Master The Workflow Editor In Conversation
It’s been a year since Master The Workflow officially launched, it’s a unique online training course, giving you both the practical skills and insider industry knowledge to help you become an Assistant Editor working on feature films.
Master The Workflow is about to open up their doors once again for a limited time, in the next few weeks for the ‘Fall 2018’ enrolment and so I sat down with editor and Master the Workflow co-founder Lawrence (Larry) Jordan to find out how the course has been received so far, and most importantly, if it’s really helping people to land their first jobs as assistant editors, working in features and TV.
We also got talking about his next feature film for Netflix, and some of the things he does to prepare for editing a visual effects heavy feature film.
If you’ve not seen my previous in-depth review of Master The Workflow Assistant Editor Immersion 1.0 – Feature Films – which includes links to a ton of great freebies from MTW which you should grab – check it out here.
The course covers everything you need to know from before production begins to shepherding the final deliverables through approval:
- Pre-Production – 3 lessons
- Setting Up – 5 lessons
- The Digital Codebook – 8 lessons
- Principal Photography – 5 lessons
- Editorial – 6 lessons
- Finishing – 5 lessons
- Extras – Practice Media
- Bonus – VFX Roto in Avid Media Composer
Some of these lessons include instruction on the correct workflow for processing dailies, interview prep and landing your first gig, as well as handling turn overs and VFX plates. Among many other things!
One of the standout benefits is having access to First Assistant Editor Richard Sanchesz’s codebook – the beating heart of any edit suite, and usually a secretive asset that Assistant’s usually don’t share around.
What was interesting from my discussion with Larry, however, was how valuable another part of the course has become to students and alumni.
As part of the course you get access to the private Facebook group in which students can ask questions to Larry and Richard, crowd source solutions to problems they are facing at work and generally be supported by a community of post productions professionals on a collective journey to becoming fully fledged editors themselves.
If you want to become an assistant editor – even if you’ve “already been to film school and know how to edit” – you must seriously consider signing up for Master The Workflow.
What Working Assistant Editors Think You Need To Know
One skill everyone really values is VFX in Avid. If you learn how to key, roto and comp in Avid it will put you ahead of a lot of the competition. – Ryan Axe, 2nd Assistant
Ryan Axe was the second assistant editor on Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and so he knows first hand how crucial it can be to have these skills up your sleeve. As VFX editor Ben Mills pointed out it can be a huge help to have capable assistants to hand off temporary composites and VFX work to, especially when a preview deadline looms.
A lot of our VFX editorial work would spill over which would nicely coincide with the times the editorial team were a little quieter, so we could happily pass temp comps over to them, to help us out, when the crunch time of a preview would arise. – Ben Mills, VFX Editor
As an extension of this it’s worth pointing out that Master The Workflow team have recently updated the course with a 22 minute tutorial on tackling just these kinds of situations with a guide to performing rotoscoping in Avid Media Composer.
You can read interviews with numerous members of the Mission: Impossible – Fallout post team, including editor Eddie Hamilton, ACE, VFX Editor Ben Mills, Second Assistant editor Ryan Axe and Editorial Trainee Hannah Leckey.
Over the years I’ve written up several posts that would come in handy for anyone wanting to learn more about becoming an assistant film editor, and move through the editorial department. So here’s a little light reading:
- Master The Workflow Reviewed
- How to become an Avid Assistant Editor Overnight
- The Alt-Film School for Film Editors
- How to move up from 1st Assistant to Film Editor
- How to be a 2nd Assistant Film Editor
- How to become an Assistant Editor
- How to become a second Assistant Editor
Editor Lawrence Jordan on Master The Workflow
Can you describe what Master The Workflow is and what makes it unique?
Unlike other courses that you might find on the internet or YouTube tutorials Master The Workflow was designed to be a comprehensive course on the feature film editing workflow from start to finish, as it’s practiced at the professional filmmaking level.
It’s also delivered by people who have done it, myself for many, many decades (I’d rather not say exactly how many!) and from an assistant I’ve worked with, Richard Sanchez, who has been doing it for 15 or so years now.
Now the other side of that equation is that, there has never been any real traditional editorial workflow training. Even to this day, the way most people learn how to be an assistant editor is by getting themselves a gig in the cutting room and then picking it up by osmosis.
But now we’ve got this new generation of aspiring filmmakers who have this base level of technical and editing knowledge, but they really don’t understand the process of becoming a professional editor. The actual steps are still a mystery to them.
And so that was our intention, to go through the actual steps, technically and career-wise, and expose them to all the other challenges that go on in the editing room which make up the path to becoming a professional film editor.
As the assistant you are the central hub of the edit suite, and you have to know how to organise and communicate everything with a disciplined methodological approach, which would be difficult to learn from a handful of YouTube tutorials.
