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A Head for Comedy and Editing Machines

December 29th, 2012

In 1985 I walked into waiting room – a wide space with chairs in the hallway – of the head of post production’s office at Universal Studios. A dapper 60-something man in a cardigan sat in a chair, patiently waiting for me. He was editor Dann Cahn, my new boss. Thus we began a season together on The New Leave it to Beaver, a show new to both of us, on Ediflex a non-linear, video-tape system new to both of us. Actually “Beaver,” as those of us who worked on it called it non-ironically, was not new to Dann. Executive producer Brian Levant specifically hired Dann because he’d directed and edited on the original series in the 1950s.

Dann with Lucy and Desi Dann with Moviola

Dann and his monster Moviola

at the Hollywood Museum

Dann was a tip top comedy editor, most famous for his time at Desilu, starting with the first episode of I Love Lucy. A lifelong friend of the star couple, Dann created a multi-cam Moviola to match this pioneer sitcom. Dubbed the monster Moviola due to its four heads (three for cutting picture, one for cutting sound), it allowed editors to view all three camera angles of a scene at one time. While the scenes ran, the editor grease penciled cut points for cutting and splicing later.

After meeting in the waiting room
Dann and I received training on our parts of Ediflex: His the editing part and mine the pre- and post- cutting work. While the producers loved how he was putting the shows together, it quickly transpired that he needed help running the editing system. The solution? I operated the system for Dann and an apprentice was hired to do parts of my job. Frankly, I could never learn from watching editors edit; it was boring. But having to anticipate how to execute Dann’s edits on the Ediflex, I not only learned the editor’s side of the system but got into Dann’s head and learned comedy cutting from a master. As things progressed, Dann finessed things so I cut scenes and then shows, getting my first show credit.

This is how things should work in the world of editing (and elsewhere for that matter): The experienced helping the apprentice to learn. Dann earned a reputation before and after me for boosting the careers of many aspiring editors.

Via Facebook, I am in touch with his son, the current president of the Editor’s Guild, who posted that Dann’s final fade out at 89 this November was a smooth transition.

May your transitions in your career as well as to the New Year be as smooth. And may you pay things back as well as forward in your life.

Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role, Jobs

Yes we Canne(s)

July 7th, 2012

In “The ‘Invisible Art’: A Woman’s Touch Behind the Scenes,” a May 25, 2012 NY Times article, Woman in Cannes poster John Anderson writes about the deficit of women DPs (2) and directors (0) in this year’s 22 nominated features for the penultimate of film festivals – Cannes. This lack reflects the still abysmal statistics for ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) which has 225 male and 8 female members and the DGA (Directors Guild of America) which has 25% female membership and reported that Caucasian males directed 77% of the 2,600 scripted TV episodes for the 2010-11 season.

Anderson goes on to note that one-third of the films were edited by women and went on to look at other numbers regarding female editors: MPEG (Motion Picture Editors Guild) has a total of 1,500 women in its 7,300 active membership (21%); A.C.E. (American Cinema Editors) tallies 650 members of which one third are female and has six females on its 14-member board of directors.

Are women more suited to editing?

I wonder, as Anderson does, if there are male and female characteristics – a gender basis – for editing (and other professions). Here are the responses he got from female editors:

Mary Lampson, feature doc editor (Harlan County U.S.A and A Lion in the House): “Many good editors are sort of introverted, shy people, observers of life. They’re very funny. They’re ironic. And all those traits are what you need to be a good editor. I don’t think women have a monopoly on those traits, of course. But women tend to be more like that than men.”

Dana Glauberman feature editor (Up in the Air and Labor Day): “It’s easy to say we, as women, are a stronger talent at it, simply because people think we are more nurturing than men are, we are more sensitive than men are. Obviously, there are many talented male editors, some of whom I’ve learned a great deal from.”

Alyse Ardell Spiegel, feature doc editor (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and Unraveled): I’d like to think my being female contributes to my sensitivities and strengths in storytelling, but it feels ridiculous to say that. You have to be a good listener and interpreter.”

Why do so many women go into editing?

