NAME: Ali Mao
COMPANY: Arcade Edit in New York City
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Arcade is a film and television editorial house with offices located in Los Angeles and New York City.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Being an editor is all about storytelling. Whether that means following the script and boards as designed or playing outside the parameters of those guidelines, we set the pace and tone of a piece in hopes that our audience reacts to it. Sometimes it’s super easy and everything just falls into place. Other times it requires a bit more problem solving on my end, but I’m always striving to tell the story the best I can.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
For a lot of people who don’t work in the industry, they think editors just sit in a dark room alone all the time, and we do sometimes! But what I love most about editing is how collaborative a process it is. So much of what we do is working with the director and the creatives to find just the right pieces that help tell their story the most effectively.
Once in awhile the best cuts are not even what was originally boarded or conceived, but what was found through the exploration of editing. When you fall in love with a character, laugh at a joke, or cry at an emotional moment it’s a result of the directing, the acting and the editing all working perfectly in sync with one another.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love going through dailies for the first time and seeing how the director and the cinematographer compose a particular scene or how an actor interprets lines, especially when you pick up on something in a take that you as an editor love – a subtle twitching of an eye or the way the light captures some element of the image – that everyone forgot about until they see it in your edit.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Not having enough time to really sit with the footage before I start working with the director or agency.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Early in the morning even though I’m not really a morning person…but in our industry, that’s probably the quietest time of the day.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Bumming it at the beach back home in Hawaii.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
During the summer before my junior year of high school, I stumbled upon Vivacious Lady (with Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers) on AMC. I don’t know what it was about that movie, but I stayed up until 2am watching the whole thing.
For the next two years, every Sunday I’d grab the TV guide from the morning newspaper and review the AMC and TCM lineups for the week. Then I’d set my VCR to record every movie I wanted to see, which at the time were mostly musicals and rom-coms. When my dad asked me what I wanted to study in college I said film because at 5’4” getting paid to play basketball probably wasn’t going to happen, and those old AMC and TMC movies were my next favorite thing.
When I got to college, I was taught the basics of FCP in a digital filmmaking class and fell in love with editing instantly. I liked how there was a structure to the process of it, while simultaneously having a ton of creative freedom in how to tell the story.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
In January I worked with Saatchi on their Tide Super Bowl Campaign, editing the television teasers and 15s. This was the second year in a row that I got to work with them for the Super Bowl, and it’s one of my favorite jobs every year. They do some really fun and creative work for their teasers, and there’s so much opportunity to experiment and get a little weird
There was the Aflac Ski Patrol spot, and I also just finished a Fage Campaign with Leo Burnett, which went incredibly well. Matt Lenski from Arts & Science did such an incredible job with the shoot and provided me with so many options of how to tell the story for each spot.
DO YOU PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT WHEN CUTTING FOR A SPECIFIC GENRE?
I think you put on a different hat whenever you start any project, regardless of genre. Every comedy piece or visual piece is unique in its story, rhythm, etc. I definitely try to put myself in the right head space for editing a specific genre, whether that be from chatting with the director/agency or doing a deep dive on the Internet looking for inspiration from films, ads, music videos — anything really.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I worked as an editor on a documentary called Undroppable. It was about the school dropout rate across the US and followed students from different parts of the country, focusing on the challenges of graduating high school.
The film had already been edited by the time I got involved, but the producer felt it needed fresh eyes. I loved a lot of what the previous editors had done, and felt like the one thing I could bring to the film was focus. There were so many compelling stories that it sometimes felt like you never had a chance to really take any of it in. I wanted the audience to not just fall in love with these students and root for them, but to also leave the theater in active pursuit of ways they could be involved in our country’s education system.
As someone who was cutting mostly commercials and short films in Final Cut Pro at the time, doing a feature length documentary on Avid Media Composer was daunting, but so very, very exciting and gratifying.
WHAT DO YOU EDIT ON THESE DAYS?
Avid Media Composer.
ARE YOU EVER ASKED TO DO MORE THAN EDIT?
Every once in awhile I get a job where I’m asked to create an edit that is not in line with the footage that was shot. In those instances, I’ll have to comp takes together in order to get a desired set of performances or a desired shot. I try not to make the comps too clean because I don’t want to put our Flame artist out of a job.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
iPhone, computer, Roomba
WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I just had a baby, so coming home to my son and my baby daddy is a great way to end the day. I also play on an all-women’s flag football team in a co-ed league on the weekends. The first game we ever won I QB’d while I was eight weeks pregnant; it was my Serena Williams moment!