Exclusive Chat with Film Editor Marvin Gubb HSG
With TV schedules and budgets getting tighter it was amazing that we could get anytime with Marvin. Fortunately he had moments to talk to us while waiting for the writers to finish their editorial meeting with the network. (Marvin was not invited to the meeting because the studio caterer does not include below-the-line employees.)
Most of Hollywood's TV editors are acquainted with Marvin Gubb, his long career working freelance at the major studios. Most of us know him as the guy working down the hall on a low budget French/Australian coproduction starring Kate Upton. He is the guy piecing together an entire series from stock, or putting together action scenes with scene missing banners that will be shot later in Singapore.
I found Marvin hunched over his editing system squinting like a mole exposed to daylight.
Q: First off I noticed you don't look comfortable at all in that chair.
M: Yea that's the chair the studio gave me. This editing system costs over 50 K yet we get our chairs from studio surplus- they're whatever the production offices didn't want. But hey it matches the decor, cement block walls mixed with temp cardboard walls (sound is actually amplified through them), stained ceiling tile and no windows. It's my understanding that back in the early part of the century when this studio was just a farm that this building was a stable. Apparently it was unfit for animals, so the studio mogul saw it's potential for post production.
Q: Can you give me any tips for the young editor starting out.
M: I hear there's opportunities in chemical engineering.
Q: But seriously...
M: Well with the current schedules I have had to learn a few editorial shortcuts.
Q: What are they?
M: First of all, cut the slates off. I know that sometimes we aren't really given enough time to check everything but there is nothing more embarrassing then leaving the slates in. It takes you right out of the story.
Q: What else?
M: Always use the last take.
M: If the director really liked his earlier printed takes he would not have wasted everybody's time shooting more. He's under even more time pressure than me. He might have killed an actor's spontaneity by take 8, but that take probably has the complicated dolly move that he can use for his reel so he can go on to make features.
The last take is always the best - Don't even waste your time looking at the others.
Q: Any other tips?
M: Always use the tightest coverage.
M: Same reason as using the last take - Usually if they took the trouble to shoot the coverage, they'll want to use it. TV is a medium of close-ups even since we have transitioned to HD. Some producers can't hear the dialog unless its in close-up. Go figure.
Also don't overlap sound and picture. Its to distracting, if an actor is talking be on him. If you absolutely need a reaction don't go away for longer than a foot. I remember one producer yelling at me for putting in a reaction shot over dialog, "What the hell you do that for-that's an important line!" I will never do that again. These guy's scripts are lined with gold.
Q: Any tips for when your cutting action?
M: Oh yea the trick there is big temp music. Van Halen, or the score from Psycho, just crank it up over the usual stock shots and shaky camera stuff and you can't go wrong. If you toss in a few white frames and some scratchy leader it really looks snappy.
Q: You sound bitter.
M: Naw I love this business. (He pauses and his eyes tear) Sometimes you work with a crew and everybody is collaborating and its fun. Editors are paid less than the boom operator but your treated like one of the writers. Or maybe a writer's assistant.
Man I look at these finely written shows carefully shot that win editing Emmy's. The editor strings a few steadycam shots together and he's rolling home after lunch. But me I find myself cutting these chase scenes with second unit left over from the pilot and public domain elements borrowed from old newsreels for ungrateful producers that take the credit for my creativity along with their cut in Indochinese licensing fees that are worth a small fortune.
I guess thats what attracted me to the field in the first place.
Q: Whats the HSG stand for?
M: High School Graduate.