Skip to main content

Past Featured Members

Scott Burnette - Assistant Editor

October 2009

 

 
 
What is your current project? 
 I recently finished The Hangover for Todd Phillips and will be working soon on his new project, Due Date.
 
Describe Your Job.
My job is to assist the editor.  This includes the traditional cutting room tasks such as organizing footage and paperwork.  Increasingly however, assistants have become much more involved in the details of distributing media.  A few years ago, it was typical to generate a few outputs to videotape and from there, someone else took over the process of dubbing and distributing the dubs.  Now we create our own QuickTime movies complete with watermarks, time code windows and audio & all to the specifications of the composer, or the sound department, visual effects, promotion and so on.
 
How did you become interested in this line of work?
I think like many people in this business, I was young, probably eight or nine years old when I first became interested in film.  As I learned how sound and picture could be manipulated to tell a story, I became attracted to the editorial process; that's where the pieces can be cut and rearranged until you have the sequence you like.
 
Who gave you your first break?
My first break came through an assistant editor, Karen Broderick, in 1993.  Meeting her began a series of lucky breaks.  I met her through my wife, Andrea, who had known Karen in college.  When I first spoke with Karen I was still living in Atlanta, GA, but was planning to move to LA in a few months.  As fate would have it, she was about to start work on location just south of Atlanta on a Jon Avnet feature, The War, on which Debbie Neil-Fisher was the editor.  Karen allowed me to volunteer my time in her cutting room doing things like cutting head and tail leaders and labeling boxes.  The editing rooms were set up for film only, we had no Avid at the time!
When I moved to LA, I took an Avid assistant class.  When the crew from The War returned to LA, I was hired as a post-production assistant, but then an Avid was brought in so Debbie could work on some specific scenes.  I was the only one there with Avid experience, and that was a great introduction to what an Avid assistant does.  Through Karen, I also met Sabrina Plisco, who was the first editor to hire me as an assistant.   Sabrina and I worked together for about five years on 14 MOWs, and much of what I learned came either directly from her or through her willingness to let me learn some things on my own.
 
What was your first union job?
Divas, a one-hour pilot produced and directed by Thomas Carter.
 
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I'm very proud my work on TV's Scrubs.  For most of the two years I was on that show, I was the only assistant for the two editors, John Michel and Rick Blue.  While they divided up the episodes, it was up to me to see to it that the step-by-step needs of every episode for both editors were managed properly.  It was really a job for two people, so just covering the assistant duties was an accomplishment.
Even for television, Scrubs is a difficult show: Bill Lawrence is not only the executive producer, but also the lead writer and sometimes director, so it could be difficult to get him into the cutting room to sign off on an episode.  To help alleviate the time crunch on delivering picture, I spent time before the second season researching Final Cut Pro as an option for bringing video onlines into the cutting room.  I believed that if we took the money we spent on one season of online sessions and put that to the cost of purchasing an online system, we could take control of our online schedule.  After all, trying to reschedule sessions at a post facility brings its own complications.  Ultimately, the online process went to Digital Film Tree, but my efforts found us a vendor who could be competitive on cost and flexible with the schedule when we needed it.
 
What was the most fun you've had at work?
Perhaps it was digitizing dailies on Scrubs.  To me, Neil Flynn as the janitor was just laugh-out-loud funny.  In the cutting room, we always look to enhance the performance one way or another, but his skill at improvisation and his timing make him fun to watch based on performance alone.  I always looked forward to the days when I knew his footage was coming in.
 
Job-wise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Things can change in this business, but I'd like to be an assistant editor, because the demands of the job suit my strengths.  I've always been interested in understanding the technical side of post-production and this job is becoming increasingly technical. It's probably where I can make the biggest contributions on a project.
 
Favorite movie(s)?
Dr. Strangelove, a movie that took the fears of nuclear brinksmanship to absurd proportions; the result is a memorable dark comedy.  Blazing Saddles is just a lot of fun.  And The Shawshank Redemption.   I like the suspense in a story that unfolds over 20 years.  Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne uses his brains first to create this identity outside the prison and then later to escape from the prison itself and create a new life.  I just love the story.
 
Favorite TV Program(s)?
My son and I enjoy  The Andy Griffith Show and Get Smart.  I much prefer the humor from that time.
 
Do you have an industry mentor?
I don't have a mentor, but just knowing guys like John Axelrad and Scott Janush helped me understand the need to set high personal standards.
 
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Don't be afraid to show your interest in something; ask questions but make a point to learn as much as you can on your own.  In my own career, I've been on both sides of that relationship and I always found someone willing to answer my questions when I showed I had some understanding of the topic.  When I've been the one answering questions, I've always found myself far more helpful when talking to an individual who was motivated to learn.
 
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Not yet.
 
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fellow Guild members?
Challenge yourself to be the best you can.   Every union worker in this county should be aware that companies are actively seeking to cut labor costs.  We need the Guild for protection, but if we can't demonstrate our value through our work, then I'm not sure the Guild has much to fight for.
 
