BURBANK, CA - The AlphaDogs Editors' Lounge recently hosted its annual discussion panel at Key Code Media in Burbank. This year's topic, What To Do When Disaster Strikes The Editing Suite, was moderated by Norman Hollyn (editor Heathers, Wild Palms, and Professor at USC Cinema Arts) and consisted of a diverse panel of editing professionals, including Sidney Wolinski (The Shape of Water, The Sopranos), Whitney Dunn (
Crime Watch Daily, Judas Kiss), and Jennifer Fah (
The Price Is Right, Baggage).
(L-R) Sidney Wolinski, Whitney Dunn, Jennifer Fah, Norman Hollyn
When it comes to film and television editing, there are obstacles that constantly need to be overcome in order to deliver a finished product. Producers are typically under immense pressure, don't always know what they want and certainly don't have time to see things from an editor's point of view. Whether it's problems with inadequate coverage, or last minute story changes, editors should keep in mind that it's about solving problems and keeping producers happy during the process. After all, they are the bosses. "When there is a problem, you have to be the voice of reason," says Fah. "You get upset, they get more upset about it, and it snowballs. You just have to be the Zen calm. The voice of reason."
One must also be quick to adapt to change and have solutions ready rather than excuses on why something can't be done. While knowing the editing software is expected, understanding proper etiquette and how to conduct yourself appropriately in a professional edit suite is of utmost importance. In addition, effective communication between editors and producers as well as knowing how to work in a collaborative manner is crucial when it comes to delivering projects on time and within budget.
Needless to say, an editor's job is quite stressful. This means developing personal techniques to reduce stress. Whether it's bringing a kettle bell to work, using fun sarcasm in e-mails, or just simply remembering to schedule in lunch and dinner breaks, panelists agreed that taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally can help lessen some of the stress and anxiety.
Not taking things personal is key when it comes to averting disasters and in running a successful edit suite. It was also discussed that women can encounter additional stress from being treated differently in the edit suite. "I have noticed when you question something, or you just say something isn't working, I have to prove it," says Dunn. "If I say I'm behind, I have to show them, whereas guys don't. When I'm the only woman working on the show, I have to prove things by taking extra steps."
It's also imperative editors remember that they are hired to not only assist in telling a story, but to remedy problems as well. Sidney Woliknski comments, "Those pilots where you never get a day off, you get pretty ragged. It gets harder and harder to deal with all the pressure. You just have to find it within yourself and realize basically none of that matters. You are there to help, and do whatever these people want you to do. You try and do it as calmly as you can, and show them what they want."
Of course, before you can avert any disasters in the edit suite, you first have to land a job. This means getting yourself out there, and building a network within the post- production community. This can be done by attending events, being active in discussions on social media platforms, and depending how far along you are in your career path, just grabbing every opportunity available. "If you know nothing, get a basic skill set," says Dunn. "Just go get a job. The most you're going to learn is when you are in the fire, when you're just there, and you have no other choice but to do it. I think that's the only way you are really going to learn."
The evening concluded with a Q&A session from both the live audience and Twitter that included discussions on pet peeves in the editing suite, working with different personalities, not "guarding" your cut, and dealing effectively with technical challenges.