Anderson interviews women editors and delves into the question of what women bring to the editing table. Mary Jo Markey, feature editor (Super 8 and Star Trek): “A lot of women go into editing because women go into editing. People come out of film school wanting to be directors and the odds of that are long. “It makes sense to me that women would see what a viable option editing is, and it’s one that women are succeeding in.”

Kim Roberts, an Emmy winner and feature doc editor (Food Inc. and Waiting for Superman) remarks: “There’s a lot of joking among editors about our willingness to be alone in a room with a computer, not seeing the sunlight. But there’s something in my personality that wanted something more secure, where I didn’t have to hustle and I could have a family and go home and have dinner with them every night.”

The Research and reactions

Researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen have looked into gender characteristics and occupation. Editing involves both male preferences such as “sympathizing” and extended periods of working alone and female preferences of “empathizing” and being able to read facial expressions.

Mary Jo Markey states: “Empathy is one of the most important things I bring [to editing]. Making the action work depends on your investment in the characters. I won’t say this about all women, but I do think I was raised like a lot of women in my generation, not so much to be seen and not heard, but encouraged to be observers. And I do think it creates a quality where you look at people and think about what they’re thinking and experiencing, and that’s kind of what I do when I’m cutting.” Markey also notes that women edit “male” TV shows like Alias while men work on Felicity, a “female” series.

Why are there more women editors in documentaries?

Anderson raised this question with female doc editors and garnered these answers.

Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work): “…there’s not a lot of money in docs. It’s not glamorous. No one’s getting rich. And that’s another reason it tends to be very female. It sounds sexist, I know; I’m sounding reductive, but there’s more pressure on men to make money. Although I know it’s shifting: I want to make money, too.”

I agree with Penelope Falk about gender traits with editing and other professions: “It’s more cultural than biological. But what you do in the edit room, I don’t think it’s gender-based.”

Mona Davis (Advise and Dissent and Adama): “It’s all conjecture on all our parts. But what’s struck me now, at least in documentaries, is that my generation, and I’m in my mid-50s, we’re the last generation in which a preponderance of women will go into editing. I know so many documentaries now directed by women, shot by women D.Ps. When I was coming up, there were like two.”

Last word

I am both encouraged and discouraged. Encouraged that more women are becoming DPs and directors as well as editors and that there are fewer boys’ clubs dominating sound and picture cutting rooms; discouraged that in general, women (and many male parents) still are caught between kids’ schedules and work schedules and that there is no universal childcare. Also, I see how culturally there are certain female and male values and traits and I continue to question their biological basis and how they serve society.

What do you think?

Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Jobs

Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video, 2nd Edition is here!

May 26th, 2012

There’s nothing like the smell (and look and feel) of a new book in the morning
(to steal from that famous phrase in Apocalypse Now).

Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video

For over a year now, I’ve been mentioning why I felt it important and necessary to re-write my first book, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video and excerpting parts here. Now the result of my year of labor – 477 pages of newly minted book – has arrived on my doorstep and I can share it with you and the world.

Learn all the details about the Cut by Cut 2 here . Or tour the book’s highlights below.

What’s new in Cut by Cut 2:

  • Workflow charts and explanations for film, tape, and file-based shows HD and 3D practices throughout the book.
    • Updated music and sound editing workflows as well as the disk authoring and DI (digital intermediate) workflows.
  • HD and 3-D content and VFX editing process and types of edits.
  • Up-to-date info for finishing on film via DI or traditional negative cut process.
  • An in-depth look at modern, “MTV” style editing vs. traditional, Hollywood style that employs current research and a chart detailing the differences.
  • Advice from 15 experienced editors working in all film genres from comedy to corporate videos to news to music videos to reality shows.

Like the first edition, Cut by Cut 2:

  • Clearly and completely lays out the editing journey from the first frame of the shoot to the final show exhibited on tube, theater, disk, or Web. Editing System
  • Concentrates on the why and what to do next, delineating how editors perform their job on Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and other digital editing systems.
  • Details the post production process from dailies to finishing via online, negative cut, disk authoring, and the DI process.
  • De-mystifies codecs, telecine and reverse telecine, aspect ratio, time code standards, and a multitude of other video, film, and digital editing concepts.
  • Explains how to approach cutting the footage: Make your first edits, deal with mismatches, and conquer action and dialogue scenes and more.
  • Spends two chapters describing how sound and music are designed, recorded, and mixed.
  • Defines and explains the terms, apps, and practices that working picture, sound, and music editors use.


