'Make your own projects' ACE Eddie nominated Portlandia editor Jordan Kim on cutting TV and more

Jordan Kim is one of the talented editors on Emmy-winning sketch series Portlandia and has just picked up an ACE Eddie nomination for his work on the show along with editors Ali Greer and Heather Capps. Here Jordan – who also leant his VFX and motion graphics design talents to BAFTA-winning kids show Yo Gabba Gabba! –talks to Mandy News about how he got started and what editors can do to get noticed.

13th January 2018
/ By James Collins

ACE Eddie nominee Jordan Kim JORDANKIM

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the industry?
I moved to LA in 2005 to work on an Adult Swim show called Tom Goes to the Mayor which was created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and directed by Jonathan Krisel (one of the co-creators of Portlandia). After that, I worked on a kid's show called Yo Gabba Gabba!, but kept in touch with Jonathan throughout. 

About 10 years after originally working together, an editing position opened up and Jonathan offered me the job on Portlandia. I've been editing on the show since season five (2013).

Could you talk us through the process of editing the show? For example; how you work with the director, how quick the turnaround is for an episode, etc?
We're very lucky. I'd be surprised if there's another show that gives its editors more opportunity to directly shape the final product. Basically the entire show is improvised and because the crew is based in Portland (and we're in LA) we have a lot of time and autonomy to shape the stories, especially during production. 

Jonathan created an environment that is open to experimentation and the script is really just a general guide for the overall trajectory of the scene. There are three editors and we split up each episode equally. We considered each taking an episode, but when we work together we find we're more invested in each other's work. I'd say it takes about two and a half weeks per episode, from rough cut to locked cut.

You also wrote and directed short animation Clara, which is amazing. Could you tell us more about how the project came about?
Wow, thanks so much for watching – I'm glad you enjoyed it! Clara came about when I decided to take some time between seasons of Portlandia to work on my own projects. The story came from a pitch I had written for a music video, which I decided to adapt into a screenplay.

I've learned so much about directing through the process of editing on various shows, it has given me great insight into what it takes for a director to get what they're looking for.

What is your preferred kit and what do you think about the advances that have been made to editing programs?
We all edit on iMacs with Premiere and some plug-ins from Red Giant. We also all use After Effects on the show, for FX and motion graphics. I love the workflow with Premiere and After Effects, compared to the old days of using FCP7 (which we were on until Season 6).

What's coming up next for you in 2018 and beyond?
I'll be editing on an Adult Swim show called Dream Corp. LLC which is in its second season. After that I'm hoping to direct another short film.

Do you have any advice or tips for up-and-coming editors?
My general advice for learning any kind of new skill or software is to make your own projects, and do something you're excited about – as opposed to just doing tutorials. You'll end up with your own finished product and you learn more specific problem-solving skills. 

I think part of the reason Jonathan thought of me as an editor in the first place was from the music videos that I directed and edited. Prior to that I had been mainly working in animation but I wanted to get more live-action experience, so I started making my own projects. That's the best way to learn I think.