Fork in the road of editing career
First a little about me and my situation... since graduation from college in 2010 I've been supporting myself in LA through a combination of freelance video editing work and odd end jobs. To be blunt it's been quite a financial struggle (barely making rent, lots of tuna sandwichs, no cable etc). I've just been buying time waiting for my "break" as well as trying to build my reel. Over the last couple of months I have made a few "contacts" who are actually in the industry and whose work can be seen on TV and theaters. I've gotten to do some side work for them which have actually been my highest paying gigs by far. It is very inconsistent though. What I'm really hoping to get out of these contacts are interviews for assistant editor or Post PA positions at a studio or post house. Of course I can't rely on that... just hoping.
At this point, I am reaching a financial breaking point and starting to take in water. What is your opinion on my next step?
1. Stay in LA and try to grind it out someway. Kinda impossible at this point.
2. I have family in Washington D.C. who have offered to take me in for a couple months. So free housing. I know they've got some media opportunities in that area.
3. Move back to the island of Guam, where my parents still live. The media opportunities there are really limited but at least I won't have to pay for food, bills and rent.
4. Join the military, particularly the Air Force. They have a broadcasting position, which gleaning from the job description envolves a good amount of editing. This would solve my financial issues and would also allow me to be productive on a regular basis. The Con is I'd be stuck in there for a minimum of 4 years. I wouldn't be working on the most ideal content. Then when I get out I can pursue editing again at a studio or post house while being more financially stable from money saved up. If you can't tell, I'm leaning towards this option.
What are your thoughts? Also it'd be great to hear from editors who've had any military experience. If you wanna see my reel click here: http://www.romeorubio.com/hi/Sample_Work.html
As someone in Los Angeles... I can tell you that it's a hard road to plow for consistent work. It has probably taken me 5 years and only this year do I feel totally comfortable with my finances.
I will say this, anyone I know who has come to LA and goes back home never returns. No matter what their intention is, it just doesn't happen.
You have to ask yourself "What kind of editor am I?" Could you only be happy working on the best commercials, tv shows, or films because editing is your whole life? Or can you separate that and say "I'd be ok working for local news or editing wedding videos".
Editing is strange because it kind of takes place in a vacuum. You're not really on set, you aren't really interacting with producers enough to endear yourself (the people who are the key to more work).
I suggest working on set as a kick ass PA, or at the least going to network events like The Editor's Lounge http://www.editorslounge.com/ They have a get together every month or two.
Also, to be honest, your editor's reel doesn't show me anything. It's all smoke and mirrors. I don't mean anything rude by that; It's great if all you did were music videos. If you're going to have this montage reel, you need to have longer samples of your work in the context of a scene. I want to see how you handle masters and coverage, what your style is with the timing of close ups and inserts, how you use J cuts to pull my attention to one person or the other, I want to see how you handle simple action like a fist fight or argument. As a low budget editor, would you tell me "no" if I asked if you have the knowledge edit sound a bit, how to add foley, or how to assist an ADR session. You'll get more low end work if you're broadly specialized... you become a Swiss army knife. In your reel, I just don't see more than one or two small examples of how you actually edit.
Thanks for the reply Angelo. I'll definitely check out The Editor's Lounge.
You mention people who go back home and never come back. That's definitely something I've been thinking about as well. I'm definitely in a complicated situation right now. I really hate that the decision has to be so controlled by finances but that's how the world works.
As for the reel... I actually agree with you that it is quite smoke-and-mirrors-ish. Previous iterations of my reel had longer pieces, and each was discrete with original audio. Then I started looking at more editor reels, including top rated/viewed editor reels on the Cow like this one, http://reels.creativecow.net/film/tony-wise-picture-editor-reel-2010. I noticed they were more "organic", "montagey", and "flowy." So I cut this reel to have more of that feel but I also tried to keep as many original sequential cuts from original content. To be honest, I believe that to fully gauge an editor's ability a reel should just have full scenes and pieces. But these type of "smoke-and-mirror" types seem to be more successful at getting gigs (maybe more so for independent projects where directors and producers are watching and less so for actual studios). With that said, I think what I'll do is to have that reel on the top of the page and have longer excerpts below it so people can easily scroll down and view them.
I would agree with that decision: having longer excerpts under the montage reel. It lets your skills breathe more although you may want to go back and recut older material with the knowledge you've gained up until now... it's rarely a bad idea to once over old material.
In terms of these montage reels, there is this weird disconnect between what is entertaining, and what is a solid example of what gets a job done.
Another piece of advice is maybe you should, along with a broader get-things-done knowledge is to specialize in one function not a lot of people deal with. Maybe, to get more assistant editor work, you advertise your ability to optimize an editing workflow with metadata and asset tracking.
