Tag Archives: Reality TV

Confessions of a crime-porn editor

Over the years I’ve edited many things — drama, comedy, reality, newsmagazine shows — and I’ve earned six Emmys as a result. But lately I’ve been concentrating on the increasingly popular true-crime genre often referred to cynically as “crime porn.”

For this piece, I debated using my byline, but opted against it for fear of loss of work. I felt telling the story was important though, so here I am.

Working in a medium that is predominately escapist, I edit for drama, emotion and impact… taking liberties with reality and accuracy to provide as much bang for the buck to the viewer (and networks I work for) that I can muster.

As I got deeper and deeper into true crime work, I discovered that the ability to insulate myself from the real horrors and devastation these stories inflict upon the survivors was becoming easier and easier to manage. I became desensitized and cynical (after all, I am an editor and we are generally tough, right?).

It is only when I stepped back from the tight scripts, the carefully selected bites, the well-executed and masterfully-shot recreations and delved deeper into the emotional transcripts and on-camera interviews that reveal the silent, painful moments and lost, numb expressions of the survivors and victims that I realized the responsibility myself and others have to honor them, to contemplate what it is we are actually doing. These are real people who have suffered devastating damage. It is so easy to forget that this is TRUE crime.

Modern reality television didn’t invent the genre. To be sure, the dramatization of crime and grief has been around as long as storytelling has existed. The earliest Greek and Roman tales examined real crimes of passion. My problem is how easily and unconsciously we have trivialized and glamorized the most horrendous crimes that represent the lowest levels of human morality. We do it SO well.

As an editor, I have reveled in piecing together a masterful scene of death, destruction and raw basic emotion, using the sexiest techniques, tools and visual effects, the best-shot angles, sound effects and the entire arsenal of tricks modern technology has afforded me as an editor. And when I finally sit back, after hours of finessing and watch with objective eyes a scene I’ve just cut that frightens, builds suspense and tension and feels like an action movie, I know have done my best job to deliver the goods and satisfy the juices… but maybe have just lost a little more of my humanity in the process.

I realize I should not easily and gleefully take such delight in the visceral response from an audience of a well-cut murder — again, it’s too easy to forget that these represent real people. Real victims. Real tragedy. Real loss.
Several years ago I was editing one of these shows — another well-produced, well-shot and (I believe) well-edited story of a home invasion in which an innocent family was slaughtered, but not before being horrendously violated, burned alive and tortured — of crimes too horrible to contemplate. Yet, here I was portraying their true, albeit, reenacted story.

I used all the cool tricks of the trade — flash frames, booms, subliminal cuts, etc. But, inexplicably, after all these years of doing this over and over again, I found myself bothered by what a fine job I was doing.

I felt in making this horror watchable, glamorizing it, sanitizing it, commercializing it — I was dishonoring and diminishing the memory of these very real, lost and tortured human beings. Yet, I was just doing my job… I was earning a living for my family, and doing it the best way I could. After all, I am a professional and to do less than my best would have been disingenuous, dishonest and unprofessional. But I realized that, even though I had a professional duty, I didn’t have to take so much glee in it.

Let me say here this is in no way an indictment of my fellow editors. Maybe I’m late to the table and many of you who cut these shows have realized the responsibility we shoulder…all I can relate is my story.

Coming to Terms With the Reality
So I did some things to try to make amends and to re-sensitize myself to what I had to do for a living. One Saturday afternoon I drove to visit the site of the horror I described above. It was haunting. Seeing the actual street sign of the block where the crime occurred was the first stab of impact. It made it very real. It was no longer a name on a script or a cut. I got out of the car and sat in quiet meditation in the park created to honor that family.

I looked out at the neighborhood imagining the chaos, the noise, the screams and the horror. I imagined the people in the surrounding houses — who still live there. They lived through it. I could imagine the echoes through the trees, which made the calmness and beauty of the location disturbing.

I contemplated the murders, imagined the seared emotions of the victims and then tried to realize: there was once normalcy here. A loving family. I imagined the love and the beauty of the unique human beings that comprised that decimated family — they should not be defined by their tragic deaths but by the way they lived their lives.

I offered my prayers and even asked for a bit of forgiveness for glamorizing their story, and I promised to be more aware in the future. Then I got into my car and returned to my relatively normal life.

How I Changed
Since then I’ve added a few more steps to my editing workflow. The main thing was reading more fully the transcripts of the friends and survivors. I need to look at the raw interviews beyond the culled soundbites in the script in order to get a more comprehensive (and human) view of these people and how they were affected by these crimes and what they could say about the victims or recipients of violence.

I now always Google the stories to see the real faces of these people whose story I’m retelling — normal, unglamorous, smiling or unsmiling — in order to break the Hollywoodization; the casting of sexy actors and actresses to portray the victims or the devastatingly and banal handsomeness of most killers and villains.

I don’t think there is a real way of completely respecting the sanctity, and honoring the lives, of those we retell stories about in this odd genre. Documentaries are more tailored to that end — there are no actors and there are generally more subtle and sensitive representations of true events — but that is not what this true-crime genre is about, is it? We have to make a living after all, right?

But maybe, sometime after we cut that massacre scene or rape-murder, we can sit back, reflect and give a moment of time, homage and respect to the real people whose lives we are making our careers and livelihood from.

And pray for them… even if you are a cynic like me


The author is a 30-year editing veteran who has cut series for Discovery ID, A&E, Animal Planet and TV One network, to name a few.

