Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A New Appreciation for Editing

I’ve been doing movies off and on for the last 20 years. From being asked to fill in at the last minute for movies in Hong Kong, Australia and Japan to being a vicious killer in a low-budget Japanese trilogy to being a mystery man in several episodes of Homeland with Claire Danes, there was always one part of the experience I never considered.


Yeah, yeah, I know I’m a journalist and I’ve been doing it for 30 years. Editing is the most important part of the news writing process.

I’ve also published numerous short stories, novellas and, now, novels. The editing portion of those works still gives me headaches.

No, what I’m talking about is the editing associated with radio.

A different monster than movie editing. Robert Zemeckis is primarily concerned with Denzel Washington looking good in Flight, not with the fact that the same black guy in a tan jacket keeping driving by Denzel in a Toyota Prius. I just did what was asked, so I wasn’t bothered. Jennifer Aniston wearing pasties instead of really being topless in Wanderlust bothered me, but the Zemeckis thing didn’t.

Anyway, this past Friday, I got hit with a whole new level of editing when I hosted my new Internet radio show called What's Out There. Thank God I wasn’t on a time limit. I needed three hours to do 60 minutes of interviews. I also learned that I can’t say the word “okay” on the air (George Carlin failed to mention that one). I also found out my voice has modulations I didn’t know existed.

I got to the studio early, got a quick lesson on the layout, including testing the microphone to find out how close I needed to be to it. The special guests arrived and my producer Rob got soul jazz artist Cheri Maree and her manager set up as well. In case you’re wondering, I was so nervous during the interview that I said “soul jazz artist” at least half a dozen times.

Rob had to stop me about 25 times during the interview to correct my mistakes or modulate my, uh, modulations. I still have no idea what he meant.

We did the real interviews in 10-minute segments and needed 45 minutes to answer 10 questions. At least, Cheri Maree and her manager were great and talkative guests. I really only had my sense of humor. (I would like to take this time to apologize to Ms. Maree for pretending to be back on the air that one time she was in the facilities).

All through this time, Rob is monitoring things or attempting to blind me with a laser pointer when the clock was about to hit “0” for a break.

At last, I got to the finish. Then, we had a second interview to do by phone. That was a whole other kettle of fish. Laptop computer. Skype. Headsets. 3-M (the headset volume control got stuck).

The interview went well. Yet, I still felt weird talking into the headset microphone and the radio microphone at the same time.

Now, it’s all done, save for the...get ready for it...editing.

I’m depending on Rob to make me sound like a genius, which is no easy task. I have tried to imagine what he’ll have to do to cut out all the “okays” and keep the flow of the interview going. Most of all, I need a good editing process to make me look good.

Zemeckis, Soderbergh and company are concerned with the real actors, not the extras. Newspapers and publishers have the writers make the changes.

However, this Internet radio editing process is completely in the hands of someone else and it’s the most important editing of all.

Wish me luck.

Update: The show was just posted on Youtube and I sound okay. There’s room for improvement (a lot of room), but the editing obviously went well and kept Rob up all weekend.


  1. Very interesting - who knew...I mean, most people wouldn't have a clue about this editing thing. Even the near blinding with a laser pointer (LOL).

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Just be glad you're in the digital age. When I started in radio, it was still reel to reel and editing was with a razor blade. Too bad nerves can't go digital, and you could edit them out too.

  3. Thanks, Em. Yeah. I remember those days. For the newspapers, we physically cut with X-acto knives and pasted with Spray Mount, all against a light table.