August 7, 2020

​How are editors working during the novel coronavirus pandemic? Amid the uncertainty, ACE conducted a member survey over three weeks in late June and early July, to get a sense of where our community stands in getting back to work. Of those who responded, 128 members said they were working and 160 reported that they were not.

Among those that were not working, 111 said their job was postponed and nine reported that their job was canceled. Meanwhile, only 41 of 124 respondents (33 percent) said they didn’t receive compensation. Of those who were not working, 118 of 164 (72 percent) said they received some sort of financial assistance from unemployment or another government program.

Among those that were not working, 111 said their job was postponed and nine reported that their job was canceled. Meanwhile, only 41 of 124 respondents (33 percent) said they didn’t receive compensation. Of those who were not working, 118 of 164 (72 percent) said they received some sort of financial assistance from unemployment or another government program.

Of those that were working, 125 of 188 (66 percent) respondents reported that they are working from home (and an additional 7 percent said they normally work from home). And 108 of 126 (nearly 86 percent) said they are receiving their full salary, and 95 of 120 (79 percent) said they were allowed to have all of their assistants continue to work.

As to the editing tools, 80 of 128 (63 percent) said their employer provided equipment so that they could work at home. For those who own their own equipment, only 33 of 94 respondents said they were receiving a box rental and 19 of 105 said that their assistants were receiving an additional box rental.

Further, only 13 of 127 respondents said they were compensated for their home cutting room. Only 20 of 128 said they were being compensated for their internet service or upgrade, just nine of 128 said they were being compensated for utilities, and just 11 of 123 were being compensated for services such as Zoom.

Looking ahead, 95 percent of respondents (137 of 144) believe there’s the potential for working from home to become more common in the future. And, 86 of 136 said they prefer working from home. When asked if editors found editing at home to be more or less efficient, the results were fairly evenly split between more efficient, less efficient and the same.

Michael Tronick, ACE, reports that he and co-editor Joe Galdo, with director David E. Talbert, were working towards a locked picture on Netflix’s upcoming Christmas musical feature, Jingle Jangle, slated for November release, when the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown. Tronick, who also serves as an editorial consultant on Netflix Original Studio Films, explains that the streamer then expanded the post-production schedule to give VFX artists, the composer, sound, music and picture editors and their crews time to relocate from their facilities to home.

 “I had an Avid delivered to my house and my dining room became my cutting room,” says Tronick, who continues his collaboration with Galdo and two assistant editors (Rich Conkling and Jill Piwowar) via Evercast. To collaborate with artists from VFX company Framestore, with bases in London and Montreal, the editors rely on Cospective’s Frankie and Google Meet sessions.

Collaborating with music and sound effects departments is based on Audiomovers and Zoom meetings, with composer John Debney logging in from his studio in Burbank, while the orchestra and choir were recording at Air Studios in London. Talbert is able to log in to offer notes and suggestions during the recording sessions. Dance foley is also being recorded remotely from London.

Tronick explains, “I’m working off of a local drive, which has all the media, but it’s updated almost nightly by Rich and Jill who update my system with changes that Joe has been making with David on the primary Avid. Visual Effects are constantly updated by Warren Hickman, the VFX Editor. “Luckily for us, the Netflix post team headed by Jesse Torres and Mike Morgan and our Post Supervisor, Graham Stumpf and his assistant, Gladys Garcia Valiente, have been on top of this.

And it’s been a very impressive process as far as not letting the demands of post-production outrun the technology that’s required to get the work done,” he adds. “My primary concern is for the health and safety of my crew. At Netflix, the philosophy is ‘no risks’ and everyone respects that. There are no ultimatums. There are no demands. Every individual is given the opportunity to do what’s best for him or her as far as completion of this movie.”

When mixing commences at Warner Bros., it’s a personal choice, whether you want to show up at the studio or continue working remotely and monitor the mix on ClearView Flex,” Tronick finds that there are some advantages to working from home, like the convenience of not having to commute, and enjoying dinners with his wife Barbara. Yet he admits, “I always thought that working from home would be a little bit more civilized, but it turns out it’s just as hectic and stressful, getting an occasional 10 minutes for lunch, and dealing with unexpected Zoom meetings.

