After working in reality for about four years and working in transcribing (click here for that) and reality TV in general (click here for that) I have decided to finally do Five Things I Learned Assistant Editing. This isn't gonna be some tell all information or dogging any particular show that I've worked on. Its more about information that for those that want to work in reality TV or want to do something more to learn.
Reality TV is different than any other jobs that I've had in that upward movement can happen very fast as long as you try. Yes, it helps to know someone in a higher position but if you don't know your shit it is just as easy to be exposed as not knowing what the fuck you're doing.
Do More Than You Need To
When you are hired as an assistant editor there will be times when you're asked to put a scene together. It goes like this. Story producers will know what happened on the set because they were there (best case scenario) or they read what happened (bad scenario) and were told what happened (worse case scenario). They will then ask for this scene to be found. You pray that they at least have the time this allegedly happened or the right person it happened to. You have no idea how many times I wasted hours looking for a situation with the wrong person listed.
After you are asked to find this stuff you can just hand them what they asked for and work on your reel that no one wants to see or you can go the extra mile. I always prefer the extra mile. If you ask me for a clip of someone angrily leaving the room I will give you that in at least three forms and from different angles. Why? Because people don't know what they want. They have a vague idea and you handing in options makes everyone's job easier meaning yours. And don't just show the angry person leaving the room. Follow them until they are off camera somewhere else.
Know More Than You Need To Know
This is how I went from transcribing to being an AE in less than a year. I know people that transcribed for years and years and were angry or annoyed that they weren't asked to do more. For me it was a simple email asking if anyone knew AVID. I was just learning it and said so. Next thing you know I went from a gig that should have been three months that lasted for 10. If you just wanna transcribe that is fine but if you want more learn something else as well.
Most people want more but don't go about doing extra. The dream job for so many people I heard was story producer. Oh, if only I could get to that position I'd have it made! Not really. Why? You don't know how to tell a story. As an AE there are times where you have hours of nothing to do. Lots of folks slept. I made my own show out of the footage from the show I was working on. On one series I made 79 completed deleted scenes that producers would be watching when I showed up for work. I wasn't part of story or even an editor. I was an AE that had the ability to do their job because I wanted to make my own easier. So if you're one of those people that sleep your shift away now you know why you hit the glass ceiling.
Show Contestants Are Liars
I recently read an interview with a contestant for a show I didn't work on or watch but knew the gist of. She complained that they made her look bad for TV and edited what she said or did. Most shows have a minimum of 10 people and that doesn't include the host or guests. For some reason contestants think that a 42 minute show is going to be only about their journey. Weirdos. And by the way, how presumptuous to think you're interesting enough for your own show. They sign contracts giving away their life for a certain amount of time and then get upset when it really happens.
These people have no idea how lucky they are that most of what they say and do is never seen by the public. If you watch a show and think someone is racist you have no idea what you didn't see. There is stuff that is left on the cutting room floor (not literally) because if it aired these people would lose their friends, family, and jobs. And there is the fact that some people are just dull and the story department has to create something from nothing. You ask for me to find clips of this boring ass person being gross and I know that they have nothing else to offer besides ass scratching and farts. It was my job to get them on TV somehow.
Job Duties Are Blurred
This goes along with the knowing stories when it isn't your job. There will be times where you are asked to do things above and below your pay grade. Why? Usually because someone else can't do what they were hired to do. This isn't like other jobs where if someone is terrible you can tell a supervisor and the person is talked to and/or let go. Sometimes you would come to work and someone was just not there anymore and later you'd find out that the right person saw them doing the wrong thing.
When you are put in a position to do something you weren't trained to do you can say no, which I've done dozens of times or say “I'll see if I can.” Seeing if I can gave me the chance to learn a lot of stuff that if you'd asked me a few months before trying I would've told you I'd never be able to do it. But beware of jealousy. There will be someone whose job you are learning that will not want to help you learn it because they know the jig is up and they may be on their way out.
Hours Of Work Equal Seconds On Screen
There were times where I would spend five hours looking for a clip and the finished product ended up on screen for seconds. This is not an exaggeration. You can and will spend hours looking for footage that hopefully exists and sending it in thankful that its done. And when you watch the show its on screen and gone if you blink.
This isn't a job I ever did for recognition and if I had I would be angry. I think I just explained a lot of attitudes I came across doing that job. Your friends that don't work in that industry don't understand what it is you do exactly or why you work the hours you do. They just know that you sleep during the day and work all night doing something none of them watches. But it pays great and if you do it right you work just a few months a year so pffft.
Click here for previous Five Things I Learned.