Born in a small town on the Third Coast, raised in rural Wisconsin, and now surviving sub-zero winters in uptown Minneapolis. Cavan is an editor, and also notoriously terse when writing a biography.
Cavan> I enjoy becoming immersed in the source material as much as possible– pulling your own selects, watching hours of interviews, and listening to all the set-recorded audio, etc. Whether it's documentary, commercial or otherwise, I need to first grapple with the content that’s at my disposal. This process obviously becomes increasingly more difficult with more footage. Although, I’ve often found that the best tricks in editing come from unearthing the moments captured on accident; and finding those moments demand a rigorous and thorough dissection of what’s in front of you.
Cavan> Every role in film can be as technical or non-technical as you choose. I’ve met people that choose to obsess and excel in technical filmmaking but then fall short creatively and vice versa (though they are not mutually exclusive). I should admit, as an editor, you’re more than likely a ‘full stop’ removed from the set experience and often outside of the production loop. We all share this industry– but being on a film set is as alien to me as a gaffer sitting in an edit suite for 14 hours a day. Without first having a background in it, I’d consider it natural to assume gaffing, just as much as editing, is only a technical job. We’re just different cogs in the gear without much insight into each other’s role on a per project basis. Naturally, this presents both opportunities and challenges as an editor.
The challenges are obvious– but the opportunities are not. My interpretation of the emotion and mood of a project is untethered from predisposed ideas and experiences that happened on and off the film set with the other crew– which in my opinion, helps bring objectivity to the material. The footage itself shows you its own emotion and mood, irrespective of what function each shot or setup is meant to serve. While the biggest creative part of my job is always to ensure the director’s ideas are achieved, it’s often equally as important to show them things in the footage they may overlook from having tunnel vision on a brief, script, or otherwise. I think that using footage in an unforeseen or unconventional way rather than from what was originally intended is often where the greatest collaboration between an editor and a director can take place.
On a commercial scale, editing is a service. Just like all film crews, we serve at the pleasure of a paying client; and the stakes sometimes can be very high, whether it’s money, time, public opinion, or otherwise. On the other hand, the directors I work with are often my close friends– and even if they’re not, I treat any new director relationship as such. It may sound like a terrible cliché, but I love this job when it’s at its best, and that I try to create the ‘we’re all in this together’ atmosphere with everybody in my orbit. At the end of the day, I’m accountable to both parties; I owe both of them a collaborative, open-minded, yet idea-forward and thoughtful approach to our project. But mostly, my creative opinion should be self-evident in the edits I present.
When you wield such creative control over the direction and course of an edit, you will inevitably wrestle with differing creative opinions. And it can be a delicate subject to broach– the politics of decision by committee are a sticky course to navigate. Although, my ego, pride, or stake in a project is not a precious thing, it’s irrelevant. I believe the best ideas always win. I welcome critical feedback and do not like to mince words when reviewing my own work as an editor– if an edit sucks, please just tell me straight up. And then tell me specifically where, why, and how I went astray. Respect, decency and genuine kindness are non-negotiable in the business of people, but living by those values does not prevent you from being forthcoming with your opinions and ideas.