Adrenaline, cliff diving, and live television

Greetings from a lounge chair sitting within view of a palm tree-lined beach and the Pacific Ocean.  We just finished a tasty breakfast (egg, veggie, and bacon frittata with orange juice and locally grown Maui coffee) and are now lounging poolside before lunch. It’s a rough life for sure.

Those who know me will attest that I’m a pretty driven guy – always got multiple projects going, always making plans.  Usually, I’m the one who goes on vacation and always has to be doing something or going somewhere.  Go go go go.

Except this time.  I, my wife, and another couple are spending a week in Maui with the specific goal of doing very, very little.  So far, so good – yesterday we walked along the beach coastline, hung out in the surf, drank maitais with lunch, sat around our condo, barbecued ribs and zucchini for dinner, and sat on our lanai (Hawaii-speak for “balcony”) talking until we retired for the evening.  Today promises to be much the same.

I’m very aware that other people’s vacations to Hawaii tend towards much more activity.  They get up at 5am, go mountain biking for 3 hours before breakfast, then drive to the sea cliffs where they go rock climbing, then paddle a kayak to the next beach to cook lunch over a campfire, then take a helicopter tour to the top of oceanside cliffs from which they go cliff diving.  Afterwards they go into town to the nearest bar that has a DJ and dance until the wee hours of the morning.

Oy.  I’m getting tired just imagining it.

When it comes to vacation, certain people are obvious adrenaline junkies.  But did you know there are adrenaline junkies in the editing world too?

Have you ever seen the end of a live show like American Idol and enjoyed the montage of all the singers’ performances that just happened minutes earlier?  Have you ever watched the Super Bowl or World Cup games and seen the final compilation of the best moments of the broadcast put together to a high-energy piece of music?  All those montages were put together by an editor in a matter of minutes, sometimes with mere seconds to spare before dropping in the final shot and beginning live playback.  To do that, you gotta be good at your job – you have to be fast, and you have to be accurate. If you’ve ever been inside a control room during a live broadcast, you’ll know that it requires a lot of concentration to do your job.  You’re expected to be perfect, because mistakes often end up being very obviously seen or heard often by millions of people.  Mistakes reflect poorly on you, the whole crew, and the entire television network, so live television is often very stressful.  People yell, scream, and regularly get fired and then rehired after the show finishes for the day.

I’ve done some quick-turn editing for live tv myself, and it’s a blast.   Continue reading


Wave your magic wand, folks!

Admit it, you’ve dreamed about waving a magic wand over something and instantly getting whatever you wanted.  We certainly have. In light of that, here is a question for you…

If we could wave a magic wand and either solve your biggest editing-related problem or answer your biggest editing-related question, what would that be?  We seriously want to know – so we can help you answer or solve it.  Because we can type until our fingers fall off, but it’s pointless if it doesn’t speak to what you’re into.

So tell us – the answers are anonymous, we have no idea who types what, so say what you really think.

It takes just a few seconds, and it helps us to help you get what you want  – fill out the poll right now!

3 Big Ideas – You Pick!

We’re cooking up some new stuff here at Editmentor. In exchange for a couple clicks from you, we’re dropping some knowledge in today’s post that you very well may not be able to find anywhere else. There’s a whole world of things I (Jeff) and my people here in Hollywood could talk about and demonstrate – but you know what? It doesn’t mean squat unless it speaks to YOU.  What are YOU into?

We’ve come up with three potential subjects that we could talk about for AGES. I’ll be talking about the general idea of each one plus specific technique or information that will give you the flavor for each subject.  Then just click on our fancy little poll thing to let us know what you think – including ideas of your own – and you can even find out what other people think too.

We give YOU some tasty knowledge, and YOU tell US which idea you like best. Deal?

Here we go.

Idea #1: The Feel of Editing – specific, rarely discussed techniques that help edits work.

I remember when I was an assistant editor at my first tv show in Hollywood (Blind Date, for the record).  My boss was talking about one of the editors at the show. “Peter’s edits are like butter.  They’re so smooth, all the time.”  He obviously saw that as a very complimentary thing, and I wondered how I could become an editor with sequences that “played like butter.”  Years later, I can say that I achieve that goal regularly.  And that’s not just my own opinion – I can’t tell you how many times in recent years producers have said “this section just doesn’t work, could you just make it better?” or “just take a pass and give it some love” or some variation of “Jeff, just make it feel right.”

The feel.  It all comes down to the feel.

How do you make your sequences FEEL RIGHT? Continue reading

I’m back! and some Major Realizations

Well hello there.  It’s been a while since we’ve chatted here – if you don’t count the previous post, it’s been over two years – practically an entire lifetime in the virtual world.

“Jeff, I’m shocked,” you say, “and a bit annoyed, even hurt.  I’ve had bad dreams without the regular intervention of your blog posts, and I wake up yelling in the middle of the night.  The people in my house are starting to look at me funny, and I blame you.  How could you be so callous by basically ignoring us for the last two years?”

