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What Do Our Members Do?

ISABELLA RUPP - TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

June 2018

Where are you currently employed?

NBC Universal’s Stamford Media Center in Stamford, Connecticut.

 

Current Project?

The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show as technical director, and Maury with Maury Povich as backup tech director.

 

Describe Your Job.

I am both technical director and crew chief. As technical director, I am the co-pilot and the director is the pilot. Our team of 30 brings producers’ scripts to life through pictures and sound that best show and tell the story. Because we have a live audience of nearly 200, I simultaneously switch two shows — one for the studio audience and one for viewers at home. While our handheld cameras follow show guests backstage into green rooms and onto the street, I mix graphics, tapes, cameras and effects into monitors on set, in the studio and backstage. Equipment includes a Sony MVS-7000X switcher, 10 cameras, 24 digital recording channels and eight graphics channels.

As crew chief, I act as a bridge between crew and management to help troubleshoot equipment, production or facility issues. Clear communication with the director, engineers and the production and facility managers helps keep the shows flowing smoothly.

 

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

In my senior year at Fairfield University, I interned at CPTV, a public television station on campus. I was research assistant to the news anchor and rotated crew positions on live shows. Thanks to that internship, I knew what I wanted to do for my livelihood.

 

Who gave you your first break?

MTV Networks.

 

What was your first union job?

Technical director at ABC.

 

Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?

Starting out in my career, cable television was taking off. Working at MTV Networks, I was given the opportunity to help design and implement the technical operation of a new network that hadn’t hit the airwaves — VH1. Six of us were chosen to train operators on just released state-of-the-art equipment. This was back in the days of one- and two-inch tape! On launch day, I was the technical director who faded VH1 up from black into being a network. After that successful launch, at the age of 23, I was promoted to Supervisor of On-Air Operations and helped manage the 10 networks and staff, and made all live on-air programming decisions.

Later in my career, after I joined the IA, television was still being broadcast in standard definition (SD). I was fortunate to transition my skill set from SD to high definition (HD), as well as the shows I was tech directing. I helped up-convert from SD to HD the shows of Montel Williams, Martha Stewart, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos and, along with technical director Richie Wirth, Maury Povich. Technical director Jon Pretnar’s expertise guided both Richie and me at NBC.

Up-converting these shows to HD involved designing and programming the layout of the switcher, control room, studio, backstage, green room and house monitors. At NBC, I helped coordinate the incorporation of new equipment and HD graphics packages to accommodate both production and post-production. Knowing directors’ styles and productions’ needs, along with prioritizing in a precise and flexible manner, made these transitions seamless.

 

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

When I was offered the job of technical director and crew chief for The Montel Williams Show, the person I was replacing was asked to leave and I inherited his crew. A few key individuals struggled with having a woman as his replacement and had difficulty “hearing me” over their headsets, among other issues. I’d never faced anything like this and, after a few months of trying everything I could think of, I decided it was best for the show for me to leave. I spoke with Executive in Charge of Production Peter Villapol, who was very supportive of me and pro-active with the specific individuals. After much deliberation, I decided to stick it out through the end of the season and continued with the show until it ended five years later.

As crew chief, I act as a bridge between crew and management to help troubleshoot equipment, production or facility issues. Clear communication with the director, engineers and the production and facility managers helps keep the shows flowing smoothly.

 

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

Throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to help launch shows and networks; to cover breaking news stories, the Oscars and the Grammys; to be nominated for an Emmy Award, to fly in a chopper around the Statue of Liberty at sunrise directing a series open that I conceptualized; to be on the last plane from New York to LA packed with fellow journalists covering the O.J. Simpson trial verdict; and to work with some of the most creative and kindest people I have the pleasure to call friends.

 

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

This may sound crazy, but first and foremost I hope to be here in five years, happy and healthy. No matter what our age, we never know how much time we have.

That said, in five years I hope to be working with like-minded people on projects that make a difference. I believe the divide in our country fueled by fear and anger can be healed using this powerful medium of television. Mixing a pure intention with innovative programming, I imagine TV leading the way for us to join hands rather than point fingers.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I’m a glass artist. I blow and fuse glass to create semi-abstract collage wall hangings. I also love to write, meditate, study Buddhism and do yoga. And I especially treasure walks by the ocean with my husband Steve, whom I married two years ago.

 

Favorite movie(s)?

HerCity of AngelsIt’s A Wonderful LifeThe Wrecking CrewBefore SunriseFinding Vivian MaierPhiladelphia, Thelma and LouiseGood Will Hunting.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

We never get where we are on our own. The support I’ve received along the way is humbling. Because I’ve worked on the technical, production and management sides of television, it’s impossible to name just one mentor. I’ve been blessed with many and I’m very thankful.

 

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

If you’re in college, become an intern. The experience and personal contacts are invaluable. Integrity, hard work and knowing how to collaborate well with others is most helpful!

 

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

Daily. The IA shows I’ve worked on benefit from the union checks and balances. My experience in cable, local and network news, entertainment, lifestyle and talk shows has shown me this firsthand.

 

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

What’s happening today reminds me of when I was starting out, with changes so fast you can barely keep up. We’ve entered the “wild west” with the US President tweeting his news rather than being interviewed by journalists.

With inexpensive digital equipment and accessible outlets for everyone — YouTube, social media, podcasts, etc. — the function of television morphs. My question is how do unions navigate this terrain and stay ahead of the curve in order to benefit everyone?

