[Frame of Reference] with Editor Deb Eschweiler

Deb Eschweiler

Deb Eschweiler is a freelancer in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, with clients in Chicago, Louisville, Denver, San Francisco & Los Angeles. “Since we are in the age where exports & uploads no longer take all day, the fact that I haven’t met all of my clients face-to-face is less of an impediment to doing good work with them as it may have been in the past”

Deb’s a facility trained editor, and although she’s not as technical as some, she does find that she’s more technical than many. “My career has spanned nearly two and a half decades that have seen a tremendous amount of change as to how we do our jobs as editors, but one thing always remains the same. Those who are in it for the love of telling good stories will find a way to keep telling stories, no matter how the technology changes our jobs.”

 
What got you interested in editing?

I found myself learning about video production in the ’80s, before it was common for public schools to have a video production department, or even merely a video camera. This was definitely before the days of desktop editing software.

Initially I wanted to edit film. I was enamored with the tactile aspect of physically cutting film. However, film is expensive, especially for a high-school kid from a middle-class family. My parents were not too keen of subsidizing an expensive “hobby” like filmmaking. My junior year of high school was spent with a mentor who taught me the basics of video production. Someone in the mentoring program had a connection at the local CBS affiliate. The mentoring folks, not knowing the difference between film production & video production, figured that video was almost the same as film, so they were going to send me to the news station for my mentorship. However, they felt that I needed to get up to speed on some things, so they first sent me to the local cable station to be trained by the cable station’s media specialist. That man & I got along very well, and I ended up working with him for the entire run of the program. I’m sure very much to my mother’s relief, as she probably would have been apoplectic at the thought of her suburban-born & bred 16-year old baby daughter driving into downtown Minneapolis five days a week.

How did you get started in editing?

The mentoring program in my county apprenticed smart kids who had exceeded what high school offered and would benefit from a different learning experience in virtually any discipline. While I learned the basics of shooting in the studio & field, as well as editing, early on my knack for editing was readily apparent. I was always good with puzzles. Having pieces to fit together to make the whole was a challenge I enjoyed and was an aspect of production with which I had early success. Like most people my age, I am of the MTV generation. To the younger me, the job of an editor was much more apparent in music videos than it was in the film-making process. Although I have only done a couple of music videos in my career, I have always thought of myself as being inspired in the early days by music video editing.

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

It depends on the job, really. Each one that I use has strengths & weaknesses in certain areas. Sometimes I don’t have a choice, as the client either owns the gear, or there are multiple editors working and we all need to be working with the same software, or the project was started using specific software and there isn’t money in budget to convert it to another NLE.

I am an Avid editor from way back in the early days. My first facility had 2, then 3, then 4 Avids, along with digital linear online suites. As senior assistant, I was responsible for maintenance & archiving projects, so I became very familiar with the systems and how they needed to be treated to be kept happy. Avid will always have a special corner in my heart.

I learned Final Cut Pro in the early ’00s when I started my freelance business. It didn’t really take off until 2003 when I upgraded to a G5 from a G3 and unintentionally built my suite around it because my clients heard that I had Final Cut Pro experience & my system. They started calling to book me before I even realized I was on my way to building a suite. My business went from 100% Avid to 30% Avid/70% FCP by the late ’00s.

I’ve always had a couple of clients who had their own Avids, so I was able to stay fresh with both Avid & FCP for the better part of a decade.

In the early ’10s, I had a client that wanted to explore Premiere Pro as a replacement for FCP Classic. So I learned Premiere Pro.

I am currently getting up to speed on FCPX, because now more than one client has decided that is the NLE that suits their needs. Which NLE I use swings from season to season, it seems. I logged more hours on Avid in the last two years than the previous five years combined. I now have in my suite the ability to use Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Classic, Premiere Pro CS6, & FCPX.

Give us a run through of your editing process

Usually I first take stock of what I have and what I need. Do I have a script? Do I need a script? Do I need to find stock music or footage? Is it a multi-day shoot and do I have everything or will they be augmenting this media with more shooting?

