July 16, 2014

'Earth to Echo' Editor Carsten Kurpanek Reveals His Journey Breaking into Feature Editing


Have you ever had that particular project come along that completely turned your career around -- a break-out job after lots of hard work, that lead to more projects you loved working on? I FaceTimed recently with editor Carsten Kurpanek, who just edited his first wide-released feature Earth to Echo (in theaters now). Carsten was kind enough to provide some keen perspective from his own career thus far, some insights into the future of NLE technology, and even some recommendations and advice to those new to editing.

NFS: How did you end up editing features as a career?

Carsten Kurpanek: It was definitely a conscious decision. I worked as a tax officer in Germany for 6 years, and kind of felt stuck. I didn’t even have what compares to the high school diploma in America. I always loved movies, so I went back to school, got my high school degree, and started studying Film Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. And Mainz had a foreign exchange program with Muncie, Indiana, and Ball State University. A couple of my friends went there, and they made these awesome short films, and it got me really excited. So I said, "Great -- let’s go there!" That’s where, for the first time, I really edited a lot. I just loved editorial --there’s something about it that fits my personality, turning chaos into order. The process of seeing everything come together and work is wonderful.

I met my wife in school, and without her I wouldn’t even be in America. I wasn’t thinking of becoming an editor in Germany -- I thought I’d be a journalist. We wanted to be together, she wanted to be (and presently works as) an actress, and I wanted to be in Los Angeles as well working in film. The thing that gave me the most pleasure was luckily the most viable career option, editing. So I researched everything -- that there’s a guild, and that there’s the American Cinema Editors. I Googled and messaged everyone I could, trying to find an in. I had no contacts, so I literally turned to the internet. There was a Yahoo! Internet Avid user group. It occurred to me that it couldn’t be possible that none of these users had Avids, so they must be in a facility that has Avid. So I posted, “Listen guys, I just came to town, and I would love to be an unpaid intern at any of your facilities if you need someone as a P.A.” And a company called Alpha Dogs in Burbank wrote me back. I worked there for free for over three months as a runner, and learned as much as I could from the assistants there.

Later, I was hired as the American Cinema Editor’s intern in 2008, and that taught me what to do next, how to get into the union. It gave me a glimpse into the real Hollywood. And after the internship was over, Alpha Dogs hired me on as a night assistant, and that was the beginning of it!

NFS: You worked as Assistant Editor on World War Z and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Can you first describe the role of an Assistant Editor on a feature?

Carsten Kurpanek: The idea is that you take care of everything that comes into the cutting room, and you take care of everything that goes out of the cutting room. You are there to support your editor so he or she can make their best edit possible. You build trust with your editor over time, and they will also give you other tasks over time -- and in the best case scenario they will give you mentorship, even letting you cut a scene first, giving you advice. I often say the job of an assistant is to figure s%#* out (please bleep me). It’s all about organization and communication.

It’s a very technical job, a lot of troubleshooting. Especially nowadays, there’s a new camera every week -- there are upgrades. A lot of codecs and systems. You have to be a little bit nerdy -- pixel aspect ratios, or the different formats and frame rates. It’s a global world, and that goes for filmmaking too. You have to figure that out, to communicate to the proper departments, to anticipate problems before they happen. Your job is to be on top of that, and to be the support for your editor in any way possible.

NFS: Can you describe your typical workday as an AE on a feature?

Carsten Kurpanek: Features have a very linear approach. On the first day, you set up the editorial, make sure the equipment works. Talk to the editor, see where he wants the couch, where he wants the Avid -- all the little things. You talk to all the vendors, say hi, say send me your spec sheets and stuff like that. Once the shooting starts, you make your coffee (or your P.A. if you have one), and then you get the dailies from the post house. There’s a lot of parts to that, it’s not just the footage. You get a lot of paperwork, like from the camera assistant’s reports. There’s a continuity supervisor, who provides you with a line script and a facing page. And she marks down on each facing page with lines to denote which cameras were rolling. And if the director likes a take, she would circle it, and it becomes a circle take. Nowadays, since everything is shot digital, we get everything anyway. It used to mean more when the film was printed, because what wasn’t circled wasn’t printed.

