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Issue: September 1, 2008

REAL-WORLD LESSONS

By: Randi Altman
Recently I had the pleasure to discuss editing with a 21-year-old college student who was interning at a local house in New York. He loved that his employer gave him the opportunity to do his own cut of a :30 spot they had just delivered to their client.

Working with the footage shot for the piece, he spent a lot of time trying to tell the story he believed the client wanted. When he was sure he had it, he took it to his boss. He was a bit disappointed when it was pointed out that his version was two seconds over. Back to the drawing board. He finally did get it down to 30 seconds and learned a few important lessons in the process.

His internship is now over, but his relationship with this editing house is not. They have invited him back during winter break and left the door open for when he graduates. It's hard to put a value on just how important getting a taste of the real world is when you are a student. For more on this topic, turn to our "Student to Pro" feature on page 46.

During my talk with this intern, he said he couldn't imagine cutting a film and having to spend that much time telling just one story. So I asked a feature film editor to explain it to him.

"It's making a cohesive story with a beginning, middle and an end and having people like it for 90 minutes; that's exciting for me," explains Ghost Town editor Sam Seig. "We start on day one and finish when the movies comes out. Every day is a new challenge with the dailies."

He laughs when he says, "To me, I don't understand advertising editing at all. How can you tell a story in 30 seconds? You don't have enough time. And having a new deadline process every couple of days would drive me crazy."

Seig does understand the student's perception but says, "If he were in a feature cutting room for a week, he'd be like, 'Why did I ever question this?' Every day it's a new challenge and a new puzzle, a new hurdle. At the end of the day when you sit in a movie theatre full of strangers and they laugh when they are supposed to laugh or get teary eyed at the end, you say, 'I did what I was supposed to do.'"

Seig believes the landscape of moviemaking and television and advertising has really changed from when he started editing in the early '90s. And he realizes that's why a young student might think of film editing as boring. "It sounds cliché, but MTV has changed the way people look at things. Music videos and commercials, and even now features, are so fast cut. A kid's attention span is like a speck, and they need to move to the next thing."

Turn to page 22 for our story on Sam Seig's editing of the feature film Ghost Town.