I originally studied cinematography at film school and ended up getting work in the lighting department for about four years on TV commercials, TV drama and films. I’m a fairly quiet person and had romantic notions of being quiet, cowering behind a camera.
One workless winter, I asked my flatmate, who was an editor about her work and I took an immediate interest in her response. After downloading the trial version of Final Cut Pro 7 and working through hours of tutorials, I made the impulsive choice to switch from lighting to editing, trading one kind of back pain (standing) for another (sitting). Through my flatmate, I spent a few months interning and an additional year working full-time in a tape library, so I could get a handle on the technology.
After cutting a few short films on the side, I really wanted to end up cutting feature films. I did some research (googled ‘how do I become a feature film editor’) and found the best way for me was to become an assistant editor on scripted dramas. I could upskill on the technical side and learn as much as I could working for editors who had made it.
I bothered every production company I’d worked for as a lighting technician and got work ingesting and syncing on travel and cooking shows. From there, I got my first scripted assisting on TV commercials, scripted TV and films until I ended up in assembly editing on set for an NZFC short film. After that, the producer got me into commercial editing work, so I was able to move on from assisting.
I was getting a lot of advertising/content work, but the drama work was pretty scarce. I’m quite bad at networking, but reluctantly ended up bothering a producer I wanted to work with. I met with her for a coffee and from there I cut a music video that she produced.
- Through this, I got to cut a drama pilot through the DoP of the music video.
- After cutting the music video, the producer I’d spoken to offered me an NZFC short.
- The director of the music video offered me another NZFC short.
- From someone who’d see the pilot, I was offered a (paid!) web series.
- From the two NZFC shorts I’d cut, I got offered a TV drama.
- The producer of the web series recently offered me another TV drama.
What I think I’m trying to say is that being keen and possibly the last person a producer had coffee with before crewing can have a huge knock on effect.
The one thing I’d recommend for anyone is to make those seemingly unattainable connections. You could be extremely skilled, but that doesn’t mean a thing if no one knows who you are. I’m admittedly quite shy, however, the last few years which are the best of my career were only possible because I tried to make meaningful connections, despite being extremely reluctant. From there, I was able to trade cowering behind a camera for cowering behind an edit suite.
About Brendon Chan
Brendon entered post production in 2010 as an assistant editor, where he worked on feature films, such as Born to Dance, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Black Christmas. He made the leap to editing full-time in 2017, working across a broad range of television, web and film content. The most recent work he’d like to shamefully promote is the TVNZ drama series The Pact.
How I Got Started in the Industry is a new guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with email@example.com if you’re a member and would like to share your story.