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What Do Our Members Do?



FINNIAN MURRAY - PICTURE EDITOR

December 2020

Where are you currently employed?

NBC – from the comfort of my basement workstation.

 

Current projects?

I’m finishing a fun pilot called “Connecting.” It’s a Zoom-style half-hour comedy for NBC. The most notable and unique aspect of this project is that everyone is working remotely, including the actors! With guidance from the director, DP, and crew, they set up and film themselves. Pre-COVID, I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever be working in such a way. It’s made me realize the world of post-production is possibly a more social place than it gets credit for.

 

Other current projects include:

 

Trying to ignore the things around the house that need fixing — that was so three months ago. I need a break.

 

Homeschooling two kids, 5th and 6th grade, which I find inevitably leads to a cocktail hour. When did math change?

 

Describe your job.

My job is tremendous fun. I love and enjoy stories. I believe picture editors have a unique position — we get to be a little bit of everything: writers, as we trim or reorder scenes; directors, as we evaluate performances and create an even tonal arc for the characters; and DPs, as we pore over the images and select those that best convey the desired emotion. Editing is a collaborative effort that, when done well, is a magical experience.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

When I was in high school, my father, Professor Stephen Murray, who had started the Media Center for Art History at Columbia University, brought home a Hi8 camcorder. I was quickly attracted to what it could enable me to do. With that camera, I made my first stop-motion animation, which would go on to win a Tri-State art show adjudicated by Robert Storr, the curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). As with most people making their own projects, I had to do most everything, including editing.

 

Who gave you your first break?

I think that my parents, Grainne and Stephen, probably qualify as giving me my first break… right?

 

As far as my break as an editor, there is one person who immediately comes to mind: Sean Backus. After a couple of years of trying to support myself in a half-baked career as a semi-professional motorcycle racer, I moved to Los Angeles with about $750 to my name. Although I’d learned how to run an Avid at NYU, most of the work I could find was short format or industrial material that was cut on Final Cut Pro. I cold-called every post house and chased down every internet job posting. That was pretty grim. When I was lucky enough to get called in for an interview, I had a front row seat to watching the interview end the moment I mentioned it had been a while since I worked on an Avid. After three weeks of calling a company on the advice that “they’re always looking for editors,” I finally got an interview with Sean.

 

If I was going to make this professional editor thing work, I had to make a change in my interview strategy. After the ritual opening pleasantries, sure enough the Avid question came up. This time I knew just what to do: “Of course I know Avid, like the back of my hand,” which was followed by “Of course I can start on Monday.” This was on a Friday. On the way home, feeling a mixture of excitement and terror, I stopped at Samuel French’s book store (too bad it’s no longer around), got Sam Kauffman’s Intermediate editing handbook, and then locked myself in a room for two days to consume the material. The job involved cutting show segments for a HGTV show, and I was extremely lucky it was a night gig; that way, no one could see me struggle to make a simple edit or know how many hours I’d spent there. In short order, I got to know Avid like the back of my hand — and here I am 15 years later, still getting paid to do this. Thank you, Sean.

 

My first union break came from Thomas Bolger, the cousin of my good friend Francis. Thomas was kind enough to take me out to lunch when I first got to LA, and he gave me the sage advice to get my ducks in a row and join the union. Over the next year or two as I cut short-format and reality-based material, I slowly accumulated the necessary hours and documentation required to join the Guild. Occasionally, I would check in with Thomas to ask for advice or to let him know what I was cutting. One day, he called to tell me that “Rescue Me” needed an assistant to fill in for a bit – and that was my ticket. I paid my initiation fee and was on my way… except for one small problem: I’d never assisted. Thomas was there to help walk me through the technical aspects of the job, for which I’m eternally grateful.

 

What was your first union job?

Rescue Me” was my first union gig. It was a great place with great people. Leslie Tolan was the supervising editor, and I was lucky enough to be the assistant tasked with prepping drives to send her as well as “tech-ing” her system. It was a great opportunity to talk with her. She was generous with her advice and time. I would practice cutting scenes and she would watch them and give feedback. Leslie and Dauri Chase gave me my first episode to cut, which turned out well, and that led to cutting two more episodes that season. The experience was thrilling. I got to cut the series’ penultimate episode, which wound up getting nominated for a Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) award for “Outstanding Television Editing.” I was told that getting your second credit is more difficult … and that was true. I worked every angle I had, but it turns out not too many people want to risk hiring someone with three episodes and a whole bunch of shorts on their CV. I remember contemplating that if I was fortunate to win the HPA award, would it be poor form to solicit the audience for editing opportunities?

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

The opening sequence to the pilot “Blindspot” is something that I’m pretty proud of. The scope was massive. They shut down Times Square to shoot it, the story is intriguing, and the images are arresting. The opening sequence is about three minutes long with only a few lines of dialogue. I’m proud of it mostly because, with the exception of it getting a little shorter, it didn’t change from the way I’d originally envisioned it.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I think the biggest challenge can be respecting a healthy work/life balance. I’m thankful for my wife, Emily, who helped me with this. Work can be consuming, and I do feel that you should always bring your best to every aspect of a job. But as my grandmother frequently said, “You’ll be a long time dead.” That quote didn’t make much sense to me when I was five, but it makes a great deal of sense now.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

For the pilot of “The Enemy Within,” I had to cut and lock a massive VFX sequence and explosion for the show’s opening. That would not typically be a big deal, but on this occasion, it had to happen on the same day I got the dailies for the sequence. It was intense and there was a lot of energy in the room. We were back and forth with the director and the VFX house. It was exhausting, but fun.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I hope to continue to work with excellent people. John Axness, a fellow editor, once gave me some pretty sage advice: “You can choose the project for the content or for the people; always choose for the people.”

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Spending time with family. There’s certainly been a great deal of that over this pandemic.

 

Painting. I originally went to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to study animation, and while there, I developed a love for the smell of oil paint and linseed oil. There’s a kind of meditative process to painting that I enjoy. Editing and painting are not too dissimilar; both are a balance of expression and control.

 

Triathlon. Swimming is hard, and I want to hate it, but I can’t. I originally signed up for a triathlon to learn how to swim. That was seven years ago, and while I’m still a terrible swimmer, I’ve found that I really enjoy the event. I’m lucky that my wife shares this pastime. Together, we’ve qualified several times for age group nationals.

 

Cookies. Baking them and then eating them.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

“City of God” and “Five Easy Pieces” pieces are my two favorite movies. There’s a looseness, honesty, and energy in the way they tell their stories. I’ll never forget the first time I saw “City of God.” The striking imagery of a knife being sharpened, cuts to black, then staccato micro flashes; together, these create an environment. This bombastic energy builds to set up the sharp and imaginative style for the rest of the movie.

 

My favorite scene in a movie is in “Five Easy Pieces.” Jack Nicholson’s character, the prodigal son, has returned home on the news that his estranged father has had a stroke. On a cold windswept field overlooking the ocean, the son finally has the conversation – soliloquy, really — that he should have had years ago with his beatific-looking stroke-addled father. It’s wonderfully simple, subtle, and filled with tremendous emotional energy.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

I thoroughly enjoy nature documentaries or anything that gives me a better understanding and appreciation of the world around me.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

I have fortunately crossed paths with a number of sage and generous people in this industry. I tend to seek advice from Steve Rasch, ACE, and I’m bereft at the recent loss of Ned Bastille, ACE.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Jack Lemmon is credited with a terrific quote: “No matter how successful you get, always send the elevator back down.” We’ve all come from a place at the bottom and we’ve each spent time and energy to get up to where we are now. I’m always happy to share my experiences and help guide folks who are looking to move up from assisting or are exploring getting into the industry. My primary piece of advice is “Story, story, story.” To me, the most important skill needed to succeed as an editor is an intimate knowledge of story structure. Beyond that, it’s all about being at the right place at the right time and being able to surpass expectations when called upon.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

Other than on a daily basis? I’m grateful to be part of a union. I genuinely believe in “e pluribus unum,” especially given our current socio-political climate.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

I’ve been reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius and came across a quote that I really like. “Why doth a little thing said or done against thee make thee sorry? It is no new thing; it is not the first, nor shall it be the last, if thou live long. At best suffer patiently, if thou canst not suffer joyously.”

