Tag Archives: Editor

Bringing the documentary Long Live Benjamin to life

The New York Times Op-Docs recently debuted Long Live Benjamin, a six-part episodic documentary directed by Jimm Lasser (Wieden & Kennedy) and Biff Butler (Rock Paper Scissors), and produced by Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment.

The film focuses on acclaimed portrait artist Allen Hirsch, who, while visiting his wife’s homeland of Venezuela, unexpectedly falls in love. The object of his affection — a deathly ill, orphaned newborn Capuchin monkey named Benjamin. After nursing Benjamin back to health and sneaking him into New York City, Hirsch finds his life, and his sense of self, forever changed by his adopted simian son.

We reached out to Lasser and Butler to learn more about this compelling project, the challenges they faced, and the unique story of how Long Live Benjamin came to life.

Long Live Benjamin

Benjamin sculpture, Long Live Benjamin

How did this project get started?
Lasser: I was living in Portland at the time. While in New York I went to visit Allen, who is my first cousin. I knew Benjamin when he was alive, and came by to pay my respects. When I entered Allen’s studio space, I saw his sculpture of Benjamin and the frozen corpse that was serving as his muse. Seeing this scene, I felt incredibly compelled to document what my cousin was going through. I had never made a film or thought of doing so, but I found myself renting a camera and staying the weekend to begin filming and asking Allen to share his story.

Butler: Jimm had shown up for a commercial edit bearing a bag of Mini DV tapes. We offered to transfer his material to a hard drive, and I guess the initial copy was never deleted from my own drive. Upon initial preview of the material, I have to say it all felt quirky and odd enough to be humorous; but when I took the liberty of watching the material at length, I witnessed an artist wrestling with his grief. I found this profound switch in takeaway so compelling that I wanted to see where a project like this might lead.

Can you describe your collaboration on the film?
Lasser: It began as a director/editor relationship, but it evolved. Because of my access to the Hirsch family, I shot the footage and lead the questioning with Allen. Biff began organizing and editing the footage. But as we began to develop the tone and feel of the storytelling, it became clear that he was as much a “director” of the story as I was.

Butler: In terms of advertising, Jimm is one of the smartest and discerning creatives I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I found myself having rather differing opinions to him, but I always learned something new and felt we came to stronger creative decisions because of such conflict. When the story of Allen and his monkey began unfolding in front of me, I was just as keen to foster this creative relationship as I was to build a movie.

Did the film change your working relationship?
Butler: As a commercial editor, it’s my job to carry a creative team’s hard work to the end of their laborious process — they conceive the idea, sell it through, get it made and trust me to glue the pieces together. I am of service to this, and it’s a privilege. When the footage I’d found on my hard drive started to take shape, and Jimm’s cousin began unloading his archive of paintings, photographs and home video on to us, it became a more involved endeavor. Years passed, as we’d get busy and leave things to gather dust for months here and there, and after a while it felt like this film was something that reflected both of our creative fingerprints.

Long Live Benjamin

Jimm Lasser, Long Live Benjamin

How did your professional experiences help or influence the project?
Lasser: Collaboration is central to the process of creating advertising. Being open to others is central to making great advertising. This process was a lot like film school. We both hadn’t ever done it, but we figured it out and found a way to work together.

Butler: Jimm and I enjoyed individual professional success during the years we spent on the project, and in hindsight I think this helped to reinforce the trust that was necessary in such a partnership.

What was the biggest technical challenge you faced?
Butler: The biggest challenge was just trying to get our schedules to line up. For a number of years we lived on opposite sides of the country, although there were three years where we both happened to live in New York at the same time. We found that the luxury of sitting was when the biggest creative strides happened. Most of the time, though, I would work on an edit, send to Jimm, and wait for him to give feedback. Then I’d be busy on something else when he’d send long detailed notes (and often new interviews to supplement the notes), and I would need to wait a while until I had the time to dig back in.

Technically speaking, the biggest issue might just be my use of Final Cut Pro 7. The film is made as a scrapbook from multiple sources, and quite simply Final Cut Pro doesn’t care much for this! Because we never really “set out” to “make a movie,” I had let the project grow somewhat unwieldy before realizing it needed to be organized as such.

