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Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice

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Hunter Leachman
Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:57:57 am
Last Edited By Hunter Leachman on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:01:14 am

I graduated from film school and moved to Los Angeles in 2012. I interned for three months at a reality TV company stringing together "sizzle reels" mainly from ripped Youtube videos. Once that was over, got some part-time work with an editor I met at that company.

After a few months of working about 10-15 hours a week at $10/hr, he asked me to work for free on a feature where everyone was getting paid. I said no, which I know wasn't the best move, but he had pumped and dumped my expectations on the level of work/pay constantly, and the request to basically work full time for six weeks with no pay was just the last straw, and with all due respect to the guy, it seemed like a sinking ship I needed to get away from.

After that, I decided that the industry was dominate or be dominated, instigate or be.. instigated against? So I spurred a couple of my own mini-web projects. They all failed to realize any return, but were done very cheaply and my reel got better and I get more edit work now, but not enough to survive on.

I really want to edit but have yet to make a sustainable living from it. I'm not the biggest fan of LA, there are definitely pros (really cool people occasionally), but a lot of cons (too crowded, too many jaded types, too many whackos, too many flakes/burnouts). I don't like the financial outlook of Los Angeles, compared to my home city.

A. How much do I need LA vs. say Dallas, Atlanta, or Austin? Please real info only, no "I hear the scene in Austin is good blah blah stuff."

B. Social climb vs. product climb? I feel editing on lower food chain projects and working up to higher projects is better, then say assistant editing on higher food chain projects and trying to climb through ties with other editors. To be frank with you, a lot of the editors I've met don't want someone who actually wants to edit. They want an A-type drone who has no desire/ability to edit, which I understand but it seems like all give and no take, this is after being burned in these situations a few times.

C. Expectations vs. capital costs. OK if this was the early nineties, and Avids were still six figures, the assistant editor / intern type position would be of more benefit than it is now? I have an interview for an internship at an indy studio, an assistant editing internship. They shoot on the Blackmagic 4K. I know I'll learn a few things, and get 2-3 assistant editor credits. Worth it at all? Or should I get on eBay and just shoot my own stuff and get first hand editing experience that way?

D. Careerist vs. weekend director/editor. Assuming I move to a non major market. What do you have to say about getting a "normal job" and getting away on weekends to shoot independent projects and build up filming abilities independently and over time.

Thanks for listening fellow Creative Cows. Very anxious to hear about your opinions on these issues related to a career in post-production.

HunterLeachman.com - here is my reel and website, not trying to self-promote, just need some feedback on the way I'm presenting myself. Thanks!

Hunter Leachman
Editor/Assistant Editor
Los Angeles


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Kylee Peña
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:38:57 am
Last Edited By Kylee Peña on Mar 15, 2015 at 3:58:45 am

I'm also in my late 20s, so hopefully my advice will be fresh for you.

[Hunter Leachman]A. How much do I need LA vs. say Dallas, Atlanta, or Austin?

I guess it depends on what your goal is, at the end of all this. There's a lot of cool work happening in those other places, but if you want to edit TV and movies, you're going to need to be in LA (or maybe New York). Dallas seems heavy on agency work, and Austin seems to be a lot of interactive. As someone who currently lives in Atlanta and works on a network TV show, I still wouldn't recommend someone come here in their quest to be an editor. The productions that come in to work usually bring their own editorial staff. I've talked to a lot of people around here from Atlanta AND LA, and they agree there's a huge potential for an assistant editor to really be vital, but crews just don't look for locals. And once the show is done, they run back to LA since there's no post-related tax incentive, so you never see it through to the end. There's a lot of reality that shoots here, and there's certainly plenty of post being done, both with film/TV and everything else, but it's super competitive and not anything like LA.

B. Social climb vs. product climb? I feel editing on lower food chain projects and working up to higher projects is better, then say assistant editing on higher food chain projects and trying to climb through ties with other editors.

There's no one right way, but I think it depends on what you're capable of doing. I've worked my way up from lower food chain projects and a LOT (A LOT A LOT) of networking. I think it's a lot easier to work your way in through higher food chain projects, particularly those that move quickly, like TV. You have to be really essential and flexible and direct about it, that your intention is to keep learning and move up. I feel like most of the people I know who started out assisting managed to work their way into actually cutting on their show. If you're working for someone that doesn't value the fact you're trying to climb the ladder, you're definitely associated with the wrong people.

But really, both approaches are valid. It's a matter of what you do with that experience.

C. Expectations vs. capital costs. OK if this was the early nineties, and Avids were still six figures, the assistant editor / intern type position would be of more benefit than it is now? I have an interview for an internship at an indy studio, an assistant editing internship. They shoot on the Blackmagic 4K. I know I'll learn a few things, and get 2-3 assistant editor credits. Worth it at all? Or should I get on eBay and just shoot my own stuff and get first hand editing experience that way?

