American Cinema Editors Internship: Day 3: Stars In Mine Eyes

Dear Diary,

So, yet another exciting day in the life of an international ACE intern – a day filled with anticipation but ultimately excitement for the future…. this lecture series alone has certainly had a tendency to impress an excitement for the future!

Last night’s lecture was the last of the three nights of the series.  All three nights of the series were the perfect, well-rounded encapsulation of the required knowledge for someone starting off on a Hollywood adventure in editorial, but last night in particular was awesome due to the fact these were the actual people who are in the positions that we are all dreaming to be in.  Hunter Via (The Walking Dead & Sons of Anarchy), Dan Lebental (Iron Man & Cowboys & Aliens), Virginia Katz (The Twilight Saga & Dreamgirls), Lori Jane Coleman (Covert Affairs & Dawson’s Creek), Sabrina Pliscoe (Free Willy & Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium), Stephen Mirrione (Ocean’s 11/12/13 & Traffic) and John Axelrad (Crazy Heart & The Switch) all had stories and tips to share from their personal own personal journeys, but the general message was to never, ever, EVER give up.

An interesting topic of discussion raised by John Axelrad was regarding the situation of someone who has worked their way up to being an assistant editor on features.  That there are essentially two ladders – the first being the “assistant ladder” whereby one would work their way up as an assistant to get the “hard work” reputation and the contacts, then once they’re ready in terms of skill and financial stability, starting from the bottom of the “editor ladder” and building up through the low budgets to the higher budgets [to the Oscar].  In contrast, of course, is the other method of progression which was spoken about last night – and that is the method of bouncing between editing and assisting and growing in both disciplines until you get to the stage where you are able to just cut.

Stephen Mirrione also shared a story with us about a film he was working on where him and his director reached picture lock in less than 2 weeks and highlighted the importance of not psyching yourself out to think that it NEEDS to take a long time and that there WILL be problems.  Sometimes it will be an easy cut and we just need to be able to let it be easy.

Sabrina Pliscoe used a metaphor last night which made me chuckle a little bit too.  She was talking about the day when the director sees the assembly edit for the first time and how this is their “Coming to Jesus day” – the day they have to face up to and confront the actual things that they have done and material they have incidentally captured.  She also elaborated on this point though and said that on the Director’s “coming to Jesus day” you need to uplift the Director and help him/her not feel defeated – that this is your opportunity as their Editor to encourage them that the story is in the rushes somewhere and although it might not be there yet, that you will work together as a team to nut it out.

Another thing that I found amusing was a technique Dan Lebental implements in his cutting room regarding errors.  He posts a chart in the cutting room with all the names of his editorial team and whenever someone makes a mistake, they get a star put next to their name.  Once a month he takes his team down to the local pub and each team member has to sing one song per star they have next to their name and sing their errors away.

The only editor I got a chance to chat with during the break was Dreamgirls editor, Virginia Katz.  One of my professional aspirations is to cut a musical so I was very intrigued to hear her stories about working on a film in that genre.  The most riveting part of her story though was that she actually got a chance to meet Beyonce on set a few times where they shook hands and chatted a little.  Being a massive Beyonce fan myself (to Shannon’s dismay), and because Ginny‘s hand had touched Beyonce‘s hand, I mentioned that never again would I wash my hand and also to tell Beyonce next time she sees her that JJ from Australia said to say, “Hello”.

The last thing I wanted to mention is relating to my own development over the last few days.  Being required to be a part of the execution of these lecture series (ie setting up the chairs, writing name tags, ensuring the attendees and panelists were made to feel welcome as they entered the theatre, etc) has given me a real sense of humility and servanthood.  And, interestingly enough, given me a pride in having been so.  By absorbing over the last 3 days how someone aspiring to greatness in my field (or in any field) is required to go through a certain process of growth and is required at ALL stages of their career to be a humble servant to the next in the chain of command (even when they become Editor), I feel that I have already come such a long way since the beginning of the week in terms of my own personal and professional tracker, spytomobile, snapchat trace

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