Long Live Benjamin

Biff Butler, Long Live Benjamin

Can you detail your editorial workflow? What challenges did the varying media sources pose?
Butler: As I noted before, we didn’t set out to make a movie. I had about 10 tapes from Jimm and cut a short video just because I figured it’s not every day you get to edit someone’s monkey funeral. Cat videos this ain’t. Once Allen saw this, he would sporadically mail us photographs, newspaper clippings, VHS home videos, iPhone clips, anything and everything. Jimm and I were really just patching on to our initial short piece, until one day we realized we should start from scratch and make a movie.

As my preferred editing software is Final Cut Pro 7 (I’m old school, I guess), we stuck with it and just had to make sure the media was managed in a way that had all sources compressed to a common setting. It wasn’t really an issue, but needed some unraveling once we went to online conform. Due to our schedules, the process occurred in spurts. We’d make strides for a couple weeks, then leave it be for a month or so at a time. There was never a time where the project wasn’t in my backpack, however, and it proved to be my companion for over five years. If there was a day off, I would keep my blades sharp by cracking open the monkey movie and chipping away.

You shot the project as a continuous feature, and it is being shown now in episodic form. How does it feel to watch it as an episodic series?
Lasser: It works both ways, which I am very proud of. The longer form piece really lets you sink into Allen’s world. By the end of it, you feel Allen’s POV more deeply. I think not interrupting Alison Ables’ music allows the narrative to have a greater emotional connective tissue. I would bet there are more tears at the end of the longer format.

The episode form sharpened the narrative and made Allen’s story more digestible. I think that form makes it more open to a greater audience. Coming from advertising, I am used to respecting people’s attention spans, and telling stories in accessible forms.

How would you compare the documentary process to your commercial work? What surprised you?
Lasser: The executions of both are “storytelling,” but advertising has another layer of “marketing problem solving” that effects creative decisions. I was surprised how much Allen became a “client” in the process, since he was opening himself up so much. I had to keep his trust and assure him I was giving his story the dignity it deserved. It would have been easy to make his story into a joke.

Artist Allen Hirsch

Butler: It was my intention to never meet Allen until the movie was done, because I cherished that distance I had from him. In comparison to making a commercial, the key word here would be “truth.” The film is not selling anything. It’s not an advertisement for Allen, or monkeys, or art or New York. We certainly allowed our style to be influenced by Allen’s way of speaking, to sink deep into his mindset and point of view. Admittedly, I am very often bored by documentary features; there tends to be a good 20 minutes that is only there so it can be called “feature length” but totally disregards the attention span of the audience. On the flip side, there is an enjoyable challenge in commercial making where you are tasked to take the audience on a journey in only 60 seconds, and sometimes 30 or 15. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being in control of what our audience felt and how they felt it.

What do you hope people will take away from the film?
Lasser: To me this is a portrait of an artist. His relationship with Benjamin is really an ingredient to his own artistic process. Too often we focus on the end product of an artist, but I was fascinated in the headspace that leads a creative person to create.

Butler: What I found most relatable in Allen’s journey was how much life seemed to happen “to” him. He did not set out to be the eccentric man with a monkey on his shoulders; it was through a deep connection with an animal that he found comfort and purpose. I hope people sympathize with Allen in this way.

To watch Long Live Benjamin, click here.

Dallas-based Post Asylum adds editor Bradley Thurman

Dallas-based Post Asylum has added editor Bradley Thurman to its roster. With more than 10 years of industry experience, Thurman spent two years as an editor at Reel FX and had a nine-year run with Fast Cuts. His body of work includes national spots for Salvation Army, American Home Shield, Chuck E. Cheese and the Texas Lottery.

albertsonsThurman — who edits on Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere — hit the ground running with Post Asylum, cutting a 12-spot campaign for Dallas County Colleges, plus a couple of spots for Albertsons grocery store (pictured).

“Bradley’s already written and successfully pitched a comedy script for one of our consumer electronics brand clients,” notes Post Asylum EP Graham Hagood. “This addition further solidifies Post Asylum as a concept-through-completion, one-stop-shop for motion content across all media.”

