Careers In Post-Production

For Class #16

 Instructor: Norman Hollyn T.A.: Beth Moody
 Office: 310-821-2792 Phone: 323-472-1164

 E-Mail: nhollyn [at]

E-Mail: elizabethmoody [at]


Excerpts from a Panel discussion among post-production professionals

by Keith Lissak

Note from Norman: As we begin to wind down our studies, I thought that it might be handy to have a look at what several professionals involved in all different facets of the post-production field have to say about getting a job in it. As usual, I highlight in yellow anything of particular interest to what we've been dicussing in recent weeks.


On Saturday, January 23,1999 members of Local 700 participated in a seminar at California State University, Northridge titled "Finishing Touches: Careers in Post Production." The panel discussion was part of the Entertainment Career Marketplace, a day-long event produced by the Entertainment Industry Institute at CSUN.

Moderated by Keith Lissak, the Guild's director of communications, the panel included film editor and board member Alan Heim, A.C.E.; supervising sound editor and Local 700 member Burt Weinstein, M.P.S.E., of Larson Sound Center in Burbank; Lloyd Martin, vice president of sales at signatory company Todd-AO Video Services in Hollywood; and independent post-production supervisor Celia Hamel.

The goal of the seminar was to introduce attendees to the many opportunities available in post production, from lab work to film editing to sound editing to video finishing. Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Alan Heim: Basically, what I do is interpose myself between the director's vision of what they think they shot and what they really shot. It's a political job.

"I've been doing this a very long time and I've developed quite a few survival skills, which you will all need to stay in the business...If somebody wants to become an editor through the traditional channels, which is learning as an assistant, I would recommend learning both film and digital. There is a need for good people out there.

Burt Weinstein: You spend your life, once you become a sound editor, listening to the world around you. Suddenly you realize that there's more character to a particular sound than, say, just a car passing by. You'll start noticing what kind of car it is, whether it's a six-cylinder engine or a four-cylinder.

Sound is kind of the afterthought of the industry. Remember that movies started as silent films. When movie sound was invented, the studios begrudgingly moved into it, and only because they realized that the audiences would accept it. Now sound has become much more important. I think that George Lucas started the revolution with Star Wars. He made people very aware of the sound of that movie.

Lloyd Martin: Throughout my career I did what I needed to get ahead in this industry, something you'll all have to do. First of all, you've got to volunteer to do things for free, with a lot of enthusiasm. Second of all, you have to show that you really want to learn. I spent 22 years in film laboratories, and I used to think that if I learned every possible technical thing about film that it would make me a real hero and I'd make a lot of money. But that was wrong, because you can go out and hire people who know a lot and will work at a lower price. That's when I realized this business is all about relationships.

Celia Hamel: There are people who understand film really well, and there are people who understand digital really well, but there aren't a whole lot of people who understand both. You don't have to know everything about film, but knowing as much as you can about the process and what has to happen before you go into the digital editing machine, and then when you come out, is very important.

Alan Heim: The dailies, which you have seen the night before, are digitized and loaded into my machine by the assistant. Usually, I'll have an assistant and an apprentice. In the morning I will start cutting the previous day's material. I'll look at the dailies when they are ready and make notes. At some point in the day when the director is free, I'll sit down with him and go over his notes. One hopes that the director's notes and my notes coincide at many points. If not, one of us is doing the wrong movie.

Celia Hamel: The one thing the assistant has to do is keep the editor working at all costs. If that means sleeping in the cutting room at night to make sure all the dailies are clean and the system's running properly, then that's what you have to do. If you're lucky, on a bigger show there will be two systems: one for the editor and a secondary one for the assistant.

Lloyd Martin: (on the role of the negative cutter) It's a very important job in our industry because these people are excellent at not scratching film. As good as they are, the film is usually scratched very badly by the time the negative cutter is done assembling a picture. Luckily, there's a process in the film laboratory called wet-gate printing, and it masks those minor scratches that even the best negative cutter causes.

Burt Weinstein: After I spot the show with the editor, director and the producers, I go through it on a computer and cue for the actors all of the lines that need to be replaced or added, including those for the loop-group actors. I'll also cue for my editors every sound effect in the movie, including door opens and closes, drawers, windows; anything that you see, if it moves we'll put a sound to it. We have the option of not playing that sound later, but my job is to make sure that everything is there.

Celia Hamel: With the acceptance of high-definition video, the studios are asking assistants in television cutting rooms to prepare for a film finish. That means the assistant still has to pull cut lists and make sure they're correct, because this information will be stored with the film. The studio will later use it when it's time to do a transfer to high-definition. So the worlds of film and television are becoming merged, and no one knows how it's going to play out.

Reprinted from The Motion Picture Editors Guild Newsletter Vol. 20, No. 1 - Jan/Sept 3099

Copyright (c) 1999, All Rights Reserved by The Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700

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