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TOM STRACHAN DRAMA EDITOR

A year of editing

September 11, 2018

 

 

So today marks a year to the day since I left behind the role of assistant editor, and started calling myself an editor. In that time I’ve worked on children’s tv, soaps and ongoing dramas. Worked across the UK, from Glasgow to Liverpool, Newcastle to Manchester. It’s been a crazy year, with the kind of ups and downs you always expect in the television industry and I’ve learned some pretty big lessons along the way. I could write paragraphs on the things I’ve learned but I’m trying to keep people interested so I’ll stick to three of the biggest points that have resonated with me.

 

Take every meeting you can.

 

That might sound kind of obvious but I’ve passed up on a couple of meetings this year, that in hindsight look like poor decisions. A lot of people don’t like talking about the jobs they didn’t get, but anytime my name is even mentioned as in the running for a job, I see that as a win. A step in the right direction to becoming a more established editor.

 

Back in February I had been out of work for three months. It had been rough but I knew when I stepped up to editor it would start quiet. So I’m all set to start my second job and I’m approached about being the assembly editor on a 9pm crime thriller. Great! Sounds incredible! But the producer doesn’t like Skype interviews and only wants to meet in person. Worse still they can only meet on the first couple of days I start my new job. They’re in London, I’ll be working in Liverpool. I said I couldn’t make it. I figured it wouldn’t be a good look for the job I was starting and although that probably is the case still, in hindsight, I could have made it work. It might have meant working a weekend but there was probably a way. Because of that choice I probably missed out on the chance to move into editing the kinds of shows I really dream of. Other opportunities will come, but I’ll have to wait.

 

The second example almost cost me big. I was asked about a show that would edit for a long stint through July to September. At the time I had interviewed for two other jobs both due to start mid July. I also believed I was in line for a job starting in August that I really liked. I was really confident about getting at least one of those jobs and if I did, I wouldn’t be available for the new job on the table. So I said I was unavailable and then one by one all of those jobs disappeared. I don’t hold anything against those decision makers, none of them promised me anything. It was my choice and it was the wrong one. A friend got the job on the long running edit and I was happy for him. After a nervous few weeks where I kept trying to remind myself, the summer is always busy, you’ll be okay, I landed on my feet. Now I’m booked till nearly Christmas.

 

Be Bold

 

So back to the actual editing side of things. I got into editing at university, in part, because I liked working on my own. In my edit suite I felt in control of the footage and could make an impact with it. Now sometimes you start a job and you don’t know the director, haven’t worked with them before. You don’t know their style and habits. Sometimes you might not even have met or spoke to them before you start. So it can be easy to second guess the footage and play it safe. If you play it safe, it’ll always come back to get you later on. Generally speaking in the assembly portion of the edit, you have more time to play around to try things out. Come up with ideas the director might not have thought of. When you’re into the fine cut and the directors sat next to you, your time is dictated by viewings and availability as well as having to get through all your episodes.

 

If you see something you think will work, do it. Make it happen. If you’re really worried the director won’t like it, cut an alternate. But show the version you feel happiest with first. I’m definitely getting better at this. Believing in myself and my creativity makes me enjoy my job more as well. Most directors I’ve worked with want to see this from editors and it’s only encouraged me to be bolder.

Don’t stop hustling

 

This isn’t anything overly new to me, but it’s been an absolute constant in my year. Before I moved up to editor on a show I had long assisted on, I networked with producers/directors/post supervisors. I knew that when I moved up I would need a plan for afterwards. So I was able to build up a few credits relatively quickly. In a year of editing I’ve accumulated four different credits and 24 episodes of drama. All the jobs I’ve been to have asked me back for more work, which is a great feeling. But I’m still not where I want to be. I’ve always aimed

 

 

 

for the very elite and I’m not there yet. Nor should I be.

 

I keep in touch with many people I’ve worked with, editors, directors, producers and more. Not in a ‘do you have any work’ fashion, more “how are you? Did you know I’m editing now, this is what I’ve been doing”. I’m a big believer in playing the long game. So although these people might not be in the right situations to work with me now, hopefully they will think of me in the future.

 

I also try to create new contacts each and every month. Introduce myself to at least three people I’ve not met before. Whether they’re friends of friends or somebody whose name I’ve seen on the credits and I’m saying “hey I love your work. Can we grab a coffee?” Do I always get replies? Hell no. Barely ever. But it’s again the long game plan.

 

Last year I had an interview for a show I would absolutely love to edit. It came about because after I’d watched a series I emailed the producer saying how much I enjoyed it. Two months later he replied and asked if I wanted to meet up.

 

I’m very happy with how my first year has gone, but I’m much more excited about where I can take my career in the future and all the hard work will definitely be worthwhile.

 

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