Ed. note: Originally published at www.moviepoopshoot.com on 16 October, 2002. Original artwork by Ming Chen. Toxie and Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD are registered trademarks of Troma Entertainment, Inc. Used under license. Copyright 2002 Chris Lanphear.
Did you miss me?
Eh, I didnt think so. Id tell you all my harrowing tale of life, and how this column came to not exist only to be resurrected by Chris Ryall (a god among web site managers), but this columns been delayed long enough, and its time to jump back in to the toxicity.
An Almost Always Thankless Job
There are obviously many differences between how the independent film world works and how the devil-worshipping international mega-conglomerates operate. Its art vs. money, and guess what almost always wins?
But thats a different topic for a different day, really. And Id rather not spend the majority of my comeback column ranting about the real evils of the world, namely companies like AOHell Slime Wormer. Instead, lets talk about someone who doesnt get any love from Hollywood starlets, doesnt collect fat checks from the studios, is almost never seen or heard from, and yet, is just as important to the filmmaking process as a director or writer.
They spend hours upon hours in rooms about the size of a walk-in closet. They cant view natural sunlight; doing so would shatter their retinas, as theyre not used to that much light at once. And theyre poor. Who are these mystery people?
Maligned and passed over throughout the film world, editors are often forgotten by many filmmakers as well as the general public. What happens when an editor is let loose to speak their mind? Find out now, as I present you with an exclusive interview: 20 Questions with Gabriel Friedman, Supervising Editor at Troma Entertainment.
Chris Lanphear: What is your name and title?
Gabriel Friedman: Hi, My name is Gabe Friedman I guess my title is Supervising Editor at Troma Entertainment. But I dont consider myself a supervisor. Ive just been working at Troma a couple years longer than the other editors, Sean McGrath and Brian McNulty.
CL: Can you describe your daily routine?
GF: Wake up. Jump in the subway. Get a huge cup of coffee. Go to Troma. Edit lots of stuff ranging from feature films to documentaries to DVD intros. Get more coffee and edit more stuff. Go home. Go to bed, and start the routine all over again the next morning. Glamorous, no?
CL: What kind of education is required to be an editor?
GF: I dont think there is any definitive way to becoming an editor. I went to NYU film school but Brian McNulty went to a school thats sole requirement for admission was to draw a picture of a turtle that was on the back of a matchbook.
I think its really just a combination of drive, talent and mostly luck. Like I said, I went to NYU and studied film. After listening to horror stories of kids who just assumed they would become feature directors following graduation, only to end up working at a bank, I realized I better learn a skill or Id be just another kid with a useless degree serving fries at McDonalds. So after taking a whack at camera, electric and sound, I realized editing was my only choice.
I then began cutting all the time (my films and others) the more I cut, the more I thought I might get a chance to actually be employed.
CL: Tell us about the equipment you use.
GF: Well I used to cut on a flat bed reel-to-reel machine, which is cumbersome and very time consuming, but now I cut on the AVID. Digital is the only way to go. I would NEVER go back to cutting on film.
CL: How did you get your job at Troma?
GF: After graduation I tried freelance editing, which was fun, but also miserable at the same time. I was always worried where and when the next PAID job would come in. There is a lot of work out there, but not too much of it is paid. And NYC is an expensive town to live in.
Oh, by the way, seeing as this is going to be on a Kevin Smith website, I worked as a grip on a film he produced called A BETTER PLACE, directed by Vincent Pereira. I never signed anything for deferred payment, but my buddies Jon Belinski (who did pick up cinematography for that film) and Daniello Garcia (who was the location sound recorder for the whole film) did. And seeing as Vincents film was bought by Synapse, maybe you could pass it along that they wouldnt mind getting a couple bucks for their hard work.
Anyways, how I got my job. It became evident that I wasnt getting enough money freelancing to survive in NYC, so I began calling some of my friends from NYU asking if they knew of any full-time editing jobs. One of my friends Fred Raskin (who has gone on to editing lots of stuff in LA) had just finished a gig at Troma as an assistant editor to TROMEO & JULIETs editor, Frank Reynolds. Fred told me Frank was leaving Tromaville, and was looking for a replacement. So I met up with Frank, we hit it off, and he recommended me to Lloyd. I met with Lloyd and showed him some of my stuff told him how much of an honor it would be to work for Troma, and the rest is history*.
By the way, Frank Reynolds went on to cut IN THE BEDROOM, MAN OF THE CENTURY, and SWIMMING, just to name a few. Frank is the man. I owe my whole career in Tromaville to Frank.
