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Need career advice

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Need career advice
on Oct 23, 2007 at 2:52:43 am


I would like some advice and guidance as to becoming a true professional editor.

A little background. I have worked in various aspects of production (Film, TV, Music Videos and Commercials) working as a PA, Associate Producer, Field Producer and Post Producer for the past 3 years. Worked up the ranks pretty quickly but still pretty 'green'.

That said, I want to become a full fledged, full time editor. I love editing. I have a fair amount of knowledge and experience with both Avid (High Beginner) and Final Cut (Advanced Intermediate) and understand if I'm to reach my goal I must master each application. I'm confidant with my story telling skills. My post-producing exploits and time on cable TV and Web projects gave me the opportunity to cut segments within each project on my own. Recently, I have had a few segments that I shot, produced and edited air on a 'action sports' cable network...

My question to you is this- Should I take a 6 week intensive class that will 'get me up to speed' with each application while they 'help me build my reel.' The company has 'stock' footage that I'll cut as 'my own'. (Is this kosher?) The class is 5700.00 and my NYC rent is expensive. Or should I continue to cut my own stuff and refine my skills through experience, either paid or unpaid while taking projects on as a producer?

I know that everyones experience is different, but want to hear editors experiences and advice...

Thanks for any and all help,

Zach in NYC

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Re: Need career advice
on Oct 23, 2007 at 5:57:07 am

Anyone can go to school, but if you can team up with a well respected pro for a project or two, the world's your oyster. Nothin' beats an old-fashioned apprenticeship.

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Re: Need career advice
on Oct 23, 2007 at 7:49:38 pm

School is just something that is not required for what we do. Experience is.
It's sure hard to get experience with no experience. Nobody ever asks for education or certification though. Tat said, your reel is your best tool for landing gigs. Your personality is what will get ya hired once in the door. People skills are half of editing. Very imortant. Not to be overlooked. I know alot of VERY talented artists who are not going to make more than 50k a year because they havn't the people skills. I also know alot of six figure-makin' hacks because they have the gift of gab.
I havn't advice. If your young and this is your only opportunity to go to college, you should do it. If you are wanting to get to work right away, build a reel and shop it around right now. Take what is offered and work your way up. School will only delay that but man the parties are fun.
A wise man once said college is a place for young people to go to find out who they are. Very true words.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Need career advice
on Oct 23, 2007 at 9:34:00 pm

Take the money you would spend on this course, buy some stock footage yourself, or shoot some spec spots or hire a good cameraman for the day to get you enough raw material. (If you're really not a shooter, and that's okay, pay someone to shoot some nice stuff for you, & be sure they sign over the rights to you.)Then cut and re-cut demos and samples until you have mastered the platform and the storytelling on your own. That's really what any formal course is going to make you do anyway, just on their schedule and they'll be charging you...

A class teaches a lot but it can't teach you how to develop your timing, your rythm, your visual flow, your own evolved personal style. The things people choose to hire an editor for. It can only give you examples to imitate. While even master artists first learn by copying other masters, they don't become masters until they advance past the imitation stage into creativity and innovation. That's why I suggest fewer technical how-to-push-the-button courses and more Liberal Arts type courses. Music, art history, photography, painting, sculpture, dance, literature... Our job is very interdisciplinary.

Use some of your money to buy and read used books on editing and visual design, spend a lot of time here and elsewhere online sifting thru all the great free tutorials. Watch a lot of different great movies and commercials on DVD and study the editing with and without the sound on, with and without the commentary tracks. Try grabbing footage from those films and re-cutting sequences at home for personal fun. (look at youtube for inspiration in the killer examples of re-cut trailers for The Shining, JAWS, and West Side Story). Check out the Director's DVD's by Gondry, Cunningham, and Spike Jonez at the local rental store or netflix them. Gondry's 2-disc set I found really inspired me to look at things in new ways.

Finally, while I love being a generalist, beyond the generalist skillset, pick one particular area of editing and/or compositing and concentrate on perfecting your skill to your own satisfaction. Whether it's sports montages, news, multilingual looping and dialog replacement, motion graphics, comedic timing, music video, quirky animation, intense layering, color, greenscreen work or just very artistic yet efficient multicam cutting, find some niche to excel at, and in New York, it will eventually lead to work somewhere.

