creative room in the edit.  Omaha beach is utterly inspiring when I consider the thought process of editing before shooting.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
– If you have the luxury to choose, begin editing with the easiest dialogue scenes.
– Create a spreadsheet to keep track of progress for filming, importing, audio syncing, Assembly and your Editor’s Cuts.
– Take care of details in a scene while the edit is fresh (continuity, correct level of emotion) before bringing them into the context of a larger chunk of scenes, when you can take a step back and carve out the arc of character and pace.
– When faced with a difficult scene, look for moments of change that you can use to split the scene into sections, à la Omaha beach.  Tackle each section individually to reduce the intimidation of rushing through the whole scene in one swoop.
– Lay down the main characters/elements first to direct the timing before introducing minor characters/cutaways.

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I don’t really use plug-ins at the moment, but I know there are some great workflow solutions like Automatic Duck.  The only minor problem solver I use at the moment is AlphafromMaxColor.pbk in After Effects to cleanly remove white backgrounds.  I also do some colour correction with Colorista II, which works a treat.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
For best results there has to be a friendship beyond the professional link, coupled with the comfort to be brutally honest with one another.  I like us to be able to inspire each other regularly and continually build upon each others’ ideas.  When ideas don’t unfold smoothly, I talk about them away from the edit suite where there is an equal chance to explore solutions.  It’s also important to enjoy some time away from the film and reinforce the friendship – the director I’m working with on the feature, Fraternity, is a guitarist so I often bring my fiddle to the edit and we’ll chill out by bashing through a few songs!

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
I try to distinguish which choices are made by the client because they must be, and which are their creative decisions that are perhaps flexible.  Then I pitch my edit that both ticks the boxes and wears my own creative stamp, and I back up the pitch with reasons as to why it works for their audience.  Sometimes clients need persuasion to try a fresh idea.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
As powerful and versatile as editing can be, don’t let it get in the way of telling the story.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Learn to solve problems in the edit rather than just discover them.  An editor who can save production costs is valuable.

You can follow Fred on twitter @fredstreads or his website