How Kevin Spacey Helped Me Get Started In Editing

Last weekend I was bingeing on House of Cards (as you do) and after one particularly riveting episode where blank and blank blank-out and they all blank (spoilers/adult situations) I finally noticed a familiar logo: Trigger Street Productions, Kevin Spacey’s production company. Not that it’s terribly widely known I guess, but the logo is burned into my brain (a folder within a folder within a folder from years ago, but it was there.)

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Editing SNL and Color Grading Modern Family

I’ve been a busy bee at Creative COW. Go read my interviews with Modern Family colorist Aidan Stanford and Saturday Night Live film unit DP and editor Alex Buono and Adam Epstein. We talk about a lot of stuff.

You’ll learn things, I promise.

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Premiere Pro CC Sequence Won’t Render? Try this.

I don’t USUALLY share hot tips anymore, mostly because I don’t have any new ones, but I had a thing happen that I couldn’t find any documentation on, and I fixed two projects with this so far.

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Beyond the A’s and B’s of NAB

There’s a whole big world out there in post-production-land, and most of it is pretty awesome.

When I headed to the NAB Show last week(ish), part of my (personal) mission was to learn a little more about companies I didn’t know much about. Not just ask someone or read some Wikipedia stuff, but actually get to know what their missions are in post-production right now. I found that if I just went up to an industry peer and asked about Grass Valley, they’d give me a bit of “oh, they’re still around?” I mentioned to someone that I had just been to a Quantel press conference and they quipped something about how the six people that use their stuff will be happy to see the updates.

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Judging the NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to scenic East Lansing, Michigan to serve as an editing judge for the National Press Photographers Association’s annual Best of Photojournalism contest. The contest honors the best news, photojournalist, and documentary video productions in the country, with separate categories for editing and photography, photography being what I would call videography.

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Coverage at NAB 2014

I was at NAB this year covering the show for Creative COW. You can see my current and upcoming articles on their site.

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Support Women & Minorities in Production and Post at NAB – Expanded Focus Meet-Up

A few weeks ago, Megan McGough (post supervisor for PBS Frontline and all around rad lady) emailed me about the prospect of putting together a meet-up for women at NAB this year. I’d been pondering the idea myself, so we decided to combine forces and see what we could do. Thanks to some assistance by some great people within the NAB Show staff, we’re co-hosting the first meet-up to support the voices of women and minorities in post and production. We’re calling it Expanded Focus — a casual gathering for professionals from all sides of production and post who want to enourage and expand the presence and voices of women and minorities in our industry.

Expanded Focus: Women and Minorities in Production and Post Meet-up @NAB
Register via Eventbrite
Tuesday, April 8th
South Lower Hall Arcade – SL15809
5PM – 6PM
Light refreshments served

Why? Well, here are a couple reasons:

“In 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2010 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 1998.”(source: wmm.com)

In 2013 the Directors Guild of America showed that hiring of minority directors stayed virtually stagnant over three years. “The report showed that Caucasian males directed 72% of all episodes; Caucasian females directed 12% of all episodes; minority males directed 14% of all episodes and minority females directed 2% of all episodes.” (source: dga.org)

I’ve talked about the lack of women on the NAB Show floor, and I’ll be talking about it again this year. But I’d like to help do something about it too. We want to make new connections, share mid-show stories and work to encourage new voices behind the camera and in the edit suite. We especially want to encourage the next generation of diverse filmmakers and production talent.

(Registration via Eventbrite isn’t required, but it’ll help us plan on said refreshments.)

Join Megan and me in the south lower hall arcade and show your support for a more diverse and exciting production industry!

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Play Cards Against Humanity with me at NAB 2014

Last year, we had a sort of informal Cards Against Humanity event. It ended up being so much fun, I started getting requests for another as early as December. So here it is in writing.

Monday, April 7th — 9PM til whenever — LVH Spacequest Bar

If you’re attending another event, come late, whenever. Leave whenever. This isn’t an official event, it’s just a designated meeting spot where there will be cards with very dirty words and a relatively quiet area to speak to each other. The Spacequest Bar (which has couches and coffee tables) always seems to be completely abandoned on weeknights, so we’re counting on it again. It’s steps away from a bar and a couple more steps away from the monorail entrance, so it’s super convenient. Feel free to come by even if you don’t know anyone. This is an excellent place to make a friend, unless you’re easily offended I suppose.

If you don’t feel like playing, come by and talk. If you don’t feel like talking, come by and play. No need to RSVP, though I’d love to know if it makes your schedule.

See you there!

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How Are You Doing? Let’s Talk: Depression & Creativity

Let’s talk. No tech questions, no debates, no critique. Let’s talk about you. How are you? No really, how are you?

When’s the last time someone really asked you that? When’s the last time you answered truthfully?

Post-production is hard. Like, really hard. It’s the kind of industry where it’s rare to have a routine and normal to work overtime. It requires you to constantly stay updated on software and skills and outlooks. Constantly look for work. Call people. Email people. Check Twitter. Call more people. And oh yeah, actually edit things. And oh, YEAH..have a personal life. Maybe. It’s demanding. It’s often thankless. You spend a lot more time being told you’re wrong than right at some stages of a project. You can’t leave your work at the office each day.