Well that would be my fault, certainly not yours, and I beg your forgiveness.  Even if the bad dreams don’t go away immediately, I very much wish them to be gone for your sake.  Nobody should have to suffer with screaming in the night, that’s for sure.

Since I last regularly posted here, I’ve continued editing away, assisting my Hollywood employers towards their goals of world domination (or at least their chunk of it).  Outside the edit bay, I’ve been pursuing projects that have absolutely nothing to do with Hollywood or the entertainment industry – a practice I heartily recommend to anyone who tends to get caught up in the all-consumingness that this industry can easily become.  And those projects are still continuing.

Having said that, I figured some things out.  It’s like the couple who have been dating and breaking up for years  – they finally realize that they’d be miserable without each other, and they get married.  What have I realized, you ask? Continue reading

Ancient stories, honeymooning, and the Greeks

I’ve been thinking about the origins of storytelling these days.  It involves piles of rocks and a multi-platinum, New Age musician.  Go figure.

My wife and I, married this past May, recently returned from our official honeymoon.  We visited my brother and sister-in-law for a week in Qatar (a great story in and of itself), then spent the next week in Greece.

You know the New Age musician Yanni?  He wrote a song called “Santorini”,  the island where we stayed.  Ever seen a postcard of Greece featuring blazing white villas with cobalt blue doors perched on craggy cliffs above a cerulean sea?  That’s Santorini.  (I’m not usually given to flowery adjectives, but believe me, the place is amazing.) More on Yanni in a bit.

One of the places we went in Santorini found us driving up an insanely narrow, winding road – more like wide sidewalk – to the mountain top ruins of the ancient city of Thira.  Since very few visitors come to Santorini in the winter, we had the place almost completely to ourselves.  We walked through the agora, public baths, and individual residences occupied by normal, island-dwelling men and women – three thousand years ago.

You’d think that walking ancient streets would prompt visions of centuries of toga-clad characters living, marrying, building, worshiping, fighting, and dying.  Some of that happened for me, but frankly… not all that much. (Probably why I’m an editor, not a screenwriter.)  The thing that would really blow my mind was still to come. Continue reading

Trust us, we’re professionals

We recently discussed the Very Serious Topic of Brown M&Ms and why they matter.  Next question: what do you do with Brown M&Ms?  What is acceptable procedure for dealing with Brown M&Ms?  Weighty questions which deserve sober answers, to be sure.

In the previous Brown M&Ms post, I mentioned the following:

…part of editing professionally is learning the appropriate practices for any given project, and sticking to them so everyone knows that they can hand things off to you and know it’s gonna be done excellently, and done right.

Rick, a friend of Editmentor, commented:

Forgive the noob comment, but where exactly are the specifications of appropriate practices?
  Is it a customer by customer basis? How would one develop the good habits without specifications or guidelines?

Far from being noobish – those are very legitimate questions that aren’t quickly answered.  “Professional practices” vary wildly at times, are rarely codified, and sometimes it’s difficult to find that out until you’re actually on a job and you “screw up” – i.e. go against expectations that may not even have been concretely expressed!  At which point you say “how the heck was I supposed to know that?”  And people just kind of look at you funny and say “Uh, that’s normal.  Everyone knows that.”  (It’s not unlike women expecting men to read their minds without actually saying what they actually want, then getting all worked up when men’s ESP isn’t perfect.  My wife is not like that, and I am so grateful.  But I digress.)

The more I thought about professional practices, the more I realized I had other questions to address first.  Editmentor serves lots of different people with varying levels of experience, and we’ve had a number of questions from people asking “How can I become a professional editor?”  And, in a world where literally anyone can assemble clips of video and audio on their own computer, what makes a professional editor professional? Continue reading

Change – not just coins in your pocket

Change happens to all of us, certainly to me.  I was watching a movie at home last night with my wife, both notable things – I rarely watch movies at home, and up until last month I didn’t have a wife.

We were watching That’s Entertainment, a film featuring clips from classic MGM musicals and hosted by former MGM stars including Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Frank Sinatra.  In the 1940’s and 50’s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) was the undisputed king of the Hollywood musical, producing classics including The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Gigi, An American In Paris, and many others.  By 1974, when the host segments for That’s Entertainment were shot on the old MGM backlot, the studio barely resembled the powerhouse it once was.  In fact, the studio had failed to evolve with the times and had lost so much money in the 60’s that in 1973 the studio’s new owners almost completely shut down production to rein in the studio’s massive debts.  Not only that, That’s Entertainment’s host segment shoots were emotional for some of these stars, who, having spent years acting on those sets, knew that they were the last scenes to be shot before the entire backlot, recently sold to real estate developers, would be bulldozed to the ground.

Not only was MGM in dire straits, the studio heads weren’t all that sure about the film’s prospects, being one of the first “docu-tainment” or “clip show” movies.   Continue reading