Cut by Cut 2
contains:

  • Editing exercises and over 150 tables, charts, photos, and illustrations.
  • A meaty section on how to find an editing job whether you’re starting out or looking for that next job or career move.
  • An extensive glossary and an editor’s resource guide.

I wrote the book for:

  • Editors of all stripes: Indies, students, and professionals.
  • Aspiring editors: Assistant editors, apprentice editors, and career changers.
  • Filmmakers: Directors, producers, writers, and everyone who want to understand editing.
  • Professors and teachers of editing.
  • Prosumers who want to make the leap to professional.

I sincerely hope Cut by Cut 2 helps you with your projects.

Check the book out and let Joy know what you think.

Announcements, Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Jobs, Sound & music editing, Technical & process, Television, Visual FX editing

Mash-up Trailers

May 13th, 2012

Editors and other filmmakers are taking old and new movie previews, a.k.a. trailers and turning them every which way in their digital systems to create entirely new promos and mini-features and send them off to the Internet. You can take images from other films, add new graphics, VO, music, VFX, SFX – your imagination and time is the limit. To see examples organized by categories, go to the trailer mash

Here’s my favorite so far: The Shining re-imagined as a Rom-com.

But is it legal?
“A trailer is studio’s prayer, one that is answered on opening weekend. And everyone wants the answer to be yes.” Marshall Sella, NY Times Magazine, 2002.

Yes. Studios hunger for these spoofs as they help promote their movies. Some productions companies, notably Lucasfilms and Lionsgate, have even held contests and given out computers, tickets, and other awards to the winners. Curt Marvis, president of digital media for Lionsgate, explains it this way, “The worst thing that can happen (for a studio) is to have no one talking about your film. With millions of people viewing trailers and Twittering and chatting about movies online, it’s important to take that huge group and use them as an army of valid spokespeople and promoters of our content.”

Can a mash-up help your career?

It may get you any money but “Working on these projects is an absolute résumé builder if you’re looking to break into an editing, creative or marketing field,” contends Kelly Reeves, managing editor of Urlesque.com, an Internet humor blog.

So go ahead! Create one yourself and springboard your career. And let Joy know how it goes. I’ll definitely consider posting it.

Awards, Editing practices, Jobs

Guest blog from Grovo

April 30th, 2012

Time for a change of voice! This is my first guest blog. Please welcome PJ Bruno, a producer at Grovo Learning Inc. It’s an internet company which provides a field guide in the form of two-minute videos for learning everything from how to use Twitter to netiquette training.

A Passion for Video

by PJ Bruno

PJ Bruno I’ve had a love for video editing as long as I can remember.

Thanks to my parents, I had a well-documented childhood from birth all the way through high school.  Before they could afford a video camera they would rent one for a week at a time and capture as much footage as possible.

I grew up watching VHS tapes of my brother, my sister, and myself; by the time I was 14, I was shooting on my own. By age 16, I was editing video.

It was the complete control of narrative that inspired me; any small variation of timing or shot sequence would put forth a different motive, attributing to the filmmaker’s vision. But although I started early and worked often, I didn’t get an editing job until I was 25 (almost 2 years ago).

I was half way through my master’s degree in Media Studies at The New School in New York when I came across an editing job on Craigslist. The description read, “Unpaid Video Editing Internship with possibility for full-time employment.”

I told myself that all I had to do was get the internship and the full-time position would be in the bag.

The job was editing short video tutorials for an online education startup called Grovo. I won’t tell you how long I had to intern before I was made a full-time employee, but I will tell you that I learned more in 6 months editing at an Internet startup than I did throughout grad school. There really is nothing like working 50-60 hour weeks for a start-up with 20 other people working just as hard. The Internet’s permeation into pretty much all occupations has opened the doors of possibility wide. Not only do I get to edit video, but I get to be innovative with the format of our education. I toy with live action, animation, Camtasia video grabs, and more.

