By Brady Betzel
I’ve passed my 10-year anniversary working in TV — specifically post production — and it’s really pretty crazy. When I started, I was an eager beaver willing to listen and do (almost) anything the “important” people told me I should do. Now, while I still like to think I am eager, I like to feel like I am a very informed beaver, albeit a pretty skeptical one.
The following are some myths about building a career based on my personal experience.
The Need to Say Yes to Everything
This one is a little polarizing because it touches on the working for free topic, which I don’t actively support. To me you aren’t working for free if you are able to develop a skill or use the project for your own benefit. Short term it might be “free” but the long-term benefits will pay off if you are able to learn and grow technically and/or creatively.
That being said, you don’t need to say yes to everything. Take this with a heavy dose of common sense, but if someone tells you to do something and your gut is saying the opposite, lean toward your inner voice. People tend to respect that more than if you always say yes, no matter the job. I learned this first hand when I was offline editing — sometimes editors are tasked with showing the client what they say they want, but they may think one thing and then end up with a completely different end product.
I edited a sizzle reel — a cheap way of making a pseudo-pilot where the content is not fully flushed out but may have a spark of an idea that editors sometimes cover in fancy light leaks and sparkles. The client said it would be easy (it wasn’t and never is), and they had a story producer that would give me editing points for a five-minute sizzle reel. Long story short, the story producer had a completely different (and frankly boring) story in mind for a sizzle reel.
As I watched all 12 hours of “awesome” material, I found about 30 seconds of real story… I thought. So while I edited their version, I also edited mine. Eventually they thought the whole thing needed to be re-done. I then sent them my version and they took it. They had a couple of notes but their five-minute already done sizzle reel turned into a completely different story in three and a half minutes. The moral of this story is don’t always be a “yes” person.
Moving Up the Ladder Quickly
Here is another that has bugged me for a long time, and I still struggle with it. I was an assistant editor for four years, and I feel my rise to editor should have come faster. I always saw assistants moving up quickly around me, the commonality (usually) was that they weren’t that good at their job. It seemed counterintuitive, but then I realized that just because you move up quickly in rank, doesn’t always mean you are qualified for the job — your boss may just want you out of their hair.
In the assistant editor world, that could mean that you are messing up tons of stuff that other people are fixing without you knowing (not that I experienced that or anything like that). So if you aren’t moving up the ladder quickly don’t stress about it. Be assertive, but don’t be rude.
You Must Know Editing, Color, Mixing…
There is nothing like real-world experience. There is nothing like sitting in a color grading session with the colorist powering DaVinci Resolve color panels, or being in a audio mix stage for the first time and hearing how powerful different mixes are.
However, you don’t always get the luxury of being mentored while sitting next to the colorist. You don’t always get to play with the lift, gamma or gain without worrying about messing up. Don’t be afraid to watch tutorials on YouTube, Lynda.com, RippleTraining.com or other paid or free training sites. When I do get a free moment, I often watch tutorials on YouTube and learn techniques I would never have thought of before. It doesn’t matter if you watch a 10-year-old teaching After Effects expressions or Mocha tracking Big Bird into a scene, if you become a master wireframe remover thanks to YouTube videos, you may very well earn the same paycheck and work on just the same films as someone who learned at USC.
Partying Vs. Networking
I firmly believe that you don’t need to live in Hollywood and go to the Chateau Marmont weekly to become an editor, or whatever post position you want to achieve. I live an hour and 20 minutes outside of Hollywood in an avocado orchard, and work on shows that millions of people watch each week. I rarely go to parties or events, and I still get jobs. My work speaks for itself.
However, I also feel that if I was more of a social person I may have different opportunities. So while partying isn’t always necessary, maybe take a middle road: do some networking (in-person and via social media) but also take some time away from the hustle and bustle of Highland.
I started my career as an intern on the show On Air with Ryan Seacrest, so this may be a little weird, but bear with me. I see a lot of people who work in TV turn their noses up when they hear people that haven’t interned before get jobs. I have to admit I was one of those people until I realized you don’t need a college degree, internship or any formal training for that matter.
If you know how to make an opening title graphic in Cinema 4D better than someone with a Master’s Degree in communication, the fact is that you just do. Don’t be ashamed and don’t feel like you don’t deserve a job over someone else. Just go for it.
Keep in mind that doesn’t give you an excuse to be complacent and uninformed about your job description and duties.
Obviously, all of these tips are to be taken with humility and common sense, but in the end if you have the talent, drive and fortitude to stand up for your ideas, then you can make it in post production, even if it means taking a few extra years to become a quality audio mixer, sound designer, visual effects artists, motion graphics maniac or whatever.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.