Tag Archives: editing

Editor Paul Zucker on cutting Hotel Artemis

By Zack Wolder

The Drew Pearce-directed Hotel Artemis is a dark action-thriller set in a riot-torn Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future. What is the Hotel Artemis? It’s a secret members-only hospital for criminals run by Jodie Foster with the help of David Bautista. The film boasts an impressive cast that also includes Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Jennie Slate.

Hotel Artemis editor Paul Zucker, ACE, has varied credits that toggle between TV and film, including Trainwreck, This is 40, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Girls, Silicon Valley and many others.

We recently reached out to Zucker to talk about his process on the film.

Paul Zucker and adorable baby.

How did you get involved in this film?
This was kind of a blind date set-up. I wasn’t really familiar with Drew, and it was a project that came to me pretty late. I think I joined about a week, maybe two, before production began. I was told that they were in a hurry to find an editor. I read the script, I interviewed with Drew, and that was it.

How long did it take to complete the editing?
About seven months.

How involved were you throughout the whole phase of production? Were you on set at all?
I wasn’t involved in pre-production, so I wasn’t able to participate in development of the script or anything like that, but as soon as the camera started rolling I was cutting. Most of the film was shot on stages in downtown LA, so I would go to set a few times, but most of the time there was enough work to do that I was sequestered in the edit room and trying to keep up with camera.

I’m an editor who doesn’t love to go to set. I prefer to be uninfluenced by whatever tensions, or lack of tensions, are happening on set. If a director has something he needs me for, if it’s some contribution he feels I can make, I’m happy, able and willing to participate in shot listing, blocking and things like that, but on this movie I was more valuable putting together the edit.

Did you have any specific deadlines you had to meet?
On this particular movie there was a higher-than-average number of requests from director Drew Pearce. Since it was mostly shot on stages, he was able to re-shoot things a little easier than you would if we were on location. So it became important for him to see the movie sooner rather than later.

A bunch of movies ago, I adopted a workflow of sending the director whatever I had each Friday. I think it’s healthy for them to see what they’re working on. There’s always the chance that it will influence the work they’re doing, whether it’s performance of the actors or the story or the script or really anything.

As I understand it from the directors I’ve worked for, seeing the editor’s cut can be the worst day of the process for them. Not because of the quality of the editing, but because it’s hard in that first viewing to look past all the things that they didn’t get on set. Its tough to not just see the mistakes. Which is totally understandable. So I started this strategy of easing them into it. I just send scenes; I don’t send them in sequence. By the time they get to the editors cut, they’ve seen most of the scenes, so the shock is lessened and hopefully that screening is more productive

Do you ever get that sense that you may be distracting them or overwhelming them with something?
Yes, sometimes. A couple of pictures ago, I did my normal thing — sending what I had on a Friday — and the director told me he didn’t want to watch them. For him, issues of post were a distraction while he was in production. So to each his own.

Drew Pearce certainly benefitted. Drew was the type of director who, if I sent it at 9pm, he would be watching it at 9:05pm, and he would be giving me notes at 10:05pm.

Are you doing temp color and things like that?
Absolutely. I do as much as the footage I’m given requires. On this particular movie, the cinematographer, the DIT and the lab were so dialed in that these were the most perfect-looking dailies I think I’ve ever gotten. So I had to do next to nothing. I credit DP Chung-Hoon Chung for that. Generally, if I’m getting dailies that are mismatched in color tone, I’m going to do whatever it takes to smooth it out. Nothing goes in front of the director until it’s had a hardcore sound and color pass. I am always trying to leave as little to the imagination as possible. I try to present something that is as close to the experience that the audience will have when they watch the movie. That means great color, great sound, music, all of that.

Do you ever provide VFX work?
Editorial is typically always doing simple VFX work like split-screens, muzzle-flashes for guns, etc. Those are all things that we’re really comfortable doing.

On this movie, theres a large VFX component, so the temp work was more intense. We had close to 500 VFX shots, and there’s some very involved ones. For example, a helicopter crashes into a building after getting blasted out of the sky with a rocket launcher. There are multiple scenes where characters get operated on by robotic arms. There’s a 3D printer that prints organs and guns. So we had to come up with a large number of temp shots in editorial.

The assistant editors, Gardner Gould, Michael Costello and Lillian Dawson Bain, were instrumental in coming up with these shots.

What about editing before the VFX shots are delivered?
From the very beginning, we are game-planning — what are the priorities for the movie vis-a-vis VFX? Which shots do we need early for story reasons? Which shots are the most time consuming for the VFX department? All of these things are considered as the entire post production department collaborates to come up with a priorities list.

If I need temp versions of shots to help me edit the scene, the assistants help me make them. If we can do them, we’ll do them. These aid in determining final VFX shot length, tempo, action, anything. As the process goes on, they get replaced by shots we get from the VFX department.

One thing I’m always keeping in mind is that shots can be created out of thin air oftentimes. If I have a story problem, sometimes a shot can be created that will help solve it. Sometimes the entire meaning of a scene can change.

What do you expect from your assistant editors?
The first assistant had to have experience with visual effects. The management of workflow for 500 shots is a lot, and on this job, we did not have a dedicated VFX editor. That fell upon editor Gardner Gould.

I generally kick a lot of sound to the assistant, as I’m kind of rapidly moving through cutting picture. But I’m also looking for someone who’s got that storytelling bone that great editors have. Not everybody has it, not every great assistant has it.

There is so much minutiae on the technical side of being an assistant editor that you run the risk of forgetting that you’re working on a movie for an audience. And, indeed, some assistants just do the assistant work. They never cut scenes, they never do creative work, they’re not interested or they just don’t. So I’m always encouraging them to think like an editor at every point.

I ask them for their opinions. I invite them into the process, I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me what they think. You have to express yourself artistically in every decision you make. I encourage them to think critically and analytically about the movie that we’re working on.

