Grandpa Simpson: Editorial visionary

Come, editorial friends, to that great repository of cultural insights and general knowledge known as The Simpsons. Once upon a time, many episodes ago, Homer Simpson’s father, Abe Simpson, intoned the following:


I used to be with it, but then they changed what “it” was. Now what I’m with isn’t “it,” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me.

And it’ll happen to you.

I’ll admit it. I’ve been feeling differently about that quote recently than I used to. When I first got into post-production as a young assistant editor, an established editor asked me one day if I’d make an output of his sequence to the VHS deck hooked up in his bay… because he didn’t know how.

Poor little Horita box. Now languishing on eBay for all eternity.
Poor little Horita box. Now languishing on eBay for all eternity.

My jaw almost dropped on the floor. How could any self-respecting editor not know how to route a composite video signal through a timecode generator, set audio levels to match reference tone, and hit record on a VHS deck and play on the Avid? I mean, really??

I never knew how easy I had it. I cut my assistant editor teeth in the not-so-distant days when my main job was shoving tapes into a Beta SP deck and copying footage from one physical drive to another.

These days? Have an assistant editor start talking to me about decomposing the multi-group into the project with the correct frame-rate because the AMA just will not link to the original media so we’re transcoding to blah resolution for the XML output, and my eyes instantly glaze over. Exactly like that guy who after poking around the video router in his Avid rig finally gave up and asked me to make that VHS output.

To all the professional assistant editors out there: you ladies and gentlemen are FREAKING AMAZING. I assure you, the vast majority of the editors you support have absolutely no clue how to do what you do. We would be incapable of doing any actual editing if we had to do your job, which changes with every new update to software and operating system, and every new codec from this month’s shiny new digital camera.

A toast to the editorial one-man/woman band.
A toast to the editorial one-man/woman band.

And for all the content creators out there who have to be the assistant editor, post sup, AND the editor (and the colorist, and the mixer, and DVD author)… it’s a brave new world with technology constantly changing.

I’m happy to confirm, though, that while the way we create content constantly changes, other things remain the same:

MESSAGE… channeled through specific Media to a specific Market by specific creative Methods. The editor’s function as Technician, Creative, and Psychologist.   Story structure. Character arcs. Continuity of images and ideas. Tension. Release. Emotion. Collaboration with people. All working together to create intangible connections to deeply rooted psychological triggers in the hearts and minds of anyone who experiences your work. Messages that cause people to unexpectedly snort coffee out their nose. Or wipe away a tear sliding down their cheek.

Mastering those kind of ideas can feel even more intimidating than the tech stuff. And it should – tech stuff can be fairly easily mastered.

But the intangibles of communication? Those can take years, decades, or even a lifetime to master. I’ve spent the last decades studying them, and distilling them into a collection of ideas which has been receiving rave reviews from amateurs and lifelong Hollywood professionals alike.

If you’re up for the idea of expanding your storytelling mind, check this out here.

And in the meantime, keep your virtual Grandpa Simpson at bay by joining likeminded folks here at The Power Edit on FB.

Now, before you end up like this:

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