Post Asylum offers concept development, creative direction, design, production, editorial, animation, visual effects, VR/experiential, original music and color/finish. And they recently combined forces with animation studio Element X. The two fully integrated shops are aligned with Pure Evil Music.

Cut+Run NY promotes Adam Bazadona and Ellese Jobin

At New York’s Cut+Run, Ellese Jobin has been promoted to head of production and Adam Bazadona to editor.

Bazadona started as an assistant at Cut+Run in 2009. Moving from assisting to editing has been a fluid transition for him, with credits that include co-editor on Green Day’s Oh Love (directed by Sam Bayer) and the CFDA Fashion Fund films (directed by Jun Diaz), a collaboration with Andrés Cortés on Rehearsal Space (featuring Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo) and the recent Panda Desiigner video.

In 2015, Bazadona cut Scott McFarnon’s Crazy Heart directed by Floyd Russ. In the world of spots, he has worked on projects for Mercedes, Kobe Bryant, Verizon Wireless and Blue Apron.

Jobin joined Cut+Run shortly after Bazadona, working in client service and reception. She quickly became involved in projects, assuming the role of producer and eventually senior producer. As head of production, Ellese will oversee Cut+Run’s NY producer team and all facets of the post process in a management capacity.

Bilingual editor Alejandro Delgado joins Hooligan

Hooligan, a NYC-based creative post production boutique that specializes in artistic offline editing and visual effects, has hired editor Alejandro Delgado. From Spain, Delgado brings nearly two decades of experience editing film, television and commercial content for markets across Europe and the Americas. His signing marks Hooligan’s commitment to serving the needs of its agency and brand clients in both the general and US Hispanic market.

“It’s an asset to have an editor like Alejandro who can translate different cultural and lingual nuances through visual storytelling and dialogue,” remarks Hooligan president/editor Kane Platt. “He brings a rare combination of artistry, technical skill and work ethic to his craft. But most of all, everyone knows Alejandro for his big heart and unselfish attitude — traits that perfectly align with the collaborative culture we stand for at Hooligan.”

Delgado previously worked with Hooligan as a freelancer on campaigns for Apple, the NYC Langone Institute and Invokana.

Born and raised in Madrid, Delgado’s filmmaking career took off in his native city as a senior editor and visual effects director at Delirium Post, cutting campaigns for Audi, McDonald’s, Fiat and Sony, among many other prominent brands in Spain. In 2003, he started a lengthy freelance career working with top production and post facilities in Europe, as well as Blue Rock in New York City. Notable on his reel from this period is the Bronze Cannes-honored campaign for Renault and award-winning spots for McDonald’s and Mercedes.

Then came tenures at New Art Miami and 2150 Editorial, working in the Hispanic and Latin American markets on award-winning campaigns for AT&T, Wendy’s and DirecTV Latin America.

“It’s an interesting time right now as US Hispanics continue to redefine the consumer silos —and how marketing and advertising strategies react,” explains Delgado. “This has led to a greater demand for the production of bilingual content in the States, as we’re already seeing more and more campaigns shot in Spanish and English, rather than two different campaigns.”

Behind the Title: Northern Lights CD/editor Pat Carpenter

NAME: Pat Carpenter

COMPANY: New York-based Northern Lights.

We are a creative agency that handles all aspects of content creation from ideation through completion, and everything in between.

Creative Director/Editor

The majority of my career has been editorial for commercials, networks and digital content in both long and short form. I have been extremely fortunate to have a diverse background. In the past couple of years the post industry has gone through a bit of a change, which affects how I work with my clients.

I’m often asked to creatively oversee entire projects from start to finish, which might require concepting, writing, producing, supervising several editors, overseeing music composition or designing a graphic approach to a campaign or spot. All of this is, in addition to my traditional editing responsibilities, is where the title of creative director comes in. It’s a continuation of the editorial process on projects where clients are looking for creative solutions beyond strictly editorial.

How involved I am in all aspects of a project from designing the overall look and feel of a spot to tweaking copy, auditioning VO talent and suggesting music tracks.

Making something that elicits some sort of emotion from the viewer. In the world of mass consumption and disposable media, where people are inundated with content, if at the end of the day somebody watches something that I had a part in making them feel something that was intended, that’s still the biggest thrill.