I came up as an assistant and I had a few people who really believed in me. They invited me into the room with the director and they gave me that early exposure that really helped me learn my trade. I’m kind of looking to pay back that favor to my assistants.

Why did you choose to edit this film on Avid? Are you proficient in any other NLEs?
Oh, I’d say strictly Avid. To me, a tool, a technology, should be as transparent as possible. I want to have the minimum of time in between thought and expression. Which means that if I think of an edit, I want to automatically, almost without thinking, be able to do a keystroke and have that decision appear on the monitor. I’m so comfortable with Avid that I’m at that point.

How is your creative process different when editing a film versus a TV show?
Well first, a TV show is going to have a pre-determined length. A movie does not have a pre-determined length. So in television you’re always wrangling with the runtime. The second thing that’s different is in television schedules are a little tighter and turnaround times are a little tighter. You’re constantly in pre-production, production and post at the same time.

Also, television is for a small screen. Film, generally speaking, is for the big screen. The venue matters for a lot of reasons, but it matters for pacing. You’re sitting in a movie theater and maybe you can hold shots a little bit longer because the canvas is so wide and there’s so much to look at. Whereas with the small screen, you’re sitting closer to the television, the screen itself is smaller, maybe the shots are typically not as wide or you cut a little quicker.

You’re a very experienced comedic editor. Was it difficult to be considered for a different type of film?
I guess the answer is yes. The more famous work I’ve done in the last couple of years has been for people like Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. So people say, “Well, he’s a comedy editor.” But if you look at my resume dating back to the very first thing I did in 2001, I edited my first movie — a pretty radical film for Gus Van Sant called Gerry, and it was not a comedy. Eternal Sunshine was not a comedy. Before Girls, I couldn’t get hired on comedies.

Then I got pulled on by Judd to work on some of his movies, and he’s such a brand name that people see that on your resume and they say, “Well, you must be a comedy editor.” So, yes, it does become harder to break out of that box, but that’s the box that other people put you in, I don’t put myself in that. My favorite filmmakers work across all types of genre.

Where do you find inspiration? Music? Other editors? Directors?
Good question. I mean… inspiration is everywhere. I’m a movie fan, I always have been, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m always going to the movies. I watch lots of trailers. I like to keep up with what people are doing. I go back and re-watch the things that I love. Listening to other editors or reading other editors speak about their process is inspiring to me. Listening and speaking with people who love what they do is inspiring.

For Hotel Artemis, I went back and watched some movies that were an influence on this one to get in the tone-zone. I would listen to a lot of the soundtracks that were soundtracks to those movies. As far as watching movies, I watched Assault on Precinct 13, for instance. That’s a siege movie, and Hotel Artemis is kind of a siege movie. Some editors say they don’t watch movies while they’re making a movie, they don’t want to be influenced. It doesn’t bother me. It’s all in the soup.


Zack Wolder is a video editor based in NYC. He is currently the senior video editor at Billboard Magazine.  Follow him on Instagram at @thezackwolder.

Nomad adds editor Jojo King to its New York roster

Editorial house Nomad has expanded its New York roster with the addition of editor Jojo King. King brings a diverse resume and has cut music videos for Janelle Monae’s new single Pynk and Moses Sumney’s Worth It, as well as films and spots for Vogue, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas Originals, Marc Jacobs and Victoria’s Secret.

He recently edited a music video for indie star Lykke Li (directed by Iconoclast’s Anton Tammi) and wrapped jobs with Droga5 and Johannes Leonardo. Adobe Premiere is his editing tool of choice.

“Jojo coming on was perfect timing,” explains Nomad executive producer/partner Jennifer Lederman. “When we expanded Nomad New York, we were determined to make it a place that focuses on the creativity of our team. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary in our new space, and we’ve grown our VFX and support staff a lot in the past year, so it was the ideal time to add on a new editor. We got so lucky that Jojo found us, as he brings a new style to our offerings. He combines this intense artistry with the narrative arc, which leads to his cuts being fun and surprising. He brings that artistic sensibility into our office every day, and his reel is something I love to show.”

Nomad also has offices in Santa Monica and London.

LACPUG hosting FCP and Premiere creator Randy Ubillos

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group (LACPUG) is celebrating its 18th anniversary on June 27 by presenting the official debut of Bradley Olsen’s Off the Tracks, a documentary about Final Cut Pro X. Also on the night’s agenda is a trip down memory lane with Randy Ubillos, the creator of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Aperture, iMovie 08 and Final Cut Pro X.

The event will take place at the Gallery Theater in Hollywood. Start time is 6:45pm. Scheduled to be in the audience and perhaps on stage, depending on availability, will be members of the original FCP team: Michael Wohl, Tim Serda and Paul Saccone. Also on hand will be Ramy Katrib of DigitalFilm Tree and editor and digital consultant Dan Fort. “Many other invites to the ‘superstars’ of the digital revolution and FCP have been sent out,” says Michael Horton, founder and head of LACPUG.

The night will also include food and drinks, time for questions and the group’s “World Famous Raffle.”
Tickets are on sale now on the LACPUG website for $10 each, plus a ticket fee of $2.24.

The Los Angeles Creative Pro User Group, formerly the LA Final Cut Pro User Group, was established in June of 2000 and hosts a membership of over 6,000 worldwide.

EditFest London sets lineup

The American Cinema Editors (ACE) have set its lineup of editors for EditFest London, which takes place on June 30 at BFI Southbank. In addition to film panels, this year’s event will feature editors drilling down on their experiences editing television crime dramas, followed by a panel discussion focusing on the jump from assistant editor to editor.

EditFest, which was launched in Los Angeles in 2008, allows attendees to talk with panelists and colleagues throughout the day, over lunch, and then during a post-event reception.

