I’ve been back on Ghost for two months now and I’ve been fairly silent about my day to day cutting activities. In that time, I’ve worked on a few cases and cut my first solo episode (which is now locked). Right now I’m working on a B-case for an episode where another editor cut the A-case. I have the investigation portion of the case cut. I still need to go back and make a few tweaks, but otherwise I’m purely focused on cutting the tour.

Of all the tours I’ve done, this one seems to be giving me the most trouble. As this is a B-case, it needs to be shorter than the A-case. However, this B-case has two clients and two locations. Right now I’m trying to lay out the claims and the backstory as succinctly as possible without leaving any holes in the story and without being vague. That can be a huge challenge in an A-case or even in a whole episode case, but in a B-case it is a massive challenge.

At this moment I have approximately 11 minutes of material that I’ve laid out for the tour and I still need to add a few points for clarification. When all is said and done, the tour should come in around three to three-and-a-half minutes. This is going to be a lot of work, but as soon as I figure out the starting point it will come together quickly. I just need to put on my writer’s cap and start coming up with some decent VO to help whittle this story down.

This is what fills my day in the cutting room. I don’t put much thought into the bells and whistles of my editing system. I don’t put much thought into using a bunch of cool plug-ins and transitions. I think about story. How can I tell a story quickly and efficiently? What is important and what is not? What information should I present now, and what should I hold back for later? They are simple, but important questions. Keep it simple, keep it moving.

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I had a great time at Comic-con this year. Even though we didn’t stay for the entire thing, I still managed to see and do quite a bit. I spent more than I should have on things I didn’t really need, but hey, who cares? My only regret is not going to the free Linkin Park concert on Thursday night. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time and I’ve never actually seen them live. That same night I had won an invite to the IGN Sin City 2 party, which was cool, but I was totally out of place. Because I was staying with a friend that lives a few miles away from the convention center, I didn’t have an opportunity to clean up or change before the party. I felt a bit ridiculous around a bunch of people that were dressed for the occasion, while I was in shorts and a t-shirt and lugging around a backpack. Live and learn, I guess. Next year I’ll keep some nice clothes in the car (if I can’t score a place downtown, that is).

On Friday, I waited a few hours to get a free Game of Thrones tattoo, courtesy of HBO. I’m pretty happy with this decision. It’s a badass design and I am already planning to have an entire piece done around it. Later that evening, I went to see the San Diego Symphony perform the music of Danny Elfman from the films of Tim Burton. It was an amazing concert. I love Danny Elfman’s music. Much like John Williams’ music in Steven Spielberg’s movies, Elfman’s music is instantly recognizable and a perfect fit for Burton’s films.

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This week was an extremely short, yet productive week for me in the cutting room. I’ve been back on Ghost for about a month now and after all the episodes I’ve worked on, I’m finally doing an entire episode solo. This one is a 2 case episode and I am currently about a week away from finishing the B-case. I also have Comic-con this week, which is why I’m cutting so rapidly at the moment. My goal is to finish off everything except the tour for this case before I take off to San Diego.

I am happy to say that I am right on track with that plan. As I type this, I am rendering out a couple of transitions and double-boxes for the reveal scene. Getting my show as far as I could before leaving means that I can have my SP take a look at it and prep her notes while I am away. When I come back I will have 4 days to cut the tour and setup, which is the right amount of time since the tours are always the most complicated scenes in this show.

The next few days should be fun. I have gone to Comic-con for several years now. I love that it is such a huge melting pot of pop- and geek-culture. I plan on hitting up a bunch of panels and on Friday night I am seeing the San Diego Symphony perform the music of Danny Elfman from Tim Burton films. That should be an amazing show.

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There is a myth about how it takes 21 days to form a habit. While there may be some truth to that myth, I think that in general it’s bullshit. There are plenty of habits I should have formed throughout my life if this were true. Exercise is one. Keeping a daily journal of The Journey is another.

It may be that you can form a habit in 21 days, but I also think you can break a habit in just one day. All it takes is a single instance of missing or forgetting to do something, combined with an excuse to justify it and your habit can become broken. A habit only remains a habit if you work at keeping it a habit.

Of course, my logic probably only applies to good habits. Bad habits are much more difficult to break. Breaking a good habit only takes an excuse, while excuses can keep one trapped in a cycle of bad habits.

I know I need to work hard at reforming and keeping the good habits I’ve broken. I also need to work hard at breaking some of the bad habits that have held me back.

Things I need to do include managing my personal time better so that not exercising becomes more difficult to excuse. The same goes for writing and reading. When I was writing every day it was self-motivating. After falling off those rails I’ve found it difficult to get back on track again. I know part of that is that I feel like I don’t always have something new or interesting to write every day. I need to get over that issue and just get back to writing SOMETHING every single day, whether it is new or interesting or not.

