Anita Brandt Burgoyne has been editing for about 26 years, editorial credits are for: Judging Amy, Recovery Road, Good Burger and Legally blonde the biggest film she edited, she was asking for a new project “The Bachelors” stars like J.K. Simmons from the film “Whiplash” and the French actor Julie Delpy will shape the cast. Anita Brandt Burgoyne is an active member of the AMERICAN CINEMA EDITORS Membership Committee. Anita has been nominated twice for a American Cinema Editors “Eddie” Award and once for an A.T.A.S. “Emmy” award for her work.
Can you tell us how you started your career?
I have been editing for about 26 years. In that time, I’ve edited TV movies, feature films, TV series, and some commercials and short films. My father was an editor, so I decided I wanted to become an editor like him when I was about 14 years old. This was mostly because I idolized my dad and wanted to be just like him, but also because I spent time in his editing rooms all through my growing up years and I thought it was very interesting. I began my career editing on film, using a Moviola, because that’s the way my father edited. Non-Linear systems such as Avid hadn’t been invented yet, although there were some very early versions of other systems– the Montage, Ediflex, Editdroid,– but we continued to cut on film because that worked very well for us.
“Once I started editing on Avid, on a Disney movie called
“I’ll be Home for Christmas,” I never went back to Lightworks”.
The first film I edited digitally was a feature called “A Very Brady Sequel” and I edited that on Lightworks. I chose to learn Lightworks first, because it looked easier to me– more like editing on film. I also edited my second film,”Good Burger” on Lightworks, but then it was becoming clear that Avid was taking over, as the system most professional editors were using, so I knew I needed to learn it. Once I started editing on Avid, on a Disney movie called “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” I never went back to Lightworks. I have only twice been asked to cut a film on Final Cut Pro, but I really hated that system and finally started to say no to projects that were using it.
As an Editor, what is the most difficult challenge you have faced to?
The most difficult part of editing for me has nothing to do with telling the story or cutting scenes together or anything. The most difficult part for me is understanding the politics and personalities of all the different people on the project. I’m by nature a “nice” person and I go into every project thinking everyone on the film wants to get along with everyone else. But often, people have their own agendas. I’ve seen directors and producers on projects that literally hate each other. When that occurs, the editor is caught in the middle and it’s very uncomfortable. I try my best to stay neutral, because my only goal is to help everyone make the best film possible, but sometimes it’s very difficult. On one film, I agreed 100% with the director (and the producer was a terrible person,) so when the producer fired the director, I got fired at the same time because I was allied with the director. Those situations are terrible and complicated and after that particular one, I decided I wouldn’t ever take a job if I knew ahead of time that there was going to be a clash in personalities, or if one person had a different agenda than someone else. My goal is always to help all parties make the best, most enjoyable film possible.
What do you consider important, creativity or technical skills?
I believe creativity is the most important thing I bring. I’m not a very technological person and there are many visual effect things I don’t know how to do on the Avid. But if I can explain to my assistant, what I see in my head, I know she has the technical skills to actually create those things. I consider myself a storyteller first and to be honest, I don’t feel that adding visual effects help me tell the story. They may enhance the enjoyment of watching the story, but visual effects alone are not telling a story in most cases. There are obviously some cases where the VFX actually are the story (if there’s a CGI character, or something) but I will still let VFX people create those elements and I will stick to the footage that was shot. I often cut whole scenes that were shot against green screen, which is fine. I still look for the best performances and try to tell the story in the most interesting way possible. But then I hand it over to someone else (either my assistant, or a VFX editor) to do the backgrounds. Once the complete shot is roughed together, I go back and tweak it. But to me, technology is only an enhancement tool for the most part. Creatively telling the story is always most important to me.
I know the path for becoming an ACE is hard but…What was the best film you edited and why you feel so?
The path to becoming a member of ACE is mostly about editing good quality things for at least five years. That means five years of actual work time; it doesn’t include the months in between projects. So it takes a while. Plus, ACE is looking for work that meets a certain high standard. If someone is cutting their own YouTube videos, or cutting instructional videos for small companies, I don’t think ACE would consider that material suitable. We often tell prospective members who haven’t done work that’s up to the ACE standard, to reapply for membership when they have done a little more work. Usually people do reapply and often get in on the second (or third) try.
I’m not sure what is the best film I’ve edited. I have my favorites. Obviously “Legally Blonde” is a favorite because it was the biggest film I edited. It was fun to be on a film that I knew was going to be good, all the way through the whole process. But I also loved editing “Good Burger-“- I loved the humor of that movie, plus I loved all the people involved in it. It was a lot of fun.
I got an Emmy nomination and the film got nominated for an Emmy for best TV film.
I did a TV movie many years ago called “Homeless to Harvard.” It was for Lifetime Channel. I knew it was a good movie, but it got much more recognition than I ever dreamed it would get. I got an Emmy nomination and the film got nominated for an Emmy for best TV film. We didn’t win, but I had no clue I would ever even be nominated. It was fun because it was all such a surprise.
I just edited a new TV series that started airing here called Recovery Road. It was a lot of work, but it was really fun to work on as well. After all these years, my goal is to work with nice, talented people, who respect the work I do and the creativity and skill I bring to the project.