 

–Compiled by David Bruskin

Interested in being featured in What Our Members Do? Email Scott Collins at scollins@editorsguild.com. 

JOHN AXELRAD - PICTURE EDITOR

November 2020

Where are you currently employed?

Freelance.

 

Current projects?

 

I’m additional editing on Netflix’s “Fear Street” film trilogy.

 

Describe your job.

33% craftsman, 33% politician, 33% psychologist, 1% magician.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I went to film school thinking—like most film students—that I wanted to be a director. But I soon learned that I didn’t enjoy having to deal with real-world hassles working on a film set. I discovered that my creativity flourished in the dark confines of an editing room. Plus, the editing craft was better suited to my introverted personality.

 

Who gave you your first break?

In the early 90’s I was lucky enough to get tutored in film editorial (yes, 35mm film) by the talented editor Hibah Schweitzer, ACE. The skills I learned with her helped me get my next job as a second assistant film  editor with Benjamin Chulay, ACE, and first assistant Alex Seymour. I learned Avid Media Composer when it became available, and the combination of film and Avid skills helped propel my career as an assistant editor in television and features.

 

What was your first union job?

In 1994, I was assistant editing on a non-union television movie that “got flipped” to union during production. It was harder to get into the union back then, so I was happy to find my way in.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

I worked on several feature films where I was able to get my first assistant editor promoted to co-editor with me. A few times I was able to at least get my first assistant promoted to an “additional editor” credit. I enjoy mentoring my assistants in the editing craft, and I am proud when their hard work and creative contribution gets recognized with a bumped-up editing credit.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

When editing Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead,” I had a very challenging final music sequence. It was a live jazz performance with five prominent musicians. They shot with nine cameras and did six takes. There was a click track, but it was completely useless—because this was live JAZZ! Every take was different, and it was impossible to gang them all together!  I definitely had to edit among all six takes, because the five musicians and the nine cameras were always doing different things. I flagged all the best moments, but It was a challenge just to find the jazz beat cutting from one take to another. It took me about four days to finish this sequence with the director. To top it all off, I was sick with whooping cough at the time.  But in the end, it remains one of the sequences I am most proud of editing.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

I had a blast editing the films “Crazy Heart” and “Rudderless” because I joined each show after production had finished shooting. This meant that I was able to edit both films in chronological story order. It was such a creative relief to put an assembly together this way instead of dealing with the sporadic nature of dailies.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I hope to continue to be editing quality projects with creative people I enjoy working for.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I enjoy traveling, photography, and storm chasing!

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

Probably my favorite movie is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” There is something about that film that speaks to male insecurity and vulnerability. It’s rare to see fragile male protagonists resonate as well as Jimmy Stewart in that role. I saw the film when I was much younger, and it profoundly affected me. Plus Alfred Hitchcock was a master filmmaker of the human psyche. “Vertigo” ranks among his best.

 

Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?

Last year I was blown away by HBO’s “Chernobyl.” The portrayal of Soviet 1980s culture was fascinating and captivating, and this real life event was handled expertly in all phases of storytelling. All the crafts — cinematography, editing, production design and direction — were so well done. The character portrayals really humanized this global disaster and themes of government putting their interests over the well-being of its citizens really resonates today.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

When I was employed for 10 years as an assistant editor. Pretty much every editor I worked for was a mentor to me. I was very fortunate to have learned the craft (and politics) of editing by having several different editors take me under their wing. If I had to do it all over again, I would not trade in those 10 years of assistant experience. It helped shape me into the editor I am today.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

I would tell someone interested in pursuing a career in film and television that it’s all about networking. Meet as many people as you can and be especially gracious for their time. Ask for career advice from people already established, and remember to send follow-up “thank you” letters. You will be remembered by people in the industry if you come across as humble, friendly, and hard-working.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

One of my very first editing jobs was a non-union feature that flipped to union during the shoot—but the producers never told me and continued to pay me non-union until the end. Months after the film had finished, Cathy Repola helped me get my union hours properly credited.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

Words of encouragement: get involved! Whether it be running for the Board of Directors serving on a committee, or volunteering at an event, be involved in the great work our Guild is doing. If you don’t have time for any of the above, at least make sure to vote in Guild affairs.

 

Compiled by Jeffrey Burman. 

Interested in being featured in What Our Members Do? Contact Scott Collins at SCollins@editorsguild.com. 

SABRINA GIMENEZ - ASSISTANT EDITOR

October 2020

Where are you currently employed?

Currently working from home for Netflix.

 

Current projects?

“Yes Day” directed by Miguel Arteta, edited by Jay Deuby.

 

Describe your job.

As an assistant editor, my job is to help prepare the dailies during production for my editor. After I receive them from the post production facility, I feed them into the AVID and cross-check them with the paperwork given to me by production (camera reports, sync logs, audio, scripts). After quality-checking them for picture or audio issues, I prep them for editorial use, including marking “Action” on all takes for the editor. My other duties include scripting the scenes as they come in — copy-and-pasting from the show’s script into the AVID as a way to identify shot content in raw dailies —  or addressing notes the editor drops for me in their timeline throughout the day. I’m also there to clean things up, offer some music ideas if a scene is needing inspiration, add background temp sound effects as scenes progress, and create temporary visual effects placeholders for our vendors to match.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I was originally in trailer editing but had always been interested in scripted format. I produced Latinx marketing spots for Disney and Pixar for a few years, writing scripts and building upon the content for our demographics. After several years, I found myself drawn more to a film’s storytelling than its marketing.  Although I learned so much on the job at Trailer Park, the entertainment marketing agency where I worked, I set my sights on assisting an editor who was creating the story for a film or TV show. I love storytelling, and I wanted to challenge myself to do it in longer formats.

 

Who gave you your first break?

I was fortunate enough to have a mentor, David Bess, whom I had met in my senior year of college when we connected through the University of Oregon’s Cinema Studies alumni network. David reached out on my behalf to a former colleague who happened to work where I wanted to work, Trailer Park. He passed my name along at an opportune moment when the agency’s satellite office was hiring a coordinator/assistant editor. David has had my back ever since.

 

 What was your first union job?

While all my work at trailer houses had been on union films, my shop was non-union. The first union gig I took was this year, as assistant editor for Jay Deuby on Miguel Arteta’s film “Like a Boss.”

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

“Like a Boss.” I’m honored and humbled to have worked with an iconic director like Miguel Arteta, who allowed me onto his film even though I only had my agency experience. I feel really proud of my efforts and the leap of faith it took to switch gears after embedding myself so fully in marketing in years past. I’m also proud that, as a Latinx individual in the union, I can be seen and heard by other Latinxs in the industry.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I think the technical aspects of turnovers and learning to get them done in a timely manner was the most challenging aspect for me, especially visual effects turnovers. They require so much attention to detail and consistency. Every night for a few weeks, I read about how to master Filemaker Pro, and I’m proud that I managed to learn it with relatively little guidance. At the same time, though, it’s less than ideal to study highly technical things late in the evening when no one is around to ask for help. The more turnovers I did, the more I learned to reach out during the day to more experienced folks and then apply their suggestions to my workflow. For the last two films I worked on, I oversaw the visual effects editing from start to finish. It was exciting to finally send a turnover that had few if any errors.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Stephanie Ito, Executive Vice President of Post Production at Paramount Pictures, overheard me talk about how much I love ice cream and surprised me on a particularly busy week with ice cream macaroon sandwiches from Milk Bar. It wasn’t just one sandwich; there were 12 flavors to choose from! After that, if she caught me in the elevator, she’d ask me how I was doing and if I wanted any ice cream that day. It brings a huge smile to my face!

