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The Easy Way to Solve Gender Imbalance in Film and Television

Each year, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report which shows female employment on the top 250 films of the previous year. This year’s numbers (released last week) are more of the same, with female employment hovering around the same percent for the last twenty years or so.

There’s something new in this year’s research we should all be looking at: how employment on shows varies when women are in charge.

Unlike previous years where data came from the top 250 films, this is based on the top 500 films — “top” meaning top grossing.)

On films with at least one female director, women comprised 32% of editors. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 19% of editors.

Overall, women comprised 21% of editors for these 500 films. Having a woman in a leadership role makes the number of women involved with editing jump 68%.

If you were on the internet when Project Greenlight aired last year, you probably saw the diversity-related spats between producer Effie Brown and actor Matt Damon. The show searches for first time filmmakers and goes through a selection process to give one of them the chance to make a movie. During a discussion of the finalists’ films by the producers, Brown (who is African-American) brings up concerns about racist tropes and suggests the producers think closely about how to choose a director that can treat a black character hovering on the edge between one-dimensional and fully realized with the proper dignity. Matt Damon doesn’t agree this is a concern.

“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”

Meaning Matt Damon doesn’t think the gender and ethnic make-up of the crew has any importance so long as you keep it mixed up on screen.

And one should only crew a show based on merit, leaving “all other factors out if it.”

Not to pick on any one dude (although with his Oscar nomination, I’m guessing Matt is doing just fine whether I blog about him or not) it’s important to realize that this is how most people think about hiring for film and television. Gender and race is a distraction and should be ignored completely. Hollywood should be a meritocracy. The best people in creative and technical roles will automatically shuffle to the top of the pile.

If that were true, then there would be a more diverse selection of Oscar nominees. But yet again this year, all the actors and most of the “below the line” crew nominated are white. And among those, mostly male. I’ve written before that equality is important when it comes to nominations — but #OscarsSoWhite doesn’t exist in the bubble of the Academy. It’s an accurate reflection of the current landscape of television and film. Most people in the industry think racial and gender blindness is the way to hiring the best people for the job, but this eliminates anyone who is outside their own circle. In other words, people hire people that look like them unless they’ve made an effort to seek out a more diverse applicant pool.

Maybe one day we’ll be able to fully separate our own bias from hiring and employment practices. Maybe someday people will stop assuming women aren’t interested in technology. Maybe someday companies will stop forcing women out of the pipeline by assuming they want either a family or a career and not both. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that women can only work on womens’ stories. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that womens’ stories are not mainstream, or that female protagonisists can’t engage an audience.

The easy way to solve these problems? Hire women. Make the consideration of women for roles you would normally fill quickly from referrals a priority. Give female hirees the resources and support they need. Listen to them.

Here’s your simple solution: hire women. We’ll sort out the rest.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jan 21, 2016 at 12:14:05 pm gender equality, post production

Top Secret Post Production Career Tip: Follow Up!

Here's a hot tip I've been chewing on for a while, especially for younger editors:

If someone offers to speak with you about your career -- a coffee meeting, an email, an informational interview, anything -- follow up with them. If someone hands you their business card and says "stay in touch", do it.

Because you know what? In my experience, almost nobody does it.

Over the last few years, I've grown a lot as an editor and I've gotten some good experience so far. But I'm still close enough to college graduates in age that I think my experience in today's economy is relevant to them, so I try to give back as often as I can. I've done workshops, panels, small group mentoring in high schools, Twitter chats, and networking events. If I talk to someone at length trying to break into the industry and they express interest in continuing the conversation, I will always give them my card and an open invitation to contact me.

You know how many of them actually email me? Like two out of a hundred is being generous.

(That's out of people that have asked me to continue the conversation. Whenever I make a presentation to a class or group of younger people, I always post my email address at the end with an open invitation to follow up -- I'm not counting these, but if I were it would make the number more like two out of four hundred.)

Heres the thing: if you ask someone for help and they say "yes, here, contact me", follow up with them. If you're in college and a professor you like has office hours, go for a visit. If a company invites you to shadow an editor or do an informational interview, set up an appointment.