I always think a real internship is worth it because things happen in the real world that you don't have access to when you're shooting stuff on your own. Also, you want to be an editor, yeah? So why bother shooting your own stuff when you potentially have access to a place where you can focus primarily on editing? If I were looking to hire someone, time spent working inside a facility will always be more valuable to me than if they're off on their own. Plus, you make connections, and those are what get you jobs. Not that shooting on your own isn't super valuable and can be worked into networking, but I wouldn't choose it.

D. Careerist vs. weekend director/editor. Assuming I move to a non major market. What do you have to say about getting a "normal job" and getting away on weekends to shoot independent projects and build up filming abilities independently and over time."

I moved to Atlanta from a non-major market -- Indianapolis. It was super hard to find an editing job there, but I kept one for four years out of college. It was corporate. A majority of the work there is corporate. Some people are okay with that, some not. But the good thing is these markets actually do have producer/editor jobs within corporations that are more like 9-5 jobs with benefits. Getting a regular non-editing job altogether and working on your own stuff on your own time? Again, depends on your goals. If you want to edit features with budgets or work on primetime TV, I don't think leaving a major market to go hone your skills is the best idea. But people do it all the time. If your goals are more broad or open-ended in terms of editing, this might work for you. Just keep in mind that when you leave the industry altogether and work on stuff on your own, trying to return is really hard.

I could never hold another job that wasn't related to my career and only be a weekend director/editor (unless, like, I had to in order to survive.) I would feel like I'm taking a giant leap backwards. But that's me, and my goals are more focused on specific areas of post production. It sounds like you are more open to the indie world, and that's great. Don't be super swayed by any else's advice if they don't share your goals, but don't think that working on your skills on your own time is going to get you back to Hollywood.

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Hunter Leachman
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:55:10 am

Thanks, Kylee!

That was really was helpful, thank you.

Hunter Leachman
Editor/Assistant Editor
Los Angeles


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walter biscardi
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:15:55 pm

[Kylee Wall] "And once the show is done, they run back to LA since there's no post-related tax incentive, so you never see it through to the end."

Actually just to clarify that one point. Post IS included in the Tax Credit if the project is shot AND edited in Atlanta. That's all considered part of full production. For some reason the LA companies don't care or don't understand that part, but Post could be included in the full 30% tax credit if they both shot and finished their shows here.

Post is not a stand-alone tax credit item for something shot in another state.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

Craft and Career Advice & Training from real Working Creative Professionals

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Tim Wilson
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 15, 2015 at 5:30:38 am

[Hunter Leachman] "I'm not the biggest fan of LA, there are definitely pros (really cool people occasionally), but a lot of cons (too crowded, too many jaded types, too many whackos, too many flakes/burnouts). "

For the record, I'm older (mid-50s), but have spent my life pulling up roots and going new places -- 25 moves in the last 30 years. I feel like I'm slowing down, but I've said that before. LOL I have virtually no way to even imagine the pressures that millenials face -- partly EXACTLY because MY generation f'd so much up -- so Kylee is the best source for this of anyone I know in the COW, period.

However, I do have more experience making wild, cross-country moves without a net on the other side of the jump than anyone you're likely to meet, ever. I've thrived on it, and admittedly might recommend it more often than is suitable to every member of my audience, but I can't imagine life without these wild leaps.

Have you spent a lot of time in LA? I've admittedly not ever lived there for long, but in various jobs was going there for many weeks every year. I've met hundreds of editors (no kidding), been in scores of facilities, gotten to know the customers of VARs who've carried my products, and I just haven't found that to be the case AT ALL. They're mostly apex predators who have to be clear-eyed and razor sharp to stay in the game. Flakes, burnouts and whackos need not apply.

You'll be more likely competing against highly educated and highly motivated people even younger than you, coming out of UCLA, USC, Full Sail, and a million other places that churn out ridiculously qualified, capable, and relentless sharks. Their internships will have been on gigs you're dreaming of getting someday.

Not that you can't be all that and still be a dick. LOL And not that your chops aren't better and you're pleasanter to work with. But LA is a town that welcomes outsiders, maybe more than anywhere but New York. Without new blood coming in, it ceases to exist, and they absolutely know that.

I think you'll also find it LESS crowded than Atlanta. Not just that LA was built to be spread out by design, which it absolutely is. The sprawl in Atlanta, as well as Dallas (where I lived for way too long LOL), just feels like a bit of a mess.

But places like Hollywood are also intentionally small - small houses, small streets leading up into secluded hills. A mile off the strip you can be in another place altogether. In one direction, the winding streets are exactly like Italy, too narrow for two cars to pass each other, steep enough to make walking exhausting, wall-to-wall trees and flowers, and dead quiet, entirely residential, lots of young families. In the other, there's actually a lot of wilderness -- right in LA and Burbank, where a lot of editing jobs are. You'll see coyotes just trotting along, and mountain lions are not uncommon within walking distance of the Dolby Theater where they hold the Oscars. There are hills everywhere, and the views of downtown LA are spectacular. It's beautiful and invigorating. Most of the time. LOL

Don't believe the "LA freeway" hype, either. A hell of a lot easier to drive in LA than Atlanta...although in Austin you can easily walk or bike to a lot of great jobs...but if you want flakes, weirdos and burnouts, that's the bedrock of Austin, which I mean in the best possible way. I think Austin is one of the world's great cities, and those people are EXACTLY the reason why. I absolutely love it. Most people would be lucky to land there...but as Kylee notes, it's a lot of corporate and small agency stuff. You can make a happy living in a beautiful place.

