The Super Selects: Meet the Rising Stars of Editing

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Up-and-coming commercial cutters discuss their craft
The Super Selects: Meet the Rising Stars of Editing
The ad industry is flooded with buzzwords but a mainstay of the past few years has been 'storytelling'. Whatever your thoughts on the term, it's difficult to argue that the best - or at least the most tangible - storytellers in adland are the editors. It's their job to to digest every second of footage a director captures - an ever-growing duration in the digital age - before whittling it down and piecing it together into a flowing, coherent story. At its best, the art of editing should be unnoticeable. 

Who are the next breed of editors, breaking through ready to take the practice to the next level? We did our best to find out. 



Eli Beck-Gifford, Cut+Run





Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?

Eli> Editing feels somewhat instinctual to me. I spent most of my young life as a dancer, which means I have a keen sense of rhythm and movement that translates really well into what I do now. While I had some experience dancing professionally, I knew I didn’t want it to be my whole career. Looking back now, I always enjoyed cutting music together for the different dance pieces; picking the most dynamic parts of the music or stitching together several songs into one cohesive medley. It feels good to take something that was once a big part of my life and still use it in my work now.

My first interest in editing film goes back to high school when I worked on the morning video announcements. As students, we were tasked with making school-wide video announcements twice a week. My classmates and I would film funny skits and bits pertaining to life around school. While I had a lot of fun filming the skits, I enjoyed the editing process the most. I've always been pretty tech savvy so it was a lot of fun to dive into the editing software and try to find out all it could do. As a result, I have always enjoyed short-form editing, so when I discovered the commercial editing world, I was drawn to how fast-paced and all-encompassing it is. 


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 

Eli> I'm so fortunate to work at Cut+Run, a company full of talented editors willing to share their methods, tips, and tricks. The main thing I've learned is that you really need to know the footage like the back of your hand. So when I screen dailies I look at every single frame. Next, unencumbered by the specifics of duration, the flow of the edit needs to feel right and make sense. Once you have that, then you can go back and trim here and there to get the cut to time.


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

The best advice I got when initially looking for work was to knock on as many doors as possible. Ask to speak with the executive producer and hand them a physical copy of your resume and reel. Face to face is the way to go. Ask if there are any entry-level positions available (i.e. vault or runner or reception). We all have had to grab lunch and coffee for other people at one time or another and a little humility goes a long way.



Matt Hartman, Whitehouse Post





Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?

Matt> I studied design and fine art at college. I was anti-computer for many years; painting, sculpting, and photography were my chosen mediums. However, late in school I discovered stop motion and created a claymation film for my senior thesis. Of course, it needed to be edited. Immersing myself in editing software, I quickly realised film and video editing incorporates all elements of art: design, time, space, composition, music, sound, etc. Film is the ultimate art form.

My job as an editor has changed a lot since I was stocking the fridge and making coffee runs. I don't believe anyone is really a ‘commercial’ editor anymore. The lines are blurred. Between branded content films and the new rise in social media advertising, all editors need to have both long form and extremely short form understanding. I have edited feature films and six-second spots, each has unique challenges. That’s what this job is all about. Solving problems. Plus we get to hang out with fun creative people while we do it.


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story?

Matt> First I want to make sure I'm understanding the material, and on the same page with the creative point of view. What's the big idea? How are we trying to make the viewer feel? What are we trying to say? It's best to establish a connection in the beginning, since the editor puts the films together, it's imperative we see the vision. 

As I screen the dailies (or rushes as we often say at WHP) I usually have scenes cut in my head, or at least a good start. I start with moments of the story that spoke to me in the screening process. Once you get that momentum, it's hard to stop. 


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

Editing communicates ideas and information. Be aware of what you're saying, and whenever possible use that voice for good. Practice, practice, practice. I know that sounds cliché. But that's the best advice I ever got. Shoot things with your friends or volunteer to cut short films and music videos. Learn as many software platforms as you can, especially After Effects. Most importantly, you need to be someone with whom clients want to hang out. I was a bartender for years while in school and I often draw on those people skills in the suite. We spend a lot of time with creatives, directors, and producers all in one room sharing meals and often life stories. Human connection and collaboration is the best part of the job!



Alex Heisterkamp, Lucky Post





Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?

Alex> I spent a year in LA as a story editor working on reality TV shows. Our mission was to make the people on screen seem as crazy and outlandish as possible. It was a ton of fun, but commercial editing eventually drew me away. With commercials you get to work with beautiful footage from extremely talented directors, DPs and crews. I enjoy the quick turnaround times on the jobs. Each month is a new challenge and I thrive on the adrenaline. 


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 

Alex> Before I look at any footage I spend a day or two brainstorming, writing down any idea or spark that can help elevate the project in any way. Once I have the footage, I create an inordinate amount of selects. I whittle those selects into super selects…then those super selects into super duper selects…then those super duper………


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

Alex> Find five pieces that affect you. Watch them. Watch them with the sound off. Listen to them with your eyes closed. Step through them frame by frame, dissecting what the editor did and why. Only by studying what has been done can you create something new and different. 



