I have been working in the television and film industry since 2004. I took a break for a year from 2005 to 2006 to attend film school, and then threw myself back in. Besides a few contracts of being a focus puller on set, my career has been based solely in post-production. I’ve gone from media logging, painful transcribing, assistant editing, editing personal and independent projects, to finally settling as a post-production coordinator in lifestyle, docu-dramas and reality television for the last 5 years.
What the fuck is post-production?
What the fuck does a post-produciton coordinator do?
When people ask me either one of these questions, my go to answers are:
It’s the people who edit.
I manage and coordinate editing for TV shows.
This is usually greeted with:
Oh wow! That’s so interesting!
You’re job is waaaaaay cooler than mine.
Oh cool, so like, what TV show are you working on right now?
Watching faces fall when I mention some random show on Food Network or Slice is always amusing. People have a romanticized view of what working in television or film means. They are not to blame, how would they know? Any job in our industry is depicted in fiction as glamorous and well paid. News flash, the hard-working crew members on set working on the 32nd take of a shot that probably won’t be used in the final product as they stand in the pouring rain of a 14 hour day are silently curse their life decisions. The life of a production crew is gruelling work, but light has been shed on it many of times. Either with behind the scenes specials or stories from one of the 40 production assistants that leak to the media after they retell their adventures loudly in a bar somewhere.
But post-production…. what do we do? Most people have no idea about the odd group of people who have been sitting in a shabby office for over a year creating the final product that winds up on your screen. I’ve slowly given up trying to explain to my family exactly what I do. I usually end up mumbling something about being the communicator between the entire team in post to the Network that will be airing our masterpiece. To be more specific, my role as a coordinator in post is to make sure everyone is on the same page (this means between the editors, writers and our assistant editors), that Executive Producers are happy, and that the Network is getting all their material in the right technical specs. Sometimes when I drop the Fedex of a master tape of an episode that will be delivered to the respective Network I laugh thinking, this is it. I could fuck everything up by simply dropping this package and crushing it. No episode this week. Thousands of dollars lost. Our industry is so funny. So much time and money spent for a product that can be ruined by a click of a button or a moment of carelessness.
Working in post has its interesting moments. Here are five things you might be surprised to know.
OUR OFFICES ARE SHIT
There seems to be a notion that like big time PR firms or Ad Agencies, TV is blessed with swank offices. Well I’m not a big time Hollywood agent so my desk consists of a broken piece of Ikea furniture or a long table. Since most of Post’s budget goes to our equipment (edit stations, gazillion computers, and various geek machines to import our footage), not much is left for our decor. And since most of these shows go on a one season only basis, offices tend to be temporary. I’ve worked in leased out rooms where rat droppings fall from the ceiling panels, or in a room with six other people with wiring coming down the walls. There is something comforting about these makeshift offices. Like we all need to survive together. There will usually also be one corner where a gross smelling microwave resides. There is nothing more glamourous than being in these offices late at night waiting for something to export. It’s deathly silent and you feel like the entire building will crumble on you. Just you and the mice. My current office at Lark Productions is the nicest post environment I’ve ever been in. I feel like my years of sitting in broken chairs with my back turned to 10 other people all within a metre of me has paid off.
WE’RE AN ODD BUNCH
Post people are a strange bunch. You meet us and we seem completely normal and sane. But the more you work with us, the more you understand that there is always something slightly off about us. If you don’t have this factor, you’ll have a hard time with your co-workers. To keep sane while sitting in front of our computer screens in the same program for 10 hours a day, our banter can range debating about a movie without actually looking at each other, to what’s the best possible way to hide a body. There is no filter. And conversation escalates quickly. If you’re on the night shift, you’re in a whole other vortex of weird. Things like a youtube video of a tree falling can quite literally be the funniest thing at 3 am. Since we also know what we’re doing is not rocket science, we tend to talk in a bitter, self-deprecating way amongst ourselves. We become best buds instantly. There is no awkward phase in between. The moment we’re all stuck together, we leave it all out on the table. Inappropriate comments, jokes, and constant swearing is the record on repeat. When I see newbie assistant editors come work with us, there is always a week-long period where they are not sure if they are allowed to join in. They can’t wager how unprofessional it would be to join in on our unprofessionalism that is only accepted in our office. We usually let them squirm for a week before telling them to loosen up. Post can be a boring depressing place, it’s up to us and our personalities to spice things up. I do have to check myself around my parents, my habitual swearing will filter in and I have to remind myself I’m not at work.