So this is today, the 500th time I’ve made this realization. That doesn’t matter as long as I can act on that realization this time.

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Off the rails, completely… I did pretty well with this for a while, but just haven’t gotten back into it yet. I’ve been working steadily for the past few weeks and I still feel like I made the right decision to move on from my last gig, but I haven’t made any attempt to pick back up with the blogging.

I suppose I’ve been in somewhat of a rut for the last few months. That last gig was pretty draining for me. Working your ass off while on a job where you don’t have any in-person interaction with other people can do that to you. Fortunately, I am back to working in a facility where there are other people. Human interaction is always a nice thing to experience. It helps keep me sane.

Perhaps I can get back into a routine soon. The next two weeks are going to be a bit crazy, but after that life should go back to normal.

And now I’m going back to bed…

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118 – Coming to terms with a difficult decision

So, um… scratch almost everything I wrote in that last entry. I received the cut from the other editor, watched it, and immediately determined that I needed to do a page one, scene one recut of the entire show. Scrap everything she did and just start over. It was very rough and when you add to it how much the script had changed since she started her cut, it made no sense to use any of it. The problem with starting from scratch was that I only had two weeks to do it and I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

To help me meet the deadline I knew exactly who to ask. My buddy Shane Ross is an editor who I have known for about 10 years and have worked with on several occasions in the past. In fact he had worked on a previous season of this series and was the one who initially recommended me for this gig. I called him and asked if he was interested and available. When he said he was interested and could probably make himself available I was thrilled. I then called my show runner, explained the situation to her and told her I needed Shane’s help. She understood and got the ball rolling. Within two days, Shane was on the show with me and we had divided up the show in the most logical fashion.

Shane and I cut fast and furiously for about two weeks in order to meet a Thursday morning of week 2 deadline. We hit that deadline, but unfortunately there were notes and rewrites that pushed the edit out an extra week. 2 insane weeks turned into 3 and by the end of it I was feeling completely burned out. When you consider that the episode I had cut just before this one also ended in a crazy fashion I wasn’t too keen on diving right into another one.

I’ve been working in this industry long enough to know when it is worth dealing with stress and insane schedules and this wasn’t one of those instances. In an extremely rare move for me, I made the decision to walk away from this gig and not take on another episode. This wasn’t a decision I arrived at lightly, but I did not see the craziness of the turnarounds changing and frankly working 7 days a week for 12-16 hours a day wasn’t healthy for me or my home life.

Some people may wonder why I would even write about this publicly, but I feel it is important to let people know that you don’t have to continue working in a situation that you don’t enjoy. Producers fire editors all the time, I think it is equally acceptable for an editor to fire a producer (client, production company, etc.). Bottom line, I did not want to spend another month working late into the night, every day on a show that I was completely indifferent about.

Luckily when I reached my decision I was contacted by someone that I had worked with in the past who wanted my help for a few weeks with another show. In the end, everything worked out. I’m happy with my decision and the production company found a replacement for me right away. I believe they understand why I decided to walk away and I would hope that they don’t hold a grudge. I know I don’t.

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After several crazy weeks, I finally got my cut out the door. I finished off the episode on Sunday morning and sent it to my show runner, who happily sent it off to the network. Now, I’m moving on to the next episode.

One thing I really like about this show is that since it is so heavy on reenactments I get to cut in a more cinematic fashion. The show doesn’t rely on flashy effects and rapid fire cutting. It is allowed to breathe, well placed cuts dominate the timeline. There are moments where I use things like light leaks, but only when I want a specific look, such as for a flashback. Like Ghost Hunters, this show is all about building and maintaining tension. We build up to good old fashioned scares through the use of varied pacing, clever use of POV shots, and of course a lot of music and sound design work.

The music on this show is really fantastic. While I am cutting I work with temp music from prior episodes. This is a show that utilizes the talents of a composer and gets an actual score for each episode. When I’m cutting I choose from tracks that he had composed previously. While this music will likely be replaced, it is important for me to find the right tone. Because of the cinematic nature of the show, I choose a theme that I can come back to several times during the episode. A recurring theme helps viewers understand what is happening in the story without needing to constantly spell it out for them. Variations on the theme can tell you if the mood is happy, sad, scared, etc. I prefer this method over the typical method of cutting in a bunch of canned music that I hear on dozens of other shows. On so many shows there is a mandate to not repeat music within the episode, but for a docudrama that approach would be wrong.

Today I’m in a holding pattern as I wait for my next episode to arrive. This one is a bit different than the last as I’ll be taking over the cut from another editor. It’s not ideal, but things don’t always go as planned in this business. The ability to adapt to stressful situations is important.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife got back from Ecuador last Monday! She had a great trip and worked really hard on all of her projects, but she’s happy to be home and I’m happy to have her back.

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