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

Sincerely and optimistically, I’d like to have cut at least two features and perhaps some TV shows. I love independent cinema. I want to tell stories that historically have been marginalized in film and cut them in a way that increases on-screen representation of underserved groups in our society. Maybe in the future, I can be part of larger organizations like ACE that promote diversity in storytelling and honor folks in the industry by encouraging them to keep on their path towards visibility.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I like skateboarding with friends. As an adult, I think it’s fun to see others my age doing that and not take it too seriously. I also dance with the LA Unbound Dance Company and have choreographed hip hop dances on occasion. I’m passionate about womxn’s access to healthcare, and I volunteer as a clinic escort on weekends. I’m also a big advocate for mental health resources and transparency. Removing the taboo surrounding mental health issues in relation to our jobs in editorial is a big deal for me. I’m motivated to ask my fellow union members what they need in order to be healthy and succeed on the job.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

“Clueless” (1995) is my favorite film of all time. I learned to speak conversational English by watching it repeatedly on TV. I’m a fan of dark absurd comedies, so “The Big Lebowski” (1998) checks all the boxes for me. I think it’s relatable in an odd way, and I sometimes find myself aspiring to channel The Dude energy in my daily work vibes. That conflicts with my also wanting to embody Cher from “Clueless,” but they are not mutually exclusive.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

Lately, I’m enjoying “Ramy” and “PEN15” on Hulu. They are both authentic stories that I relate to on different levels, and they utilize comedy in subversive and unexpected ways. I respect the editorial work that goes into both shows. The casting is fantastic as well. They are shot with an intimate lens focused on the characters we want to root for – but maybe also want to shake for not making good choices. “Ramy” is an excellent study in moral ambiguity and the slippery slope of good intentions. “PEN15” is a massive throwback to my middle-school days. It’s traumatizing and hilarious, scary and personal. The creators brilliantly conceived that playing their 13-year-old selves alongside other actual middle-school-aged kids was the perfect casting strategy to tell this story. It’s original and refreshing, something I didn’t expect from a show called “PEN15.”

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

I have a couple of mentors I can safely approach with anything, professional or personal. My mentor from my marketing days is David Bess who, as I mentioned earlier, got me my first break. Now, in scripted features and TV, I’m being mentored by Jacquelyn Le. Back in film school, I hoped and yearned to find a mentor exactly like Jacquelyn when I got into the industry. She came up in agency work and then transitioned into scripted editing, so her career trajectory was similar to what I’ve been experiencing up to this point in my career. It’s really helpful to have someone like her guide me as I navigate more and more shows. I’m eternally grateful for her patience and time spent answering my questions.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

I believe it’s really important to have hobbies and a life outside of assistant editing because it’s actually the best way I’ve built my network and met new people. I think that helped me find people in editorial who were invested in showing me how to navigate a career, together with other assistants they knew, and were willing to let me shadow them during their workday. It gave me an opportunity to ask questions without having the pressure of possibly failing on the job. After someone lands an assistant editor job, I’d say cut anything and everything you can. Get enough experience with the software, know how to solve problems, troubleshoot solutions, and be resourceful. Watch the cut as many times as you need in order to know what story the editor and director are trying to tell. And don’t lose sight of what storytelling means for you. A self-starting but humble and curious assistant editor can go really far. I try to keep all of this in mind as I step into my role every day at work.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I attended an LGBTQIA steering committee roundtable discussion as I was seeking advice on how to manage queer politics and identity in the workplace. The roundtable discussion was fantastic and so open-minded. Everyone was there to find solutions to making their workplaces — and by extension, the union — safer. The union gained my trust big-time after that event.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

Our mental health is sorely tested during this pandemic. Although everyone is fighting their own battles, we should be there to support each other and offer a helping hand when another union member needs something. Also, it’s our duty to increase representation of our historically marginalized BIPOC union members. That means we don’t let our brothers and sisters fall behind. We all deserve a chance to succeed alongside each other free of discrimination and racism, which we should never stop working to banish from the workplace — and everywhere else.

 

Compiled by David Bruskin

Interested in being featured in What Our Members Do? Contact Scott Collins at SCollins@editorsguild.com. 

CHARLES SYDNOR - MUSIC EDITOR

September 2020

Where are you currently employed?
I am at home, waiting for the world to open.

 

Current projects?

As soon as things open up, we will mix a film directed by Dennis Dugan.

 

Describe your job.

I help tell stories by placing music to picture. It ranges from the mundane, like cutting source music into perspective for the dubbing mixers, to the more creative such as constructing the score for key montage sequences. I spot the shows with the producers and composers and music supervisors to decide where the music should go and what purpose it serves. I often participate in the song cue selection and placement. Ideally, I get the music approved by the show runners before the mix, prepare all of the music for the mix, make changes on the stage if needed, prepare cue sheets so everyone entitled can get performance royalties, and I deliver files to the studios for archiving. On some shows I create the temp score using existing score or library music for studio executive screening. I am a liaison between the composer and editorial department and the one who executes for the showrunners the final changes they want made as they finish their shows.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I’ve known since I was a boy I wanted to make music and have always just gone from the next indicated step to the next in order to end up where I am now.

 

Who gave you your first break?

My older brother’s high school best friend Randall Wallace moved from Lynchburg, Va., to Los Angeles and became a screenwriter. He grew friendly with the TV composer Mike Post. At the time, I was playing in bands and writing commercial jingles and corporate soundtracks in Richmond, Va. Randall invited me out to meet Mike, so I decided I should just go for it. I drove cross-country and presented myself at Mike’s office. I eventually got a job doing studio cartage for his sessions (as well as many car washes and grocery-store runs). After a while, I worked in his studio as a programmer and recording engineer. Later, I worked for Mike and John Bidasio’s studio/editorial company, Westwind, where I helped the music editors with technical issues. Eventually, I started to work as a music editor myself.

 

I’ve gotten a few big breaks since. Music supervisor (and now music editor) Julie Houlihan has sent a few things my way, including “Malcolm In The Middle.” Producer Linwood Boomer took a big chance on me and changed my life.

 

What was your first union job?

I actually first joined the Sound Local 695 as a scoring mixer, mixing live sessions for TV shows such as “Hunter.” Later, 695 merged with the Editors Guild. One of my first union jobs as music editor was the pilot and first season of “New York Undercover,” a tumultuous show which provided a few stories that are entertaining in hindsight.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

I was the composer and music editor on “Malcom In The Middle,” and I am proud of my work there. My composing for that show was nominated for an Emmy. There are some big musical moments in “Sons of Anarchy” that were rewarding to create, working closely with composer Bob Thiele, editors including Hunter Via and Jordan Goldman, and especially executive producer Kurt Sutter.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

Finding the right balance between my ambition to improve my professional situation versus taking for granted the opportunities I currently have has been a big challenge. My daily practice of meditation, yoga, and personal creativity helps me see things more clearly and focus on the things I can control. The more I am concerned with others, e.g. comparing myself to others’ accomplishments and talents, worrying about others’ perceptions of me, etc., the more prone I am to resentment. Working every day on my own creative projects is key to keeping me cheerful when I show up to work.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Every day at “Malcolm In The Middle,” I was grateful to be there. We all brought our best in an environment of creativity and mutual respect and much laughter. Working with Victor Fresco on the excellent “Santa Clarita Diet” was a delight.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

Same as now — I hope to work with kind, creative, intelligent people who appreciate my talents and enjoy collaborating to make the best work possible.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Meditation, yoga, fitness, delicious plant-based food, my two Chihuahuas, traveling the world with my love Emily Lawless. I create music: orchestral concert works, chamber music, songs. I am currently finishing an album of guitar-based songs.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

“O Brother Where Art Thou” — I love its sprawling spectacle, its music, its link to classic literature. “Pulp Fiction” — its pure entertainment value, innovative form, dialogue. I enjoy the way Quentin Tarantino uses music in all his films. “Idiocracy” — though it’s not as funny living in it. “Shawshank Redemption” and its iconic score. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich” — I love Charlie Kaufman stories.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

“The Wire” — I was sad to finish watching that series, I felt so close to the characters.

