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Past Featured Members

TOM PILLA - ASSISTANT EDITOR:

October 2013

What is your current project?

I am working on Veronica Mars: The Movie, which gained a lot of attention from its historic Kickstarter campaign.

Describe Your Job.

In general, it means handling the technical and organizational aspects typical of many types of projects from dailies to final mix and DI. It can entail creating and maintaining a full temp sound mix, mocking up visual effects and finding stock footage, and keeping all manner of lists and databases. It can also mean being a concierge, a confidante, an advocate and a friend to your editor, and fostering an environment that is comfortable and free of distractions. My favorite part of assisting on features is discussing the cut with the editor and the reasons for the editorial choices — being the film's first audience.

How did you first become interested in this line of work?`

I grew up in LA and going to the movies is a huge part of the culture, so my love of film was there long before I knew I wanted to work in it. I graduated college with a degree in architecture and engineering but could never find a career niche that made me happy and allowed me to use both my creative and technical skills. Meanwhile, I started an architecture-related “audio collage” radio program with some friends. While in the middle of a complicated edit, I also attended every show at the annual Film Noir festival and realized that film editing could be the career I had been looking for. I scoured through many film books and found an essay by Danish filmmaker Carl Dreyer in which he compares working in film with architectural practice. That really did it!

Who gave you your first break and what was your first union job?

My first paid position in post was as a tape logger; the producers of The Surreal Life gave me a few breaks when I was inexperienced. My first feature was also my first union job: Blood Done Sign My Name, a true story of the Civil Rights struggle in North Carolina. I am grateful to post supervisor Patricia Gould for hiring me as her post PA and to editor Toby Yates for promoting me to assistant e       ditor.

Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?

The features I have worked on have been fairly different in style and subject matter, and I have found many things to like about working on all of them. From the start, Blood Done Sign My Name appealed strongly to my sense of social justice. The huge amount of anticipation on the part of Veronica Mars fans has made that project very rewarding — it is exciting to be working on something important enough to so many people that they would donate money to see it made!

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I worked on a small non-union film recut project where they only had one Avid system. I really wanted to work with the editor again so I agreed to work all night so that he could come in during the day. I had worked plenty of graveyards in reality TV, but coordinating a night shift on a feature was much more challenging. When I'm on a feature, I tend to work much more closely with the editor and our tasks are less separable. To make it work, I made sure to come in early enough so I could give good feedback on the cut and the changes being made and have the sorts of in-depth conversations with the editor that make me feel like I am truly assisting them.

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

I worked on a project with Hughes Winborne, who likes to bring a guitar to the cutting room. One day I brought in my harmonica and we had a nice jam. Veronica Mars is the first film I’ve worked on with editor Daniel Gabbe. We have been friends since college; we worked at the campus radio station together. I also worked with our PA before, but we have been friends for much longer than that. So the editorial team is made up of friends of mine, which is always fun!

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

My goal is to work on the types of films I enjoy watching: story and/or character-driven shows with an independent spirit and a point of view. In five years I hope to still be working on these types of films, and if I have one or two editing credits by then, so much the better. Thomas Pynchon is my favorite fiction author and if more adaptations of his work happen, one of my personal goals is to work on one of them.

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

I love Los Angeles and exploring the city and its natural landscape, as well as its history. Attending live music shows and hunting down additions for my record collection also takes a fair amount of my time. For nearly 20 years, I have run a website and mailing list detailing one-off film, music and art events in LA. When I can find the time, I also enjoy writing. Last year, I created a film club for union narrative feature editorial crew. We research and read film theory articles and academic papers, then get together to watch and discuss a related film.

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

It is hard to pick favorites, but here are some I admire: Dr. Strangelove shows the hilarious in the unthinkable. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is an ingenious re-thinking of LA noir. Gerry perfectly captures friendship and nature. Shadows is full of freedom and energy. Down By Law creates a cool mood that feels inhabitable. Punishment Park remains terrifyingly relevant decades later. F for Fake is wildly inventive and touches on some of my favorite themes. Cleo from 5 to 7 is just beautiful. The Blues Brothers — could a better musical ever be made? Out of the Past is stark and brutal in all the right ways. Careful blew my mind the first time I saw it and continues to do so. The Puffy Chair relates an honest feeling of “now.”

Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?

You'd have to try really hard to top Fishing with John and then you'd be trying too hard.

Do you have an industry mentor?

Toby Yates always has great advice and experiences to relate. I feel like every editor I've worked with has been amazingly free with the time they have given to me, for which I am very grateful.

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Stay focused and be prepared to make many sacrifices. Editors are very approachable, friendly and eager to share their knowledge, so when someone offers to teach you something, bring a pen and paper and take copious notes!

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

I haven't really needed help from the Guild yet, but it is nice knowing that I am covered should it ever come to that. I try to make it to all the monthly mixers because it feels great to be a part of such a dynamic creative community.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

There are many challenges on the horizon for organized labor in general and our part of the industry in particular. I support all my sisters and brothers in the struggle and, together, I am certain that we will succeed.

 

- 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 edlandler@roadrunner.com.

 


Interested in Being Featured?

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