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The Editors Cut

Episode 031: Edit Chats with Daria Ellerman, CCE

Episode 031: Edit Chats with Daria Ellerman, CCE

Episode 031: Edit Chats with Daria Ellerman, CCE

This episode is the master class with Daria Ellerman, CCE, that took place on March 10, 2020 at Finalé in Vancouver.

This episode is sponsored by Finalé a Picture Shop Company, The Vancouver Post Alliance, IATSE 891, Annex Pro, AVID and Integral Artists.

Master Class Podcast Episode with Daria Ellerman CCE

Daria has over 25 years experience working in television and films. Some of her most recent credits include the new hit series on Netflix, Virgin River, the ABC series Take Two for which she won a 2019 Leo Award and the feature film Meditation Park.

This master class was moderated by Kirk Hay.

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The Editor’s Cut – Episode 031 – “Q&A with Daria Ellerman, CCE” (Master Series)

Sarah Taylor

This episode was generously sponsored by Finale — A picture shop company, the Vancouver post alliance, IATSE 891, Annex Pro, Avid and Integral Artists. Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host Sarah Taylor. This episode is part of our Master Series and was the Master Class with Daria Ellerman, CCE that took place on March 10th 2020 at Finale in Vancouver. Daria has over 25 years of experience working in television and films. Some of her most recent credits include the new hit series on Netflix “Virgin River” which I’ve binge-watched-the ABC series “Take Two” for which she won the 2019 Leo Award and the feature film “Meditation Park.” This Master Series was moderated by Kirk Hay.

Kirk Hay

I met Daria in 2012 on a kids show when I was assisting and it was there that Daria gave me the opportunity to cut. So I started cutting in 2012 on the kids show. Then we did two seasons of that then another kids show, all multi cam stuff. Then I left to do some other things animation and some MOWs and then we reconnected on season one Virgin River last year and this year I got to cut two episodes once again with the support of Daria. So that was great. It was really really helped me knowing that I could always lean on Daria if there was a an issue of course there was lots of issues as there always are. So yes so we’ve known each other for a while actually when I sat down to think about this a little bit about Daria two decades of experience editing television series, MOWs, documentaries, feature films. Her credits include the feature film Meditation Park which opened the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival and Birdwatcher. Several MOWs and hundreds of hours of episodic television. Daria’s versatility comes from the variety of projects she has been involved in from comedy to drama across genres and 140 episodes of sitcom that include a live audience. Daria has been nominated for nine Leo awards, a Southampton International Film Festival award, a Gemini Award, and a CCE award as a picture editor, and won Leo Awards for her work on television series Take Two and The Collector and she currently just wrapped the Netflix series Virgin River. Now the special thing about the sitcom things is in front of a live audience is just to interject a little bit into that is the pressure in which you have to turn around a cut for the audience on Friday and they only shoot was it Thursday-Friday? Thursday Friday. So I don’t know if you’re talking a little bit about that later but that was that was something else. She’s a master of art and it gives me great pleasure to introduce Daria.

Daria Ellerman

Thank you. And I can’t believe how many people here I know, how many people here assisted me, how many people are now my fellow colleagues, those editors, and I can’t believe you guys want to hear me talk but anyways we’re going to talk and I just wanted to tell you what I thought I would do. I’m gonna show a clip the first episode of Virgin River Season 1 Episode 1 and I wanted to talk about… I want to of talk about it from the perspective of the three ways that a story gets written, any story any movie or television series it’s the script, it’s written in production, and it’s written in post-production, and I wanted to sort of should show you the clip and then explain the different areas where there was impacts on the script by both production and post-production, and also the way that we would edit this particular scene as the fact that it’s the first episode of a new series. And I’ve I’ve done I think I counted them up I might have written it down… I’ve done ten or twelve episode ones of a season one, and I’ve done two pilots that were… one was a backdoor pilot which was a movie of the week for Sabrina the Teenage Witch the half hour sitcom, which went on to be completely retooled and nothing that we did was used. And then another pilot that was an action kind of tween thing… teen thing that got rejigged and we used part of the pilot but it became a new thing so that’s a more conventional pilot style. You know we don’t really do pilots so much anymore, particularly I don’t still think it’s a Netflix or streaming thing really. We just sort of launch in and so there are some considerations about when you’re doing Episode 1 season one and I was sort of aware that this was more knowledgeable audience and I thought that might be a more interesting way look at this clip. So we could play the first clip I think.

[Clip Plays]

[Clip Audio]

Daria Ellerman

How do you like watching that again Kirk?

Kirk Hay

It was the song again and again and again.

Daria Ellerman

So the reason I wanted to… the reason I wanted to talk about the three ways that the script is written is because it took me a while to start thinking about how production is impacted by so many different things and how we would you know gather in the bullpen and complain about the way something was shot. Then once the director came in you might find out like like in the season just recently that there was a truck mount on a car and then there was an accident and then the truck mount was off the car. So we only had one camera on this particular scene when it and it was like Oh this is such an ugly angle. Right. So you just you just you just wonder like who who shot this why were they doing this. And I think it’s important for us as editors to kind of realize that that the impact that production has on what is scripted that we just kind of have to deal with it and stop going out in the bullpen and complaining. Well I guess we’ll never do that but… and I’ve also been in meetings where you know there’s a script that has it like lots of many small scenes and I’ve seen a production manager directly address the writer it’s like OK so you’ve got 12/8 of the pages here at twelve different locations. You can have six. You know? And so then the writer has to go back because they don’t we can’t afford to go to twelve locations so they have to somehow figure out how to either make. Two locations out of one location or you know like it’s like the writer was never expecting that they would be have to go back and rewrite something just because the money’s you know there isn’t enough money allocated for that many locations so the writer starts with this idealized thing. Then even once prep starts they have to start immediately. The thing becomes un-idealized and then as production goes then it becomes further impacted. And then when we’re in post we choose to sometimes change the script. So in the case of this show, the first three shots that we saw which were an overhead shot, a drive by, and a drone at dusk, never existed in the production of that episode as scripted. It started at night with the woods with the car driving in. So production shot what was scripted but as we were editing episode one of course episode two… well one and two shot together so episode 3 and 4 are shooting, and there’s editing going on and we also were supplied with a bank of drone shots beautiful beauty shots that we were using as transitions. And so you know we’re sitting around and realizing that there’s not there’s not really much of an opening here. And we we wanted a few things; we wanted more time to establish our song because it was the first episode of a new season we’re trying to create interest. We wanted you to listen to that song because we were trying to suggest something with the lyrics of the world keeps moving on… whether you know not literally but we wanted… we wanted that to resonate. And we also thought about things like… and this was a collaboration between the showrunner and the executive producer that was in post and myself and our post producer and Kirk and you know how can we do this. And so we decide well you know what, we have all these beautiful drone shots. We should probably start the episode with a drone shot because that’s going to be a visual motif. It’s gonna give us time. And while we’re while we’re getting this drone shot you know, Gary can you get us a couple more shots right? And then we were all because of the what the drone could shoot where the location we were at. The only shot we could get from the drone was from behind the car and it comes up and it’s a beautiful shot. But that’s not the shot we all have in our minds when we wanted to we wanted this great this epic drone shot just one shot. You know Gary might be able to get us some other shots but so production impacted us in the limitations of the drone. We at post impacted the writer’s script by deciding we wanted more of an opening. We wanted to try and draw the audience in and we had to remove something coming up later. So we wanted to emphasize the smallness of a of a car in a wild world. And we wanted to establish the world of our show so that when the drone comes up that is the world of our show Squamish is in for Northern California. And also we wanted to maybe suggest that this has been a long journey so if we shot that at dusk then we would dip to black and then we would come up into the episode per script which was that this car drives through the forest. And so… so something else that we think of when we’re when we’re editing is our shot selection so the kind of shots we were trying to select for the beginning were with that idea of this is a lonely road or in the forest first it’s dusk, now it’s night. So that the first time we come to the shot of someone in the car there is no question that this is our main character. We’re not being coy about it at all. We’re not like shooting from behind or from the side or we’re like the first thing that we decide to do after trying to establish this opening is to just show you this person. This is the person that you need to be interested in. This is the person whose story we’re telling right now, whose point of view this scene is from. And in terms of shot selection as well the director had done a nice little tilt down. So we saw the phone and and it wasn’t and it wasn’t really inserting and we really liked that and then we did a little VFX where we replaced it so that we could do the no service thing. And that was just mainly just that the director she was so awesome. She just like kind of just did this thing and then we’re like oh but we could like make a sound and put something on the screen and then we recorded some ADR of her going “oh great.” And again you know just trying to emphasize that she is a fish out of water because you might get from her appearance and from her fancy car that perhaps she’s not a person who regularly travels these roads or lives in this area. Anyways that took a long time to get there. It took a lot of cuts and it took a lot of thought and a lot of discussions and a lot of meetings and then and then to have… you know our director or second unit director go out and survey and come back with the news about well this is the only shot I can get you. But at the end of the day we felt that we had accomplished that anyways. So then the next section is is the the stalking semi which we were trying to to show that she was rattled and I guess it would be unfamiliar for her to maybe deal with a semi on a dirt road like that. And and then she skids which takes us into the flashback. So in the script the semi honks and goes by her. And then a bear suddenly rears up in front of her. And roars and that she slams on the brakes and hits her head on the dash. So like I like to call this like “look ma no bear!” So… Kirk like tried… we tried we like ordered up… we shot a bear.

 

Kirk Hay

There was a bear.

 

Daria Ellerman

There was a bear. We shot a bear but we shot the bear in December. What are bears doing in December? This bear was so sleepy and all the bear could do is turn its head and open its mouth and like we put the growl in, like we tried speeding it up, we ordered up a green screen bear, we tried we didn’t have a plate. We had the bear… what was wrong with the bear shot?

 

Kirk Hay

The only shot they did was a POV over her shoulder. A POV or like over the shoulder through the window. And then they had to have a wire an electric wire run around the bear because it was a huge grizzly.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. It was like a fence.

 

Kirk Hay

And then the trainer was there like with its biscuits going like… and the bear was literally going like “my mouth so dry,” like it opened its mouth. It was like that. So the roar was like [blah.] So that was a problem. And then the way they shot it was because they didn’t want to run over the bear. The car just goes like this.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. That’s right the car just slowed down.

 

Kirk Hay

We had we had to try and speed up the car get rid of the fence, get rid of the trainer, anger up the bear. And there was no plate no clean plate no anything.

 

Daria Ellerman

And a strange light too a strange light because they did do a B-camera on the actual just bear. And he was kind of like in this little halo of light. Yeah. And so then we like had come up with this version the best we thought we could do. And then the big kahuna show runner who happened to be on set a lot in season one not so much in season two. She came in the room she sat down we played her the sequence and she said “get rid of the bear.” We agonized over this!

 

Kirk Hay

And we got rid of the shot we got green screen animals to give us a bear. They were like “hey Kirk you know after effects” I’m like No no… “you do now.” I mean they’re comping the whole thing up. So we did our due diligence. I mean we covered that every… I was I thought they were gonna like come and glue hair on me and be like “All right Kirk out to the road you go.” But we tried it all.

 

Daria Ellerman

But that that was just mind blowing actually because it was so obvious but you know you well it’s not my practice any ways to cut out anything before it before the showrunner’s seen it. I mean even when directors make lifts I’m kind of like oh okay because generally on television series, not on features, you know that the showrunner is gonna want to see everything that was in the script unless like there’s like a phone call in a discussion and an agreement like okay I I really do want to see it that way. So I don’t think… there was never… the option of removing the bear was never an option we thought… even the Post Producer then.

 

Kirk Hay

Then the question was What do we do when the bear’s gone?

 

Daria Ellerman

Right. So so I said I’ll make the skid happen out of the semi which you know when you have like a nice shaky when you have nice shaky shots like that nice little skid sound a little music sting it would just it you know it wasn’t that hard. And in retrospect it feels cleaner than to have had first a semi menace her and then a bear. Like I mean that might have been a bit much but I think that that what the writer was trying to do was really show the danger of the wilderness area that they were in and the unexpectedness of a bear she would probably never expect this, this woman from L.A.. So it felt like it was really super important to have the bear.

 

Kirk Hay

A lot of money was spent on that bear too.

 

Daria Ellerman

A lot of money was spent on that bear but it was yeah it was yeah man it was hilarious. And the interesting thing was that I mean the showrunner also happened to have written the first episode and she was not at all precious about the bear. She was like “get rid of the bear!” right. So yeah first episode first season flashback. So we have a flashback because it’s a conventional way that we are going to reveal backstory about characters right. It’s kind of a trope… it’s very accepted and also putting it right in the opening is saying to the audience this is how we’re gonna this how we’re gonna do this, right? That’s why that flashback is there and it’s also to make you wonder who this woman is, to put her in a hospital setting so maybe you think that she works in a hospital and then to create this kind of eye contact between her and the doctors so that you maybe think oh is this person important. And that flashback was a lot longer and it got truncated just to make it a lot cleaner. And I think that’s better better than exchanging a lot of dialogue that wasn’t really gonna build on what is there. And we thankfully cut to it because I think it was scripted with the flash of light and somehow a flash of light was gonna come through that… I don’t know what was going to… anyways once we got rid of the bear we had to rethink that and I personally always prefer a cut to a flashback. We did pre lap some of the audio going in because there was just some concern about making it really clear to people that we were transitioning into a flashback. And I think did we have a little sound there?

 

Kirk Hay

Flashback whooshes were had, lots of them were sampled and gone through and I just think they didn’t like that idea. No it was really like a double hat on that thing….

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah a hat on a hat. Yeah yeah that’s our showrunner’s favorite saying “hat on a hat” and I’m glad and I’m glad because I think we even auditioned a white flash which is like please say no please say no. And then we come out of the flashback and we we are meeting a new character and as the as the episode went on we were continually meeting new characters because it’s the first episode but in that scene we were we were trying to be wide whenever we could just to emphasize the remoteness and you know remind us that we’re in the woods and see her you know assuming that her cell phone is gonna work even though we had the insert where she said she had no service right. She should have known her cell phone was….

 

Kirk Hay

You always check it still.

 

Daria Ellerman

You do right. And then we cut to the main title card which was not scripted and that’s a thing that I’ve noticed you know recently and I’ve been on shows where I’ve like you know when I’ve had an opportunity to speak to the showrunner and they’re not scripting them where the main title card goes like “Hey guys want a script that?” you know and some people are like “yes!” because they they realize that that might affect how the director might direct if they knew that we were cutting to a main title card and like there’s so many shows now that that you know just slammed the graphic on top of footage for a scene. But this the these scripts never had the main title card scripted or where we were gonna place it. So it got placed in several areas. This was I think the earliest it got placed. We had it placed later I think. And then even later. And then we came back to here but it’s just I noticed that’s always an interesting… it’s a thing because in this case it helped us. There was a time cut you know the scene that came after that they’re in the truck and they’re driving. It also helped us emphasize that she had a decision to make right there. Like is she going to get in the car with this guy. I mean she’s really have any choice. Like what is she going to do. Sit in her car and wait for the bear to get her? Oh right. She doesn’t know there’s a bear.