I tend to ingest/import camera media first so I can have an idea of what is there. Sometimes I log right away. Sometimes I wait to log until I’ve seen a script or an outline so I know what I need to log. Often I cut all the interview answers together to know what the content is and whittle it down to what they want the message to be. I work with Producer/Directors on content most of the time, so I don’t necessarily have control of the message, I just fashion it to the needs of the client based on input from the producer/director. I tend to focus on nailing down content & the message first before I move on to how it looks – unless I’m waiting for answers on content and I don’t have anything else to do.

Then I move ahead to the “make it pretty” questions. Do I need to make a graphics package from their branding elements or the theme from the event? Do I need to do color correction or add effects or treatments to the video to help make it more effective? There are a handful of clients who can’t wrap their heads around the concept of “Work-in-Progress”. Sometimes I have to make the video look nearly finished before the clients can even have a hope of following the content. They get distracted by the jump cuts if I haven’t put B-Roll in yet because I figure what’s the sense of spending their money putting in B-Roll if we’re going to cut that SOT? But they need it. There are scads of projects that I re-cut after we thought we were near the end because the people responsible for feedback just couldn’t focus on content when there was so much left to do on the “make it pretty” part. It’s only when they can sit back and watch it from the beginning to the end that they can absorb it.

So I’ve learned how to build some projects in a way that I can easily back out and go another direction. For example, I make use of transitional elements so I can take things apart, rearrange, add or delete if need be without causing a domino-effect on the rest of the piece.

What tips were you given that has been really helpful?

Triple-redundant backups. Always.

“It’s not about you”. A very well-meaning producer told me this during a rough edit session when I was but a wee assistant editor. The details of the story elude me these many years past, but the gist of it is sometimes you just have to bite the proverbial bullet and get the job done whether or not you are in agreement with all the people in the room. It wasn’t one of my “horror-story” sessions. If it was, I think I’d remember it better! It was just the way he stopped, looked at me, and earnestly said it. It didn’t sink in right away. One day, a little while later, I had the epiphany, “Oh, that’s what Steve meant!!”

How organized are you?

I have quadruple-redundant backups of my working project files. :-D. In addition to my current working project files, I have one backup on a separate hard disk on my RAID, one on a USB stick that lives on my desk, one uploaded to my Dropbox, and one saved to my personal Transporter. Sometimes I have a fifth on my FTP if I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. I usually have one full-media backup of my active projects. (though right now I probably should double-check my current projects… I may have lapsed this month).

I am a logger & and organizer. Some projects I spend more time organizing than I do editing. My process is always evolving, I find new ways to make things even easier to find on almost every new project it seems. If necessary, a non-eidtor could open up my media drives and with a short explanation, find virtually any piece of media without batting an eye.

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

Often I am given a rough outline, a pile of media (I used to say, “box of tapes”, but that’s so rare these days…), perhaps a music track, and the direction of “Let me know when there’s something to see”. Sometimes there are interview stringouts and a pile of B-Roll that may or may not be logged. Sometimes there are bona-fide scripts, complete with B-Roll timecode notated & graphic sections mapped out. Each project has it’s own challenges.

What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?

My first love was The Wizard of Oz. I am still in nerd-love with the original Star Wars movies, though I’m always skeptical of Ewoks.

As for television, I miss Leverage and am still a bit sad about Firefly being cancelled. I have a few current shows that I find interesting, but I’m waiting for the next big character-driven show that makes me miss the characters between episodes. I don’t have HBO, but according to many of my friends whose judgment I trust, Game of Thrones is probably one that I would dig quite a bit. I was able to watch the first season recently, and they may be right!

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

My first staff job was cutting news. My second job was staff editor at a facility that did a lot of marketing & training work with the Fortune 500 companies and the like that are headquartered in & around Minneapolis & St. Paul. Now that I’m freelance, many of my clients are corporate, medical & government. We do the standard fare of marketing, informational, patient-focused, physician-focused, customer-focused, employee-focused & training videos. I also do a bit of pre-event video production for live events, editing on-site for live presentation during events, as well as post-event documentation for posterity. I also have done series work for production companies with contracts with HGTV, The Travel Channel, & Discovery Networks. I’ve done spot work and narrative work. I’ve done promotional videos, training videos and web videos. I did a series of eye surgery videos.

