Interview by Wendy Woodhall
We had the opportunity to sit down with the very busy, award-winning editor and director and LAPPG member Greg Hobson to discuss his work in television. Greg shares insights on some of the popular shows he worked on, as well as how his career has unfolded and what advice he would offer to those looking for longevity in this industry.
Los Angeles Post Production Group: Thanks for speaking with us Greg! Let’s jump right in. Upon looking at your IMDb what immediately jumps out is all the different hats you’ve worn in this business. From editor to cinematographer to the music department to even writing! Can you share with us how you started and got interested working in the film and television industry?
Greg Hobson: I went to Iowa State University to major in theater, even though I had music scholarships to two other colleges, because if I couldn’t be the trombone player in the rock group Chicago then I couldn’t see myself as a professional musician. My freshman year at ISU I took the basic theater classes and I worked on the lighting crew for an upperclassman’s TV production project and I thought that was way more fun, so my sophomore and junior years I completed the whole TV curriculum.
After Iowa State I moved to California. It took me 7 years to get my master’s degree in film production from UCLA because I kept taking leaves of absence to work on film projects and one two-year stint in Austin, Texas editing two PBS series. Some of my earliest IMDb credits are from this seven-year period.
In my 10 years as a professor at Chapman University I taught 18 different classes, from technical classes including editing, cinematography, and audio techniques, to film aesthetics, to basic/intermediate/advanced screenwriting. Plus, I created a directing actors class, two genre studies courses, and every January I supervised a student production on location. So, by the time I left teaching to go back to work in the industry full time, I had a lot of varied skills that helped keep me working.
LAPPG: A lot of your work includes television series for children. Was this a specific choice?
GH: Children’s television was definitely not my career goal. When I was planning to leave teaching, I called a producer friend to see if he might have a job for me. He was producing a sci-fi action-adventure movie called Galaxis. They had already hired an editor that the director really wanted to use, but that editor was only available during production. So, when they were through with principal photography, I took over the editing of that feature. Next, my producer friend was going to produce a “family” film that was being directed by Sean McNamara. That film, P.U.N.K.S., had five kid protagonists, but also starred Henry Winkler, Dennis Quaid, and Cathy Moriarty. My association with Sean and is partner David Brookwell and their BME Productions led to me editing other family movies for their company – Treehouse Hostage, The Trial of Old Drum, and Wild Grizzly.
Then, the brand-new cable network Disney Channel was forming and looking for original content. BME became the first production company that Disney Channel hired, and the first show was Even Stevens. For the next few years I was primarily editing Disney Channel shows and pilots, and shows for Nickelodeon, The N, and Cartoon Network, and during hiatuses I was editing reality shows or TV movies or indie features.
LAPPG: What was it like working on those popular Disney shows like Even Stevens, That’s So Raven, Zeke and Luther and the Amazon Original show you are working on now, Just Add Magic?
GH: My experience of working on children’s shows has been generally pretty great. Because of strict labor laws that limit kids work hours, production days are scheduled extremely carefully. There are almost never Fraterdays. A five-day week with 12-hour days is the norm. Even Stevens and Just Add Magic were the best experiences of my professional career because of the people running those shows. When the producers are positive, caring people who keep the actors and the crew happy, there is nothing better. Those two shows in particular were wonderful because the writers were constantly striving to deliver quality content. On Even Stevens, we were literally the first original Disney Channel show, so we were given pretty much carte-blanche to let our freak flag fly and our imaginations run wild in the way we staged, shot, and edited the episodes. We were making it up as we went along, and it was a fantastic creative environment. Just Add Magic was a much more mature show in that it was smoother, slicker, and had more serious and twisty long-arcing plots. But both of those shows were blessed with young cast members that showed up every day with their lines memorized and worked their butts off, yet also laughed and goofed off and had fun.
LAPPG: Speaking of Just Add Magic, the new season Just Add Magic – New Protectors has recently been released. Many fans are waiting to see how they will be handling the original cast aging out and the bringing in of a set of new, younger characters. Do you have any insights?