 

Kirk Hay

There was a ripple effect of that too cause didn’t doesn’t Doc say there’s bears out here she goes “there’s bears out here?” Yeah but the title thing also goes back to the Netflix all knowing all seeing they know that if a title last longer than I think it’s 10 seconds then you have to follow certain format because people will skip past it. So if you have a title they want you to have it this long or that long nothing in between. Because I know that people are gonna… so that played a part in….

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. How long?

 

Kirk Hay

Seven and a half seconds.

 

Daria Ellerman

Right. So we’re doing it under the ten seconds so that we don’t get the skip.

 

Kirk Hay

Yeah yeah yeah.

 

Daria Ellerman

And there was talk of a main title as well. And for some reason I’m under the impression that Netflix would rather not do a main title and I’m not 100 percent certain why that is. But I think some productions insist and they they do a main title. Like I did another show where they went out to a place in London England and did a beautiful main title and Netflix was OK with it but but also then I think that’s where that skip thing comes in. So when you… oh no but you can’t skip it unless it’s at the beginning. Like when you’re watching them when you’re bingeing. Right. Right. Anyways there’s we’re having, it’s funny because that’s the thing when you work on Netflix show there’s a lot of these discussions about the Netflix rules and things of where you. Yeah.

 

Kirk Hay

And they change ever so slightly every season.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. If it’s not scripted I I like to see if they will but I don’t think we’re ever gonna script them on Virgin River. We’re just going to plunk them in and then continue to move them from cut to cut. Right.

 

Kirk Hay

And then when the director comes in you can say “it would be great if you shot a specific shot for the main title” and they always go “that’s a great idea!”.

 

Daria Ellerman

That’s true!

 

Kirk Hay

And then that next block you’re “like where is it?”.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. And then in season one we had that same card on every episode and in season two we have a different shot for every episode which is kind of nice actually. Yeah. Does anybody have anything specific about that clip that we were talking about or anything that I said that was confusing or Kirk said was confusing?

 

Audience Question

The opening music did you have that well beforehand or did you get that later?

 

Daria Ellerman

That’s a great question actually because um…no. So before we had the extended opening we did want something in there and we tried… we tried a number of things and we tried to go a number of ways because Netflix… and this is not a Netflix symposium here but… it was Netflix kind of digs the idea of of a of a cover or something recognizable that’s affordable or they’re all about having you know a source cue at the beginning and at the end of an episode that costs a little bit more than you know that kind of library stuff that you might put in other scenes. And we really didn’t have enough time. The way that it was shot before we before we were like into the bear which is now into the crash and so I think the most recent thing I think I probably had temp score in there when we decided to get rid of the bear. And then when we decided to get rid of the bear is when we had the conversation about extending the beginning and then we started auditioning a lot of songs and we had an executive producer in post that season and… who was really into finding music and she knew this song and she came in one Monday morning is like “this is the song that we should use.” And so we started using this song, everybody in production really liked it. And so then we did start in a little bit of black and try and make our shot lengths so that we could establish the lyrics that we wanted to. And we did even edit I think for like we edited a verse so that we could get lyrics that we wanted before we crashed into score for the semi thing. But a lot of times we do have a song. It might be scripted or it might have been sent to us and we find something that we like, or sometimes our showrunner will be like I really love this song, and we will work with it from the beginning, but and this goes to episode one of the season one is, that first of all you’re going to redo the temp score 10 times anyways and any songs that you’re gonna use, like you’re going to you’re gonna burn through 100 source cues before you land on the three or four ones that you’re gonna feature in the episode. It’s just everybody knows what they don’t like. They just don’t know how to tell you what they want, and they might not even know what it is until they hear it anyways. And in this one it was… we all kind of liked the vibe of it, but the world keeps moving on was really very important and it’s important to the story because you know this character is is coming out of a lot of it, she’s leaving L.A. for a new start in the small town and leaving behind a lot of personal bullshit right. And we we really thought that song would really help us establish that and we were hoping that it would draw you in and keep you interested because as a viewer of streaming services, it’s not lost on me how quickly I’ll give up on something. Nope, next! You know. And so when you’re editing something for a streaming service you’re like Oh my God how can we not have people do that how can we keep people interested? So I think that we hoped that the song would do that. We hoped that having a little bit of action and a flashback to make you think… then a grumpy old man, and then a main title might be enough for you to go “OK I’ll see what’s… see what’s happening next.”.

 

Kirk Hay

Yeah there’s a lot of information crammed into that opening. With the introduction of the main character, a flashback, the crash. It’s quite busy as far as that goes.

 

Audience Question

How long can you go before the opening title?

 

Daria Ellerman

It was like 2:30-3:00 or something.

 

Kirk Hay

Some of the shows were like “How about here?” “How about there?” But never passed like five minutes. There were some that were late. I think it’s like 3:30 or something around there.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah it almost is like… it seems that we do like to do a teaser type thing but it’s not scripted that way and sometimes it’s like I said… Why don’t you… it’s easier to just script it as a teaser but you know.

 

Audience Question

Was the flashback scripted?

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. It was longer and we cut we cut it down and I think that this episode didn’t end up being super long the way you know like a lot of first episodes on streaming services are beyond what we’re used to seeing the 43 minutes of broadcast hour. I think this one was forty eight minutes or so seven minutes yeah. So it wasn’t it wasn’t super long and our goal was to keep people interested. So cutting down scenes.

 

Kirk Hay

I feel bad for the bear. He probably got all his friends around like “all right I’m in the show. Wait a minute. Where’d I go?”.

 

Daria Ellerman

Shooting a bear in December!

 

Audience Question

Once you decided to cut the bear, did they pick anything up for the car crash?

 

Daria Ellerman

There was talk of doing an insert on the wheel and stuff and actually I was I was really not encouraging that because they also thought while at the same time we can get the wheel in the ditch because it could be as the doc character says well your car’s in a ditch and basically you see two cars parked there whatever your car’s not drivable. That’s all that really matters. And I thought well where it first well where am I going to… how am I going to make this wheel insert work for the skid without it without it kind of just looking stuck in like I preferred it to flow out of out of the the pass-by of the semi. The idea that she just skidded over to the shoulder so sound can help us there. We had a nice shaky POVs we were inside the car and then we… you know it’s I think faster is better. So while yes they were thinking about that and then it just got… it was at the bottom of the list and then it just dropped off, thank goodness.

 

Audience Question

Is it something dark this show, or just… because I was startled a little bit by the song?

 

Sarah Taylor

Yeah. No it’s not. It’s not necessarily but as as I’ve watched this clip a few times recently I’m like yeah man. First of all like it’s night. It was it was just night and it’s dark and then the whole opening takes place at night until like I don’t know 10 minutes in or something.

 

Kirk Hay

It’s funny though it does get there’s a bit comedy… as soon as you come back from that main title, there’s a bit of a comedic beat and then even more of a comedic beat and then an even more so it does start like that. And then yeah it’s streaming on Netflix right now.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah I just didn’t really want to play so much so that we could just sort of talk a really a little bit about. But yeah you’re right. Like it does.

 

Kirk Hay

That’s capturing the audience again too.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah yeah.

 

Kirk Hay

Getting them interested. See. What’s going on here. Okay. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Daria Ellerman

And then when we do lighten up. Like I’m always a fan of any moments that you can… where you can lighten up is is always fun.

 

Audience Question

I’m also curious when you locked that music, did you find you’re shifting some edits or is it perfect?

 

Daria Ellerman

No I because I felt it was perfect [laughs]. Plus I edited the song roughly and the music editor or maybe Kirk edited the song.

 

Kirk Hay

Well I had a crack at it.

 

Daria Ellerman

We all you, know but anyways we had a rough edit of the song when we locked. If anything, yeah I actually did adjust the black at the beginning of the show because when I first laid that song it and we didn’t have the the three shots at the opening I had like 15 seconds of black so I could play my song so I only start now and a few seconds black.

 

Audience Question

So going back to the how tough it can be doing the first episode of the new series, how many versions of that opening do you think you did?

 

Daria Ellerman

Good question.

 

Kirk Hay

That project was about a terabyte….

 

Daria Ellerman

The iterations of the Bear were like 15 or 20….

 

Kirk Hay

There was original bear, there was new bear. And then there was a truck crash and then there was in the truck crash we were trying to figure out how to do that. There were sound… there was stuff was just sound design like working on trying to get that wheel from the gravel to the dirt and her and Mel who is the main character there… her stuff.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah it is my experience with every opening of this episode one season one just even though like we were so let’s say we did a 20 versions before we were happy. We touched that scene every time we looked at the bloody show in some way. And then when the episode was not long but longer than we wanted it to be, we went in to this like the flashback and into the subsequent scenes in the beginning and we did line lifts. So that came later in the process. Like everything sort of stayed. It’s that crazy thing where you think OK everything’s good right. OK well let’s just look at it one more time and it’s like oh….

 

Kirk Hay

And you can’t say no.

 

Daria Ellerman

You can’t say no of course not. I love making changes. Yeah. And certainly like I said the music that’s the main thing about an episode one season one thing is that like I said we were all temp score then we were all sound design then we had a song and then we didn’t have a song and then we blah…blah…and then we you know and and the music that’s in there. I think the composer did a redo. So what so then the composer sent music and then we gave notes on the music that he sent so he redid it before it even went to Netflix. Which is just you know luckily we had a composer who was so into providing us with score. Like wanted Netflix to hear it with his score which you don’t always have because the most frustrating thing is to continually replace temp that is never gonna be it’s never gonna be what what’s going to air. So and then it was great because then we had notes and he adjusted his score and then they probably had notes but I think it was a lot… it was by the time it went to Netflix it was pretty much what it is right there, I think.

 

Kirk Hay

I like getting tracks back from the composer for first track and you look at it in the end this is version 13, you’re like “version 13?” This is the first time we’ve heard this! So you know they’re on their end, doing the same thing. We did that this year to the composer tweaked some score or some source music that we had.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah. We also like to use a lot of source in this show. But then sometimes we like to transition our score to our source. So it’s so hard if you don’t have something that’s in the right key or with the right vibe and so then we would just ask our composer to give us something and it really really helped. Really helps. And you know it’s that old thing like “everybody’s a filmmaker. Don’t worry about it if it’s rough.” But no… people can not respond to the show if it isn’t completely scored and sound effected and V effected and sometimes even color timed. I mean we do some stuff in Avid but I mean sometimes we’d even have to get something a shot sent out if we thought it was too dark we’d have to to get it color corrected and cut it back in just to avoid having your broadcaster and your executives tune out of the show. You want them to see everything and hear everything. I have another clip that I just wanted to contrast with that. It’s a little comedy, kids show comedy, and mainly because man, cutting comedy’s the best. It’s so fun. When we worked on the multi cam sitcom we were laughing every day. Oh and sometimes we were like really really belly laughing. So we worked together and I was the editor for five seasons… Well three Mr. Young and three Some Assembly Required… six seasons of multi camera which was four cameras simultaneously. The idea of multi cam which is the basis of all sitcoms from our childhood, and which was credited with Desi Arnaz developing it for the Lucy show. I’m not sure if that’s really how it started. I think people were doing more than one camera but… is that when they shoot the sitcoms in Los Angeles, the idea is is that you set up the cameras so that you don’t have to do very many takes. So you’re trying to get a pass of four cameras that are all cutable. And if everything’s working you don’t even… you do a safety take but you don’t really need more than two takes. And they were shot in front of a live audience. What that meant was they did one day of pre shooting of sequences that might might be difficult to do in front of an audience because it would require a cut to make the comedy work, or there’d be a gag that would that would have to be cut around in Hollywood they would they would pre shoot for two or three days and then shoot in front of the audience. On these kids shows we would shoot like more than half the show on one day and then the next day we would shoot a half a day for a little bit more and then we would have an audience come in and we would shoot like probably a third of the show in front of the audience so we would pre shoot two thirds and we would shoot a third of the show in front of the audience and it was such a cool experience because I started to get called down to set which is a place that we just don’t really get called to. And the thing is our offices were upstairs in this building and they were shooting downstairs and the thing about a sitcom or a multi cam experience is that you don’t go outside. Everything’s in a studio right and they start calling me down to set and asking me like if the cameras were gonna cut and I’ll never forget like the first time I got called down to set and I looked over at this monitor that’s a quad split monitor and my eyes just flicked around and I said to the director who had worked with before, “I don’t think this is going to work.” I think we better if I had that and all of a sudden they’re they’re signaling OK they’re on the radio to the cameraman to change the shot. It was just like “Holy crap I hope this works” you know? But like I don’t even know where that came from. And so then there I was going up and down the stairs like on a regular basis which was super fun and then I would attend the live shows and do the same thing, like watch the cameras. And there was just this energy of… there’s people in the audience and then there’s these kids who are into the fact that there’s people in the audience. And we had adults as well… and and everybody’s game kind of comes up a bit when there’s an audience, and then they’re all the writers are down there and they’re checking off whether or not the jokes work and they’re huddling and rewriting the jokes and I’m just watching them shoot. And in my mind I know what… I know what I have to do on Monday when I have to come in and have the show ready. But like Kirk was saying… it was definitely grueling, and one of the hardest jobs I ever did but it was so fun because with the help of my assistants of which I had Warren, Dione, Kirk, Jon who would help me with the assembling because we would have to assemble all of the footage that was shot on the Thursday. We would have that material like within… I would have it within half an hour of it being… each scene being shot.

 

Kirk Hay

This show was also technically new to Vancouver. I don’t think anyone had ever done it where they recorded directly into the Avids. And when they yelled cut and the DIT downstairs pressed stop that MXF file was available. So as soon as they yelled cut it would be available but of course you waited till the scene was done and then you can organize it bring it upstairs. So there was a whole workflow issue that Daria was working through on the fly while she was learning multicam, while she had to cut Thursday’s footage, Friday morning’s footage, so, she’d cut til noon and then that was it. But you’d get footage til noon. And then the audience loaded in at 3:00 and they started at 4:00. So you had two thirds of a show to put together. Lots of slapstick comedy which meant resets to cut, remove, put stunt in, put the gag in, green screen… we had a VFX team that would do viz effects on the fly as well. Daria would pass it off to me I’d get it ready I’d send it down the hall they’d give it back, sound effected and all that stuff. So Daria is doing all that stuff. And then at the end of that, running downstairs and staying there till 10:00, 9:00 at night.

 

Daria Ellerman

It was fun. It was fun. So what we would do is we would play for the audience the scenes that we had assembled and then we would stop and they would perform a scene and that would be recorded for me to cut on Monday. Then we would play a bit more of the episode so the idea was that the audience saw the whole episode with these little breaks where a scene was performed live in front of them. It was something else but it was great because I had to rely on my assistants to to help me assemble. And then there was too many episodes for me to do because they start they would also do episodes without an audience some weeks. And so those then became the assistants’ episodes and then people got moved up to Editor and then we are hiring more assistants. So it was a really great experience for all of us and for me because it was just so different. You know like I was kind of like at a point in my career where I’d been just doing a lot a lot of episodic and it was like it would be nice to do something different and love to laugh. You know that was that was the main thing. So that was a really unique experience that I don’t know will ever happen again except the rumor at the Netflix mixer… is that Netflix is getting in the multi cam game. So who knows maybe they will do something here.