If you could meet any editor, who & why?

I had the opportunity to get Walter Murch water during a Las Vegas FCPUG SuperMeet several years ago. He is very generous in sharing his experiences with the next generation(s). Though I was able to hang out backstage, we didn’t have the opportunity to have a personal chat, so I’d love to sit and listen to his stories and have perhaps ask a question or two. Also, Marcia Lucas. I recently read an article about the making of the first Star Wars movie and her contributions to the script as well as in the edit suite. It would have been a very different film had it not been for Marcia Lucas’ vision of the characters.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?

Break it down. Find the pieces. Find where the middle is and where the edges are. Find out who has final say early on & try to get them involved in the process if you can. There’s almost nothing worse than spending three weeks on a project and getting to the end and finding out that your client’s boss wants to rewrite everything because they never were given the opportunity to read the original draft. Also, take breaks. Recharging makes the work go faster in the end.

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

Plug-ins that fix problems are very helpful. I have seven different ways to do a light pass, & that’s great. I use some of them for different reasons depending on the circumstance. But I love plug-ins that solve problems or improve workflow. Automatic Duck, before it was released in to the wild, solved so many workflow problems for me. Though not strictly a plug-in in all cases, it is/was a peripheral piece of software that let me spend less time doing the tedious bits and more time doing the interesting bits. I also am a fan of Intelligent Assistant’s products for the same reason. I have been using 7-to-X and Event Manager for a few months now as I figure out my workflow for FCPX. The amount of things I didn’t have to re-do when translating a recurring FCP Classic project to FCPX was stunning. And though not plug-ins in the traditional sense, I recently acquired a few volumes from Rampant Design and hope to use them more in future projects when I get my next chance to be more design-y.

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?

Most of my clients & I have been working together for quite a while. When we are working together, we sometimes are extensions of each other’s brains. I know what they want because they know what they need to tell me to get the results they want, but they don’t always need to use all the words. One producer says of our relationship, “When I say it needs to be blue, you already know what shade of blue I want”. I have several producers that I can read like a book. I can tell when they are frustrated. Sometimes it’s with the client. Sometimes, yes, it’s true, it’s with me. We talk about the project, the process, where we are and where we should be. I talk openly about budget. I take responsibility when I made a mistake & I fix it. If my producer makes a mistake, and I need to fix it and there’s no budget, I fix it anyway. If the paying client makes a mistake and there’s no budget to fix it, then we discuss the situation to see if it warrants additional billing before I fix it anyway. I have only once felt like it was necessary to stop work because the project rapidly outgrew the budget because the producer failed to rein in the client and manage their expectations.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?

I go back to that advice Steve gave me all those years ago, I remind myself that “It’s not about me”. I do my job. I offer suggestions when appropriate, but experience also tells me when the person on the other end is unreceptive to input from the editor, & I’m really just there to push the buttons in the right order. Sometimes the situation calls for the ol’ saying, “Smile and take their money”. And later decide if you want to risk it again if they call back with another project. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes you just know it will never be worth it, & sometimes you have to take the chance that you can learn to work together over the course of a couple of projects. It’s rarely smooth-sailing the first few projects together. Either you can figure out what makes each other tick, or you can’t. Sometimes it really is a personality conflict. Not everyone gets along with & understands how best to work with everyone else. Sometimes it’s best to part ways amicably and hope they still feel they can recommend you to someone else who has a different working style.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?

As one of the editor’s I used to assist is very fond of saying, “Sure beats working for a living”. There are plenty of jobs I could be out there doing to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. And I might even make more money doing some of them. But what we do, though it has it’s moments of tedium punctuated with long hours & adrenaline-soaked deadlines, is not a rote, 9-to-5, rat-racey, working for the WEENUS kind of job. Most days, I love what I do, and the rest of them, well, they don’t add up enough to make it worth doing the math to add them up.

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor

If you don’t speak up, they won’t hear you. Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. This is a career of dichotomies, ironies & contradictions. Learn to be flexible and the Edit River will take you exactly where you need to go.

