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Interview with Ryan Axe—Part Five: Advice for Future Editors

At 25 years old and many films under the belt, what´s the best advice you have for new editors that are pursuing a film career?

This is the question that gets asked the most, so I want to try and avoid giving the same answer as everyone else. I’ll break out this answer into sections, as there are many steps to take to get into the industry.

Firstly, I would suggest buying a book on Assistant Editing. Not only will it teach you how to use Avid, but more importantly, you will learn about cutting room etiquette, politics and terminology before you’ve even set foot in a cutting room. And you will learn all about feature film and TV workflows, things you can’t be taught by doing online Avid tutorials, which will put you a step ahead of the competition.

My suggestions for books would be Make the Cut by Lori Coleman and Diana Friedberg, and The Avid Assistant Editor’s Handbook by Kyra Coffie.

Following on from that, you could then try out the workflows, seeing if you can get footage into Avid, doing a quick cut, then exporting it out and bringing it into programs like Pro Tools and Da Vinci Resolve, which both have free versions available to test.

You want to make yourself stand out, and what better way to learn a skillset like VFX. There aren’t many assistant editors that can do VFX in Avid to a high standard, so learning how to use the Animatte, Paint and Spectramatte effects will put you a step ahead, as it’s a valuable skill. If you wanted to go even further, you could learn After Effects to really stand out.

Once you’re comfortable using Avid and the effects, it’s time to get your name out there.

Networking is the key to getting work in the industry. You’re a freelancer, so you have to promote yourself as a business, someone with a skillset that people want to hire. No one is going to hire you if they don’t know you exist, so the more people you contact, the higher chance of success you have.

There are many networking events in London you can attend, and Facebook groups you can join, where you can be a part of the post community and apply for jobs that get posted regularly. You can sign up to a 30-day free trial of IMDB Pro, and search for as many editors and assistant editors as you can. As long as they have their contact information on their page, you can send them an email saying you admire their work, and would appreciate some advice. Don’t be deterred if people don’t reply, a lot of people won’t, but there will be some that do. You must keep a conversation going with them, stay in touch with them, and keep them up to date with your career. Then when the time comes and they’re looking for an assistant, one of the first people they will think of will be you, as you’ve kept in touch.

You need to appreciate that a lot of the time people won’t be able to offer you a job straight away, because they’re already working on a film, which is why it’s key to stay in touch. There will only be a short window where an editor finishes one project and moves on to the next, and things can happen very fast in this industry, so you must be proactive, and keep getting your name out there to the right people.

This is exactly how most people get their first jobs, it’s absolutely key. Eddie and all of us in the team have met with many people over the past two years who have emailed us and kept in touch. Some of those people go on to get jobs, not just with us, but with others that we have recommended them to, as once we have your CV (I.e. résumé) we can pass it on. This could happen to you, too, if you want it and work hard enough.

As for the CV, it’s crucial that you condense this down to one side of A4. It’s the same advice everyone I know has given. Even if you have lots of credits, which presumably you won’t if you’re just starting out, there’s always a way to fit everything on to one page. You have to be creative and make your CV stand out. A lot of CVs we receive can be quite bland, with black text on white, boring fonts and messy formatting. Look at a CV as a way to show your personality, it needs to pop and stand out amongst the sea of competition.

Take a look at my CV. It looks very simple, but it’s neat, has a clean font, uses different colors and bolded fonts, and the formatting has been thought out. Keep it simple but show a little creativity.

References are very important to include, because this industry operates largely on recommendation and word of mouth, so having someone willing to vouch for you will go a long way when approaching people that you’ve never worked with before.

My final piece of advice is to be patient, persistent and don’t give up. Many people fail to get into the industry because they get deterred by rejection or a lack of opportunities. Don’t let that be you. If you keep banging on the right doors eventually someone will give you a chance and then it’s up to you to be ready and not screw it up.

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