Chris Amos, Final Cut LA


Squarespace 'Make It'


Q> What drew you to editing? 

Chris> In high school, I used to make music videos and short films with my friends. I would concept, direct, shoot, and edit these videos, but it was always the editing stage where the hours would fly by without even being aware. 

As we kept making these videos for fun, we sold ‘Volumes’ of our work to other kids and teachers around the school for $5 a DVD. I think we got up to seven of them? Also, I’m not entirely sure how many people ever watched them, considering many of the videos may or may not have included destruction of school property… but hey! It bought us an extra camera battery and our first 120GB external hard drive.

I went to college for film at Northwestern, and experienced more of a formal training on all the elements on putting together a film. Although editing was ironically the one class I never took, I found myself always editing everyone’s films and music videos for fun. I probably logged more time in the school’s edit suite, ‘Louis 218’, than my own dorm, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

During college one summer, I had an internship at Vh1 in NYC as an assistant to a producer. We worked out of a cubicle, but got to attend edit sessions a couple days during the week. Seeing how much more comfortable the edit houses’ offices were than a cubicle was a huge signal to me that I was on the wrong side of that relationship.  I was so excited to see these editors operating very similarly to how me and my friends in high school and college would operate during our ‘sessions’, but in the professional world. 

As school was coming to a close, I did a ton of research looking up my favourite music videos, films, and directors, to see what editors they were working with, and where those editors worked. I wanted to try and get in touch with them to get some advice on how to launch my career. A lot of this research came from the ‘Directors’ Series’ DVDs (Which my now colleague Jeff Buchanan had cut many of the bonus features for) of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Mark Romanek, etc. It was a bit harder to find online 10 years ago, but my searching was constantly leading me to these boutique post houses in NY and LA, including Final Cut! As I became more familiar with all of these companies’ works, I saw the massive amounts of commercials they were all doing. And for me, these weren’t just like the boring TV commercials I’d see all the time, but these were really artistic works that I had never been exposed to. So I applied to Final Cut as a runner in 2010, and haven’t stopped working and being inspired ever since!


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 

Chris> It’s all dependent on what the project is, really, but my goal is to always just tell the most honest version of the story by using the elements that I have. Typically, if it’s a doc style project, or anything with interviews, I like to structure an entire story only using the audio that was captured in those interviews, so that I have a compelling audio base to be working from. Once I know that that base is as strong as it can possibly be, I begin to enhance that story with the visuals, and determine where to open up the visual sequences, based on whatever moment in the story we’re telling. But again, it all depends. If it’s an entirely visual story I’ll let the momentum of the footage drive the story, so that there’s a strong logic as to why we’re going from one scene or shot to another, but also so that the energy of the footage seems seamless, as if we are really experiencing whatever the emotion of that moment of the story might be. And then if it’s something that’s scripted, I’ll let the best performances - that carry the most emotion - to dictate the story, even if that means straying from the script, or changing the original intentions. 


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

Chris> I would say, edit everything you possibly can, because you can never have enough experience. Every single project you have is an opportunity to learn, to create, and to collaborate with someone else, which is irreplaceable. The more people you work with and form relationships with the better, and the more projects and experiences you have under your belt will only make you a stronger editor.

Also, study the work that you love, and try to analyze why you think each editorial decision might have been made. Because, whether or not you’re interpreting it exactly as the editor had intended, it’s important to know that behind every edit is a conscious decision. So to be thinking about that as you watch things, and then to employ that mentality to your work will generate a lot more thoughtful, emotional, and honest work.



Russell Anderson, Cut+Run


Farmers Insurance 'The Burkies - Swingset Standoff Monster'


Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?

 
Russell> My father really pushed me toward technology at a young age. He had me learning to program in third grade and taught me how computers work. But when I discovered they could be used to tell stories, it was all over. I was building a digital editing rig at 13. 
 
Short form always stood out to me. Sure, shorter stories allow for more opportunities to learn and experiment, but also because each is an exercise in efficient storytelling. A way to telegraph the most meaning in the least time. 
 
There’s a terrific quote by David Mamet, “The men and women who are making Super Bowl commercials are great dramatists because they understand the process [of visual storytelling].”  And it’s totally true.  A real storyteller can work within restrictions while still telegraphing everything. If you can tell a story in 30 seconds, you can tell any story. Now we’re even telling six-second stories!
 

Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story?
 
Russell> My notebook. After I screen everything, I write down what I remember seeing because if I still remember it, then it must be good! Then I build an outline on paper, go back into the dailies and select from there. Even though there’s already a script, having a structure I’ve built myself and set to paper keeps me on track. 
 

Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?
 
Russell> You can build story from anything. Shoot movies with friends. Don’t feel comfortable doing that? Rip clips from YouTube. Even record yourself playing video games with friends and cut it into a story. It’s cheap, it’s available, and if another editor can build a story from footage of a football game, you sure as hell can do it with a video game. 



