“I’ve always done a fair amount of animation design, music rearranging and other things that aren’t strictly editing, but most editors are expected to play a role in aspects of the post process that aren’t strictly editing.”
Name: Steve Bell
What’s your job title?
Company: Cutters Editorial
Can you describe your company?
Cutters is part of a global group of companies offering offline editing, audio engineering, VFX and picture finishing, production and design – all of which fall under Cutters Studios. Here in New York, we do traditional broadcast TV advertising and online content, as well as longer format work and social media content for brands, directors and various organizations that hire us to develop a concept, shoot and direct.
What’s your job title?
What’s your favorite part of the job?
There’s a stage to pretty much every project where I feel I’ve gotten a good enough grasp of the material that I can connect the storytelling dots and see it come to life. I like problem solving and love the feeling you get when you know you’ve “figured it out.”
Depending on the scale of the project, it can start a few hours in, a few days in or a few weeks in, but once it hits you can’t stop until you see the piece finished. It’s like reading a good page-turner; you can’t put it down. That’s the part of the creative process I love and what I like most about my job.
What’s your least favorite?
It’s those times when it becomes clear that I’ve/we’ve probably looked at something too many times to actually make it better. That certainly doesn’t happen on many jobs, but when it does, it’s probably because too many voices have had a say; too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say.
What is your most productive time of the day?
Early in the morning. I’m most clearheaded at the very beginning of the day, and then sometimes toward the very end of a long day. But those times also happen to be when I’m most likely to be alone with what I’m working on and free from other distractions.
If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Baseball player? Astronaut? Joking. But let’s face it, we all fantasize about fulfilling the childhood dreams that are completely different from what we do. To be truthful I’m sure I’d be doing some kind of writing, because it was my desire to be a writer, particularly of film, that indirectly led me to be an editor.
Why did you choose this profession? How early on did you know this would be your path?
Well the simple answer is probably that I had opportunities to edit professionally at a relatively young age, which forced me to get better at editing way before I had a chance to get better at writing. If I keep editing I may never know if I can write!
Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
The Dwyane Wade Budweiser retirement film, Stella Artois holiday spots, a few films for the Schott/Hamilton watch collaboration. We did some fun work for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty release. Early in the year I did a bunch of lovely spots for Hallmark Hall of Fame programming.
Do you put on a different hat when cutting for a specific genre?
For sure. There are overlapping tasks, but I do believe it takes a different set of skills to do good dramatic storytelling than it takes to do straight comedy, or doc or beauty. Good “Storytelling” (with a capital ‘S’) is helpful in all of it — I’d probably say crucial. But it comes down to the important element that’s used to create the story: emotion, humor, rhythm, etc. And then you need to know when it needs to be raw versus formal, broad versus subtle and so forth. Different hats are needed to get that exactly right.
What is the project that you are most proud of and why?
I’m still proud of the NHL’s No Words spot I worked on with Cliff Skeete and Bruce Jacobson. We’ve become close friends as we’ve collaborated on a lot of work since then for the NHL and others. I love how effective that spot is, and I’m proud that it continues to be referenced in certain circles.
In a very different vein, I think I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done for the UN General Assembly meetings, especially the film that accompanied Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s spoken word performance of her poem “Dear Matafele Peinem” during the opening ceremonies of the UN’s first Climate Change conference. That’s an issue that’s very important to me and I’m grateful for the chance to do something that had an impact on those who saw it.
What do you use to edit?
I’m a Media Composer editor, and it probably goes back to the days when I did freelance work for Avid and had to learn it inside out. The interface at least is second nature to me. Also, the media sharing and networking capabilities of Avid make it indispensable. That said, I appreciate that Premiere has some clear advantages in other ways. If I had to start over I’m not sure I wouldn’t start with Premiere.
What is your favorite plugin?
I use a lot of Boris FX plugins for stabilization, color correction and so forth. I used to use After Effects often, and Boris FX offers a way of achieving some of what I once did exclusively in After Effects.
Are you often asked to do more than edit? If so, what else are you asked to do?
I’ve always done a fair amount of animation design, music rearranging and other things that aren’t strictly editing, but most editors are expected to play a role in aspects of the post process that aren’t strictly “film editing.”
Many of my clients know that I have strong opinions about those things, so I do get asked to participate in music and animation quite often. I’m also sometimes asked to help with the write-ups of what we’ve done in the edit because I like talking about the process and clarifying what I’ve done. If you can explain what you’ve done you’re probably that much more confident about the reasons you did it. It can be a good way to call “bullshit” on yourself.
This is a high stress job with deadlines and client expectations. What do you do to de-stress from it all?
Yeah, right?! It can be stressful, especially when you’re occasionally lucky enough to be busy with multiple projects all at once. I take decompressing very seriously. When I can, I spend a lot of time outdoors — hiking, biking, you name it — not just for the cardio and exercise, which is important enough, but also because it’s important to give your eyes a chance to look off into the distance. There are tremendous physical and psychological benefits to looking to the horizon.