“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” — gripping and unexpected storytelling executed at a high level. “Handmaid’s Tale” — though currently, the authoritarian government depicted is more uncomfortable than entertaining. “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” — great comic writing, great performances. “High Maintenance” — fascinating, unusual, and real characters. Great music too. “Atlanta” — Donald Glover’s genius. Lately I’ve really enjoyed the synthesized scores of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor in “Watchmen,” Labrinth’s “Euphoria” (both the score itself and the way music editors Bryant Fuhrmann and Jason Newman have it weave in and out of the other music), and the score to “Devs” by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

I don’t currently have a mentor, though I do always get a lot out of my talks with Bob Thiele. Sometimes I will understand something Mike Post said to me decades ago and I’ll marvel at both his wisdom and my thickness. Early on, some of the old Wrecking Crew musicians like Gary Coleman, Tommy Morgan, and Mike Melvoin would offer kind guidance. Now I try to learn from literally everyone I meet.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

My best advice is to ask someone else as I am a bit of a cautionary tale. As for myself, whenever I have been less than kind and polite I’ve regretted it. I regret being polite only once with one producer. Learning lots of skills has helped me stay working, though some might say it’s better to be known to do one thing really well. I like learning new things, it keeps it interesting.

 

Thinking is fine, but I can think about something to exhaustion and literally nothing has changed. The more I include other people and take action, the more real things get. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen that generally things work out; I just need to show up and put in the work. The media I work in and the tools I use will change, but working with others telling stories will always be the heart of what I do.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I have been extremely grateful for the health insurance provided through our Guild. I’ve also appreciated the advocacy the Guild has done on my behalf from time to time.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

As we face unprecedented turmoil and change and uncertainty, professionally we are better off united in the Guild. May we emerge from this challenge better than before and may we be kind to each other.

 

Compiled by Jeff Burman. 

Interested in being featured in What Our Members Do? Please email CineMontage editor Scott Collins at SCollins@editorsguild.com. 

LARRY MAH - MUSIC EDITOR

August 2020

Where are you currently employed?

I’m freelance, with a loan-out company. I work with a lot of different teams of people. I prefer it that way, having seen friends be put into tough situations when their primary or sole client decides to stop working with them for whatever reason.

 

Current projects?

“Tenet“

“The Comey Rule”

“The Mandalorian”

“Free Guy”

“Perry Mason”

“The Orville”

 

Describe your job.

I work primarily in music for movies and TV. I’m what they call a Pro Tools operator. Even though there are so many jobs in our industry that use Pro Tools, the work that I do somehow is the one that is named after the software. In the simplest terms, I run the recording, video, and prerecord rigs during the recording sessions and also edit the musical performances during and after the sessions. For preparation, I receive musical files from the composer or their assistant, video files from the music editor, and recording session specs and track layouts from the recording engineer, then put that together into .ptx sessions for each cue to be recorded.

 

During the recording sessions, there is a lot of pressure on the Pro Tools seat because there’s a lot of money being spent per hour when you have about 80 musicians, plus the studio and other technical personnel. I never want to be the bottleneck in the session, so efficiency and speed is especially important. I actually enjoy the pressure and challenge of the job. I think I may be unusual in that way.

 

Because of the current pandemic, things have been quite different during the few months that we’ve been on lockdown. The projects that I’ve been working on use live musicians, and everyone records their part individually at their own home studio. They are recording to click and synth mockups and aren’t hearing each other, so when I receive the material, the tuning, timing, phrasing, and dynamics aren’t nearly as cohesive as they would be in a group recording situation. I’m receiving around 60 individual recordings on some of these projects, so it takes a fair bit of work to make it all work together as a piece of music. In the end, it comes out sounding different than recording at a scoring stage, but it sounds surprisingly good after I send it to the mixer and they work their magic.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I started as a musician when I was seven years old. I played in club bands for about eight years until my early 20s. I really loved when we’d go to the studio to record, so it was a natural step to start working in a studio in my mid-20s. That led me to working as the recording engineer for the non-orchestral material in the first “Matrix” movie (1999) with composer Don Davis. Don had a long-time working relationship with Armin Steiner who did all of his orchestral recording. Armin asked me if I would run Pro Tools for the Matrix sessions at Fox, and I said yes. It was my first time working on a scoring stage with an orchestra. Little did I know that would be the beginning of a career as a Pro Tools operator.

 

Who gave you your first break?

John Du Prez gave me my first movie score recording/mixing job on the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie (1990). I did several movies with John and still work with him to this day. Armin Steiner gave me my introduction to being a Pro Tools operator. For years after “The Matrix,” he would always ask me to work with him on whatever movie he was doing. I loved working with him. He always gets a great sound, has a deep well of great industry stories, and is a lot of fun to be around.

 

What was your first union job?

That’s a good question! I worked on many, many, union movies before I was ever in the union. Pro Tools operator was a very new position when I started in 1999. When I talked to the union  about joining IATSE in 2006, it was difficult for me to come up with the qualification of 300 hours on non-union movies. I had plenty of hours on union movies but not non-union. They asked me, “How are you working on union movies if you’re not in the union?” I said, “I don’t know, they just hire me!” Fortunately, the requirement of documenting 300 hours of work on non-union movies was waived for me because of this.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

I still love “The Matrix” — I think it’s an amazing score and movie. WALL-E (2008) is another one that I love — fantastic music to go with a great movie. I feel extremely fortunate that I get to work with a lot of really talented composers and mixers.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

The one that comes to mind is working on the Academy Awards rehearsal/prerecord sessions during the week before the show. Beyoncé was to perform that year, and the orchestra recorded the track without her being there. When the execs and arranger were happy with the recording, the orchestra was dismissed for the day. But when Beyoncé arrived to rehearse and record her part, she wasn’t at all happy with the arrangement because a section of the song had been left out that culminated in a break/climax that really showcased her voice. I asked them to give me 15 minutes. They left the room, and with different tricks like transposing, time stretching, and the general magic you can do with Pro Tools, I was able to manufacture the arrangement that Beyoncé wanted.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

I almost always have fun at work. It usually doesn’t even feel like work to me, which is the best kind of work there is, right? However, I have to say that working on Thomas Newman’s projects is the most fun. I’ve worked with him since 2005. The rate of laughs per hour is extremely high.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I’d be happy to be doing more of the same of what I’m doing now. I hope the business doesn’t change so much that we stop doing much live recording of orchestras here in Los Angeles. We are in a bit of a golden age right now. There is so much content being created that requires music. Hopefully, the powers that be don’t screw things up and drive the business away.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

My main hobby is photography. Mostly, I like to take pictures of people. I also play piano at least a little bit most every day. I always like to find something to learn about and get better at. I hope that over the next 20 years, I’ll become 20 years’ worth of better at things than I am now.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

Some of my favorite movies are “West Side Story” (1961), “Groundhog Day” (1993), “American Beauty” (1999), and “Lost In Translation” (2003). I love a movie that makes me really feel something. (Shhh — don’t tell anyone, but I like it when a movie makes me cry.)

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

“Breaking Bad” (2008-2013), “24” (2001-2010+), “Survivor” (2000-present), and “Homeland” (2011-2020). These are the kind of shows that you wish you didn’t have to wait until the next week to see what happens next. They are the equivalent of page-turner novels.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

Armin Steiner, and also Steve Kempster. Steve is one of the smartest and most evolved humans that I know! I tell him that if we need a representative for the human race when aliens arrive, I’m picking him. Also, I appreciate the company of — and sharing knowledge with — a couple of other Pro Tools operators, Kevin Globerman and Vini Cirilli. Smart guys!

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Find a way to be in the studio a LOT, whether it’s your own studio or someone else’s. The many hours of learning the craft is an adventure, not work. Learn how to use a macro program like Keyboard Maestro to become more efficient. Find a team to be part of. Always look for a better way to do something. Observe someone else’s workflow — you learn so much that way!

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

As far as any work disputes or getting paid, no. It’s been enormously helpful to have the MPIPHP health insurance when needed, like for a couple of procedures for my wife. It’s so nice to know that I don’t have to worry about that end of things.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

I’m happy to be included in this group of professionals who have such a high standard of excellence. What we do isn’t easy, but it’s work that we love.