 

Kirk Hay

You get to learn to map your keyboard. Camera one two three.

 

Daria Ellerman

Exactly. Yep yep. And I mean it’s the form itself is the writers who write on it love it. The producers who produce it love it. It’s a thing like sure you know it’s kids and fart jokes and I mean I’ve got an eight year old boy inside me somewhere because I find all that stuff hilarious. And so the love of the forum also kind of infects you like you’re just like… you know it’s hugely collaborative that way. You know everybody is interested in everybody’s else’s opinion on how to make it better. So I hope it comes and I hope that you get the opportunity to work on something like that. We’re not going to show you anything from that because I… I didn’t even think about that but I did think it would be nice to contrast Virgin River with some comedy because we don’t get to do as much comedy here as I think any of us would like. Right. And I’ve done some single cam comedy as well and this clip I’ll show you in a bit is a single cam kids show right? And we do that here. And the main difference between the single cam comedy and the multi cam form is there’s no laugh track. So yes we did have a laugh track and we edited the laugh track. You guys edited the laugh track. And that was one thing where a lot of people who were quite cynical about it were like “Oh yeah. But it’s got a laugh track” but we didn’t have a lot of music, like the laughter was kind of our music. We had like stings a little stings in and out of scenes but it’s quite different that way. But I think that in terms of any comedy whether you have a laugh track or not you have to hold for laughs. You have to… in your head when you’re editing, I mean you have to be fast pace in your setups but you’ve got to let the the punchline land and you’ve got to give it a beat. And so when you’re editing with a laugh track it’s very easy to do because you’re putting a laugh under it. So people can’t jump it like I find sometimes in single camera comedy, sometimes the other actors don’t let the… like there’s a way to gracefully let a laugh land as a performer, as well so that it doesn’t feel like it’s staging.

 

Kirk Hay

Remember they would laugh on stage… that the video village crew would laugh. So the actors knew OK.

 

Daria Ellerman

Oh yeah. That’s the thing about multi cameras that anybody who is on the stage floor watching whether it’s a rehearsal or actual live shooting. You have to laugh. And so you develop your multi cam laugh where… because if you don’t laugh, no but the actors are like “whoa oh what’s wrong with it.” And sometimes you’re laughing at the same joke over and over and you do have to keep laughing.

 

Kirk Hay

Those poor live audiences would be like take 7 they’d be like what’s happening here?

 

Daria Ellerman

Oh yeah yeah yeah and we’d be down at the village going hahaha! You have to right? A little bit about comedy it’s all about timing: acting plus pacing. A lot of people say comedy lives in the wide shot, not necessarily. In sitcom, yeah. You know we did, we did have a lot of gags that were wide because they were visually were that. Single cam, not always but there’s just something about the looser angles in comedy with the body language and especially if you’re including lots of people in the gag you know it’s not… you tend not to use so many close ups. You tend to have fewer reactions and that’s not a hard and fast rule but the thing about comedy is it’s important to get the setup out so that the punchline lands and if you’re cutting away during a setup, there’s a possibility that people aren’t going to hear the setup. And of course sometimes part of the setup will include people’s reactions, if something is gross you might do it. But you would pace it in such a way that you’re very clear with your setup because if you’re not clear with you setup, you don’t have a punch line. So that’s why there tends to be definitely fewer reactions. And we used to… the way that they described it in multi cam is that we give the laugh to the person who has the punch line. So the person who has the punch line, we stayed on them and gave them the laugh. In single camera comedy, we might cut away to other characters as a way of creating that space for the people at home who are hopefully laughing. Not if they were watching police academy the one hour series which I worked on… and the other thing that is super cool and I wish we had this scene, Kirk, I wish we had this episode… is genre. So a lot of comedy and particularly kids comedy I’ve worked on adult comedy too but particularly kids comedy, they like to like turn genre on its side. So we had this amazing episode of Some Assembly Required that was Whiplash. It was fantastic. From the music to like the kind of music that we used and the way that we quick cut it. And it was just, it was hilarious, and it was hilarious because it was recognizably supposed to be the movie Whiplash. You know they quote some of the lines that you know they shot some low angles. They really went to town on it and it’s really… I find that happens a lot in kids comedy and it’s interesting because they kind of take a serious adult genre and they kid-ify it and that kind of makes it funny. So this little clip which is the second clip, we’ll look at that and then just chat little bit about it.

 

[Clip Plays]

[Clip Audio]

 

Daria Ellerman

That’s a cute episode because the girls end up busting the boys club. So they were like trying to work with the gangster genre. You know the panning camera and the quick cuts and the framing of the of the girls with it with him on the seat like he’s kind of trapped, and you know it’s paced up for the whole kind of interrogation… sort of the girls are the hard boiled detectives, the boy’s kind of like the dumb blonde so they’re kind of inverting that. The ladle is like you know and you have to know the series, the ladle is threatening the the boy’s hairdo. And it’s like when we watched it we just recently watched Uncut Gems and it was like the ladles the equivalent of Adam Sandler like being hung out the window like you know they’re trying to… and it’s… that’s I thought that was an example of how genre really influences comedy when you sort of turn it a little bit sideways. Yeah. And that’s really all I have to say about that. I just wanted to kind of have a nice little contrast to the other clip. I’ll just say something before we go into Q and A. So it was very kind of Erin to say earlier that she was grateful that I was mentoring her, Kirk and John, both on the sitcom were able to edit and were amazingly helpful to me, and I look around the room at people that have been, you know, working with me or in the same team as me and I just think it’s really important that we mentor everybody that we work with. You’re not gonna get ahead by keeping things to yourself and not sharing what you know and not sharing information and not collaborating and not being honest with your, you know, colleagues if they want you to look at something and lifting everybody up and supporting everybody, wanting everybody to succeed, being happy for your colleagues who have success even if they beat you out of a job you wanted. Way to go. That’s that’s my… I just I really realized that I had had some really amazing mentors in my life and I think early on I thought, it’s you know it’s really important to do that and to, and I can remember coming up as an assistant and talking about the jobs that were out there and do you know about this you know about that. And some people were like [mmm]. And I’d be like “oh OK” like you know if you were gonna beat me out for a job you’re gonna beat me out for a job just because… You know me, keeping that information from you doesn’t mean that you’re not going to find it out somewhere else. I just really I just feel like it’s really important to pay it forward and to, and to you know mentor within our communities and to support each other. And thank you all for coming to support me in this event.

 

Kirk Hay

Yeah, I’ll add do that. I mean in that crazy schedule of the multi cam world, you still found time to come and watch my cuts, give me notes. Be honest about it which is probably one of the most important things. Without just saying “oh that was terrible. Anyway good luck.” So that’s good. But also you know you mentor. I don’t know if you know even, but just through work ethic in the way you deal with one of the best things I try to learn from you is navigating the tricky waters of not editing, but politics that happened inside an edit suite. Daria is a master, she’ll be like “This is how you cut this,” and someone will walk in and be like “I don’t care about that.” Just the way she talks to people and she interacts with directors and producers, because I mean editing, putting together stuff getting the timing right is one thing and the whole second part it’s a totally different part of it is… is time management, finishing the cut. Listening to a song 78 times and still going “yeah. OK” so so you know just being around and listening to that and learning that due diligence is such a huge part of editorial. Watching you cut that first scene of that first season every single way you could cut it. Daria did it. Every aspect… even if you said well what about this. Nope doesn’t work. So when somebody came in and you always had an answer for them. So that was… I always thought that that was very important and instilled in me that oh that’s what you got to do. Yeah sit down you got to make sure that all your angles are covered and you have to be able to tell, especially on Virgin River where the show runner is the writer and the creator. You better know exactly what it is and why you did it that way.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah well I think because I had a unique situation in my life where my husband and I decided that he would stay home with our child, meant that I had to work and because I had to work meant that I really needed to never burn a bridge. And that really fueled my work ethic and it… and I kind of never turned down anything. I basically finished a job and then said “Yes please” to the next one. And so I I feel like I was thrust into this situation where I really had to work but what it did do was that the stakes were high for me. So I had to conduct myself in a way that I could not be a prima donna. I could not say “oh no we don’t have that shot.” when we did, even though I didn’t want to use it you know I could not risk the possibility that I would get a reputation as somebody that would be difficult to work with and I think that did motivate my work ethic and it just became part of how I, how I attack everything that I do. And also I really do love the job. Like I love doing it and I think if you don’t love editing you should not be in a little edit suite for all those hours a day.

 

Kirk Hay

Producers Cut 27.

 

Daria Ellerman

Yeah you know.

 

Kirk Hay

Yeah if you can find yourself a Daria stick to them, because those things pop up that they don’t teach you that you know you can’t go on YouTube and be like only see… white flashbacks….

 

Daria Ellerman

Oh well you know what I feel bad about how technology affected the assistants’ time so that… people don’t really have a lot of time to come and sit in your room. When I started out like you know there was time in my day and I would ask my editors if I could sit in the back and I would just physically watch them handle dailies because that’s kind of the first thing that you need to… that’s the advice that I gave you was like Do not stop. Like if you are hung up just keep going because otherwise it’ll be five o’clock and you’ve got four more scenes to do and you’ve still been like wanking over one cut and I learned that from watching other editors kind of just how they managed dailies because you really have to get those dailies done every day in scripted right and, I mean you know unscripted has a different workflow but you really have to get it done. You can’t save anything for the next day because there’s a whole lot more coming in. And then you also need to see if there’s problems. So you do need to to deal with it. But yeah. Soldier through!

 

Audience Question

It seems like I mean you’ve been working for a very long time. You’ve got quite a breadth of kind of different genres different styles of shows. Did you ever find yourself at a point being, not necessarily typecast, but having difficulty finding or getting work in different genres you wanted to move to?

 

Daria Ellerman

I got hired on Samurai Girl the pilot and I was in the parking lot at Lionsgate like an hour before my interview and I watched four boy editors go in and out and then I went in and then I got the job and I couldn’t believe it because it was an action-heavy thing and I don’t really know how that happened. And I actually asked the producer later who was actually the amazing Frank Spotnitz and I’m like “Why did you guys choose me like I saw these guys” and they’re like “You know what you just seem nice.” And that was just like “what?” Like that you know if you work so hard to like think… I was worried about that at that point and then I got that show and I thought “oh I get it like really it has a lot to do with how you vibe with the with the show runners, with the people that you’re gonna be working with right.” I do think that maybe Post Supers do a little typecasting because I do a lot of drama. I’ve done a lot of drama. I love drama. I look at my PVR and I’m like you know I look at what I watch and I realize like you know I can do that, and I can do that very well. And I think I used to do a lot of sci fi because that’s all we had. And now I don’t really hear from the sci fi Post Supers and Post Producers and I don’t know if that’s typecasting because there’s also a lot of people have their people you know we’ve been rolling with Sally on and off for like a while and you do… what happens is that you roll with the same Post Producer or Super and then you get into a schedule where you’re not available when other things start up. So the other thing I did was I did get an agent finally. And the reason I did that is because I thought that she might be able to open up some possibilities for me with with post producers or supers that I hadn’t worked with more recently or may be but I still find for anybody who’s thinking about getting an agent, 90 percent of the work I get the phone call first. And I phone her right. That’s just that’s just how it goes. Especially once you’ve accumulated something of a career you know it’s like “oh hi.” Eight years later like it’s like “Oh great. You do remember me” you know. Yes. So you get you do get the repeat business but those show runners tend to do the same kinds of shows. So when I did do that that year I also happened to, the following year decide to do Meditation Park because I really really wanted to do a feature. It was an insulting amount of money. Like it just is a Telefilm micro budget and not all of us can afford to work for you know a very low weekly for several months. But I felt like I was in a position OK I can do this now. So I think in a way I’m able to make that versatility happen a bit more for me because I’m on one side of me I’m saying no to work that doesn’t meet what I think is a decent rate because I feel like there’s too much of that going on. For the right project, I would be a little bit more flexible about my rate and that that’s why I did that movie and it was great. It was great to do a movie. It was great to see it on the big screen at VIFF, you know like that was super cool for sure but it was hard work and not very well paid.

 

Audience Question

Can you give us a rundown of when you open up a bin for the first time. Do you start a scene from the top of the scene or do you kind of find your way through…

 

Daria Ellerman

Sure I glance at the script to refresh myself. Like what’s the scene about. Sometimes when I’m being very diligent I’ll flip to my facing pages and see if the director has any favorite takes. And then if they do sometimes I’ll put a little star beside the group. So what I do is I have a bin, I just want the groups. And even before multi cam I worked that way, but since multi cam it’s like I don’t want… if I don’t have to look at single takes, I’m very comfortable watching two, three, four, six cameras at the same time. And also I’m very conscious of my keystrokes so I’m you know I don’t really want to use the mouse, the track ball any more than I have to. So I kind of then maybe star the takes it the director wants but I don’t want to be too influenced by that because I’m amazed at how many times a director will say “make sure you tell the editor. I love this take.” Then they come in they’re like oh I should use that take. So it’s like you know I’ve just sort of over the years realized like I should do what I want. So what I’ll do is then I’ll look at the tiles based on the lined script. So even though my bin is going to be in alphanumeric order. If I look and I see that there’s an L slate that’s just lined for a little bit that clearly is an opening shot or whatever. I’m gonna look at that first I’m going to see what it is. I’m going to maybe pick a piece and then I’m going to just work my way across the lined script and I go beat by beat. So I go methodically beat by beat through every tile that pertains to that. And then as I get into the dialogue I will start looking at each group and I’ll always be auditioning for the first line but I’ll usually listen, I might listen three lines in and take what I like. And then I’ll go to the other side do the same thing, take what I like and then start covering up you know what other… maybe if I’ve left two lines from another take but I find something else I like. I just start roughly building in sections then I go back and I start crafting the opening because by the time I’ve… you know typically a script is going to like, have a description and then it’s going to have some dialogue. So I’ll go like a third of the page or so and I’ll sort of craft a bit of an opening and I’ll start working on the dialogue and at the same time I’m looking at reactions. I’m maybe not putting reactions in yet, I’ll build all the dialogue and all the action and I will go to the end of the scene in these sections. So when I go back to revise the section I’m not really fine cutting at that point I’m just saying yeah I like that performance I like that and I’m noting to myself a reaction that I maybe want to layer in. Sometimes I will layer reactions in, and I use… when I’m building I use a video track above the dialogue and I layer in some reactions but I keep the little viewing monitor on V1 but I might layer reactions on V2 to remind myself like I kind of like this reaction, it might work here and I then just continue to build the scene in these chunks all the way to the end. And depending on where I am and in the episode or the movie… and I always work within the cuts… I don’t build scenes in isolation and put them in a bin and then string them together later. I always work within one cut and if there’s something if I have the A side of the scene I lay it right in and I look at my A-B side and I might go “oh man that’s a cool opening shot but I ended that with the…hmm… what am I going to do there might have to go back… Look at how I’m ending the other scene, work on the opening” and then I’ll get into the dialogue, and I do a pass where I just splice and listen and fine cut go to the next, listen and fine cut, next cut listen and fine cut. Sometimes I might overlap in there if I’ve got my reactions then I’ll go back again and I’ll look at what I’ve built, and I’ll think about reactions I’ll look to see if I’ve laid any reactions on video 2 and then I’ll think about whether I’m going to use them or not. And then I go back and I back up into the preceding scene if I have it, and I play through and if I’m happy I move on. And then the next day I will revise that scene. And typically you know there’s some scenes where… you just know like “I don’t like this at all but I’m moving on” because I have like five other scenes to cut and I might do like quite a big recut the next day or I might not. I might just do… I usually end up tightening a bit more and I might look at it third time and that’s it. So how I revise is that as I’m building the bigger piece I skip over the chunks that I’ve looked at two or three times, because I don’t want to saturate myself. It’s not till the last day of shooting is in that I really will watch the whole episode down unless we’re… sometimes when you’re block shooting you might end up having one episode ready earlier than another and if I’m only missing a scene or two I might start revising that episode after I’m finished cutting my dailies for the day, I might start revising that as an episode but… so my process is I cut all the scenes that are new that day. Then I go back and look at what I did yesterday and then I might start adding music at that point to the stuff that I cut the day before and the other thing that I do is I drop locators as a build, for all the sound that I want my assistant to do. And sometimes I’ll even drop a locator for music especially if it’s something genre that is sort of maybe out of character for our episode so that it won’t be… in the case of Virgin River we have a library of composer cues but, on a new show you might have a temp track that you’re using for the feel of the show but then all of a sudden we have a suspense scene, it’s out of character and I might ask my assistant “see what you can do with this. Give me some underscore here” or whatever and any VFX that needs to be done I’ll drop a locator there for my assistant and I feel like it’s really important for my assistants to work through my cut because I feel like it’s a good way to edit without having to edit and also, you know the assistants begin to absorb like how important sound is and sometimes I see how they are trying to like squeeze a excellent sound into where I haven’t left enough room. Then I’m like oh and then I just like kind of open up my cut to make room for that beautiful explosion shot or whatever because I don’t want them to adjust my cut but I I can sort of see how it’s been cut off or it’s got like some a little fade out on it. I’m like oh “I didn’t leave enough room there for that! That nice reverb out!”

