Editor Adam Epstein, who has worked on SNL for the past five years, handles incredibly quick turnarounds, footage from a myriad of different cameras, and getting the joke across with grace.
In a recent interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Epstein talked about how cutting SNL is a completely different animal.
Part of editing SNL means working quickly to come to creative decisions that drive the project forward. “At SNL we’re doing the entire post-production process in a day and a half. It’s obviously a much more concentrated, focused way of thinking, but at the same time it’s kind of nice because there’s not a lot of flexibility as far as the deadlines. It’s a paradox in the sense that time forces you to make quicker decisions and for people to get on board faster just because it has to get done, but at the end of the day it’s the same. You’re trying to make the best project that you can.”
The sketches for SNL are picked up on Wednesday, and during that time, Epstein will often start prepping based on the script for the weekend’s insanity. “I usually go Friday night until around three or four in the morning, sleep for a few hours, come back and then it’s a just mad scramble to get everything done before dress rehearsal at eight,” he mentioned. “It’s played at dress rehearsal and then there’ll be some changes between dress and air that we have to address, and then we feed to air, hopefully 10 or 15 minutes before it’s on. Then we watch it on TV and everyone’s happy and relieved and then we do it again the following week.”
A key challenge of working on SNL is being able to blend different types of cameras and styles. “One of the things that is unique about post-production at SNL is the variety of styles we use,” said Epstein. “Each week is completely unrelated to the last; one [project] could be a short film, another a movie trailer, or a commercial parody, or a reality TV thing. To that end we are shooting on literally every camera. If you name a camera, we have shot on it in the last few years, because the camera choice is dictated entirely by what the piece is.”
Epstein’s advice to filmmakers is to analyze, not just watch, media to discover what it is they love about it. “When you watch a movie, try to understand what it is about it that you like, what it is that works for you. If you can be cognizant of the bones and the aesthetics of something, it’ll let you be smarter about how to create something yourself, even if you don’t know how to do it with your hands yet.”