Follow Deb on twitter @debesch for more insights on her editing journey.

[Frame of Reference] with Editor Eddie Hamilton

EH_IBC2011_2

Eddie Hamilton recently cut Universal’s Kick-Ass 2 for writer/director Jeff Wadlow, and was co-editor on 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class (with Lee Smith) for director Matthew Vaughn. After 17 years in the industry Eddie has cut over 20 feature films (both indies and studio movies) in a wide variety of genres as well as TV dramas, documentaries and award-winning shorts. His enthusiasm for big screen storytelling is matched only by his total dedication to the craft of film editing, his world-class technical expertise and his undisputed love of chocolate. He has also given presentations on Avid Media Composer editing at NAB and IBC. Eddie is a member of American Cinema Editors and BAFTA, and was on the feature film panel at EditFest London 2013. Let’s get started.

What got you interested in editing?

This is a very simple answer. When I was seven I saw Star Wars on tv and I noticed the names at the end of the film for the first time and I thought that people must do this for a living. So I became a film knots from the age of seven. I then read as many books as I could and watch films and documentary about how films were made. I was never really taken to the cinema by my parents and I had to beg my friends parent to take me to see all the big movies in the 80’s like Radars of the Last Ark and Temple of Doom. I grew up in a very small town in the South of England where working in the film industry seemed like an impossible dream. So I read as many books as I could, listened as many film sound tracks and I watched a lot of movies. When I was about seventeen, I thought I would be a director at that point I hooked up 2 VHS machines and I basically edited little music videos and family holidays videos on 2 vhs machines and the hours would fly by in the creative process. I found that the combination of story telling and technology really suited my personality. Effectively we are professional storyteller and what I study is story telling. When I am not editing, I am reading books about story telling and I’m trying to learn how to be a better storyteller. And then I actually studied Psychology at university but that was because there weren’t many films school in England and they had a really good student film society at University College of London, which is where I studied. The guy who was the president of the film society, the year above me, was Chris Nolan and he went on to great success. he was an incredibly nice person and very intelligent, he was studying English Literature at UCL. There were quite a few people there who were very passionate about films and we use to hang out every day talking about making films. I spent about 4 hours a day editing student films, I mean about everyday through the 3 years of university I would spend  about 4 hours editing even though I was studying Psychology. I then applied to film school but back then there were only 3 or 4 film schools in the UK that were very good. I applied to them all and I didn’t get into any of them. So I didn’t get into film school but I still really wanted to do this so I got a job as a runner in an editing facility in central london and I taught myself how to use all the hardware and all avid editing software. I also taught myself how to use all the hardware machines and how to copy tapes and all the technical stuff that you need to know. Somebody was making a very very low-budget film and I asked if they had an editor and they didn’t so I went straight to where their production office was and I managed to persuade them to give me the job editing the film.

When I started in the first 2 or 3 years I did a lot of television and I actually spent most of my time editing portuguese and spanish sport programme and I don’t speak portuguese or spanish and I don’t really like sport. It was very pressured editing and it was very time sensitive. There were very hard deadlines so I had to work hard and fast so I got to learn the media composer very well in that time, but I really wanted to work in film. If you have a passion for something you need to single mindedly aim for it otherwise you will get sidetracked and end up doing something else and then its quite hard to get back on track, so you have to make sure that you are always aiming for what you want to do.

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

Working on a movie where people are collaborating, where you have an editor or 2 and several assistants Media Composer is the only choice, especially for a movie of a certain budget. I haven’t used the new Adobe Premiere very much. I’ve done 2 films on Final Cut Pro 7 and i find it not professional. I found that it was a struggle to work with it professionally and its very hard to work with for anything longer than half an hour.

Give us a run through of your editing process?

