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Re: how did you editors get your start?

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Mark SuszkoRe: how did you editors get your start?
by on Apr 4, 2003 at 2:10:10 am

I was a born director;-) My folks have audio tape of me at 4 or 5 bossing my dad in a recording session; I would sing a song up to where I didn't know the words, then yell "CUT!". We made photo-novels with a 120 still camera, looked like a story board for a film. A whole dracula story in 24 posed exposures.

Junior High school.Early 70's. Took a super-8 mm course, had lots of fun. They had a B&W TV department, recording to EIAJ 1/2 inch reels. We messed around with that, editing was a pain: you used a grease pencil to mark the edit point on the tape, and the cue points on the feeder, then you back-wound 'em, then you used a stopwatch and two hands to literally punch in the edit on the record deck on the fly. We had one student who did a stop-motion animated cartoon that way... he did eventually lose his mind, from what I could tell. I loved it since then.

Got to College, first got into the radio department, because Frosh/sophs couldn't get into B&W TV until they'd done radio, and the color studio was like, "for grad schoolers only, dude". Did well, started as a DJ, did promo production, eventually became station manager. Flipped my major/minor to Communications/pre-law.

Then I got my college TV internship. Everybody else got in at the big O&O stations around Chicago. I chose an armpit cable outlet in the suburbs that was close to home for the commute. End of the internship, we gather to share experiences. Their typical jobs: get coffee for Walter Jacobson, get Xeroxes for Mr. Bill Kurtis, make a cappachino for the producer, etc. etc. They were in union shops, and could not touch the gear. They DID have neat references and autographed pictures of their bosses and were sent to promising places to interview with the help of their insider contacts, but mostly these didn't pan out, for they lacked experience...

Wait for it...

My turn to tell of my Continental Cablevision exploits at the tender age of 19 or 20.

"Well, my place is not a union shop, and it's nothing fancy, but I was the Wednesday Producer for a daily talk show, where my job was to think of topics, research them, find guests, pre-interview them, write and produce short taped segments on the theme, which meant lighting and shooting with a 3-tube camera and umatic recorder, including my own stand-ups, then I got to sit in a refrigerated edit bay, wearing a down vest indoors in July, and edit my own tape on a balky Horita edit controller (Cavendish also rings a bell for some reason), then time out the show and sit shotgun with the director on air day, keeping time and feeding in CG info. After producing my episode for the week, I would run cameras for other intern/producers. I also did remote live truck work on talent shows, little league games, etc, and basically got to play with everything except the head-end controls for the sat dishes. I have here about 11 demo tapes of programs, commercials, and just stuff I did for fun, wanna see any of it?"

With that kind of stuff under my belt, I pounded around Chicago after graduation as a freelancer for about two years, doing video depositions, corporate training stuff, dance recitals,(multicam VHS linear cuts only in post, with only control track, them was the days!) helping shoot forensic video stuff for multi-million dollar lawsuits, and spending my meager bucks on VHS edit time to make music videos and contest entries. All the time sponging off my parents at home.

Then I answered a blind box ad in the paper (which job experts tell you never works out), and got interviewed over the phone for a job 200 miles south. The boss had been having a hard time with applicants, none of them seemed to actually know anything, but they could all make a damn fine cup of cappachino for some reason... he asked me some "qualifying questions" having to do with time code numbers and the shot being too long by x number of frames. So, I described about 4 or 5 ways to fix the problem with trims, etc. and he said; "Get your butt down here while the job's still open".

There has followed about 16 years now of OJT on umatic to umatic, umatic to one-inch linear A/B roll, with a Grass 100 and VP-2, beta to one-inch, DVC Pro to everything, then non-linear, paint, compositing, lightwave... I try to learn a little bit about evrything, to play with everything. This month I'm getting trained to work the KU band uplink dish all by myself. I write, produce, direct, edit, composite, animate, score, do foley, on a rotating basis, so I rarely get bored before things change.
While working, I have learned how to fly and land a twin-engine plane at night, how to plant no-till beans and corn, how to drive a cop car over 100, how to dig coal, how to look for the Higgs Boson, how to deploy snipers to stop a madman, how to put a stent in someone's artery,and how a bill becomes a law. Some days I still marvel I'm getting paid to have such fun. Other days, well, it beats digging ditches all right;-) I still play with the gear after hours, at work and now at home, it's the best way to learn.

Did you want the long version?;-)


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