Audience Question

Do you still use ScriptSync?

Daria Ellerman

No but I would at the drop of a hat. If they do multi cam here they have to do that.

Kirk Hay

Once you get the taste of that ScriptSync. Thank you Daria very much.

Sarah Taylor

Thanks for joining us today, and a big thank you to Daria and Kirk. Special thanks goes to Trevor Mirosh, Greg Ng, Jane MacRae, and Finale.  The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in a way they can.  

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

Outtro

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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Credits

A special thanks goes to

Trevor Mirosh

Greg Ng

Jane MacRae

Finalé

Hosted, Produced and Edited by

Sarah Taylor

Recorded by

Mychaylo Prystup

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Original Music by

Chad Blain

Categories
The Editors Cut

Episode 032: No Script? No Problem!

Episode 32: No Script? No problem!

Episode 32: No Script? No Problem!

This episode is Part I of a IV Part Series covering EditCon 2020 that took place on Saturday February 1st, 2020 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. 

Panelist from EditCon 2020

Massive hours of footage, tight deadlines, and no script? No problem!

Elianna Borsa, Jenypher Fisher, CCE, Baun Mah and Ian Sit from hit the shows Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Yukon Gold, and In The Making share how they get to the finish line. Featuring clips from these and other top-rated and award-winning reality and factual programs, this discussion breaks down the process of cutting unscripted programming, both creatively and technically.

This panel was moderated by Jonathan Dowler. If you would like a transcript of this episode it can be downloaded here.What do you want to hear on The Editors Cut! Please send along any topics you would like us to cover or editors you would love to hear from!

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The Editor’s Cut – Episode 032 – “No Script, No Problem” (EditCon 2020 Series)

 

Sarah Taylor:

This episode was generously sponsored by Blackmagic Design. Hello and welcome to The Editor’s Cut. I’m your host, Sarah Taylor. Today, I bring you part one of our four-part series covering EditCon 2020 that took place on Saturday, February 1st, 2020, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. 

Massive hours of footage, tight deadlines, and no script? No problem. Editors from hit shows including Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Yukon Gold, and In the Making show how they got to the finish line. Featuring clips from these and other top-rated and award-winning reality and factual programs, this discussion breaks down the process of cutting unscripted programming both creatively and technically.

 

[show open]

 

Simone Smith:

Good morning, everyone. So we’re going to jump right in this morning with an inside scoop into the people who mine hours of footage to find the gems.

Simone Smith:

With experience in unscripted shows of all types, the Amazing Race Canada and Big Brother Canada to the nature of things and artist profiles in In the Making, our moderator is industry veteran Jonathan Dowler. Jonathan’s credits include Big Brother, So You Think You Can Dance, Master Chef, and the Amazing Race Canada. He is a 12 time CSA and 15 time CCE nominated editor, and has won five consecutive CSAs and four CCE awards.

Simone Smith:

Blackmagic Design are pleased to welcome editors Jonathan Dowler, Baun Mah, Elianna Borsa, Jenypher Fisher, and Ian Sit.

Jonathan Dowler:

We’re going to just dive right in. Unscripted is covering everything, from reality competition shows to factual entertainment, which could be hewed slightly from, I guess, docu-dramas or series docs and goes straight into unscripted. So you can have everything.

Jonathan Dowler:

Just to give you a little background, in this boom of TV that’s called the Golden Age, but shouldn’t be forgotten amongst all the scripted programs that unscripted is having banner years one after the other. And it’s proliferating the industry. Just in an outdated industry report, $300 million in the Canadian economy has come from unscripted programming, from formatted shows, and it is getting rave reviews. Amazing Race Canada is one of the highest rated shows in Canada every season, and many people tune in to see everything from house guests to chefs to artists to dancers, singers.

Jonathan Dowler:

So we’re here to talk about some of the experts and their experiences, because the challenges of this genre are incredible. You are given so much footage. What you don’t have in a script you have in footage that will help you forge the story, and arguably one could say that the story, more than any other format, is forged in the editing suites.

Jonathan Dowler:

So here we are. We’re going to talk about tips and tricks.

Jonathan Dowler:

First off, the majority of students coming out of colleges or universities, film schools, might get their start in unscripted. That being said, I just want to go down the line, and just see just a very quick intro of how you guys got into editing and to your first jobs in the industry.

Jonathan Dowler:

So, Jennifer, why don’t we start with you? Start down the line.

Jenypher Fisher:

Sure. Oh, it works. Great. That’s fantastic. If we’re a little nervous, I think it’s understandable. We usually hide in rooms. We don’t come outside rooms. We don’t speak in public, except if we blow up. We go back and hide again. So forgive us, at least me, because I’m nervous.

Jenypher Fisher:

I’m from Vancouver. I went to BCIT, which is a technical institute, because I couldn’t afford to go to film school. It was a lot of money. Technically, I got trained in news editing, which I had zero interest in doing, but it was a good way to get into the industry. I had, honestly, it was a two year program. Year one, it was tape-to-tape editing, because I’m kind of old. And I had no interest in that. Like, zero. I was like, this is great, it’s fine, but nothing.

Jenypher Fisher:

Second year of BCIT, the Avid showed up, and I went, ah, that. That is the way that I … Suddenly, it seemed like a thing I wanted to do, and no one knew how to use it, so I trained myself on it. Then I trained the teachers, then I trained my other students, then I trained the first-years, and then I went and got a job. And that’s pretty much how I got into editing.

Jenypher Fisher:

And, actually, the other thing is I remember right after the Avid came, I decided I knew I was going to be a shooter or an editor. One of these two things was going to happen, and I decided that shooting was a little too stressful, because you could really fuck it up. You could really, really screw people by not getting the right shots, by tinting it blue, by whatever. And editors could just save things, which is not true. We can screw it up, but seemed to me at the time to be completely true, and that’s why I chose editing because I have a need to fix things.

Elianna Borsa:

When I was a PA on set, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, and I just asked a lady for some advice, and she said get into either pre-production or post-production because they’re the longest contracts. And I didn’t like paperwork, so I’m like, okay, I’m going to try post-production. And I did like editing in school, and from an internship, went into the post-production department, and I was working as an assistant. And then I kind of just put myself out there to edit some webisodes and just some stuff that the network would see. And then from there, it’s just I had a really awesome post producer. She was great, and she was very willing to help assistants. That’s Angie Pajek. So she was like, “Let her do more things. Let her do more things.” And then from there, I quickly became … I’m a junior editor on the Cold Water Cowboys, and then about two months later was editing, and it’s kind of just gone from there.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. I started out doing the typical Asian son thing and trying to become a doctor. In third year, I realized I was going to fail at that, so I started taking some arts courses because I’ve always been interested in photography, visual arts. And then I took a film course in my fourth year, and that sort of sparked it, the beginning of my love for film. And then so once I graduated, I had the choice of either becoming a lab assistant or doing research for the rest of my life, or try again and have a hand in film.

Baun Mah:

So I applied at Ryerson. I got into the Ryerson Image Arts program. I did four years there. Ended up loving it, and, yeah, I also did a little bit of camerawork. Super stressful. This body is not made to stand for like 10 hours, so I gravitated towards the chair, which went into editing.

Jenypher Fisher:

Sitting is good.

Baun Mah:

Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

Standing is better.

Baun Mah:

And then from there, after I graduated, I did sort of smaller jobs here and there. I … not really assisted, but I was like a web content editor for a Discovery series called Diamond Road, which was a really great series. One of Jennifer’s coworkers, Andy Bailey, actually trained me how to use Final Cut, because I was an Adobe Premier guy.

Baun Mah:

And then from there, I just kind of sort of dabbled in documentary, smaller documentaries for local channels. And then my big break was getting the editing job for the Gemini Awards, which is now known as the Canadian Screen Awards. And from there, I’d met some producers who got me in touch with Insight, and they happen to do a lot of the bigger reality shows here in Canada. And it’s been nine years from that.

Ian Sit:

I also didn’t go to film school. It was a sort of Asian son thing as well. I studied economics, and I got a degree in commerce at U of T. But then I had no intention on becoming an economist ever. I always knew that I wanted to try something in film, so after that, I taught myself how to edit. At the time, it was Final Cut Pro 7. That was the easiest software to get your hands on.

Ian Sit:

Then a couple of years of just doing anything, saying yes to everything. Not getting paid for any of these jobs until one day on Facebook someone posted a job posting for an assistant editor job for a travel food show, and it seemed very urgent. And I just so happened to be the first guy, because you can see the time thing. It’s like two minutes posting. So I immediately replied, and it was urgent. By the end of the day, I was at Technicolor doing assisting editing work for this travel food show.

Ian Sit:

And then from there, I guess I made a good impression, got recommended for more jobs, and then just grinded it out for several years before I became a full editor.

Jonathan Dowler:

All right. Now we’re all here in the landscape of unscripted, and I think we had a discussion when we first met up, and it was “no script, no problem.” And, Ian, what did you have to say about “no script, no problem?”

Ian Sit:

I said you should change it to “no script, a lot a lot of problems.” Super many problems.

Jonathan Dowler:

Yeah and it’s just … Problem solvers. That’s what we are in unscripted, because when you say “unscripted,” does that mean that there’s no plan, and where we figure into it? So I guess the question would be what is your average workflow for someone who might know what unscripted, how that flow works? We’ll just talk about factual elements. And I want to talk about factual entertainment. You can think of reality competitions as whenever someone’s singing to win, on a race to win, trying to win in a household competition. But when we talk factual, it could be something that’s more storyline based such as Cold Water Cowboys, the Deadliest Catch, all the way down to, if you’re going to the other end of the spectrum, which is the Kardashians or other ones which are long form stories that take place over the course of a season.

Jonathan Dowler:

So let’s talk about unscripted factual, and basically Jennifer and Ian, give us … Why don’t we say, Jennifer, you’ve worked on Jade Fever.

Jenypher Fisher:

Yeah.

Jonathan Dowler:

Let’s just talk about perfect scenario and then we’ll talk about what actually happens, but in terms of no script, what do you get in the form of story in terms of footage? What do you get?

Jenypher Fisher:

What do I get? For Jade Fever, current is a half an hour show. It’s about Jade, a lovely green rock that people apparently want. I don’t understand, but that’s fine. We have two writers on the show. We have a showrunner and a writer, and that’s it. And we have two finishing editors. I’m one of them, but I also do my own rough cuts, and I think we’ve had three other editors.

Jenypher Fisher:

Generally, the workflow is the editor who is doing the rough cut … We call it the internal rough cut. It gets four weeks. You get a string-out from a writer. Now, a string-out could be anything from 40 minutes. Keep in mind, that’s a 22 minute show. 40 minutes of general thoughts, “Here’s what I think is going to happen.” It could be great. It could be crap. It doesn’t really matter. Either way, you’ve got to deliver a show at the end. Jade Fever is actually pretty good. It’s well thought out.

Jenypher Fisher:

My last string-out was two hours long for a 22 minute show, so that was a lot. I still have the same 10 days to get it to basically an assembly. So I take 10 days, which generally comes out to I have to conquer two scenes a day every day. At the end of 10 days, I have a general assembly. It’s not great, but it generally shows the picture of what the show will be. At that point, we all sit down. That’s me, the writer, and the showrunner, and maybe the in-house executive, and we basically look at it and go, okay, this works, that doesn’t work. Fix that.

Jenypher Fisher:

Then you’ve got two more weeks with the writer. Oh, I forgot to mention. The first two weeks, it’s just me. There’s no writer. It’s I’m in charge of everything. I’m in charge of the VO, which I write badly, but it’s there. I’m in charge of basically crafting the entire thing. Second two weeks, I actually get a writer. We hammer it out. We try to make it look good. We put music on it, and then it goes to a finishing editor, which is also me in this case, and because I’m the assembly editor, they give me one week instead of two because my assembly is supposed to be better than everyone else’s. It’s not fair, but that’s fine.

Jenypher Fisher:

So four weeks to an internal rough cut. One week or two weeks to broadcaster rough cut, which is a very lax schedule and it’s really awesome, but basically we have almost zero notes. We have no fine cut, and we have no lock. So it all works out in the end.

Jonathan Dowler:

She’s downplayed it, but I have to say these are some facts that Jen was actually able to give me. To give you an idea of the shoot and the quantity of footage that two hour comes from, it’s 95 days of the shoot for the season over four months, and there’s eight hours per day times two cameras, so roughly 16 hours a day of footage. Then that equals about 96 hours of the main cameras for the season. GoPro gets roughly around three hours a day. Drone footage to capture the vistas and make it a little cinematic is four hours per episode. Yeah, so basically over 14 episodes, you could be looking up to 1800 hours of footage to deal with. And so the way you approach story and the way this workflow is supposed to work, you have to be really on your game.

Jenypher Fisher:

That’s not including, by the way, we have the footage from all four of the … We’re in season six. We have footage from all five of the other seasons. That’s all open game. If you need cover, you have to go look in post seasons, so that’s another 1800, and another 1800, and another 1800.

Jonathan Dowler:

All parts of the buffalo. I think that’s absolutely incredible.

Jonathan Dowler:

Ian, what would you say in terms of your average workflow on a show, like either Forever Young, which we’ll see a clip for later, or In the Making?