GH: I never thought of the young cast as “aging out.” Perhaps that was Amazon’s logic, I don’t know. But the actresses didn’t seem to be getting bored with the show or too old to play those parts because the writing kept advancing with them as they grew up. I replaced another editor toward the end of the first season on that show. I was immediately impressed with how spot on and consistent those three girls were. During the second and third seasons they just kept getting better and better. I think the most noticeable jump, in terms of growing up, was between the end of the first season and the beginning of the second. Not only did all they seem to grow about 3 inches, they went from being tween kids to young ladies.
LAPPG: As an editor on this popular Amazon Series what is the relationship like between you and the director.
GH: From my experience on several TV series, the show is run by the show runner(s). There may be a main recurring director for a series, but most directors are just hired guns who come in and direct an episode or two, then go off and direct on some other show. The interaction between the producers/show runners and the editors is the constant and sustaining relationship. Per DGA rules, a director only gets two days to work with an editor on a half hour show, four days on an hour show. Then they are gone, and the rest of the decisions and shaping of the show are the responsibility of the show runner. When I first started working in television, I was surprised at how few directors even come into the editing room or take their full two or four days. Most of them just email their notes, because even though they want to deliver a good show, they know they can’t get too out of the box creative because they will be overruled by the producers who try to maintain consistency from episode to episode.
LAPPG: One of the things that you shared with us at an LAPPG meeting was that although Just Add Magic was a VFX heavy show, many of the effects were done practically. Can you detail one or two instances of this and how they helped tell the story?
GH: In the season one finale, the girls cook a spell that freezes the entire town, right during a big town fair. Rather than create a freeze frame (which always looks like, well, a freeze frame) the director simply had the dozens of background players stop moving. That allowed the natural breeze to blow scarves and flags and spin the pinwheels, but the people did not move. Our three main girls had taken a counter spell, so they don’t freeze. A couple of fairly long scenes play out while everyone in the background is frozen. With the foreground girls moving and talking normally, and the camera dollying back and forth, it’s incredibly effective and believable. Yes, we did have to digitally fix a few eye blinks in the frozen people, but it’s pretty magical!
Another technique that was used on a few different episodes where characters supposedly appeared differently to the characters than how they appear to the TV audience was by the simple “Texas-switch,” where we see the person on camera talking, then the camera pans and lands on the same character only now they are in a different body. Or possibly when a character walks up to or past a mirror, but their reflected image is of someone else. No VFX, just camera and character movement.
The one I showed at the LAPPG meeting was my favorite. In jumping back and forth in time from present day to the 1960s. The girls eat one of their magical recipes, but they also have to all three tap the walls in the room for the spell to transport them back in time. They shot the scene in Corky’s Diner (in Sherman Oaks, which hasn’t changed its décor in 50 years). We show a wide shot of a dreary diner with almost no patrons except for our three actresses, then tilt the camera down to their hands as they simultaneously slap the wood, then pull out to see a bright and shining diner full of people in 1960s wardrobe and the signage has all changed to that era, with a 1960s tune playing on the jukebox. At the end of the scene we reverse the action and when they tap the wood we are back to the present day. No VFX, just seamless editing.
LAPPG: Since this series, like so many nowadays, stream all the episodes at once, does this allow for changes in the story as you work through editorial? Do you ever go back and unlock prior episodes?
GH: On Just Add Magic, because we had season long or several-episodes long story arcs, if something seemed like it needed more of a setup or clarifying detail, then small adjustments could be made to previous episodes – but these adjustments were made BEFORE the episodes were locked. A finished, on-lined, color corrected, mixed episode would most likely NOT be unlocked unless something major happened, like a character was recast of something like that. But most TV today seems to be done way in advance of when it airs – not just streaming shows. I’ve heard editors of network shows like Glee and Breaking Bad and others talk about being halfway (or completely) through editing a season before it starts airing.
