Ashley Kennedy chats with veteran video editors about their latest projects and their unique approaches to editing and storytelling with video.
- [Voiceover] Hi, I'm Ashley Kennedy, welcome to our third installment of our series Conversations in Video Editing. And here I talk with freelance editor Monica Daniel about her hectic schedule of editing a totally new project every few weeks, as well as her down to earth philosophy of caring and collaboration in the editing room. Monica has spent the last decade embracing every type of project she can, from documentary to narrative to promo to episodic to music video. She also treats us to an in depth analysis of two of her most recent projects.
Alright, let's get on with the interview. Monica, thank you so much for talking to me today, would start off by just introducing yourself and you are and what you edit and get us oriented with your world. - Oh, the hard question. (laughter) My name is Monica Daniel. I work out of L.A. and I've worked on all types of shows, I've worked on game shows, multi-cam studio shows, one of those is working on the Nerdist, 'cause I'm just like a huge dork, just a geek.
I go to Comic Con every year so I was like yay! (laughter) I've worked on TV documentaries like some really gritty things. I've worked on clip shows. I've worked on the red carpet shows for E! I do all the pre-produced packages and like the show opens for the Ryan Seacrest coverage. I've worked on independent documentaries. I've worked on some scripted stuff, not stuff I can really talk about. I just kinda run the gamut. - [Ashley] Yeah.
- I've worked on a lot of different things. So, I mean, a lot of editors sort of arrive at a particular genre and work mostly in that but you are all over the place. And so my question is with all of that what's your favorite? - Well, it's funny 'cause a lot of times, I don't know if it's different elsewhere, L.A. we're like our own little weird bubble. And so things are done a specific way in L.A. and I don't think that's how the rest of the world works. But it's definitely they pigeon hole you into a certain genre and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that how much time you have to dedicate to it.
You know, producers want people with experience in like a certain type of thing, very specific. So, when editors, like go for something, like scripted, for example, they want to see a scripted editor 'cause they don't think that editor, like a reality editor, can cut scripted unless they, you know, they have the resume to prove it. So, it's really hard to cross genres and for me, I feel I've been fortunate. I can't pick a favorite, honestly, because when I work on the red carpet shows which is you know, it's just a lot of fun pop culture stuff.
It's very visually pretty. To me, it's just like I'm a kid with like a really expensive crayon box (laughter) and I just get to play. 'Cause I've been lead editor on those shows for a long time and so they let me kinda go crazy. And I love that, it's just a cool creative outlet. I was hugely influenced, I love like Cirque Du Soleil and those visuals, I have like a dancing background, used to choreograph so it's like all about creating those visual structures. And so that's where that love comes from. So, I love working on that. What's great about the multi-cam studio shows, it's working different muscles but it always comes back to the same thing as like, keep your audience engaged.
What's the story you're telling? What's the point you're trying to make? And so it's like I can't pick a favorite 'cause if I pick, if I did any one thing all the time, I would go crazy. And like you know, everyone's ultimate goal is always, "Oh, I wanna do scripted." Don't get me wrong, I wanna work on a scripted show, that would be awesome. Something I learned in documentary, well, it's like I'm gonna take what I learned there and I'm gonna put it in a reality. Something I learned in scripted, I'll you know, I'll take somewhere else. And I've also been able to work in different types of environments under different deadlines.
So, it's like I can't pick a favorite, 'cause I like all the flexibility. I just love storytelling. Storytelling in all its forms. And it's like editing is like a muscle and you have to work it. And I always tell people, you know, everyone always makes an argument 'cause they get pigeonholed, that "Oh, you know, why won't they hire me for this? "Like, I'm an editor, I could cut anything." And the truth is well, the person who specializes in that genre well, if they're any good, they're gonna be better at it than you are 'cause they dedicate more time to the aesthetics of that genre, the particulars, the specifics, and the details.
