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EDITORIAL - Job Title: Apprentice Editor, Apprentice Film Editor

teese office editing editors

Job Overview

Apprentice editor is an entry-level union position within the editorial department. They assist the assistant editor and editor as instructed, usually handling the cataloging of film and shuttling it between the film lab and sound transfer facility, and the editor and projectionist. “An apprentice editor is a combination of production assistant and assistant editor,” explains apprentice editor Rex Teese. “We help log film and help load everything into the Avid [or Lightworks] editing machine. We run back and forth between developing houses, dropping off and picking up film. When it comes time to start cutting the picture together, we're there splicing the film for the preview cut. It's pretty much all digital now, but when they start previewing the picture, they go back to film. I'm like an overpaid librarian. I keep track of everything that comes in from production—every frame.”

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Teese suggests landing a position as an office PA for a production or, as he did, with the area film office, as a good place to break into the business. His rise to success came quickly because he started his career in Richmond, Virginia, a considerably smaller filmmaking market than Los Angeles, where there was less competition for jobs. Another option is making connections with classmates in film school, editing their school projects. As they go on to work on other projects, they will already know you and your reputation.

Professional Profile: Rex Teese, Apprentice Editor

“I am just a long string of lucky breaks,” says Rex Teese of his swift rise to success. He began editing movies while in high school. “In art class we had to make commercials for one of our projects. And for Spanish class we had to do these skits where we spoke Spanish. I usually wrote them.” To get out of doing some of the work, Teese took on the responsibility for editing the pieces, which turned out to be more work. “This was back before you could do anything on computer.” Using footage shot on VHS with a handheld camcorder, he rigged two VCRs to use for editing, stopping and starting and rerecording to make the edits.

After high school, Teese set his interest in filmmaking aside to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, where he studied to become a teacher and football coach. In his last year of college, while doing student teaching, he discovered that “I'm a pretty decent coach, but I'm a terrible teacher.”

Inspired to contact the Virginia Film Office for an internship, he started work at the end of the 1997 school year, just as other students were leaving. Being the only intern in a small office afforded Teese a wealth of opportunities to gain experience and make industry contacts. “One day the Film Office loaned me out to a video shoot for the Dave Matthews Band. It was my first film job: working with this band I had been listening to for a couple of years. It was great!”

In the summer of 1998 he was hired as office PA on the Legacy pilot. Whenever he wasn't working, he could be found looking over the shoulders of the show's editors, watching and learning the craft. “The production manager and I didn't get along too well—we had a clash of personalities. She was about half a second away from firing me.” Luckily for Teese, the editors were swamped and hired him on as an apprentice. When the Legacy editors weren't using the editing equipment, they allowed Teese to use it. “I was spending weekends and nights—all this time working on the machine. Toward the end of the show, they had to kick me off so they could work.” By the end of the production, he had become accomplished at using a Lightworks machine and spliced a two and a half minute segment that remained in the released version.

Legacy was canceled early in 1999. Although Teese had gained editing experience and skill, his knowledge was based on the Lightworks system, whereas most editors use Avid. His next jobs were as an office and set PA on such projects as Cherry Falls and The Contender. While working on the TV movie Cupid and Cate, Teese received a call from Martin Jones, who runs Tim Reid's New Millennium studio, where a film called Nothin’ 2 Lose was being edited. “They hired a guy named George Kelly, who cut commercials locally. He knew how to use an Avid, but fortunately for me, the machine at New Millennium was Lightworks. I got the job because I knew how to use the machine.” Teese spent the next four months cutting the movie, finishing up in February 2000.

While working on Nothin’ 2 Lose, Ridley Scott and some of his crew were in town scouting locations for Hannibal and visited New Millennium. Teese seized the opportunity to introduce himself to executive producer Branko Lustig and they talked briefly. He submitted his résumé to work on the film and two months later he received a call from Wesley Sewell, the associate editor. “I talked with him for about 20 minutes and he asked me to come down to the office. I did and we talked about 45 minutes. At the end, he just looked at me and said, ‘Okay.’ I asked, ‘Do I have the job?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that's why I had you come down here.’”

One day he asked Sewell why he had hired him, and was told that people had said “we have this guy in town and you've got to hire him.” Teese assumed it was because he was a good apprentice. He later learned “they didn't want to bring an apprentice from out of town and have to pay per diem and housing. I was the only one in the union, so they said, ‘You've got to hire him.’ That's how I got the job: I was the only guy in town.”

What do you like least about your job?

“There is nothing that I don't like about my job.”Rex Teese

What do you love most about your job?

“What I like most about my job is that I've been fortunate to work for several legends of filmmaking: Ridley Scott, and the editor I now work for, Pietro Scalia. I've met and worked with some of the greatest guys in film.”Rex Teese

Working on Hannibal, he got to watch the great editor Pietro Scalia at work. “It was like film school. Every day I'm sitting there in dailies with Ridley Scott and Pietro Scalia. They're telling me everything I ever wanted to know. It was amazing. I learned a lot on that show.”

His next film was Hearts in Atlantis, directed by Scott Hicks. The Australian crew did not bring in an apprentice editor, putting Teese in the right place at the right time. Once again, “I was the only guy in town, so I got the job.” When the film wrapped, with no other project on the horizon, Teese filled his time editing a short movie for a friend and putting together highlight reels for local football coaches. He also directed, shot, and edited a DVD of performances for a local band.

Hearing that Ridley Scott was set to direct Black Hawk Down, with Scalia serving as editor and Sewell as associate editor, Teese lobbied for the apprentice position. While the film was shooting in Morocco, Scalia used an apprentice out of London whom he had previously worked with. When the film returned to Los Angeles, Teese was offered the job. Beginning in August 2001, he worked 6-day, 75-hour work weeks until the end of December. He drove home to Virginia for Christmas, and had been in town only five days before receiving an offer to work as the projectionist for the DreamWorks feature Ring. Finishing up in early summer 2002, Teese returned to Virginia to edit some low budget films for friends, hoping to soon work again with Scott, Scalia, and Sewell.


* “Take advantage of the opportunities that arise. I've known a couple assistant editors who, when the show is over, won't have anything more to do with it. Every once in a while, they'll be asked to come back and [do additional work on the film] and they'll say, ‘No, no, I really can't do it.’ You have to make yourself available to help whenever you can.”—Rex Teese

* Set goals: “I set goals for myself. When I started working at the Film Office, I said, ‘Within seven or eight months I want to get a job working on a film or television show. ‘I did it within four. When I was hired on Legacy, I set a goal to be working editorial within seven months. Within three months, I was working editorial. When I first started editing, I set a goal to edit a movie or TV show by the time I was 29. I turned 26 and had already edited a movie. Again, I beat my deadline by half.”Rex Teese

* Find a good mentor: “I have been lucky in that I've had extremely good teachers. George Kelly, who was the editor on Nothin’ 2 Lose, taught me a lot. The two Canadians, Robin Russell and Don Cassidy, who were the editors on Legacy, were kind enough to let me just sit behind them and watch them work for three or four hours every night. When I'd ask them questions, they'd always answer them for me. I was lucky to work with Wes Sewell. He designed a lot of the classes that Avid used to teach other editors, because he was one of the first people to use it.

EDITORIAL - Job Title: Projectionist (editing Department) [next] [back] EDITORIAL - Job Title: Second Assistant Editor

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