Where are you currently employed?
Working on a feature film for Lionsgate.
Editing a movie called School Dance directed by Nick Cannon, actor in Drumline and host of America’s Got Talent. This is his first time directing a feature film.
Describe Your Job.
What I do is the last step of the movie-making process, where the movie comes to life, one shot at a time, juxtaposed together to give the illusion of reality.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
In the 1970s, my mom would take my sisters and me to the drive-in theatre because she could get the whole family in for $7. Even with the bad sound and constant interruptions of people walking by, the magic of what was up on the screen made a big impression on me.
Who gave you your first break?
Daniel Radford gave me my first big break in the industry. He was the associate producer on a documentary called Madonna: Truth or Dare and needed a film conforming assistant. The documentary was cut on Touchvison, a machine that used over 60 VHS half-inch tape decks, which allowed the editor to cut non-linearly.
They had already locked the film when I started, and my job was to take the 35mm color concert footage work print and conform it to the locked VHS video cut. I used a new negative cutting software program called Osc/r, pronounced “Oscar” — Open System for Conforming and Re-formatting, a DOS-based application that converted time code to key code numbers similar to the film cutlist software used in editing systems today. Since this was a new program, there were rounding errors — today you would call it a 3:2 pull-down error — that were introduced during the translation from 30-frame video to 24-frame film. I spent weeks making one-frame adjustments to the head and tail of each shot on the 35mm work print.
What was your first union job?
I got a call from Robert Rodriguez, a director I worked with on his first Hollywood film called Roadracers, which was part of the Rebel Highway series for Showtime. He was going into production on Desperado, the sequel to El Mariachi. He asked me to work in editorial with him on location in Del Rio, Texas, during production.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
One of the films of which I am most proud was Hotel California. The cutting style was like The Limey and Memento — the story jumped back and forth through time. Our work is supposed to be invisible, but this film showed off my editing. I never forget my first cut being 64 minutes long. I broke out in a cold sweat as I heard the words in my head, “You’re fired.” I quickly looked at the lined script and did a page count. Sure enough; 25 pages were cut from the script and not even shot. This became a great opportunity to make a better film. Director Geo Santini and I spent a few weeks figuring out the new scenes that would be shot and some of my ideas even made it into the final cut of the film.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Time is always my biggest challenge. On School Dance, they shot 24 hours of footage with three cameras running on the set in one day. The producers laughed as they said, “Good luck looking at all of it.” But that is my job, to look at all of it. Let’s just say I put in some pretty late nights looking at and cutting that one day of dailies.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Again, School Dance, my current project. Working with Nick Cannon has been so collaborative. He brings a lot of energy into the cutting room. Even when we are having a tough time figuring out how to cut a scene, we are laughing. He likes to say “E, make it work,” and somehow I do.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Still working on great films, collaborating with talented directors and — my wife hopes — making a lot more money.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
One of my more interesting hobbies is working on the Rose Parade float for the City of Burbank. I have been a member of the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association since 1982 and I have designed two of their floats — for 1989, “The Unforgettable Picnic” and, for 1991, “The Great Race.” I am currently the group’s Historian. The year 2014 will be the Centennial of Burbank’s first float entry into the parade, and it’s been a lot of fun finding old photos and articles that we thought were lost in time. It's a year-round effort building Burbank's float, and we are always looking for volunteers. If you’re interested in helping go to www.burbankrosefloat.com.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
I remember seeing a lot of films when I was a kid, but it was a movie called Star Wars that made me think, “I don’t know how they made that, but that’s what I want to do — create a world that only exists on film.” I was so captivated by George Lucas’ vision that I saw the film 25 times in the movie theatre; I was 11 years old at the time.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Who really has the time to watch all the great shows that are on TV today? Some of my favorites are Mad Men, Parenthood, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. These shows are written and shot so well that it would be a challenge and an honor to cut them. They all have something to say about the human condition.
Do you have an industry mentor?
Larry Bock is not only my mentor but one of the best editors in the business. I learned so much about cutting when I was his assistant and how to have fun in the cutting room — even when you are working your ass off.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
My advice to the person who wants to pursue a career in editing is to buy editing system software and learn it in film school or online training. Then find as many up-and-coming directors as you can, and cut their films for whatever budget they have. This way, you will build your editor’s reel. And if those filmmakers become successful, your chances are good that they will hire you on their next jobs.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
We must keep reminding producers how important we are in the creative process, and not just an employee who pushes buttons on a computer. We are very imaginative people who solve problems every time we make a cut — thousands of them, give or take a few — a day!
- Compiled by Edward Landler
Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on the home page of the Editors Guild website, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.