 

Compiled by David Bruskin. 

To be considered for this feature, email Scott Collins at SCollins@editorsguild.com. 

JACKIE JOHNSON - DIALOGUE EDITOR

July 2020

Where are you currently employed?

Independent, technically, but almost all my work is for Monkeyland Audio.

 

Current projects?

Just finished a Quibi series called “Die Hart” with Kevin Hart and a feature called “Love, Weddings and Other Disasters” with Diane Keaton.

 

Describe your job.

I go through many tracks of production audio, select the best ones, and arrange them for the re-recording engineer. I find production sounds that can be used in foreign release and create a track for them, even out of ambient sound, and basically make it sound clean and flow well.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I had been making a living as a pianist in Chicago and was incredibly burned out. So I moved to Los Angeles to do something new, but I didn’t know what. I found a piano gig to buy some time, then went about the job of figuring out the rest. I majored in film in college and had done a little film-scoring, so I set about acquiring the skills I’d need for music editing… and wound up dialogue editing instead!

 

Who gave you your first break?

Paul Stanley (not the one from the rock band Kiss) gave me my first break almost 20 years ago. When I went looking for music editing work, I interviewed with Paul. I had no idea what dialogue editing was, or ADR, or most of what goes on in post-production. Yes, I studied film, but I went to Northwestern — and my theory is that NU doesn’t train you to work in production; they train you to run a network. Paul and Jesse Pomeroy trained me from the ground up as an assistant editor, then eventually started Mission Post where they hired me as a dialogue editor. They rock.

 

What was your first union job?

My first union project was a Netflix series called “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” (2019-Present). Each episode of the series was based on one of Dolly’s songs. Some were the length of a movie. Though I’ve been doing this work a long time, Dolly’s series was only last year. I’m a new union member.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

Our team at Monkeyland had an Emmy nomination for one of our projects back in 2014, and another this year for a Hulu series. Pretty proud of that! Sad that there won’t be ceremonies and parties this year due to world circumstances….

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I remember a movie from the early 2000s where the actors were having a whispered conversation in a church, but every second or so there was a quiet but obvious scraping sound. It would have been a difficult scene to ADR due to the emotional intensity and the fact that the performance was perfect. So I went through the whole scene and painstakingly got each scrape out of the dialogue. If I had the software then that I have now, it would have been so easy! This was pre-iZotope….

 

Another memorable session on a big studio movie found the ADR supervisor in New York; the director, some actors, and me here in LA; and actor Nicole Kidman in Nashville. Recording ADR while trying to sync up all that audio across the country made for an incredibly difficult day. It was like driving a Mack truck through a bog.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Dialogue editing is solitary work, so I wouldn’t say all too much “fun” happens while I’m alone in my studio. I’ve been an ADR recordist in the past, though, and that was a LOT of fun. I love seeing how directors coax great performances out of their actors – in spite of the fact that they’re acting alone in a booth with people staring at them, and trying to match or improve on what they did on set. It’s incredibly difficult, and I love watching pros do it so brilliantly.

 

The very first ADR session I did was for Patrick Giraudi of Virtual Mix. It was a movie where many characters were getting attacked by a monster. Actor after actor came in to work that day, basically, to scream while being killed by a three-headed snake. How can that not be fun?

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I would like to add to my toolbox by getting more skilled at mixing and music editing. I’ve mixed a couple of movies and also done some music edits, but I’d like to do more while still dialogue editing.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I am still a part-time musician professionally, though there are no gigs during COVID. So I’m spending my music time teaching online, which I love.

My other hobby is ballet class. I’ve been dancing since I was six years old. It’s the most fun thing I do every week—at least, it was fun before COVID. Now I take class online, which feels very different.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

I know I’m supposed to be an intellectual and list some obscure foreign films here, but the truth is I loved “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) because Rami Malek’s performance is amazing; “The Hunt for Red October” (1990) because I love the Russian choir music by Basil Poledouris (but there IS one ADR line in there that bugs me); “The Turning Point” (1977) because ballet and Baryshnikov always do it for me; and “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) because Morgan Freeman; need I say more? I have seen each of these at least 25 times and have them mostly memorized by now.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

I loved “24” (2001-2010). The 24-hour time constraint was interesting and must have been a difficult writing challenge. “Madam Secretary” (2014-2019) because Téa Leoni is great.

I tend to fall in love with a show, then watch the series over and over. I’ll be chatting with my therapist about this.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

I’ve really lucked out working for some of the best guys in audio post. I learned everything from them and from some re-recording engineers.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Since I came to this by an unusual route, I don’t have much wisdom to offer in terms of career strategy. Maybe I would say to someone young enough: play an instrument. There’s nothing better for developing critical listening skills, and a good ear is essential for post.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I am a new member so, thankfully, I haven’t had any issues yet. Having spent 25 years as a working musician, which means self-paid health insurance, I’m ready to figuratively kiss the union for getting me real health insurance. It’s magical.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

We can be part of the solution to the world’s problems. Art can pick up where politics fall short. We are part of a team that creates art, and art can change the world — or at least make it forget about its troubles for a while…

 

“Art, freedom, and creativity will change society faster than politics.”

–Victor Pinchuk

 

Compiled by David Bruskin.

If you would like to be considered for this feature, or recommend an MPEG member, contact Communications Director Scott Collins at scollins@editorsguild.com. 

DAVID BERNSTEIN - TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

June 2020

Where are you currently employed?

I am, and have always been, a work-for-hire freelancer.

 

Current projects?

For “America’s Got Talent” and “Dancing With The Stars,” I work as a screens TD; I operate the switcher that controls the LED screens on set. I’ve also been the screens TD on “American Idol,” which was supposed to happen again this season until the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. We almost didn’t finish season 3, but tech manager John Fekas came up with an engineering solution for all the talent to perform and judge and host from home.

 

Therefore, I was the line cut TD — live cutting the cameras and graphics for the director — for this season’s “American Idol” finale. I also work as line cut TD on “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The Titan Games,” among other shows.

 

I round out my schedule with stints at NFL Network and filling in for fellow TDs when they need to “book out” of a show in a hurry. I still accept the occasional sports broadcast booking in order to keep those skills up to date. (They’re different from entertainment TD skills).

 

Describe your job.

I’m the technical director, so I’m technical and I sit next to the director. I’m the interface between her and the technical crew in a live or live-to-tape multicamera television production. This job requires you to be on top of every technical detail of the production. I’m responsible to the director for ensuring that all the technical facilities required for the production have been installed and are working correctly. Of special importance is the set-up of the control room. I work with the facility engineer to lay out the monitor wall so that cameras, playbacks, graphics devices, and all the other sources needed for the show have been placed in monitors where the director, associate director, script supervisor, producers, and other control room staff can easily find them in the chaos of live production.

 

Once all of that is taken care of, it’s time for me to start my actual job, which is the set-up and operation of the heart of a live production – the video switcher! All the sources needed for the show must be mapped to buttons where I can quickly(!) access them in the heat of production. All of these sources must be “facs’ed out” [pronounced like “fax,” it’s a contraction for “facilities check”] with the Local 600 Utilities to confirm that we are getting the correct video from each source, that cameras get tally lights and return video channels from the switcher, and that the PL comm circuit between cameras and the control room is fully operational.

 

All of this must be accomplished without leaving my seat! I remain behind the switcher at all times because that’s where everyone (especially the director) expects to find me. I rely on all the communications tools at my disposal so that I can support the tech crew from that chair.

 

Another important part of the TD’s skill set — the artistic side — is the creation of video effects: split-screens, multi-box effects, picture-in-picture, and various video treatments. These need to be built in advance (or sometimes on the fly, as in “Oh, by the way, I need….”)

 

The key part of the job that determines whether or not I get called back to the next production is to push the right button at the right time! To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs – you just might be a good TD!

