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Uncompromising on Craft: Shane Reid on Savvier, Snappier, Slicker Editing


The Exile editor and partner speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway, in association with 750mph, about throwing yourself into the fire to develop, the future of editing for new formats and sustaining a creative community to keep morale up

Uncompromising on Craft: Shane Reid on Savvier, Snappier, Slicker Editing

Audio post production company 750mph has partnered with Little Black Book on a new interview series called ‘Uncompromising on Craft’. The series is dedicated to learning from the sharpest minds in adland who transfix eyeballs, set the industry benchmark and make the work that we all wish we'd made. 

Participating in this edition is Shane Reid, an editor and partner at Exile Edit’s LA outpost. Shane moved to Los Angeles at 25 to become involved in the thriving stand-up and sketch comedy scene and picked up editing, amongst other skills, to create recordings of his friends’ performances. 

LBB's Ben Conway caught up with Shane to discuss his new role and responsibilities as partner, the workmanship behind editing and some of his inspirations and key learning experiences.

LBB> We’ve all experienced a lot of change to our workflows in recent years. Are you currently remote working? Have you seen any negatives to this, but also, are there any surprising benefits?

Shane> I have been getting back to in-person work. And I think we're in this stage where you can choose to do that or not. No one's quite willing to call someone out on their comfort level at this stage. But for me, I've really missed working with people. If you're a long-form editor, it's easier to be on your own and just have these huge scenes you're constructing - you can get some sort of feedback on them and build them out in your own time. But in our workflow, it's so fast and there's such a dynamic to understanding the room, understanding the spread of creative power in the room and also being able to sit with an idea, let it percolate - online has really stripped a lot of that away. 

It's made it very ‘crunch time’, and there's a lot less room for creativity. I think in a lot of ways it's made people operate at the minimum that the job requires.

There's definitely nuance lost - being in the room, feeling people and feeling an audience watch what you're working on, feeling where people want you to push more, pull back more - you can't get that out of a small square on a Zoom screen. 

LBB> You were promoted to partner at Exile earlier this year. So firstly, congratulations! How has your role changed since that promotion? 

Shane> It elevates my job from just being an editor. Particularly at this time, you have a lot of people feeling like they're on their own island. I've tried to remind some of the younger employees that we are a creative community and that we support each other and have each other's backs. But right now, people are feeling isolated,and some people are feeling unsatisfied with their work. Something that I'm trying to do as a partner now is keep that morale alive and keep people pushing through till we can get back to things that are more normal.

LBB> Did you have any prominent mentors when you were developing? And what from your own experiences are you taking into this new leadership role?

Shane> I came up under a lot of British editors, and I guess I was lucky at the time, but a lot of them would love to play FIFA together when they got together in person. So they would dump a lot of the work on me - sound designing, full-on cut sequences, doing cut downs, doing variations on endings - I always loved it because I wanted to cut. I think I was lucky to come up under a group of editors who were very talented, but really understood the separation between what their job was and what the assistant’s job was. 

With this current generation, I feel like - a little more - we have to take everything and put all the responsibility on our own shoulders, and it's harder to dish that out to and trust other younger, up and coming editors. Whereas a big part of my coming up as an assistant, was handling a lot of the creative load for people. I think there was just a lot of trust in me at that point, so I have to find it in myself to trust the younger generation more.

LBB> What do you think is a real benefit of this younger generation getting started really early now?

Shane> There's a complete shift in the speed of how we need to edit these days, especially in commercial editing. The pressure is on you immediately once you receive those dailies and that pressure is increasingly more stacked against your first edit that you're showing to either a director or an agency. Because of that, you have to just really make gut decisions and you have to believe in yourself and believe in what you think the material needs. For the younger generation, there's just quicker access to that gut feeling and trust. 

LBB> Let’s get into the craftsmanship of editing for a moment. Often, it goes unnoticed by the general public, but in your opinion, should an edit be invisible or would you like to feel a personality and style come through the edit?

Shane> It's a debated thing! I mean, it depends on which form you're in but ultimately an edit should serve what the film is - I don't think you should be trying to force anything to happen. 

I'd personally love to see someone's personality come out as an editor. I think it's growing more and more. Editing is something that's becoming more of a conscience.Younger kids are coming up with it in school and I never knew about it before getting into it. I never knew it was a profession. You see a lot of young assistants that are going to school specifically for editing - that just shows that there's now a consciousness around how integral it is to the process of filmmaking,so whether or not a cut should be invisible or the personality of the editor, is a moot point. I feel like your job as an editor is to support the director and the creative and to find the film and see it and bring that film out. If that means that it brings out something stylistically that stands out - in an actual, physical edit that you can feel - great! And if it's meant to be invisible, because the film doesn't need you to overcompensate for any sort of tone or pacing, then it should just sort of bleed into the background. 

