How To Become A Commercials Editor – Interview with a Pro
James Rosen is a sought-after commercial’s editor working at boutique editing house Final Cut, in the heart of London. James and I sat down for a long conversation about how a commercial comes together and his own journey from starting as a runner at Final Cut through to being a senior editor today.
The full interview can be found in the second edition of Art of The Guillotine’s excellent, and free, The Assembly, which you can download free on Android, OSX and as a PDF here. I’ve previously posted about the first edition of The Assembly here.
So, read that first and then pop back here for several spill-over questions that couldn’t fit into The Assembly, but hopefully still make for interesting reading! Scattered throughout are several of James’ favourite commercials from his reel.
JE – How do you personally manage the internal thing of the dance of going from: “I’m making this the best I possibly can, and so taking ownership to it’s actually their film and their brand.” And often towards the end I sometimes feel like I don’t really care – it’s your film, I’ll do whatever you want. Yet at the beginning I care about this cut because I think it works. How do you navigate that transition?
JR – No it never gets easy. It’s really difficult part of the job. Because your job is to be creative and put something together in a creative way, and the only way you can do that is to really care about it and to feel like you’re doing the right thing and what feels right to you , and then suddenly you’re told to do something that doesn’t feel right to you. It’s really hard.
You always start off with what you feel it’s right, and then – the goal post analogy is what it’s really about.
At first your goal posts are put where ever you want to put them because you’re on your own. And from the footage and the project you know where they should be at that particular time. You’ve got free reign over everything, so you’ll naturally gravitate towards the footage that you feel works the best for whatever reason you feel is important.
What we do is focused on communication isn’t it – ideas and making sure a particular idea is communicated in the best way. We’re not necessarily thinking about it in the same way a director would for example, who might be much more focused on their own particular intentions, along with solving the hundreds of issues that come up during the production process. We see things away from all that noise.
But I think for us (editors) I think that alone time is about trying to make decisions on behalf of everyone else before they come in and work on it together – trying to communicate those ideas in the best way possible. So you try to get to the point where you feel you’ve got it. Testing it on people. I often grab people in the office. Anyone who hasn’t seen anything or doesn’t know anything about what I’m working on.
Then the director will come in – and then it’s about you and the director. So you work on what you both feel is the best. The best you can possibly do with what you’ve got. Then the director will start to move the goal posts based on what they want to achieve.
So lets take a very simple situation, where you’ve chosen one take you feel is the best one, the director feels like another take is the best one. Then the creative discussions begin, which is great fun.
You might suggest why you feel it’s the best one. I mean the ‘best’ is starting to get subjective/objective nightmare. So you have to try and stick to what’s the best for the idea. Balance that against your own personal preferences.
The director will also explain why. You know it’s the director’s project and at the end of the day you do have to be loyal to that. After all, you are serving their needs, serving the needs of the project, the people making the project. So you have to kind of be fairly subservient to all that stuff – try and understand what is needed or wanted and do the best with that. But at the same time you can’t be an effective tool in that process, unless you have an opinion. Click through to read the rest of the interview