The editors at EditFest will share experiences and insights from their work on a variety of feature films, documentaries and broadcast and streaming content. The day’s schedule includes:

Cutting for Crime / Editing Crime Dramas for Television
Moderated by Adrian Pennington, International Editor, American Cinema Editor magazine
• Andrew John McClelland – Line of Duty, In Plain Sight
• Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Three Girls, The Missing
• Stephen O’Connell – The Name of the Rose, Howard’s End
• Elen Pierce Lewis – Rellik, Luther, Marcella

Making the Jump/Assistant to Editor
Moderated by Robbie Gibbon (Assistant Editor, Mission Impossible-Fallout, Dr. Strange)
• Eve Doherty – Hang Ups (Assistant, Game of Thrones)
• Adam Gough – Roma (Assistant, X-Men First Class)
• Charlene Short – Dagenham (Assistant, Peaky Blinders)
• John Venzon, ACE – The South Park Movie, Storks (Assistant, Fight Club, The Game)
• Steven Worsley – Jamestown, War & Peace (Assistant, War Book, War & Peace)

From Dailies to Delivery/ Editing Features
Moderated by Stephen Rivkin, ACE (ACE President; Editor, Avatar)
• Eddie Hamilton, ACE – Mission Impossible: Fallout
• Alex Mackie, ACE – Out of Blue
• Tania Redden – Denmark, Cordelia
• Martin Walsh, ACE – Wonder Woman
• Joe Walker, ACE – Blade Runner 2049, Arrival

One on One/A Conversation with Chris Lebenzon, ACE
Chris will be joined in conversation by journalist Carolyn Giardina

Award-winning editor Chris Lebenzon, ACE, (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood, Top Gun, Armageddon) will talk about his work, collaborations and perceptions from his career. He is currently in London working on Dumbo with his long-time collaborator Tim Burton.

EditFest takes place during one day at BFI Southbank. Panels, box lunch and a cocktail reception at the end of the day are included. EditFest LA will take place in Los Angeles on 25 August at the Walt Disney Studios.

Behind the Title: Uppercut Editor Alvaro del Val

NAME: Alvaro del Val

COMPANY: Uppercut

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Uppercut is an editing boutique based in Manhattan. It was founded three years ago by editor Micah Scarpelli and now has five editors who have been carefully selected to create a collaborative atmosphere.

We share a love for creating emotionally driven stories and challenging each other to get the most out of our creativity. It’s important to us that our clients, as well as staff, experience the camaraderie and familial vibe at our office. We want them to feel at home here.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Editor

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Editing is storytelling. Generally, we jump into a project once the shoot is finished. We get the dailies and start thinking about how to get the best out of the footage, and what’s the best way is to tell the story. It’s a very creative process with endless possibilities, and it’s non-stop decision making. You have to decide which elements create a memorable piece, not only visually, but also in the way the story unfolds.

Kicking Yoda

It is often said that a film is written three times: When it is written, when it is shot and when it is edited. Editing can completely change the direction of a film, commercial or music video. It establishes the way we understand a plot, it sets the rhythm and, most importantly, it delivers the emotions felt by the audience — this is what they ultimately remember. A year after watching a film, you may forget details of plot, or the name of the director, but you’ll remember how it made you feel.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Many people think that editing is just putting images together, that we follow a storyboard that has been done previously, but it is much more nuanced than that. The script is a starting point, a reference, but from there, the possibilities are endless. You can give the same footage to a hundred editors and they will give you a hundred different stories.

People are also surprised by the amount of footage you have for a 30-second commercial, which can easily be five or six hours. Once, I was given fifteen hours of footage for a sixty second commercial.

As Walter Murch said, “Every frame you see in front of you is auditioning to make it into the final piece.” You are making millions of decisions every day, selecting only the best few frames to tell the story the way you want.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
In some ways, editing is like a sculptor carving a block of marble and discovering the figure that has been contained inside, working little by little, knowing where they are going, but at same time, letting the story unfold before them. That creative process is my favorite part. It is so exciting in the moment when you are alone in the room and everything starts to make sense; you can feel it all coming together. It’s a really special and beautiful moment.

I also love that every project is a new experience. It’s amazing to work at something you love that brings you a new challenge every day. What you can offer creatively changes along with your evolution as a person. It’s a field that demands that you learn and evolve constantly.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part is that it can be hard to balance your personal life with your professional life. As an editor, you often need to work long nights and weekends or change plans unexpectedly, which affects the people in your life. But it’s part of the job, and I have to accept it to be able to do what I do.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
It depends on where I am in the project. If I’m starting to build a story, the evening is definitely my most creative and focused time. There are less distractions in terms of phone calls and emails, and I’ve always been a night person. But I love mornings in order to judge something I’ve done the night before. Coming to the edit room with fresh eyes gives me more objective vision.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would definitely work as a photographer. I got my first camera when I was seven years old and haven’t stopped taking pictures since. I used to work as a photographer in Madrid, years ago. I loved it, but I didn’t have time to do both, and I loved editing too much to let it go.

Editing is what brought me to the most creative city in the world, so I’m really thankful for that. Walking around the city with my camera is definitely one of my favorite things to do.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with visuals, photography and films. I had a natural connection with that way of communicating. My camera was a way to express myself… my diary. In college, I started studying cinema, working on TV and making my own films, which is when I discovered the magic of editing and knew that it was my place. I felt that editing was the most special, creative part of the process and felt so lucky to be the one doing it. I couldn’t believe that not everyone wanted to be the editor.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
One of my more recent projects is a short documentary film called Kicking Yoda, which is doing the festival circuit and received a Los Angeles Film Award for Best Documentary. It’s the story of Doug Blevins who, after being born with cerebral palsy, became an NFL kicking coach nominated to the Hall of Fame. I love stories of overcoming obstacles because they are relatable to everyone in one way or another.

Fitbit

I recently worked on a Fitbit campaign called Find Your Reason, which was comprised of true stories about people finding their path in life through athletics. It has been nominated for best editing in the 2018 AICE Awards, which are coming up this month.

