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What Our Members Do - Past Featured Members

Priscilla Zambrano - Assistant Editor

September 2023

Where are you currently employed?
I just wrapped on season 3 of The CW’s “Superman & Lois.”


Current projects?
I’m enjoying my time off after wrapping on the show, but I’d say my biggest project right now is joining the WGA on their picket lines as often as I can.


Describe your job.
I’m an assistant editor in live-action scripted TV, although I have also worked in animation as an assistant editor and animatic editor. (Animatic editors are editors in animation who cut together the storyboards before they start to animate. It’s the blueprint for the show/movie.)


My tasks as an assistant editor vary quite a bit. If we are in dailies, I start the day by prepping footage for my editor. Every editor has different workflow preferences, so it’s important to communicate with them about how they like their dailies prepped. Everything in this industry is about collaboration, and part of my job is to make sure that my editor’s day goes as smoothly as possible. As I go through the footage, I keep all the paperwork from our script supervisor close by, and I consult it to make sure we have all the material that was shot for a scene so we can put it together according to the script.


When dailies are done, I hand everything off to my editor and take a coffee and/or snack break. Once my editor has finished a scene, she will pass it off to me to do temp sound work. A scene can take anywhere from minutes to several hours to do sound work, depending on the type of scene it is. Dialogue scenes with just a few characters having a conversation are usually quick, but heavy action scenes with lots of punches, whooshes, and explosions can take all day. This repeats until everything for our episode has been filmed.


After that, my other AE duties are more in flux. Once an episode comes together, I output cuts of the episode and send them off to whomever needs to see them. The first cut (editor’s cut) goes to the director, who gives notes. Once those notes are applied, I would then send the episode to the showrunners and the process repeats. The episode will keep going up the ladder until it gets to the network.


Once the network notes are applied, the episode is considered “locked.” Once we lock an episode, we do turnovers. That’s when I package all the materials for an episode (footage, production sound, sound effects, temp ADR — everything, all of it digital) and send it to two different teams: picture (our online house) and sound (our post-production sound team). It’s also my job to update those materials in new smaller turnovers if there are any picture changes later. This is a long and complicated process, and although it’s not necessarily difficult, it can be easy to make a mistake if you’re not paying attention. Some assistant editors love turnovers, some hate them. I’m still learning to love them.


How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I’ve been working on visually creative projects all my life. My first NLE (non-linear editing system) was Windows Movie Maker back when computers were secluded in the home office and Justin Timberlake was still in a boy band. I was the kid making elaborate school projects and stealing my parents’ old camcorder to record videos with my siblings. As a Los Angeles native, I was always aware that the film industry was right in my backyard.


But the first time I considered building a career doing something visually creative, it wasn’t related to film or TV at all; I wanted to be a graphic designer. So as a teenager, I taught myself Photoshop using an old installation disc from 1999 that my dad borrowed from a friend. I even chose my university (UC Davis) based on the fact that they had a program specifically for graphic design. But when I landed at college, I wasn’t able to start my graphic design degree because of an administrative issue, so instead, I took a different class called “Filmmaking Foundations,” a hands-on film production class. As it turned out, I really enjoyed making TV and movies, too.


During my time at UC Davis, I worked at an on-campus studio making promotional content for the school as a videographer, editor, and eventually technical director. I directed/edited a web show, and I co-directed/edited a short film that went on to win a Best Screenplay award at the annual Film Fest @ UC Davis. By the time I graduated and went back home to Los Angeles, the decision to work in the entertainment industry felt like the most practical (and enjoyable) one.


Who gave you your first break?
There have been a few times in my career that felt like a “first break.” The first time was when I got an internship out of college after cold-messaging several employees of the company I wanted to work for (including the CEO). That was the first time I got paid to edit in the “real world.” Another first break was when I shifted into the TV space by landing a job as an assistant editor working on promos, which helped get me my union hours. But perhaps the most relevant and/or significant break came from a fellow MPEG member who is actually a Foley artist, John Roesch, who gave me a connection at a studio where I eventually landed an assistant editor job on the show “Robot Chicken,” my first job in scripted TV. Q What was your first union job? My first union job was season 2 of “Superman & Lois.”


