What is your current project?
Currently looking for my next show.
Describe your job.
I’ve mainly worked as an apprentice editor, which is a pretty broad title. I was there to help the assistant editors with whatever they needed a hand with on any given day. I also did a ton of digital outputs, file conversions and DVD authoring. We’ve used QuickTime files on the shows I’ve worked on to receive visual effects shots and to send out outputs. With so many different formats and different burn-ins for different people, my computer was constantly capturing and compressing. I recently worked on my first film as an assistant, and I’ve been able to put into practice a lot of what I’ve learned as an apprentice.
How did you become interested in this line of work?
As a lifelong film buff, I started taking video production classes in high school, where I quickly learned that I wasn’t the strongest with a camera. I’d often find myself sitting for hours at the primitive video tape-to-tape edit system my school owned, trying to figure out how to make my lousy footage work. It didn’t take long to realize that I liked this part of the process, and so in high school I became the de facto editor for a lot of the projects my friends and I did. In my junior year, we got a computer with Adobe Premiere and a Media 100 card, and I began to fall in love with nonlinear editing. When I went to film school, that became my area of focus. I always figured that if I can make my own footage work, I could make anything work.
Who gave you your first break?
When I was still in college, I came to Los Angeles on a satellite program where we took two or three classes a week, and the rest of the time was dedicated to internship. I was given an opportunity to work on Wendy Apple’s documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. Not only did she hire me as an office intern, but she also promised that at least a third of my time could be spent in the editing rooms. I spent way more than the promised third, and earned an assistant editor credit. I moved to Los Angeles six months later and began looking to do some PA work to learn how a real cutting room functions, and get my foot in the door. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities I was finding, I faxed resumes to any film or television show I saw that was in production. Somehow, out of all these, one resume wound up in the hands of Cheryl Stein, the associate producer on Summerland. She hired me, and gave me my first real, paying job.
What was your first union job?
I had been working on smaller, non-union shows for about a year and a half when I finally got the 100 days I needed to join the Guild. Armed with my membership, I was looking to jump into a feature. Andrew Loschin and Shannon Leigh Olds, whom I’d worked under as a coordinator on Superman Returns, needed an extra hand to help out with the last few weeks of Fred Claus, and hired me as an apprentice.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
Valkyrie. I came on the show right as the production moved back to America, and didn’t wrap until close to the release date. It was my first long-term apprentice job and one of the best working experiences of my life.
What was your biggest challenge in your job and how did you overcome it?
Okay, it’s not a specific challenge, but it’s always a little scary the first time I try something I’ve observed, but never flown solo on. But it is such a great feeling when I manage to do something on my own––and do it correctly. Just the same, I’m never afraid to ask a co-worker if there’s something I don’t understand. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp something by merely observing, and that first attempt to stumble through often winds up being rather valuable.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
When I was a visual effects digital asset coordinator on Superman Returns, I would spend hours of every day in a screening room with visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson. I had never worked in visual effects before, but sitting in a room with someone of his caliber, and watching him break down shots with various other supervisors, was like going to film school. I learned a ton about how visual effects work. That experience proved valuable once I started dealing with effects shots on the editorial end as an apprentice.
Job-wise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I’d like to keep working my way up the post-production ladder. Fingers crossed, in five years I’ll be doing first assistant work.
My favorite movie is always changing. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was the first film I remember that blew me away. A few more off the top of my head: Bunuel’s The Milky Way, Almodóvar’s Talk to Her and Woody Allen’s Zelig. I’m also a huge documentary fan.
Favorite TV Program?
I watch a ton of sports on TV; I’m one of those people that will watch an entire Phillies or Eagles game, and still watch the highlights on sports center before bed. But I also really enjoy The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, Lost and Mad Men.
Do you have an industry mentor?
I’ve been fortunate to work with a bunch of great people over the years who have always been willing to help me out, but Andrew Loschin and Dylan Firshein in particular have been great about giving me advice and teaching me what it means to be an assistant editor.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Getting your foot in the door isn’t easy, but be persistent. It’s worth it when you get that first union job.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
When I moved out to LA, I really didn’t know what the union was or how to join. I wanted to be an editor, and I blindly called the Guild to get a rundown on membership requirements. They told me how to get days, and what type of work I was eligible to get once I was in.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members?
Just that I’m grateful to be a member, and look forward to having the opportunity to work with even more of you. There’s a thrill in being in a cutting room that just doesn’t wear off.
- Compiled by Michael Kunkes
Photo by Gregory Schwartz