YOU HAVE WORKED ON ALL SORTS OF PROJECTS. DO YOU PUT ON A DIFFERENT HAT WHEN CUTTING FOR A SPECIFIC GENRE?
Absolutely. To begin with, it’s completely different to edit a 30-second commercial than a short film or a music video. What drives the story changes; the rhythm and the structure differ so much.

In long pieces, you have more time to create a different, more profound kind of interest. I think advertising is moving more toward longer format pieces because they create a stronger connection with the audience. Television commercials are becoming the teaser, allowing you to discover the whole story online later.

The visual language also has to adapt to the genre. The audience needs to understand what kind of story you are telling, or you’ll lose them. You always need to have the audience in mind, understanding to whom your piece is addressed and on which platform it will be released. Your attention span differs depending on whether you are eating dinner in front of the TV, sitting at your computer or watching in a theater. You need to adapt with those circumstances in mind.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
The project I’m most proud of is Volvo S90, Song of the Open Road. It’s a beautiful campaign that was awarded Best Editing in Automotive in the 2017 AICE Awards (Association of Independent Commercial Editors). It was very special for me, not only because I was able to be part of a team with world-class artists, like composer Dan Romer, DP Jeff Cronenweth and actor Josh Brolin, but also because of the freedom I had in the creative process. I think that collaboration, as well as the nonlinear storytelling I was able to use, is why the campaign has the poetry and emotion I always pursue in my edits. Additionally, the story inspires you to live freely and pursue your chosen path. I feel it’s a story that makes you think and stays with you after watching it.

WHAT DO YOU USE TO EDIT?
It depends on the needs of the project, but typically I use Avid Media Composer. I sometimes use Premiere, but I really prefer editing in Avid. I find it’s faster, deals better with large amounts of footage and is generally a much more stable software. It’s true that if you want to end your project in the edit suite, Premiere does a much better job in terms of using effects and exporting. But in a workflow with external color grading and conforming later (in a Flame for example), I would definitely go with Avid.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLUGIN?
It’s not strictly a plugin, but the Motion Effect Editor is fantastic in Avid. The freedom and control you have over the speed curves when creating time warps is really outstanding. The tool is really visual, which helps me in terms of creating nice speed changes. For me, it’s an important tool, as I love editing sports commercials. For action scenes with a lot of movement, it’s a key resource to have.

ARE YOU OFTEN ASKED TO DO MORE THAN EDIT?
Nowadays, mostly in the American market, the editor has become kind of the director in post. We are involved in the sound design, the mix, the color grading, the conform and the final deliverables; we have to be in control of the whole process. This happens because the director is normally not around, which doesn’t happen in Europe. But here, the market asks for quick turnarounds and editors work hand in hand with agencies to get things done in the right amount of time for the client.

Due to this model, I increasingly prefer to be involved in preproduction when the idea is conceived. That way, I have a better understanding of the project and I can get the director’s insight so I am able to maintain the essence of his vision later on. It is also a good opportunity to share ideas that will help later in the editing and post process.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Of course, we all feel nowadays that we cannot live without our phone and our computer. All our music, films, photos and social world are contained there. It is amazing to think that we used to live without all that in the ‘90s, but technology has changed the game.

Besides those, my cameras are my main pieces of technology. I love my versatile Fuji X-T10 that I bring everywhere, but also my Canon 5D, which I use for portraits and trips.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
We all need to disconnect from time to time, and sports are my first escape from stress. I do rock climbing and cycling and I love to ride my bicycle to my beloved Prospect Park. And as a good Spaniard, soccer and tennis are my main sports. I’m a big Rafa Nadal fan.

Besides sports, I love taking advantage of all this city has to offer culturally. I love going to the Bowery Ballroom or Brooklyn Steel for live music, checking out what’s going on at The New Museum or The Whitney and enjoying the opera at The Met every time I have the chance. BAM is also one of my go-tos, as their program is outstanding all year long, from cinema to dance and theater.

Carla Gutierrez on editing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc, RBG

By Amy Leland

We live in very interesting times. Specifically, when an 85-year-old Supreme Court justice has become a viral sensation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, the queen of the dissent, is the subject of memes, t-shirts and coffee mugs. She has earned the ardent following of a younger generation that sees her as a somewhat-unlikely pop icon and an inspirational figure.

Carla Gutierrez

She is also now the subject of an equally surprising documentary, called RBG. When one thinks of a film about a Supreme Court justice, it would be easy to assume the result would be something mostly academic and serious. But RBG is delightfully entertaining and funny, and unexpectedly emotional and touching.

After seeing the movie, I had the additional pleasure of speaking with the film’s editor, Carla Gutierrez, about the story and how she and the rest of the creative team brought it to life.

How did you become an editor?
I went to grad school to study film. I had a big interest in the production of art and social issue stuff, and I was watching on a lot of documentaries after college. I applied to grad school, and I quickly realized that the stress of producing wasn’t for me. I started gravitating toward the craft of editing, and I just loved it so much.

It’s interesting because there are a lot of editors that ultimately want to jump into the director’s role, but I never had the desire to do that. I love the collaboration that happens in the edit. I feel really lucky to be doing this kind of work, and to get a project like this… I’m incredibly lucky.

How did you end up focused on documentary work?
Before getting into film, I knew I wanted to focus on documentaries. I knew that a very structured educational setup always worked best for me. There are a lot more now that focus on non-fiction, but at the time there were fewer. So I went to the Stanford graduate documentary program, which is a very small program. And we were taught to be a one-person band: produce, develop and do everything on your own.

Before I got into actual filmmaking, I didn’t really have any experience. The biggest lessons I learned, and that I still learn, are from watching all the films. Whenever I need to get inspired or to be shaken up a little bit, or think about things in a different way, I go back to film.