If someone says sure, bother me all you want? BOTHER THEM. You should be trying to make as many contacts as you can, an that includes "bothering" people who haven't offered you their time outright. What chance do you have at making connections if you aren't even taking the free space in the middle of the board?

This is important: there will be people who are blowing smoke and don't actually have the time or interest in meeting with you. That's okay. There are plenty of others that can make the time and have the interest, because different levels of mentorship are mutually beneficial. I often learn just as much about the industry when I talk to younger people as they might be learning from me.

I've been where young editors probably are: too much work, too little pay. Maybe trying to balance classes and internships and work and a shred of a social life. I've been handed a business card with an open offer to communicate. I've let it slip because I didn't have time or I didn't think they really had the interest. I've potentially left a lot of opportunities on the table because I couldn't put aside a few minutes to throw an email at someone who already welcomed me to do so.

Keep track of your contacts and follow up. If someone is opening up their busy schedule to potentially share their knowledge and connections with you, for the love of everything, respond. If they get kind of wobbly in the response, keep bugging them. After all, they started it.

Everybody tells you to network and meet people. The part that comes after -- where you actually start to make the real connection -- is the part that will help make you successful.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Nov 13, 2014 at 7:12:33 pm post production, career

Beyond the A's and B's of NAB

There’s a whole big world out there in post-production-land, and most of it is pretty awesome.

When I headed to the NAB Show last week(ish), part of my (personal) mission was to learn a little more about companies I didn’t know much about. Not just ask someone or read some Wikipedia stuff, but actually get to know what their missions are in post-production right now. I found that if I just went up to an industry peer and asked about Grass Valley, they’d give me a bit of “oh, they’re still around?” I mentioned to someone that I had just been to a Quantel press conference and they quipped something about how the six people that use their stuff will be happy to see the updates.

Clearly this isn’t the case. At NAB, these two companies have two of the biggest, most prominent booths. They’re doing big business at the show but more importantly for the world of post overall, one way or another. And there are others too, like Vizrt and NewTek (who are working together on some pretty cool graphics stuff that you’ve probably seen in use) — prominently standing out on the exhibit floor that is entirely dedicated to post-production. But beyond the NAB bubble, these kinds of companies are the ones that run the backbone of post-production facilities and broadcast and live production and all sorts of other unsexy-on-the-surface stuff.

Beyond the surface, they’re doing some awesome stuff and they have been for a while. I know a lot of us don’t deal with these areas of post because we’re editors and cinematographers and freelancers. But it’s all in the same universe, and that means that these technologies can trickle down into our neck of the woods someday and solve some of our problems. And having a broader scope of the world is only a good thing for all of us.


Covering a lot of ground at NAB requires maximum comfort: dresses and sneakers.

For example, most of us are looking at NLEs and some cameras — 2K, UHD, HDR, 4K, all that stuff. We’ve been introduced to the idea of collaborative timelines in Resolve, cloud-based editing in Avid, 4K GPU debayering in Premiere. This is some of the top-billed stuff in these releases, and rightfully so. It’s freakin’ awesome stuff and it’s exciting for us to get our hands on it. It changes our every day right now.

But look a little further and see what’s already been happening. Grass Valley is providing Japan’s KTV with a full 4K editing system right now (with support for 8K later, 8 flipping K.) That means the news station is using EDIUS for real time 4K editing with Grass Valley's HQX codec, which allows for super high resolution video with dramatically improved editing response time. And if you didn't hear, Japan plans to actually be broadcasting 4K this summer, two years earlier than expected. And 8K broadcast is even being pushed forward, with NHK demonstrating their 8K playout at NAB and other trade shows. So while we're discussing the validity of having 4K in the home at all, Japan is doing its thing -- its thing being trying really hard to beat South Korea at technological advancements. Maybe we need a "friendly" rival again.


Grass Valley also had an interesting booth at NAB. If you're gonna have live models on display, may as well make 'em fight.