LBB> So, how did you get into the industry? Have you always been an editor?

Shane> I used to do comedy in LA when I first got here, and so I would just cut all of our comedy segments and skits that we did for shows. I got out of school and I was just in love with stand-up and sketch comedy as a kid and I studied it quite a bit. I came out to LA at 25 and I did maybe two stand-up shows but I immediately didn't like it in Los Angeles. When I started doing sketch comedy and just meeting with people, everyone was just shooting things all around me. You just start jumping into things - you'd act, cut, direct - you’d do anything, so it was a quite an explosive thing to dive into as someone who wasn't previously surrounded by those kinds of people. Through that, I saw my first post suite - it was a DVD post house and they specifically did special features for DVDs. My first job was getting into that and just being thrust into something similar to what these commercial houses are now - just tonnes of different editorial processes happening around me. 

LBB> And have those experiences in the LA comedy scene impacted your creative or work processes?

Shane> What stand-up did for me in particular - that I think I lean on all the time - is that I have a job where I have to meet a whole new crop of people every two weeks or so and I have to make them feel comfortable in the room with me and comfortable with my decisions. And stand-up was this really early education that your first impression is everything and people make up their mind about you right away. It was a crash course in being able to walk into any situation with a group of creative people and quickly assess them and figure out how to navigate that territory and have them believe in me, ultimately.

LBB>  Early on, was there a project which stands out where you remember something clicked and thinking that editing was the career for you?

Shane> There's a director named Mark Palansky. I was an assistant at White House in Los Angeles - I had no idea what I was doing - and I kind of got the job because I knew a lot of people. I was friends with a group of people that I had been assisting in other capacities, but not in commercials. I came into the commercial world just like a baby, I just didn't know what to do, I didn't know where to put my foot or anything and I remember not really even knowing if I was any good or not. My EP there at the time had this friend and he was a producer with Mark and Mark was up for a commercial. He needed a reel cut in one night - no editor would do anything like that at the time,so she asked if I would do it and I said: “Sure!” 

So he came over and it was like a one night thing. We pulled all this stuff in together and he was like, “I'll just leave you alone with it and you assemble something and I'll come back.” When he came back, what I had was not very good. I just didn't understand the rhythm of it all yet, I just started laying these things out in the room, pretty belaboured. And he went: “You know, I kind of need it to do this and this and this… and just kind of move to this beat.” So I got to understand that and when he left again, I put something together and he came back and said, “OK, this feels like it!” 

Until about three or four in the morning we cut this whole reel together and it was the first time that - I wouldn't say I looked at the edit and thought I was really good at editing -  but understanding him and collaborating with him and working with him and hearing what he needed, it was the first time that I felt myself start to move. I felt the motor start to turn. To me, that's still my favourite part of editing, when you start to really fly and ideas start coming out and you're five steps ahead of everybody in the room. That was the night where I put that together. And I think it changed my career because they all kind of looked at me like, “Oh, you can, you can cut. You just need to learn the rest of this shit!”

I was pretty young and confident I guess, it takes a bit of that when you're young - just be willing to throw yourself in that fire. It can be detrimental, you can not be ready to be thrown in the fire and you can completely get rolled over. I've seen that happen to quite a few people. But for me, even if I'm sweating on the inside, I'm figuring it out on the outside and getting myself through the problem. I think that's the best way to learn.

LBB> What is a recent piece of work that you're particularly proud of or where there was an interesting creative problem to solve?

Shane> Yeah, actually there were these Dubai tourism spots, with Craig Gillespie over at MJZ directing them. He shot six different film trailers for mock films that were going to be used for a campaign. There was a spy trailer and a buddy comedy and romantic comedy and a period piece and an adventure film. It was me and another editor of ours, Nick Gillberg, and it was a challenge because they were trailers that needed to feel like film trailers, but they were shot with a bunch of disparate elements -  just a random car chase here and a motorcycle here and a bit of dialogue here out of context and a bit of a fight scene here… Craig's an amazing director, who is very aware and even assembles roughly on set what his ideas are, but he wasn't able to do that with everything - it was just too much. 

We had to just figure out how to cohesively make a trailer that felt like it made any kind of sense and sell it like it was real. It was really, really hard. Trailer editing is a totally different monster, it's not one that I'm entirely familiar with but I'm super proud of how they came out. It was long hours and it was watching a lot of film trailers to try and rip off all these tropes that trailers do. Finding the music and the tone and everything, writing extra dialogue and titles to try to make them come alive - we did all of that over the course of a few weeks, during the pandemic. 

LBB> We know in the States an editor has a lot of involvement throughout the production process, what are some aspects of this that you enjoy?

