'An open-minded dynamic is crucial in the editing room', an interview with editor Brian Wessel
Editor Brian Wessel, known for his work on the hit US TV series The Vampire Diaries, talks to Mandy News on how to successfully enter the world of film editing, his experiences working on his latest show Titans, plus we get a sneak peak into Doom Patrol, the new DC Universe series out in 2019.
How did you get involved with editing and how did this take you into the film and TV industry?
I originally got into editing back in high school. I would take home videos of my friends and I snowboarding and make short documentaries out of them. I loved it. However, it wasn’t until a couple years later in college that I realised I could make a career out of this. I changed my major, got a BFA in media productions, and applied to the editing program at the American Film Institute Conservatory here in Los Angeles.
How did you get involved with Titans?
When I was editing on the final season of The Vampire Diaries a producer/director on the show had mentioned the Titans being in development. Eager to be a part of bringing such an iconic story to life, I expressed my interest and stayed in touch. A few months later I got a call asking if I was still interested. Four or five months passed and I hadn’t heard anything. I thought they had given the job to someone else. I was working on Heathers when I got the called to come in for an interview - I guess it went well!
How did you settle on the approach used to edit the show, and what was it edited on?
The show was edited on Avid. From the very beginning we were told to think of Titans as a film, not a TV show. The producers were always open to new ideas. They trusted us entirely which allowed us to take chances: hold on a take for way longer than you would on a typical network show, play an important moment on a wide shot instead of the usual close up, play a scene dry that would normally be wall-to-wall music, etc. It’s been an unforgettable experience, to say the least.
Do you have preferred editing equipment?
I’ve only ever edited on a Mac, so I prefer that against a PC. I was a Final Cut Pro guy years ago but after the intense training process at the American Film Institute Conservatory, I’m an Avid guy all the way. I don’t have anything against Adobe Premiere, I just haven’t spent enough time working on it. I tried it recently but it was like writing with my other hand. I’m sure if I got used to it, I’d like it. Honestly, given its rise in popularity, getting familiar with Adobe Premiere is something I’ve been wanting to do. I’d hate to have to turn down an enticing job because I don’t know how to use their preferred editing program.
As for my desk, working in a field that is notorious for causing back issues, I like these new ones that can be lifted into a standing desk. I sit mostly but tend to alternate from time to time.
What are you currently working on that can you tell us about?
I’m editing a new show called Doom Patrol. It’s another DC Universe series that takes place in the same world as Titans. I’m really excited about it. It’s about a team of very weird superheroes. Jeremy Carver, the show runner told me “this is the anti-superhero show”. The cast is fantastic. It’s shot insanely well. And the scripts are…well, insane. But in a good way!
I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just leave it at that. It’s so wonderfully weird and fun, I can’t wait for audiences to see it.
What advice do you have for other people wanting to become a successful editor like yourself?
Just keep at it. Edit from home. Take chances on projects. Work on as many things as you can. You never know where your next job may come from. Every gig I’ve ever had has come from a friend or someone I’ve worked with. Networking is the key. Talk to your coworkers and friends who are assistant editors and editors. Ask them for advice. Ask them if you can sit in some time and just watch them work and see how they work with directors and producers.
Leave your ego at the door. Always remember, no matter what you’re editing, remind yourself that “this is not my show.” I say that not to discourage, but really as a reminder to stay open-minded.
An open-minded dynamic is crucial in the editing room. Producers, directors, and even other editors need to feel comfortable tossing out suggestions. You may be surprised, they may have ideas you had never considered. And in reverse, the more you are willing to listen to them, the more you’ll find they’re willing to listen to you.
Lastly, I’d say the best advice I’ve ever been given is to remind yourself to keep a healthy life outside of work. I love my job. It’s a dream come true to be getting paid to do something I enjoy. That said, editing is my job. It’s not my life. Keep that balance, and you’re golden.