What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?
I’m definitely proudest of my animatic editor credit on “Robot Chicken.” There were 20 episodes that season and I was an assistant editor on all of them, but I received an animatic editor credit for episodes 19 and 20. The two editors I had the pleasure of working with (Becca Berry and Jeff Newman) were very supportive of letting me edit. Animated projects take a long time to make, so we had more time to work together and get to know each other compared to many live-action projects, especially in television. I had been cutting comedy sketches the entire season (the show is a sketch show done in stop-motion animation), but when it really came down to the end, Jeff Newman was vocal to our producers about getting me a credit.


I think the reason I’m proudest of this is that editors really have to believe in you for them to support you. “Robot Chicken” was my first scripted show, and I didn’t have a background in animation. So for my editors to let me gain experience cutting and then to have my back when asking for a credit meant a lot to me. It made me feel like I was doing a good job, that I truly deserved to be there.


What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Working on “Superman & Lois” was a new challenge for me in two ways:


1. It was my first live-action scripted show; and


2. It was entirely edited on Avid Media Composer. (Previously, I had only ever worked in Premiere Pro.)


I jumped on the show mid-season and had to learn Avid very quickly on the job while also keeping up with the fast-paced environment of television— specifically, a visual-effects-heavy superhero television show. It was hard! There’s no other way to spin it, but I owe everything to my fellow assistant editor (and editor in her own right) Isabel Yanes, whose limitless patience and constant willingness to jump on the phone with me whenever I had a question is the No. 1 reason I survived.


What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
There was a sketch in “Robot Chicken” that I had the opportunity to cut. In it, Batman catches his reflection in a mirror and, because he’s afraid of bats, has a bit of a comedic meltdown. I remember laughing when I read the script and had a very specific vision for how I wanted to cut it. When it finally got in front of the producers, the entire room (well, Zoom meeting) laughed and there were no notes!


Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I want to be an editor in the scripted comedy world. I love to laugh, and I love making people laugh. It would be a dream to get paid to do both of those things. Is five years enough for that? I don’t know. But five years ago I was an unemployed recent grad hoping to edit something — anything — I could get my hands on, so let’s shoot for the moon this time.


What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I love to bake (and share it)! I once went on a mission to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe out there and must have tried 15 different recipes before landing on my favorite. (For those who are curious, it’s the “Bingeing with Babish” recipe, closely followed by the LAUSD chocolate chip cookie recipe, although that one might be influenced by nostalgia.)

I also love to run! I’m a pretty active person in general.


Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Disney’s “Tangled.” I could watch it over and over and never get tired of it. I don’t know exactly why, but the way that Rapunzel and Flynn Rider’s relationship develops over the course of the film is something that always struck me as just a good, humble, and engaging story. I’m a sucker for characters that feel real, characters that convince you that, despite living in a world without magical hair and anthropomorphized animals, we can still relate to them and their journeys in some way.


Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?
I am a huge fan of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” My sister and I used to watch the show together, and we still quote lines from it to each other all the time. No other show has gotten me to belly laugh so hard that I had to rewind it to make sure I didn’t miss any of the plot.


Do you have an industry mentor?
I don’t have a specific mentor by name, but I consider anyone who has ever taken the time to answer a question, offer advice, or lend a hand to be my mentor in some way. I have been extremely lucky in my career, and no part of it was earned by my hard work alone; it has been the amalgamation of different people taking a chance on me at different points in my career. It’s something I intend to pay back as my own career progresses.

That being said, while I have the opportunity to give shoutouts: John Roesch (for seeing in others what they fail to see in themselves), Becca Berry (for trusting me), Isabel Yanes (for the endless support), and Jeff Newman (for believing in me).


What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Be kind. Be humble. Be willing to learn. But overall, be kind.


Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Luckily, no. But I’m confident that if I ever needed to, the Guild would be there to support me.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
I’m very proud to be a union member, especially during a time when it seems like unions are more important than ever across the U.S. and the world. I look forward to being an active participant in our union and am always excited to meet fellow members. 


Compiled by David Bruskin. 

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