Where are you currently employed?
I'm 100% freelance.
A feature called The English Teacher with Lily Collins and Julianne Moore.
Describe Your Job.
I work both movies and TV. For TV shows — like Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and HBO’s Bored to Death — I work with the editors to place temp score into the cuts that will ultimately go to the networks. I run the spotting sessions with the producers, show runners, editors and composers, and provide detailed notes for the composer to work against. With the music supervisor, I find and edit source cues as needed for each episode, and then provide him with the timing information for source and score cues that he will need for final cue sheets. I work with the composers to make sure I receive the score in a technically correct and timely fashion, then present the score to the producers, show runners and editors for approval. At that time, I edit the score to accommodate requested changes. Finally, I bring all the music to the final mix and oversee its placement in the episode, making any further editorial changes on the stage.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
As a kid, music and sound really intrigued me and I was into electronics because my dad was a ham radio operator. I had a Radio Shack tape recorder I took everywhere, recording anything and everything. My aunt and uncle worked for a major record label, so I had an enormous record collection. I played the violin in school. When I began making films in college, I took a serious interest in creating their soundtracks. After graduating, I worked my way through the ranks to become a sound editor. After 10 years of doing that, I decided that music editing would be more gratifying for me.
Who gave you your first break?
I will be forever grateful to three people who made it possible for me to move forward in this industry that I love. Filmmaker Bette Gordon was my professor at Hofstra. She noticed how much attention I paid to the sound editing on my senior thesis film and asked if I would be interested in moving to New York to be an apprentice on a feature after graduating. Her friend, Skip Lievsay, was the supervising sound editor who gave me the job… on The Silence of the Lambs! Finally, Bill Nisselson, who was the studio manager at Sound One here in New York, was so kind to me and helped me secure jobs as a sound editor on many independent films.
What was your first union job?
I got into the union while working on The Silence of the Lambs.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I take pride in everything I do, but I am very proud of one project in particular. Dan Lieberstein hired me for the final season of HBO's Sex and the City in 2003. This was my trial by fire, since I had never worked in episodic TV before. There was no composer — everything we used was existing music. It required a lot of listening, a lot of experimentation, and a lot of patience. In between finding cues and cutting them, we had to clear all the cues we were using, send quote requests and confirmation letters — all while fielding phone calls from would-be artists, record labels, and fans wondering about a song they heard on the show. We were swamped! But the two of us gave that last season the treatment it deserved: A musical landscape that had humor and pathos. We were proud to be nominated for two MPSE Golden Reels that season, winning one.
What was your biggest challenge on a particular project and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was working with Marvin Hamlisch on The Informant! in 2008. I was asked to work out of his apartment and create click tracks for him as he wrote the score (in his head) for the film. He was very cagy around me. I was trying hard to be competent and friendly but sometimes he would barely talk to me. I was very intimidated by him, because.... well, he's Marvin Hamlisch. But I found out from his wife that HE was intimidated by ME because I knew how to use a computer! I broke the ice with him when I asked if it was true that he went to Hofstra because I had gone there, too. He bought me lunch and we sat in his kitchen laughing for two hours as he told me all sorts of stories. From then on, we got along famously, and he relied on me to do absolutely everything for the recording sessions. Later Steven Soderbergh was surprised when I told him this was our first job together.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Working on The Producers in 2005. Having a 60-piece orchestra perform in front of you is mesmerizing as it is, but throw in live vocals by the film's stars and it's a real blast. The cherry on top was getting to sit next to Mel Brooks each day during the sessions and listening to every hilarious word that came out of his mouth. Mel has been my family's hero since I was little.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I LOVE to cut music. In five years, I hope I'm cutting music on projects that I love and believe in, and lots of them!
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Music remains my number one love though my job has changed how I listen to it. I play the guitar and take weekly lessons. I also do extensive research on my family tree. I have been a photographer since I was 13 and go on “photo walks”. During downtime, I catch up on all the movies and seasons of my favorite TV shows that I may have missed. My partner, Tiffany, and I love taking our dog, Chauncey, for walks in Riverside Park or on side trips.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
I'm a really big fan of psychological thrillers from the '60s and '70s. My favorite is Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. Everything about it is perfectly executed and the score is sublime. I also love The Parallax View, The Conversation, The Pawnbroker, Marathon Man and Taxi Driver. I love the grit, the paranoia, and the haunted psyches that these films present. I can watch them over and over again, and see and hear things I never did before.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
I like “smart” TV… from The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Twin Peaks and Breaking Bad. TV shows like this, that present themselves as short films, give me a “cinematic fix” when I don't have time to watch a feature.
Do you have an industry mentor?
When I was working in sound, I looked up to Ron Bochar, Phil Stockton and Skip Lievsay. They took the time to show me how they thought about working with sound, how to use sound in ways that were not literal, and how to really manipulate a visual event with sound. When I got into music editing, I learned an immense amount from Dan Lieberstein. Aside from teaching me editorial tricks to make a cue really work for a scene, he taught me a very valuable lesson: To be patient and take my time. I learned how to slow down and analyze a cue before diving in to cut it. He also showed me how to stand my ground in a final mix and defend the music when necessary, and to hang back when it's called for.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Try to get an internship on a production to really get a feel for what everyone on the job does. Music editing doesn't exist in a bubble, there are many facets to it, and it's not all about “picking songs”! Watch carefully how someone works and find an appropriate time to ask questions. I learned the most from just watching and listening.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
On a job in 1990, the Union's business manager came into our cutting room and told us to stop what we were doing and leave the room. Later I found out that the production was not paying our overtime or into our P&W. I was relatively new and it's something I never would have realized was happening. I remember going to the Union office and the business manager handing me a huge check. I was so grateful that the Union had our backs.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Remember that we are all one big team. I've never been in a work environment where people that I'm in direct competition with for a job are also my friends. So if you can't take a job for whatever reason, remember your friends and put their names up for consideration.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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