I’m one of these editors who work quite a lot with sound effects and music to polish what i do. So I normally bring audio and sound effects into the project straight away and set up a folder structure that works well for me. I’m very strict on quality control and I make sure that everything that goes into media composer is video legal and there is no illegal blacks or whites. I make sure the sound is perfectly synced. So I will get my assistant to check the sync on the sound and make sure its perfect. They will group multi camera clips for me so that I can switch between multi cameras if there is 2 or 3 camera filming a scene. Then they will lay out the bins for each scene with a certain structure that I like and that I have developed over the years. I like to have all the sound imported not just the editors mix tracks so that I can dip into the isotracks and make sure that I am using the best quality recording for each line of dialogue. What I’ve been doing over the last couple of years is that I won’t watch all the dailies before I cut the scene, what I’ll do is I’d watch a wide shot to get the idea of the pace and the flavour of the scene and then I’d just cut the scene quite quickly without worrying too much about whether I’ve got the best performance or anything. So I will just go through and I will just cut the scene so I’ve got like this framework. Then you’ll start to get the sense of what the strengths and weakness are within the scene when you’ve done that, you start to get a feeling of where the actors are struggling or where they are doing well and you will start to find out the problems that you need to solve to make the scene work well. Then I will sit and watch all the dailies and I normally load out the dailies in a single sequence on the source timeline and I will play it through and anything that i like or anything that strikes me as being good I’ll just drop it in my sequence that I’ve thrown together in roughly the right place. After I’ve watched like an hour or 2 hours of dailies or however much there is, I’ll have like a big sequence, which is all the best fits of the scene and then I can go through and refine that. It’s fairly quick but also once you’ve watched the dailies you then intimately know what the director was trying to guide the actors to do in each take. I will then go through and work on the sound for the scene and often spend as much time on the sound as I do on the picture because its half the storytelling. Sometimes I will cut with no sound and I will just listen to the sound after I’ve put the scene together. So I make sure that all the dialogue tracks are beautifully clean and I have my edit suite calibrated to a theatrical level so when I’m playing with sound back I know how it will sound in the theatre. I also like to work with 5.1 in my edit suite so that I know what is coming from the centre speakers, the  sides and back and the subwoofer. On the timeline I have 4 mono dialogue tracks, 4 mono effects tracks, 2 stereo effects tracks and 2 stereo music tracks. I have quite a detail soundtrack built up and for a simple dialogue scene you don’t use very much, you might use a couple of dialogue tracks and a bit of music, but when you get to the effects heavy scene you use all the tracks and the timeline gets very full. Then I’ll work on it and refine it and make sure that it is presentable and it looks and sounds great. Then lastly show the director. I’m one of those editors who must be left alone at the first assembly to watch the footage and figure it out and then ill let the director watch it when i think I’ve got something thats worth watching.

What tips were you given that has been really helpful?

It’s more of a kind of work ethic. I would say always try to do your best work everyday. Never settle for second best, set your quality bar very very high because your reputation is everything in the industry and if you have a reputation of somebody who works fast and hard, and completely reliable then you will succeed because producers need you to do your job and they need you to do it fast and well. Once you have all those qualities then people will want to hire you again. The main thing is always work incredibly hard and never turn in a work if you don’t think it’s as good as it can be.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?

If the director is open to discussing the problem then we can find a solution but if they’re not open to discussing the problem then there isn’t much you can do. You have to let the director make the film they want to make and my job is to help the director make the film they want to make. So if they disagree with me then its their film and they get to make the final choice. All I can do is bring my storytelling experience and tell them what I think but if they disagree with me then there is nothing I can do.

What advise can you offer to get through complex edits?

The most important thing is to just get to the end of the scene somehow. don’t worry about the quality of what you are doing just get to the end because it is similar to when you are writing a script, you have to get to the end of the script and then you can actually start to refine it. If you get stuck on a scene just force yourself to go through it even though it is painful and then get pass it and then one of 2 things will happen, you either come in the next day and say hey thats not bad or you will look at it and you will be fairly clear on whats wrong and what you need to do. But you must have something so that you can start assessing whether you can turn left or turn right. If you just have a blank canvas there is nothing you can do. So my advise will be to just get through the scene, get to the end of it. If you need to take a break for 10 minutes then do that, if you need to take a walk or go buy an ice-cream or get a smoothie or something then do that but get through it and don’t waste time on the internet checking social media just sit and force yourself to get through it because once you get to the end it will be much easier to figure out how to get to the next step.