Accelerated deadlines. You want to give it your all, and that becomes difficult when it’s due yesterday.

Morning… there’s still hope in the morning!!!

Playing drums.

After college I knew liked both production and post, and then it all clicked while playing in bands on NYC’s Lower East Side. Editing always came easiest for me, and I was fortunate enough to have some incredible mentors, so the progression from assistant to editor was natural. If you asked 20-year-old Pat, he’d say I’d be playing drums professionally for a career. The Pat of today is pretty happy to be an editor.

A WWE campaign called For the Hero in All of Us, which aired on NBC’s two broadcast networks, 17 cable channels and more than 50 digital properties; ID designs for Nickelodeon; and NCAA Confidential, a 60-minute show for CBS Sports that aired before the NCAA Basketball championship.

Most recently, Adult Rappers. It’s an independent documentary that pulls back the curtain on the world of “working class” rappers. The film spotlights independent artists struggling to find a balance between making a living and pursuing their art alongside the never-ending saga of age and relevance. It was a total passion project that seemed to strike a chord with a lot of folks. I’m proud to have edited it.

Phone. PowerBook. Drumsticks.

Twitter and Instagram

I really try to bounce around as much as possible. As for artists, I’ve been listening to Todd Snider as of late, but I still find myself hitting sites: http://www.syffal.com, http://www.birp.fm or http://www.musictrajectory.com to see what they have going on.

Play drums and Crossfit for sure, but mostly a little time with my two girls will put it all back in perspective.

NYC’s Industrial Color grows with editor Bruce Ashley, EP Gary Giambalvo

New York’s Industrial Color, a 25-year-old creative studio known for working in fashion and beauty post work, has added two veterans to its staff — editor Bruce Ashley and executive producer Gary Giambalvo. The moves fit in with the company’s growth strategy targeting advertising and branded content production.

“For years the creative capabilities of Industrial Color in areas such as post production, VFX and animation has largely been a secret, known primarily to the fashion/beauty world,” says COO of Industrial Color Mathieu Champigny. “But with the content creation growth globally, we see an incredible opportunity to partner with major agencies and add creative value to their most challenging projects.”

Australia-native Ashley has done substantial fashion and beauty work for brands such as Tiffany, Avon, DKNY, Raw Spirit and Clinique. Other brands like Coca-Cola, Guinness, NBA, Facebook and Red Bull already know Ashley’s expertise in emotional storytelling. In addition to spots, Ashley also cuts many music videos, including for such artists as Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, INXS, Santana and, most famously, Pearl Jam’s Jeremy. His long-form work includes the 2015 feature documentary Hitting the Apex, directed by Mark Neale and produced/narrated by Brad Pitt, as well as concert films for U2 and David Bowie.

Ashley’s early editing career was spent at New York post houses Mad River Post and 89 Greene Street, as well as at television networks in Australia and London. In 2007, Ashley joined the post house Company X.

EP/director of integrated production, Giambalvo — whose resume includes stints at The Studio and Curious Pictures — is a longtime committee member of the AICP Digital Board of Directors. “I was looking for a place that had all the tools and talents in place, but that needed someone that could take those pieces, better integrate them and bring them to the next level,” Giambalvo says.

Giambalvo adds that the company is looking to grow further with the addition of several new producers and graphic designers that the company will announce in the near future.

Tips: From editing to directing

By Dave Henegar

Recently, I was asked by a client of mine to direct a national commercial. At first I thought, “What a fantastic opportunity!” Then reality set in. I realized that for the last 23 years I’ve been editing for some of the greatest commercial directors in the industry, but I had no idea how they did what they did.

So, naturally, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety. After picking myself up off the floor, I thought about the many years I was lucky enough to work with such beautiful pieces, and my confidence grew as I recounted the varied and ingenious ways those directors told their stories. From the way they composed their images to the art direction of every meticulous detail. The great effort they put into connecting one shot to the next.

As their editor, I realized my life was much easier when all of those details were worked out well in advance. In fact, the worst projects I’ve worked on were the ones where directors set up many cameras and simply “captured” the action and said to themselves “we’ll figure it out in the edit.”