Quote from assistant editor Ryan: “If one of your fingers turned into cheese for a whole year, would you eat it knowing that when you get your finger back it would be gone? Cause you ate it?”
WE GET BLAMED FOR A LOT
Because post production can sometimes be classified as an afterthought from the hustle and bustle of production, we are quite literally your junk drawer at home. That place you shove objects you’re not quite sure what to do with but if you just get rid of it it’s not your problem anymore. The amount of times we get shady footage or sound recordings that are meant to be “fixed” by us is staggering.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS SHOT IN FOCUS?”
Another favourite of mine is if there is a technical problem in the office.
“THIS PRINTER ISN’T WORKING. GO ASK POST WHAT THE PROBLEM IS.”
“OMG THE INTERNET IS DOWN. TELL POST RIGHT NOW.”
A note to everyone – yes we deal with a lot of technical bullshit, and speak like robots sometimes, but it pertains to specs of the show we are editing, not your personal computer. Same goes if someone makes a mistake and because no one is quite sure what we do, they’ll blame it on us in hopes that no one will question it, and we’ll just sit there like:
Most of the time I roll my eyes and take it, but if it’s a legit mistake (a cameraman once tried to blame my assistant editors for his footage being in PAL. No buddy, that was all you forgetting to check your settings on your own camera), then I’ll fight for it.
OUR SCHEDULE IS OUT OF WHACK
This goes for most people working in the industry, but my schedule is up for debate every day. Fridays can be the worst in post production. The amount of times I’ve had to stay till at least 10 pm on a Friday due to something going to our Network can not be counted. I’ve gotten phone calls at 6 am on Saturdays where I need to come into the office, I’ve been at a bar and gotten one text that can change my entire evening. My friends know when to not bother me if I’m furiously looking at my phone screen typing quickly as I down my drink in preparation to leave. In the years I’ve worked in the industry I’ve only had one serious relationship, and he also worked in post, so we understood each other. I have no idea what it’s like to date someone without the same spontaneous schedule as me. When my ex-boyfriend would have to interrupt our Sunday together to go into the office for a random 5 hours to fix something on a cut, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. We don’t even fight it, we just know we’re the only people who can mend these situations. We have no choice. These things can rarely wait till next day. Tight schedules. Tight budgets. Network Execs anxiously waiting in a different timezone.
WE BALANCE WORK WITH BOOZE
There is a tradition for most Post workers on Friday afternoons – beer. The crack of a can can be heard throughout many post offices after 5 pm. Especially if we know we’re stuck there till past 7 pm. Booze is accepted in our office in a weird silent contract. Our exec producers watch us, and don’t make a stink about it. I once worked on a show where I had a drawer with a bottle of vodka, vermouth and lemon. If I was in my office past 8 pm, I would nod to my assistant and we would make ourselves martinis. Sometimes it’s not as painful still starring at the glow of my computer screen at 11 pm with a martini on my desk. There is always a joke amongst production about us Post trolls being released into public and having to converse like regular human beings. True, we do work in small offices in the back with no windows and only mingle amongst ourselves, and once released it takes us a minute to readjust our brains to normal society. If you release us into the wild after a particularly stupid week of fuckery, we will act like gremlins adjusting to light and proceed to get drunk.
And if you’re too lazy to read all of that – here’s a summary:
We’re odd geeks who you might have trouble dating who may or may not have diseases from their office and like to drink a lot. And bringing us out in public has it’s pros and cons.