Where are you currently employed?
CBS Television Productions.
NCIS: Los Angeles. I’ve been working on the show since 2011.
Describe Your Job.
I am one of three editors on the show. We rotate every third episode, so I cut about eight episodes per season.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I started as an apprentice editor. The initial appeal for me was the idea that editing was like putting together a large jigsaw puzzle and, as a youngster, I loved putting together puzzles.
Who gave you your first break?
My first real break, after landing a job as a production assistant, was the late Howard Kuperman. Howie was supervising editor at Professional Films in New York and, in 1970, he hired me as his apprentice on Little Murders, directed by Alan Arkin from Jules Feiffer’s play. I found the whole environment intriguing, and I loved watching the interaction between Howie and Alan as the film was being edited. They were both very open to my input and kept me involved with the process. I realized I could do that kind of work — and I enjoyed the working relationships and the post-production environment.
What was your first union job?
Little Murders was my first union job and I got an assistant editor credit. That’s when I got into Local 771 in New York.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
One of the most important films of my career was Alice, Sweet Alice, a horror thriller and the first theatrical feature with Brooke Shields as a child actress. I was brought in to recut the movie, which had several editorial issues that needed creative solutions. The movie went on to achieve some notoriety, and when I moved to Los Angeles, I had credibility as an editor.
I am also very proud of my work on the TV show Max Headroom, especially as the editor of the pilot episode. It was a groundbreaking show, with special effects never before attempted on such a large scale for a TV episode.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
I don't know that there ever was a "biggest challenge." There are often all kinds of challenges in my line of work, which keeps things interesting. A challenge could be a difficult personality in a collaborator, a poorly written script, poorly directed material, missing coverage, bad performances, or just not enough time to solve the problems at hand. Each of these challenges requires a different approach. So how did I learn to overcome those challenges? Through years of experience.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
The most fun I have is working with interesting people, good writers, directors and producers who have new and creative ways of looking at material and working collaboratively to fix problems or make a story stronger or more dramatic with spontaneous ideas. It’s just great having creative minds around who enjoy their work and bring their enjoyment into the editing environment.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I never plan that far ahead. I don’t know what the next job will bring, let alone one that’s five years down the road.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
My favorite hobby is genealogy. It's kind of like working on a documentary. I enjoy doing the research and learning about the stories and history of my family. I've written two histories for my family — one tracing my father's side of the family back to late-1500s Vienna and the other tracing my father-in-law's ancestors back to Poland. I also love going to movies with my wife and we enjoy some of the excellent television shows being produced currently.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Seven Samurai, Chinatown, The Godfather. They all are well written and well directed, and they all have great characters, plots and performances.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Currently some of my favorite TV shows are Bloodlines (on Netflix), Gold Rush: Alaska and Deadliest Catch (both on the Discovery Channel), The Vikings (on The History Channel(, The Americans (on FX), Homeland and Ray Donovan (both on Showtime), and Deutschland 83 (on Sundance). These shows have consistently good plots that arc over a season, as well as great writing, and great production values. The characters are very engaging and the performances are outstanding. So how do Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush fit in? They are also well produced shows, and I enjoy documentary/reality. Those are just entertaining and fun and well made.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
I would advise learning story, structure and performance. You should also know about art, painting and photography. And know how to get along well with others; be collaborative, diplomatic, and patient. You should have your own point of view, but know how to listen well and give good feedback. Try not to be defensive when your work is criticized, and be open to all sorts of ideas from anyone.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Keep pushing to get non-union shows organized, especially non-scripted. We need to encourage editors in all genres to join the Guild and be able to reap the benefits of union membership.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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