Ian Sit:

Those two actually differ quite a bit. I’ll talk about In the Making.

Ian Sit:

In the Making was very much a director-driven series, and so the producers had the mind to give the director as much flexibility as far as workflow, and they were far less streamlined. So it was usually a direct relationship between the director and the editor and one other assistant editor. There was one story producer that sometimes gave us notes and time codes, but a lot of the times, it was just a paper edit or a direct conversation with the director before we tackled the footage.

Ian Sit:

Similar, it was a half an hour show. We had four weeks to do an internal rough cut. I don’t think any of the episodes stuck to that schedule. It went way beyond because it was a lot more trial and error with this show that we, in fact, cut many versions of a lot of these episodes, which at the very end of it, because there was so many chefs in the kitchen, they couldn’t quite decide on what they wanted. We had to go back to ground zero. So it was not an easy show to do, but I think ultimately all that hard work showed up on screen, and I’m proud of that.

Ian Sit:

With Forever Young, which is a one hour doc, for that one, it was a lot more of a “Here you go. Here is a bunch of footage. Try out whatever you can, and then I’m going to continue shooting …” This is the director speaking to me. “And then we’ll come back, and then we’ll see what you’ve done, and then keep shaping it from there.” It was a very, very organic process. So that’s basically how you get into it. It wasn’t really structured is what I’m trying to say, but because the director is so competent and efficient with the way he works, he knows exactly what he wanted, which is such an asset when you’re working with someone, that it turned out to be quite an easy, not a very stressful edit.

Jonathan Dowler:

Basically, it starts of, I guess, from production. You’re getting the idea from production or producers saying, “This is the rough idea of what we’re going to go for,” and then you get a string-out, be it handed down from the director or from the story editor. They’ll hand it off to you, and that’s your starting point. But you both seem to be left alone to experiment and find the story.

Jenypher Fisher:

I call the string-out an opening theory. That’s exactly what it is. Some theories are better than others. Some are not a good thing at all. What you’re given to begin with is probably not what you will end up with, anywhere close to it. It’s just here’s an opening thought, then we all as a team tackle it.

Jonathan Dowler:

Tackle it. Well, then let’s go over to reality competition, because at least in terms of reality competition shows can be built around competition. Baun, if you can just give me an outline, how is the story process streamlined in a competition show like Amazing Race or Top Chef in terms of how is the story handed off to the editors, and then your process there?

Baun Mah:

On the bigger shows, you end up working in teams. I don’t think I’ve ever done a large challenge show solo.

Baun Mah:

So what you do is you start off with usually there is a lead editor and then a team of editors with them, probably usually just two or three other editors. You get together with the story editor, who helps you facilitate all the story and what they feel like is the through line through the episode.

Jonathan Dowler:

So it’s like a meeting? Like they have a —

Baun Mah:

Yeah, yeah, it’s a meeting that you have, and depending on who you’re working with, sometimes what you get is a paper edit. Sometimes they actually have selects for you ready in Avid. The really good ones have somewhat of an assembly or at least markers so that it saves you time from sifting through all the footage, and you can just look through the markers bin. So it almost reads like an annotated notes kind of deal.

Baun Mah:

And then we split up the work between all the editors. For example, it’s different for every show, but for example, Amazing Race … For assembly, we have 13 days, so on day one is when we have this big story meeting, and we divvy up the work. Day five, we have an A-line screen, which is like our radio edit. So what we try to do in those first five days is go through all the footage that’s relevant to our sections. We go through all the sound bites to see what is relevant, and we try to make our story beat. So typically a story beat would be you try to land it somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds. Sometimes, if it’s a really good beat, it goes a little longer. But anything more than that, especially on a show that’s as fast paced as Amazing Race, it actually feels like it drags in the end.

Baun Mah:

So you try to break up your story beats that way, and then on day five, you screen it together, just so everyone gets a sense of where the story is, where the characters are, whether or not a beat is working. And there could be multiple beats that have … For example, a team could be struggling. It’s like where is the best example to show where this team is struggling? So that’s where you figure that all out.

Baun Mah:

And then you have another four or five days, so day nine or 10, you have the internal screening with the whole team, the story editor, and our post producer, where we then get notes from the post producer. And then on day 13, we screen with the showrunner, and then we get his notes.

Baun Mah:

And then we go into what’s called the screen cut. So we have four days to do the screening cut, which is then shown to the executive producers. We get notes from them, and then we finally get to the rough cut, which is five days, and that’s just with the lead editor. The other editors go on to do other episodes. You have five days to clean all of that up, and really a lot of the challenge comes from bringing it down to time, because some of the rough cuts can end up being, for a 44 minute show, the longer ones … I haven’t worked on a premiere, but I know the premieres, I have heard, have ended up being like an hour-10, and hour-15. I remember in Season Four, our Vietnam episode was an hour-25, so we really had to cut it down.

Jonathan Dowler:

In terms of races, to give you an idea, some people question … One of the questions, I don’t know if we’ve got some of them, is why are so many editors needed to tackle this, and it could be broken down quite simply by schedule, which you’ve just heard. But an example for Race, on our first episode or season premiere of Race, so it could be a longer episode or it comes down to right time, on average, 101 XD cam discs, which is seven per team, including interviews. So, yeah, you basically do 101 XD cams. Each one of those, about 70 minutes. You’d have 42 GoPro cards for various helmet setups. You would have car cams, and then you’d have a drive full of drone footage. And then 56 audio cards, which is almost every contestant is mic-ed. You have the on-camera stuff.

Jonathan Dowler:

And then I should say on the XD cam is also the mats, the various zone cameras, so if you are ever wondering why a certain number of names are on anything, it takes a lot of teamwork and a lot of effort to get to those schedules.

Jonathan Dowler:

And did you want to say, in terms of a rough cut, are you talking about some music, maybe some black gaps, or are we talking about-

Baun Mah:

No. Yeah, and this is more of a trend that I feel personally is not great that’s happening is we no longer have what is known as a traditional rough cut. Our rough cuts include sound effects, music, lower thirds, graphics …

Elianna Borsa:

It’s polished.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. It’s polished. It’s a polished cut.

Jenypher Fisher:

Color correct sometimes.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. Sometimes because you know you’re going to get feedback saying “This shot is too dark,” so if you have the time, you try to color correct a little bit. So that’s what our rough cut is. It’s basically a finished cut. Other than the length, it’s air-able. So it takes a lot for the rough cut, and especially with a show like Race, which is super, super fast-paced, if you look to the timeline, if you look at any Timeline Tuesday, if you look at the whole timeline of the episode, it’s basically all black because of all the cuts. You can’t even see where a cut begins and where it ends. And, yeah, we end up doing 16 to 18 tracks, and you have four or six of those are dedicated to sound effects. Once you watch a couple clips we have, you’ll see that there are a lot of sound effects.

Baun Mah:

And each music beat really only lasts as long as the beat itself, so it’s wall to wall music, but it’s 20 seconds of music, and then you have to find the next track. And one that fits the mood and the moment.

Baun Mah:

So, yeah, it is a lot of work to get to that rough cut. Yeah. So just to pick up, so then you get the rough cut, you get the network notes. It’s two more cuts for the fine cut, and then you have one day to picture lock. And then it’s like beginning of that day and then end of day that should be done.

Jonathan Dowler:

And that goes on all summer long.

Baun Mah:

How many days is that total? I didn’t even calculate that.

Ian Sit:

Sorry.

Baun Mah:

It’s your typical 25. I guess … Yeah, that’s around typical. 25, but it’s like the show is on steroids, so you feel like you could always use more time.

Jonathan Dowler:

And then just to give an idea, Elianna, one of your first gigs you were working on was Big Brother. Just give an idea, what would you say just in ballpark … Big Brother has about 64 cameras running 24/7, 50 microphones, and turnaround, Elianna? Can you just give us a rough thing on how you remember Big Brother, just a ballpark?

Elianna Borsa:

Well, Big Brother, obviously as you know, it’s like three days a week the show airs. So, for example, when we’re doing challenges, they will film the challenge, one of them, on a Thursday night, and by Sunday it’s on TV. So you have a very short amount of time, and it’s obviously a ton of footage. Sometimes the challenges can go up to three, four hours, really depending on if it’s endurance.

Elianna Borsa:

And then it’s really cutting it down, figuring out who we really need to concentrate on. For that kind of show, it’s like who is going to be nominated, and who the Head of Household is.

Jonathan Dowler:

The end of the story, where you’re heading to and stuff.

Elianna Borsa:

Yeah, and then cutting that all down.

Jonathan Dowler:

But, again, it’s teamwork stuff as well. It’s like you’re left alone in as much as your section of Race or Brother, but then you also have to work as a team, which is a different —

Elianna Borsa:

Right. It’s all very collaborative, and there’s a ton of editors. And mostly if you’re not working on challenges, you are taking scenes, and then sometimes you’ll work on a scene, and it doesn’t make it into the episode because something else just happened right now. And that’s more important than maybe a comedy scene. You can’t be precious about your scenes for sure. But, yeah, it’s like Big Brother is very collaborative and super fast paced.

Jonathan Dowler:

Why don’t we dive right into a scene, seeing as we just talked a bit about Race, because that seems to be digestible. And then we’re going to talk about some factual stuff. So, Baun, do you want to set up the scene that you have from Amazing Race, and the challenges? You’ve talked about some of them already, but just set up the scene from Amazing Race.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. So I chose a really seemingly simple scene, and in the larger scheme of the episode, it is a simpler scene. I don’t want to give too much because hopefully you guys get the story because that’s the whole point of the panel.

Baun Mah:

So, basically, so these teams, they’re coming from Indonesia. They’re landing in Toronto. They have to get to their next location for their next challenge.

[Clip Plays]

Speaker 8:

Go, go, go. Hold hands. Hold hands.

Speaker 9:

There they are. We’re free, [inaudible 00:23:10], we’re free. We’re at info.

Speaker 8:

Board the Chevrolet Equinox to where it was assembled in Canada.

Speaker 10:

The Chevrolet Equinox has been assembled at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, since 2004. Teams must now determine the location of CAMI Assembly, and drive themselves to the two million square foot facility, being careful not to confuse this plant with any other Chevrolet plants in southern Ontario.

Speaker 11:

How about these guys?

Speaker 12:

Hey, question for you.

Speaker 11:

We’re looking for the Chevrolet Equinox assembly line center.

Speaker 13:

Located at 300 Ingersoll Street.

Speaker 12:

Write that down. Ingersoll, Ontario.

Speaker 14:

Ingersoll.

Speaker 11:

And that’s CAMI Automotive?

Speaker 14:

Yeah. C-A-M-I.

Speaker 11:

Okay.

Speaker 12:

Let’s go. Let’s go.

Speaker 11:

Let’s rock and roll.

Speaker 12:

Yeah, Chevrolet Equinox is made in Ingersoll. Some of them are made in Oshawa. The Equinox is made in Ingersoll.

Speaker 11:

Okay.

Speaker 12:

I would not be surprised just how many end up in Oshawa.

Speaker 15:

We are headed to Oshawa to the GM plant. Head east towards Oshawa.

Speaker 16:

We just stopped for directions, and now we’re just heading out all the way to Oshawa.

Speaker 15:

Oshawa.

Speaker 16:

GM Oshawa Assembly.

Speaker 15:

Oh, another car is here. Oh, my God, two other cars are here. I am very confused as to where we are supposed to go. It says to where it was assembled in Canada, so maybe this isn’t where it was even assembled. Hmm. What are we thinking? I have a feeling this isn’t it.

Speaker 16:

I think you’re correct.

Speaker 15:

Do you guys have a phone we could borrow? Ingersoll. Ingersoll.

Speaker 16:

Ingersoll is another hour and 45 minutes past Toronto on the other side.

Speaker 15:

Oh. We have headed east. We now need to head west.

Speaker 16:

Ingersoll. Coming up, baby.

 

[end of Clip]

Baun Mah:

Okay, so I mean that is a relatively simple scene. It’s two minutes. I trimmed out the part where the teams that knew where they were going went to the right location, so that was maybe another 45 seconds. So altogether, this moment lasted two minutes and 45 seconds in the final cut. There were actually 30 hours of footage just for this. Because the teams did get lost, the camera is on all the time in the car, you’re looking for sound bites. Because as we were doing the radio edit, you’re looking for any relevant sound bites, any interesting sound bites, any interesting moments. So I hope it seems very clear here, but really it was like a huge mess from when they landed in the sense that everyone went looking for someone with a cell phone.

Baun Mah:

There were conversations that were really interesting because some of them did debate. They were like, “Where is it built? Oh, there are all these locations,” and usually you’d be like, oh, that’s really interesting because they’re trying to figure it out. Some people would go to gas stations, so we showed one of the gas stations, but really the teams that got lost and even some of the teams that went to the right location, they would stop off at gas stations, have conversations there.

Baun Mah:

The rough cut, when we showed the assembly cut, this was an 11 minute scene because the teams, when they arrived in Oshawa, they actually explored the plant and no one was there, and it was like actually really fun because they were like, “I feel like we’re going to get arrested. This doesn’t feel right.” It’s all good stuff, so we kept it in. And then with the cheerleaders, Leanne and Mar, in the previous two episodes, they were actually number one. They won both legs. So we cut out this whole section because they went to Oshawa. They ended up at a whole different part of the plant, and then things started getting tense, so they started getting a little more agitated with each other, and you could see that they weren’t really working as a cohesive unit. So there was conflict there, and it was interesting conflict because they were getting frustrated that they couldn’t find the location.

Baun Mah:

All of that very interesting, all of that that we had, but then it was too long. Once we did our radio edit and also I think we even went up to the internal screening with a post producer. There were more interesting moments, like at the very end of this episode the teams also got lost in Stratford not being able to find the final mat. And that was more interesting. That ended up being more interesting than these moments, so we had to come back to these, and revisit, and see what we could cut down.

Baun Mah:

So what we did anchor it on were what we considered two pivotal moments was when the teams who got it right … You heard the woman say there were two GM plants, one was in Oshawa, one was in Ingersoll. I can see how people could get lost going to Oshawa. And that was the key moment there. We decided, okay, we’re going to sum up this whole little moment in this one sound bite. That’s what sort of helped us clean up the rest of it because we just wanted that to be the message of this whole little travel beat.

Baun Mah:

And then the next moment is when they all end up at Timmy’s, but what happened is … So three of the teams did end up at Timmy’s, and they crowded around each other, and everything happened like it happened. But the cheerleaders actually didn’t go there. They went there, they saw that there was a crowd, and then they left again. And then we did have this whole moment where they went back to the plant, they talked to a security guard there, and the security guard actually told them that there’s another plant in Ingersoll, and that’s where it sparked.

Baun Mah:

But because the security guard and … People ask us sometimes why we cheat things in reality TV. In this case, it was very practical with the security guard. The security guard didn’t want to be on camera, so we didn’t have any vis of the moment, just audio. We didn’t have time to put those girls back at the Oshawa plant, so what we did was we just took the little bit of them entering the Timmy’s and exiting, and then just formed that moment. Made it just one big moment, and then that was the pivotal moment for the teams that lost realizing where they had to go.

