In the Six-Week Intensive Course at Manhattan Edit Workshop (MEWShop), students learn how to use editing software like Final Cut Pro and Avid.
But the school also emphasizes the importance of editing history and theory, ensuring that students know how, when and why to use the tools they have been taught. After all, editors who achieve success in the industry must understand the art of editing as well as which keys to press on a computer. The school’s Artists in Residence program hammers home this point by bringing editors to screen and discuss their work, sharing with students the lessons they’ve learned throughout their own careers.
This summer, Manhattan Edit Workshop welcomed Harry Keramidas, editor of Children of the Corn, Judge Dredd and all three Back to the Future films as its Artist in Residence. MEWShop founder Josh Apter spoke with Keramidas about his decades-long career and how advances in technology have changed the editor’s job description.
For more information on Manhattan Edit Workshop, check out mewshop.com. As a bonus, we’ve included a video of the extended version of the interview below, so check it out!
Josh Apter (MM): Have you done educational experiences like this before, or is this the first time?
Harry Keramidas (HK): I have taught before. I’ve done master classes for several universities and colleges, where I work directly with students and present some kind of event, usually an evening lecture, for a couple of hours. It’s something that’s familiar to me and something that I like to do. I like giving back to young people, passing on what people were willing to pass on to me.
MM: You were mentored as an assistant editor and later emerged as an editor. Taking people through the ranks and helping them is important to you.
HK: Yes, it is very important. I feel that there are many things we can learn and build on; we should stand on each others’ shoulders when we can. That doesn’t mean that some things don’t have to learned on your own. Your abilities need to be honed, and you need to figure out exactly how you work, because all editors work differently, even though it’s a similar job that’s being performed. I do like to pass my knowledge on to people so that they can build upon what I’ve learned.
MM: You trained formerly at UCLA, at the graduate film department, correct?
HK: I was in graduate film school at UCLA. I completed half a thesis before I gave up the education experience and went to work. I had to provide money for a family. I went on from there. I would say that my overall experience [at UCLA] was a good one. I’m not sure that I learned anything more than [what I got from] being placed in a situation where lots of people were thinking about the same things I was thinking about. What I would recommend to other students is to study things in film school, not only in your discipline, but in other disciplines as well. I think that learning how actors deal with scenes and situations, how directors direct and how producers have to get money is very helpful to what [editors] do, because we’re synthesizers of the final product. All those things come together through our hands, and all of the mistakes need to be filtered out by us, in order to make the project come to fruition.
MM: You started as an editor in documentary and ethnographic film. How did your that educate you in terms of your later work on narrative film?
HK: I think that [working in documentary] helped me understand how to formulate story. The most important thing that I learned is that you don’t have to take the first answer. You don’t have to let the film tell you what to do. [Instead,] you tell the film what to do. In documentaries, you’re shaping, molding, pushing, prodding–and the same thing can happen with a narrative film. You have a lot of material, and it may not be exactly what you’d like it to be, so you have to manipulate it and formulate it in such a way that it works for the conception that the director has for what he wants to get out of that particular scene, or the entire movie.
MM: Do you think that people put themselves at a greater advantage by learning to use multiple different types of editing technology?
HK: I feel like technology is useful to people, but I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. I’m happy to have worked in all formats, starting with a regular 8mm film, all the way through 35mm and 70 mm. I’ve also learned several digital aspects of editing, including Lightworks, Avid and Final Cut Pro. I found that they all helped me to do my job, but they didn’t do my job. They were all tools to be used. They were all saws and hammers and levels; they allowed me to make a piece of work that I was going to need to finish some way or another. Technology makes your life easier in some ways and more difficult in others. It gives you more time, so more is expected of you. As the “picture editor” I had one job. Then, when I stopped working on 35mm film, I had more time, since I didn’t have to deal with the film going into bins and hanging on hooks. So I was told “Well, you might as well do some sound effects, since you have some extra time.” Or “Why not do some color correction?” Or “Why don’t you do some type of music?” So you end up having five jobs.