This is Us editor talks cutting the show, taking opportunities and working his way to the top
Bjorn Myrholt is a talented and creative editor best known for his work on hit TV shows Grey's Anatomy and This is Us. Bjorn has been with NBC's This Is Us since 2016 when he fell in love with the show's artsy stylistic choices. This is Us enjoys a lot of critical praise – including an Emmy and a Golden Globe – much of which is down to the show's unique edits. Bjorn has worked on a variety of other projects including shooting The Village's pilot episode as well as numerous corporate videos, music videos, commercials, documentaries, short films and indie features. Here Bjorn talks with Mandy News about how he came to be an editor, how he cuts This Is Us, as well as giving us a taste of what's next for him.
How did you become an editor and how did this take you into the film and TV industry?
I started getting interested in the making of movies as a teenager. I made a few short films and found the whole process to be very frustrating. It seemed that despite a tremendous amount of effort in writing, planning and shooting, the footage was always far from what I had hoped.
However, when painstakingly going through the dailies and starting the editing process, I found ways of making a cohesive story from the material. The final result was quite different from what I set out to do, but I felt good about having a finished short film to show for it. The editorial process was always a rewarding one, and it was great to create something and see it to completion.
After finishing a jazz composition degree at Berklee College of Music, I thought I would apply to The American Film Institute’s editing program. I was not admitted at first, but I kept calling the admissions office in case someone dropped out. I guess when a slot opened up they were too tired of my phone calls, so was admitted.
I got my first real editing gig during the summer vacation going into the second and final year. A British company, Yorkshire TV, was shooting a documentary in LA and needed a local assistant editor. I got the gig and was promoted to editor after just one week. So I assisted and edited the show for the whole summer.
After finishing AFI, I started freelancing as an editor on every gig I could possibly land. I did corporate videos, music videos, commercials, documentaries, short films and indie features. I also worked as a producer/editor on DVD bonus features, which became my main source of work for several years.
I freelanced as an editor for about 10 years before I decided to step down and become an assistant editor in network TV. I realised that going the indie feature route would not pay off, so I hoped that going the traditional way through the studio system would be a safer bet. I assisted on Grey’s Anatomy for three seasons before I got promoted to picture editor.
How did you get involved with This is Us?
After working on Grey’s Anatomy, I wanted a change of environment and to seek new creative challenges. I got myself an agent and I shopped around for opportunities.
Rather quickly through my contact network, I got an interview for a show called Pitch. This was one of NBC’s new pilot pickups and they were looking to staff up editorial. When I met for the interview, I was told the production company had another show called This Is Us. I thought I would be better suited to work on that show. When I saw the pilot I was hooked immediately.
This Is Us looked nothing like a regular network TV show. It was far more sophisticated and artistic and looked like it could be a show on HBO. My feeling was that this show could be a hit so I went for it. I haven’t regretted that decision and the show has truly been a blessing interns of creative and artistic satisfaction. It has also opened doors career wise for me, and I am getting lots of interest from even bigger productions.
What is the process like of working on an episode? What do you use to edit?
The shooting schedule is usually between 7-10 days and I edit dailies while they are shooting. I get a couple of days after the final day of dailies to put the editor’s cut together. Then I work with the director for four days before we send the episode to Dan Fogelman. He usually sends notes for the first pass, but then he spends some time with me in the cutting room to look at details and try out some ideas. When Dan is happy, it usually goes pretty quickly with studio/network notes. They trust Dan and we rarely get many notes.
It’s very satisfying when a show gets locked and we turn around to post for sound, colouring, mastering etc. On average, one episode takes five weeks or so from beginning to end. Often we do pick up shoots, so I usually start my next episode before finishing the previous. It can get pretty busy at times, especially as the season moves towards the final episodes. Suddenly air dates are coming up rapidly and we have to rush to get episodes locked and finished.
Do you have a preferred kit and what do you think about technological advances in editing?
I exclusively use Avid to edit these days. Early in my career, I split 50/50 between Avid and Final Cut 7, but not any more. I also like to use lots of audio and video filters like iZotope audio filters, Mocha for Avid, Boris FX etc. I like to do lots of sound mixing and visual FX when working on my episodes. I have my assistant Sterling Robertson work on sound design and temp VFX during dailies while I’m working on scoring and music editing.
When I show the director my editor’s cut it’s always very polished and looks and sounds close to a finished episode. We then work on the details in making the episode work as well as it possibly can. The heavy lifting on an episode is done during editor’s cut, so directors and producers always enjoy working with me since their process gets easier and quicker.
Staying on top of new technological developments is important to me as it makes me more valuable as an editor. I can facilitate the editorial process better and it allows me to be more creative as I can utilise technology to find solutions to problems. Knowing your tool kit frees you to think creatively in a bigger way as technical possibilities are available to you.
What are you currently working on? What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
I am currently working on the third season of This Is Us. I will be on the show until early 2019. I have been doing pilots for the last few years after wrapping the TV season so there may be another pilot for me in 2019. More likely, I will do a show for one of the streaming networks this time around. I’ve been getting a lot of attention from working on This Is Us so the possibilities are opening up for me. Doing a feature will probably be the next step in my career very soon.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to become an editor?
For anyone wanting to become a picture editor, I would tell them to start making short films and experiment as much as possible with telling stories. Lots of knowledge can be learned by failing without the pressure of a working environment. Trying to write, direct and shoot your own stuff is priceless for learning the challenges and limitations of filmmaking. You also get a good education in the art of visual storytelling. So when you get to work in a cutting room, you have a better understanding of how to interpret the footage you’re looking at.
Getting an assistant editor job on a TV show might seem impossible at first, but you just need to take the first steps. Get a job somewhere at any level in the industry. Then you can start building your network and earn experience.
If your goal is to get to the cutting room, you’ll eventually get there if you’re persistent enough. Editors need assistants who are skilful and hard working, so a good attitude will take you a long way. The biggest hurdle is to go from assistant editor to picture editor. That leap can be tough for most people. Hopefully the editor you work with will have you cut scenes from time to time and teach you some skills. This is rarely enough practice, so I would also recommend working as an editor on low budget indie shorts and features. You will develop your skills and earn credits that producers and director will find valuable when you get your chance to take the first step.
It is all about trust and making people confident that you are ready for the challenge. It’s a long process, but eventually it will pay off if you keep working at it.
Sign up to Mandy.com for free to see editing jobs.