So you go through your footage, and you import it into your NLE, and crosscheck your paperwork with the footage that you have. One of the most important things as an assistant editor is to make sure everything is there. When you hand off a scene to your editor, and you say it’s complete, it has to be complete. This is a fireable offense. It’s very important you makes sure everything is accounted for, and that goes for audio, music, and VFX, too. Everything has to be up-to-date.

So it’s a lot of managing, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s kind of funny in that it’s an office job, but it’s not. I always joke that that’s like my tax officer days! But then I get to stare at Daniel Craig and Brad Pitt all day, and it’s certainly more creative and special.

NFS: What has been your greatest professional hurdle thus far?

Carsten Kurpanek: I have to say I’ve been really blessed. It’s not all luck. People say you make your own luck, and that’s a half truth. Often a door will open, and you have to be ready to step through those before they close. So the biggest hurdle -- [laughs] I get made fun of for my German accent when I provide temp ADR! People chuckle and I get a little embarrassed. But seriously, life’s been very good, I can’t complain about any hurdles now.

Obviously if you’re a tax officer, and you go to America, getting your foot in the door is the first hurdle, you know? But there is a hurdle every time you switch fields. You work for free, you be the best P.A. you can be. You can only switch your career paths every so often. So if you want to work in television, and work for, say, HBO shows, you have to work for that specifically. You have to start saying no to jobs. I’m at that point now, I have to start saying no to AE jobs now, as I have four features I just cut. Obviously it’s a good job to have, and if I can’t find work as an editor, I can fall back, but hopefully I won’t have to. People sometimes ask me questions like, “How do you transition from reality to features?” And it sounds mean, but I tell them, “Well, first you have to quit your job.” The jobs won’t come to you. You’re only working in a system that will give you reality jobs, a network for that matter. Every time you switch you start at the lower rungs again, and start at the bottom of the chain, even as a P.A.

NFS: On the flipside, what has been your greatest professional triumph thus far?

Carsten Kurpanek: I know how hard it is to get an editor credit on a movie that is released by a studio -- that is a wide release. Not many people have that. So I am incredibly proud of Earth to Echo. It’s an achievement and it’s something I can build a career on.

There’s moments that happen that make you want to pinch yourself. Like when I was an AE on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sitting in the screening, and I saw my name crawl up, it was like, “Wow, my name’s on a David Fincher movie!” I remember sitting in the German theatre watching Fight Club, and if someone from the future walked up to me, and told me, “Dude, you’re gonna work on a David Fincher movie. Just give it a decade,” I wouldn't have believed it of course. I couldn’t be happier how the last seven years have turned out.

Earth to ECHO

NFS: If you could edit one movie slated for production, what would it be?

Carsten Kurpanek: Well, my first instinct is the new Star Wars, or Jurassic World! I have to admit I love blockbusters, big movies, action films. It was what I was raised on. But I also love anything exciting, fun, and hopefully smart.

NFS: What are your career goals as an editor?

Carsten Kurpanek: Um, no one would ever say no to winning an Oscar. [laughs] I love to entertain. I have watched every kind of film, from French art films, silent films, to big movies, I really like to watch everything. As long as it has a great story, great characters, and good pacing, and is smart. That’s the great thing about cutting features -- how it works to an audience. I like the smart Sci-Fi -- when commerce meets intelligence in artistic reach, like in films like Gravity. That’s when I’m happiest as an audience member, and that’s something I’d like to work on as well.

NFS: What NLE do you use most frequently? Is there a workflow you prefer?

Carsten Kurpanek: Most of the time I use Avid. In feature Hollywood, that’s the standard for sure. On smaller indies I used Final Cut 7. I most recently got into Premiere for a few days, I really liked it. And of course you hit the wrong keys for a few days, but I like learning something new. If I could make a mashup of Avid and Final Cut 7 and Premiere, I would be so happy. There are pros and cons to them all. They’re all tools. Storytelling is what it’s all about. It really depends on the project. I like to be software agnostic.