Just some thoughts.
As far as thre Air Force: I would say, that joining the military has to be about more than a job search. Don't join unless it's for the right reasons, from a sense of duty and a selfless dedication to that duty. Anything less will not sustain you thru the boot camp, much less your actual field postings. And it's not fair to the others you serve with, to have the wrong motives for being there. As far as what recruiters tell you: the cake is a lie. Do not assume you will immediately get posted to some air conditioned office to fly a desk for four years.
As far as LA: LA is not the entire world, no matter what Angelenos think. Decide if what you want to do is work in movies or to be a career editor. You CAN do both outside of 90028. There is all kinds of editing work being done in corporate and educational and government, etc. and yes, films.
When I got out of school, my expectation was to get a job at a Michigan Avenue ad agency or one of the Chicago O&O network stations. But in the job I found, I do everything those places offered, and I "own" much bigger pieces of the work than if I had found my "dream job" back then. Like an advertising account exec, I pitch ideas, write scripts, produce, direct and edit them.
If I'd gotten in at a J Walter or something like that, I'd have waited years of making copies and getting coffee to get to be in charge of ONE of those functions on only a SMALL account. Same with news: I'm out here shooting with the network guys weekly, then rushing back to the shop to edit packages. But I also direct shows, make docs, promos, PSA's. Sure, it's on a smaller scale, but I'm almost done raisign three kids and been putting food on the table for over twenty years with this work so I must have *some* ability to do the job by now.
Do I miss the glamour and challenges of something more "high end"? Sometimes, but not for very long. All the people I knew that went into advertising found it to be incredibly stressful with rapid job turnover, interpersonal politics and instability. The newsies found their jobs continually cut back with smaller budgets, fewer viewers, and more automation every year.
Look, you can do whatever you want. There are books full of stories about people like you that persevered thru lots worse than your story to find eventual success. They had to make sacrifices along the way to do it, and they were imaginative at dealing with their adversity. If you are young and single, with nobody else depending on you, this is your time to toil in the desert and suffer for your art. If you want LA, you find a way to stay there. If what you want is a career in editing, you have a world of options open to you.
As others have said LA is a tough nut to crack and it's also not the center of the universe. With that being said, you haven't even been out of school for two years and I feel like you left with some delusions of what it was going to be like. I don't mean that as an insult, but I've seen lots of people get out of college and expect to jump right into the editor's chair and that's just not how it works. If you've been hammering away at LA for 3-5 years w/o much luck then I'd reconsider but you haven't even been at it for two years yet.
I'd say many LA editor career paths go something like this runner/working in the vault, logger/transcriber/digitizer, assistant editor, editor. There used to be a junior editor step in there between AE and editor but that doesn't seem to be the case much anymore.
[Angelo Lorenzo] "
I will say this, anyone I know who has come to LA and goes back home never returns. No matter what their intention is, it just doesn't happen."
Hello Angelo. I'm Andrew and I came to LA, went back to the Midwest, and returned. Now you know someone that's done it. ;) W/that being said, I don't know anyone that's left and come back either (besides myself).
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Mark, yes I understand that interest in the military should be more than a job search. I indeed would like to serve. Another con for this option would be that I'm am in no way shape or form guaranteed that particular job... Heck, I'll most likely end up getting slotted into something else. Also the military option would be similar to the going home option in that it takes me away from LA and my chances of making it back to are against me. Although it's good to hear at least one made it back (Andrew).
I really am willing to sacrifice, heck I just got a part time minimum wage job at a liquor store. I just don't know how much longer I can continue to take in water financially. I'm growing impatient with not getting that first step; that runner or post pa type position which Andrew mentions. I can't even crack into one of those. Once I'm at that point, I'll be happy even though I'm doing random low level work, cause I know I'm on the ladder.
I believe the most important thing for you is to go to each and every networking event you can find. Join the Union roster/follow their websites about events, go to NAB, etc. Be friendly, mingle and show real enthusiasm without being pushy and jump on any opportunity to be a PA, runner and even unpaid intern.
Reality TV has often a lot of entry level opportunities as well but you will get stuck easily in it...
My advice is, figure out what you really want to edit (TV, Film, music videos etc) and then make a list of all the post houses and production companies that fit that bill and contact them about available positions or part time internships (work in the liquor store on the side to make money, or at nights). Meanwhile, learn AVID (and FCP/premiere) inside out and focus on learning what an AE or 2nd AE does. Learn how to do basic compositing, sound mixing and such.
Good luck! It took me 4-5 years fighting through odd jobs and cheap work to get a break. Don't give up!