March 2008


Da Vinci

Editing is often underappreciated due to people’s lack of comprehension as to what an editor does and how it is important. Along the same lines, and perhaps to an even more extreme degree, professional colorists usually do not get the respect they deserve. The untrained eye often cannot distinguish the work of an expert colorist from untreated raw footage unless it is compared side by side. I admit to being rather novice at noticing good color correction myself (I like to use my red-green colorblindness as an excuse), but the first time I sat in on a Da Vinci session as a post P.A., I was blown away by the scope and precision of the colorist’s work. Not only did he correct for hue, brightness, and contrast errors in the original footage, but he also was able to enhance the tone and mood of each scene by applying lighting gradients and shading that did not previously exist. In short, he was able to turn ordinary looking footage into much more than what it was originally. And for that reason, colorists are rightfully qualified as creative artists, just as editors are. (Equally underappreciated: audio mixers, sound designers, and Foley artists, but I’ll save that for another post). Take a look at this series of images, all of the same shot, but with different color and lighting effects applied to each. They will help elucidate just how much creative effort goes into the color correction of each shot and prove how important it is to spend the money for a true online edit with an experienced colorist.

One of the hardest parts of working in the entertainment industry is the constant job uncertainty. Not always having a steady paycheck and not knowing where and when your next job might start can create significant stress and cause the faint of heart to swear off freelancing forever. However, constant change can also be a great asset. New co-workers, new challenges, and a change of scenery prevent you from getting bored, restless, and unproductive. For those of you who don’t have an agent and a phone that’s ringing off the hook with job offers, here are a few tips I’ve found to be useful in my burgeoning career as a freelancer.

1. Use every job-hunting resource available to you.

Jobs

90% of the jobs you will ever get in this industry will be through word of mouth. As you start out, informally contact family friends or acquaintances who have worked in the industry. Alumni networks can also prove useful. When you contact someone (I find e-mail to be less intrusive than telephone), don’t ask if they can get you a job. Instead, ask them for advice and see if you can meet up for coffee. Follow up with them every few weeks or months so they don’t forget about you. If you make a good impression, your name might just pop into their head when someone asks if they know anyone available for hire.

There are also numerous web sites with entertainment industry job postings, a few of which I have linked to on the “Resources” page of this blog. I tend to find the jobs advertised on these sites to be either pretty demanding in terms of prior experience, lacking in fair compensation, or overcrowded with applicants. But it never hurts to apply. (more…)

Creativity

In order to be a successful editor, you need to possess a masterful ability to control pacing, character, and story, all while using a style that fits the tone and subject matter of the piece, but is uniquely your own. Easier said than done (every editor has probably had numerous run-ins with people who think the editor simply “removes the bad parts” and selects the best takes, and the rest of the film creates itself).

In order to be able to implement your creative vision, though, you also need to possess a certain mastery of the tools used to edit a film or television show together. Until recently, this was done with expensive specialized hardware (KEMs, Moviolas, Steenbecks, etc.); now the vast majority of it is done with computers. The learning curve has been significantly flattened, as anyone with a Mac computer and a copy of Final Cut Pro can edit their own movies as easily as a professional editor can. (more…)