I do think Adobe is doing something interesting integrating software into one another with the Creative Cloud. Along those lines, I can see a future where we don't hand off the edit to departments like sound, color, VFX, but everyone is working at the same time with the same timeline. Someone is color correcting your dailies while you're editing them, and someone updates a VFX in the timeline you're working with.

The Earth to Echo Timeline in Avid

NFS: Have you ever edited a “found footage” film like Earth to Echo before? What challenges did it present?

Carsten Kurpanek: Well first, it’s not really a “found footage” film. That’s usually more associated with horror I think. It’s sort of more of a very professional looking home movie. [laughs] One of our lead characters, Tuck, is a YouTube generation kid, and the kids like this are all like producers in many ways. The conceit is that within the movie's reality, he is the director and editor of the film itself.

Because it has that first-person documentary style to it, it has as many challenges as it has freedom. When you edit a traditionally shot sequence, you can’t just jump cut close-ups, because it’d be jarring to the audience. Documentary has a different visual grammar -- we could jump cut to different takes in the same shot size. So that’s freeing. My wonderful director Dave Green kept finding ways to push the movie and make it better, like with Google Earth transitions, and iChat sequences, stuff you can’t always do with traditional narrative. Sometimes you don’t see someone speak on the POV camera, so you can switch out the dialog and insert new ADR. There’s infinite options. It was really fun.

NFS: What advice would you give to others who wanted to become a feature editor?

Carsten Kurpanek: The biggest step, is making the first step. Be focused, and know what you want in your career. If you have a year to spend to try things out, that’s fine, but the problem is that in L.A., just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you don’t have to find your way from the bottom up. You will have success over time, it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t feel entitled. You have to be excited and you have to put in your time -- “paying your dues” as they say. People have to like you, too.

Also, understand notes. It’s a team sport. If you get a note, welcome it. Don’t take it personally. It means that something threw something off, and discovering that has value. People can’t necessarily articulate why something throws them off, but that’s your job as an editor to figure out. That’s where you can shine.

And I have to promote the America Cinema Editors Internship Program, which everyone can find on the ACE website. It’s an annual program where they pick two interns each year to visit real life feature, television, and reality tv editorials. It’s geared at recent college graduates. I got my start there. It opened many doors, and it taught me a lot.

The program's director for the last 20 years, Lori Jane Coleman, ACE and Diana Friedberg, ACE, wrote a book together called Make the Cut, which is about how to make a start in Hollywood, and can be purchased on Amazon -- plug plug!

And finally, I’m honored to announce that I’m taking over the ACE internship program starting this year with my good friend Tyler Nelson. We’re very honored and proud to pay it forward to people who will get their start in the industry.

Echo 2

NFS: Who is your favorite editor, and why?

Carsten Kurpanek: There is incredible talent out there, and so many to choose from. If I have to be put on the spot, I’d have to choose Chris Rouse, who is Paul Greengrass’ editor. He did all the Bourne movies, and United 93, incredible work. And recently Captain Phillips. And I like these kind of movies -- entertaining, but also intelligent, and impactful.

I was lucky enough to assist him once, and just seeing what he did with the material was just magical. He just gets it. There’s an event every year in L.A. called "Invisible Art Visible Artist". It’s the day before the Oscars, and the Oscar-nominated editors speak at the Egyptian. It’s free for the public, and he was there and talked about Captain Phillips, and showed the end scene, and basically said it was his first cut -- it shows how well he understands emotion, the drama, and the visual impact. That is something to aspire to.

Then there are all my incredible mentors who taught me so much, Richard Halsey, ACE (Rocky, Edward Scissorhands), Lori Jane Coleman, ACE (Picket Fences, Dawson's Creek, Covert Affairs), and Matt Chesse, ACE (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, World War Z). They are all my favorite editors, really.

NFS: If I were to choose just one film to watch to learn about the edit, what film would you choose, and why?

Carsten Kurpanek: There are many movies that teach you many things about the edits, but I would say the Back to the Future trilogy. And not just because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but it has it all -- comedy, drama, action, chase scenes, cross cutting. That’s a good one to take on an island.