Quantel’s Genetic Engineering 2 allows editors to open any project in any room (or multiple rooms) to work. And that’s a “2" meaning it’s the second version because Genetic Engineering was first introduced in 2007. With GE2, a bunch of Pablo, eQ and/or iQ stations share a "GenePool" -- shared storage -- and that allows real time sharing of projects and guaranteed playback of multiple high resolution media streams, as well as other non-creative tasks at the same time. I don't mean project sharing so much as having multiple editors working on the same clip in different rooms. The first version supported stereoscopic 3D and 4K, and did I mention this was in 2007? I was still editing mostly standard definition stuff in 2007. The updates at NAB added some new stuff, including 6K playback from disk to 4K outputs. Light Iron has finished at least 4 6K DI sessions with this stuff. That is bananas to me.

Post-production and technology consulting companies like Digital Film Tree are building their own proprietary cloud-based editing systems that are in use on television and film today, and not in an experimental way. Five years ago (yeah, in 2009), they partnered with Rackspace to work toward realistic cloud-based collaboration and sharing because the old Hollywood ways of looking at dailies were getting super inefficient and way costly, especially when you consider a show might be shooting 50TB of stuff a day. Instead of pushing around a bajillion terabytes of content through a bigger, more expensive pipe or grabbing more storage, they're designing private clouds for studios powered by OpenStack to manage content sharing and collaboration. "Cloud" was a buzzword at NAB this year and lots of people are adding it to their products (or at least their product marketing), but Digital Film Tree has already been improving their own actual clouds all this time.

And I mentioned how NewTek and Vizrt are working together on some cool stuff. Vizrt makes tools to create the real-time 3D graphics and maps you see on CNN, CBS, NBC, pretty much all major US broadcasters -- you probably watch football, yeah? The graphics are from Vizrt tools. Not football? How about the last presidential election? NewTek's TriCaster (for live multicamera productions) can now integrate with Vizrt, meaning all those complex graphics can now be managed by one person and used on mobile production trucks, along with NewTek's replay system (3Play). This means a lot more scalability for different live productions. Like, your next college football game might have a significant jump in production value.


From A to B, all the way to V..izrt.

Even though I’m not going to be using Pablo anytime soon and I’m not managing dailies on a 6K studio feature (yet), these are all fascinating updates. These are global workflows that are touching a lot of people in some way, and as they get to be old news, my NLE seems to inherit them. Some stuff changes my every day right now, but the bigger picture gives a glimpse of what my future looks like — either my current NLE or maybe a jump into something new.

I think this is especially important to mix up the usual conversation about post. So much of the discussion is dominated with regurgitating old debates or evaluating a product based on the old, trusted ways. The trusted is becoming obsolete, if it isn’t already. While some are going in circles, looking for anything in a press release to confirm their bias, the rest of the world of post has moved on to bigger and better things.

I found a lot of cool stuff at NAB this year, but I think the most important discovery wasn’t an anecdote about 8K broadcast, but rather the world beyond the companies that start with A (or B). It doesn’t change what I do in my edit room tomorrow, but it makes me optimistic for the future of my career: longevity, security, and a whole bunch of flippin’ sweet technology to play with.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Apr 20, 2014 at 8:19:27 pm post production, nab show

Reminder: Give Credit To Your Mentors

Last week I found myself in Urban Outfitters for some unknown reason, and started looking through their mostly novelty book collection. Recipes for hemp, something about beards, veganized Betty Crocker, even the classic Tumblr Feminist Ryan Gosling is now a coffee table book. In the piles of hipster literature and cat pictures, I found a book called "Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)" by George Lois. The book is, as you'd guess, a list of advice largely aimed at young professionals, arranged with one point per page with a succinct paragraph explaining it.
I glanced through a few pages and landed on one that basically said this: don't forget to honor your mentors when you're successful. Give credit to those that helped you in some way.

I thought, really? People need to be told to do this? Why wouldn't you share your success?

But then I remembered a time when I used to keep my gratefulness to myself. Introverts tend to think a lot of things, and a lot of us in post are introverts by nature. We appreciate what people do for us and would always give them credit for helping us along the way if someone asked, but do we ever tell them? Honestly, all this junk gets way too close to having feelings and emotions, and most of us just aren't down with that kind of stuff.

I've been lucky to have a few mentors along the way so far, but there was one person I saw recently, and I realized I had never told him the impact he had on me. We only worked together a couple of days a long time ago.