We had a good discussion about parenthood in post production last year, and more recently about being a good human to others. But what about you? You’re the one that has to worry about all this. You have to, in no particular order: be a really good editor, pay your rent on time, deal with critical clients, juggle your personal life without dissing your friends to the point of abandonment, and accept more rejections than compliments. It’s a rough industry. Your creative work is a direct reflection of yourself. The highs are really high, the lows are really low, and the drastic changes in work-related mood may mask deeper problems. And especially at this time of the year, when it’s dark and dreary (at least in my hemisphere), it’s something worth talking about.

A number of studies have pieced together some kind of relationship between mental illness and creativity. For example, a recent Swedish study showed that people in creative fields were 8% more likely to have bipolar disorder. Writers in particular were 50% more likely to commit suicide. You can probably name a number of famously ill artists, many of which took their own lives: Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway…a seemingly endless list. Whether there is a quantifiable link between creativity and mental illness or not, you can see why a creative industry can become associated with mental illnesses. Creative individuals are more likely to be self-introspective more often, are often extremely detail oriented, and spend a lot of time feeling closely associated with self-expression — a strong desire to create, and often a strong desire to be better, sometimes to the point of self-destruction. (Not that other professions don’t have their own draws and challenges that attract, nurture and tear down individuals prone to mental illnesses, but we’re artists here so I’m talking about artists.)

I think everyone reading this knows someone who suffers from some degree of mental illness. Maybe you suffer from it yourself, or suspect you might. Yet there remains in our world a tremendous stigma toward mental illnesses of all kinds. People don’t talk to each other about this. Our society’s support system for the mentally ill is embarrassing. Healthcare is a joke even in the face of the Affordable Care Act. From the highest regarded artists in history to the overwhelmed recent college graduate, mental health is one challenge we all have in common. So why are we hiding it, and why don’t we give each other the benefit of the doubt?

Among the most common mental illness in the United States is depression — something like one in ten adults report occasional to major depression. And even then, it’s vastly underreported because many people still associate depression and anxiety with weakness. “I’ll deal with this myself, I’m just being dumb.” “She sleeps until noon because she’s lazy.” “He doesn’t want to go out again, he must be stuck up.” Rarely is the first response to abnormal behavior to simply ask a person how they’re doing. On the other side, for the person experiencing the depression: “I’m too strong-willed to be depressed.” “I can overcome this by myself.” “I must be ungrateful for what I have.”

Some people are capable of crawling back out from behind occasional bouts of depression. Others only sink further, not seeking help out of pride, fear or anger. A recent graduate might say “if only I could get a job, then I’ll feel better.” A seasoned camera operator thinks “once this gig is done, I know I’ll be able to relax.” But then it happens – the job comes up, the gig ends – and nothing changes inside.

I asked a friend in the industry with severe depression and anxiety to describe how it felt, how he differentiated it from loss or sadness or stress. He told me he felt like the main difference for him was his inability to ever experience joy, for months on end. It doesn’t get better. It feels stupid, especially in the face of an otherwise decent lifestyle, to not be able to function correctly with simple tasks. Keeping up with household tasks or finding inspiration for your work becomes harder, and the difficulty brings anxiety. Medications help to level the feeling and make it less acute, but they don’t generate positive feelings. People have tried to tell him “look at what you have, you’ve got what you need, things could be much worse, why are you such a downer.” He could win the lottery and buy a zoo and he’d still feel exactly the same way because that’s what his brain and mind have come up with for him. His perception of the world (and himself) is skewed by this as he struggles to accept his differences not as deficiencies and find a way to function with them – a lifelong struggle often lost.

But if you saw his work, you’d never guess he wasn’t at the top of his game.

Mental illness is pretty damn common, especially in our industry. People are good at hiding it, and our professions make it easy to mask. We’re in an industry where all-nighters are normal, obsession can be called passion, and the momentum just keeps going forward so fast nobody can stop for a minute to realize that something real is actually wrong.

But these illnesses are like any other disease. They need time and support to heal, possibly under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Some of them need medication to manage, and that’s as okay as taking medication to manage high blood pressure or diabetes. There is no shame in asking for help, just as there’s no shame in going to a general practitioner with migraines or a podiatrist with foot pain. If you feel you need help, try to ask someone. If you know someone that needs help, offer to help. Or simply offer friendship and support without judgement. For some people, that can make all the difference in taking whatever next steps need to be taken.

Mental illness is often mistaken as a personality flaw, especially by the very person suffering from it: moody, short-tempered, weak, lazy. And that makes sense in our profession, where we’re harder on ourselves than any of the critique we face every day. Just hear this: just like it’s okay to post a question in a COW forum or tweet soliciting opinions, it’s okay to ask for help in managing your mental wellness, and it’s okay to encourage a culture where we can all be a little more open about these things.

So hey, how are you?

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More of What I’ve Been Working On…

I’ve mentioned working on This American Land in previous blog posts. All of season three can now be seen on YouTube, if nature and conversation floats your boat.

Here’s episode 302 because I cut most of the stories. The rest (and individual stories) can be found on YouTube.

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