With that in mind, I set out on day one to craft a 30 second story that had a structure similar to the great directors I had worked with in the past. Thankfully, the commercial turned out to be a success, and I was proud of the final product.  In fact, there was very little I would change if I had to do it over.

So in light of the fact that I’ve only directed one commercial, I was asked to give my thoughts on making the leap into directing from editorial. Perhaps the best way to do that is to offer up the top five lessons I learned that may help other editors who dream of becoming directors.

1.  Pre-pro is more than half the battle
The day after I got the call from the agency I began drawing my own storyboards. I needed to understand quickly if I could pull off the grand concept the agency had presented. I must have drawn a hundred images. Like editing, I was rearranging shots in my head, but now I had to draw each one of those images and decide if they would work or not. Then came the process of the director’s treatment. Because I was a first-timer, I had to design and write the treatment myself. I took the treatment very seriously because I knew that it would be my one chance to prove that I understood what the client’s needs were and how to execute what the agency had carefully constructed. My words had to be clear and compelling — the images and layout had to be crafted and polished. Everything you present in your treatment is a reflection of your taste level. And lastly, location scouting is incredibly important. Design the perfect environment in your head before you begin your search, it will help you narrow down the vast number of images that will start pouring in from the location scouts.

2. Choose the Best Help You Can Afford
I would not have been able to achieve the look I wanted without the best cinematographer. Once I had secured best DP, I knew that he would bring with him his best keys. It’s a trickle down effect: choose the best and they’ll choose the best. The shoot day goes infinitely smoother and faster when the right people are in place.

3. Pay Close Attention to the Client
The client knows their audience far better than you will. You will be tempted to take their money and make the film of your dreams, but in my opinion that’s not what makes a good director. A good director is someone who can take the limitations and opportunities they’ve been handed and make an outstanding product.

4. Try Not to Edit Your Own Work
I believe that teamwork is better than a one-man-band. Talented teams can elevate a project. A talented editor will show you different ways in which your story could be told. As a director, it’s easy to get your storyboards firmly embedded in your head and simply edit what you had storyboarded. Let someone else you trust take your film in ways you didn’t expect.

5. Learn How to Present
Often times as editors we are required to say a few words before we press “play” for the first time. We may caveat the edit before showing it, saying something like “the sound is still rough” or “VFX aren’t in place yet.” Apart from that, we’re not required to go into great detail about deeper concepts. As a director, I learned that I was accountable for several hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for the vision I was trying to sell.  I have never spent so much time on the phone in my life!

Being a director is mostly about being a great communicator. You need to be able to effectively explain your concept and execution to the agency and the client — several times over! People who are prepared to plop down a six-figure check want to have everything explained to them in great detail. As well they should! If they’re paying the bill, they deserve to know what they’re getting for their money. Also being able to communicate with your crew is tremendously important. The more you communicate, the more respect you’ll get from those who are trying to help you bring your vision to life.  Respect everyone in your crew — period.

So that’s the top five, of what could easily be 25, things to think about when moving from editorial to directing.

To all my friends in editorial, I highly recommend trying it if you’ve not yet had the opportunity. It’s a challenging task but exciting. Take advantage of your many years of storytelling experience and put them behind the camera. It’s a humbling and exhilarating experience!

Dave Henegar is co-founder and editor at Butcher Post in Santa Monica.

Editor Trish Fuller joins Work Editorial in NYC

Work Editorial, which has expanded from London to New York and Los Angeles, has added editor Trish Fuller to its NYC-based studio. Fuller, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, got her start at Whitehouse Post London before moving to New York for the launch of Whitehouse’s New York office in 2002.

Fuller’s previous editing credits include Macy’s campaigns with Barry Levinson; Liberty Mutual with Tony Goldwyn and Stylewar; Verizon with Phil Morrison; a Drug Free America campaign for Hill Holiday, directed by Eric Stoltz; a Martini Campaign starring George Clooney and directed by Francois Girard; Glamour’s series of short films directed by Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson; and a Sprint campaign for F&P directed by Stacy Wall.