Baun Mah:

And then so it ended up being from 11 minutes to 2:45.

Jonathan Dowler:

But you can also argue that essentially, talking about truth and fact is basically they figured out their mistake, and that is the truth-

Baun Mah:

Exactly, yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan Dowler:

But it’s just collapsing it so you can make it-

Baun Mah:

Really, really condensing it just so that we had distilled it down to the basics. And, like we said, Leanne and Mar had all this tension building up as a team, but later on in another challenge, there was also a greater moment of tension. So working with the story editor, I actually was really fortunate because my story editor was Seth Poulin, who was actually a lead editor on the show for three years, so he knows how this show goes. So we talked about it, and he was actually really great in helping whittle it all down. And his whole motto was you may have 10 great moments, but what’s the gold? So you have 10 great moments, but can it be distilled down to five great moments, and still keep everything that you want? And that’s the mentality that we go in with.

Jonathan Dowler:

And you say that the prime rule on Race, if you had to order the priorities when you approach a scene, would be clarity first?

Baun Mah:

It would be clarity first, so that’s why you string it out. And then it’d be trying to maintain that clarity while cutting it down to like one-fifth of what you had.

Elianna Borsa:

Yeah. As you say with that clip of that one girl in the car saying, “Well, I’m sure a lot of people will mess this up, and go to the wrong place,” it’s really making sure that every word, because it has to be cut down so much, that every word matters unless it’s comedy. So if something is in there that doesn’t matter, it’s not helping the story, then we don’t have time for it. And if you’re not listening when you’re watching that show, you might have to rewind because you’ve definitely missed something.

Baun Mah:

Totally.

Jonathan Dowler:

And would you say, in terms of you finding that, is that you going through the 30-odd hour so footage?

Baun Mah:

For the travel beats, usually, because there’s so much to do that the story editors that are helping us, they tend to focus on the challenges and the mats. Travel beats are usually left up to the editors. Sometimes, like when the story editor has time, they loop back around and help you clarify things. So Seth did loop back around. We talked about it. He went through some of the raw footage as well. But I feel like that’s a luxury. Usually it is up to the editor to condense these travel beats, and find what’s interesting in them.

Jenypher Fisher:

I have a question. When you do this, when you’re looking for something and you know you’re looking for something, how do you find it? Do you use the waveform to figure out where people speak?

Baun Mah:

Yes. That’s all we do.

Jenypher Fisher:

Or do you listen to things and fast-forward, or a combination of the two?

Baun Mah:

There’s a mix of both.

Jenypher Fisher:

These are great tips.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. Depending on your system. If your system can handle fast-forwarding, because we’re doing multi-cam, too, especially in challenges. But, yeah, on these travel beats, you could definitely … Because it’s a single camera on each team. So you can scrub through at one-and-a-half or two times speed. I usually look at the waveforms, so as soon as I see someone talking-

Jenypher Fisher:

Listen to that.

Baun Mah:

Yeah, I listen to that. And that’s why we do the radio edit because we barely pay attention to visuals. Like maybe you can make a mental note, or put a marker when you see something interesting, but usually when you’re doing your A-line edit, the radio edit, you’re literally just looking at waveforms, and sound bites, and trying to form your beat using that.

Elianna Borsa:

Yeah. And sometimes it might not exist in that travel beat, and like you said, there’s previous episodes and their footage, and you might just go in and grab them saying “There it is” from another episode.

Baun Mah:

Yeah, 100%. Even when Courtney was summing up the whole thing about how you go to Ingersoll or Oshawa, the camera wasn’t on her the whole time, so you saw that I cut away to her brother, and that shot was from way later in the footage just because the camera didn’t stay on her at that time.

Jonathan Dowler:

Well, I think we’re talking about using all parts, all things that you can find to tell the story appropriately. I think that throws really well to, I think, Jennifer’s scene, because I think, Jennifer, on a factual show like Jade Fever, you’ve got a different sort of challenge. You’ve got the shooting over the course of the season, so how do you approach a scene and build it out? Because there’s not so much a challenge to build around, so what is it built around?

Jenypher Fisher:

It’s always built around character. Character, character, character. Always character.

Jenypher Fisher:

My process, it’s always the same no matter what I’m working on. I could be working on a two hour doc doing a nature of things. Honestly, I’ve done Bachelor. I did the same thing on Bachelor. I’m specialized in men’s TV. I don’t know how that happened, but it did. My process is almost always the same. I have a super bad memory. I generally go to the writer and say, “Tell me the bullet points. Don’t go into detail. I won’t remember anything you tell me that happens in the back of the show. Just give me the least amount of information humanly possible.” Then I’ll watch the string-out. I will forget. This is a four act structure. I will forget acts two, three, and four. It’s not going to stay. But I will actually watch it.

Jenypher Fisher:

Then I actually am super linear about the whole thing. The way I do it is I watch the string-out for the scene that I’m currently working on. I fix the audio, because honestly, I could get audio that’s parsed down because someone actually knows how to use Avid, or I could get 16 tracks of I don’t know what this is. I have to find the mics of the people who are in the scene, not the ganged mics. The actual mics. They could be hidden because often I’m dealing with track two may actually have four mics on it, so I’m having to search through all that, find the mics.

Jenypher Fisher:

While I’m actually sorting the audio, because I’m kind of militant about audio, interview on one and two, background on … I’m super organized about it because if you’re not organized at the front, the back end is just going to be a mess. I’m also familiarizing myself with the footage. It doesn’t take that long, but you’re actually really getting the story. You’re starting to drink it in, and you get to understand while you’re doing that what the problems with the scene are.

Jenypher Fisher:

Then I always go talk to the writer. Even though I have 10 days all by myself, it doesn’t mean I don’t get up, walk to the writer, sit in front of them. It’s not something I do online. I need to see their eyes. I need to understand, and I say, “What is the story you are trying to tell?” Whether or not they actually told it, I want to know what they want to tell because that’s what I have to make.

Jenypher Fisher:

And then I literally just go for it, then very linearly start putting it together, keeping in mind most importantly who the show is for … Most importantly … The broadcaster and the audience. You always cut for those two things. I’m not making a soft documentary most of the time. I’m making men’s television, and I need to know that it’s for men between the ages of 16 to 34, and the broadcaster is History, and they want this. And that’s what I need to deliver. Because I only have 10 days.

Jonathan Dowler:

And so when you’re given a scene, why don’t we talk about the Jade Fever seen now? This is a series that is still ongoing. This is an earlier cut that you’re dealing with right now?

Jenypher Fisher:

This is actually a cut I’m currently working on. Actually, we just locked it on Thursday. So this is locked. Yay.

Jenypher Fisher:

So this cut is from a show I work on called Jade Fever. It’s in a place called Jade City up in BC. They mine for jade, which is technically giant pieces of rock. They don’t look like anything until you actually saw them in half. Then you see the green.

Jenypher Fisher:

The wonderful thing about this clip, and I’m going to set the clip up slightly, is … And a friend of mine said this the other day. Reality never works the way you want it to on TV, which is exactly what we’ve been talking about.

Jonathan Dowler:

It’s just the whole thing. Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

And this sequence is completely true and about 80% made up. Like I didn’t have so much stuff. I’m going to tell you the problems I had, then we’re going to watch.

Jenypher Fisher:

This is the end of a six year journey for them to sell jade. We’re in Season 6. They’ve never sold jade on their own. Never. Not once. This is the pinnacle, this is the moment. I had nothing. The buyer, it’s a Vietnamese buyer, he’s the only Vietnamese guy in there. You’ll know him. He showed up to buy a rock. It was still being cut, so technically it just looks like a rock. You can’t see green. There’s no green. It’s not cut. He agrees to buy it, and he does buy it two days later when they finish cutting it, and they’ve actually taken pictures of the jade and sent it to him in Vietnam because he’s leaving. He’s not going to be here tomorrow.

Jenypher Fisher:

This is a problem because it’s a show about jade. You want to see the jade. I watched the scene, and I’m like, “You can’t see the jade. This is a terrible thing. When is the jade cut?” “The next day.” “Is he there?” “No.” Okay. I’m going to try and marry these two days. That’s the problem because the buyer is gone, he’s left, he’s gone. It’s sunny the day he’s there. It’s raining, it’s cloudy, but that’s fine. I’ve done that before. We can figure this out. I don’t have a picture of the jade falling to the ground because no one was shooting that, unfortunately. Usually, we’re pretty good at that, but they didn’t get it, and there are only two people present. There are, I think, six to seven people. The day he bought the jade, there’s only two people.

Jenypher Fisher:

So at the front of the scene, you’ll notice there’s only two people, and it’s sunny. And as soon as the Vietnamese buyer goes up, the weather changes, but no one really notices. And then he buys.

Jenypher Fisher:

There’s many, many more problems. I’ll tell you about it after the clip.

 

[Clip Plays]

Speaker 17:

Going to be close.

Narrator:

Early evening at Two Mile …

Speaker 17:

It’s going to fall over.

Narrator:

The clock is ticking.

Speaker 17:

You start hearing it cut hard like that, it’s getting close.

Narrator:

The crew have just one more hour to try and sell a jade slab to their buyer, Mr. Long.

Speaker 19:

I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.

Speaker 17:

There. Now it’s done. It’s a big chunk of jade.

Speaker 19:

Beautiful grade.

Speaker 17:

Now, before he flies out, he can see it. I hope it’s good.

Narrator:

If Mr. Long likes what he sees, this sale could go a long way towards paying for their mining season.

Claudia:

This is it. Our last visit.

Speaker 19:

Yeah.

Claudia:

Ooh. We’ve worked so hard to get here. This could change everything.

Claudia:

Okay. Is that good?

Narrator:

Mr. Long has to make sure he can work around any fractures to carve this piece of jade into a five foot tall Buddha statue.

Claudia:

So, Long, are you still thinking about it?

Mr. Long:

[inaudible 00:39:04] is good.

Claudia:

Yeah? This one’s a deal? Like a handshake deal? Like a yes?

Mr. Long:

Yes.

Claudia:

100%? 100%? Okay. I think I just sold jade.

Josh:

That’s happy dance right there.

Speaker 19:

That’s the best.

Claudia:

This is what we mine for. This is our dream.

Speaker 19:

We got a job next year maybe. We got a job next year maybe.

Narrator:

Claudia has just landed a $250,000 jade sale.

Speaker 19:

Thank you, Long. Thank you, buddy.

Claudia:

This is exactly the moment that we’ve been waiting for. Took 10 years.

 

[end of Clip]

Jenypher Fisher:

So that’s an unfinished scene. That’s actually my voice. Yay. I love doing voice over. I used to suck at voice over. The first time I did a rough cut, the guy behind me, the executive, went, “Can’t you even try?” And I sat in my seat like this, going, “Oh, God, it’s an hour long show and this is Act One. We’re in trouble.” And so I endeavored to get at least better.

Jenypher Fisher:

So other problems I had. There’s only two people. There’s two guys in the sunny scene. I inserted the third guy, who is the younger kid who does the happy dance at the end. He’s the guy I love. He’s good at TV. He knows he should do stuff like that, and I will put it on TV. We call him a clip monster. He’s always one you look at. “What did Josh do? What did Josh say? He probably said something useful.”

Jenypher Fisher:

I inserted him into the footage from the 29th into the footage on the 30th, to actually try to marry the scene so that you would think Josh was there, and it wouldn’t be weird that he suddenly popped up with Mr. Long. Because he didn’t arrive on an ATV. Only the two of them arrived.

Jenypher Fisher:

There’s an actual wardrobe change that I don’t think anyone noticed. One guy goes from wearing a bright yellow thing to a dark thing, but it doesn’t matter because there’s a couple shots in the middle, and there’s time for him to have taken off his jacket.

Jenypher Fisher:

I couldn’t show the buyer, Mr. Long, with the jade because the jade was still being cut. It just looked like a rock, and he’s buying a finished thing. That’s a problem, so every cut away of jade is not the jade. It’s from some day at some point of some rock. While I’m picking jade, it has to be plausibly the rock he has bought. It can’t just be any rock. It has to be believable. So it kind of cuts down.

Jenypher Fisher:

The buyer, Mr. Long there, was not super clear about buying the jade. He kind of took a minute to go, “Eh, eh, eh.” It was not rewarding at all. The piece of jade you see him buying there isn’t the jade piece I want you to think he’s buying. It’s a second piece of jade he bought later in the day. That one was way more rewarding, so I faked it. So it’s completely true he bought the piece of jade. He bought a second piece of jade much clearer, so I took the footage from the second piece of jade, and made him buy the first piece of jade using that. Which was a problem because directly behind him is the piece of jade I want you to think he’s buying, and directly in front of him is the piece of jade I don’t want you to think about. So it’s a problem.

Jenypher Fisher:

And the entire thing is pretty much … Oh, and actually Claudia, they were pretty much all business. They did not smile a lot. So every smile you see in there is every smile I have. Like, all of them. It’s all wrapped around Josh doing the happy dance, which I was so happy to see. Because I’m like, oh, someone’s excited, and Josh wants to high-five people. It’s like, sweet, I’m going to split that into two, and I’m going to sparse it out just to make it seem happy.

Jenypher Fisher:

And every closeup you saw in that whole thing, both before and after the tension and the happy, was taken around a back of a pickup later in the day when they were discussing lunch. Because no one got closeups. But I needed to create tension, and then I needed to create happy. So you just do what you have to do. It took awhile, but completely true … Not at all true.

Jonathan Dowler:

My head is almost spinning out because you’re like “I don’t have this.” “Oh, yeah, the one thing you need? Yeah, we didn’t get that.” And then I guess there’s varying degrees of that because some camera will get all the shots. You got that perfect shot of the slab falling off, but then-

Jenypher Fisher:

After it fell.

Jonathan Dowler:

After it fell.

Jenypher Fisher:

Which is fine. I have to say, as an editor, for the first 10 years, I was super like, “Why didn’t the shooter get that?” And then I really sat down and started to think about what these guys are doing, and what these girls and guys are living with, and the cacophony of chaos that’s in front of them all the time. And I’m less harsh on them now because I’m like, I don’t want to go out there. I want to sit in my chair.

Jonathan Dowler:

A senior editor I once knew said, “I really want to become a cameraman because I think that it would be one of two things. If I go out to try and shoot something, it’ll be either easier than I’ve ever thought possible, and then I have a new job that I can do, or it’ll be the hardest thing ever in the world, and I’ll shut my mouth, and I’ll happily go back to editing.”

Jenypher Fisher:

It’s that one. It’s that one.

Jonathan Dowler:

And so, yeah, he never got to try it, but I think that was something that’s resounded with me.

Jonathan Dowler:

So were you pitched this scene of this is the scene, this is the big thing. You’ve got to make it work.

Jenypher Fisher:

Yeah.

Jonathan Dowler:

Or did you realize this is it?

Jenypher Fisher:

Pretty much.

Jenypher Fisher:

No, it wasn’t pitched to me as this is the scene. I just watched it and knew what that was, and then I went to the writer and went, “We can’t have a rock that you can’t see. How do we fix this?” I think I said, “When does the jade fall? Can we use that?” And they’re like, “Well, it’s supposed to be in the next episode.” I’m like, “It can’t be in the next episode. We need it. Go get it.”