Shane> What I do like about the interplay in the States is that it's really nice to see the origin of the idea with the agency and to then go down the journey with the director and make the strongest creative that you can. There's a lot of strategy in protecting the creative that you've worked on with the director, but also understanding there's rules to all of it, there's demands and needs from clients and some jobs fully go astray. I think the challenge for me is always keeping it on course and keeping a balance between the net expectation versus the cinematic exploration of it all. 

I like that. I work on managing all those relationships throughout the entire process - through finishing, through sound - I stay heavily involved with sound. But I stay through it all and keep those lines of communication open all the way. It always helps me grow my relationships, because it shows that I care on both sides - not ditching the director at a certain point and just letting the agency run with it. I'm letting them know what's happening along every step of the way and it just shows that they can trust me. Our job is creative and political - and I happen to like both sides of it. So that's how I operate.

LBB> Taking the events of the last two years into account, how do you see the future of the industry and editing more specifically? 

Shane> Given the events of the last few years, I think we're going to see that really represented in cinema and I would hope that we see more of it in advertising. We can help to bring some projects to light that are advancing where we're trying to move as a world. Sometimes we can fall into a safe space, but sometimes we can push it further. I'd love to be a part of something that pushes it further in that landscape.

I think editing is going to continue to evolve pretty much the same way that I feel like cinematography and directing is evolving. I think we're about to come across a whole new crop of directors that are going to continue to push it. While we're in this massive Marvel, Disney, Netflix world, that's just where all the independent cinema is going to probably have a whole new renaissance. I think that's where you'll start to see some bold work coming out. And as far as the editing? I think editing is getting savvier. It's getting snappier. It looks slicker. And good editors are understanding how to trust their gut and elevate the work of a great director. As long as we keep pushing in that trend, I think you'll see the bar gets higher and higher.

As for the future of editing, we're just fully in a digital world. Maybe we'll start to edit things that are more designed for vertical formats on a phone. I did a film that was all vertical for the phone and I didn't really care to be honest. As long as the creative is fun and you're working with directors that you like, it's not my job to figure out how to get that out to everybody, you know? One difficult side in the post world is that there's different lengths of time that we have to cut everything to now for different formats. So there's just a growing expectation to make two-and-a-half minute cuts to 60 seconds to 30, to 15, to 10 to six… and that can all fall on your shoulders because a lot of times you're working in a very crunchy amount of time, trying to get all that done. That's something that I hope we can figure out - a good workflow. 

LBB> With editors having to do faster and faster cuts for shorter and shorter content, what are some specific challenges that this poses? What benefits is it also bringing as well?

Shane> I'd say the challenge sometimes is that the concept that you're working on is written, boarded and shot for something that's longer. And a lot of times, it falls on the editor to just find a way to do it shorter. I think that a benefit of it goes back to trusting your gut. It makes you sharper at making decisions and I think that in any format you can really tighten the screws in editing - and you should be tightening the screws and getting rid of the fat. Sometimes we can be a bit belaboured and a bit indulgent. 

I think it's fun when stories in our world just feel compact and tight - when you can get emotion to really come out of that and you can get an experience out of a 60-second film and you're being very economical about how you're doing it. I think that's like a real challenge. I think it's a wonderful thing. But there's two completely separate monsters for film and advertising.

The negative is that, when you get into like 15 seconds, it'd be nice - and I think agencies, creative teams and directors have started doing this - to be thinking during the shoot, which is already difficult and crunched, how can they shoot something extra or something slightly different that would work in a 15-second capacity, versus having to completely be lifted from a longer story. So that's the challenge. I think campaigns used to be more like, five, six spots in a campaign -  that's changing to one with cut-downs. Younger editors used to feed off of other versions of cuts in a campaign and now I think they're feeding off of shorter formats.

LBB> And finally, is there a project where you noticed an edit for the first time or something that inspired you to change the way you think about your work? Or perhaps something that inspired you to get into the industry?

Shane> Yeah, I can never get past the T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park. There's much stronger editing that I've seen, but I think as a kid, it was the first time that I really understood tension. It just really… it had me. I was 10 years old, you know? And I didn't have anyone in my family that understood cinema. No one was walking me through how any of this was done or what it meant,so I didn't really discover good cinema until I was older - I was a popcorn movie kid! I always think about Jurassic Park because I think it was the first time that I understood that: we've teased that the goats are there and now the goats are not there…  and there's things swinging… and now we are revisiting some wires that we've seen earlier… and now those wires don't seem the same… and there's a water drop happening in the cup that's continuing to get louder and closer… 

It's all direction, but it's all editing. And it's all about understanding how long to hang on those beats. I'm sure they shuffled them around quite a bit too, to keep you engaged to the point where you are about to break. If you push it too far, it becomes unbelievable. If you do it too short, you're not emotionally invested. So I think that was one of the first times that I, without even knowing, understood it. I understood the power of editing.

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750mph, Thu, 06 Jan 2022 17:47:00 GMT