In 2006, I accidentally found out that there happened to be a small independent film community in Indianapolis. I say accidentally because I was eavesdropping on a conversation at work. A girl mentioned her dad was an actor, and it snowballed from there until I was walking up the driveway to a stranger's house while people I don't know assembled a dolly outside. The film was an independent feature drama about a pioneer woman who got lost in time, and they were shooting two scenes outside the house that day. I had volunteered to be a production assistant. I'd never been a PA before, so I had no idea what I was getting myself in to with it.

I spent the day doing everything you'd expect a brand new PA to do. Moving stuff, getting people drinks, moving stuff, moving stuff. Around evening, some people had to leave, and the assistant director asked me if I knew how to script supervise. Nope, but I can learn. So he showed me. A couple more people left, so I had to script supervise and do the slates. And it was night, so I had to shine a flashlight on the slate. And then grab my script notes. He worked with me, showing me how to number and letter the takes, what to say, where to hold things. He was incredibly kind and patient for a dude on a film set dealing with a mostly clueless 19 year old, heavy on the positive reinforcement. After we wrapped, I helped wrap cable and we spoke for a while about my career and schooling, and he wished me luck.

Having been on a lot of sets since then, I know that they're usually at least a little tense. I was lucky to have a first experience with an AD that wasn't screamy and stressed out. If my first experience on set had been negative, I'm not sure what would have happened next. But the AD's kindness showed me that there are a lot of good people in film, so I continued to volunteer and pursue more experiences with indies. Over the years, I've been able to work my way through crew jobs and meet dozens and dozens of great people. And of course, this eventually led to me editing a feature myself.

I figured I should probably tell him, right? So I did, via a quick note online. He was happy to hear, and he told me this: please do the same for someone you just met. Which is also great advice, and something I've always aspired to do.

This will undoubtedly get buried under the sea of NAB news about to flood the feeds, but if you're heading off to Vegas or getting your RSS feeds ready to see the latest gear and "game changers", remember the people. Give credit where it's due. Honor your mentors (or those that were kind to you in some way) when you have any kind of success. Remember that nobody gets there alone. It works out great for everyone. Your mentor is encouraged to keep it up. You get some much needed humbling. And you might even get another dose of good advice from the experience. It's win-win-win, ya'll.

Now everyone hug.



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Apr 5, 2013 at 9:08:20 am post production, mentors

Are Software Certifications a Complete Waste of Time?

Occasionally I'll find myself in a discussion about FCP or Avid or Adobe certifications, typically on Twitter because where else do I ever talk to anyone? Usually a younger editor is asking about a specific certification, and a dozen industry vets jump in and go on and on about how certification is a complete waste of time and money, and no one should ever under any circumstances get a certification.

And I won't be surprised if any comments I get on this post are more of the same because I'm going to be uncharacteristically blunt and tell you that your opinion of certification is probably wrong.

Oh no I di'n't, girlfriend.

Yeah, I'll say it! If you can find no worth in a software certification for anyone, you're dead wrong. Boom. End of story. If you think I'm a moron, at least one of the following thoughts is probably yours. Here is why you are wrong.

"Certification just shows you can push some buttons."

EXACTLY. That is true, to an extent. If you have a certification, it shows that to some degree of accuracy determine by the powers that be, you can effectively control an NLE. Or you understand it well enough to feel your way through it. You have to have a good foundation in it, or else you wouldn't have passed the test. Does it mean you're a great editor? Hell no! Is it an indicator that you know what you're doing? Hell no! No one is saying that. They're just saying "I know where to hit the buttons in Avid to make the things do stuff, and here's proof." This is really useful for a younger editor. The job market is beyond saturated. If you don't have a lot of reputation or experience, you'll get filtered out quickly for the smallest reasons. A certification could possibly keep you in the hiring process through a round of cut-offs, simply because you have some tiny amount of demonstrable technical skill.

"A certification won't get you hired."

Nobody in their right mind gets a certification thinking it alone will lead directly to a post job. A certification is supporting evidence in two ways: 1) you can push the previously mentioned buttons; and 2) you are motivated enough to accomplish something that does require a good degree of studying and effort, not to mention some travel and time away is sometimes involved. Have you ever looked at a certification exam? I would bet many busy editors would fail because they aren't that deeply ingrained in the interface. They found their own path and have stuck with it. If you learn the software the way the manufacturer intended, you might be able to approach it a little differently. You might learn 3 ways to make something happen. You'll undoubtedly evolve -- and you should, because what the hell does a manufacturer know about real world editing? -- but you'll also be more open to taking different paths to the same end.