Jonathan Dowler:

And then they’re like, well, that’s going to cause a problem in the next episode. You’re like, “I’m not editing that episode, so-“

Jenypher Fisher:

Yeah, I don’t care about that episode, nor am I finishing that episode, so I could give a rat’s ass.

Jenypher Fisher:

No, this was all pretty much me going “There’s a problem.” I’m pretty experienced. I’ve been doing this. It’s not my first rodeo. Me going, “No, there’s a problem. I think I know how to fix it. Just let me fix it,” and then doing a rough string-out, showing it to people and going, “Eh?” And then them going, “Keep going,” and that’s how. It’s just all initiative. It’s feel. It’s instinct. It’s what you know. You know what you have to do.

Ian Sit:

This thing that Jennifer’s talking about, not having enough footage to create a scene, I find that we’re often confronted with this. And it’s a strange paradox where it seems like you have hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage that you have to sort through, and yet not have the shot that you need to create a two minute scene.

Baun Mah:

Yeah, you’re always missing that key moment.

Ian Sit:

And so what I find that is strange but perhaps should happen a lot more often is just having a conversation or being able to talk to your DPs prior to … I don’t know how often you guys get a chance to talk to production, but telling them in order for us to get a scene, if you’re going to shoot a jade thing, please shoot it. Have a closeup. Or hold your shots for more than 10 seconds please so that I can cut to it, and–

Baun Mah:

I’d like five. Five seconds, please.

Baun Mah:

I’ve thought that way a lot, too.

Ian Sit:

Yeah.

Baun Mah:

And now, seeing what production goes through, I will say that, especially on these competition shows, they don’t know what the through line is. They’re just trying to get everything they feel is relevant. I would love them to hang on a shot a little longer.

Baun Mah:

Let’s say, for example, the Food Network show. We have 10 chefs, and only three cameras, and they have to capture everything. And, you’re right, we often miss those key moments that we need that end up being in the story, but at the same time, I can’t imagine how they could predict some of it. The jade seems like maybe they could predict that a little more.

Elianna Borsa:

Yeah, maybe.

Jenypher Fisher:

It’s going to fall.

Elianna Borsa:

I should say what’s great about this scene is, as we watch it, it doesn’t seem like it was something hard to cut, because it just seemed like it was there, right?

Jenypher Fisher:

Yeah. It’s right there.

Elianna Borsa:

So that’s the thing about reality TV oftentimes, especially on the Race, is I was told when something looks like it might have been easy to edit, you’ve just done a really good job of doing exactly what Jenypher did.

Jenypher Fisher:

I will say one of the things I do, and I probably get away with it because I’m older and people know me and they trust me … I’m not sure I would do this with someone that I was just starting to work with if they didn’t know me … Is I refuse to put music in till we’ve nailed the story. It’s a privilege I have because I know my boss, and I know my boss trusts me, but I absolutely will not music in. I’ll put sound effects in. I will absolutely smooth the audio. It’s going to sound great, but there will be no music. I can hear all the music in my head. I actually build for the music. I know the moments. All the pensive stuff, that was there before. I just refuse to put it in until we’ve nailed the story enough that I’m not going to have to re-edit the music over and over again.

Elianna Borsa:

You are very lucky.

Jenypher Fisher:

And that’s a privilege. I know.

Elianna Borsa:

That’s nice.

Jenypher Fisher:

I know. But it works really, really well because once you put the music in, you can mask a lot of stuff. You can fool a lot of people for a really long time, but then someone is going to go “This doesn’t make any sense, but it’s flashy.” And that’s when you’re really in trouble.

Jonathan Dowler:

Ian, how do you approach music then? Do you bring stuff into your clips? Do you bring the music in, or is it-

Ian Sit:

I have the exact same attitude as Jennifer. I try not to add music until I know the story is functioning, until you hit your A-B-Cs, I will not put music in. And then, strangely, we’re editors, so we’re very visual, but, honestly, you always work with the audio in terms of getting your pacing right. And sometimes I’m closing my eyes when I’m editing, which sounds strange, but you do it, too, right?

Jenypher Fisher:

I absolutely do it.

Ian Sit:

Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

I spend half the time with my eyes closed.

Ian Sit:

You close your eyes. You kind of find your selects. You put it all together, and then you just want to hear the rhythm of the speaking just to know that you have what you want in terms of how you want the scene paced out. And then you look at the visuals, and that’s when you realize you don’t have what you want, and you’re swearing all the time. You’re like, “Oh, damn it. Hold the shot a little bit longer.”

Ian Sit:

And then at the end, that’s when you put the music in, and you make your adjustments. So the pacing of the audio that you’ve constructed in terms of how you want the scene to play is what informs the music. You can use a music track to inform your editing, but I find that that tricks you into building moments that don’t actually exist in the footage that you have. So I try to reserve that process of adding the music until as long as I can before producers and director-

Jonathan Dowler:

Let’s just talk about building your storyline, the audio. When you close your eyes and you’re listening to stuff. When you’re talking, a lot of this is written by the interviews, by the on-the-fly, off-the-cuff interviews both in the situ and after the fact, like in the interview stuff. For example, in the Jade Fever scene, just at the end, she’s like, “This is the big deal. We’ve done this whole time.” Let’s talk about, because this is a frequent question for unscripted, you’re writing it through their interviews. Do you fake what they say or do you make them sound better? What would be your approach? We call it franken-editing. Franken-grabbing is a term.

Jenypher Fisher:

I hate that word.

Jonathan Dowler:

Yes. It is thrown about quite a bit, but a lot of people say, “Well, I didn’t quite say that,” but you’re writing it using their words. Let’s just talk about how you build up your A-line stuff.

Ian Sit:

You do it in terms of being ethical about it. I think you do exactly what Jennifer did with her scene, whereas like it all happened. This is what actually happened, but you don’t have the footage or the person saying exactly what they are trying to say, and so you cut it, and you do manipulate the arrangement of the words occasionally in order for them to actually say exactly what they wanted to say.

Jonathan Dowler:

Or to be more clear. In an example of Race, to be absolutely clear.

Ian Sit:

Exactly. You’re cutting out um’s and uh’s and pauses, but sometimes people speak circularly … You know what I’m trying to say.

Jenypher Fisher:

Circularily?

Jonathan Dowler:

If this were an interview, we would cut this part out.

Ian Sit:

I would be, yeah, cutting myself in such a way that would be far more coherent, and precisely what I’m trying to say.

Jonathan Dowler:

But exactly.

Ian Sit:

But you never, at least in my experience, I have a problem with creating a version of that person that did not exist in order for your to aid a story along.

Jonathan Dowler:

There are certain levels. Clarity and what happened, and speaking to that stuff, is what generally happened, or in the case of the Race would be like this happened, they got to this point, and how they got there, it’s too complicated to get into specifics about security guard, clearance, whatever, but you get to that point. And that is something like A-to-B that’s what happened. So, like you say, 100% true, but 90% constructed.

Elianna Borsa:

Unless you work on the Bachelor.

Jenypher Fisher:

All bets are off on the Bachelor.

Elianna Borsa:

Most of it’s true, but …

Jenypher Fisher:

“Yes, she really does love him.” That would be a bad franken-edit.

Jonathan Dowler:

I think it’s worth talking about, because Bachelor is certainly the black sheep that kind of comes up quite frequently, and there’s also a lot of discussion both online or whenever you’re dealing with unscripted or reality TV is I think in some ways when it comes to scripted, you have someone like an actor saying, “Thank you for the editor who was curating my performance along with the director in close …” Someone like Lupita Nyong’o would say, “Thank you to Joe Walker for editing me in 12 Years a Slave, because that’s my performance. It’s not me personally.” But we have characters or personalities that are cast in these reality sections, and they’re quite certain people. Certain people will certainly come up and will be quick to blame the editors. In this age, a lot of them are media savvy. Quick to blame the editors, saying, “I didn’t say it that way,” or “You made me say …”

Jonathan Dowler:

What would you have as an answer to that in terms of … We could talk about it more, but more of it just in general when they say, “I never said that,” or “I never did this.” What has been your experience with that?

Jenypher Fisher:

I, personally, don’t make people say things they would never say, with the exception of the Bachelor, which took me awhile to wrap my ahead around once I landed there. It’s just wrong. I would never, ever do it. I will make them say what they would’ve said had we been able to ask them in the moment. The fact is I’m editing four months after you shot. I only have this footage. Would they have said it? Would they object to me making them sound better? Hopefully not, which doesn’t mean I’ll take out colloquialisms. If people talk in a certain way, I’m going to use that. I’m just going to make it as clear as humanly possible.

Jonathan Dowler:

For example, we’re boiling down the characters, the essence. We don’t have time sometimes to bring out all the little nuances of certain elements. So, for example, in a series that’s as fast-paced and run-and-gun as Race, a lot of things that happened over the past season was an example of characters who were the villains or the bad people and stuff. And I think it’s nothing that, at least in my experience, it’s nothing that’s been done. They do do that, but we’re boiling down the essence.

Jenypher Fisher:

We just make them more them.

Jonathan Dowler:

More them. Yes. Elianna, you worked on the last season of Race. What would you say about the villain characters or how that happened?

Elianna Borsa:

Right, yeah. A lot of people were upset about those villains because they weren’t Canadian, and everything that we showed, that’s how they were and they were very competitive. And one of the guys, it’s in his character to want to win, and I’m here for a competition to win, and I’m going to try to get into your head no matter what. Because that’s literally his job every day as a boxer. So he took that there, and he really does have a big heart. I actually really liked him. But when you watch the show, and Jennifer hated him-

Jenypher Fisher:

I hated him so badly.

Elianna Borsa:

And I totally understand why you would because you kind of just see that side of him. But then we also want to show their good side, so we try to show that as well. But when they’re just giving “No, we’re here to win,” that’s what we got. And it makes good TV.

Jonathan Dowler:

And it’s mostly the impression of them. Certainly some of those elements, that’s just them doing the race. And people can take a strong view of it. But, you’re right, we’re showing them doing stuff, but I think in this age, a lot of people are media savvy. Young people who are applying to a show like Big Brother, they were just born when the first Big Brother aired, so they’ve grown up in this age of … And they’re very cognizant of editing. And that is certainly a challenge for people because it gets very meta.

Jonathan Dowler:

I remember some people talking about, “Oh, I was edited that way.” And then it becomes this whole thing of impressions and stuff.

Baun Mah:

I think definitely they’re very aware of how the show is done. Especially Big Brother, because there’s a livestream on both the US and Canadian versions, so they see everything play out in real time, and then they see the edited show. They’re like, “Well, that’s now how it happened.” Of course that’s not how it happened. It happened over the span of an hour and a half, but we condensed it into a three minute scene. And by doing that, by virtue of compressing, you’re creating a heightened version of whatever confrontation that was, or what that moment was.

Baun Mah:

But, yeah, the contestants especially are very aware of the cameras and what they’re saying. We even had a problem in Season 3 where the house guests wouldn’t confess to use in the Diary Room, because that’s where they’re supposed to tell their true motivations, but they were just so wary of trying to project their image that it took a lot to just say, listen, this is the one place where it’s a safe area, and we need to know what you’re really thinking in these moments. But they were just so in their heads about their image that it was actually really difficult-

Jonathan Dowler:

Overthinking it.

Baun Mah:

They were all super fans and strategists, so they just didn’t want to give anything up. They wanted to stay in the game the whole time.

Elianna Borsa:

Or an ego thing when they do really poorly in a competition, and they’re like, “Oh, no, but I wanted to lose then.” And it’s like but you went in there. We heard you saying that you really wanted to win. So on TV, they’re like, “No, I planned that.”

Ian Sit:

A lot of the time you’re actually making your subject look way better than they are. You’re making them look way more competent, way more interesting, way more coherent, and so the news you hear about Bachelor and stuff is like, “You made me look bad.” It’s like, what about 90% of the time we made you a lot better and more interesting?

Jonathan Dowler:

Very erudite and, yeah, you spoke really well and concisely, and so great. Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

Often, the longer a show goes, the more the characters get a little more … They know what you’re doing, and you end up asking them questions over and over and over and over again. You’re asking because you need them to say it in that space, and you need them to say it well. If someone asked me the same question for six years over and over again, I understand where they’re coming from, but we really just need you to say “I want to find jade.” Say it here, or whatever. I really just need you to say that. And it’s because you might have said it badly five times.

Jenypher Fisher:

Or confused. Like they think they said “I want to find jade,” but they didn’t. They talked about jade esoterically, and it’s like I don’t need that. I need you to say “I want to find jade bad. My family will die if I don’t find jade.” Or whatever.

Jonathan Dowler:

But I think also the great thing, just going back to your scene for a second, is the scene is very dramatic. You have to set up stakes through all that stuff, and you have to get those great … Drama is founded on the conflict and the stakes, and you set that up in your scene as “We need to sell this. Six years have led to this, this big moment,” and then you need that moment … It’s very dramatic. You are applying any sort of dramatic rules that we have in any sort of cutting, be it scripted or whatnot, but you’re kind of coming up with it without the right lighting, without the right shots-

Jenypher Fisher:

On the fly.

Jonathan Dowler:

On the fly.

Jenypher Fisher:

Yeah.

Jonathan Dowler:

Unscripted, and that’s to be commended.

Jenypher Fisher:

You still have to make a good story. It doesn’t matter what they shot. Best case scenario, it has to compete with the best scripted shows on television. That’s your competition. You still have to try to meet that, even though it was shot in two days in the middle of nowhere with one camera guy and maybe an audio guy. Your goals are still the same.

Jonathan Dowler:

That plays to the heart of it. A lot of the writing or the first draft could be in the planning of the shoot, so how often do you find, percentage-wise, are you given enough to work with when you cut your scene? When you’re given your scenes … Not to slam production. We’re not trying to start a fight with production, but in terms of are you getting enough story? How many times are you getting to the point of, oh, my God, we really have nothing. Like what you were talking about. So much footage and they didn’t get anything. Or do you find that more often than not you’re getting what you need?

Ian Sit:

It’s a process because it changes depending on the scope and the angle, the story that you’re approaching. So they might have gotten all the footage you needed. It just so happened that when you started editing, you took this direction, and if you’re going to tell this story in this scene, you have no footage. And so if you get into a point where you can’t go any further, and you’re stuck, perhaps you have it the wrong way, and then you go back.

Jonathan Dowler:

What you have versus what you planned for.

Ian Sit:

Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

Also, sometimes in the field they think they’re shooting one story, because they think that’s the story we’re going to tell, and in fact, that’s not the story we decide to tell four months later in post. We still have to use that footage that they were trying to tell that story to tell that story now. And that’s the job.

Jonathan Dowler:

I want to show Ian’s clip first. We’ll do the Ian clip, Forever Young. Ian, do you want to set this up for us, just talking about how you built this scene?

Ian Sit:

Yeah. This is from a one hour doc about immortality. It’s like a soft science show about people trying to live forever. So this one person that you’re going to see in this scene, Liz Parrish, was the first person to undergo a genetic therapy that has not been approved for humans. It’s only been done on mice.

 

[Clip Plays]

Liz Parrish:

What would you do if you might be able to save millions of lives with one action, an action that might take your life? What if you had to build a business to do this? Learn a new science. Be judged and treated like a lab rat. Would you do it?