How did you end up involved in RBG?
Somebody at CNN Films recommended me to the directors, Julie Cohen and Betsy West. We met, and from the first email exchange, I knew I really wanted this job. I was lucky because I was working on another film that also had a lot of interview and archival material. They seemed to like it, and they hired me.

The film is surprisingly funny, both because of how much everyone talks about how funny her husband is, but also how witty she is. When I see a job for something that’s comedic, they almost always say editors must have experience working in comedy. Did you find that it required a different skill set?
You do have to think about rhythm — to give people time to actually react to things. But I think it’s very similar to the way I tackle all the work that I do. I pay attention when I’m watching the footage early on. I pay attention to what makes me laugh, and to the things that make me feel something. Then I build around those moments.

That was the same with this film. I remember watching the Saturday Night Live imitation of her — I don’t know how many times that day — because it was so incredibly funny. RBG cracked up when she watched Kate McKinnon’s impression for the first time. We played her laughing at it in a loop for a whole day. It makes me so happy, and you have to laugh. When we watched the interview with her high school classmates, it was really clear that these moments made us giggle.

I’m as aware as I can be when I am watching the dailies for whatever touches me — whether it’s a sad moment, an emotional moment or funny moment — and I try really hard to make room for that in the film.

I’m happy her husband was such an important part of the story. The way you kept weaving him throughout showed the important role he played in supporting her through everything — it was really beautiful.
Again, you just have to remember what moves you when you see the dailies. There is a moment in the confirmation hearing, his reaction when she’s speaking about him, and he’s smiling and just kind of looking down. That was the moment where it felt like he needed to be completely central to the story. We had a very clear idea that we had a great love story, so that needed to be very present in the film. When I saw that, and when he touches her hair when she got confirmed, I thought, “Okay, its not only the love story, its not only something that we have to touch on, but its something we can beautifully see in the footage.”

Did you feel a sense of responsibility making a film about a person who’s still alive, and also someone who is such an important person in the world right now?
It was an interesting time. They started shooting the film before the election, so people in the interviews were aware, and they were reflecting on what was going on.

Also we were leading to the first days of the #metoo movement when we were editing the film. So there was definitely a sense of responsibility. But with every story you do, you have to have a focus. And when they shot this film, they had a very sharp focus on her work toward the advancement of women’s rights. She has been involved in so many more cases, and there’s so much more about her life that just didn’t make sense to put in this particular story.

As I was working on the film, I found a new, deeper understanding of what women were going through, only about 50, 40 or even 30 years ago. I hope that shines through in the story that we told. Academically, I understood the women’s movement, and I understood the kind of inequality that people experienced, but working on this film really made me feel emotionally close to that reality. I hope that we’re doing that for the audience.

The sense of responsibility was very strong throughout the entire process. When we were getting close to the premiere, it was the first time that the Justice was going to see the film. We were very nervous about how she was going to react. It was like we had an audience of one in that theater that first time, and we were all looking at her while she was watching the film. She really loved it. I think we did justice to the Justice, as Betsy West likes to say. I think that we portrayed her life the way that she would have liked it to be told.

Not only is this a film about a pioneer of women’s rights, but you also had a creative team that was entirely female. How did that affect the experience of making this particular film?
I think that we all came with immense amounts of respect for the subject matter, because the subject matter has to do with our lives. I knew her as Notorious RBG and The Dissenter. Then I discovered what she had done for all of us in the ‘70s. So there was a special sense of responsibility, but also respect toward the subject matter that we were working on.

There was a special sense of pride when you’re working next to women who have achieved so much already. It was a great learning opportunity for me to work with Julie and Betsy. I gained so much from that collaboration and seeing how they work and how they carry themselves. Being on an all-female team, doing a female-centered film… yeah, it was a really rewarding and special experience.

To get a little more technical, what software did you use to cut the film?
We edited in Adobe Premiere Pro. This was a film with a lot of archival material, and it was like a puzzle, with lots of tiny pieces. We had a large amount of material, and the way my mind works, I throw a lot of clips in my timeline. I find Premiere to be incredibly simple, but it also has a lot of complexity — you can do a lot with it. With a film like this, which is kind of massive, it also opens up a lot of simplicity to be able to navigate that… placing the material really quickly and easily.

Also, I work with an amazing associate editor — Grace Mendenhall. I like to be very organized at the beginning because that speeds up the process as you keep going. We were very, very careful at the beginning with our media organization and our workflow.

In the credits, you had an online assistant listed, but no assistant editor. Instead, you worked with an associate editor? Was that relationship different than the traditional editor/assistant editor one?
Grace actually set up the project as our assistant editor. She was doing all of the organizing of the media at the very beginning. I started like that. I actually started as a translator for a film that had an incredibly generous and experienced editor. To me it’s really important to be able to give opportunities to people who are serious, and people who really want to learn about the process.

From the moment we met, that’s something that we talked about. Grace really wanted to be in the room and learn from the process, so she quickly moved from doing only assistant editing work to handling scenes. She would also give me notes on the work that I was doing. Just like the film’s all-female team of collaborators, we had that with the post process, but with the two of us.

What would be your advice to somebody who wanted to get started in the world of documentary editing?
Find a mentor. I think tenacity is the main thing. It’s asking to be present in the room. That is really important for people who are just starting out. If they have a lot of technical knowledge, that’s really great, but I’ve heard a lot of people get stuck in the assistant editor position. Yes, you need to know how to use the program, but you really need to understand the decisions you are making with all of these technical resources that you have. And that comes from learning about storytelling. Long-form documentary storytelling is a bit of a beast; you’re talking about hours and hours of footage, and you’re writing the film for the first time in the edit room. There can be numerous films within that footage.

I learned editing by being around all the time, by being quiet and respectful. Then they would ask for my opinion, and I would give my opinion, and I could see how people think about structure and long-form story telling.

The worst thing that you can get from asking to be in the room is a “no,” but if you get in the room, you can learn and absorb so much from just being present during the process.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.

