Industry Pro: Editor Eric McCormick
It’s a common lament that sometimes the trailer for the movie is better than the movie itself. In some cases, we have today’s profile subject to blame. He edits together promos for some of the biggest blockbuster movies coming out of Hollywood, including this TV spot for SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN. Of course, it’s usually not that the movies are bad; in the hands of a skilled editor, though, a story boiled down to selected moments, artfully pieced together and set to music, can take us on a powerful emotional journey. But how does someone get to edit promos for the top movies coming out today? Read on and find out…
Current position (or recently-completed project or projects): I’m an editor at a motion picture advertising company cutting trailers and TV spots for upcoming releases. I’m currently juggling several films: SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (Kristen Stewart), LAWLESS (Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman), and KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Brad Pitt). I’ve probably worked on over a hundred films in the last 10 years, including TRANSFORMERS, INDIANA JONES 4, HARRY POTTER, TRON, and STAR TREK.
Hometown: Ayer, Massachusetts
College & degree: I have a BFA in Film Production from Florida State University and two years of undergrad study at Berklee College of Music.
Internships: Several, the most outstanding of which was interning at a local news station and its affiliated advertising company. I started with the news station and when I found out they had an ad agency in the same building, I asked to intern for them, too. Both were very hands on. As a news intern, I was on a rotation, which included being studio camera operator or field camera operator, having control room duties, assisting reporters, and more. I pretty much did everything, as it was a local station, but they served a major city in the New England area. For the ad agency, I was mainly a PA on shoots, but I had the opportunity to score one of the commercials, so it was a marriage of two future passions, filmmaking and film scoring. As it happens, the ad agency was closer to my eventual profession and certainly working at a smaller agency allowed me the luxury to be more involved. No doubt that was instrumental in my career path.
What made you want to be in entertainment and what made you want to be an editor? It was gradual process, beginning with a passion for music; I explored various facets, from performance to recording engineering to composing. When I thought I might want to compose music for films, I decided to go to film school as a way to become a part of that community. Things evolved from there, although at the time the only thing I was certain of was that I did not want to be an editor. (Yes, ironically.)
First job in the entertainment industry: I was assistant editor at a non-profit company that produced a half-hour educational show. Frankly, I just made dubs (copied video tapes).
Career Path: I couldn’t wait to get out of that first job. I had developed aspirations in other parts of the entertainment industry, so I eventually found a job as an assistant to a TV movie producer named Elizabeth Schechter. Though I can’t recall any of the titles, I know that she has gone on to produce reality TV shows such as “Paranormal State.” Unfortunately the company didn’t take off and I was again looking for work and direction. In the meantime, I met a producer who needed help launching an online script coverage/development service called ScreenConnect. This just before the internet started to boom; 1998 I believe.
While it was a nice idea, the entertainment industry hadn’t quite embraced the internet as a viable source for new material so it was not a terribly lucrative business and I was still searching. I found myself taking a job as an assistant to two agents at Paradigm Talent & Literary Agency, Matt Bedrosian and Sean Friedan. At first, I thought my path was to become an agent; it seemed a legitimate way to make a living in this business. But after two years and some attempts at writing, I found that I missed the joy of creative expression that I spent so many years pursuing in my high school and college years. I jumped into another new media company, IFILM, a site for filmmakers to post shorts. It was more money and presented some interesting business prospects but, as the internet bubble was starting to burst, large companies like IFILM began cutting staff and eventually shutting down.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend connect me with an editor named Bob Tripp at Aspect Ratio. I knew a little about editing and advertising from my college years and decided to meet with Bob. This was a format that would allow me to draw upon all of my creative experience and aspirations, and with some persistence, I eventually started as a runner (a.k.a. “at the bottom”) in 2001. It was a short path to becoming an assistant editor and then an editor, perhaps eighteen months, but plenty of long nights, paying my dues and working on my own projects, just learning the craft. One of the producers took an interest in my work and tenacity and I was promoted to a junior editor. That’s how it began.
Big break: The friend referring me to Bob at Aspect Ratio when I was looking to start over after being laid off from IFILM.
Best (career) advice you ever got: Think like an owner, even if you’re not.
Eureka moment (when you realized you did or did not want to do something or that you should do something differently, etc.): Kind of gradual realization that I am actually pretty good at what I do. Being nominated for a few awards helped.
Describe a typical work day in your current position: The work itself is never typical, but the process which make up the days, weeks, and months generally begin with watching/breaking down a movie for editorial content, creating a concept for cutting, cutting and submitting materials, and revising materials until the spot(s) is either killed or goes to finish for air. The process for each spot ranges from a few days to a few months (or even as much as two years).
Worst job (or day) in entertainment industry: Assistant editor at the non-profit company. Worst day, having to pull an all-nighter because a client forgot to send materials that were needed to create a new trailer in less than two days (usually we get a week or two at least).
Best job (or day) in entertainment industry: I consider it a highlight when we get to meet and work with talent who appreciate our work. Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde for TRON, and George Lopez for BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA were some.
Best thing about your current job: Solving extremely challenging problems. Every project is completely different from the next and you have to exercise all your creative acumen since its my responsibility to tell a clear concise story, create a tone through selecting and cutting music, develop a visual style through editorial while collaborating with graphic artists and solving the challenges of the narrative in a way that satisfies the producer, the studio, and often the talent involved with the picture.
Worst thing about your current job: It’s a very competitive business and clients are often indecisive or relentless in their desire to meet the demands of successfully opening a movie. This often brings about dozens of versions and multiple trailers not to mention numerous television spots, many of which will never see the light of day. Fortunately, we’re contracted to do the work, but you can’t help but be invested in the outcome and the client’s perception of you as a reliable, creative vendor.
Brush with greatness (can be a celebrity encounter or just being exposed to someone being brilliant at what they do): I’ve never met Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg, but having worked on their films, it is not uncommon that they (and others of similar stature) view my work and give feedback or revisions on spots for their films.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started? I wish someone shared with me to the secret of cutting a great trailer. It seems like there should be a formula or something as the process is completely different every time I do it and often not the same from one editor to the next.
What is it that you think makes you good at what you do? For me, I think it’s a combination of being diverse creatively (music, graphics, creative writing background) and very critical of my work. This generally forces me to work a little harder, but I often find you get out what you put in. I was never great at attention to detail administratively, but much more so in the creative arts.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out (either in entertainment in general or on the same path as you)? I held a number of jobs and different aspirations before this one and with each, I was certain that it was the path I was best suited for. Ultimately, you don’t know until you try different things. so it’s ok to bounce around a little, but maintaining a great work ethic is the key to every opportunity and success.
Next move: I like where I am at the moment, still looking for perfection creatively. However, I wouldn’t mind doing more music production relative to the kind of music I work with as an editor now. I have my own company, but finding the time to create new material is a challenge. So my next moves are personal, really. Starting a family, paying off mortgage, etc. On an occupational level, it’s really to continue to improve at what I do. The better I am, the more rewarding my days are.
To see more of Eric’s work, visit the website for Aspect Ratio.
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