The Film Business

The Golden Rule

As an editing assistant, being on time will be important throughout your career. You should try not to keep anyone waiting, let alone your boss. So get in the habit of arriving early and setting up for the day’s events

Make the Coffee

Make the coffee in the morning when you arrive, even if you do not drink it. If you do not know how to brew it, learn. The editors had to make the coffee when they were assistants, and now it is your turn. Take this opportunity to please your editor and post production visitors. Think of it as solicitous rather than a servile act.

Unlock the Editing Rooms

Make sure you open all the doors to each cutting. It is more pleasant for the editor to find his door open and the lights on when he arrives in the morning. Make note of the lights that the editor prefers to have turned on to start the day. Check all voice mails. Check all emails. Make sure your flex file (the ALE is embedded in the flex file) has arrived if you are in dailies. Respond to important messages left by the production and post production departments. Check the call sheet to make sure all of the newly scheduled meetings that might include your editor are flagged. Sometimes there are changes made to the time and place of the tone meeting, SFX – MX spottings, or lock dates. Inform your editor with a brief note regarding any changes in the days ’ activities.

being an invaluable film  editing assistant

photo by: Ian Sane

Boot Up

Boot up all the computers and editing systems upon arrival. Take the time to straighten up if there is debris left over from the previous day’s activities. This process takes only five minutes or so and will start your editor’s day off on a pleasant note. Make sure the machine settings are in the editor’s preferred mode — his personal settings are up, the monitors are in the correct aspect ratio, the soundboard is back to the proper levels, and the room is good to go! The assistant often has work to do on the editor’s system. When your tasks are complete, make sure to put the pens you have used back in the holder, place the wrist support back in its normal position, adjust the chair to its regular height, remove your coffee cup or can of soda, and leave the room tidy, if not tidier, than when you entered it.

Prepare for the Day

Be aware of any scheduled events for the day (e.g., if there is to be an output that day, make sure you have blank DVDs, labels, a current continuity, and the delivery addresses and instructions). If a sound effects spotting is to take place in your cutting room at 9:00 a.m., arrive at 8:30 a.m. As discussed earlier, you will need to get the coffee brewing, provide the right amount of chairs, present copies of the necessary paperwork for distribution, open and display the timecode window, and cue up the spotting version of the show before everyone enters your cutting room. Now everyone will arrive to the quiet ambiance of a smooth-running editing room. The assistant editor has created this inviting atmosphere and will be appreciated. That is how you shine

Informative Messages and Post-it Notes

Editors appreciate it when assistants leave notes about the work they finished the previous night. It is also good to set up a system whereby the editor is informed about how many hours of dailies to expect for that day. Between these brief notes and Post-it messages, the assistant can inform the editor about everything that affects the cutting rooms.

Know the Phones

Learn how to transfer and receive conference calls correctly. It is one of the assistant editor’s tasks to set up the phones, the answering machine, and voice mail passwords. Think of the phone as one more piece of machinery for which you are responsible. Make a list of post production numbers and extensions to place next to your editor’s phone so that he does not have to waste time searching through the production crew list for contact information. All the editor really wants to think about is story telling, and “ How am I going to make this scene work? ”

Ask Down, Not Up

If you have questions about a task or need technical assistance, always ask laterally or down. Ask another assistant editor, the tech assigned to your show, Google and troubleshoot on the Internet, or refer to your editing system manual. Try not to ask up. However, if the question pertains to your editor’s personal preferences or prioritizing of the workday, you should ask the editor for clarification. Do not be afraid to ask questions to which only your editor will have the answer.

Excerpted from Make the Cut- A Guide to Becoming A Successful Assistant Editor in TV & Film by Lori Jane Coleman ,© 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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