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?

The most important thing is the emotion of the story at that moment. The editor has to be puppet for the audience’s emotion. You have to understand what you are doing to the audience’s perception of the film when you make a cut. You have to understand what story am I telling here and then when I make a cut what story am I telling here and are the audience’s emotions going to alter. So effectively your job is to make sure that you manipulate their emotions in the best possible way. So you have to make sure that with every cut you are telling a particular story or inferring some emotion whether its tension, or excitement or action or love or fear or horror; every cut contributes to that. In my opinion, the editor is the master of emotions.

What advise would you give an aspiring editor?

I would say edit as much as you can because you only improve by doing the job. So get in touch with young film makers or directors and offer to edit their films for free and do as much as you can. The other thing I would say is working at a professional level as an editor is not just about storytelling and creativity, it is very technical and you have to be very meticulous and very organised. It is very important that you understand how the technology works intimately so that you don’t make technical mistakes that cost a lot of money to fix. So I would say strongly, if you want to be a professional editor you need to get professional experience somehow and that means getting a job in a post production facility and working there for 2 or 3 years teaching yourself how everything is done properly, so that you understand how every single piece of equipment works, you understand how everything is done, you understand how not to make mistakes. Then you can either get yourself a job as an assistant and watch the editor or just start editing and i did that, I just started editing very low budget and feature films and slowly built up from there and this process takes a long time, it will take a few years unless you are incredibly lucky and one of the films you worked on wins the palm door at Cannes, it will take quite a long time to get established. When you are working on studio/hollywood films you must have a strong track record and they prefer to hire older more experienced people that they know will do the job quicker and better than younger people who are inexperienced.

So the main thing is, edit as much as you can, and if you don’t have any footage to edit then go and shoot something on your phone and go edit and put it on youtube. Write a script on saturday morning, go and shoot on saturday afternoon, edit it on sunday and put it on youtube on sunday night. and if you do that for like every week for a year then you will be pretty good.

Bonus Insight

Be grateful that you are doing the job and don’t complain.  I meet a lot of editors who complain and I don’t understand why because you are doing the best job, you have one of the best jobs and you are very lucky being paid to do that. So even when it seems bad it’s no where near as bad as virtually every other job you could be doing.  So be grateful that you are being paid to do something that you love.

I feel like we have the best job because when you make a film you have many people working on the film to make the magic happen between action and cut, to get the images in the camera, teams upon teams of people such as art department and wardrobe, hair and makeup and special effects and visual effects and actors and camera teams, and then all the footage comes to you and it’s just you and you are the first person to see the film come to life before anybody else on the planet and thats a very privileged position to be in because you heard that a lot of people will see the film but you are the very first person even before the director so how the scenes are coming to life and how the actors are bringing the scene to life and that’s great and I love it, I never lose sight of that. I really treasure that every day.

Follow Eddie on twitter @eddiehamilton or his check out his website

[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 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 Jack Newman

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Jack Newman is from a small seaside town in South Devon. One of those towns with nothing to offer for teenagers. “Fortunately I was given a camera to keep me busy. What kept me more busy though was the edit after each day of filming. I would see how I could make something nice to watch, using the correct timing and effects on the content. And I never stopped”.

What got you interested in editing?
Well, originally it was a necessity. Then I realised just how much opportunity lies within the edit. It’s a very cathartic process to refine something into a final product. It’s a way of making sense of our own thought processes.

How did you get started in editing?
It started when I made (terrible) videos with friends. I would spend a long time cleaning it up, making something to be proud of, but what was the difference between good and bad? The more I studied film the more it made sense. Film conventions had purpose and reason. And now I could articulate this. Then at university the discussions I had with my class mates allowed me to develop my own thoughts on film. All of this is articulated best within the edit suite, so i never left!

What is your preferred NLE(s) of choice? Why?
I primarily use Avid. I’ve had the good fortune to be trained by Avid to use it. The control you have, and have to use, is astounding. The export compression is so efficient that it’s pointless trying to .zip the file. And the colour correction tools provide you with everything you need, aside from secondary colour correction, which is theoretically possible with some good keying. Experimenting with that has taught me a lot about keying. Some one once said to me that if you learn how to use Avid, other editing softwares are second nature.