NFS: How would you recommend a novice editor to learn the craft of editing?

Carsten at the 2014 Beverly Hills Film Festival

Carsten Kurpanek: There are a lot of sayings like “cut on action!” and “beware continuity!” I think you should learn the theory of editing. And I think you should learn about the past. Learn about Eisenstein (montage theory) and how The Great Train Robbery invented cross cutting. You should look up the editors of films you like and know them.

See things with the critical eye, and try to see the craft. Watch a film you like, and then watch it with the sound off. I was flying to Germany, and The Bourne Supremacy came on. I had on my iPod, so I was watching the film without dialog and sound and music. That’s a great way to learn editing dynamics -- watch without sound. Or, the other way around -- just listen to it. On Earth to Echo, we often listened to how the dialog flowed, and adjusted as needed for pacing.

There is a DVD out there for the movie Big, the Extended Edition, and it has a bonus feature where the deleted scenes are cut into the movie. Like 30 minutes of deleted, extra scenes. When you watch that, it doesn’t work anymore. The overall pace of the movie is thrown off. The scenes individually aren’t bad or edited in poorly, but it’s just that sometimes a good scene in the wrong place can throw the audience’s experience out of sync. You can’t yell at the audience at all times. It’s an ebb and flow system -- you pull the audience along, and keep them engaged.

Challenge yourself, be focused, be informed, and show enthusiasm. When you watch a movie like Inception and you freak out about the cross cutting, try to figure out why. If you want to do something so much that you want it to be your career, you should be as informed as possible. There’s this incredible documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It wasn’t just about cooking, but it was about being the best at what you do. That’s how you should look at your career.

---

Stop by Carsten's IMDB page to see more of his work, or visit his website. And be sure to see some of his other feature editorial work  -- Squatters (2014), Diving Normal (2013), and Fort Bliss (2014).

NO FILM SCHOOL SUPER B-B-BONUS: If you have any questions for Carsten, please comment below -- he has agreed to answer everything he can!

Your Comment

40 Comments

Ball State, yeah!

July 16, 2014 at 9:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Alex

Ishinshtein? Really guys?:)

July 16, 2014 at 10:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Alex

Haha thank you, Alex, I missed that edit during transcription. Updated, with a link to our Eisenstein posts to boot. Or should I say "Das Boot"? ... I need more coffee.

July 16, 2014 at 12:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
avatar
Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

Mr. Kurpanek,

Being a recent High School grad and aspiring filmmaker since age 10, I ask for your advice to learn quickly and begin work in the film industry whether it be independent filmmaking, freelance film work (weddings, reunions, parties etc.), and even OPP's.

I am feverishly building a reel of work or resume for any type of job.
What skills or attributes might employers, or even yourself look for when hiring a temp., intern, or employee ?

Also, would you care to share any suggestions for studying the mechanics of filmmaking in general ?
(i.e Watching Silent Films, Making a Short Film, researching Avid workflow, watching classic films)

Thank You for your time. Any response would be indefinitely appreciated!

Alec

July 16, 2014 at 11:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply

Hey dude. If he doesn't reply, a place that was really helpful for me when I was in your shoes was Creative Cow, specifically the Business and Marketing forum: http://forums.creativecow.net/businessmarketing.

The regular posters there are working professionals and are honest, realistic, helpful, and encouraging. I asked questions just like the ones you are asking and got tons of helpful feedback.

July 16, 2014 at 11:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Alec, I can't tell you much about freelance work with weddings, reunions, parties etc. I've never done that. I can only talk about working in post for reality, scripted televisions and features. Reels are not required or necessary in this type of work. When you start out as a P.A. or a night assistant in reality, no one wants to see your directing/editing reel. If you want to be a pro wedding videographer, reels are absolutely necessary, I'm sure. So decide what your long term career goal is and focus on how to get there. Work hard and be personable. And all your examples of how to study the mechanics of filmmaking are great ones. You learn with every movie you watch and every project you edit. Good luck!