If you're naturally a good editor, you might find yourself a little frustrated at your technical skills. Your left brain can't keep up with your right brain. When I was in college finishing my degree, I was a little worried about my tech skills. I knew I had to be top notch when I entered the job market, and school just didn't give me everything I wanted. My professor suggested certification (I'm simplifying the story here though), so I did it. It gave me a broader understanding of FCP on a technical level that opened the doors to digging deeper which made me more confident overall.

"A certification doesn't help you tell your story."

Being fluent in the technology absolutely helps you tell a story. If you aren't distracted by the technical aspects of editing, you can work faster and spend more time on editorial decisions. A certification can serve as your foundation to being fluent in the tech.

"People who are certified always start off job interviews talking about it like it matters."

Maybe some do, but these are probably the same people who don't really understand their industry. Maybe they're inexperienced, maybe they're dense. You can't avoid either case in ANY industry. A few people that think their certification is a passport to greatness doesn't negate the entirety of certification.

And in many markets to many hiring dudes, certifications don't matter at all. However, if you're in a smaller city or you're applying to corporate jobs, you might be interviewed by an HR person, at least for the first round. You have to get past them to get to the person you really want to talk to, and they don't know anything about your industry. They speak in credentials. Lines on a resume matter to THEM.

"OK, take the class then, but why spend the money on the actual certification?"

Why NOT get the actual certification? You took the time to learn all the information in a specific way, drop the extra money for the piece of paper proving you did it. You can list it on your resume. You'll be in the database, have the paper, and maybe even get some logo you can use somewhere officially if you follow the 20 page rulebook on usage.

"There is no reason to get certified."


Let's see:
Gets you past the threshold of "does this silly person even know ANYTHING?"
Can help your confidence as an editor.
Shows you're committed.
Helps your storytelling skills indirectly.
A solid credential if it matters to your market.
A firm foundation of the NLE which might open you to things you missed in self-learning.
Motivation to keep learning, for the goal-oriented among us.
Newer editors can use it as leverage to show they give a damn. Older editors can use it to show their skills are still relevant.

AND: A FRAME-ABLE PIECE OF PAPER!

That's my argument. Yeah, certification isn't for everyone. But it's not for no one.



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Nov 29, 2012 at 5:39:58 pmComments (17) certification, post production

Parenthood in Production and Post: Being an Editor Mom

For the conclusion to my epic trilogy on parenthood in production and post, I've been thinking a lot about tortoises.

(You may have figured out by now that I enjoy animal metaphors.)

You see, a female tortoise will crawl out of the ocean up onto the beach, find a nice safe, sandy area, and plop out a bunch of eggs. Then…she high tails it back into the ocean, and the little babies hatch and supposedly instinctively head into the sea as well to start their own lives. If they make it without some winged creature snatching them up, that is.

I feel like this is how people tend to think about editor moms, especially people outside the industry. Working moms, they're tortoises. They do their part, and head back into their career and expect that the kids will be reasonably self-sufficient or whatever. I mean, how could any woman choose to part with their children for the sake of a career? My word! < /1962 >

And unfairly, it seems more guilt is pushed onto female editors who have kids.

Well, it turns out it's not only possible to balance being a good mother with being a good editor, but it happens a LOT. Women in every kind of video production market from LA to the Heartland to the deep South (probably) are providing for their families, making sacrifices, and pursuing their life's passion. And one of them is Monica Daniel.

Monica has an unconventional background as an editor. She didn't go to film school. Instead, she has a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and an unofficial minor in dance choreography. Many editors that find their way to post in or after college find their rhythm through other means, and for Monica it was through dance. Her last year of school, she realized she wanted to be in film and television and attended a filmmaking bootcamp called the Digital Video Intensive. From there, she moved to LA to try her luck and eventually made her way to E! Entertainment. There, she quickly made her way from Production Assistant to Assistant Editor, then was promoted to Editor after a year and a half. 



