Where are you currently employed?
Next week I'm finishing a five-year run as the lead editor for Universal Studio's Curious George television series. I’m considering opportunities, what to do next.
Describe your job.
I'm responsible for editing the storyboard for each show, handling all the editing of the color footage, and sending it all to the post houses to finish my work in Hi-Def.
How did you become interested in this line of work?
My buddy Mark Bollinger got me in at Disney ten years ago. I found that it was a great gig to pursue because, unlike live action, animation has the perfect hours for family life. I started cutting films while at the Art Center of Design in Pasadena.
Who gave you your first break?
I've had three big "first" breaks. The first was the team of Jon Shapiro and James Seligman at Imagine Entertainment. They hired me for a full year to cut an infomercial about improving relationships. The product was a couples program by a psychologist. Even though it was an infomercial, both of those guys went on to have fantastic careers. That particular job gave me tons of experience in post and the craft of editing.
Another big break came when I was on welfare as a single dad and all of a sudden got a $40,000 a year job cutting fitness informercials. I was hired by producer/director Ed Madison, who was brilliant. He was also producing EPKs for big movies and brought me along into that world. Even though Ed was directing, he gave me some of the most valuable insight into editing of my whole career. He helped me see exactly what was important in a shot and what was bullshit.
My third big break was when post-production manager Mark Bollinger got me into Disney as an assistant editor on a Saturday morning cartoon.
What was your first union job?
My first union job was as assistant editor at Disney on a Saturday morning cartoon called Pepper Ann. I had been a full-fledged freelance editor for the 10 previous years, but I had to take a step back to be an assistant for a couple years. I learned high-end post, personalities and corporate methodology, and made the connections that would end up leading to my next jobs. I had some incredible mentors like Disney picture editors Ted Supa and John Roye. And all along the way, I learned from producers, writers, artists, directors and everyone. Great environment.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I think I was most proud of Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas because it was the first big studio job for me and it was also the first time any of the classic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were being done in CG animation. It was pioneering. It was a rush to figure all that stuff out. I got to sit with one of Disney's most revered animators, Andreas Deja, who exposed me to the finer nuances of making a character pop.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
I had a situation once that exploded because a certain executive in charge got his feathers ruffled when I figured out how to solve a problem without him. It was a terrible situation. They called me into an ambush meeting with human services and tried to make me look like a bad guy for actually helping out my project and saving the company money. They told me to sign a paper that said I was totally breaking the rules and would never do it again. It was humiliating. I had a family and needed the job.
I went out and called every person I ever worked with and asked for help getting out of that studio. I got a gig right away and was able to leave one studio on a Friday and start at another one on Monday with the exact same pay, equipment and duties. The people at the new studio were the greatest folks I have ever worked with.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Working on Curious George was a blast because it was a very small crew and everybody was into screwing around with practical jokes and general silliness. It was a family. But when it was time to work, everybody rocked it hard with über efficiency. Play and work go great together.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Editing has always been my bread and butter, but my real passion is in independent films. I have made several films and see myself heading more and more in that direction. I'm the founder of Sonoma Media Arts [www.sonomamediaarts.com].
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Surfing is my big passion. I love technology and co-host an iTunes podcast about relationships. I also love building websites and Photoshopping while listening to Pandora. But most of all, I love screenwriting and making films.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Hands down my favorite movie is Stranger Than Paradise. It came out in the early 1980s when everything was MTV crazy cutting and super saturated colors. Stranger is the polar opposite and uses many single takes and black-and-white film. I love the simplicity of the story and theme about three idiots who think they will be different when they change something in their lives––but even after the change, they are still the same idiots. Some of the scenes are a reel long. If the actors need a close-up, they walked closer to the camera. It is kind of funny and ironic that my all-time favorite film has almost no editing in it.
Favorite TV Program(s)? Why?
I like documentaries and bios.
Do you have an industry mentor?
I don' t have a mentor per se, but everybody has been more than generous with their knowledge and I am very grateful to them. The guy who gave me the most support was editor Hank Simon, who provided me with the fatherly wisdom I needed to push forward. Also, producer/editor Glenn Turner gave me an enormous amount of mentoring. As far as studio union editors and assistants, I am most grateful for the insight shared by Julie Rogers, Julie Lau, John Bryant, Ted Supa, Denis Dutton, Jenny Jordan, John Royer, Karen Hathaway and Barbara Gerety.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Start cutting. Get Final Cut Pro and cut anything. Do what you want to do. When I first started, I cut music videos, informercials, porn, documentaries, whatever. Just start cutting and then everyone will see your focus emerging and will start bringing you work.
Also, know that most of your jobs will come from other editors. More than producers or directors, knowing other editors is the best way to get jobs. If they are booked, they will suggest you for the gig. Editors are in the cutting room with producers and directors and know all the buzz about what's coming up on the horizon.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members?
Thanks for sharing so much info with us all. Thanks for doing your craft!
- Robin Rowe