July 16, 2014 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Carsten

Carsten touched on this in the interview, but I'd like to emphasize it.

Be LIKEABLE. Personality goes a really, really long way in this industry. You're working in close collaboration with a lot of different people, whether it's on the shoot, in post, in pre-production - all aspects. If you're surly or grumpy or just a pain in the butt, you won't get the next job, and you won't get the referrals.

Carsten talks about being a team player and doing whatever needs done, and that is critical. Friendly people that check their ego at the door and aren't afraid to do things that "aren't their job" have a much higher success rate.

July 16, 2014 at 4:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Alex

Mr. Kurpanek,

Thank you for doing this interview! It has provided a lot of insight and great information! You talked about how you are provided scenes and that all of the elements need to be there before you say it is "complete" before the editor starts; in what capacity and frequency are scenes provided to you throughout the timeline of the editing process and what is the range of time that editing a feature can take in your experience? (Of course this can vary I am sure.) Are there multiple scenes provided daily, weekly for example? How much time does it take an assistant to organize these elements?

Sorry for the lengthy question.

Thank you so much!

-Chris P.

July 16, 2014 at 11:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Chris P.

Chris,
The assistant editor and editor start to work when shooting start. You get new footage every day once set is done shooting and the material is processed by a lab (or sometimes you are the lab and do the transcoding and audio syncing). How many scenes are shot at any given day largely varies. I recently watched "The Raid 2" and read afterwards that they shot the final fight for 10 days. So it took 10 days until all the footage for that scene was complete. Usually, scenes are not as complex, though. Independent features shoot usually around 21-30 days. Large production can shoot for a year. Equally the amount of time in post varies on budget. Jobs in feature post usually last anything between 5 to 18 months, I'd say.

July 16, 2014 at 11:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Carsten

Mr. Kurpanek,

Thank you so much for answering my questions! This information helps out a lot! I pray that you have much success!

Sincerely,

Chris P.

July 18, 2014 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Chris P.

Fantastic interview! I appreciate the advice and insight. It's much needed. A question: Besides the obvious, "Can I please work for you?" (though seriously, that would be great!), I'm wondering about your internship(s). Because of the possibility of inconsistent hours working as an unpaid intern in the film industry, is it possible to work a second job to pay bills or should I try to save as much as I can, allowing me a few months to work for free and focused on the internship? Just wanting to get a feel for what I should do before I move to LA. Again, thanks for the advice

July 16, 2014 at 11:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Charles

Charles,
I'd recommend to save up as much money you can (so you can survive 3-6 months), move out to LA and go for it. Your job during those 3-6 months is to get your first job. If you have prior skills (Avid, FCP, Premiere), try landing a job in reality (logger, assistant editor). Or maybe an AE job on a low budget feature. Anything that will get you contacts and possibly Union days (you need 100 paid days as an assistant editor to join the Editor's Guild). If you have no skills and want to make some contacts and learn about post on the fly, look for P.A. jobs. And while you're all doing this you can always work part time as an unpaid intern. People have weddings, go on vacation or get sick and short term job opportunities come up and you need to be able to take those. So don't lock yourself down with a job that doesn't further your career if you don't absolutely have to.

July 16, 2014 at 11:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply
Carsten

Thanks!

July 16, 2014 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Charles

Hi Carsten,

Thank you for taking the time to share your career path and thoughts with this interview. It was very insightful and I really appreciate it. Kudos to the folks at No Film School!

I have worked as an editor outside of New York city working mostly on reality shows, documentaries, and corporate projects. I have wanted to transition to cutting narrative television and features for a while now and have wondered how to make that switch.

I'm married with two young boys with family roots in Connecticut. Is it possible to build a narrative editing career in film or television on the east coast? Or is it pretty much a requirement that I would have to make a move to LA?

Thanks again for your time and congratulations on all of your well earned success.

