The best way to learn from editors is to assist them in their work. The problem with the current technology is that assistants no longer need to be at the editor’s shoulder. They used to have to be able to hand over any piece of film the editor would need to make the next splice. Now they are more likely to be working on a different computer on a task not directly related to making editing choices.
In an interview with Sean Valla, first assistant picture editor on Spider-Man 3 said that picture editor Bob Murawski is “good on his own” and that he has a sign on his door saying “If I want something, I’ll ask” (found in Avid Podcast no. 11).
In smaller productions, the deal should be that assistant editors work the technology to create the space for the editor to make artistic decisions. Picture editors shouldn’t have to think about ‘workflows’ (file formats, backups, media locations) – that’s administration. They should put themselves in the hands of an assistant to handle that. In return, if the assistant should have sometimes have access to the process and thoughts the editor have as they edit.
Over on Filmsound daily, production mixer Jeff Wexler says:
For many reasons… there has been a trend towards a disconnect between those working in production and those working in post.
He also talks about how there is less and less pre-production involvement for the production sound people. This means that a DP may like a given location, but if it will very difficult for the sound team to get a good result, it will cost a lot more further down the line in post to fix things.
There are times when someone on the set says something like “this place sound awful, Jeff’s not going to like this!” and I have to say, as nicely as possible, that if I don’t like it you have to be sure there are others far more important than me who also are not going to like it (the actors who may have to needlessly ADR a scene, the director who is going to have to get a good performance TWICE and probably 4 months apart, and of course the producer who is going to have to pay for it all).
Meanwhile, in the Editors Guild magazine, there was an op/ed(it) piece on the credits due to assistant editors:
Placing assistant editors in the post-production portion of the crawl is inaccurate and a disservice. We would like to call for the re-establishment of the correct placement of assistant editor credits. Namely, the editorial crew should fall behind the camera crew, which mirrors the editor and cinematographer main title credits.
I wonder if the extra responsibilities given to assistant editors in recent years mean the the job has outgrown it’s title? Would a new name for what they do help? It would be related to being a kind of post-production supervisor that starts their work during preproduction. Usually supervisors have authority of co-ordinators in post.
If assistant editors were known as ‘edit co-ordinators’ or ‘edit administrators’ would that better define their job? Would that give them the chance to move into post supervision? Maybe there is no problem here, and everyone has a very good idea what assistant editors do. I know that some people think that some film job titles are overblown enough as it is. Why don’t we have a picture recordist (‘director’ of photography) to go with our sound recordist (instead of ‘production sound mixer’)…?
I suppose production supervisors won’t listen to assistant editors any more or less than they would if their title was changed to ‘edit administrator.’
I think I’m reaching the limit of what a one-sided conversation can do… I may have to talk to someone about this… Serves me right for starting to write without a clear end in sight!