LAPPG: Can you tell us what a standard schedule for a television series looks like?
GH: A typical half hour episode shoots for 4-5 days, an hour show for 8-10 days. (Game of Thrones shoots for about four months!). The editor puts together the episode by himself/herself, usually by the third day after they finish shooting. That’s the editor’s cut. Then the director gets his/her two (or four) days with the editor to create the director’s cut. Then the show runners get their pass to create the producer’s cut, which goes to the network or studio executives. The network sends their notes and when executed, this becomes Network Cut 1. Depending on how in sync the network is with the goals and storylines being developed by the writers there may be some pushback on the network notes and one or two more versions may get sent back and forth before the network gives the official Locked Picture decree.
LAPPG: With such an expansive career you’re obviously doing something right! How have you gotten your work?
GH: The simple answer is: People who know me, or people who know people who know me. In other words, recommendations.
Right out of college I took a job as a grip on a movie – for free – for a schlock producer because I just wanted to work on a real feature. A handful of guys I met on that crew, who were also just out of college, became my good friends. Whenever one person from that group heard about the next film, he’d share that info and we’d all get jobs on that film (for $$ after the first one).
Right after I moved to LA, I also got a job at Disneyland as a stage lighting and sound technician – my college theater technical training paying off. Because most everyone on those crews came strictly from stage, I became known as the “film guy” and whenever there was a commercial film shoot in the park, I would become the gaffer on those shoots. After I left Disneyland as an employee, they hired me back as an independent lighting director for several years, where I would be in charge of lighting special events
in the Disneyland park or souvenir films that were sold in the gift shops. That led to me starting my own company and editing many of those same projects.
On a whim, I answered an ad in the back of the Hollywood Reporter looking for editors willing to relocate to Austin, Texas. That 8-month job turned into almost two years of editing PBS series. One of the editors I met on that job came back to LA and started a feature film sound editing crew and hired me on a few projects before I got the teaching job at Chapman University.
One of the friends I made on that first freebee film right out of college became the producer I mentioned earlier that introduced me to the BME peeps which got me hooked up in children’s TV. One of the producer’s assistants at BME went to work for another producer who was producing low budget horror films and she recommended me to them, which is how I ended up editing four horror features in a row. One of my former Chapman students, who was producing music videos, hired me to edit the first feature his company was producing. Another one of my former Chapman students, who was writing Lifetime movies, recommended me to a company who was producing those movies and that has been a very good hook-up for editing gigs.
LAPPG: Do you have a personal mantra or a motto in terms of editing or your editing work?
GH: When I was teaching, I would always convey my personal motto to my students: Editing happens in that space between your ears. It does not matter which hardware or software you use.
LAPPG: The end goal for a lot of people in the entertainment industry is to become a director. Can you talk about how your directing opportunities came about?
GH: My last three years at as a student at Iowa State University I was also a member of an outside theater group (not the university’s productions) and we did three shows during the school year and a five-show summer stock season. Through that company, I did a lot of acting and singing, played trombone and guitar in pit orchestras, conducted some orchestras, and directed my first two musicals.
While I was teaching film classes at Chapman University, I was also privileged to direct two of the theater department’s mainstage productions, the Lanford Wilson play, The Hot L Baltimore, and the musical Man of La Mancha.
When I started working with Sean McNamara, editing his BME company films, I told him of my theater acting and directing background, which it turned out was very similar to his. I also told him of my desire to direct films. As part of the first film I edited for them, P.U.N.K.S., we needed a massive weekend of pickups and inserts for this technically intricate kid’s movie. Sean put me in charge, and I directed 140 shots in two days. On his next feature, Race to Space, I was editing the film, but also was able to direct a couple of days of 2nd unit.
I guess those were my test runs because even though I was a full-time editor on Even Stevens, the producers gave me my shot at directing network TV with three episodes of that show. My second of those episodes was nominated for a DGA award for Children’s Television – a great honor. The head writer of Even Stevens went on to co-create and was the show runner on Zeke and Luther. I edited the pilot for that show and edited several episodes, but also ended up directing 12 episodes, more than any other director. Through BME I also edited and directed shows for Nickelodeon, The N, and Cartoon Network.