Exactly. In the businesses of being an assistant film editor – which is historically the most traditional way to move on to become a full feature or television editor – the role of the assistant editor has, to a large extent, turned into a job of metadata management.
You’ve got all this material coming in from a number of very sophisticated systems. Whether it’s from camera or sound, visual effects, even script notes – everything is coming in and all this data all has to be tracked very carefully.
We used to do it by hand in a codebook. Now we have these tools (e.g. Avid bins, custom FileMaker databases etc.) that are so much more powerful, and we need them because the volume of material that we get today is so much greater.
Metadata management is at the core of what the assistant does on a daily basis and you’ve really got to know how to find that specific piece of material when the editor wants it.
What’s been the response of the students that have taken the course, so far?
We’re through one full year cycle (four classes) and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
And I think that part of it is because we’re providing knowledge that they didn’t get in film school. You get much more theoretical instruction when you go to film school, and we’re really teaching the trade and the craft.
And so we’re filling in a lot of holes for people and that makes them very happy because it makes them feel more confident about doing their work.
We also try to provide a further level of support through our private Facebook group of enrolled students and alumni, which you can’t get in other places.
Richard is obsessed with teaching, he just loves it. And he’s also great at what he does, so when a question gets asked in the group, he loves to get on it relatively quickly, so we’re really lucky in that way. So yeah it’s been great!
I’ve worked in this business a long time and I’m excited that we’ve got this new group of really enthusiastic, really curious, passionate people – because let’s face it, you’ve got to be passionate to do what we do. It’s not an easy road.
Have there been any highlights from the Facebook group you particularly noticed or just the general sense of community?
The sense of community is great. It is a very engaged group and when someone has an issue, and it doesn’t even have to be on Avid, often people will be posting about things in Premiere or another tool, people are really willing to jump in and make suggestions and provide solutions to all kinds of problems.
Not being able to solve problems is one of the things that makes us all really anxious about doing this job. You could be there, alone, at midnight and you run into a bottleneck or an unsolvable problem, who are you going to call?
But with the Facebook group there’s somewhere to ask those questions and it really helps to make people feel supported. And of course you can access all the training materials 24/7/365, as it is always available online.
It’s definitely a great resource because it really extends the life and value of the course, well beyond just going through the tutorials and having the codebook.
Yeah, we really want to see people succeed at this and we know how difficult it can be.
So by creating that network in the Facebook group and in other ways, for example, we partner with ACE (American Cinema Editors) to give away passes to Edit Fest in Los Angeles and London, this provides another way for our students to network with other assistants and editors.
Because that’s a great way of landing your first gig and getting your foot in the door, or even your next gig if you’ve already made a start.
Have there been many students who are taking the course and then going on to get their first jobs?
Yeah absolutely. It’s very exciting, I get emails and read the threads in the Facebook group, and I see people commenting that they just landed their first scripted show.
A lot of people are transitioning from Reality TV, which has a very specific workflow, and they post about landing their first scripted show, which is really a lot of our student’s objective. And we’re thrilled when we hear about that.
Again, that’s what we want to do. We want to provide the skills so people can get quality work. We know how unsatisfying working on a project that you don’t have your heart and soul into can be, and when you do land that really good Netflix series or BBC series or whatever, it totally changes your whole outlook on what you’re doing every day.
And that really comes across in the comments. You can see that people are just thrilled that they’ve done that, and obviously we’re hoping, and we do believe that, the course has given them the confidence to make that leap.
What’s been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned or seen as a result of running the course?
When I started out, the film industry was a very small world. This was even more true of the post-production community.
It was kind of like a cloistered, mysterious place where we didn’t tell our secrets, (and quite often still don’t). When I became a member of the Editor’s Guild, I think that there might have been 1,500 people in it. With this in mind, I was very unsure whether there would be an audience out there for this course.
But when Richard and I floated the first trial balloon in a few Facebook groups, in two days we had over 300 responses from people who were interested and it just blew our minds! And it’s only grown from there.
Right now, we have almost 1800 people following us in our public Facebook group and over 200 in our private alumni group.
So my biggest surprise is just how many people are actually interested in, and willing to devote the time to learn our craft, and also from how many unique places.
We now have students in over 20 countries around the world. People from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Spain, France, Slovakia, Russia, China, India – who want to learn about film editing and the professional workflow for feature films.
So it’s very exciting and I think that’s probably the biggest surprise.
I noticed on the Facebook group that Richard added another bonus tutorial on how to perform rotoscoping in Avid recently. Are you planning on adding more content, or evolving the course in any way?
The intention always was to add material as we go along. We’re both working editors, so it is challenging to find the time to do it, but what we want to do is continue to add material whenever possible.
Richard and I have a passion for teaching, and I’ve said to Richard “Look, any time you want to just riff on a specific subject, just go ahead and do it.” So he created a 22 minute video on the rotoscoping process in Media Composer.