Give us a run through of your editing process
I use Avid so step one is import and wait. I’ll either choose the shots after or have them selected before import. I then make a rough cut with my preferred shots. I treat it like taking notes so I don’t always assemble the cut chronologically. Once this is done I go into refine mode and watch through the cut, see if the cuts work and if not I adjust or replace shots until I am confident in the sequence VFX. During this process if I have spare time I begin the colour grade to start realising the film world a bit more, it can change your choice of shot. Then if it’s my job I add the SFX at the end or during the cut as needed.

What tips were you given that was really helpful?
My tutor would tell me that working with a director is like being a psychotherapists. To be a good editor you have to be able to pick up on the directors intentions and feelings without them telling you directly. The theories of the psychoanalytic tie in deeply with film.

How organized are you?
I try to keep on top of things, and complete jobs as soon as I can, at least before the next project comes to bite me on the ass! I bought an iPad late last year and to be honest it does most of the organising for me. All my notes, emails, social networks are all in one place that I can carry around. As for my desk. I like to think everything has its own home, but it’s such a small desk, so it clutter very easily.

Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
I actually prefer to work without a script. If I’m not in the same room as the director, then I might read the script beforehand. I think it helps build something a new audience can understand. I don’t keep shots in for the sake of the script, or a shot that took a long time to get. And often scripts can be stilted and impossible to comparable to the final performances.

What is your favorite film? Favorite Tv show?
Favourite Tv show has got to be Breaking Bad. Amazing character development, though I watch more cartoons, like the Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, its pure insanity like Ren and Stimpy, they would never use the facial expression twice. Film wise I love Another Year by Mike Leigh, great editing and scripting.

What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
I have done narrative, corporate videos, music videos and weddings (never again). Obviously more a fan of narrative and music videos. Narrative allows me to discuss the theory of the edit more. Especially when editing animations. Music videos are just pleasing. They’re much more rigid edits, you have to cut to the beat a lot, but colour wise I have a lot more free reign.

If you could meet any editor, who and why?
Roderick Jaynes! Just like to meet the Coens really. Realistically, it would be cool to meet Jeffery Ford, the editor of One Hour Photo, and more recently Avengers Assemble. It was much like Lee Smith’s edit of Inception. Keeping a balance between several layers of dreaming, or in this case several layers of A-listers. The balance they struck was impeccable.

What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Keep a cool head and keep notes! I have searched for shots for hours before. And if it feels like you’ve watched it too many times, then step away. Go for a cup of tea, or sleep on it and come back tomorrow. It’s more worth your time. Especially sleeping on it. I swear my head solves half my edit problems when I’m asleep!

Which plug-in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
I mostly use Avid’s native tools, as they work so well! And match Pro Tools’ audio effects, so is best for my workflow. The majority of my downloaded plug-ins are extra QuickTime Codecs!

How does the director-editor relationship work for you?
It’s a different experience every time, but control wise I discuss which takes the director prefers and why (sometimes you have to make sure a director is definitely happy with). Then when it’s in the timeline, it’s my domain and although I experiment with the directors suggestion the final say is mine. I am open-minded with a lot of suggestions but when I know something doesn’t work I have to put my foot down.

How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
If things become confused or if the client is not being clear, I get them to step back for a second and start from the beginning. The key to the edit is communication and if that fails then so does the edit. If the client is unsure I help ‘guide’ them with suggestions on how it should be cut and then I often make it seem like their idea, everybody wins!

What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
Relax. If you make an edit under any other circumstance than this, then it will be compromised by your emotion. It’s the directors job to compromise projects with their emotions. Some drink to feel the emotion of the cut, but there are so many technicalities to be aware of these days!

Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor
Learn Avid, it’s scary but you’ll have a new appreciation for editing. And a much more in-depth understanding of how any editing software works.

Catch up with Jack on twitter @jack_editing his website www.jackediting.com and Facebook