People in association withLBB Pro User
Finely Sliced: Being in the Zone with Matt Elias
New York, USA
Big Sky Edit editor on pulling things together emotionally, understanding story and the love of the creative process

Matt is a New York City-based video editor with a diverse background ranging from commercial advertising to music videos and short films. He spent seven years at Blue Rock working up the ranks to Senior Assistant and joined Wax as an Assistant Editor in 2018. He was then promoted to Editor and worked on brands such as Urban Decay, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Avana, before joining the team at Big Sky in 2021. Hailing from Long Island NY, Matt grew up with a strong passion for music, film, and the arts, and is always looking for new and creative projects to work on. 

LBB> The first cut is the deepest: how do you like to start an editing project? 

Matt> Conceptually I like to understand the emotion I'm trying to convey to a viewer before I start any part of a project. Whether that comes from conversations with a director, the creative team, or even just watching down all the footage. It’s important to understand the emotional intent behind the material you’re working with. Once I understand where I’m trying to get emotionally, I can start to put things together through that lens and see what works and what doesn’t. 

LBB> Non-editors often think of editing just in technical terms but it’s integral to the emotion and mood of a film. How did you develop that side of your craft? 

Matt> I definitely learned the technical side of things first. You need to know how to execute an idea as it’s happening in your head so you know when it feels right emotionally. Editing is a very fluid process and momentum driven for me. Very much “being in the zone” so the longer it takes to execute an idea the more momentum you lose. Life is about minimising keystrokes for sure, and getting it to feel right definitely comes to mimicking those you learn from and a series of trial and error on your own. 

LBB> How important is an understanding of story and the mechanics of story? 

Matt> Understanding story is essential to anything you're working on. The structure needs to work in whatever format you’re working on - whether it's short form, long form, music videos, etc. All the editorial tricks, pacing, music and sound design choices all need to function in the larger context of the whole piece, otherwise it’s just not as impactful. 

LBB> Rhythm and a sense of musicality seem to be intrinsic to good editing (even when it’s a film without actual music) – how do you think about the rhythm side of editing, how do you feel out the beats of a scene or a spot? And do you like to cut to music? 

Matt> Cutting to music can be beneficial when it comes to setting mood or tone, but the picture always needs to work without it. You run the risk of cutting to the track instead of the picture and ending up with the edit feeling flat. I do however think audio is just as, if not more, important than picture overall so designing things sonically while working on the picture helps tremendously to find the pace of a scene. I find myself doing more sound design while cutting and making sure an edit works pacing wise and rhythmically and then adding in music towards the end of the process and then tweaking the picture if necessary.

LBB> Tell us about a recent editing project that involved some interesting creative challenges. 

Matt> I just had a project that had some technical issues with the footage. An unpredictable stabiliser made for a lot of unplanned movement and sometimes wobbly and out of focus shots. The challenge then became - how do we embrace the footage we have to work with and what can we do to lean into this stylistically? This resulted in a more abstract edit and sound design than originally intended but it was a creative solution that worked really well and we managed to end up with a finished piece we were all really proud of. 

LBB> In the US we know that editors are much more heavily involved across the post production process than in Europe - what’s your favourite part of that side of the job? 

Matt> I love being involved in the creative process all the way through finishing. I try to be as precise as I can offline so I love being able to also be a part of the fine tuning in finishing. I particularly strive to be involved in the mix because I feel that it has such a strong impact on the final product. 

LBB> What’s harder to cut around – too much material or not enough? (And why?) 

Matt> Lacking material is always more difficult in my opinion. The more options you have, the more combinations of shots you can put together by an exponential amount. And although that can be challenging in its own way, that's where you can get really creative and do some unexpected things. When you have too little to work with, you're much more limited with what you can do. And although creative solutions oftentimes present themselves, the road to get there is usually much more challenging and at times the quality can suffer. 

LBB> Which commercial projects are you proudest of and why? 

Matt> It’s difficult for me to choose one, but the projects where I can leave my creative footprint are the ones I keep close to my heart. Usually the structure is a little looser and the footage is more abstract and that allows the edit to step to the foreground. In my experience this makes the spot better and allows me to do some real heavy lifting creatively. If I can accomplish that, it makes me feel like I've done my job well and contributed to the process in a successful way. 

LBB> There are so many different platforms for film content now, and even in advertising something can last anything from a few seconds to a couple of hours. As an editor, are you seeing a change in the kind of projects you’re getting from brands and agencies? 

Matt> Definitely. With recent projects there is always a social media aspect. Whether that be creating online only spots or just reformatting TVCs for social media. There's some really great work being done for web only and many of them no longer have time restrictions which is liberating in terms of what can be done in the edit. 

LBB> Who are your editing heroes and why? What films or spots epitomise good editing for you?

Matt> I have and always will look up to the editors who I've learned from. To me, they're the heroes in my editing career. I admire films or spots where the editing jumps off the screen and is more of the active creative force as opposed to disappearing into the background - Ray Lovejoy’s single famous cut in 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example. It’s a simple match cut, but it's an edit that spans thousands of years and shows the viewer so much story background in such a simple way. 

LBB> How does editing in the commercial world differ from the film world and TV world? 

Matt> Most of my work is in the commercial world, so switching to long form always presents a challenge for me. I always have to remind myself I have more time to let the unspoken moments breath. In long form you have so much more time to tell a story, and when you’re used to working in much shorter timelines, adjusting to a slower pace always takes a little bit of time. 

LBB> Have you noticed any trends or changes in commercial editing over recent years? 

Matt> There are always going to be stylistic trends that come and go in the commercial world. It’s an ever evolving medium especially as social media tends to drive trends on a scale we’ve never seen. The spots that stand the test of time are the ones that tell a compelling story and grab the viewer visually no matter what the format or stylistic trends that are happening at the moment. The good spots are the ones you remember years after they were made.

Work from Big Sky Edit
Saturday Night Lights
Saturday Night Lights/NYPD
'Beat The Board'
AdamH / Beat The Stigma
Dick's Sporting Goods