Making the indie short The Sound of Your Voice

Hunt Beaty is a director, producer and Emmy Award-winning production sound recordist based in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Nashville, this NYU Tisch film school grad spent years studying how films got made — and now he’s made his own.

The short film The Sound of Your Voice was directed by Beaty and written and produced by Beaty, José Andrés Cardona and Wesley Wingo. This thriller focuses a voiceover artist who is haunted by a past relationship as she sinks deep into the isolation of a recording booth.

Hunt Beaty

The Sound of Your Voice was shot on location at Silver Sound, a working audio post house, in New York City.

What inspired the film?
This short was largely reverse-engineered. I work with Silver Sound, a production and post sound studio in New York City, so we knew we had a potential location. Given access to such a venue, Andrés lit the creative fuse with an initial concept and we all started writing from there.

I’ve long admired the voiceover craft, as my father made his career in radio and VO work. It’s a unique job, and it felt like a world not often portrayed in film/TV up to this point. That, combined with my experience working alongside VO artists over the years, made this feel like fertile ground to create a short film.

The film is part of a series of shorts my producers and I have been making over the past few months. We’re all good friends who met at NYU film undergrad. While narrative filmmaking was always our shared interest and catalyst for making content, the realities of staying afloat in NYC after graduation prompted a focus on freelance commercial work in our chosen crafts in order to make a living. It’s been a great ride, but our own narrative work, the original passion, was often moved to the backburner.

After discussing the idea for years — we drank too many beers one night and decided to start getting back into narrative work by making shorts within a particular set of constrained parameters: one weekend to shoot, no stunts/weapons or other typical production complicators, stay close to home geographically, keep costs low, finish the film fast and don’t stop. We’re getting too old to remain stubbornly precious.

Inspired by a class we all took at NYU called “Sight and Sound: Film,” we built our little collective on the idea of rotating the director role while maintaining full support from the other two in whatever short currently in production.

Andrés owns a camera and can shoot, Wesley writes and directs and also does a little bit of everything. I can produce and use all of my connections and expertise having been in the production and post sound world for so long.

We shot a film that Wesley directed at the end of November and released it in January. We shot my film in January and are releasing it here and now. Andrés just directed a film that we’re in post-production on right now.

What were you personally looking to achieve with the film?
My first goal was to check my natural inclination to overly complicate a short story, either by including too many characters or bouncing from one location to another.
I wanted to stay in one close-fitting place and largely focus on one character. The hope was I’d have more time to focus on performance nuance and have multiple takes for each setup. Realistically, with indie filmmaking, you never have the time you want, but being able to work closely with the actors on variations of their performances was super important. I also wanted to be able to focus on the work of directing as opposed to getting lost in the ambition of the production itself.

How was the film made?
The production was noticeably scrappy, as all of these films inevitably become. The crew was just the three of us, in addition to a rotating set of production sound recordists and an HMU artist (Allison Brooke), who all agreed to help us out.

We rented from Hand Held films, which is a block away from Silver Sound, so we knew we could just wheel over all of the lights and grip equipment without renting a vehicle. Wesley would would primarily focus on camera and lighting support for Andrés, but we were all functioning within an “all hands on deck” framework. It was never pretty, but we made it all happen.

Our cast was incredibly chill, and we had worked with Harry, the engineer, on our first short Into Quiet. We shot the whole thing over a weekend, (again, one of our parameters) so we could do our best to get back to our day-to-day.

Also, a significant amount of re-writing was done to the off-screen voices in post based on the performance of our actress, which gave us some interesting room to play around while writing to the edit, tweaking the edit itself to fit new script, and in the recording of our voice actors to the cut. Meta? Probably.

We’ve been wildly fortunate to have the support of our post-sound team at Silver Sound. Theodore Robinson and Tarcisio Longobardi, in particular, gave so much of themselves to the sound design process in order to make this come to life. Given my background as a production recordist, and simply due to the storyline of this short, sound design was vital.

In tandem with that hard work, we had Alan Gordon provide the color grading and Brent Ferguson the VFX.

What are you working on now?
Mostly fretting about our cryptocurrency investments. But once that all crashes and burns, we’re going to try and keep the movie momentum going. We’re all pretty hungry to make stuff. Doing feels better than sitting idly and talking about it.

L-R: Re-recording mixer Cory Choy, Hunt Beaty and supervising sound editor Tarcisio Longobardi.

We’re currently in post for Andrés’ movie, which should be coming out in a month or so. Wesley also has a new script and we’re entering into pre-production for that one as well so that we can hopefully start the cycle all over again. We’re also looking for new scripts and potential collaborators to roll into our rotation while our team continues to build momentum towards potentially larger projects.

On top of that, I’m hanging up the headphones more often to transition out of production sound work and shift to fully producing and directing commercial projects.

What camera and why?
The Red Weapon Helium because the DP owns one already (laughs). But in all seriousness, it is an incredible camera. We also shot on elite anamorphic glass. Only had two focal lengths on set, a 50mm and a 100mm plus a diopter set.

How involved were you in the edit?
DP Andres Cardona singlehandedly did the first pass at a rough cut. After that, myself and my co-producer Wes Wingo gave elaborate notes on each cut thereafter. Also, we ended up re-writing some of the movie itself after reconsidering the overall structure of the film due to our lead actress’ strong performance in certain shots.

For example, I really loved the long close-up of Stacey’s eyes that’s basically the focal point of the movie’s ending. So I had to reconfigure some of the story points in order to give that shot its proper place in the edit to allow it to be the key moment the short is building up to.

The grade what kind of look were you going for?
The color grade was done by Alan Gordon at Post Pro Gumbo using a DaVinci Resolve. It was simply all about fixing inconsistencies and finessing what we shot in camera.

What about the sound design and mix?
The sound design was completed by Ted Robinson and Tarcisio Longobardi. The final mix was handled by Cory Choy at Silver Sound in New York. All the audio work was done in Reaper.