But I've lived all over this great land of ours, and I also absolutely adore LA. Can't beat the weather, either. So, unless you really want to walk or bike to work, I wouldn't let lifestyle be the deciding factor. Or, to put it another way, in most ways, I'd rank LA at the top of the list for lifestyle, not the bottom.


[Hunter Leachman] "I don't like the financial outlook of Los Angeles, compared to my home city.
"


True. LOL It just is.

But especially while you're young and unencumbered (I assume, since you didn't mention encumbrances), there are wonderfully weird corners that you can tuck yourself into that will later make great stories about when you were paying your dues. LOL Buildings that have been around since the 30s (ancient in LA terms, although I lived in a place built in 1611 in Boston), in interesting parts of town. It can be done.

But it ain't like Austin, which is even more liveable than Atlanta, which is still pretty dang liveable. But if you're young and can pull it off, I think it's worth the risk. Worst case scenario, you fall back to TX or GA with Hollywood experience under your belt.

It's scary out there. I have no idea how you kids are pulling this off. But since it's scary even if you stay at home, might as well go for the big prize, right?


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Richard Herd
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:41:13 pm

I am reposting Bob Zelin's post. It motivates me.

https://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/17/880339


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Andrew Kimery
Re: Late twenty something "editor" could use some advice
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:26:46 am

Just for perspective this is my long story short. I grew up in the Midwest, graduated college in the Midwest, moved to LA, failed fantastically, moved back to the Midwest for 2 years (saved every penny I earned), moved back to LA and have been gainfully employed (knock on wood) ever since. Sometimes I've been on big projects, sometimes I've been on little projects but I've always managed to keep money coming in *and* (and this is the important part) I've always managed to keep my long term goals in sight.

With that out of the way, I've run into a number of youngish 20-somethings that move to LA and flame out because they expect to jump right into the mix but they have no plan and success is a long tail game. Finish this statement, "In 10 years I want to have accomplished ________." and work backwards (realistically) from there.

For example, by the end of 2001 I was completed broke (literally penniless and living off of my credit cards) in LA and knew I'd have to go back to the Midwest. My long term goal was still to make my living as an editor in LA so below is the timetable I made for myself:

1. Jan. 2002 - Move back home and save as much money as possible so I can move back to LA.
2. 2004 - Move back to LA w/at least $5,000 in a rainy day fund (lack of savings is what really killed me my first time out).
3. Spend 1-2 years as a PA, vault manager, etc., (basically entry level positions).
4. Spend 3-4 years as an AE.
5. Make a decent living working as an editor full time in Los Angeles before I'm 30.

In 2001 I was 23 and I had mapped out defined goals for the next 7 years (the numbers were based on conversations with AEs and Editors I knew). Not quite a 10 year plan, but I knew where I wanted to go, researched what it would take to get there, and put my nose to the grindstone.

Making goals, implementing a realistic plan to achieve those goals, and never letting the grind and the hustle break you is what largely separates the successful from the unsuccessful. It's a long tail game and the long you can find ways to survive and stick around the better your chances of success.

[Hunter Leachman] "B. Social climb vs. product climb? I feel editing on lower food chain projects and working up to higher projects is better, then say assistant editing on higher food chain projects and trying to climb through ties with other editors. To be frank with you, a lot of the editors I've met don't want someone who actually wants to edit. They want an A-type drone who has no desire/ability to edit, which I understand but it seems like all give and no take, this is after being burned in these situations a few times."

Both. You spend 12 hours a day M-F working on high profile projects (assuming you can get high profile projects) and you spend nights and weekends working on side projects. The day job pays the bills, helps you network, teaches you how 'real world' productions flow and the side projects keep you sane and let you flex creative muscle and/or experiment in ways you can't at the day job. For example, lots of reality editors want to get into narrative so while their day job is reality, they spend their nights and weekends working on no/low budget narrative projects.

In my experience the editing community in LA is amazing. Obviously not everyone is willing to be a mentor, but more often than not I've found editors to be extremely helpful. What has worked for me in the past is first and foremost to be an absolute ace at the job I was hired to do. If I'm hired as an AE I will be the best AE my co-workers have ever worked with. If I'm between tasks I'll go to each editor and ask if they need anything. After a while I'll be able to get a feel for who might be open to chatting and who isn't.

Lots of times gigs are balls to the wall so people might not want to chat on the clock so ask if you can treat them to lunch or a beer after work sometime so you can pick their brain. If they accept be gracious, be humble, ask questions, listen, be eager to learn but don't pitch yourself, don't come off as a know-it-all and overtly don't hit them up for work (it's rude and annoying, IMO). If they like you they'll keep an eye out for you.

And for the love of god, until you have a really good rapport with someone, don't ask them to watch your reel, your short film, your web series, etc.,.


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