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, where rugby is practically a religion. When I was nine, I discovered the TV cameras at our local rugby stadium. Those big TV-81 cables led to a corner of the stadium where I convinced the gate guard to let me see inside the truck. Soon I was standing right behind the guy who, with the push of a button, was changing the picture on millions of TV sets all over South Africa! I could watch the game from eight different angles in one place! This was where the action was.

 

Who gave you your first break?

In the 1990s, I was working as a freelance audio engineer in Connecticut. My wife’s co-worker was (and still is) married to sportscaster Dan Patrick, who offered me a tour of ESPN after he heard about my TV truck adventures in South Africa. Somehow the tour turned into a job interview, and I was hired at ESPN in Bristol, CT in February 1995.

 

What was your first union job?

My first IA 700 work was for Fox Sports West after I moved to LA — and my first “real” (entertainment) IA gig was the Prince Super Bowl halftime show in 2007.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

I worked on so many great shows, but since joining the IA, I have a hard time picking a favorite. There are so few days when work feels like work – it’s just that much fun doing what I do for a living! One standout has been working as screens TD on “American Idol,” which leads to…

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I was line cut TD on “American Idol” for most of its final season on Fox. When ABC picked up the show, Fremantle, the company that produces the show, ordered a major redesign of the set that involved wrapping the entire stage in LED walls. Director Phil Heyes got the budget increased to include a screens TD, and I was called. Even at the end of season 2 on ABC, I still couldn’t figure an accurate pixel count on the “Idol” set, other than to say that it takes four 4K (UHD) feeds to fill that beast. The idea is to be able to put live-camera image magnification (IMAG) any place on the walls or floor. The show is produced in 720p, but the graphics are delivered 1080p, so to use the existing switcher at Television City’s Stage 36 where the show is shot became problematic. Just two weeks before the first live shows were scheduled to air, I managed to “procure” a switcher that functions in a revolutionary new way. I was sweating bullets, but we made it work, and it’s been on the show ever since.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Probably that Prince halftime show at the 2007 Super Bowl. The weather looked like it was going to wash the whole thing out, but Prince insisted on performing and he nailed it. But honestly, pretty much every day in a control room is fun!

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I want to be on the cutting edge of technology in our business, finding and implementing amazing new tech to enable our more creative collaborators to tell engaging stories in front of a live audience.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Besides watching rugby matches, the other thing I did as a nine-year-old on Saturday morning was to go flying with an Air Force reserve squadron that had a reconnaissance mission profile. The Commanding Officer of this unit was a client of my father, who was an ad exec, and he invited us to check out their new planes. The flying bug bit me hard and has never let go. That said, I have been so busy with my career over the years that I haven’t logged a lot of hours, but I love every second I spend in the air. I also enjoy sailing and photography.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

My first summer in the US was hot and soupy in Amherst where I was studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at UMass. I spent most of the summer indoors in air conditioning watching two movies on HBO over and over until I could recite almost every line. My favorite was “Real Genius” (1985) — thank you, Martha Coolidge — which fed a personal fantasy that I could have been smart enough in 10th grade to make it into Cal Tech. The script totally plays to my (lame) sense of humor.

 

The other movie was John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles” (1984). I attended an all-boys boarding school in a different culture, so I enjoyed this film for “what might have been” had I gone to an American public high school.

 

More recently, my wife has led us into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What an amazing collection of stories — so well created both in front of and behind the lens! There is a curated timeline of the suggested viewing order of the films and TV shows, and it all fits together like clockwork. Amazing!

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

Besides all the shows I am fortunate to work on, and the great MCU shows, I enjoy classics like “Law and Order” (the original series) and “Seinfeld.” Among more contemporary shows, I like “Stranger Things” and “The Americans.” I’m sure I’ll think of a bunch more after this article is published.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

Many top-notch TDs have shared their experience with me, but my primary mentor is Eric Becker. We met when my sports TV world collided with his entertainment TV world on the Super Bowl halftime shows produced by Don Mischer (another mentor). Eric opened many doors that helped me transition into entertainment productions, and I have worked behind him many times as screens TD. He has a well-deserved international reputation — smart, professional, largely unflappable — and I have matured into an employable TD in Hollywood, thanks to his example. Honorable mention must go to Bob Ennis who continually challenges me to strive for technical excellence.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Learn everything technical about production. Pay attention to everything around you as you work your way up the ranks in the business. Learn how to shoot and edit so you can anticipate the director’s needs. Learn as much about television engineering as you can so that you can communicate clearly and troubleshoot effectively with your engineers.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

The Guild is always there when something needs ironing out. Someone ALWAYS gets back to me within 24 hours (48 max!). I have all these silly little questions about benefits or safety training and it’s never any bother for anyone. Thanks, Cathy Repola and Ann Hadsell!

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

Do what you love. When you do what you love for a living, it’s not work — it’s a work of love.

 

Compiled by David Bruskin.

Want to be profiled in this feature? Reach out to SCollins@editorsguild.com.

BRIAN BRENNAN - TRAILER EDITOR

May 2020

Where are you currently employed?

Sony Pictures Entertainment.

 

Current project(s)?

“Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Monster Hunter,” “Fatherhood,” “Connected,” “Escape Room 2,” “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”… and a few more.

 

Describe your job.

I’m classified as a trailer editor, but I’m not actually cutting anything creatively. I’m more of a linchpin/ problem-solver/air traffic controller. I communicate between the marketing division and the different feature post-production editorial and VFX teams that are working with the studio.

 

Starting with dailies, I oversee clips and preview feature films out of the cutting room for our marketing teams and the creative agencies cutting the trailers, TV/digital spots, clips, and creating print materials, and continue all the way through post-opening TV spots. Pretty much every image you see marketing a Sony movie, whether on the big screen, TV, internet, cell phone, billboards, or print ads, has passed through our department at some point.

 

I’m on the phone a lot (2500-3000 minutes and 700-1000 texts per month) with the other trailer editors and assistants on our team, our creative execs, the vendors, and the feature cutting rooms to go over current status of projects, request material, schedule and supervise mixes and DIs [digital intermediates, a multi-task process that involves various activities that occur after picture editing and before printing] –everything to keep things moving forward.

 

On a typical day, we can be working on three to ten different projects. At 7 a.m., I sit at home with coffee and my laptop, answering emails I received overnight. Maybe I’m also looking at a few QTs [QuickTime .mov files] of trailers or ad spots that are almost finished. Make calls to the different guys on our team about what’s going on currently and plans/expectations for the day. I have a DI session at CO.3 [Company 3, a post-production facility] at 10 a.m. with a director, the VFX producer, and our studio’s creative exec. The picture we’re looking at was built and sent overnight from Instinctual [another post- facility] via Aspera [IBM software that moves gigantic files – for us, it’s media files – quickly and securely over the internet]. We are still waiting on seven more VFX shots to be delivered that the director approved this morning. He says he just saw them in a review and asks why they aren’t cut yet.

 

At the same time, I’m texting with my coworker Dave Stockslager, who is supervising that picture build and a few others at Instinctual. “What about the blood removal?” I text. He assures me it’s getting done. At SSI Hollywood [a post- facility known for producing and mixing trailers and commercials] where we’re starting a mix, Matt G the mixer says the dialogue in the mix prep [all the audio used in the mix — dialogue, effects and music — as discrete elements that can be adjusted individually by the mixer] has some issues. We try to chase down the assistant in feature sound editorial for production tracks to see if there’s better coverage or a cleaner take. I call the creative agency who worked with our creative exec on the trailer to let them know we’ll be ready for their producer and editor to listen to a mix around 2 p.m., followed by my creative exec and the filmmakers at 4 p.m. The creative vendor then says they’re on fiber [fiber optic cable that can transmit broadband quickly and over long distances] waiting for the creative (the one I’m in the DI with) to get back with them, and they’re changing a music cue, and they’ve gone up three versions since the prep they sent last night.