And on top of that, my co-workers have become my best friends.  I’ve never loved the art of editing more, and this is likely to be the most satisfying work experience of my life.

Grovo sample

Here’s a sample video PJ created:

http://blog.grovo.com/2012/04/grovos-tip-week-commandf-search/

Editing & life, Jobs

What film job do you qualify for?

January 28th, 2012

Need to decide what film job best suits you? Here’s a wry career guide to deciphering your true calling. Tired of explaining what a best boy does and other film jobs to friends, family, and strangers? This chart also deciphers the myriad of job titles that show up in the credits. Except best boy. Now you can send ‘em to Google.
Film Job Flow Diagram

Fun & games, Jobs

New website by and for professionals

January 25th, 2012

Herb Dow and post associates of his have launched a new site: Pot Production Pro, er, don’t leave out the “s” as I almost did. That’s Post Production Pro. In its infancy, the site aims at creating community among editors by allowing you to set up your own page, look for jobs, and post positions, announce events, post photos, etc. It’s Facebook and Craig’s list for editorial folks.

Post Production Pro Logo
I’ve known Herb since Ediflex revolutionized editing – making tape nonlinear – in the mid-80s. A former editor who began on film, he’s worked for Avid, Lightworks, then Avid again and a host of other Hollywood post production companies and hosted a weekly editor’s salon at a restaurant in Tinsel town for decades. Herb connects people and has always got his finger on the pulse. So I will be interested to see how the site takes off and grows.

Try it out and let me and PPP know what you think.

Announcements, Jobs

Part 2: Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

November 25th, 2011

Here’s my list of ten reasons. Take what it with your own shaker of salt and develop your own flight plan. (See Part 1 for Intro and reason I came up with this list). Feel free to send Joy your reasons.

  1. Band of brothers and sisters.
  2. When you pursue a career in film, especially Hollywood, you’re joining a special group of non-conformists. This group scoffs at the question, “What’s the use of a liberal arts education?” You may have majored in art, philosophy, physics, film, or digital communications but you have a passion to work with filmed words and images that communicate with an audience. Respect yourself and pursue your choice with everything you’ve got.

  3. Chance to make a difference – leave an imprint
  4. This reason is not a flight of fancy. Your work influences viewers, be they students watching a training film, an art audience changed by your documentary, a family kicking back to your comedy, or a dorm full of students hooked on your web series. Not every project will be something you want to show Mom or keep on your resume, but it will influence others and increase your skills and contacts.

  5. Meet a variety of people
  6. You will interact with all sorts of sane and crazy people in the film biz. They will drive you nuts, enrage you, enrich your life, help you, and allow you to help others. Value them and know when to say, “Thanks” and “Farewell.”

  7. Encounter a variety of subjects
  8. Whether you work on scripted shows (e.g. dramas and comedies) or non-scripted shows (e.g. documentaries, reality shows, or instructional videos) you’ll learn a range of subjects you’ve never imagined. You may drop these topics or follow them once the show wraps, but they will widen your horizon either way.

  9. Travel
  10. Being a filmmaker will land in places you’ve haven’t dreamed – that you could have possibly put on your flight plan. One day you’ll be in the doldrums, contemplating a career change, the next you’ll be flying across the country on that series you just landed: Turbulence and unexpected ports are part of the profession.

  11. Hold the heart of the film in your hands
  12. If you become an editor, as you view shots and decide which frames go in out and out, you will hold the film’s heart (characters and) and heartbeat (rhythm and pace) in your hands. You will play a vital role in shaping the show’s story and message and the director or client’s vision. It will be your joy, honor, and responsibility to sculpt the best show possible from the footage, no matter how big or small the project is.

  13. Work with cutting edge tools
  14. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution in which the technological territory morphs annually. This is converging work and changing relationships between preproduction, production, and postproduction. As a filmmaker, you will be a part of this change and get to use these incredible tools – editing systems, state-of-the-art plug-ins, third party software, etc. While they’re a lot to keep up with, the gratification from creating on them – and keeping employed – are worth it.