Liz Parrish:

I am three days out from taking two gene therapies. One never performed in a human. I don’t feel well. I can’t sleep. Wake up with my heart pounding. I keep picturing the person who will find me dead. Hopefully, I will live. I am totally happy with my decision either way because, today, all sorts of people are dying, people I know nothing about, but they are just as real as I am. And I am in good company.

Liz Parrish:

I’m okay. Let’s just do it.

 

[end of Clip]

 

Jonathan Dowler:

It’s very lyrical, very beautiful. So in terms of what we’ve talked about, finding the stuff, talk about the breakdown of that scene and how you approached it.

Ian Sit:

So it was quite an organic way of cutting. Basically, we went through all the footage and tried to identify the most salient things, and just build from there. What was shot with Liz was a sit-down interview. There was also footage of her just walking around her home, which was that forest, and there was also footage shot of her reading a letter that she was composing while she was undergoing the experiment as a form of personal emotional therapy in case she died. She was trying to write a justification as to why I’m doing this.

Ian Sit:

So when I was going through the footage, the moment where she breaks down, that was kind of like, oh, that’s a good moment. Every time you have someone showing genuine emotion in that way, it feels like it’s probably important. So we started with that, but it occurred to me that the way she was reading the letter sounded a lot more like voiceover than it did just a regular person reading, so we attempted to pair that audio with the footage of her walking around in the forest, which started to create a kind of fairy tale-y, dramatic, narrative scene. Which was an interesting moment.

Ian Sit:

And it could’ve played out that way entirely, but we didn’t want to lose the on camera moment where she started to break down. And so the decision was made to kind of set it up in such a way where she’s kind of walking around in the forest, but then all of a sudden, you cut to her reading the letter, and it became a bit of a dance between these two things.

Ian Sit:

That scene was cut, and it was put aside. At a certain point of cutting the rest of the film, we decided that this would be the very first scene of the entire movie. There are other subjects involved as well, but we liked how it started. So once we moved it to the top, we needed to build a kind of a bit of a tease, a bit of a hook. And that’s when we got the footage from the actual experiment, which we did not shoot. Liz provided for us. And so that was inserted afterwards in order for us to build more of a moment where she-

Jonathan Dowler:

And that’s the button. The button at the end. Let’s do it. Let’s get this done.

Ian Sit:

And I don’t think it would’ve worked if we had just inserted that stuff hadn’t the theme been played out like a dramatic scene without that kind of grounded moment where she’s very emotional, and we see her on camera. So it ultimately kind of came together step by step as we were going through the film.

Jonathan Dowler:

That’s great. Well, I think it’s incredible to see, much like any unscripted, she’s commenting, and we’re seeing what she’s talking about. It’s all on her face, like you say, in the tears.

Jonathan Dowler:

We were talking earlier, saying action is character, but it’s actually reaction. And those looks that can be built, be it in the Jade scene, where it’s the look of the people as they’re watching things, even if they’re talking about lunch.

Jenypher Fisher:

They were really serious about lunch.

Jonathan Dowler:

They looked hungry. And even in Race, it’s those looks of sheer terror, or being ticked off. I think we’re going to go to questions now.

Audience Question:

This is for Baun, but I guess anybody can answer. Just referring to your scene we showed today. You talk about how the original version was 11 minutes and change.

Baun Mah:

Yeah.

Audience Question:

And then you get down to about two and a bit.

Baun Mah:

Yeah.

Audience Question:

I’m assuming your edits aren’t really loose, but do you ever cut assuming I know this is going to be two minutes so I should make it two minutes, or do you always leave it a little bit longer, and let the writers kind of break it down?

Baun Mah:

No, I think the key to doing a show like Race is if you do know, then that’s great. Yeah, cut it down as much as you can. I think in this one, them getting lost is such a … It’s happened before, but it’s such a unique moment in Race that I find it very interesting. And it was also that it did have these moments of tension, so we did leave it in for the rough cut screening just because up until that rough cut, or even our internal screening, we have no idea what the other people are doing yet. Our story editor, Seth, had set up a story board through Trello, so he was updating it daily, but we didn’t know which tension beats would work. At that point, I still hadn’t realized how crazy the foot race at the end … Obviously, you guys don’t know what happened, but it was a long but really exciting foot race to get to the mat. So that was prioritized over this.

Baun Mah:

So, typically, yes, you would try to cut it down to maybe … 11 was way too long, and I put that on me because my cuts to the assembly usually end up being a little longer. But, yeah, it should’ve maybe been around five or six. That’s a little more reasonable, and then you cut it down in half. But really we wanted to see how this played out, and because if we cut it to the two and a half minutes … Like say we did cut it down to the two and a half minutes right away, we might questions like, oh, what happened? How did this team find out, or how did this team get lost? And did anything interesting happen here?

Baun Mah:

So sometimes on Race, it’s like you show what happened, and then once everyone has an idea of what happened, you whittle it down. And then you realize at least you can justify why you cut certain things out. So you present your whole case, and then you just keep the best bits.

Jenypher Fisher:

I personally always know what the times are right from the start, and I’m really annoying with writers because I’ll always tell them what the times are. I will always tell them “We are 10 minutes heavy at the end of the assembly, just so you know. Act One is really long, it’s this long.” If it’s a four act structure, I’ll know how long each act is generally. I’m not annoying about it, but I want everyone to know we’re seven minutes long, so if you have anything you’re not loving, get it out of here.

Jenypher Fisher:

And every time, every cut, I’m always trying to shorten it, because I’ve worked on too many shows where you’re not cognizant of it, and you’ve got an hour-and-20, and it’s just do it from the start. It’s just easier. We call it killing our babies. Like start killing the babies early. Choose a few that you want to protect and love, and then just start whittling it down. It makes it easier in the long run.

Baun Mah:

On the flip side though, we’ve had moments, not necessarily on Race, but on other shows where we do cut it closer to time because we do know roughly what our Act One, Act Two, all the acts should be. But then either the producer or the network or whoever who is not directly involved in the edit, they’re like, “Do we have another moment of this?” Or “Does this moment play out more?” So it’s sort of like a give or take. Then you’re like I would rather cut down rather than rebuild. I always find it’s much easier to compress than it is to open things up again. So I come from that sort of standpoint, where it’s like, okay, let’s show them everything, and then … Not necessarily everything, but what we feel is good, and then you’re like, “Okay, this is what we have,” and then we’ll cut it down after the assembly or the rough cut.

Jenypher Fisher:

Don’t get me wrong, my assemblies are longer. It’s just like I always tell them.

Baun Mah:

Yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

We’re always going for this.

Baun Mah:

It’s great to be vigilant on that, yeah.

Jenypher Fisher:

The aim is always on time.

Baun Mah:

Otherwise it could get out of control, and you have a crazy long … Yeah.

Audience Question:

All right. Thanks, guys. I had a question about continuity because, as you mentioned, when you especially try to salvage a scene, you have to cobble together shots from different days. Things are obviously not going to completely match up.

Audience Question:

So my first question is how much does that actually come into play when you’re cutting a scene? And, more importantly, how do you deal with questions that you’re going to get, reactions you’re going to get, from your producers or director who may focus a little bit too much once they’ve seen one of your scenes and they say, “Well, we can’t do it that way because this thing in the background is different.” How do you react to that?

Elianna Borsa:

Yeah. I think it also kind of depends on the show. When I was in school, I was taught a lot about continuity, but then when you get into reality, you just need to throw that away. You do. And it also depends on the show, but that’s actually what I find the hardest. Race is actually a little bit easier because you can have them jump from here to there, and you put in a sound effect, and just the nature of the show because you have to really get it down. But something on like Big Brother when doing a challenge, it’s like how do I get this down and still have it make sense of how they got there, and that’s always a challenge.

Elianna Borsa:

But we worked on a show, a beauty show, where continuity was very important, and that was super hard to edit just because of continuity. The shots wouldn’t match up, or we didn’t have something to cut to, so it really does depend.

Baun Mah:

It really does, and especially that particular show. I had PTSD from that show.

Baun Mah:

There was a stylist I guess that they had that they were originally going to put in the show, but then they decided against it, so that stylist was in all the shots. So as soon as you saw a glimpse of her, that’s what they would see. And it was just so hard because there were so few cameras to cut around to that you really had to be creative with how to get those moments where they’re trying on different outfits but keep the stylist out. Even though she’s fluffing all the dresses and everything.

Jenypher Fisher:

The most important thing is character. If people like the characters, they’ll forgive an awful lot. Like if you cut for character and there’s not continuity, and it’s all about the character, they may miss that she’s wearing a red shirt and a green shirt.

Jenypher Fisher:

Also another trick is put an interview between the two things where it changed, or like I did, the guy took his jacket off. He went from wearing black to yellow, which wasn’t really a big deal. I did notice it, but there’s four shots between when that happened, so you create the time to believably have him take his jacket off. You don’t put them back to back.

Ian Sit:

One of the things that I do, if you just cut on action, and there’s movement within your clip, you can get away with a lot as far as continuity issues. I also find that audiences now are so savvy. Everyone has a camera on their phone, they could video stuff. Especially with documentary or factual, there’s a lot more forgiveness on the part of the audience. They understand. It’s constructed. It’s not always going to be a cup here, and then a cup shifts over there. It’s like, whatever, they knew it’s on the same day.

Baun Mah:

Yeah. Actually, I feel like nowadays, we can get away with it a lot more, even on Brother. Not necessarily the challenges, but the reality scenes that we have in between because it could be, again, an hour, hour-and-a-half long conversation. Like Ian said, they talk circularly, so you’re just really trying to compress that conversation to what the essence of it is. And the house guests are hopping around the room, they’re pacing back and forth. They’re standing, sitting, and we actually have gone looser. We used to try to keep continuity, but we’ve gotten looser with it over time because the audience now is very well versed in what reality TV is like.

Baun Mah:

And we even try to rely a little less on interview clips in our challenges because we try to play out the moments a little more because I find reality TV is kind of like going back towards a almost documentary style in the looser sense. But like a documentary style where you just try to let things play out because the audience knows. They know what the tricks are now, so you’re just trying to play it out more real, even though it may not necessarily be as super hyped up amazing.

Baun Mah:

I think the Great British Bake-Off has a lot to do with that, because everyone loves watching reality versus having it as a somewhat manufactured story.

Ian Sit:

Yeah. One last technique that I often employ is that you know how in school you’re like 180-degree, don’t cut this whatever …

Jenypher Fisher:

Doesn’t exist.

Ian Sit:

As long as you have an emotional rhythm to your scene, and you kind of hit the emotional rhythm, it’s hard to describe explicitly. But if you’re cutting an edit, and it doesn’t make sense in terms of where the positioning of the person is, but it makes sense in terms of the feeling, it hits that mark, no one is going to notice that the person is in the wrong spot in the previous shot or anything like that. Anyway.

Jonathan Dowler:

Please give a hand for our wonderful panelists. It’s been wonderful.

Ian Sit:

And thank you, Jonathan, for organizing this, and preparing us, and guiding us through this.

Jenypher Fisher:

Thank you very much. It was really awesome. This is not a comfortable situation, and you made it that. Thank you.

Sarah Taylor:

Thanks for joining us today, and a big thank you to our panelists and moderator.

Sarah Taylor:

A special thanks goes to Jane MacRae, Maureen Grant, and the CCE Board for helping create EditCon 2020.

 

The main title sound design was created by Jane Tattersall. Additional ADR recording by Andrea Rusch. Original music provided by Chad Blain. This episode was mixed and mastered by Tony Bao. The CCE has been supporting Indspire – an organization that provides funding and scholarships to Indigenous post secondary students. We have a permanent portal on our website at cceditors.ca or you can donate directly at indspire.ca. The CCE is taking steps to build a more equitable ecosystem within our industry and we encourage our members to participate in a way they can.  

 

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends to tune in. Til next time I’m your host Sarah Taylor.

 

[Outtro]

The CCE is a non-profit organization with the goal of bettering the art and science of picture editing. If you wish to become a CCE member please visit our website www.cceditors.ca. Join our great community of Canadian editors for more related info.

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Hosted, Produced and Edited by

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Mixed and Mastered by

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Categories
L'art du montage

Episode 003: Meeting with Arthur Tarnowski, ACE, hosted by Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Épisode 003: L’art du Montage: Rencontre avec Arthur Tarnowski, ACE, animée par Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Episode 3: Meet Arthur Tarnowski, ACE, hosted by Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Épisode 003: L’art du Montage: Rencontre avec Arthur Tarnowski, ACE

This episode is Arthur Tarnowski’s Master Class. The discussion is focusing on his last project, the first ever Quebec Netflix production: The Decline.

The event was generously sponsored by Annex Pro/Avid.

Presented in French.

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Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Julie Groleau, Couronne Nord

Sarah Taylor

Michel Arcand, CCE

Bam Library, Maud Le Chevallier

and our sponsors Annex Pro/Avid

Monderator

Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Podcast Host

Myriam Poirier

Editing

Pauline Decroix

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall, adapted in french by Pauline Decroix

Mixed and Mastered by

Tony Bao

Music generously offered by

Categories
L'art du montage

Episode 002: Assistant editor, a profession in its own right. Meeting with Edith Bellehumeur.

Edith Bellehumeur_Podcast

Episode 2: Assistant editor, a profession in its own right. Meeting with Edith Bellehumeur.

David Di Francesco, our podcast co-host, spoke with Edith Bellehumeur, assistant editor in film and television. Edith talks about her career path, her work in Montreal with several renowned editors, her vision of the profession and her transition to editing.

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Edith Bellehumeur

David DiFrancesco

Sarah Taylor

Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Claudia Hébert

Maud Le Chevallier

Hosted by

David Di Francesco

Edited by

David Di Francesco

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall, adapté en version française par Pauline Decroix

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L'art du montage

Episode 001: Ziva Postec, The Editor Behind the Film Shoah

Ziva Postec

Episode 1: Ziva Postec, The Editor Behind the Film Shoah

Meeting with Annie Jean, CCE, and Catherine Hébert, hosted by Paul Ruban

Épisode 001: Ziva Postec, la monteuse derrière le film Shoah, Ziva Postec

We are pleased to present the first episode of L’art du Montage.

On November 7, 2019, the CCE hosted a screening of ZIVA POSTEC, THE EDITOR BEHIND THE FILM SHOAH, at the Alliance Française of Toronto, with director Catherine Hébert, and editor Annie Jean, CCE. The evening was hosted by Paul Ruban. We are pleased to share with you this beautiful evening of discussion around this film.

 

 

 

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Laetitia Delemarre, Mélissa Cuvilliez, Marin Stemmelen de L'Alliance Française de Toronto

Sarah Taylor

Annie Jean, CCE

Catherine Hébert

Paul Ruban

Clotilde Vatrinet et les Les Films du 3 Mars

Claire Pochon

Isabelle Malenfant, CCE

Claudia Hébert

Maud Le Chevallier, at Bam Library

Moderator

Paul Ruban

Podcast Host

Myriam Poirier

Editing

Pauline Decroix

Main Title Sound Design by

Jane Tattersall, adapté en version française par Pauline Decroix

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Tony Bao

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