 

Now we’re waiting on the seven VFX and a new lock on the trailer so the mix can begin. To make the delivery target, tonight we should be shipping DCPs to Deluxe labs [DCP = Digital Cinema Package: a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema audio, image, and data streams] and posting QT video files of the finished trailer to our servers for the online launch and various publicity needs. My boss, Art Shapiro, tells me there are :90 and :60 cutdowns [shorter versions] of the locked trailer for international. I tell him about the cue changing… but ugh – is it just the cue that’s changing? And how does that cue change affect the :90 and the :60 versions of the trailer? We won’t know those answers until they lock the trailer again.

It’s only 11:00am. The day is just getting started….

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I always wanted to work in the studios. It seemed like everyone’s parents and other people we knew worked in the business — kind of like if you’d grown up in Detroit, you would expect to work for GM or Ford or something else related to the auto industry. My friends were starting to get jobs in the studios as drivers, laborers, construction, grips, electricians, or in editorial, camera, film labs, etc. I knew I had to get in one way or another.

 

Who gave you your first break?

I owe it all to Jimmy Honore, who was then the head of post-production at Columbia Pictures/Sony. From time to time, he would stop in at this place where I was bartending in Studio City. We would talk, and we became friends. Years later, I quit the bar and decided I was either going to find a studio gig or else I was moving to Hawaii to tend bar and work at a dive shop. Jimmy invited me to the studio and had one of his post supervisors, John Naveira, show me around.

 

John took me to a few cutting rooms. “Booty Call” (1997) had just finished its theatrical run, and they were cutting a TV version on Avid. Monica Anderson, the first assistant editor, let me and the two apprentices on the show cut clips and learn the Avid. Then, on “The Mask of Zorro” (1998), one of the assistant editors, Odis McKinney, showed me how to code film, sync dailies on the bench, and then play them on the KEM flatbed editor. I was immediately hooked, so John gave the green light for me to come in, hang out, and learn what I could.

 

What was your first union job?

After I’d been hanging around the studio for a while, Jimmy found out I was coming in on my own and learning. He knew I was into it and that I wasn’t going away. Coincidentally, George Hivley needed an apprentice in his department at Columbia Pictures that re-edited movies for TV broadcast and airline use. Right time, right place, right people. On April 7, 1997, I started working with editor Christopher Holmes on a TV broadcast version of “Donnie Brasco” (1997).

In July 1997, I started working for Art Shapiro in marketing post production at Sony as an apprentice, and I’ve been there ever since.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

You don’t see our names on the credits, but hopefully we did our part to get people’s attention and put butts in the seats on opening weekend. After so many years and so many titles, it’s hard to say, but I guess all the “Spider-Man” movies we’ve made, especially the first three. We worked very closely with the cutting room, the filmmakers, the heads of marketing and the studio, and everyone else involved. These were giant campaigns, a huge collaboration among so many different parties, and it all worked out so well. It was great to be part of the success we had with those films.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

Getting used to the long crazy hours and finding that balance between family and work. My wife Betty has been my solid supporter and always had my back from day one, and she’s a great influence for our daughters, Bailey and Ashley, as they have grown into great young ladies.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Hurricane Marie, August 27, 2014. Crazy big swell hit the coast. My schedule opened up and to Malibu I went — I got paid to surf! Seriously, though, I can’t really point to one thingI work with such great people. Every day is different, and we always make the best of what we have.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I would be so happy doing the same exact thing I’m doing today – except as I look back at how my job has changed from 35mm film and ¾ inch tape to 4K DI’s and ProRes QTs and watching off-lines [edited versions in progress] on my phone, I still hope to be doing the same thing, but with the next new file formats. To quote Art Shapiro, “Make it look great, sound great, and get it where it needs to go.”

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I surf as much as possible. Been doing it over 40 years. I suck, but I love it. We do a lot of camping at the beach with my family and friends. I also play golf and fish — and yeah, I’m not good at them, either. I hope to get a boat in the next few years and get some time out on the ocean.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

Anything with Will Ferrell, but especially “Elf” (2003). It’s a year-round favorite at my house.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

SportsCenter on ESPN and the NFL channel. I love sports, especially football.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

Jimmy Honore and my boss Arthur Shapiro. Both of these guys are the best at what they do.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

You have to start somewhere and be open to anything that might get you in. You might have to take a step sideways and/or down to move up. Take your time to learn the process. Try and know how things work and stay current on technology. Things move fast and are always changing. Be patient and roll with it. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion or make a suggestion.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

No, but it’s great to know that we can come to the Guild for advice, assistance, and direction to resources if needed.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

We need to stick together and stay informed, especially now where it seems like parts of the business are nipping away at our rights, with so many ways that companies provide content and so many ways that people view it. We need to continue organizing and encourage new membership. We need to stay relevant and protect the great benefits and compensation that we have and worked so hard for. We are so fortunate to work in such an exciting business, touching so many people globally, and to be part of the Guild and IATSE and everything it stands for. It’s a great feeling.

 

Compiled by David Bruskin.

Want to be profiled in this feature? Reach out to SCollins@editorsguild.com.

BRIAN COMER - STORY ANALYST

April 2020

Where are you currently employed?

Walt Disney/Fox.

 

Current Project?

The new Taika Waititi comedy for Searchlight.

 

Describe Your Job.

Agents, managers, and attorneys submit screenplays, manuscripts, books, videos, etc. to studio executives or producers on the lot. That intellectual property is sent to the story department where it is logged in as an official submission and assigned to a story analyst to be “covered.” Story Analysts read or view the intellectual property, then synopsize, evaluate, and write critiques. The resulting work product, called “coverage,” helps the studio determine whether to develop or acquire a property that could become content for distribution as a movie or for some other platform, such as the new Disney+ streaming service. Story analysts also evaluate writing samples, do legal comparisons, perform writer credit analysis, and more – sometimes in foreign languages.

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I know it sounds incredibly clichéd, but I had life-changing experiences when I saw two movies: “Jaws” and “Star Wars.” My English teacher told me that if you figure out what you love to do and then find somebody to pay you to do it, you’ll never work a day in your life. I thought that was not only wise but brilliant! Screenplays are blueprints for movies, so analyzing scripts is a bit like being paid to watch movies. I love my work.

 

Who gave you your first break?

David Madden, who was the story editor at Fox, right after I graduated from USC film school. When I interviewed with him, I made the mistake of bashing a recent Fox release. I think he was impressed by my honesty and he supervised me on my first union job.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

Working on “Rogue One” was the most exciting opportunity I have ever had. Based on my years of working at Disney, an executive there referred me to Lucasfilm. To have been a kid inspired by the “Star Wars” franchise and then to have participated in the project was a dream come true.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

There were a lot of security protocols and confidential information for “Rogue One,” so I just had to keep my big mouth shut about what I was doing. Plus, the folks at Lucasfilm said they would send a Wookie to rip off my arms if I leaked anything.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, working for Lucasfilm was a blast, even though I did not visit the Skywalker facility.

 

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I hope to transition to working full-time as a writer. I have a family comedy screenplay in development.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I golf, kayak, and go sailing. I would love to have a Hemingway-style retirement: write and live on a boat where I can go marlin fishing and shoot sharks with a machine gun. (Just kidding!)

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

I really don’t like the idea of “top ten” lists or favorites. I think every creative effort should stand on its own merits. “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” and “The Godfather” have been lauded as among the greatest movies ever made, but I can also appreciate the sheer lunacy and silliness of The Three Stooges. “Norbit” starring Eddie Murphy is probably one of the worst movies ever made (no offense intended), but I appreciate that movie because it achieves the goal of every comedy. It’s so ridiculous that it makes people laugh. It’s impossible for me to compare movies from different genres side by side. Action, Romance, Horror, Musical, Science Fiction — each genre has its own benchmarks. I believe that filmed entertainment works whenever it captures a simple human truth.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

I avoid picking favorite TV shows for the same reason I dislike “top ten” movie lists. Right now, I am bingeing on the Amazon Prime series “The Expanse.”  It’s terrific hard science fiction and looks like it could happen in our future. And of course, who doesn’t love Baby Yoda on the Disney Plus series “Mandalorian”? 

