Video editor goes from Godfather’s commercials to feature films
By: Eric Jesse
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Tom Elkins started his editing career working on training films for Godfather’s Pizza.
Now, he edits films like “Inferno” for director Ron Howard.
In between, he worked on commercials and lesser-known films like “The Haunting in Connecticut,” and “Annabelle.”
Elkins worked his way up, doing a little bit of everything, to follow his dream.
Ever since he was young, Elkins enjoyed making videos with his friends and editing them.
“Making movies was my passion,” Elkins said.
Elkins moved from Minnesota to Spokane, Washington, where he went to a community college. He got a job for Godfather’s Pizza as the assistant manager. He then was hired as a video editor for Godfather’s training videos and had to move to Nebraska.
“I enjoyed making those because I was allowed to put my own creative spin on them, whether they were funny or scary,” Elkins said.
After doing that for a couple years, he started editing and making Godfather’s Pizza commercials. He enjoyed it, but he wanted something more out of his career.
When he married his wife, Susie, he told her about his dream. They packed up their stuff and moved to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, he started at the bottom. Since he didn’t have a big movie under his belt, none of the directors wanted to hire him. He worked as a production assistant and started building up his experience.
“If you want to make it in the production industry then you need to work all the assistant jobs like getting coffee and answering phones,” he said. “Those jobs will help you meet a lot of great people that could help you in the future.”
He soon got in contact with Mike Hill, who is from Omaha. He was Ron Howard’s video editor for several years. Hill retired last year from film editing and Elkins took over his role for Howard’s movies. The most recent Howard movie he edited was “Inferno” (trailer) with Tom Hanks.
Elkins’ editing job is the same everyday, but the footage he edits is different. He looks at all the footage that was shot the day before and starts putting the puzzle together and creating a movie.
“The editors are basically the guardians of the movie because they need to watch over all the shots and make sure that it all goes together cohesively,” Elkins said.
If he happens to catch a mistake with a scene, then he will call the director and let him know. Since the director can’t see the footage it is Elkins’s job to notice any mistakes.
“My advice for students would be to watch every movie you can and get inspired by different genres and directors,” Elkins said.
He encourages any student who wants to get into film editing to practice on every program there is, whether it is iMovie, Premier, Avid, etc.
The first time he helped with a feature film was when the editor he worked for was far behind and asked Elkins to help. He then got to use all of his knowledge of editing and help make a movie.
“Never be afraid to start from the bottom,” he said, “and always ask questions if you aren’t sure.”