Pacific Post adds third LA location servicing editorial

Full-service editorial equipment rental and services provider Pacific Post has expanded its footprint with the opening of a new 10,000 square-foot facility in Sherman Oaks, California. This brings the total locations in the LA area to three, including North Hollywood and Hollywood.

The new location offers 25 Avid suites with 24/7 technical support, alongside a writer’s room and several production offices. Pacific Post has retrofitted the entire site, which is supported by Avid Nexis shared storage and 1GB of dedicated Fiber internet connectivity.

“We recently provided equipment and services to the editorial team on Game Over, Man! for Netflix in Sherman Oaks, and continued to receive inquiries from other productions in the area,” says Pacific Post VP Kristin Kumamoto. “The explosion we’ve seen in scripted production, especially for streaming platforms, prompted our decision to add this building to our offerings.”

Kumamoto says a screening room is also close to completion. It features a 150-inch screen and JVC 4K projector for VFX reviews and an enhanced, in-house viewing experience. Additional amenities at Pacific Post Sherman Oaks include MPAA-rated security, reserved parking, a full kitchen and lounge, VoIP phone systems and a substantial electrical infrastructure.

We reached out to Kumamoto to find out more.

Why the investment in Avid over some of the other NLE choices out there currently?
It really stems from the editorial community — from scripted and non-scripted shows that really want to work in shared project environments. They trust the media management with Avid’s shared storage, making it a clear choice when working on projects with the tightest deadlines.

How do you typically work with companies coming in looking for editing space? What is your process?
It usually starts with producers looking for a location that meets the needs of the editors in terms of commute or the proximity to studios for executives.  After that, it really comes down to having a secure and flexible layout along with a host of other requirements.”

With cutting rooms in North Hollywood/Universal City and in Hollywood, we feel Sherman Oaks is the perfect location to complement the other facilities and really give more choices to producers looking to set up cutting rooms in the San Fernando Valley area of LA.

Behind the Title: Versus Partner/CD Justin Barnes

NAME: Justin Barnes

COMPANY: Versus (@vs_nyc)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are “versus” the traditional model of a creative studio. Our approach is design driven and full service. We handle everything from live action to post production, animation and VFX. We often see projects from concept through delivery.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Partner and Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I handle the creative side of Versus. From pitching to ideation, thought leadership and working closely with our editors, animators, artists and clients to make our creative — and our clients’ creative vision — the best it can be.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
There’s a lot of business and politics that you have to deal with being a creative.

Adidas

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Every day is different, full of new challenges and the opportunity to come up with new ideas and make really great work.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When I have to deal with the business side of things more than the creative side.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
For me, it’s very late at night; the only time I can work with no distractions.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Anything in the creative world.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It’s been a natural progression for me to be where I am. Working with creative and talented people in an industry with unlimited possibilities has always seemed like a perfect fit.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
– Re-brand of The Washington Post
– Animated content series for the NCAA
– CG campaign for Zyrtec
– Live-action content for Adidas and Alltimers collaboration

Zyrtec

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I am proud of all the projects we do, but the ones that stick out the most are the projects with the biggest challenges that we have pulled together and made look amazing. That seems like every project these days.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My laptop, my phone and Uber.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I can’t live without Pinterest. It’s a place to capture the huge streams of inspiration that come at us each day.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
We have music playing in the office 24/7, everything from hip-hop to classical. We love it all. When I am writing for a pitch, I need a little more concentration. I’ll throw on my headphones and put on something that I can get lost in.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Working on personal projects is big in helping de-stress. Also time at my weekend house in Connecticut.

A conversation with film and TV editor Brian A. Kates

By Amy Leland

In 2004, Manhattan Edit Workshop began a four-week editing workshop for aspiring professional editors. In 2006, it became their six-week workshop. During the six weeks, the students receive training on the most-used editing tools of the industry. They are also given a chance to explore the art of editing. An important aspect of the workshop is the Artist in Residence. A successful professional editor visits the class to offer some insights into their own career, as well as look at the work the students are doing and provide them with some feedback.

Brian A. Kates was the artist in residence for the January/February 2018 workshop. He is an Emmy award-winning editor for his work on Taking Chance, as well as a two-time Eddie award winner for his work on Bessie and Lackawanna Blues. He is also known for his work on The Savages, Shortbus, Killing Them Softly, How to Talk to Girls at Parties and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

We recently reached out to him to find out more.

How did you become an editor? Was this something you wanted to do as a kid?
I had a very charismatic counselor at summer camp, named Cecily, who was an NYU student at the time. She taught little six to 12 year olds how to use a video camera and cut images together by playing from the camera and recording onto a deck. I became infatuated with the fact that you could control the story after the fact. The idea of the technology being at the forefront rather than a sidebar was exciting to me. I was a nerd. So just knowing how to use the equipment, knowing how to press the button at the right time… there’s a thing called roll-down time, which is the amount of time it takes between pressing the button and the recording happening. Knowing how to feel that rhythm… practicing until you could feel that rhythm intuitively without thinking about it was something I took pride in.

I was also into computers and programming and making games and little art pieces on my computer. It was all related. Eventually, I figured out how to plug my home video camera into my computer and record, or into my VCR, and then I could edit them. It was a little factory of creation. I was alone most of the time, which I liked because I was an introvert.

Did you follow a straight path from there to seeing it as a career?
I knew I wanted to go to NYU because my video counselor went to NYU. The three films schools at the time that were notable were USC, UCLA and NYU. I was from the East Coast. If I wanted to stay on the East Coast, I would try to go to NYU. And I was gay, and NYU was in Greenwich Village. So that was enticing as well.