LAPPG: As the technology has changed over the years can you discuss how that has impacted your work?
GH: All editors of a certain age can attest to the fact that in the good old days of film, you used to cut with only the picture and a single dialogue track (and maybe add some music for test screenings) until the movie was completely finished editing. Only then was it sent to the sound editors, composer, colorist, etc. But now, because non-linear editing system have the capability of endless video and audio tracks, and plug-ins for every conceivable process, producers and network execs and even most directors won’t watch a work in progress without complete sound and music scoring and possibly even a pass of color correction and temp VFX. They EXPECT everything they watch (even the first cut) to have that level of polish, like it’s ready for air. If it doesn’t have all those whistles and bells, they often don’t seem to be able to concentrate on the actors’ performances or the pacing of the story – they feel the show is undercooked and not good.
I don’t mind putting in all of that extra stuff. I actually like finding just the right piece of temp music or sound effect. It’s just a matter of having the time to search for those things. Since most indie projects I work on are low budget, I don’t have the luxury of an assistant editor to help build the soundtracks, nor do I have a music supervisor or music editor to share the workload. On a TV series, I generally am blessed with those asst editor and music people, which allows me to go home and sleep every so often.
LAPPG: Can you offer any words of wisdom on how to have a long and successful career in this business?
GH: a) Say yes to almost everything, high paying or low paying, and no matter what the pay, always do your best, because you never know where the people working on that project might end up.
b) Get involved with organizations like Film Independent or the Sundance Institute, and work on one of the films that their members make. Many of them end up nominated for Independent Spirit Awards.
c) Learn After Effects & Photoshop. Really learn them. You will become more valuable to every show you work on.
d) Have the mindset that you’re in this business for the long haul. Forever. If you give yourself an exit, or a “if I don’t make it by such and such a time I’ll quit”, then when things get tough, you’ll take that exit.
e) Fill in your breaks on larger projects by cutting short form content – commercials, music videos, short films, trailers, anything that keeps you working and keeps you sharp.
f) Join organizations like Los Angeles Post Production Group and attend the meetings for networking and learning about new technologies. If getting to meetings is difficult, watch the videos on their Youtube Channel. Also, watch free webcasts from Adobe, Avid, Apple, Boris FX Mocha, MotionVFX, Ripple etc., and learn all about the latest and greatest toys and techniques.
LAPPG: With so many long hours in the edit bay, how do you de-stress?
GH: About six years ago, after coming off of back to back to back editing and directing jobs, I was feeling pretty blah and out of shape. So I started hiking the canyons and trails around LA. That quickly led to longer hikes, which led to higher and higher peaks. After a few years of that, hiking had lost some of its luster for me, so I started road biking. I guess that means my method of de-stressing (besides going to movies) is extreme physical challenges. It really clears my head.
As we close out the year and we imagine what will be on the horizon for 2020, we took a little bit of time with founder of theC47 and LAPPG presenter Jem Schofield to discuss production gear, workflow practices and higher resolutions. Let’s see what Jem had to say.
Interview by Michael Valinsky
Los Angeles Post Production Group: Jem, as we wrap up 2019, a year with many innovations and products for video production & post, can you shine a light on some of your favorite new products this year?
Jem Schofield: For sure!
In the camera department I think the Canon C500 MKII and the Sony FX9 are both going to be very popular owner/operator and rental based camera systems. Each has their strengths but I have to say that the C500 MKII is a beast of a camera in terms of what it is capable of across many types of productions. I also like what I’m starting to see in terms of lower costs 4K HDR monitoring solutions. While not shipping yet (I’m guessing by NAB 2020), both SmallHD and ATOMOS are stepping up from 1080p monitoring solutions into 4K along with features that can compete with much higher cost solutions. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time as the cameras are way ahead of the monitors at this point.
