Where are you currently employed?
I am a freelance music editor.
A television series for FX called The Americans, now in its fourth season.
Describe Your Job.
I collaborate with film directors, producers, picture editors, music composers, music supervisors and sound editors in adding music to feature films, television shows, documentaries, etc.
A music editor may be asked to create a temporary music score for the film, which must blend with the style of the story. Among other things, a temp score is necessary so a pre-release screening audience can view the film with all of its elements present — dialogue, sound effects and music. This is usually before a composer is hired. There may be many revisions before the film is released and a music editor edits or modifies the music to fit each new cut of the film.
Once a composer is at work, the music editor can be the composer’s liaison between film director, producer and picture editor, as everyone works toward completion. When the composer’s score is recorded at a recording studio with musicians playing each written part for all of the music cues, the music editor keeps track of each recorded performance, or take, for every piece of the score.
Following the recording session, the music editor re-edits the score if necessary to match any last-minute picture revisions, and prepares it for the final re-recording mix (at a specialized facility). The “final mix” combines all of the audio (dialogue, sound effects, and music) into a final, balanced presentation.
Finally, the music editor makes a cue sheet, which lists all music in the film. Cue sheets are used to report usage of music to the performance royalty collecting organizations around the world, such as ASCAP and BMI.
Each project is unique and may require me to carry out several other tasks as well.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I started as a production assistant, working in pre-production and production. When principal photography was completed, I would take the exposed film to the developing lab and production audio to a sound house. At the sound house, I noticed how dialogue, sound and music editors did their parts in post-production. That got me interested in post, and since I am a musician, music editing in particular.
Who gave you your first break?
Moving to the West Coast, I worked for two years at a post facility in Burbank. Then I got a call from a guitar/bass player friend with whom I had played in several bands in New York. He was writing music for TV sitcoms and asked if I wanted to work with him as a music editor. I said yes right away and started working on several shows for ABC. Later, I had the opportunity to work on TV movies and feature films.
What was your first union job?
A 1995 feature film called Panther directed by Mario Van Peebles. It is a true story of the Black Panther Party during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I absolutely enjoyed Gangs of New York with director Martin Scorsese. We recorded composer Howard Shore’s score at Abbey Road Studios in London. During a break, two staff workers showed us the studios used by the Beatles to record their music; what a thrill! Another terrific project was the Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light, also directed by Scorsese. It was a joy going to work every day preparing Rolling Stones music. I was especially thrilled to work with Mick Jagger, who is a great guy and a pleasure to be around.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
One particular challenge I remember was a 2009 film called Notorious, a biopic about American rapper the Notorious B.I.G., directed by George Tillman, Jr. The score was written by Danny Elfman, and several hip hop songs were used throughout the film.
When I received a new cut of picture, I noticed several hip hop tracks sounded like there was a skip in the beat. Hip hop music is groove-oriented music to say the least, and any impediment to the groove of these songs would be noticed by the audience. The problem was that when the picture editors made edits that were good for the scene, the edits created an inconsistent beat groove.
I decided to create a click track for every song in the film and these click tracks were brought into the picture editor’s workstation. Then when any picture and/or music edits were made, all the picture editor needed to do was make sure the song played in perfect time with the click track.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I had a wonderful time working on Shine a Light and, more recently, on The Americans. Everyone on the post-production team is excellent at what they do and they all have a terrific sense of humor!
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Continue as a music editor, composer, arranger and drummer and, most importantly, be of good cheer.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Drumming, tap dancing and collecting out-of-print books about music.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Of the many films I consider favorites, these are just two: Hobson’s Choice — a 1954 UK film directed by David Lean, an example of fine storytelling with such wonderful actors as Charles Laughton and John Mills; and Amadeus — a delightful story about the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, directed by Milos Forman in 1984; another example of filmmaking at its finest.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
The Rifleman — I love Westerns and this was one of the best. The writing was excellent, and the show’s theme and score were written by Herschel Burke Gilbert, one of the great TV and film composer/orchestrators of the 1950s and 1960s.
Do you have an industry mentor?
In Los Angeles, I was an assistant music editor on a film called 2 Days in the Valley. The main music editor, Cliff Kohlweck, had been working on the film for a while. He explained many aspects of music editing that I had not yet encountered and was very generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. A few weeks later, Cliff received a call from composer John Barry to work on another film. Barry composed many of the James Bond movie scores and Cliff was his main music editor for many years. After Cliff left 2 Days, I finished the project as music editor.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Learn the workflow of post-production, the various duties of a music editor and the technology involved. It is of considerable value to have knowledge of music; this work is well-suited for a musician.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Yes, many times I have called for information and advice about a particular film’s union contract.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Our profession is the art and business of storytelling. Everyone loves a good story and people have been telling stories before there was written language. When performing your job, it is helpful to stay focused on the main goal: to tell a good story.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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