Best,

Pete

July 16, 2014 at 11:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Pete,
There is a very active filmmaking world in New York City. And places like New Mexico, Michigan, and Louisiana are growing fast because a lot of production are shooting there and they crew up locally. But if it's a Union show you have to be a member to get hired on those shows. And getting your Union days is definitely easier in LA. There's more competition for sure but also a much greater variety and amount of jobs available that get you there. I know it's a tough call when you have family. LA is expensive to live in after all. Good luck with whatever you're going to do!

July 16, 2014 at 12:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Carsten

Hi Carsten,

Thanks so much for the reply. Can you recommend any narrative groups or collectives in NYC that I could reach out to and introduce myself? I would love to get involved in offering my time and skills to anyone that needs the help.

And if you ever need any help, I am available! :)

All the best,

Pete Vandall

July 16, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Sorry, I'm all LA based. But go check the ACE website regularly for updates on the ACE EditFest in New York. That's a great opportunity to meet fellow editors, see some amazing panels and get inspired (last year featured legend Thelma Schoonmaker!).

July 16, 2014 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
Carsten

Thanks Carsten will do! I appreciate the valuable guidance.

July 16, 2014 at 11:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply

LA is not an expensive city to live in compared to any other major US city.

July 16, 2014 at 10:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
James

Ha! Try living here. Gas is close to $5 buck a gallon, the average apartment is going for $1k month( unless you want to live in the ghetto), and the majority of jobs pay $9 an hour. Public transportation is a joke and it's hot all year around. Think twice, if you want to come out and live here...

July 17, 2014 at 1:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
matt

OFF TOPIC: BLACKMAGIC POCKET 50% off at Adorama. $495.

July 16, 2014 at 12:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
VinceGortho

Thanks Vince! We'll have something out on this soon.

July 16, 2014 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
avatar
Benjamin Dewhurst
Writer
writer/director

it's at Amazon too and it's good through Aug/31, says Adorama.

July 16, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
VinceGortho

Hi Carsten

I appreciate for all that you have shared with us. I am truly inspired by your words and you overall take on the industry and you approach. Making big moves from Germany is awesome! I myself am Moving out to LA with my future wife this coming winter to truly break into the film industry, we hope. I work a NFL Film in New Jersey encoding and trans-coding footage for final edits and so on. If there is anyway to keep in touch with you would be great and maybe eventually even work with you would be amazing. Please keep me posted.

Brian

July 16, 2014 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Brian Wadsworth

Hi Brian, please research if you're able to join the Editor's Guild East Coast branch with the work you've done so far. Transferring from East to West shouldn't be too hard. Otherwise you have to start from scratch out here. Stay in touch. Follow me on Twitter @Kurpanek. Good luck with the move.

July 16, 2014 at 3:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Carsten

Hey Carsten,

thanks for the great IV! I'm thinking of applying for the ACE program. Quick qu. about the application process which I couldn't find on their website:

For the letters of recommendation, are there any criteria for who is writing it? I assume an industry professional, but specifically an editor? ACE accredited?

Thanks again

July 17, 2014 at 9:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Josh M

Hi Josh,

The letters of recommendation can come from anyone, a professor, an employer, a director of a short you did etc. They can but don't have to be from editors and they don't have to be ACE. Good luck!

July 17, 2014 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
Carsten

Carsten-
I have been AEing in nyc for a few years now and feel like I'm in a rut. My goal is to become an editor, and I do have experience cutting, but find it hard to make the jumop to editor. I get a lot of job offers for AE gigs here in nyc, and am afraid I am getting known as an AE and nothing more. Do you have any tips for making the jump to editor?

July 17, 2014 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Ryan

Hi Ryan,

It's not easy to make the jump in Los Angeles. And it's probably even harder to do so in NYC, since there are less jobs available. Are you in television or features? Basically, what I did was editing on the side as much as I could (doing shorts, web series, music videos etc.) for up and coming directors. And on my day job as an assistant, I tried to edit as many scenes for my editors as I could as well. "You have to edit, edit, edit" (Lori Jane Coleman, ACE). My first feature, Squatters happened because I was recommended by a friend who I co-edited a short with (he couldn't take the job). "Fort Bliss" happened because I edited for my editor Matt Chesse when I assisted him, and he liked my work. And "Earth To Echo" happened because I cut short projects for Dave since 2008. All these opportunities opened up because you laid the seed to them sometimes years before. I know it's hard and all I can do is tell you what worked for me. I wish you the best of luck!