LAPPG: Please reveal any Crystal Ball predictions for 2020. What do you see happening in terms of Cameras, Lights & Lenses?
JS: That’s always a hard one but starting with lighting I would say we are going to see more in the way of “hard” LED solutions that can be modified in many ways to produce focusable or soft light. That and higher output. I think we will also see the continuation of 5.9/6K camera systems (mirrorless & digital cinema cameras), and in terms of lenses I think there’s lots of room for lower cost anamorphic lens solutions.
LAPPG: Have there been any recent trends in Workflow Practices in 2019 that you see deepening in 2020?
JS: Just more and more Small To No Crew production. The tools that are available now are amazing but as mentioned above, I’m looking for the monitoring to get better for both production and post so we can actually see what the hell our cameras are capturing (or at least more than we are currently). The $20,000-50,000 monitors from Sony, Canon and Flanders Scientific are fantastic but we need some real solutions in that $3,500-10,000 range. Using these tools will inform decisions on lighting, exposure and how the final image is graded for targeted spaces (especially 709, P3 and 2020).
LAPPG: Thoughts on the move for some from 4K to now 6K and 8K? Also, HDR. Tell us your thoughts on the evolution of higher resolutions.
JS: Well, it’s inevitable. I thought it would be a straight jump to 8K but it’s interesting to see the 6K trend (RED started that a loooong time ago). Higher than 4K resolution acquisition gives users more to work with in post when they are finishing in UHD 4K or DCI 4K. Not quite the approximately 200% that you get when working with 4K footage for 1080 delivery but you are able to reframe/crop and stabilize 5.9/6K footage more effectively (approximately 145-160% depending on the camera).
LAPPG: For members of theC47 Community, what will you be covering and sharing content-wise in 2020. Give us a Sneak Peek!
JS: Well, I’m building out the first of a few studio spaces so that will allow for expanded content on my YouTube channel. More lighting and set ups for sure and I think once I can get a more reliable internet connection up here on the hill that there will be more in-depth, realtime/streaming educational content.
I’m also working on a new format for my workshops which I’m very excited about. At NAB 2020 I will be doing my first two day workshop at the show (I believe it’s my 17th year teaching there). The new format will be more streamlined and even more focused on real world set ups than in the past.
Jem Schofield is a producer, DP and educator and the founder of theC47 (a full-service production company that focuses on video production, filmmaking, consulting & education). He started this journey as a kid (barely double digits). His first camera was a used Pentax K-1000. It was a great start to his education in this field. He now spends most of his time producing content, educating others and otherwise being borderline obsessed with cameras, production and the craft of lighting.
For over 20 years Jem has produced projects and provided training for an ever-expanding client base. Current and past clients include AbelCine, Apple, Inc., ARRI, Canon, Corus Entertainment, LinkedIn Learning, MAC Group, MZED, NBCUniversal, NPR, PBS, Riverbed Technologies, Scottish Enterprise, Sony, TED, The Vitec Group, Walmart Films, Westcott, YouTube & Zeiss. Jem is also an equipment design consultant to many manufacturers in the film and television industry. He designed theC47 DP Kit & theC47 Book Light Kit (geared towards corporate, in-house and small to no crew productions), which is based on FJ Westcott’s Scrim Jim Cine system.
His in-depth courses “Cinematic Video Lighting”, “Advanced Cinematic Video Lighting” and “Corporate Event Video: Producing Company Meetings and Presentations”, are currently available on Lynda.com
For more information about Jem & his whereabouts visit www.theC47.com or visit his YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/thec47 where he posts ongoing educational content focused on the tech & craft of video production and filmmaking related to Small to No Crew production.
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/thec47
Interview by Wendy Woodhall
One of LAPPG’s big supporters is this impressive woman, Karol Urban, CAS. Karol understands the importance of providing an opportunity for people in the industry to meet monthly and recommends LAPPG to many people as a great place to network and find work. Karol’s career and her work as President of Cinema Audio Society as well as her dedication to giving back to the community is inspiring indeed. Meet Karol Urban, CAS!
