I’m one of the editors on a new competition reality show, which has to remain under wraps at the moment.
Describe Your Job.
Since I’m now working mostly in unscripted TV, I find myself being a writer and producer as well as an editor, with a short schedule. I work on shows that are docudramas, ie, Real Housewives or creative competitions like Project Runway All Stars. To start, we often get a “stringout” — a very early cut from the story team. But by the time I finish my cut, I’ll have gone through hours and hours of footage. We have to create a clear storyline, character arcs, competitive or emotional drama, and then make it visually interesting. The cut goes through rounds and rounds of notes until the producers and the network are happy with it. Then I move on to the next episode. Then I take a vacation!
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I attended the University of Maryland, majoring in theatre. I wanted to act. By my sophomore year, I was having more fun with Radio/TV/Film classes, so I changed my major. If acting wasn’t working for me, then I could work behind the scenes in entertainment. I did some graduate work in film production and, after trying my hand at directing, camera, sound,and editing, I felt most at home with editing. I cut documentaries in Washington, DC, then moved to LA because I wanted to cut features.
Who gave you your first break?
In my time working in features, Allan Holzman hired me to cut his fil, Intimate Stranger. It was my first solo credit. I had been an assistant on Allan’s film Grunt and became friends with him and his wife, Susan Justin, a composer. We have all continued to work together over the years and remain close friends.
What was your first union job?
I was an assistant to the visual effects supervisor on The Seventh Sign. The executive producer liked me and got me into the Guild as an assistant editor. This was at a time when it was still difficult to get into the Union. My first position in picture editing was as an apprentice to editor Kent Beyda on Alien Nation.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
A long time ago, I cut a documentary on schizophrenia called I’m Still Here. The profiles of the afflicted people were heartbreaking and I had footage that was sensitive and non- exploitative. Disagreements arose between the producers concerning distribution and the film was only shown in a couple of festivals. It made the audience cry and I cried every time I saw it.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
What I find challenging now is working with producers and directors I haven’t worked with before. Developing their trust always takes extra effort and diplomacy, fostering a sense that you want to collaborate with them and make their show the best it can be. That skill is something that took me years to develop. I wasn’t always good at it.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
Back when I was an assistant editor on Grunt, the Wrestling Movie. It was my second job in LA. I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, six to seven days a week, but absolutely thrilled to be working on a feature film. I got to cut some scenes, which was really exciting for me. I didn’t want the job to end.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I just hope to continue working with people that I like. It makes all the difference, no matter what the project is.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Since I spend so much time working indoors, I crave being outside. I enjoy ordinary things like hiking, gardening, fun with my dog. I swim a lot in the summer. Day trips out of LA are a great way to clear your head. I have friends and family scattered around the country, so I travel to Austin, Portland, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and New Jersey, where I grew up.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Going back in time, I was really influenced by how Robert Altman used sound and music in McCabe and Mrs. Miller. That movie struck an emotional chord in me, as did Malick’s Days of Heaven and Mendes’ American Beauty. Although I can enjoy and admire films of many genres, my favorite films are those that have solid stories and compelling characters. Whether it’s a period romance like Out of Africa or a post-apocalyptic journey like Road Warrior, I admire films that touch my heart or take me to another place and time. My favorite documentaries include Woodstock and Harlan County, USA. Not one bit of narration. No formal sit down interviews. Love that.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Six Feet Under was one of my all-time favorites. I miss that show. The characters were so wonderfully developed and the times they went from ordinary dialogue to fantasy musical sequences was brilliant. I admired Homicide for its visual style, Pushing Daisies for its cleverness, Breaking Bad for its sheer emotional power. There has been some tremendous writing in TV lately: Damages, Mad Men, Enlightened, The Killing. But I’m not always that serious. I really like The Neighbors!
Do you have an industry mentor?
I learned a lot from assisting Mark Goldblatt and working with Allan Holzman. I worked with Mark on Predator 2 and distinctly remember something clicking when I watched him build scenes. He would make a cut and ask me, “Does that cut work for you?” I would evaluate the edit on many levels.
Allan taught me a lot about cutting action and visually propelling a scene forward. When we worked on a documentary series together, with more static elements, I was influenced by how he could create a sense of movement using just still images.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Diversify. Get experience in scripted as well as unscripted. There’s a lot of work in unscripted at the moment, so I’m often asked, “How do I get into reality?” It’s pretty hard to break in if you’ve never cut documentary.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I’ve never really relied on the Guild for something specific, but since I work union and non-union, keeping my Pension and Health benefits alive can be challenging. I’m thrilled that our current organizers, Rob Callahan and Preston Johnson, are making a tremendous effort to organize reality TV and I help out when I can.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
As I said before, diversify. I think it’s very important in the ever-changing entertainment business. And if you are an assistant, learn as much as you can from your editor on every job. Develop good relationships that will last.
- Compiled by Edward Landler
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