He also misses the hands-on sense of collaboration that comes from sharing a space, “because it allows for certain spontaneity to exchange ideas and approaches and trying different things whereas with Evercast or any of these systems, we’re always at the mercy of Spectrum cable.

“I think the technologists are seizing on the situation and extracting what silver linings there are and those will become permanent in the process,” he adds. “I don’t know what the new normal is going to look like exactly. But I am skeptical whether it will be able to duplicate the old normal.”

Sent home to work in early March, Lisa Bromwell, ACE, recently finished the final two episodes of Netflix drama Shadow and Bone. “The media was transferred to a G-Raid drive and brought to my house along with the equipment I needed,” she explains.

“I guess we’re on an honor system because there’s no specific security measures other than a memo that went out reminding us of the NDAs we signed. We use Evercast when we need to work together. For things like sound spot or VFX reviews where there are a lot of people, we log onto a PIX session and talk via Zoom.” Assistant editor Paul Alderman uses TeamViewer to access the system and transfer files.

Looking ahead, Bromwell says that if invited to return to the post suite, she’d be fine provided there are the right safety protocols in place. “We’re lucky we have a showrunner who cares about safety. I’m not sure they all would prioritize people this way.”

 She’d also be happy to adopt a hybrid workflow. “Doing the first cut from home would be ideal – it’s the hardest part and that drive home, when my eyes are tired, has always been difficult, so I’d love to work from home for that part. “Ideally, when with the director or producer,  I would prefer to be in the same room,” she continues. “But I’d like to be flexible about coming into the office. Toward the end of the process, when there’s a lot of waiting on notes, or very minimal notes to execute, I’d be just as happy to do that from home.” But she warns that there need to be rules. “And they need to be enforced so ‘working from home’ doesn’t mean always working,” she says.

“I can just hear execs saying, ‘Well, you’re home, your Avid is there, just do this one little thing, never mind that it’s Saturday or 10 at night…’ I’ve been around long enough that I would be comfortable refusing, but a younger editor might not be so brave.”

At press time, editorial on Sony Pictures’ Escape Room 2 returned to the studio following three months of shelter in place.“Everything is in flux with the state of the virus just now,” says Steve Mirkovich, ACE. “We may look to do as much as we can from home and spend a couple days on the lot for essentials.

“Trying to fumble through the workflow from home was not easy,” he admits. “We tried Zoom, Evercast and Splashtop remote desktop solutions without ever finding one that was perfect. We were reaching into the studio cutting room’s Nexis for the media, submitting cuts to the studio on PIX, and had issues with sync-lag.

I upgraded to the highest bandwidth internet connection but everyone has different ISPs making the workflow clunky and slower than usual.” He commends the studio for being inventive, flexible and understanding in granting them additional time to work through the problems. The ‘essentials’ Mirkovich refers to pertain to the creative energy and nuances of brainstorming that he feels only materialize in person.

“No one forced us to go back but [director Adam Robitel] and I have a relationship [they worked together on Escape Room, 2019] where we agreed that at the stage of director’s cut and studio notes there is no substitute for being in the same room to get the creative juices flowing. It’s those off-the-cuff comments, the little suggestions and pitches, the spontaneity that gets lost remotely. “That collaboration is so important at this point in the picture and is really helpful for the director.”

Before going back to the studio, Mirkovich laid some ground rules. “I talked to the studio heads in my department and arranged for us to have bigger-than-normal rooms for cutting, for VFX production and VFX editing. That was possible since the lot was vacant and gave us the space to socially distance without feeling too cramped.” Everyone had antibody tests, masks are worn during sessions, social distancing applies in a suite and the team are swab-tested once a week. “Maybe I’m overcautious but I want to keep my crew healthy.”

At press time, Escape Room 2 had the only editorial team cutting on Sony’s lot, therefore they have a two-story building to themselves. “It feels like living in a leper colony. Social distancing in a creative meeting is like going to dinner in a hazmat suit. I am nervous for my crew right now as the outbreak is spiking which is why it’s likely we’ll revert to home. I’m not sure what the new normal is any more.”

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