Know How To Do Your Assistant’s Job
Don’t shoot the messenger, but I was listening to a recent podcast of FCPX Grill with Austin Flack who is a professional Avid editor, and he’s talking about what he does and how he does it. There came a point in the interview when he literally said that (and I’m paraphrasing) “he has no idea how his assistant does his job and how his files get prepped”.
I’ve been on a lot of those jobs where the editor I’m working with doesn’t know how his assistant does what they do or even really how to turn their computer on. They only know how to cut and trim. It’s going to become harder and harder to find jobs where that’s going to be acceptable. The budgets just aren’t there to have a “creative” editor who doesn’t know the how the tools they’re working on fundamentally work… or even worse, the rates for those jobs of “creative editors” are going to drop dramatically. They’re going to become commoditized as editing continues to become demystified for the masses and turnaround on the typical job continues to shrink..
I will admit that one of the primary advantages of being an Avid editor is that once you figure it out, you get to do the Wizard of Oz thing a little bit because there is such a steep learning curve with the app. It’s hard for producers or directors to check your work, and people tend to be a bit at the mercy of the editor they’re working with as they can’t actually make the changes themselves. Rates stay higher for Avid editors on many jobs as scarcity persists, and the status quo stays enabled.
The main problem with all of this is that directors are figuring out how to edit, and so are grandmothers. The standard excuses of why things are taking so long or why certain things can’t be done are not working as well anymore.
For me, the number one thing that allowed me to get clients/jobs that I had no business getting with FCP7-Color was the fact that I was able to do the whole widget. I could bring the media in, put it together, edit it, color it, do some GFX, and even a basic mix… and if there was a hardware problem, I could even replace the RAM in my Mac Pro if I had to… I was able to be a one stop shop where I could reasonably deliver an entire piece for a client from beginning to end, and do each of the parts of the job as a reasonably high enough level where they could just let me do the whole thing. I’d make more money and they’d spend less. It was a win-win.
That was a few years ago, where that type of service was a bit of a bonus. Now, I think it’s largely expected. For most projects, especially new media/internet, it will be expected of the editor/filmmaker/whatever to be able to get the shoot done, put together an edit, do the basic mix and color, and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be able to bring it to someone else to do a polish and some of the finishing… producers/clients/companies will be/are expecting post to deliver more in dramatically less time. If you’re only able to do one thing really well… you’re not nearly as useful anymore.
The truth is that between the FCPX-Resolve ecosystem, and what can be done with the cloud apps, there’s really no reason that a producer shouldn’t expect this anyway. The tools are that good now. The question is simply whether the producer has had the opportunity to work with people who know what’s possible with these tools… and once they find someone like that, that person is going to keep all of that client’s jobs.
The era of the specialist is coming to a close. For most projects in the future, I think the average editor is going to be expected to know how to do a little bit of everything. The strange thing though is that while the “jack of all trades-master of none” quote still rings very true, because of how great the post production tools have become, it’s way easier to master a whole lot more things these days. You’re no longer limited to only having time to become really good at one thing.
Instead of being a master of editing… you can now become a master of post production… and I think that’s what clients are going to be looking for from the people they hire… or at least, that’s what they’ll be looking for out of the people they’re willing to pay a lot of money.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog post contains the personal musings of FCPWORKS’ Workflow Architect, Sam Mestman. Sam’s also a regular writer for fcp.co and MovieMaker Magazine, teaches post workflow at RED’s REDucation classes, and is the founder and CEO of We Make Movies, a film collective in Los Angeles and Toronto which is dedicated to making the movie industry not suck. If you’ve got any FCP X questions or need some help putting together a system, drop him an email at email@example.com and you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @FCPWORKS.