Monica has been with her husband Mario for 15 years, married for 5. She has two children, Gabriel and Ivy, ages 3 and 1 1/2.


When you first began your career, what were your thoughts or plans on having a family? 


I knew I always wanted a family but I didn't know when. I wanted to be more established and financially stable before I had children. Children are very expensive and time consuming.

Why did you want to have children?

I have always been family oriented. The idea of having children to play with and discover new things with is very appealing. 
 
How did your family life determine where you chose to live?

Ideally I would be living in an area with a better school system, but that would require a longer commute and more time in traffic and less time with my children. Los Angeles can be a very expensive place to live and unfortunately we had to balance proximity to work with what was affordable and a good enough neighborhood. We are still figuring out what we can do to get better schooling for our children when they are old enough. I may have to end up working more hours to pay for private school.




When you were discussing the prospect of adding kids to your family, what did you think would be the main challenge? What ended up being the main challenge?


We were always worried about money and who would take care of them if we were both at work and these concerns ended up being the biggest challenge. Luckily, I make enough money as an editor to take care of my family while my husband stays at home and watches the kids. The biggest challenge actually came this past year when we learned that our son, who is now 3 years old, is Autistic. He attends a special pre-school and has several therapies per week to help him with his Autism. I do my best to make sure that his special therapies are paid for, and my husband takes him to his therapy and evaluations. 
 
As a woman, how did you maintain your career during pregnancy and maternity leave? Were you ever concerned that you wouldn't be taken seriously or might be passed over for opportunities because of pregnancy and motherhood?

I was lucky because at the division of NBC Universal that I work at, they provide maternity leave benefits and are very understanding when it comes to pregnancy. Benefits were also provided through the state. I was concerned about how people viewed me while I was pregnant and I didn't tell anyone until I was further along but I have a very established reputation where I work and it didn't concern people as far as quality of my work was concerned. While I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter, I was even asked to be the on site editor for the Red Carpet coverage of the Academy Awards. The Producers had their pick of editors and they asked me to take the very stressful and critical on site editing position despite my condition. My circumstances are not the norm, but the exception. Anywhere else I would have been very nervous and worried. Even though it is illegal to discriminate against pregnancy, it still happens unofficially. Someone else will get hired over you because they are not pregnant. 

Did you ever worry about missing opportunities in your career to be home with children? On the flip side, did you ever worry about missing moments with your kids because of your career? How do you balance this? Do you feel like it's a sacrifice in some ways?

I think about this every day. No matter what choice I make, I am sacrificing something. I love my job and I love my children. My job requires long hours and when I work on scripted projects, it is even longer hours. I want memories of my children growing up. I am still trying to find the balance. I end up sacrificing my own health to spend as much time with my children as I can. I don't get nearly as much sleep as I should, all of my exercise comes from playing with my kids, and I have very little time for myself. 



When you're in the middle of a big project with long hours, how does it affect your family life? How do you alter things to make your family life manageable in these situations?

It is very difficult. My husband is understanding but it is still a challenge. I try to see my kids every moment I can. The main reason I agreed to get an iPhone was so I can FaceTime with the kids when I am at work for long hours. 

I think we'd agree that the editing world is male-dominated. As an editor mom, how do you handle yourself in this predominately male environment?

I do work mostly with men. I grew up with my brothers and uncles so I am used to being around the boys. I work hard to earn the respect of my male colleagues and that includes producers and directors as well. I never use being a female as an excuse for anything. I depict myself as a professional editor, not a female editor. I once had a job interview to cut special features for a documentary. In the interview, the Producer told me he would probably assign me the package about a love story because as a woman I would be better at cutting romance over action. I actually prefer action over romance, but the producer's assumption that I would be better at a love story because I am a woman is just one stereotype I have had to deal with. It doesn't help that I am on the shorter side and look 12 years younger than I am, so to someone who meets me for the first time, I do look a bit like a little girl.

How do you deal with childcare and unexpected challenges that come up when raising kids (i.e. sickness) while also balancing often time-sensitive tasks such as editing on a deadline?

Daycare is very expensive but a necessity for us. My husband mainly takes care of the children because of my unpredictable work schedules.
 
When working from home, how do you manage your time with your children around? 

