In which I finally get to edit an episode of US network television.
Last Monday my episode of The Good Doctor aired in the US on the ABC network (Ep312 “Mutations”). This is the culmination of 3 years on the show as an assistant editor, after 5 years of revamping my career by moving to LA, as part of an overall strategy that started 8 years ago. It’s been a while coming but it was a move forward. And it was a great experience; something I don’t say often. This industry is frequently a long slog to move forward by inches.
My career has involved a lot of jumping around anyway. I’ve never lasted long at jobs that need you to show up to the same place at the same time to do the same thing every day. At some point I’ve done most of the technical roles involved in motion picture production and post production, and a few of the creative ones. I don’t regret the diversity of experience. It’s kept things interesting but limited progress in any particular field. Ironically, I decided to get out of editing in 2010, so I’m a little surprised I’m back doing it in 2020, and at this level.
The Good Doctor is one of the best written TV shows I’ve worked on, which sounds like typical Hollywood BS, but everybody on this show really is great. It’s well produced and very well organized. Then I was surprised by how supportive everyone was of giving me an opportunity edit, since my usual work situation is having to overcome resistance from people who don’t think I’m ready or want me to jump through political hoops. That doesn’t go well. This was the opposite.
Editing is a strange craft. Done well it is a completely invisible but essential part of the illusion of motion pictures. It’s both technical and creative, but the creative part is often overlooked. Editing can alter the pacing, tone, focus, significance and sometimes complete meaning of a scene. The unseen hand of the editor touches every detail of a motion picture, and leaves no trace.
The attention to detail, need for organization and less political atmosphere in post production make it a good option in an industry that is often disorganized, obtuse and dominated by egos and personalities. Curiously, being in the higher level role was actually easier. As an assistant I have to work to somebody else’s schedule. As an editor, I could set my own. I could manage myself better, reduce stress and focus on my strengths. The role does require more interaction with other people, like the director and producers, but I have done that before so it wasn’t a shock. It’s a matter of putting on a professional face, a professional mask, being absurdly positive, and taking a shot at everything you’re asked to do, whether or not you think it will work. I find this easier than stuffing myself into the box every day to perform the lower level role.
There are no guarantees for what happens next. Cutting this episode makes a good resume item. (I need to update that, and IMDb.) It’s always good to get the first time out of the way. People are often afraid of giving you a shot the first time. This could lead to something or it could be a one off. Hollywood is much less organized than you might think. This is good in some ways, bad in others. It means a certain amount of flexibility, but also uncertainty. There is a famous saying in the industry that “nobody knows anything”. And this is true. On every level.
In any case this was good experience and I should just take the win. I find it hard to impress myself. Frequently I’m not sure what things mean anyway. I feel like: “What was that?” and “OK, what now?” It’s easy to forget that anybody working in this industry is privileged to be here. So at some point it’s disrespectful not to take the win and appreciate it. And it’s good start to 2020.