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Top five assistant editor life skills

By Brady Betzel

This piece is going to be a bit different for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever written something to be published that wasn’t a review. I was asked to share some tips and experiences from when I was an assistant editor. I thought, “Why not?”

During college I started as an intern on a Fox talk show called On Air with Ryan Seacrest, where I was able to make some very important contacts — some of whom I’m still in contact with 10 years later. Once we were told the show wasn’t renewed people started to flee and find work elsewhere (which happens a lot). It was the perfect time for me to swoop in and get at least a few months of real work under my belt before the show went officially dark.

I was lucky. They asked me to be a tape coordinator, and thus my post-production career was born. Truth be told I didn’t do much more than make sure tapes went to set for a news segment, but I made a few bucks and more importantly people saw I worked hard, like real hard. When interning I would wake up around 4am to get to work at around 5:30 or 6am to dig up news stories for the news segment that we would tape at noon. It was tough, but my parents instilled a great sense of duty and responsibility in me, so I just put my head down and worked.

After that, I finished my BA at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, I contacted some colleagues I met during my internship (thank you, Mary Jaras and Michael Weinberg) and got a job working nights in a dub room for the show America’s Next Top Model. I came home when the sun came up and Howard Stern was just starting his radio show. Eventually, I worked my way out of the dark and into the light as a post-production coordinator on Comedy Central’s The Showbiz Show With David Spade. To this day, still one of the best times of my working life. I met so many great people that worked really, really, really hard to put on the best show they could (I still wish that show would come back).

As a post coordinator I was responsible for various tasks, sometimes dubbing Beta SP tapes for promos, changing calendars around or even helping the graphics guy with on-air graphics. Sometimes I would come in at 7am or 8 am and not leave until midnight, and sometimes I would be able to go home at noon (please don’t tell Mr. Comedy Central); it’s not always 24-hour days in the glamorous world of television.

Eventually I was given the title of post supervisor, but the show was cancelled and I moved on to a few more talk shows — sometimes as post supervisor and sometimes as post coordinator, in the end being responsible for all aspects related to the managerial side of post production, such as music cue sheets, time cards, cleaning edit bays, etc. If you want an extensive list of my work, check out my IMDB page or email me.

What I learned from all of that was I didn’t want to push papers into folders; I wanted to make the content. My goal was to be an editor. I was lucky enough to be given a chance on a couple of shows, I learned everything from turning on an Avid system properly to running a machine room, routing decks, up rezzing, consolidating and the ever-scary deleting (I still get scared deleting partitions).

I have learned — and keep learning — many things about navigating the sometimes joyful and sometimes treacherous waters of broadcast television post. So I thought I would compile a list of the top five post-life skills I’ve learned to hopefully help others. Maybe these will also inspire people to work harder and help others realize that if they don’t want to put the time in to be the best, even if the best means making the best show about hairstylists or the best graphic for a show pilot that no one but you and the production company will see.

1. Be organized.
Whether it’s on the Finder level or inside of your Assistant Editor project, stay so organized that almost any other competent assistant editor could sit in your chair and figure out how to run your show in less than 20 minutes.

2. Learn.
Always be advancing your skill set. If you are good at multi-grouping, figure out how to do it more efficiently, there is always a way. If you are the best slate builder in the world, learn how to mix audio. There is always something to learn and most likely at least one editor you work for will spend the time to teach it to you.

3. Pick your battles.
If you have been an assistant editor for years, you probably know too much. You might ask yourself, why in the hell would I alphabetize b-roll subclips the editor made? If you have a better way to organize you should offer your opinion, but if your editor wants you to do it maybe just do it. That way when the editor is asked who they think should be given the chance to edit they may say, “Brady was always easy to work with; give him a chance.” This is one of those easier-said-than-done things, I still battle this on a daily basis.

4. Ask for what you want.
This is a polarizing topic, especially for me. I hate it when people are promoted before they “should” be. The person next to you might not know how to import still images correctly or realize how to set up a project, but they got promoted because they did one thing… they asked. I learned this the hard way. I always figured someone would see what I am capable of and say, “Alright Brady, you’re up.” Well that didn’t happen, and some people even told me, “You are too good at being an assistant editor, why would they promote you?!” Can you believe that! Yes, it is somewhat logical and, angrily, I came to the conclusion that they were right. That’s not to say be bad at your job or hold anything back because I certainly think you should always do your best no matter how low the pay or even not being promoted. But in the end stand up for yourself, if you don’t who will?

5. Don’t F*** up.
This is my favorite piece of advice. It originally came to me when I met an executive producer for the first time who had worked on Letterman for many years and was now seated in front of me in his office. He shook my hand and said, “Don’t f*** up.” As much as you think it was a joke, it really wasn’t. But the essence of that statement has stayed with me for years: take pride in your work.

Whether we are making TV about mud or rock stars, don’t f*** up. Learn everything about your craft you can, that way if you do f*** up you can fix it before anyone will ever notice, hopefully. That is unless you delete an entire partition full of media without a backup — then maybe go apply at Starbucks.

Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions, a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. His typical tools at work are Avid Symphony, Adobe After Effects CC, and Adobe Photoshop CC. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

 

 

 

 

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