* (Notice how I left out all the fellatio involved in getting hired.)
CL: What job, editing-wise, are you most proud of, and why?
GF: Probably TERROR FIRMER, because it was the first feature I cut and my family seemed to like it. Well, not all of them. My brother actually walked out of the theater because all the fecal jokes and gore made him queasy**. Actually, I dont think any of them like it I guess CITIZEN TOXIE is what Im most proud of. Yeah, thats it.
** (Two years later when he saw TERROR FIRMER on Cinemax he called me up and told me how psyched he was to see it. I guess when your film is aired on mainstream cable television, crap jokes and beheadings are cool.)
CL: For Troma’s TERROR FIRMER DVD, you were given the opportunity to do a commentary track, something nearly unheard of for editors. What was that like?
GF: Well. Its a cool way to pick up chicks. Girls dig guys who have audio commentaries. But I know of a couple of non-Troma DVDs that have editor commentaries: GLADIATOR, GO, RESERVOIR DOGS, and SCREAM. The list probably goes on, but I lost it. I think editor commentaries are pretty informative; especially for other filmmakers or aspiring filmmakers.
CL: Do you deserve raises? (Read: Michael Herz)
GF: Ask Lloyd [Kaufman].
CL: To you, how important is editing in telling a story?
GF: Well, you could have the best script, the best crew, the best actors, and the best director but if you have the moron for an editor, then you will have a really shitty movie. That probably explains TERROR FIRMER, huh?
CL: Is there an editor whose work you admire?
GF: Stuart Baird, Dee Dee Allen, Thelma Shoonmaker, Richard Haines, Frank Reynolds and Sean McGrath.
CL: Why don’t editors get as much credit in the creative process as, say, writers?
GF: Editing isnt very enchanting and we editors are uglier than writers. Thats why they keep us locked in the Troma building.
CL: For Troma, you’ve both edited narrative films like CITIZEN TOXIE and other more documentary-style like ALL THE LOVE YOU CANNES: AN INDIE’S GUIDE TO THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL. Is there a difference in the way you approach editing these films?
GF: Nope. You work with the material you have (or dont have in some cases) and see what you can do with it.
CL: Why did you become an editor?
GF: I love it. I couldnt see myself doing anything else. Except maybe working for MAD Magazine, that would be really cool.
CL: What films have influenced you most as an editor?
There are too many to name, but obviously THE TOXIC AVENGER. I also like the way Tony Scotts movies are cut. And I thought BLACK HAWK DOWN was amazing.
CL: Is there a part of the filmmaking process that you’d still like to do, yet haven’t had the chance?
GF: I want to be Eliza Dushkus personal masseuse.
CL: Some people would say (Lloyd Kaufman is one of them) that having a profession that requires you to sit in a little room and look at the same images day in and day out would drive a person crazy. True?
GF: I dont think so, but the dogs living in my head who tell me to kill probably would.
CL: What do you enjoy most about your job?
GF: I take pleasure in the amazing opportunity to cut films that are screened in theaters all over the world.
CL: What do you hate most about your job?
GF: Not being able to attend most of those screenings. But I did get to go to the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, which was pretty fucking cool. If you ever get the chance to go to Spain, I recommend it. That is an incredible country.
CL: Does working for the maniacal Lloyd Kaufman make your job harder than it should be?
GF: No, it makes it easier. I dont think of Lloyd as maniacal, I think of him as a perfectionist with very little money. Lloyd is amazing when it comes to the editing department, though. There are no stringent deadlines on anything we do. Lloyd wants everything we cut to be the best. That is why the CITIZEN TOXIE DVD [in stores in 2003] has been delayed as long as it has. Sure, we could have released the film on its own, and then a couple months later release the Special Edition like so many other companies do.
But Lloyd and the rest of us really wanted to put something out there that would be a definitive DVD worth owning. So instead of rushing its release Lloyd permitted us to accrue and or create a huge amount of supplemental content, which included a feature length documentary on the making of the film, mini-documentaries on anything and everything relating to the film; from the script writing process to the theatrical premieres. It is a vast DVD that Lloyd let us work on until we felt it was ready to be released. I dont know of any other film company that would allow their employees those kinds of freedoms.
CL: Should you get raises?
GF: Ask Lloyd. Seriously ask him: [email protected].
Id like to thank Gabe Friedman for taking part in this interview, and Sean McGrath, for forgetting about the interview. And seriously, the editing of TERROR FIRMER wasnt that bad.
Toxic talk, tidbits and reviews next time in a special Tromaween edition! Remember, Toxie Loves You!