Quick Chat: Jarrett Creative Group’s Timothy Dixon

By Randi Altman

Timothy Dixon is creative director/lead editor at New York City-based Jarrett Creative Group. They are an independent production company specializing in reality shows such as TNT’s Boston’s Finest, TLC’s Alaskan Women Looking for Love, TVGN’s Mother of all Talent, and paranormal fare like the long-running Celebrity Ghost Stories, The Haunting Of and I Killed My BFF.

His job is to translate the vision and ideas of the executive producers to what is seen and heard on the screen. “I’m tasked with creating the individual looks and sounds for all of the company’s new projects,” he says. “A one-liner will tell you what a series will ultimately be about, but rarely does it tell you what that series will look like or what it will sound like.”

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AlphaDogs posts ‘Bigfoot’ reality series

Burbank — In the new one-hour reality competition series Ten Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, nine teams of lifelong Bigfoot bounty hunters — or “sqautchers” as they like to be called — use their skills, and modern-day technology, to track and hopefully capture this elusive giant, with one team receiving a chance at 10 million dollars in cash. The series, hosted by actor Dean Cain, airs on Spike TV.

The shoot presented its own daunting challenge, spanning four states with multiple indoor and outdoor locations. In addition, a wide variety of videotape and card-based formats from 124 cameras including thermal imaging, timelapse, quad copters and IR cameras were used. The producers called on Burbank’s AlphaDogs for post production services.

“This is the most complex array of gear I’ve come across and I knew we needed a post-house with a colorist and online editor who could handle it,” said consulting producer Scott Templeton.  Terence Curren and the team and AlphaDogs were my first choice. I’ve worked with them on other projects and knew it would be the right decision.”

Typical reality television programming time constraints and hefty technical challenges made color grading especially daunting. Curren, veteran colorist and CEO of AlphaDogs (http://www.alphadogs.tv), explains, “We weren’t given extra time to complete the finish just because the production was “gear heavy,” making the color grading process more demanding than other reality series we have worked on. You find a way to make it work without sacrificing quality while still meeting critical deadlines. Remaining flexible and thinking on your feet is key, especially when you’re looking at tight turnaround time.”

Curren’s experience as a colorist for over 25 years, combined with his skilled knowledge and use of color scopes made certain the overall look of the picture not only looked good on the surface, but went a step further by certifying the range of colors allowed for a video signal are also up to standard for broadcast television.

Executive producer Jon Kroll commented, “We really wanted to give 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty an epic look, and AlphaDogs stepped up in a big way to elevate each episode one shot at a time. The difference was amazing.”

Co- executive producer Kerry Schmidt added, “We shot 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty from more than 100 source cameras, and thought we’d never be able to give the show a unified look. With Alpha Dog’s support, we were able to pull it off.”

The series required multiple deliverable formats. AlphaDogs’ stringent quality control process made certain that broadcast and quality standards were met while delivering each episode on time, and ready-to-air.

10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty is produced by Charlie Corwin’s Original Media (Swamp People, Ink Master) with Corwin, Mike Riley and Jon Kroll (The Amazing Race, Big Brother) as executive producers, Kerry Schmidt as co- executive producer, and Scott Templeton as consulting producer.

“It’s not just that we got a great looking show, or that it’s done efficiently, it’s also the comfort of knowing that the AlphaDogs team was watching out in the same way that I’d watch out for the show,” said Templeton. “It’s a great feeling when you’ve got a tough project like this knowing that there is a team that has your back.”

AlphaDogs called on Avid Symphony Nitris, an Avid Artist color panel, Waveform color scopes, Tektronix scopes, and Sony OLED monitors.

 

Citizen Pictures ups Tim McOsker to head of development

Denver —Citizen Pictures has promoted executive producer Tim McOsker to head of development. McOsker will be responsible for developing new talent, concepts, and show formats for networks and digital outlets.

He has been producing for Citizen since 2006, with credits as executive producer/showrunner for the Emmy-nominated Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network, Cooking Channel’s The Real Girl’s Kitchen with Haylie Duff and FoodCrafters, and Food Network’s Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin, and Giada’s Weekend Getaways.

Prior to joining Citizen (www.citizenpictures.com), McOsker was an executive producer and showrunner for Food Network’s long-running Unwrapped series from 2001-2006. He has a Daytime Emmy Award in 2013 for Guy’s Family Reunion Food Network special and won a primetime Emmy nomination for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Citizen Pictures is located in a 15,000-square-foot facility in Denver, which includes a full stage, edit and graphics suites, and several field production packages.

Photo Caption: L-R: Tim McOsker, Elena McIntosh Gallon, Haylie Duff, Christianna Reinhardt, and Yayo Ahumada on the set of “The Real Girl’s Kitchen.”

Meet The Artist: Meetal Gokul

Behind the Title….

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Dark rooms, polorized glasses and making 3D visions a reality

NAME: Meetal Gokul

COMPANY: Park Road Post Production (www.parkroadpost.co.nz) in Wellington, New Zealand

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY:

Park Road Post Production is a post production facility located five minutes from Stone Street Studios. Park Road was established as a one-stop shop and offers all post services for a feature from digital rushes, stereoscopic alignment, digital intermediate, Foley, ADR and sound mixing through to the final completion of all film and digital deliverables for distribution. Continue reading