Want to be an editor? Grab experience where you can

Want to be an editor? Grab experience where you can

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Ruth Pitt, Johnny Rayner and Samuel R Santana (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)
Ruth Pitt, Johnny Rayner and Samuel R Santana (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)

Film editors Johnny Rayner and Samuel R Santana reminisced about their journey into the TV industry at this year's RTS Student Masterclasses

Grab experience where you can

Santana: “I arrived here, jobless, from the Canary Islands in 1994, and wanted to carry on editing.

“I did a very short online course in order to get into low-budget TV. It was great experience and led to me working on National Geographic documentaries.

“You shouldn’t be sniffy about low-budget productions as an editor because it’s fantastic experience. When you’ve got really tight deadlines, it makes you think quicker.”

Be prepared to work outside London

Santana: “Production companies in Scotland were looking for editors. That’s where I worked on my first BBC One programme. I went for seven weeks and stayed for nearly a year.”

Don’t be put off by what tutors tell you  

Rayner: “I studied film theory and did a bit of script writing but still had no real idea how to do it. I wasn’t encouraged or given a direction at university.

“No one talked about how to get into the industry. It was all theory. We were told some pretty negative stories about the industry, which was not helpful.

“I had one contact in London who was a runner and she helped me get a couple of free days in edit houses and I ended up in a commercials production house.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I was willing to do anything and do show reels and learn what everyone did on set.

“I taught myself Fine Cut Pro and Premier. After a couple of years I jumped from the commercials house to an edit house which did commercials and music videos. I made a short film and used that to teach myself Avid.”

Make your own stuff – even if it’s for free

Rayner: “I used to surf a bit in Cornwall. I bought a cheap mini DVD camera and made a lot of surf movies. They were awful but it was a good way of learning Premier.

“That got me interested in playing around with images and music.”

Build up a show reel that can open doors

Rayner: “I did a lot of early music videos for people like Ed Sheeran and Professor Green. When those names because popular I had a show reel featuring names that people knew.

“The Professor Green video actually got me an interview for a low-budget feature. It was shot over a weekend in and around Clapton (in London's East End).

“There were hours and hours of footage and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was an editor’s dream.  

“We spent three weeks hacking away at it and building a little story.”

Stress in the edit suite 

Santana: “In any project there are bumps that make you question your instinct…

“We have to show our films to the channel and things may get tricky. They ask us to do loads of changes that we do not believe in.

“You end up compromising…There are stresses. “

Rayner: “Sometimes I hate what I do…but I’ll still put in the hours and enjoy what’s coming out…I think it’s good sometimes to hate what you love.”

Santana: “I agree…You forget about the bad stuff, you have editing amnesia.”

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