Can you tell us about the workflow using Media Composer?
The workflow on every project changes, but it all seems to be heading in the same direction. There is no longer a processing lab between production and the editing room. Now, there is a DIT (Digital imaging technician) on most sets. That person works with the cinematographer to make sure the digital camera settings are getting the best possible image out of the camera. Once they’ve shot enough material to fill a portable drive, the drive comes directly to my assistant in the editing room. My assistant then transcodes the raw footage into Avid media and organizes scene bins for me. I then begin to edit the scenes and try as much as possible to edit as quickly as they shoot. But it’s becoming more difficult to stay caught up to camera, because digital footage is inexpensive to shoot, so they shoot so much more footage than they used to! On Recovery Road, most days I would have four or five hours of footage everyday. I can barely look at all that footage and make notes, let alone get the scenes cut everyday. But that is how the process is going, so editors manage as well as they can and ask for more time to finish an editor’s cut if they need it.
In your last/newest projects what is the workflow for editing work?
Recovery Road was the last project I did and the workflow was as I described it above. My next project is a feature that begins shooting in March. It’s called “The Bachelors” and stars J.K. Simmons from the film “Whiplash” and the French actor Julie Delpy. Because my assistant hasn’t been hired officially yet, I don’t know what the workflow will be, but I can guess it will be similar to the one on Recovery Road. I believe drives will come directly from the set to the editing room. They’re shooting here in Los Angeles, which makes everything easier and faster.
Legally Blonde was One of the most watched movies, with $180 million at the box office. How did you receive the news that confirmed you had the job as en editor?
I was working on a TV series called “Judging Amy” when I interviewed for “Legally Blonde.” It happened that one of the producers on “Judging Amy” was a mentor to one of the producers on “Legally Blonde.” So when I interviewed and found out those two people had a connection, I went to the “Judging Amy” producer and told him, “Joe, I’m sad to tell you I want to leave the show. Plus, I’m going to ask you to help me do it.” I will never forget how nice he was. He called the “Legally Blonde” producer who he had mentored and said lots of nice things about me and when they offered me the job, he wished me luck and told me to go do it.” It was very exciting. I found out I got the movie when my agent called to tell me. I was so happy; I went to my daughter’s school volleyball game that afternoon and brought the “Legally Blonde” script with me. When she looked over, I held up the script and smiled really big, so she knew I got the job.
What are you looking for when you are editing?
I am always looking for the tiny moments that make me feel something. Sometimes, something very subtle, such as a look in an actor’s eye, or a subtle delivery of a line, or a good reaction makes a huge difference. I love to find the hidden gems that would otherwise be missed. I love when I find a line reading that makes me laugh, or a great reaction that I think is hilarious. I learned about comedy when I did The Brady Bunch sequel. I had never cut comedy before and I learned quite a bit from the actor Shelly Long. I learned that often the best laugh is not on the person saying the line, but on the person reacting to what’s being said. Shelly Long was a brilliant reactor and I always knew I could cut to her and find something wonderful.
The same goes for drama. I look for the internal rhythm that lives in each scene and I try to edit to that rhythm. Or, I try to help create the rhythm I want. I had a composer tell me once that I’m the most “musical editor” she had worked with. My editing rhythm just seemed to fall in place with the musical rhythm she created in her score cues. Maybe it’s because I played the piano for 13 years and sang in the school choir through my entire education, but I feel a sense of music and rhythm in scenes. I don’t like it when scenes feel “herky jerky” or out of rhythm. I like them to feel smooth and effortless.
Any advice for newbies editors?
I would say you should try to edit as much as possible. Do things for free; edit student films; shoot your own films on a Go Pro or something and practice cutting them together to tell a good story. Play with edits to see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find that a cut you thought would never work, gives something great energy or creates a certain feeling. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try crazy things. That’s the beauty of digital editing; you can undo anything that sucks!
Successful editors rarely forget how they got their
start and are usually quite willing to pay back the favor to others coming along now.
I encourage people if they have the money to buy an editing system like Avid for their computers. Avid makes systems somewhat affordable for students and Avid has great forums to answer questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions too. Editors are a very helpful bunch. We rose up through the ranks only because people helped us along. Successful editors rarely forget how they got their start and are usually quite willing to pay back the favor to others coming along now.
Also, watch movies! Watch movies for their editing. Decide what are your favorite editing styles. It’s easy to watch big action movies and think the editing is amazing, but there is also wonderful editing in slower paced movies. Sometimes those movies are an even bigger challenge. One of my favorite examples is the opening scene in Inglourious Basterds. It’s the farmer and the Christophe Waltz character sitting at a table in the house. All they do is sit and talk. But because of the brilliant editing (by Sally Menke,) I was both laughing and terrified at the same time. That’s amazing editing. Action editing is flashy and fun (and really fun to do) but quiet dialogue, or funny dialogue scenes are equally challenging and rewarding.
So… go edit and go watch movies!!
Thanks to Anita Brandt-Burgoyne for the interview we really appreciate, let’s wish a very successful career for the immediate future. This is the first blog for the “CUT & TALK” series in both spanish and English languages. We hope you enjoyed.