Training Editors: What are you doing to train young editors?
Nina Staum started a great thread a couple of weeks ago about how we all became editors. I found it fascinating to hear everyone's story. It confirmed that there really isn't one specific career path to follow. Most responses were from established, seasoned pros. Which brings up my question, "What are you doing to train young, up and coming editors?"
Here's my story, I'd love to hear yours.
I work for a company that truly believes in "promoting from within". Over the years we 've had many young people come to us as interns and now, years later are editors, directors, even executive producers. I came to the company as an editor and now oversee all post production. With the kind of programs that we create (Reality TV shows for network broadcast), we value storytelling skills over grfx or SFX manipulation. As such, we have a few paths to the editor's chair.
The first path starts with an entry level job as a "logger". This person will watch "dailies" for 8 hours a day taking notes and creating a database for editors and the story department to reference. As boring as this may sound, if you're motivated, you have a great chance to see tons of raw scene coverage and note how it gets crafted into a final show. After a season of logging, there is often an opportunity to compete for an assistant editor's chair.
Another path is through our story department as an assistant story editor. The focus in that department is identifying story beats, crafting larger arcs, and clarifying scenes with interviews. However, since all of our FCP systems are networked, the story department has adopted the use of FCP to create a "stringout" or first pass of the episode. This used to be called a "paper cut" or "radio edit". It's now a great place for future editor's to learn their craft.
Once someone has landed an assistant editor's chair, the fun begins. The biggest obstacle to a young assistant's career is the "digitizing dungeon". It's a fact of life and someone has to do it. But, we try to make it as painless as possible, using mulitiple systems rather than more time to get the material into the systems. In addition to the regular assistant duties, we try to make room for them to learn from the senior editors. Typically, the progression is from doing a "scene" with an experienced editor as a mentor, to doing an "act" (1/3 of a show) along with a senior editor, to finally getting a shot at a full episode. This path can take anywhere from a year to two years depending on how busy we are.
This process is not a formal one. There are no specific guidelines. It's just our way of doing business, and it seems to have worked out well.
I personally enjoy the mentoring process and take great pride in the success of many of the editors who have started in our shop as interns and have gone on to have successful careers.
As I finally posted in that thread, that is how I got where I am. I started by cutting scenes on a narrative show. After that, and cutting a short film, I was in the editors chair.
In the documentary realm, I was first hired to cut Acts...then soon ended up moving to the Lead editor or Finishing editors chair. All due to practice and getting better at what I did. I first got a crack at it when the audio from all the Acts was ALL OVER the place. 4 editors and not one settled on a level. Since I knew audio well (chalk it up to mixing music and SFX as an assistant) I ended up cleaning up the audio, and doing the final pass. They liked my work and I have been a Lead or Finishing editor ever since.
But yes, the poor assistants have LOTS of work to do digitizing and organizing, but they have several machines to do this on and find the time, I'd give them some editing task. Let them try the tease, or take the first pass on Act 4 while I am on the first half of the show. The life of an assistant is tough. I lived it for 3 years...looooong hours, then adding more by taking editing on your own time. But, it does pay off.
At least in my case.
But I will add that some people are just great tech-heads and organization buffs, and don't have the creative touch...and end up career assistants. I find nothing wrong with that either. As long as they are happy. I know a guy who is, and I'd hire him in a heartbeat if he wasn't the main guy at this one company. He IS the man.
... a tougher and tougher question to answer as the years go on... because most places are now passing up editors for the newly popular "Producer/Editors". So how do you train them? Easy - you don't have to. They're producers, and thus know-it-all anyway. Give 'em a screwdriver and a Total Training DVD for Xmas and send 'em on their way.
I've written a book entitled "EDITING REALITY", designed to serve as a mentor to new editors, assistant editors, editing students, etc., with an emphasis on editing reality/documentary. I thank those of you (you know who you are) who took the time to respond to my 10 question survey. Your comments are included in the book.
Now that it's done, if anyone has any suggestions about publishing or self publishing, marketing, etc.
As for personal mentoring, I seldom have the opportunity to interact with an assistant that much (it would be great if I did) but I certainly answer any questions put to me. I really love answering questions because I remember how many questions I have asked of editors and still do of editors and assistants for that matter (regarding tech stuff). I find that almost all editors as a group are really nice people and have been most gracious in answering questions and helping me. Editors should get training on the job, not have to shell out major bucks for classes, right guys? You are never to old to learn new tricks and often us older guys can learn some new tricks from the younger guys. It works both ways. A free flow of ideas, give and take. That preserves the perfect balance of the universe and promotes growth and evolution. (Whoa, did I say that?)
[Chaz Shukat] "You are never to old to learn new tricks and often us older guys can learn some new tricks from the younger guys. It works both ways. A free flow of ideas, give and take."
I think this goes along with the old saying I love so much. "Hire the inexperienced, they have not yet learned, you can't do that."
ProductionKing Video Services
Unmarked Door Productions
Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada
What I find works pretty well is to assign someone a full video (something with a relaxed deadline, but with a deadline).
Then go through the video with the editor, and make a laundry list of things to fix, effects to add, teach them how to do whatever they don't know how to do, then let them go do the next edit. Then do it again. After that process, I can see big improvements.
That's how I was trained at my job 11 years ago - except I also had to figure out the online edit bay while cutting the project. Nothing like adjusting subcarrier phase with a client looking over your shoulder!
I am only 14 and already have made over 6 good productions, although they only have a couple hundred views it is amazing to even be using Final Cut Studio and have a good understanding of it. I make completely zero dollar movies and try to push them out after a night of editing. I only have a Flip Ultra "HD" and Panasonic PV-GS150. I work on a MacBook Pro 13" and a 23" HD monitor. If you want to see any of my work check out XxHiLaRoUSxX on youtube.com. My best video on there is Best Parent of America: Interview. I am going to be taking PT.2 to Kahlahad Takedown very seriously and make sure it is good as I can get it.
I've written an e-book called EDITING REALITY, available at my website, and I'm in the formative stages of writing another one to cover what I may have missed in the first one.
Author of "EDITING REALITY"