By Randi Altman
As a young man, Wildchild editor Richard Cooperman loved watching movies, so much so that he decided to study film at Toronto’s Ryerson University, where he focused on direction and shot composition. It wasn’t until he was interning at a post house, which housed a music video company, that he became fascinated with the creative process of editing. “Watching directors edit… I was amazed how selecting a shot, its length and placement could evoke so many different emotions,” explains Cooperman.
He called editing his first project “a joyous, rewarding experience” and from that moment on he knew he had found his calling. “I would go on to edit hundreds of music videos and collaborate with major artists. That same sense of style, design, rhythm and experimentation would carry me over into the commercial world.”
Cooperman is known for his distinctive storytelling style, whether it’s high-end fashion and beauty work, music videos or car commercials. We decided to throw some questions at Cooperman to find out more.
How has editing changed since you started in the business?
As far as technology, I’ve seen it go from tape to Avid to Final Cut and now to Premiere. I think the biggest change for editors is the increasing amount of footage we look through since production companies started shooting digital over film. What was once five to seven hours of dailies can now be 10 to 30 hours. That, coupled with tighter deadlines, has made the selecting process more challenging.
You have a diverse resume, working in music videos, fashion and car spots. Can you talk about how you approach each? Do you have a favorite type of project to work on?
My first step is always about organization. Watching and selecting, while not the sexiest part of the process, might be the most important. It’s like the painter, assembling all the colors on the palette. Even though I do work in different genres, I don’t tend to categorize the music videos/commercials I work on as fashion/beauty or automotive, but find a commonality between them — a visual/audio assault on the senses.
Two great examples of this can be found in spots for the Lexus IS brand (via Team One) that I had the pleasure of working on. The launch video Changing Lanes, directed by Melina Matsoukas (AICE winner for Best Editing), sees the IS as powerful, raw and sexy. Images of the car intercut with rapid, multilayered fashion/art/music video imagery are combined with aggressive title design and intense sound design. In Crowd, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, we see the IS car elegantly romanced in a succession of edits that seductively brings together the young hero lovers. Each edit is designed to intensely separate them from the crowd as they bask in a glowing light of beauty and luxury.
One of the many benefits of working in music videos was the opportunity to collaborate with so many visionary and talented music video directors that crossed over into commercials, bringing their unique styles and sensibilities. Such was the case with the ethereal Thierry Mugler Alien perfume ad, directed by Floria Sigismondi. This one depicts the awakening of a sun goddess.
Fashion and beauty sensibility can be applied to many brands, as in my recent collaboration with director Karina Taira on the latest campaign for Dove Chocolates out of BBDO. Shot on location in Chile, Taira captured stunning landscape visuals coupled with beautiful photography of a woman enjoying the most sensual chocolate experience.
How early do you like to get involved in the project?
I like to get involved as early on in the creative process as possible to hear everyone’s thoughts and ideas. This way I can start thinking about a mood and how music and sound design will shape the piece.
What’s your ideal collaboration with a director/client?
The ideal is to have a strong collaborative relationship with the director. To build a shorthand and to forge a trusting relationship. It’s been the basis of most of my creative projects.
What is your editing system of choice? Do you work on different systems?
I started on Avid, but I am always looking for ways to enhance the process, so I learned Final Cut, which proved to have many helpful tools for my style of editing. Recently, I started editing on Adobe Premiere, which is quite similar to Final Cut.
My favorite tool is not a plug-in, but the composite mode, which can be found in Final Cut Pro and Premiere. It lets you quickly see different composites of the same shot without any rendering or keying. I use it a lot to create multi-layered graphical imagery.
Do you have any tips/advice for some young editors starting out in the business?
Being from Canada, I always say be polite! (Laughs). In all seriousness, stay true to your style and point of view. It is the reason they are choosing to work with you. Develop your own voice and constantly strive to push and learn new techniques. Watch a lot of films. Classic films. You will find they craft scenes in unexpected ways. It still inspires me. Always strive for excellence!
You can check out Cooperman’s reel here.