We couldn’t be more excited to launch our LAPPG Blog with Misha Tenenbaum! Misha has been a presenter at LAPPG in the past where we spoke about EditStock and his LA Post Fest win and will be joining us at our November LAPPG Meeting set for November 13th, 2019 to share with us his latest invention, EditMentor! We hope you will find this discussion with Misha inspiring and informative. Thanks for visiting our new blog!
Los Angeles Post Production Group / Wendy Woodhall: What got you interested in editing professionally in the first place?
MISHA TENENBAUM: In high school I was part of the cable club, and took a class called TV Production. I loved that teachers and other adults bestowed on me the responsibility to capture important moments like graduation, community projects, and even sporting events.
I majored in Broadcast Journalism in college, again to pursue what I considered then, and in fact still consider, important work. By college I was already making a living editing for the school, and filming private events like weddings, retirement parties, sporting events, and more. It wasn’t until after college when I moved to California for vocational school that I realized editing, specifically film and documentary editing, is way more artistic than I previously though. Because I was exposed to a lot of film teachers I learned to love the art of filmmaking, and those jobs replaced what I was doing before.
LAPPG: Having worked on over 5,000 hours of union television and film projects what are three of your biggest takeaways for becoming an editor?
MT: First, I should point out that many of those hours were spent as an assistant editor, and that I accumulated them all in one long shift. Ok, I’m kidding. The reason I mention that is because I had the opportunity to work alongside people who are incredibly accomplished in their careers, talented, and terrific mentors.
First, don’t be a jerk. I can’t stress this enough. The best editors are also the nicest people. You need to be a cooperative, kind, and patient person for someone to want to work with you.
Second, the best editors command the material. By that I mean they aren’t only watching the footage to see what story is being told to them, they are also deciding what the story should be and bending the footage to fit that narrative. For example let’s say a director filmed several takes of a wide shot between two characters telling each other jokes. A good editor will put in the best take with the best joke. But the best editors will create a split screen and put in all the best jokes, reactions to those jokes by the other character, and even improve the timing of the line deliveries. This is what I mean by commanding the material.
Third, great editors believe in their abilities, and trust that they will eventually make ‘it’ work, whatever it is. They never give up.
LAPPG: What were some of your favorite projects that you got to work on?
MT: The biggest learning curve was on American Horror Story, season one. I had never worked on a show with such high standards and stakes. I met amazing people, who I am friends with to this day, and was humbled many times by their incredible talent. I grew a lot as a person in just a few short months.
I also had the surreal experience of watching a movie I worked on, JOBS, debut as the closing film at the Sundance Film Festival. The producers said my name during a Q&A, Ashton Kutcher sat one row in front me, and we ate a slice of “Apple cake”.
LAPPG: How did you come up with the idea of EditStock?
MT: Like most business ideas it stemmed from a need that I had myself. As a student at Video Symphony (VS) I would re-edit the same scene from the show News Radio over and over again because it was the only project the school had. Later, as a teacher at VS I would bring in my own outside professional projects for the students to work on but I always told them that at the end of class I was going to delete the media. A couple years later I produced a short film for Avid to demo some new features in Media Composer. I sold the footage back to VS for the students to practice with. And thus the company was born.
LAPPG: A few years ago we hosted a special film festival called – LA Post Fest where contestants would all receive the same assets, a script, green screen footage, access to various music cues, and specific stock footage and were tasked with assembling their own vision and version of the short film. And wouldn’t you know it you and your team won! Can you talk a bit about what that experience was like and how you assembled your winning team?
MT: First of all thank you both for hosting that contest. I know how much time and energy you both put into producing that experience, and I just want you both to know I appreciated the opportunity to submit.
When I decided to enter the contest I knew only two things for sure: That pretty much all the editing needed to be done by a team of EditStock customers, and that if we were going to submit anything under the name Team EditStock it had better be amazing.
I started by sending an email to my customers asking for volunteers to join the team. I accepted everyone who asked, but also I was incredibly fortunate to have had such great people sign up. I didn’t ask for any qualifications, only a solid work ethic. I divided up the work at set deadlines. Those who missed their deadlines were cut from the team. Those who stayed were treated like
professionals. I didn’t hold back on the expectations for the work product, and they all stepped up and delivered. They really were a team. [The full team included Misha Tenenbaum, Mary Ross, Fernando Fonseca, Nabil Alami, Gary Daniels, KT Kent, Emily Killick, Paulo Barrelas, Surendar Kumar, and James Lamont.]
But the best part of the experience was the award show. Every team member who was based in the US flew out to LA and joined us on stage to accept the award. I loved meeting everyone face to face for the first time. I loved the energy they all brought. The whole experience was special to me.
LAPPG: What have you learned about the editing process working with students through EditStock?
MT: I’ve learned so much — first of all I’ve learned that those who show the most
improvement are what’s known as incremental learners. Incremental learners do not believe that intelligence and talent are fixed abilities, but rather that they can be taught. With that said, I have a message for just about every student filmmaker out there. Stop focusing on how “good” you are and just keep making stuff.
I’ve learned that in order to improve, students need to be able to identify their creative weaknesses. The way to do that is with teachers and mentors.
Finally, I’ve learned that each set of footage contains built in challenges for editors to try and solve like for example, bad performances, lack of coverage, or repetitive dialog. For better or for worse many students try to solve those challenges in the same ways, and make the same creative ‘mistakes’. I may be stating the obvious but this means editing is a skill which is acquired through experience. And if we can boil that experience, that wisdom, down into lessons we can teach students the creative art of editing.
LAPPG: What’s next for you?
MT: EditMentor is the next challenge for me. EditMentor is the world’s first non-linear editing software (NLE) built to teach the creative art of editing. I’ve been dreaming about building it for years, and only now do I have the team in place to make it a reality. By the end of this year we will be ready for public beta testing to begin.
My goal is to change the way we teach editing entirely, focusing more in deliberate, active practice, which is the way we teach everything else. We don’t teach basketball with tutorial videos alone, so why should we teach editing that way?
LAPPG: Can you talk about AI and how it is used in EditMentor?
MT: To be clear, EditMentor does not use AI. However, EditMentor collects a lot of very useful information to train learning machines. Learning machines are algorithms that can on their own improve their ability to perform a task, like editing or playing chess, as long as they are given the rules of the game. That’s different than artificial intelligence which can dream up the task, or even the game itself.
EditMentor will eventually be able to use a learning machine to create questions for students, or what’s more, they might be able to give us some insight into our professional work and how we can just be better editors.
LAPPG: What is your hope for EditMentor and where do you see it being used?
MT: I literally see EditMentor being used by every editor on the planet. Beginners should use it to learn the craft, but professional editors should use it too as a way to find weaknesses in their skills.
If I can leave you with one last thought — I want to encourage anyone reading this to stop thinking about learning their craft, or advancing in their career, as a series of successes and failures. Instead, view your work as a constant stream of learning and practicing in which fulfillment comes not only from the final product and accolades, but from the act of working itself.