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

No, not a specific person. I rely on advice from various producers and executives I have known in my career.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Read a lot about movies so that you understand production, genre conceits, and screenplay mechanics. Watch a lot of movies from different periods and filmmakers so that you understand the art and history of cinema. Pay closer attention to movies that fail because of poor screenplay mechanics. Read a lot of scripts. And finally, have real life experiences outside of the film industry so you can tell whether the writer knows what they’re talking about.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I have had some training sessions with Dieter Rozek, the Guild’s training coordinator, and that is an incredible resource for members.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

The current covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down quite fast, but I believe things will turn right-side up even faster. Production will resume around town, and there will be so much pent-up social undistancing that soon you won’t be able to get a table at a restaurant.

MICHAEL J. MCDONALD - SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR & RE-RECORDING MIXER

March 2020

Where are you currently employed?

My partner Robyn Whitney and I own Private Island Audio, an audio post facility in mid-town Los Angeles.

 

Current project?

We are just completing the sound mix for Aftermath, a psychological thriller directed by industry veteran Peter Winther (“Stargate,” “Independence Day,” “The Patriot”), and “Bit,” a vampire movie satire with a quirky twist.

 

We are also gearing up for the second season of Pandora,” a great sci-fi series on the CW Network for producer/creator Mark Altman.

 

Describe your job.

I supervise and shepherd the sound process from the beginning spotting session through all the final audio deliverables. I have to make sure everything goes smoothly through the final mix, and I put out the fires that inevitably erupt during the process. It’s kind of like herding cats!

 

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I was a rock musician for quite a few years before beginning my recording career with a studio I built in a three-car garage under a carriage house I was renting in West L.A. As the studio started to become successful, we built new studios off Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, but soon the writing was on the wall; more and more people built their own home studios. Record and demo budgets went down. We partnered with another music producer (Mike Flicker, of the band “Heart”) to go into post sound. When I recorded a film score for the first time, it captured my imagination. I realized that movies had always been a primary fascination and love for me.

 

So we started a post sound business as part of the music studios. The business grew, and as I learned by doing all aspects of movie sound, I became more fascinated with the creative things sound can do to make a movie come to life. Movie sound today utilizes ALL kinds of aural elements — sounds, language, music, atmospheres — to create a powerful audience experience.

 

At the time, I was still doing a lot of music recording when I saw “Saving Private Ryan.” That movie transformed me. I was inspired to try and achieve the dramatic and emotional impact that its soundtrack evoked in me. I determined to go full-on into movie sound recording, editing, and mixing. I also got to stay on the music side, doing remixes of hundreds of classic film scores from the 1940s through the early 1990s for CD release from the online magazine “Film Score Monthly” and Intrada Records.

 

Who gave you your first break?

There are many, but a few stand out:

 

Marc Donahue, a composer, hired me to record his first film score composition when I was still in my garage studio. This ignited my love for movie sound and soundtrack scores.

 

Dan Voltz, a post supervisor, brought many movie sound projects to us in the beginning, and we still work together today.

 

Lukas Kendall hired me to remix hundreds of film scores for CDs that were marketed through “Film Score Monthly.” He also hired us to do sound for his movie “Lucky Bastard” four years ago, and he has a new project about to begin.

 

What was your first union job?

I believe it was “Under The Silver Lake” for director David Alan Mitchell and producer Alan Pao at his post production facility, Tunnel Post in Santa Monica.

 

What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

I’ll list the top five:

 

“West Bank Story” – the 2006 Academy Award winner for Best Live Action Short Film, it’s a funny, brilliantly conceived film with great music and imagination.

 

“Arkansas” — an upcoming feature film starring Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn and John Malkovich, and directed by Clark Duke. This Coen-Brothers-style black comedy about southern drug dealers is brilliant on many levels, and also touching. And I think it is one my best mixes.

 

“The Tiger Hunter” — a great American immigrant comedy about a young Indian engineer (Dani Pudi) who immigrates to the U.S. in the 1970s and tries to live up to his “tiger hunter” father’s memory. To me, this is the quintessential American story of an immigrant who comes to the U.S., is subjected to culture shock, overcomes some racism and bigotry, and finds a way to merge his culture with ours and become a success. Totally charming.

 

“Aftermath” — directed by Peter Winther. I believe this is one of the scariest, most intense movies I have had the privilege to work on. (Actually, I’m still working on it.). Sound plays a big role in ratcheting up tension and dread to an almost unbearable level (as it should in all movie thrillers.)

 

“Avengement” — directed by Jesse Johnson. This action movie has a lot of great characters, amazing fight sequences, and humor a la Guy Ritchie or Tarantino. It got great reviews, including our sound design (“Oscar-worthy” said one critic) and mix.

 

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I’ve worked outside the studio system, mostly on independent movies, so the biggest challenges are usually the production sound. Because of the speed of the shoots and locations used during many of these movies, the production sound is usually compromised. The universal truth in the final sound mix is that we all HATE ADR — never the same performance magic or sound match — so our job is to rescue as much of the production dialogue as possible.

 

Years ago, this would not have been nearly as possible as it is today with the new tools we have available. iZotope RX, for example, can remove amazing amounts of noise, hum, and distortion from the dialogue track.

 

Because of the digital realm of movie sound, filmmakers now often expect pristine dialogue from what was terribly noisy and obliterated production sound. And many times, we are able to give it to them.

 

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

I think just getting into the mix on a great movie, usually an action movie or thriller. They require much more work on thousands of sound effects files, and great creative imagination as far as designing the sound of weapons, atmospheres, unknown machines, etc.

While these mixes are usually more stressful than the simpler dramas or comedies, the end result is really rocking and makes a powerful impact.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I was an astrophysics major at UCLA until I discovered I didn’t like the math that much, but I am still deeply interested in the sciences, especially astronomy, and keep abreast of all advances in the scientific journals and magazines. I also have a telescope, but it only works well away from L.A.’s light pollution.

 

My other passion/hobby is movies. I try to see at least one a week when we are not slammed with work, and I’m inspired by movies that are more original and unusual, like my favorites listed below.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

“Saving Private Ryan”– for the reasons I mentioned earlier, and because it inspired me and moved me to tears in the opening and closing scenes — and gripped me by the throat throughout the rest.

 

“The Whale Rider” — a brilliant, unexpected rush of “everything is perfect” about this movie, which I went to see because I was curious about the title. A fascinating exploration of Maori culture, feminism, and humanity.

 

“Alien” — Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking movie is the best sci-fi/horror film of all time. I saw it before I got into the business, and it scared the shit out of me. Still does.

 

“Aliens” — James Cameron’s sequel to “Alien” was unbelievably tense and, in my estimation, the best sci-fi action-adventure movie ever.

 

Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?

“FBI”, Seal Team”, “Chicago Fire” “NCIS” — these shows are very well written, directed and acted. They’re about people who dedicate their lives not to riches but to making the world a better place. It’s an important theme worth paying attention to in these divisive times.

 

“Real Time with Bill Maher” — I need some talk TV that is intelligent, funny, and not afraid to say anything.

 

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

It requires a LOT of dedication and sacrifice (and irregular paychecks), so make sure you really love it. If you don’t love movies – see a lot of them, talk about them — you may do OK in the ancillary jobs of the business, but you most likely will not be exceptional in the demanding creative jobs, which for me are sound editing, mixing, recording and sound design. To be exceptional requires a love and fascination for this art form. Be prepared and dedicate yourself to learn something new every day. Strive to always improve your craft; not to advance is to move backwards.

 

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I am new to the Guild, so I haven’t needed that yet.

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

We are in a tough time where budgets for movies and television are steadily declining, mostly because film industries around the world are competing for a slice of the expanding pie, which is constantly full of new ways to see movies and TV.

 

The budgets of the movies we do at Private Island Audio are half or less of what they were before the Great Recession of 2008, and they don’t seem to be rebounding at all, even though expenses have increased a lot. We all have to be more efficient to make ends meet. Supporting each other helps much more than competing against each other, especially in this volatile environment.

 

Here’s to continuing to grow and learn as we go forward in the industry we love.

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