  15. Work a little, work a lot
  16. You career will not always be in your control – you may work mondo hours and be desperate for time off, then find yourself with too much time off and be desperate for work. During your downtimes, lunch with colleagues and new folks, go to industry events, and polish your skills along with your resume. Time off is part of film life and brings its own set of challenges and rewards, just like the work itself. During the 90-hour weeks with no days off, remember to breathe, sleep, de-stress, kiss your beloved, and that you’re on a (hopefully) worthwhile project.

  17. Special moments that no other industry brings
  18. Filmmaking is both magical and mundane: One moment you’re picking up the producer’s tuxedo, the next you’re at the Academy Awards. You’ll experience times of predictable boredom and the opposite on the job. True story: One day a producer lucky at the horse races handed $100 bills to everyone in the cutting room. The week before, on the same show, director and producers alike worked an unexpected all-nighter to re-cut the show from frame 1 because the editor – not me – turned in a subpar cut.

  19. You’re your own agent – even if you have an agent
  20. You will always be your own pilot: forever networking, re-inventing, honing your skills, self promoting, and sussing out the next job. There is no one path to success in the film industry. That wedding video you edited may lead to your first feature, that feature may go nowhere and send you on unemployment, but you have to pursue every lead, follow every highway and byway, and make your own way.

Announcements, Editing & life, Editing practices, Editor’s role, Jobs

Part 1: Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

November 21st, 2011

Michael Wiese Productions, my publisher, has asked all its authors to address the above in an essay, comic piece, or list. MWP plans to assemble, these articles into a 75-100 page pdf file and distribute it via MWP’s website, Amazon Kindle, Scribd, and as many venues as possible. It will be free or cheap – $1.99 – and available starting in December at the latest.

Yeah, the lists are being written to help promote our books but I for one, am not writing a marketing piece. And I suspect none of the other Wiese (pronounced “weezy”) writers will either – we’re a pretty caring and “tell it like it is” bunch. I will be interested to read what the other authors write.

The subject made me think: Why would I encourage people to enter the film industry. While it was a major part of my life’s journey and I don’t regret going to Hollywood, it wasn’t an easy path; there were close encounters of a good, bad, and ugly nature along the way – not unlike other professions but with a unique, film industry twist.

What would you tell people? Let Joy know. Here’s the intro to my list: Full list in my next blog post.

Top Ten Reasons Why it’s a Great Time to Be a Filmmaker

With four decades in and around the industry – working from projectionist to grip, electrician, and craft service to editor to digital systems trainer and college editing instructor to author of three books on editing – I guess I can be lumped into the category “Old Salt.” So when sharing my hard earned grains of wisdom with those desiring – daring – to enter the profession, I want to be enthusiastic and supportive yet realistic. A scene from The Wizard of Oz jumps into my head – the one where the wicked witch urges the monkeys to “Fly, fly, fly!” It makes me want to be responsible for where I’m sending fledglings off to. How many will make it intact and be glad for the journey?

Announcements, Editing & life, Jobs

Part 2: Editing Jobs by the Numbers: Current Government Statistics

November 15th, 2011

Is editing a growing profession? How does its economic outlook stack up against other professions? Here’s what the U.S. BLS says.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Outlook

The BLS expects that the number of film editing jobs to increase by 12% from 2008-2018. This projected rate is slightly greater than average for all careers during this period. However, BLS finds that “competition is keen” as so many people want to enter the profession. Tell us something we didn’t know! Here’s the official table:

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title Employment

2008

Projected
Employment

2018

Change,
2008-18
# %
Film and video editors
(SOC code 27-4032)
25,500 28,600 3,000 12
Note: Data in this table are rounded.

Where are the jobs?

Current answer: 75% of us work in television (on nontheatrical projects).

Future answer: In 2010 a Forrester study found that for the first time, people in U.S. divided their screen equally between TV and the computer.  So the ‘Net should bring in more work – webisodes here we (continue to) come!

Let the predictions flow! Let Joy know what you’re seeing and what you think will happen. And good luck to us all!

History/research, Jobs, Television