Where are you currently employed?
I work at Liquid Music in Burbank. There are six music editors in our company: Jeff Carson (CEO), myself (President), Tanya Hill, Jim Harrison, Andy Dorfman and Alice Wood.
Disney’s animated feature The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau and edited by Mark Livolsi, with music by composer John Debney. It is scheduled for release next year.
Describe Your Job.
For temping, we look at the film, decide where music should start and stop, figure out a musical direction, and compile a library of soundtracks that we think will work. We loosely sync up various cuts of each soundtrack to the picture and make note of which cuts work best. Then, we start editing the music to fit various sequences. Often, we’ll reach into our “bag of tricks” and sweeten cuts that need an emotional assist. That “bag” includes string sustains, percussive loops and hits, and various instruments from other sources. We try to offer the director a few different options so he can see which scores work best overall.
For the final cut, we re-spot the film with the composer, using the temp as a guide, noting what works and what doesn’t. Then, as editorial keeps fine-tuning the picture, we update notes for the composer so he or she can write to the latest version of the film. At some point, the clock will run out and it will fall to us to conform the music to the picture for the final dub.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
My wife, Denise O’Hara, was a music editor for seven years. When I was ending my career as a touring musician, she suggested that I give it a try. We were starting a family so it was the perfect job into which to transition.
Who gave you your first break?
I would have to give credit to my wife and to Chip Yaras, who was head of post-production at Ruby-Spears/Hanna-Barbera. Chip gave me a start there and my wife personally trained me.
What was your first union job?
Music editor on the animated TV series Alvin and The Chipmunks in 1986.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
Here are just a few:
What’s Love Got to Do with It because of the challenges of editing visual performances on 35mm film; a great movie directed by Brian Gibson, who unfortunately left this world too soon.
About a Boy directed by the great Weitz brothers. It was a terrific film and I got to work with Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy), who wrote the songs that became the “score.” Red Dragon, directed by Brett Ratner, was memorable because I got to create a temp score for a truly twisted character. An amateur critic attended one of the previews and gave Danny Elfman a glowing review without realizing it was all my temp music. That was pretty sweet.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Apart from the special challenges that every project presents, there is one challenge that arises on various shows. It’s when directors think that they have made a certain kind of film and begin referencing classic films and soundtracks when, in fact, they have made a film resembling none of them and it requires music unrelated to their imagined one. I then have the task of trying to give them what they want while trying to bring them musically closer to what the film actually needs… and what the studio expects.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
You mean besides hanging out with my co-workers in Burbank, picking and cutting temp music, attending sessions with the best musicians in the world, dubbing with talented sound crews and mixers, and working with awesome directors? Um, every day?
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Exactly what I’m doing now.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Mostly I enjoy a few forms of exercise like biking, swimming and walking our dogs all over the hillside where I live. I’ll occasionally pluck on a guitar just to remind my fingers that they once earned a living making strings vibrate instead of clicking a mouse.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Way too many to list but a few of them are:
Lawrence of Arabia — magical in scope and visually overwhelming. The storytelling, the drama, the acting, the music and the action seemed so great and new to me.
To Kill a Mockingbird — sitting in a Los Angeles movie house, I could feel the stifling heat in that Southern courtroom and the weight of the tragedy slowly unfolding… Maybe I was subconsciously drawn toward my career by Lawrence and Atticus.
The Godfather — not knowing one thing about the story going into the theatre, what an amazing surprise it was. Many people root for the “bad guys” and empathize with them, but this took it to a whole new level. Practically a perfect film capped off by a perfect musical theme.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
The most recent series would be Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, Game of Thrones, Narcos and The Walking Dead — they run the gamut from absolute brilliance to creative mayhem. All are groundbreaking in one way or another.
Do you have an industry mentor?
If I had to choose one person it would be my wife, because of her creative instincts and patience while she showed me how to improve my music editing skills.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
First, I would encourage them to become proficient with the tools of the trade — currently Pro Tools — and, if they are planning on working as an independent as most music editors do, start collecting soundtracks of every movie available and become familiar with them. Then, try to find a music editor or a group of editors that would take on an intern. I would also advise them to call the Guild and find out exactly what is needed to become a member, like how many non-union hours are required, the cost of membership, etc.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
I’ve had a lot of great experiences with countless film editors, effects and dialogue editors, and mixers over the past 30 years. We’ve all worked toward the same goal, no matter what branch we were in, to help make whatever project we were on the best it could be. I would encourage us all to continue doing exactly what we’ve been doing: our jobs. It certainly doesn’t suck to be us.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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