July 17, 2014 at 3:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Carsten

Excellent advice.
Essentially start cutting for anyone who will let you cut. I went from music vids to news to docs to TV & features that way. Took a decade though :-)
Good luck.

/and I then turned into a shooter/director. Now THAT'S a leap you don't want to make in LA. I had to swap continents for a while.

July 17, 2014 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
marklondon

Thanks a lot for this amazing interview!
And another big thanks to Carsten for sharing his experiences'

July 17, 2014 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Hamid

Great story! I saw this film with zero expectations and really liked it. I think it was horrible promoted. It was much smarter than the "kidsy/cutesy" movie they sold it as.

And the editing was really well done. Good for this guy. I work as an editor and it's a good business, but tough. Getting those feature credits is big score and he's worked hard to get them.

Thanks for writing it!

July 17, 2014 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply

I love that you link to the 1979 version of Great Train Robbery. You do realize he's referring to the Edwin S. Porter film, no?

July 20, 2014 at 4:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Dave H.

Hi Carsten,

Thanks for sharing your story. Me too, I am truly inspired by your words and your overall take on the industry and your approach. I am currently attending film school here in Europe so I thought your leap to LA was very interesting because I want to leap back to Canada - Vancouver, our LA in some ways! However, I am scared about surviving or in other words getting stuck in my day job forever. I would love to be commercials director, do you recommend the same approach - save up enough money to survive for 3 to 6 months and go for it? Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.

July 21, 2014 at 2:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Hi David,

Directing is definitely a different horse all together. I have a few friends who chose that route and it is not an easy one. I don't think the 3-6 months approach works for this, since there is no way to start out at an entry level job really. I'd try to build up a director portfolio doing spec commercials and then approach commercial agencies to get hired. I've also seen people becoming personal assistants to directors. That enables them to be involved in the entire process and learn a lot. Sorry, I'm not much of a help here. Good luck!

July 22, 2014 at 7:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Carsten

Yeah, make a lot of sense. Thanks a lot, much appreciated!

July 26, 2014 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply

Hey Carsten,

liebe Grüße aus Baden Würrtemberg!
As a 22-year old camera assistant for digital filmproductions in Germany i did just manage to be a freelancer for my first year.

Many people starting out here are wondering: Would you give german film a real chance to become (at least) watchworthy again?
What movies would you like to see produced from us, the young generation of independent german filmmakers?

I would love to hear from you,
maybe we can get in contact, would be a big pleasure for me!

Die besten Grüße und Wünsche,
Robert

July 27, 2014 at 6:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Robert

Greetings Carsten~ thanks so much for sharing. I'm reading your interview at a pivotal time in my education, finding out that many courses such as directing and cinematography will not be offered in my upcoming senior year due to lack of staff. My ultimate goal is to work in special effects (physical, in-camera, which seems to be an endangered species now a days), and in the short term work in the field doing whatever I can, hands-on. I have editing experience, I seem to be proficient at it, and enjoy it, but didn't want the "office job" until later in life. However, if I want to finish this degree, it will be with an editing focus. My question: will I be pigeon-holing myself into this field, or, in your opinion, would I be able to use this to get a foot in the door to work on set, in the field?

Again, thanks a million. Cheers!

July 28, 2014 at 10:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Charlie

Wow. I want to do a career change to digital edition and this article came along. It´s not as dramatic in my case, I work with motion graphics and design, but it´s really different to things I usually do, but I´m 40 y/o so it´s not a safe bet.

It was a great reading and I´ll sure will take a look at every advice. Hope some day I can call you as an editor, and thank you .

You are really a great inspiration.

January 9, 2015 at 11:45AM, Edited January 9, 11:45AM

0
Reply

"I like to be software agnostic." Loved that phrase.

January 9, 2015 at 2:01PM

3
Reply
avatar
Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1927