Los Angeles Post Production Group: As an in house re-recording mixer/sound designer at Discovery Channel in DC many years ago, what made you want to move to Los Angeles and what were your professional goals?
Karol Urban: I was in my mid-thirties and felt I was running out of new challenges in D.C. D.C. is mainly a documentary and edutainment market. I had worked for Discovery for almost a decade and I knew the brand extremely well. My husband, Steve Urban, did a lot of work for National Geographic in the same capacity. We were both in need of new adventures.
We wanted that type of creative battle within yourself that forces you to grow. We were both hungry to learn new ways of working and find new creative ways to tell stories with sound. But we loved D.C. and there are many things we still miss. For starters, giving up a full-time position with exceptional benefits for a freelance life in the LA market is definitely more stressful!
I credit much of our success in LA as a result of the combination of tasks one is expected to perform in D.C. as an audio post mixer or sound designer, the two more common professional titles. In D.C., I did every aspect of audio post from editorial to tape layback for almost every project I touched. It was not unusual to have to be a dialog editor, ADR/narration mixer, sound effects editor, sound designer, music editor, an occasional Foley artist and mixer, and re-recording mixer (while usually acting as your own mix tech/recordist). This gave me a great foundation of skills and a broad perspective of the challenges the entire sound team faces. I’m grateful for it because it still makes me very handy, resourceful, and respectful of my sound teams today.
LAPPG: Can you detail the type of work that you do in post production audio?
KU: My specialty is re-recording mixing and my general career focus is dialogue and music. I occasionally mix single mixer projects and I occasionally mix sfx with some very talented re-recording mixers. I still cut the occasional reel of dialogue, or supervise a film project or pilot, but having a focus that takes up a good 90% of my time has creatively freed me to expand my storytelling tools and techniques….to hone better and better skills. Now, working as part of a fully complimented sound crew, I am continually grateful to the other sound team members on my projects, who bestow their knowledge and perspective on me daily. There is a seemingly endless array of types of work, workflows, and creative approaches.
LAPPG: Woody and I knew of you before you left the east coast for the warmer weather of the west coast because you did an impressive job of getting the word out that you were coming to town and then you followed up with coming to an LAPPG networking meeting. Can you share advice for those who are relocating and how they can best prepare for a big move professionally?
KU: Ironically, I wasn’t even sure I was going to move to LA until 2 weeks before I did. I knew I wanted to learn from masters and I sought my masters pretty aggressively, even across the country. While still in D.C., I began posting about the work I was doing and the work I wanted to do and adored. I asked questions and shared mixing experiences online on audio blogs, social media, and forums. I joined AES, MPSE, and CAS, and began volunteering as a writer for the CAS Quarterly publication. This allowed me the ability to interview or chat with talented people and introduce myself in a way where I was sincerely just looking to get to know them. Soon, I had made friends.
I wrote fan mail to mixers who were killing it on a particular film or TV show that I would fall in love with. I can’t believe now I have actually had the honor of working with many of these masters. Amazing!
My husband and I also spent our vacation every year visiting LA for the CAS and MPSE Awards. Before I even knew I was going to move to LA, I was already visiting friends and touring studios. When I ultimately moved here, I attended the LA Sound Group, LAPPG, and started volunteering more heavily in CAS and MPSE.
Breaking in is scary and hard, and I still have many hurdles to climb and goals to reach. On every project, no matter how small or big or seemingly straight forward, I try to give something extra of myself and look for ways to grow. Between every project, I study, I listen, and I learn.
LAPPG: How long have you lived in LA now? In that time what was the trajectory to get to where you are now, working on popular network shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Kingdom and New Girl?
