Vancouver film and TV editors want bigger slice of the American pie

Sabrina Furminger

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Vancouver’s film and television editors know they’re damn good, and they want American producers to know it, too.

On Sept. 25, IATSE 891 — the union representing many film workers, including professional screen editors — will launch Damn Good Editors, a campaign and website dedicated to showcasing the reels and work histories of its editors in order to connect them with the myriad of American productions that shoot in Vancouver.

Lisa Robison has edited locally shot American productions, and she’s watched even more shoot in Vancouver, and then send their footage to be edited in Los Angeles. Photo supplied

Damn Good Editors has been in the making for three years, but the need for the campaign has existed for much longer, says Lisa Robison. Robison has eight Leo Awards, several Daytime Emmy nominations and more than two decades of editing experience to her name. She’s edited locally shot American productions, and she’s watched even more shoot in Vancouver and then send their footage to be edited in Los Angeles.

“A lot of the times, the producers want to edit in Los Angeles, but we have some really great editors in Vancouver that are on par with editors in Los Angeles,” says Robison, whose recent credits include multiple episodes of Loudermilk, You Me Her, and Unspeakable, the award-winning CBC miniseries about Canada’s tainted blood scandal.

Of the more than 30 film and television productions currently shooting in Vancouver, only five employ local editors, according to Robison — and it’s to the detriment of the productions that shoot here and the local editors who aren’t getting the chance to work on these shows. “We have a talent pool that really wants to work hard for directors that have a lot more experience on these wonderful shows that come to town, but because they want to edit in L.A., they can’t, and it’s unfortunate,” she says.

Robison didn’t set out to be an editor. She spent eight years in the camera department (“When I was a camera op, I thought, ‘Editors are inside all day, we’re out in the rain, they have no idea, they have easy hours, what stress do they have?”’) before severe asthma attacks sent her looking for new opportunities in other parts of the film pipeline. She soon found her calling in an editing suite.

Robison describes editing as the last line of storytelling. “Our job is to put the best of the best together.”

And she honed her skills and her storytelling voice on shows such as Highlander: The Raven, Cold Squad and The L Word.

“I really grew as an editor when I was editing The L Word,” says Robison. “We had so many great directors, and our executive producer gave us free rein to be creative in certain areas of the show and to cut with your gut and go with your instinct, and if you have a director that’s willing to work with you collaboratively like that, then you grow as a person. We have awesome talent here and we have talent that would only get better if they had the opportunity to work.”

Robison is one 25 experienced editors whose work is showcased as part of the Damn Good Editors campaign. The campaign website will feature demo reels, work biographies and lay out the tax incentives — 28 per cent on eligible labour expenses — for American productions that opt to hire local.

Producers “need to believe that the talent is here,” and they often don’t, says Robison. “I think they think, ‘Oh, they’re Canadian editors, they just don’t know.’ But what we cut in Vancouver is mostly American TV, so we know the style they want, and because of Skype and Quicktime, it’s a whole lot easier than back in the day when you had to send edits by FedEx. I think we deserve a challenge and a chance to prove ourselves. The sad thing is, we’re not even being given the opportunity.”

IATSE 891’s Damn Good Editors campaign comes a few weeks after the launch of the Directors Guild of Canada-British Columbia’s Just Watch Us campaign, which similarly seeks to highlight the expertise of Vancouver-based directors. The unions developed their efforts separately and didn’t coordinate their campaigns, says Crystal Braunwarth, an assistant business representative with IATSE 891. Braunwarth called the close launch of the two campaigns a “happy accident.”

The Damn Good Editors site launches Sept. 25. Learn more at iatse.com.

sabrina@yvrscreenscene.com

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