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August 2014
Issue: October 1, 2012

Student to Pro: Cutler Gray

Cutler Gray is a rising post production star in his final semester at California State University Northridge. He additionally attended TheFilmSchool in Seattle, studying storytelling with Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause, Sybil). After working in pre-production and production for a while, Cutler found his way back to post, starting to focus his attention towards the documentary and television fields as an assistant editor.
 
“Software wise, these days it is essential to know it all,” he notes. “You never know when a client will want you to work with one tool rather than the other. Remember, whatever program you work in - the art does not change. It is important to be technically versatile so that you can be creative in any environment.” 



Gray goes on to share, “I have seen many top-level editors having to learn new programs and workflows to get by. The environment in post production is now an ever-changing one. And people want to see results quicker and quicker. Over the last couple years it has been essential to stay on top of all the changes and developments. Now you have to be ahead of the curve or else you are left behind.”

Cutler advises that as a student, it is always a good idea to go out to some post production events and conferences to get your foot in the door. Many times they are free, and these conferences are always a good opportunity to network and stay ahead of the curve.

LESSON LEARNED

A couple years ago, Gray had the opportunity to work on set of The Perfect Family featuring Emily Deschanel and Kathleen Turner. What he didn’t know was that he was going to learn a simple, yet priceless lesson on working in production.

“One day while on The Perfect Family I loaded a ton of equipment into the only elevator of a high-rise building. I tapped the button for the 7th floor where we were shooting… While making the climb, the elevator stopped short. The doors opened up to Emily Deschanel. She was on her way to go do a very serious emotional scene. I did not want to bother her or somehow get her out of character so I moved my equipment out of the way and sat silent. She stepped into the elevator and I avoided eye contact. She was probably thinking… why is this sweaty PA riding the elevator with me? Before the elevator doors closed I heard, ‘Hey I’m Emily, what’s your name?’ I turned around and was greeted by a big smile and sincere handshake. We made our short introductions and when we arrived at the 7th floor we went our separate ways. Later that day Emily bought cupcakes for the entire crew. This taught me that no matter who you are, there is always time to be polite.”

YOU WANT IT?
 
One piece of advice Gray was given that has stuck with him, and helped shape him as a production professional came from his mentor in Seattle. His mentor told him that after looking back on his career he said, “I look back at the people who I graduated with that became very successful, and I wonder… Are they that much more talented than I am? Are they that much more lucky? What was it that separated their level of success from mine? Then I realize, they just wanted it more than I did… You have to want it.”
  
RESOURCES 

“There are almost unlimited resources out there on the Web these days. A few of my buddies from school have been lucky with ProductionHUB.com and a number of them are now working in many facets of the entertainment industry including TV production, graphic arts, and post production,” notes Gray, “So in a way, jobs seem more available than ever. The problem is they are available to everyone, so filling positions can seem challenging as an applicant. Many postings are only up for a couple days (if that), so you have to jump on them quick.”

LAST WORDS

It might seem cliché, but apart from online resources it is important to network and get yourself out there. Most of the jobs Cutler Gray gets are from personal references and word-of-mouth. This is why it is important to do exceedingly good work when you have a gig lined up — so you get that new reference leading to another great opportunity. 

Gray says, “Give every piece of work 100 percent of your attention. Do not put out sub-par work. You never know who will see the projects you work on and what other avenues of employment will open up for you because of your last project.”