Fuller joins editors Cass Vanini and Ben Jordan, as well as partners editor Rich Orrick and executive producer Jane Dilworth, who also both relocated to Work’s New York office just over a year ago joining New York executive producer Erica Thompson.

Fuller will be available for projects at all Work offices, both domestic and abroad. “Work has relationships with directors and agencies in both the US and the UK,” she says, “and that fluidity is incredibly appealing to me. I get the best of both worlds — signing on with Work is like a new beginning, and also a coming home.”

Behind the Title: Editor Christian Jhonson

NAME: Christian Jhonson (@avidusersecuado)

COMPANY: Ecuador’s Teleamazonas

Teleamazonas is a TV station — the first television station in my country. We produce shows like The Voice Ecuador and broadcast international series like The Simpsons. We have also built a huge reputation for shows featuring local stories.

Editor. I’m am also an Avid-certified trainer — I run The Cut Center, a future learning center. In addition, I volunteer for Avid as an ambassador, providing solutions for Latin America and beyond.

As an editor at the TV station, I create promos highlighting what the TV station has planned for the month.

For video, I use Boris FX’s Continuum Complete.

No one project is the same; every promo is its own production and allows for creativity.

Digitizing and selecting shots.

Midday, because it is the time to take a rest, do some re-edits, watch what I’ve done and recreate the editing and creative “process.”

I couldn’t see myself doing any other job.

When I was 20, I had an experience with some film tests, which were homework from my university. Since then I took this profession seriously. That passion and dedication are part of me.

Trailers for Latin America, which promote romance stories like like La Prepago and La Promesa.

The La Prepago trailer. It is the story of a women who has trouble making money. She is a student, but her parents are poor. She is desperate and decides to use her good looks to make money and agrees to be a “prepago,” which means a girl who sells her body. That is a very “illegal” way to gain money in Colombia. The film is produced by Sony Pictures Television for the Latin American market.

When I had to edit for the trailer, I found myself with a big problem — everything was in different places. I had to search for the music, ask for the shots, sound effects… everything had to be rebuilt. It was a surgeon-like job.

Computer, cell phone and my car.

Well, I’m an admin of Avid editors on Facebook, I manage Avid Pro Tools’ Facebook/Latin America, and I manage Avid Isis’ Facebook. I also enjoy reading and commenting on Avid blogs, Videoguys.com and postperspective.com.

I don’t feel stress at all. I love what I do.

Editor Ben Whitten joins Northern Lights

NYC-based post studio Northern Lights has added veteran editor Ben Whitten to its staff. Whitten has nearly two decades of experience as an editor, with work spanning commercials, broadcast promos, long form and PSAs. He has worked many ad agencies over the years, including Grey, JWT, Y&R, DraftFCB, as well as networks like USA Network, Food Network and WE. Prior to joining Northern Lights, Whitten cut campaigns for the shows White Collar, Burn Notice, Complications and Suits.

Whitten uses Avid Media Composer as his main tool. “About six years ago, the company I was at switched over to Final Cut, so I worked exclusive on Final Cut 7 for two years,” he explains. “But I switched back over to Avid; besides my familiarity with the system, I missed how ‘real’ the realtime editing and effects are in Avid.”

Whitten studied Jazz Performance at Philadelphia’s The University of the Arts before heading to NYC hoping to work in the recording industry. At night he interned at a record label, but during the day he held a job at a boutique ad agency — it was there he got the chance to cut a number of small projects. In addition to editing, he climbed the ranks to director of broadcast production, overseeing both in-house and outside production including editing, sound design, recording, mixing and licensing.

With more editing under his belt, Whitten moved on to Mad House, an edit shop where he spent nearly 15 years working with ad agencies on campaigns including an Addy Award-winning USPS 9/11 spot featuring Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” and a series of music-driven spots for Burger King. He also used his musical background on a range of projects for Atlantic Records artists for almost a decade.

So why Northern Lights, and why now? Why NL and why now?  “I have always been a fan of the creativity and quality of the work that comes from Northern Lights,” says Whitten. ” I am also impressed with how well they’ve done building a truly one-stop creative shop. When the opportunity opened up to talk with [the partners] about joining the team, I was really interested and intrigued. After talking with them I knew this was the right place for me.”

Check out Whitten’s reel.