We also plan to do more interviews with editors, like the Alan Bell, ACE interview we did recently. We love giving people interested in the craft a broader sense what it takes to become a successful editor. Where our craft has come from and where it’s going, the evolution of the tools, and the stories of what the top tier editors like Alan have done and are doing.
We’re going to keep adding to the current course but we’re developing other courses too. Richard and I are talking about adding an advanced FileMaker class for customizing the codebook. We’re talking about doing some stuff with DaVinci Resolve, which is a useful tool for assistants working in Media Composer. It might be a quick 15 minute video or it could be an entire course.
Ultimately, we want to cover all the different workflows in post-production and beyond.
We’re sort of being a little improvisational at this point, but we do have specific tracks that we are developing such as documentaries, animation, sound design, visual effects and things like that.
But because we want to create these courses with people who have real bona fides, who are real working professionals – which is our USP and that’s how we differentiate ourselves from anything else out there – it’s also down to those people finding the time, to be able to actually create the material.
Just changing topics now, you’re about to start your next feature film for Netflix right?
That’s right, it’s a feature length, original film for Netflix and we’re going to shoot it down in Atlanta, Georgia for about 10 weeks and finish back in Los Angeles.
It’s with the same director, Mike Tiddes, that I have done my last two films with, which is really a great because as an editor, when you can get into a rotation with a group of people that you get along with, who respect what you can do and like your work, you get to a place where you develop kind of a shorthand, and it just makes the whole process a lot more comfortable and satisfying.
It’s an improve comedy, which has sort of become my bailiwick, but it’s got a big visual effects component because the lead actor plays six roles. There’s going to be a lot of motion control shooting and green screen compositing and things like that.
As an editor, each project always presents new things to learn and when you go into something like this, it’s kind of like getting a Master’s degree in the specific problems that need to be solved.
So I’m excited about it and really looking forward to it.
What are the things that you do to prepare for a feature film edit?
Ha! Well, I try to get a lot of rest before I start a new film because I know I’m not going to be getting a lot less rest once it’s started! You have to prepare yourself physically and mentally for these for these endeavours because they can be pretty intense.
In total it will be about an eight month schedule and you’ve got to be ready for it. After cutting all day for 10-12 hours, you’re mentally exhausted. And that gets cumulative after six or eight months.
In terms of other preparation, obviously I really dive into the script. I break it down in terms of continuity. I keep track of the changes as new script versions come out. I’ve been fortunate to be hired fairly far in advance on this project, so I can really see the evolution of the script and characters.
I’ve also been talking to my first assistant about utilizing a new product, which will help us interface between Avid and DaVinci Resolve, to help us with some of the visual effects. I’ve been prepping my system and making sure I know the latest tools which are going to be the most advantageous to our workflow. So those kinds of things.
What else is involved between now and the shoot, for you?
The way the process works, for me at least, is that once you make your deal with the studio and the production, you’re on the film. You’re not getting paid yet, because you get paid when your ass is in the chair, but you’re on with the production.
I’ve already had several in-depth conversations with the director, who’s down in Atlanta, and we’re already talking about the script, the shoot and what kinds of tools he’ll be using, the post process, talking about the people that were going to be working with, where we’re going to be working etc.
What is it like to work with Netflix?
It’s great. We’re excited about working with them again because they’re a very film filmmaker friendly company.
I’ve already had some initial meetings and conversations with our post-production supervisor and our post contact at Netflix.
We are getting ready to have our first workflow conference call where all the key departments and vendors will discuss pipelines, working methods, equipment, specs, and the rest of the information we all need to be in sync about once production begins. So this is an ideal situation.
Sometimes, in less than optimal situations, you’re thrown in the chair, the day of production or a week after they’ve started shooting.
Are there bits of gear you always like use on a feature?
I’m pretty excited because I have a whole new setup on this film and actually, it’s the first feature I’ve ever cut on a PC.
I got tired of the limitations of the old MacPro’s and also the lack of customization of the new iMacPro and I wanted a system that would have a lot of power without costing a fortune.
Our source footage will be shot in 8K on the RED Weapon and although we’ll be cutting at DNX115, this being a relatively visual effects heavy project, I didn’t want to be hamstrung, particularly when rendering.
So, I had a custom PC built for me running Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. It’s got an:
- Intel i7-7280 processor with 16 cores
- 64GB of Corsair Vengeance 3000Mhz Ram
- GeForce GTX 1080ti GPU
- 1TB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 Internal SSD system drive
Everything else will be stored on the Avid ISIS.
These are all completely new for me!
I’m going to continue to cut in stereo, I really don’t need to cut LCR.
We’re going to be working in a facility that has a booth downstairs so we’re going to be able to do ADR and temp stuff, directly into the ISIS.