I moved here in September of 2011. I remember being really lost and concerned that I had made a jump I could not survive. I was fortunate to begin working right away as I had a short contract with a small studio called Gray Martin Studios next to Lantana in Santa Monica that I landed ahead of my move to Los Angeles. There I worked on Discovery shows, reality shows for Viacom, commercials, and the occasional scripted non-union shows like FX’s The League. After fulfilling that contract, I started freelancing for Wildwoods and Levels and many of the non-union houses around town.
People are understandably hesitant to put a person they don’t know in a room with clients. It takes time to show people your demeanor and commitment. So in an effort to expand my client list and demonstrate my professionalism to facilities, I began selling post-sound packages to producers and directors myself through Urban Audio Post. We began four walling dub stages at places I wanted to hire me as a re-recording mixer. This gave me more scripted and film experience along with valuable exposure within the LA area. There was very little money in it at first. But we were determined. At one point I was working 2-3 days a week at Levels on The Bachelor franchise, was editing and pre-dubbing Dance Mom’s on the weekend for another mixer, working on indie films for Juniper Post, working 2 union days a week at Fox on promos for the FX network, all while Steven supervised our own clients and prepared them for the dub stage where he mixed FX and I mixed dialog and music. I knew something was going to break open, I just needed to stay focused and steady.
All the while, any random day that I happened to not be booked, week day or weekend, I tried to expand my network. On my “days off” my calendar was filled with anywhere between one to three appointments to meet somebody new.
After two solid years of burning the candle at both ends, fate stepped in. Through a random online contact and some thorough cross-referencing of people they had worked with that I knew personally, I was given the opportunity to audition for Grey’s Anatomy. Through that audition I landed the FX chair, and that began the next chapter of my career.
LAPPG: Audio is a notoriously male dominated field, were there special challenges as a female or did it actually offer you opportunities?
KU: Just in the last couple of years, I do think being female has occasionally been considered in my favor. In the past it was generally a source of disqualification and discomfort.
Sadly, bias and gender stereotyping do exist. It is not an easy nor fair world. But, I don’t give that “noise” too much power over me. I want to be “so good they can’t ignore me”. This is my singular goal. I want to be chosen for my merits and what I bring to the table. So, I focus on bringing that thunder. As more and more people who embody diversity continue to succeed based on their talents and take their power, I believe this type of thing will naturally diminish.
Personally, I am truly counting the days until we have reached a level of empathy and understanding across gender lines where we can simply be considered for what we can offer a project. That is the goal. It pains me to think that anyone, male, female, or otherwise, would be overlooked for a position based on anything that is not related to the task at hand.
LAPPG: Have you seen women’s roles in the audio industry change in the last 10 years you’ve been in Hollywood? What do you see happening in the future?
KU: Early in my career, my girlfriends were never other mixers. I was more than a decade into my career before I met another woman mixer. Now, there is some serious female competition. Perhaps that is due to my new location, but yes, I do see the stereotypes of my position changing.
Ideally, in the future, your mixer could be anyone to such a degree that you have no picture in your mind of who that person is before you meet them. We are creatives and diversity on any team breeds an expanded perspective. I would love for the future to bring an age where we can just be whoever we are and be evaluated for what we can do as sound professionals to elevate a particular project.
LAPPG: What projects have been the most rewarding for you creatively and professionally?
KU: Usually I find the most creatively and professionally rewarding projects are ones that come to me on the heels of something very different. For instance, I was really creatively stimulated when I went from a season of Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19, and Single Parents to horror films for Hulu’s Into The Dark horror film anthology series.
When a big contrast like this hits my schedule I begin to really notice trends and differences in storytelling. For instance, I was able to observe the consistent imperative importance of timing, which is crucial in both drama, comedy and horror. But, in general, the techniques differ. For instance, horror generally works by building anticipation to a moment and then misdirecting the delivery of the action. A jump scare doesn’t work if you expect it. But comedy generally has an “on” rhythm where the timing lets you know that there is a punch line or commentary occurring… a moment to laugh. The switch from one to the other has been very stimulating. Occasionally, I get to offer very valuable solutions to enhancing the narrative by applying the tools from one genre in another. Soon, I will go from dramedy to historical period sci-fi. I can’t wait!!!