BettyJo Moore, Final Cut NY


Carly Hanson 'Only One'


Q> What drew you to editing? 

BettyJo>I was taking improv classes in Chicago and made great friends that became unforgettable roommates. Together we competed in 24hrs/short-film contests regularly. The guys were the writer/directors, I was the editor and purveyor of taste (I had the Mac). Not one of us had degrees in film, but we ended up with truly 'original' show reels that got our foot in the door, wherever we were headed.


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 

BettyJo> Aside from the script? As I'm reviewing the dailies and marking selects, I'll be compelled to put certain shots together. And, I have to stop and do it right then, so I don't lose the thought. Those bits may or may not end up in the cut, but the process illuminates shapes and connections, while also defining what the piece is not. 


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

BettyJo> Be persistent, positive and in it for the long haul. If you have your eyes on a place, keep in touch & share new work often. A spot that's a good fit will open up. I've worked many years in post, but only at two post houses. A good place to work is one where you feel challenged and fulfilled, and part of work family. That means willing to play different support roles to help the house be successful. Starting low on the totem pole is not a bad thing. Having a solid 'old school' foundation saved me many occasions.



Zach Moore, Chimney NY





Q> What drew you to editing? 

Zach> I have always loved the storytelling process and being able to craft something from scratch. Editing gives you control over how you want the audience to feel or react to certain content and there's something really gratifying about the creative process to get there. 


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 

Zach> Every project is different, but I always start by watching down all of the footage and pulling my selects. As an editor you need to know the footage better than anyone. Having a really good understanding of the material you have at your disposal will give you much more freedom to experiment and achieve the final edit. 


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

Zach> Learn the software like the back of your hand. There are plenty of projects where there won't always be an assistant working with you. Having knowledge of the software will make you a much faster and more efficient editor and will allow you to troubleshoot effectively. I think a good technical knowledge is important for editors nowadays especially when collaborating with compositors, VFX artists, animators, colourists, etc. I'd also say editing is much more than just cutting, you'll be sitting in a room with clients or directors for hours and it's important to have a good attitude and be personable. Be someone they can count on to provide insight but also be willing and able to address notes without taking them personally.



Kristin Yawata, jumP LA


Google News 'NYT - Merideth'
  

Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?
 
Kristin> I have always been drawn to editing. It is where the story really starts to come together. In commercials, you don’t have much time to tell this story so it’s all about distilling it down and catching the viewer’s attention.
 
Commercial editing is so varied and really stretches your creative muscles. One week you are working on a docu-style interview piece and the next you are cutting quick montages. Schedules are fast and you must develop an eye for what will work pretty quickly.
 
I also love how collaborative commercial editing is. Working with clients is a very large part of the job. It is so rewarding to sit with clients, who have been pouring over an idea for months, and helping their vision come to life. 
 
 
Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story?
 
Kristin> Knowing the footage inside and out is very important for me. Selecting, super-selecting, super-super-selecting is where the bulk of my time is spent. I usually try and power through that step and let it all sink in while I start to look for music. I always cut music and VO first to help me pace everything out.
 
 
Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?
 
Kristin> Be flexible. The way we are telling stories is changing and it’s so invigorating. Not only is this a wonderful time for new voices, it is an exciting time for using the emerging mediums for innovative ways to tell these stories.


 

Kadie Migliarese, jumP NY

 

 

Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?  
 
Kadie> I love that commercial editing is so fast paced, both the length of our cuts and the turnaround time. I get the opportunity to tell new and fresh stories on a regular basis which means that I am constantly being challenged to stay creative.
 

Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story? 
 
Kadie> What's the message I'm trying to convey and who is the audience? There are always a few different angles you can take on a project but the way you approach it depends on those two things. You wouldn't cut a pharma spot the same way you would cut a music video.
 

Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019? 
 
Kadie> Don't skip the commercials, watch as many as you can! If you see something cool, try to figure out how it was created. If something bored you, what would you have done differently.
 
 

Craig Griffiths, Nomad


Q> What drew you to editing? And specifically commercial editing as opposed to long form?

Craig> I was very fortunate that I was able to get a job as a runner at a post house that encouraged progression and learning from the get go. That came at a time when I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, even though I always had an interest in editing since before university. Although I am interested in long form, short form makes more sense to me in terms of crafting narrative, and it is an easier form to try and grasp when you are starting out, even though I’m very much still learning.


Q> What's your starting point when beginning to piece together the different elements of a story?

Craig> My starting point is always getting to know the footage inside and out, going through all the dailies and identifying not only the best takes, but also the shots that are going to build the narrative arc in the best possible way. I try and build the rough edit chronologically but sometimes (if there are set pieces that are the focus) flesh out around a certain section.


Q> What advice would you give someone trying to get into editing in 2019?

Craig> I would recommend trying to get a job as a runner, or try and get an internship at a post house whose work you are interested in. Always offer to help with any task, big or small, and ask all the questions you can. In your spare time, try to watch as many shorts, features, adverts and music videos as you can.  
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