by Erin Casper, 2011 Fellow

Early last month, I headed to ACE Edit Fest NY for a packed weekend of panels, presentations, and networking with award-winning film and television editors.

The first night’s panel, “The Lean Forward Moment,” was a mix of four narrative and doc feature editors presenting their favorite sequences and sharing the lessons and inspired moments that impacted them as film lovers and editors. This gentle toeing of the water soon opened the floodgates for questions tweeted from the audience—editors with varying levels of experience, assistants, producers and industry movers and shakers—to the panel’s moderator, Norman Hollyn. From there we quickly got down to business, gaining insights on everything from best practices for job interviews--Anne McCabe’s approach (AdventurelandNurse Jackie) is to at least make the director or producer laugh, so as to be memorable—to sage advice from legendary doc editor Larry Silk (Wild Man BluesPumping Iron), who talked about the painful choices editors make in order to carve out the universe of a story.

The real pen-to-paper moment came the next day on the Pixar panel with editor Ken Schretzmann (CarsToy Story 3) as he gave us an inside look on his editing process. Not only does Ken spend years editing a film (he’s edited three in twelve years), but the editing also takes place throughout all stages of animation before the film is “shot” with virtual cameras. It was a lot to wrap my mind around, since I come from the opposite end of the spectrum, where the documentary director shoots hundreds of hours of footage before the story is penned. I especially admired the way that Ken didn’t seem too phased by the daunting amount of changes and notes pouring into the editing room from numerous other departments.

It turns out Ken’s process proved as mystifying to me as several other attendees I chatted with after the panel. Oddly enough, it was as if we found ourselves in the shoes of the non-editors we’d encountered in our own lives—the folks who assume an editor just cuts out all the bad parts. And here we were, fellow editors, marveling together at Ken’s work, having previously assumed all the animation done at Pixar requires no editing, or at least extraction of the bad parts.

Overall, it was a great weekend at Edit Fest. The biggest thing I take away from events like this—besides the chance to meet with editors who’ve crafted some of my favorite films in recent years—is an appreciation for hearing about the hidden struggle that other editors engage in to fully realize the film’s story. I look forward to learning more about these things from my West Coast counterparts at Edit Fest LA in August.