Where are you currently employed?
Most of my film work has been in Chicago, where I live. I work for a shorter term here because a film is usually on location for only a portion of its schedule, but I’ve had some great opportunities away from the coasts — and I look forward to central cities finding ways to attract features more consistently.
In between union work coming into the area, I cut trailers for the Provision Theater — one of the top theatres in Chicago. The theatre captures their performances for promotional and archival purposes. I assist them in maximizing their audiences by editing their multi-media campaigns. I use Media Composer and Pro Tools to establish a workflow that allows us to summarize the essence of two-hour multi-camera performances into 30-second spots for various audiences.
Describe your Job.
As an assistant editor, I wrangle the necessary elements that compose a sound and picture experience and prepare them for editing.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
When I was 11 years old, I sang and played on a NBC pilot called Save My Place — it became Bubblegum Digest, kind of a local Mickey Mouse Club. Producers Bob Kaiser and Joyce Rubin explained technical aspects of the production as we recorded. I was hooked. After the pilot was completed, I took a film class at Francis Parker School and edited my first film. I’ve been focused from that point.
Who gave you your first break?
Two years after college, a national radio host, Sondra Gair, walked into the cable access station where I volunteered as a camera operator and editor. Sondra had just lost the director/editor of her medical TV series, Heartbeat, and asked the handful of volunteers, “Is there anyone here who could take over this show?” My hand went up. This turned out to be a two-year gig with the American Heart Association of Greater Metropolitan Chicago. I directed and edited her cable TV series and she hosted.
What was your first union job?
When I finished Sondra’s show, I took a hands-on film class at the Community Film Workshop in Chicago. When I graduated, the workshop announced that several features were coming through Chicago and I got a job on Paramount’s Losing Isaiah. It was my first union show, but I worked on the sound crew as a non-union PA. Many films would come through Chicago and I worked any film position that was offered. Then I began traveling with features. My first editorial position was on Chain Reaction, where I was the editorial department assistant. The hours allowed me to join the Editors Guild.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
That would be my work as assistant editor on John D. Hancock’s Suspended Animation. It was produced at Film Acres in Indiana farmland, and I was originally hired to restore Avid media towers that were fried during thunder storms. Once I had restored the Avid files, editor Dennis M. O’Connor gave me more responsibility to get editorial back on schedule. This included helping to edit portions of the film, recording ADR and spotting portions of the score.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
For John Q, I was flown to Toronto to edit playback clips for video supervisor Lisa Becker and editor Dede Allen. Actors would interact with newsroom roll-ins and on-screen commercials playing on monitors throughout the hospital set. The idea was to keep the playback elements as raw and up-to-date as the subject matter, which was a hospital takeover. This meant producing and editing some elements that were not specifically scripted. While Lisa updated the content she designed via Final Draft software, I rendered graphics and clips in a round-the-clock rotation so that we could hand off previews and playback finals to Dede on schedule. When I got home after four months in Toronto, I slept for three days straight.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I was the editorial newbie on Chain Reaction, where I learned both the film and Avid sides of the cutting room. Under chief editor Arthur Schmidt, our team had a trailblazing workflow of multiple Avid work stations and a row of film benches. I reviewed and organized all the editorial paperwork to transfer metadata into the Avid and to prepare paperwork for dailies screenings. Director Andy Davis was sometimes shooting five cameras and I would see every scene as it came in through the Avid, on the bench or at dailies. When editorial closed in Chicago, the last dailies were just coming through the pipeline and I experienced the final two dailies sessions with just Andy and me in the Chicago screening room. It was frustrating to know that the film would finish in California… I wanted to walk through the whole course.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope to be editing a screen adaptation of one of Tim Gregory’s stage plays. Tim is one of the best actors in the US and a wonderful writer. I’d also love to edit musicals.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
I’ve played piano and sung since I was about eight years old. Two years ago, I performed in Harry Chapin’s musical Cotton Patch Gospel at Provision Theater in Chicago. There were 30 performances, 20 passionate songs each night, and it got great reviews. I loved every moment of it and managed to keep the day job afloat.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
My all-time favorite is Gypsy. I was eight years old when I first saw it and my family wouldn’t let me see the end of it—too risqué. Still I could fully relate to the cauldron of subplots brewing around Natalie Wood. Because of Gypsy, I wanted to be able to speak through film. I didn’t see the end of Gypsy until I was 23. I respect this film even more knowing that it doesn’t end with a rainbow, but partly cloudy. Next in line is Voyage of the Yes, a TV movie with Desi Arnaz, Jr., then The Color Purple and Amadeus.
Favorite TV program? Why?
Room 222 was my favorite. It was ahead of its time using the “classroom/campus” in a fresh style to sell diversity and freedom of thought…a snapshot of cultures and age groups as they crossed paths. I knew several people who could easily double for the characters of Room 222.
Do you have an industry mentor?
My mentors have been Lisa Becker and her husband, producer/assistant director Josh McLaglen. They have always kept me abreast of what is going on in the world of film. They ask me, “What do you want? What is your passion?” and help me design a path to reach my goals. They are kind and organized to the hilt…my angels.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Know that the business is telling stories and keep up with the technology that will allow you to do this. For instance, I use Pro Tools for music at my church because it keeps a part of my skill set fresh for filmmaking.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
As a Midwesterner, understanding the system was a hurdle. I spent a great deal of time talking to Guild staff to complete the necessary paperwork and hours, etc., to get on the roster. The Guild was extremely helpful when it put me in touch with a former Midwesterner who knew the ropes.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Most people sit back and watch film. I have always had great regard for those who step forward to learn how film is made. I am privileged to have watched them splice and heal, cremate and create. This is powerful. I never forget what the film-watching experience was for me as an eight-year-old in Chicago. Film helped me focus my journey.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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