I have my edit system in a separate room. I will have lunch with the kids and take breaks to be with them. They are both in daycare now so during the day it isn't much of an issue during the day.
 
Some in the industry use the phrase "golden handcuffs" to refer to having to pass on or not seek further opportunities that involve more risk but may also progress your career further because of the responsibility of having a family. Do you feel like you're in a "golden handcuffs" situation? What's your opinion on this outlook?

I am definitely in a Golden Handcuffs situation. Currently my income supports my family and I can't afford to not work at my current editing rates. I have been recently speaking with more people on the high profile scripted projects and they all tell me the same things. It requires really long hours and additional hours of your own time to edit independently. I have worked on independent scripted projects but not a studio project. If I wanted to transition into scripted studio projects I would have to go back to Assisting. Which means less pay for more hours. I am still learning as much as I can about Assisting in the scripted world just in case one day I may be able to take a job offer. Even though the odds are working against me right now, I haven't given it up.



I see you occasionally lamenting the idea of working on more narrative projects, but not being willing or able to take the increase in hours and decrease in pay. This dilemma weighs heavily on many editors, parents or not. How do you deal with this?

I am at a crossroads in my career right now where I would like to move it in a different direction. Even though I have the "Golden Handcuffs" to deal with, I have not given up on leading my career where I want it to be. I attend Editing seminars, attend user groups, mixers, give presentations about my work and meet new people in post all the time. My path may be a slower path but I don't want to face my children in the future and tell them that their mother gave up without even trying. 

Do your kids understand if you're not around or busy for periods at a time? What do you hope they learn from seeing your work?

They are too young to understand why I am gone. They just know I am gone. It is really tough when my husband tells me that the children were asking for me and they tell him to pick me up so I can play with them.
 
Despite the challenges of parenthood, what are the positives to having kids? What makes it worthwhile?


Kids are wonderful. Everything is new to them. They look to you as their parent for comfort and unconditional love. It is a great feeling and hard to describe. They are so proud of their little accomplishments and it reminds me that there are some things that my career cannot replace.

What is your advice to someone in the industry who is considering having children, but is worried about being able to have a career and a family?

It will be hard for everyone. You must remind yourself what is important to you. There is no easy answer. This is a very competitive industry. I am competing with people who will do anything to succeed. I will not sacrifice the well being of my family for my career. They are more important. I use my career to support my family. Luckily, I love my career.

Across all careers, there's an old fashioned notion that once you have kids, as a woman you'll settle down and focus on raising them instead of your career. You're one of many women who don't choose that path. What do you have to say to someone that would question your decision?

I do not only live for my children but for myself as well. As a parent you want to be an example for your children. I want to show them that you can have a family and follow your dreams. 



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Breaking news: you can be a great mom and a successful editor without being a land-dwelling reptile about it. Monica has figured out a balance between work and kids, and it can serve as an inspiration to all parents in our industry. We all make sacrifices in different areas of our lives, and a female editor might sometimes feel a heavier burden. I think it's important for women in post to discuss this and realize that so many of us are in the same rocky boat of balancing home life and pursuing more aspects of an editing career. And it doesn't have to be children. All home life applies -- newly married spouses figuring out how to compromise on an area to settle in; childless couples taking less fulfilling work to earn more money to buy a home; or even individuals trying to maintain friendships with erratic work schedules with long hours. I didn't make these issues up and they aren't mine. I saw them all mentioned on Twitter just today

The thing is, regardless of your circumstances, everyone has a home life and perhaps a family life, and it's something that requires careful thought and cultivation to maintain. At some point in your editing career, you have to consider how much give you have between the two. And you aren't the only one trying to feel your way through this.

I know I said this was a three part exploration in parenthood, but I'm kind of silly so screw it. I'm keeping the conversation going, and not just about parenthood. There's more to the story than this one aspect of an editor's personal life, and I aim to dig it up. Look for more posts about figuring out all that messy life stuff that gets in the way when you're just trying to transcode some stuff, man.

You can find Monica's work on several shows produced by NBC Universal. You can also find her on Twitter or her blog.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Nov 5, 2012 at 9:00:07 pm parenthood, post production



Focusing on post-production, from editing and motion graphics to personal experiences and the psychology of being an editor.


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