The demand for such niche specialties is cyclical; you can't be the best at all of them but the good news is every style or look comes back into fashion for a time on a regular basis. Sooner or later, your specialty will be exactly what everyone is looking for, then you ride that wave for all it's worth. Sometimes, your personal style explorations will lead to a unique new look and you will be the hottest thing in town for a year until everybody else imitates your look to death. Make the most of that while you can, knowing that it's fleeting, but that your generalist skills will carry you until the next hot cycle, while you keep growing and exploring. And maybe creating the next thing that everybody imitates.

And buy me an expensive meal when you're rich and famous:-)

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Re: Need career advice
on Oct 24, 2007 at 5:58:19 pm

I have a BA in Television and Film Production. I can't tell you that it was a waste of time and money, because it wasn't. The skills and experience I acquired were invaluable. That said, however, I have found that practical, real-world experience can teach you far more than formal education ever could. It all depends on you and what you need.

The benefit of any kind of formal training and education with an application like Final Cut, is that by teaching you the technical side, it frees you to be creative. If all you know how to do is make straight cuts and apply dissolves, then you could use some training to help you utilize all FCP has to offer. On the flip side, if you have a solid understanding of some of the more advanced features of the application, then your time and money might be better spent.

Five grand is a lot of money to spend...especially living in NYC. Maybe you could explore some other options. Rather than taking a class, you could just buy the book that the class uses and learn it on your own, at your own pace. NYC is over-whelmed with aspiring filmmakers, search for people who are making short films and see if anyone needs an editor. It may be crap, but at least you'll get great experience having someone looking over your shoulder. Or, if you feel up to it, look for some paying work...corporate or web video. Nothing makes you learn faster than a deadline.

I think the real key is to stay busy. You can learn the ins and outs of the software all you want. You can watch movies and commercials for inspiration until the cows come home. But if you're not actively working, you will never get any better. After a while, operating the software will become like driving your car. You don't think about driving, you think about where you want to go.

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Pixel Monkey
Re: Need career advice
on Oct 29, 2007 at 7:26:37 pm

Here here, Mark.

Zach, a full-blown editor equates to a full-blown housing contractor. Architect (producer) designs a house. Client (funder) pays for it. Editor (contractor) works with the architect to translate those plans into finished product. No architect nor client would ever have a house built by someone who takes a six-week contracting course.

Here's one popular approach that works:
Go to school. Drink a lot and disregard your instructors because you think you're the next Stanley Kubrick. Spend three years bussing tables because you're actually not. In your off-time, start editing for no-pay for students at that school. Each one of them thinks they're the next Stanley Kubrick. None of them are... but you've just created a reel that leads to your becoming the next Martin Hunter!


`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.

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Re: Need career advice
on Nov 29, 2007 at 8:07:22 am

great advice, mark! It's strange, i've been trying to find material/discussion on aesthetics but the lion's share of it seems dedicated to technical skills in a software. If only there was more material- Kuleshov was a thinker regarding film aesthetics, and so was Murch, and quite a few notable others...

On watching films without the audio turned on- i recall once popping in mean streets and not setting the speakers properly... and the rhythm/pacing in the opening sequence without music/audio was quite mind blowing. It was something i would never have seen without having the music off.

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Chaz Shukat
Re: Need career advice
on Dec 22, 2007 at 12:54:17 am

[strypes] "i've been trying to find material/discussion on aesthetics but the lion's share of it seems dedicated to technical skills in a software. If only there was more material-"

strypes, There is more material! Check out my e-book, EDITING REALITY. It was written to fill that need, and it's geared toward reality TV & documentary rather than narrative film. See my ad under the Cow classified ads or visit my website. It's only $5!

Chaz Shukat

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Scott Davis
Re: Need career advice
on Nov 2, 2007 at 1:46:18 am

I couldn't agree more with Grinner that people skills are so very important to being a "professional" editor. Working with someone in a high stress situation and trying to gently steer them from making bad decisions is critical. Get and read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and anything by Steven Covey.

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Re: Need career advice
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:23:11 pm

Which school?


Now in post: Peristroika, a film by Slava Tsukerman

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Michael McIntyre
Re: Need career advice
on Oct 25, 2007 at 5:33:41 am

I just want to echo what's been said here. That is some serious change, even w/o expensive NYC rent on top.

May sound counterintuitive (given your experience) but going the assistant route can prove invaluable. Your increased experience will readily translate to increased responsibilities. If you find a good mentor to cut under, even better. Of course, you can always all into traps with jerks or post houses that take advantage of you but a great editor can easily pave the way for you with overflow work or outside gigs.

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