I recently finished The Hangover for Todd Phillips and will be working soon on his new project, Due Date.
Describe Your Job.
My job is to assist the editor.  This includes the traditional cutting room tasks such as organizing footage and paperwork.  Increasingly however, assistants have become much more involved in the details of distributing media.  A few years ago, it was typical to generate a few outputs to videotape and from there, someone else took over the process of dubbing and distributing the dubs.  Now we create our own QuickTime movies complete with watermarks, time code windows and audio––all to the specifications of the composer, or the sound department, visual effects, promotion and so on.
How did you become interested in this line of work?
I think like many people in this business, I was young, probably eight or nine years old when I first became interested in film.   As I learned how sound and picture could be manipulated to tell a story, I became attracted to the editorial process; that’s where the pieces can be cut and rearranged until you have the sequence you like.
Who gave you your first break?
My first break came through an assistant editor, Karen Broderick, in 1993.  Meeting her began a series of lucky breaks.  I met her through my wife, Andrea, who had known Karen in college.  When I first spoke with Karen I was still living in Atlanta, GA, but was planning to move to LA in a few months.  As fate would have it, she was about to start work on location just south of Atlanta on a Jon Avnet feature, The War, on which Debbie Neil-Fisher was the editor.  Karen allowed me to volunteer my time in her cutting room doing things like cutting head and tail leaders and labeling boxes.  The editing rooms were set up for film only, we had no Avid at the time! 
When I moved to LA, I took an Avid assistant class.  When the crew from The War returned to LA, I was hired as a post-production assistant, but then an Avid was brought in so Debbie could work on some specific scenes.  I was the only one there with Avid experience, and that was a great introduction to what an Avid assistant does.  Through Karen, I also met Sabrina Plisco, who was the first editor to hire me as an assistant.  Sabrina and I worked together for about five years on 14 MOWs, and much of what I learned came either directly from her or through her willingness to let me learn some things on my own.
What was your first union job?
Divas, a one-hour pilot produced and directed by Thomas Carter.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I’m very proud my work on TV’s Scrubs.  For most of the two years I was on that show, I was the only assistant for the two editors, John Michel and Rick Blue.  While they divided up the episodes, it was up to me to see to it that the step-by-step needs of every episode for both editors were managed properly.  It was really a job for two people, so just covering the assistant duties was an accomplishment.  
Even for television, Scrubs is a difficult show:  Bill Lawrence is not only the executive producer, but also the lead writer and sometimes director, so it could be difficult to get him into the cutting room to sign off on an episode.  To help alleviate the time crunch on delivering picture, I spent time before the second season researching Final Cut Pro as an option for bringing video onlines into the cutting room.  I believed that if we took the money we spent on one season of online sessions and put that to the cost of purchasing an online system, we could take control of our online schedule.  After all, trying to reschedule sessions at a post facility brings its own complications.  Ultimately, the online process went to Digital Film Tree, but my efforts found us a vendor who could be competitive on cost and flexible with the schedule when we needed it.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Perhaps it was digitizing dailies on Scrubs.  To me, Neil Flynn as the janitor was just laugh-out-loud funny.  In the cutting room, we always look to enhance the performance one way or another, but his skill at improvisation and his timing make him fun to watch based on performance alone.  I always looked forward to the days when I knew his footage was coming in.
Job-wise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Things can change in this business, but I’d like to be an assistant editor, because the demands of the job suit my strengths.  I’ve always been interested in understanding the technical side of post-production and this job is becoming increasingly technical.  It’s probably where I can make the biggest contributions on a project. 
Favorite movie(s)?
Dr. Strangelove, a movie that took the fears of nuclear brinksmanship to absurd proportions; the result is a memorable dark comedy. Blazing Saddles is just a lot of fun.  And The Shawshank Redemption.  I like the suspense in a story that unfolds over 20 years.  Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne uses his brains first to create this identity outside the prison and then later to escape from the prison itself and create a new life.  I just love the story. 
Favorite TV Program(s)?
My son and I enjoy The Andy Griffith Show and Get Smart.  I much prefer the humor from that time.
Do you have an industry mentor? 
I don’t have a mentor, but just knowing guys like John Axelrad and Scott Janush helped me understand the need to set high personal standards.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Don’t be afraid to show your interest in something; ask questions but make a point to learn as much as you can on your own.  In my own career, I’ve been on both sides of that relationship and I always found someone willing to answer my questions when I showed I had some understanding of the topic.  When I’ve been the one answering questions, I’ve always found myself far more helpful when talking to an individual who was motivated to learn.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Not yet.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members?
Challenge yourself to be the best you can.  Every union worker in this county should be aware that companies are actively seeking to cut labor costs.  We need the Guild for protection, but if we can’t demonstrate our value through our work, then I’m not sure the Guild has much to fight for.
- Michael Kunkes

Interested in Being Featured?

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