Video editor’s passion led to his job
By Will Stott
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Professional careers in editing can begin in a variety of ways, but it’s unlikely that most people in the field today always knew they would end up there. If you ask grade-school children what they want to be when they grow up, you’re more likely to hear “fireman” or “astronaut” than “copy editor.”
This was the case for Brian Seifferlein. He didn’t have any idea he would end up in a career in editing; it was something that just fell into his lap. In an interview about his life and his career, Seifferlein expressed a different view of editing than we traditionally think about.
Seifferlein is a videography-editor at NET Nebraska. Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) is a statewide network that provides educational public broadcasting through television and radio. Based in Lincoln, Neb., it is the state’s affiliate for PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio). Seifferlein works for NET Nebraska’s television station.
Q: When did you decide you were interested in editing?
A: In editing? Well, I guess that has more to do with my TV career in general. I went to school to either be a teacher or a journalist, and the school I went to was pretty well known for both of those, so I thought, “well, I’ll just go there and figure it out.”
My first semester I auditioned for the campus TV station. I was an actor, and I just had a really good time. Then I started writing my own stuff, which kind of led to directing it, which kind of led to putting it all together. So, from there, I got my own show on the campus television station and when you’re putting together these shows, the shooting’s always really fun. But then, you find yourself in an edit suite. We were doing tape-to-tape editing, at 3 o’clock in the morning. And when I was doing it a couple of times I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”
I wasn’t doing it for a grade or anything, and it wasn’t for… It wasn’t for anything, really! I mean it was for the “experience” or whatever, but there was a point at which I was like, “You know, I’m doing this and it kind of sucks being here in the morning, but I really like it, and I’m not even getting paid to do it.” I think that was kind of the point when I realized; shooting and editing, I really like that.
Q: How did you end up at NET? What were some career moves that happened between college and now?
A: (After college) I moved back home and decided, “Alright, I’m just going to start applying to all these TV stations,” a lot of which were in the local area. One of those was in South Bend, La., and I never heard anything from them. But then, a long time later, I got this call from Augusta, Ga., and apparently the same company that owned the South Bend station owned their station, as well. They called and we did a few phone interviews, and I went there to work for them sight unseen.
I really enjoyed that time of my life, but I found that I really didn’t like TV news. In my opinion, if you tell somebody there was a house-fire or a break in, that isn’t really helping anybody. It’s just gawking. But there were occasional glimpses of what you could really do with the medium that would be helpful. But at the same time, it was just great, because you shot and edited every day. You just perfected the craft. You could really get into a mode where you stopped thinking about the basics. There was a point when I was doing that when there was never any stress on a shoot. I felt like I knew what I was doing every time, and that gave me the freedom to start being more creative. I wasn’t even thinking about the basics anymore. I wanted to leave, though. I wanted to get out there. I started looking all over the country and I found I wanted to get into public TV. Nebraska was the first one I found and got offered a position at.
Q: now that you’re here, what’s your average day like?
A: When I’m editing a long documentary, I’ll be in an edit suite for maybe two or three months on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day. So, those are what get down to my average days. I work eight to five whether it’s a long project or short project. I get a script from a producer, and I look at that script. From there I try to organize my project on the technology that we use. I divide up the footage and figure out what all footage we have. There’s a lot of methodology for that. If it’s a huge documentary and they’ve shot lots of stuff, I have to figure out where it all is and how to organize it.
After that, I’ll start building scenes. Whatever little scenes are within a five-minute piece or an hour-long piece, I start building those scenes. On an hour-long documentary, you kind of forget about the whole rest of the program while you’re working on this five-minute piece. I build those scenes, which are usually directed a lot of times around music. That’s something that’s changed since I first started here. I used to build the scene with that footage. I’d organize all of the back-and-forth between the narrator and the sound bites, or even just the sound bites. Now, I don’t do that. I get the music right away that kind of drives the scene, and then start working from there.
At some point in there, a producer comes in and we work on it together. Does the scene work? Does the scene flow? We look at whether the piece writes well once it’s up on the screen and whether or not it looks okay. Because, what might have to happen next is the writing might need to change. There might not be the editing that can save it, if that makes sense.
Q: If you had to give some advice to people just starting their careers in editing, what would you tell them?
A: It’s an interesting field, because it’s really driven by technology, and that technology is always changing. So you have to stay on top of the technology. The other thing is, you can’t get hung up on the technology so much that it becomes an excuse for how you create your product. No matter what, you should always be learning.
The other thing, overall, I think is with editing. When you’re doing editing, you kind of have to trust your instincts and really go with them, while still being flexible. But then, you also have to be prepared, be flexible enough, to throw everything you did down the toilet. Just wipe the slate clean and start all over.
So yeah, that’s my advice. I think, it’s a little bit generic, but it boils down to a “be flexible, but follow your instincts,” kind of thing.