LAPPG: You were elected President of Cinema Audio Society (CAS) last year. Congratulations! What part of CAS’s mission appealed to you most and lead you to want to take on such a huge position?
KU: I was inspired to run by our encouraging and generous members as well as past leaders of the organization. What fellow mixers have done for me in regard to education, encouragement, and opportunity is nothing less than incredible. Fostering that behavior within our society and paying it forward to future members of our community is the right thing to do. The CAS was founded on the concept that through community we are stronger and can achieve a higher level of excellence in our craft than we can alone. We can lift each other up. This is how I see my mission as President. I want to bring people together, facilitate opportunity, and create fraternity.
It really is an amazing opportunity to be able to serve in this capacity. This is one of the greatest honors I will have in my lifetime. The faith and confidence the members of the CAS have entrusted in me is very precious.
LAPPG: What experience and credentials do LAPPG members or audio professionals in general need to join this prestigious organization and what are some of the benefits and resources CAS provides for its members?
Benefits of membership include:
-Voting privileges in the CAS Awards (Active only)
-Use of letters “CAS” after Screen Credits (Active only)
-Mail distribution of our CAS Quarterly magazine
-A myriad of discounts, screening invites, FYC event invitations, panels, screeners, etc.
-Exclusive invitations to CAS social events, membership meetings, CAS education events, and CAS member screenings.
-Access to the membership directory.
-Community outreach and volunteer opportunities including judging the Student Recognition Awards and interviewing award-winning mixers for the CAS Quarterly.
But most of all, you are made part of a group that is dedicated to elevating sound mixing for film and television within the entertainment industry and the professional community.
The CAS has a number of classifications of membership for which you can apply.
Active members are active sound mixers who have a minimum of 5 years of verifiable, credited mixing experience in motion pictures or television, have been sponsored by 2 active members, have completed and submitted a complete signed application, received approval by 2/3 of our board of directors, and have had their names published in the CAS Quarterly for 30 days.
Associate members are individuals involved in cinematic sound, or a closely related field, who do not qualify for active membership.
Student members are individuals actively enrolled in a recognized educational program with an interest in the Art of Cinematic Sound.
LAPPG: How do you maintain balance between your work as a re-recording mixer and your equally time consuming job as President of CAS, the prestigious industry association.
KU: Balance? What’s that?
Sincerely, I live what I do. That is my personality. I am a bit fanatical about it. While I do enjoy a couple hours here or there to play the piano, take a kickboxing class, or escape town with my hubby, I really find a lot of joy in this wonderful, fascinating, mind-controlling, invisible animal called sound. I never get sick of it and I can’t be away from it too long. And I am blessed, my husband is a fanatic too. He even serves on the board for the Motion Picture Sound Editors and devotes huge amounts of time assisting this sister organization.
That being said, I am a big list maker and love to check things off. I block out time every day to respond to emails and phone calls for the organization and for my career. I still spend my “days off” planning initiatives, meeting with members or folks new to town, or reaching out to potential resources to enrich the CAS membership experience. Once a month, the CAS has a board meeting and there are other activities we throw. All of which I make a priority, right behind paying work.
It is a crazy game to balance and at times a bit overwhelming. But it never ceases to be an honor and a privilege.
LAPPG: Can you offer any advice to those coming to LA to pursue a career in post production?
KU: Get out there!! Get involved. If you hear of something and you can’t do it, make it your mission to pass on that opportunity on to someone who can truly use it and will treat that opportunity well. Be the advocate for someone else that you seek for yourself.
When starting on a new job or on a new team, always do things “their” way first. Until you master “their” way, you have no business offering changes. There may be a reason for their methodology that you have not discovered and conforming before innovating will show respect and ensure you are truly offering a better solution. You can’t know what you don’t know, ya know?
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.[See Misha’s High School Demo Reel Here]
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.
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