So, if you haven't really done much work in that, maybe you could end up at the same point but maybe you're not gonna be there, get there as easily or as quickly, as someone who's very experienced in it. But if that person who's very experienced is only in that genre, then they're gonna miss out on work in all the other genres. So, it's like that's why I try, I push really hard to be as flexible as possible and I just think that's a really valuable skill as an editor, that the best editors are open to learning other things and not just like focused on "I'm only gonna do it this way." It's like no, you gotta constantly refine that skill and craft 'cause it's so, it changes with the times, it changes with the aesthetics you know, cuts are a lot faster now.
- [Ashley] Right. - It changes with your audience. And you have to be able to adapt. - How do you think you have evolved as an editor as you've been working? - Well, when I started you know, I was just trying to figure out and so I would just copy what the other people do. And so, you know, 'cause their work was getting approved. You know, they let me compliment it and I'm like "Oh, yeah, I need to cut it like that "'cause, you know, they're doing a good job "and I want to do a good job too. "So, I'll cut it like them." You know, I got more confidence to step out of the templates that the more experienced editors had created and to start creating my own.
And when I started doing that is when the producers really started noticing me as an editor, when I was stepping out of the templates 'cause I would take it to another level and they were just like "Woah, that's really cool. "Like, I love what you did there." And you know, that's something when I first started, I didn't know what I was doing and you know, I was afraid to try anything new. And sometimes it's hard to try new things because you still have to go under whether it's that producer or that network, like they have a branding, you know, they want things cut a certain way.
So, sometimes you have to do it a little bit at a time and also with experience, understanding how far can you go away from their formula? So, you can just keep stretching it, expanding it. And like from there, it can evolve. And sometimes they're really rigid about it. Sometimes you can sneak things in just like and then they'll notice that you've added something new to their show and they'll want to hire you again 'cause you'll bring something to the table. You're not just a button pusher. - And you've created a template that other editors will copy, in turn, I'm sure.
(laughter) And, so because you're reaching into all of these different buckets, you are obviously interfacing with a lot of different personalities. - [Monica] Yeah - Our previous two guests have one team that they're with all the time, and they're very grateful and they gave shout outs to specific members of their team that they've been working for with 6 and 22 years respectively. But you're all over the place talk to us about that. - My teams change every two week to two months. Two months are my long gigs. - [Ashley] Yeah.
- Just 'cause the shows I tend to work on have a really fast turn around. - And break it down, you, the different, so you've got your, you know, assistant editors, your directors, your producers, what are your strategies for getting along in all of those arenas? - Well, what I always try to do is I mean, with the assistants, whether or not they're an assistant that's just collecting their paycheck which I've worked with or assistant that's really is like taking that extra step. I treat them all the same, and I treat them nicely 'cause no matter what they have everyone else barking at them, demanding things out of them, they have like so many masters, and it costs me nothing to be nice to them 'cause what I get in return is when I need something, I get put at the top of the list.
For example, there was on show I was working on, it was me sitting with the supervising producer and they had been trying to import this footage for literally three days. It was like two assistants and the post sup were trying to get this footage in for us. And I actually could not do anything until I got the footage I needed and they could not figure out how to do it. And so, I just turned to the producer and I was like "You know what, "just let me see if I can help them out. "Just give me five minutes." He was like "Alright, fine." And I go in there I'm like "Tell me in 140 characters or less, what the problem is? "As concise as possible give me the exact details.
"And I'm gonna tweet it." And so, they told me, I send it out. Literally two minutes later, the like, I think it's like it was the project manager or like the director of the ISIS from Massachusetts in Avid headquarters, tweeted me the answer, 'cause I guess he follows me on Twitter. (laughter) I'm on Twitter a lot. And I just showed it to my assistant, I was like "Have you tried this?" And their faces were priceless they were just like.
And it's not like, I didn't do it in a way that made the assistants feel bad or anything, except I told 'em like "Get your butts on Twitter, guys. (laughter) "Like seriously, why did "this take you three days?"