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Three top television editors sat on an insightful panel at this year’s Sight, Sound and Story in NYC. Here’s a bit of what was discussed.
TV editors Fabienne Bouville (American Horror Story, Masters of Sex), Sidney Wollinsky (Ray Donovan, The Sopranos), and Jesse Averna (Sesame Street, Monica’s Mixing Bowl) sat with Michael Berenbaum (The Americans, Sex and the City) in conversation as part of Sight, Sound and Story’s annual New York City eventpresented by Manhattan Edit Workshop on June 13th. Here’s some of what they talked about.
Image from American Horror Story
The State of the Television Industry
Michael: What’s luring viewers to TV today?
Fabienne: The quality of shows has gotten a lot better, but because there’s this pressure on films to want to please everybody, in TV you can find a niche more easily. The format of TV is more conducive to really digging into characters, so that’s super appealing.
Sidney: The change in subject matter is one of the factors. People’s tastes have changed, the tolerance for obscenity or sex has changed over the years. Movies have gotten, in general, less interesting. It feels like there are fewer movies about people and more about superheroes. And television is doing things with the former where you can really relate to it.
Michael: Is binge watching a good or bad thing?
Sidney: I don’t know if I’d sit there for twelve hours watching an entire season, but it’s nice to see two shows in a row. A season is essentially one long feature film, and it’s interesting to be able to start and stop it, like a book, rather than having to wait the next week for the next installment.
Fabienne: Remember when you had to leave to catch a show? “Oh, it’s 8 o’clock, my show’s on, bye!”
Sidney: The networks are now following. NBC has a show called Aquarius where they released all twelve episodes at the same time on demand. I thought that was amazing.
Jesse: I was happy that House of Cards was released all at once. Some of the storylines and character names, if you weren’t binge watching, it became confusing if you stepped away from it. It was hard to get back into it. I feel like I already was binge watching. I think the networks caught up to us.
Sidney: As far as the workflow for editors, if they’re putting all twelve episodes up at once, it means you’re not working against air dates. With something like a Netflix show, it gives you a lot more time in the cutting room, often with the director. They don’t kick the director out after four days, which is the Director’s Guild time allotment. They often give you longer to put your cut together before you show the director. The producer will also typically take longer to work on the show and ultimately get a better product.
Michael: On those network shows where you’re racing on air dates, they catch up to you over the course of the season. So later in the season the air dates get closer and closer, and you’re rushing like crazy by the end.
Sidney: The producers often don’t understand the value of time. I heard years ago an editor say, ‘the idea you get on day 16 you just can’t get on day 2.’ Your ideas evolve as you’re working on a show, and if you have enough time you can get those ideas but if you don’t, you work with the ideas you get in that short period of time.
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