Nena Erb, ACE, is an editor on both the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
, and HBO's Insecure
, for which she received an ACE Eddie Award nomination this year. She also received an Emmy for her work on HBO's Project Greenlight
. Erb took some time recently to speak with Post about her career path, as well as to offer advice to editors just starting out, or those looking to take the next step in their career.
Let’s talk about your career. Do you work with a studio, or are you an independent editor that works job to job? What's your arrangement?
“I'm freelance. I have an agent. I have representation and she basically submits me for jobs and I'll go on tons of meetings.”
Are the jobs you get heavily based on the jobs that you've already done?
“That's an interesting question…I actually come from a non-fiction background. When I was getting a start, I was working as a script supervisor and then I got into editing. At that time, it was mostly documentaries and reality shows. So that's kind of where I got my start. After a while I decided, I think I need a bigger challenge. Let's see if I can get into the narrative genre. It was a bit of work, but I managed to cross platforms or crossed genres. And in that sense, I was able to kind of carve a niche out for myself to find different kinds of work.”
What is your editing set up?
“I do have a home Avid, but most of the time I'm working out of an edit bay that's provided by the production. It depends on the project. Most of the time, like for the network shows, the pilot that I just finished for ABC, we were at a post facility. Right now I'm on a different project and we're cutting out of Universal.”
Crazy Ex Girlfriend
What is your background?
“I actually I have an art degree. And after I graduate with the art degree, I couldn't find work because I didn't really want to teach art history. I was wondered how I am going to make a living? I had a friend working in the entertainment business, who said, ‘Come work in the art department.’ So I started off in the art department, initially building sets, painting, you know, making props, all the fun stuff, and then I realized that at the end of the day, it wasn't really creating anything. It was more like architecture. It didn't feel creative to me, so I just kept kind of searching and because I had been working in the industry, I kind of bounced around in production for a while. Nothing felt quite right.
“Somehow I started working as a script supervisor, and people are like, ‘Well the next step for that is either editing or directing.’ I knew I didn't want to direct. I didn't really quite know what editing was, other than it’s very solitary. You're in a dark room all the time. So I was like Maybe I'll look at that later. I just kept moving around and eventually got promoted to associate producer. That's when I really got a chance to work with editors and really understand on a much deeper level what editing was. And that's when I completely fell in love with the craft.”
Crazy Ex Girlfriend
How did you go about learning the craft? Did you take classes or did you learn from an editor, as an assistant?
“I kind of did both. I learned the Avid. I took some courses just so I knew what the buttons did — the functions of the software. The editor I was working with at the time hired me to be his assistant. So I learned from him quite a bit and then l was bumped up. You learn a lot on the job too. You can learn the software, but a lot of the storytelling skills you kind of hone over the years.”
How did you go from an assistant to your first job as lead editor?
“I was promoted on Switched, which was a documentary series for ABC Family. It was about a bunch of teenage kids that would switch lives for a week or a weekend.”
Once you get a job, for say ABC Family, is it easier to get ABC jobs?
“I think it really has to do with the connections you make with the people that you're working with because those are the people that are all going to leave after the show wraps. We all kind of form a bond. We help each other out. Each job has kind of led to another from that very first job.”
Now you are doing work for HBO and The CW. It that based on relationships with people you’ve worked with in the past?
“For Crazy Ex Girlfriend for CW, it's from a very, very, very, very long relationship I have with this editor I assisted decades ago. We stayed friends and he's been really keeping an eye on my career. He realized that everything that I have been doing…were a perfect fit for that particular series because it had music and dance and comedy and drama, and it's just a nice combination of things…I guess, I had a lot of different experience in the different genres. I've cut some comedy. I’ve cut some dramas. I've done a lot of dance music, and so he thought I'd be good for the show. He submitted me. I met with the show runner, who had actually seen of my work. And they gave me a shot.”
You're a member of American Cinema Editors. What are the benefits of being a member and how does an editor become a member?
“A big part of the organization is about education and promoting editing — the art of editing. And while it's very prestigious, because they are very exclusive to who they accept, a large part of it has to do with your experience, your body work and whether the members vouch for you. It’s a combination of a lot of things. The reason why I wanted to get into it was because, through my career, there have been a lot of editors that have helped me along and mentored me, and I kind of wanted to give back. I had friends encouraging me to apply. When that opportunity came, I applied and I was like, ‘OK, this is now my time to give back and be involved with the mentoring. I'm heavily involved with the ACE Diversity Mentoring Program as well as the ACE Internship Program, which is great for people who are looking to get into the business, in post production specifically.”
Can you give any advice to an editor who is looking to advance their career or make that next step?
“Absolutely. If the person has recently graduated from college, they should definitely look into the internship program. It's phenomenal. They will pair you up with all kinds of different rooms — a drama series, a feature film and a reality room at a post facility, so you get all aspects of post. And through that you're meeting a ton of working professionals that could help you along in your career.
“If you graduated a long time ago and have been doing other stuff, that's totally cool too. I suggest that they go to the festivals, meet the independent filmmakers and try to seek out the Blue Collar Post Collective. Look into joining that. I am always hearing about students that need editors for their student films, or maybe an indie filmmaker who's doing a passion project. It's tough to work for free, but if you can pick up a short film here or there, you can still hold on to your 9 to 5 to pay your bills. I think it's good to start practicing the narrative storytelling format. It's also to build up your reel too, so that when you are going out for the jobs that you want to do in the genre that you are working, you can say, ‘Hey, look what I've done!’ I can do the job and here's the proof. That's super helpful, I think.”
Why did you decide to use an Avid?
“Avid has great tech support. I have done projects on Final Cut as well. Many of the documentaries I've done in the past were on Final Cut because they were more affordable to the filmmakers, and it was also just one editor, so you didn't have to share media. There wasn't a pressing deadline to make air. If your Final Cut Pro crashed that day, you come back tomorrow. But on a big Hollywood production, you've got to get it back up ASAP, because the time's ticking.”
One last question: What media are you into these days?
“I’m watching a lot more television lately than I normally do, and I think it's because with Netflix, Amazon and all these streaming services, there’s so much programming. I've found some really phenomenal shows, like The Umbrella Academy. The production value is amazing! It's kind of mind blowing to think that this is a television show. I feel like a lot has changed in that space. The landscape is totally different.”