And at NYU, did you specifically aim toward editing?
NYU really tries to groom writer/directors. You weren’t encouraged to focus on a craft. You had a cursory cinematography class, you had an acting class, you had a screenwriting class, as well as some cinema studies electives. I was much more excited by cinema studies than by production, and by cinema as a part of cultural studies. When I was a junior, I tried to steer my commitments toward editing other people’s films more than writing and directing my own. I didn’t even have enough of a strong script idea to get to that stage. I knew that I wanted to build films, which is editing.

I wanted to sit in that room with the Steenbeck and figure out how to stay in sync and figure out what sound fill is, and figure out what leader is, and figure out a mark with the grease pencil. These were very, very nuts and bolts skills that you needed to learn if you were going to edit movies. That was a lot of time and a lot of practice that I wouldn’t have been doing if I were writing.

Did you start working in films and editing right out of school?
I had a friend who was a PA and also working in the office at Christine Vachon’s production company, which subsequently became Killer Films. He introduced me to that office, and I worked for free answering phones there when I was a junior. I was a PA on a few films that year, but I really wanted to get into the editing room.

The film that Christine was producing with Lauren Zalaznick, which was shot between my junior year and senior year, was Todd Haynes’ Safe. It was shot in LA, but was cut in New York. And because I had been a set PA on other stuff that they shot in New York, I was able to just transfer that connection to getting into the cutting room. I met the first assistant editor, Sakae Ishikawa, who needed PAs to staff the editing room for Jim (editor James Lyons). It was mainly a job rewinding and reconstituting trims. Reconstituting is putting the trims back into the reel in order, so that any time you pick up a reel of dailies, all of the pieces that are not in the film are back in the dailies. You put something in, and then you have to replace it in the reel with fill, which keeps it in sync with a blank piece of film. If you take anything out of the movie, you have to put it back into the reel, take out the fill and put back in the actual film. It takes at least one, but maybe two people. It’s all cleaning, keeping order, organizing and never losing anything.

Were there specific films or filmmakers that influenced the kind of work you wanted to be doing when you started editing?
Robert Altman’s 3 Women, which is the first movie I saw as a kid that expanded my taste. I had been into popular stuff. I was obsessed with Star Wars. I was obsessed with Spielberg. I felt like Spielberg started to take a turn away from popcorn films into dramatic films as my taste was changing: from E.T. to The Color Purple to Empire of the Sun. It was a small jump from that to discovering Todd Haynes, because his first feature film, Poison, was one of the first things that I saw when I got to NYU as a freshman.

I was queer and identified with the queer new wave that was happening in the early ‘90s. It was a New York-based community of filmmakers who were making films that were not beholden to popular ideas of what’s entertainment. Instead they explored the film form and the connections between literature, art, film and performance. So when I had the opportunity to work in the editing room for that and for the next film it was like, “Yes.” I was the second assistant editor. Because I came in during the first cut and left after the sound mix, I got to see everything from after the production until final delivery. It was a second film school, and it was happening my senior year in college and the six months after that.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

You’ve edited for both film and television. Do you get different things out of each as an editor?
For TV, I’ve mostly cut pilot episodes: The Big C, Believe, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. A pilot has the same process as a movie, just very, very fast. So you have to harness the ability to make choices really quickly. I also worked on three episodes of Treme. On episodic TV, so many things are already figured out — who the characters are, what the tone is — and you need to really quickly make choices that conform to what the show’s identity is. But within that, of course, there are countless creative choices.

On Treme we would get entire live musical numbers with live vocals, many takes, three cameras, and an hour of footage would end up in the show for maybe a minute. That is actually a long time to play a musical number on TV, but that was one of the hallmarks of that show. They wanted to respect the music as music, and it didn’t have to just be local texture; it required a lot of condensing of material.

So, as an editor, you prefer being able to shape the whole story.
Yeah, it’s also about ongoing collaborations with directors that continue to make work. That’s very fulfilling because you figure out your style of working together and also your shorthand. I feel like a lot of the interests of the directors I work with on a regular basis are my own interests. I worked with Tamara Jenkins on two films, George C. Wolfe on two films, Lee Daniels three times and John Cameron Mitchell on four films in various capacities. That history means a lot to me.

What was your experience like with this six-week workshop, and getting to meet the students?
I liked that they were cutting actual footage. It’s the only way to learn, because real footage has that X factor of the coverage being weird, incomplete, overshot, undershot, whatever. And there were different genres. Some people were doing documentaries. Some people were doing what appeared to be a commercial. Some people were doing short narrative stuff.

They had watched the pilot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and they watched Killing Them Softly. The reason I wanted to show those two pieces is because they’re two different universes in terms of genre, in terms of tone… everything. But I edited them both, and to me, they actually have similarities in terms of musicality and sense of rhythm. It was fun to show that a very bloody crime drama and a whimsical period comedy are maybe connected somehow. So we talked about that for a bit.

I’m sure that they all wanted to pick your brain as well?
It’s about the director/editor relationship. So you need to find your directors. Those relationships are precious. They could be your friends. They could not be your friends, and that’s okay too. It’s about taste. I had told the students that I was rather unenthusiastic about crime movies before I edited Killing Them Softly. One of the students told me he took it to mean that an editor’s individual taste is less important than staying employed. I said, “No, not really. To me, the lesson is that you can find something exciting in material that you didn’t expect.”

While editing Killing Them Softly, director Andrew Dominik suggested that the film (which takes place during the 2008 economic crisis) had roots in the Great Depression. So we began listening to music of that time. And for me — being interested in the history of the American Songbook and musical theater — that opened up a door to a whole world of inspiration. And thinking of the violent montages with the same sense of rhythm and drama and flourishes that songs have made me more excited about shaping them.

So part of being an editor is having strong ideas, but also flexibility. The connections between styles, genres, historical periods, philosophies are infinite.


Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, “Echoes”, is now available on Amazon Video. She also has a feature documentary in post, a feature screenplay in development, and a new doc in pre-production. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network and recently edited the feature “Sundown.” You can follow Amy on social media on Twitter at @amy-leland and Instagram at @la_directora.