 

Compiled by Edward Landler

Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on CineMontage.org and the home page of the Editors Guild website, contact edlandler@roadrunner.com.

RITA SANDERS - PICTURE EDITOR

November 2017

Where are you currently employed?

I work on the Paramount lot, which is great because my last two shows have been in the same building there.

 

Current Project?

I am one of the editors on a new thriller, You, for Lifetime Television. Get ready, because it’s going to be an incredible show!

 

Describe Your Job.

I generally work in one-hour television on shows with three editors, each one taking charge of every third episode. I endeavor to take the roughly four hours of footage shot daily for my episodes (prepared by my excellent and talented assistant editor, Erin Wolf) and sculpt it into its most compelling form.

I try to make creative choices that will align as closely as possible with the writer’s and director’s intentions, trusting my instincts and personal tastes as my guiding principles. Choosing when and where to cut, I shape performances, pacing, tension and comedy; then I sprinkle in some temp music, sound effects and (sometimes) visual effects After my initial editor’s cut, working with notes from directors, producers, showrunners, and studio and network executives, I polish the show into a tight 42-minute masterpiece (hopefully) of storytelling.

 

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

I’ve been editing since my parents let me set up two VCRs in our living room as a teenager. I would try to cut trailers or funny mash-ups from VHS movies we owned. I was also part of a team that wrote, shot and edited my high school’s daily announcements on an Amiga Video Toaster; it was incredible how much fun we had with it. I entered the University of Texas, Austin film school wanting to direct but, by the time I left, I knew I wanted to be an editor. Of all the elements of filmmaking, editing still seems like the most fun and most important to me.

 

Who gave you your first break?

I worked about eight years editing TV news, indie features and documentaries in Austin before I moved to Los Angeles. I qualified for the union because of my documentary experience, but when Terry Kelley, ACE, helped get me a job as his assistant editor on a union TV pilot, I felt like I got my big break. It was a chance to show my stuff at a higher level, and I was better able to find my own jobs afterwards as a union assistant editor and, eventually, editor.

 

What was your first union job?

Before that, my first union job had been as assistant editor on a feature, Breathe In, edited by the patient and talented Jonathan Alberts.

 

Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?

I am very proud of The Horse Boy, a beautiful 90-minute documentary I edited from hundreds of hours of footage shot mainly in Mongolia. However, getting to cut on the first two seasons of the SyFy show The Magicians was also truly incredible. That show is so complex, so funny, so stylish and so scary, I feel I came out of it a better and much more confident editor.

 

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

Back in Austin, I edited a documentary in a building that almost burned down in a four-alarm fire. We lost all of our computers, some of our tapes and a lot of our digitized footage. Fortunately, I had backed up all our project files and taken them with me when I left the previous night and we could re-digitize almost all of what we lost. That was a big lesson — always back up your project!

 

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

My last show, Chance (for Hulu), was an incredibly fun show. Our post department was the nicest, chill-est group of people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. We were always trying to get more exercise because we all sat all day, every day. One day, our whole editorial department took over the Paramount editorial building break room to exercise to a fitness dance video. A lot of people got a big laugh when they saw us dancing so intensely and awkwardly.

 

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

I am a big science fiction fan and I want to work on shows that tell difficult stories in fantastical ways. Like most people, I also crave being represented in the stories I see. I really want to work on shows that are not only wildly entertaining but will also contribute to women’s understanding of themselves and the world. These goals are not mutually exclusive but sometimes it feels like our industry believes they are.

 

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I enjoy nerd stuff like cosplay, sci-fi novels and Dungeons and Dragons. I am constantly listening to podcasts and spend a lot of time with my cat; she tells the best jokes.

 

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

Children of MenThe Witch28 Days Later and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control are films I love because they elevated their genres to a higher level of quality and entertainment. The Jerk and Clue remain two of the funniest films ever made.

 

Favorite TV program(s)? Why?

Y’all, I need to remind you that Xena: Warrior Princess was the best television show ever made. Comedy, action, swords and sandals — and a beautiful depiction of female friendship. What else could I ever need? I accept FireflyThe ExpanseMisfitsAre You Being Served?Steven Universe and 30 Rock as runners up.

 

Do you have an industry mentor?

I would not be where I am today without Terry Kelley. He taught me how to be a better editor and a better person. His friendship and career guidance have been invaluable. He has a long history of mentoring young editors and he taught me the value of taking an interest in the people working around me; we can all teach each other something. I want to pay his mentorship forward to other young people who need a mentor like I did when I was starting out.

 

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

Honestly, if you can be happy doing anything other than this, go do that thing! This can be a brutal line of work, but if you have that fire and passion for the work, then give it your all because it will enrich you and nourish you. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world.

 

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

I haven’t needed to go to the Guild with work problems, but the training classes the Guild offers and the opportunity to better my skills on equipment at the Guild has been very valuable!

 

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

It’s rough out there but we are very lucky to be in one of the few industries left with strong unions. I try to stay involved by participating in union-related social media pages to keep up to date with what is happening with our membership. We are all better off when as many of us are as involved as possible.

Compiled by Edward Landler

 Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on the home page of the Editors Guild website, contact edlandler@roadrunner.com.


Interested in Being Featured?

Tomm Carroll
Publications Director
323.876.4770, ext. 222
tcarroll@editorsguild.com