Sometimes, editing can be murder. For the last 14 years, I’ve made my living telling some of the most gruesome stories imaginable. I work in the genre of true crime documentaries, sometimes referred to as ‘police procedurals’. My current series is Fatal Attraction for TVOne Network. The show is produced by Jupiter Entertainment in Knoxville, Tennessee. We’ve just wrapped post on our 3rd season, and have already started cutting for season 4.
The stories on Fatal Attraction follow a fairly standard arc. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy (or girl) winds up dead. Then the detectives step in and figure it out. We tell the stories with a mix of interviews, narration, archival photos and video, and dramatic re-enactments.
This timeline is from one of the last episodes of the third season. I enjoyed cutting this particular story because it took place in my hometown of Los Angeles. I left L.A. for Tennessee about 2 years ago, but so many elements in this story were familiar to me, it was borderline creepy. One of the principal characters worked at the university I attended, and the couple lived in Hollywood Hills. I drove past their residence countless times on my way to and from work. A major story point occurred in the coffee shop where I stopped every morning. And in some of the b-roll footage, I can actually see the window of one of my old edit bays in Hollywood.
While the shows follow a formula, each one is different, with a different set of challenges. The Fatal Attraction team at Jupiter is a tight knit group, so I never have to worry about problem solving. There are always going to be issues—with script, with camera coverage and continuity, or even just getting the best performance out of the actors. But working together, we always find a solution. It helps that Dale Fisher, the supervising producer, is also a talented editor. His notes are always precise and helpful. I don’t ever worry about impossible demands, because Dale understands the challenges from an editor’s perspective.
Working with Avid Media Composer is also a big advantage in our workflow. Often, I will look to Jupiter’s vast footage library to fill in footage our crew may not have shot. Avid’s rock solid media management and advanced search functions help me locate what I need quickly and painlessly.
“If you start to think too much about the victims, you can’t do your job effectively.”
It can be difficult to deal with such horrific stories, but you just have to separate yourself from it. If you start to think too much about the victims, you can’t do your job effectively. I got my start editing news at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, so I learned long ago how to do that. It’s an unfortunate fact that we will never run out of stories to tell. While it would be nice to have a happy ending every now and then, I truly love what I do.
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