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November 29, 2022

Why Sven Pape Stopped Editing for James Cameron (w/ ThisGuyEdits)

Blog, Famous Editors

Sara Gerbereux

Sara Gerbereux

November 29, 2022
Inspired by the success of his daughter’s channel, Sven talks about starting his career on YouTube and how he balanced his professional work editing while experimenting and growing his channel. From sharing advice on how to make a career in editing to overcoming his most challenging experiences and moments of burnout, Sven covers a variety of topics that will help guide aspiring editors and filmmakers as they pursue their passions, just as he did.
THIS GUY EDITS:

THE POWER OF EDITING

Sven Pape is an ACE Award-nominated editor and popular YouTuber known as This Guy Edits, with over 450k subscribers and almost 43 million views. With over twenty years of experience cutting for James Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and James Franco, Sven uses his channel to celebrate the invisible art of editing and teach the craft through various YouTube tutorials and his online premium courses

Just before moving from Germany to South Africa, Sven discovered his love for filmmaking. While still adjusting to the cultural changes of his new lifestyle, Sven explored his interests by watching South African films and working several internships, one of which was for an advertising agency.

I was glued to the producer and was on set. I loved the entire process of them casting, shooting, and cutting commercials, and I pretty much knew after that internship this is what I want to do.

Sven Pape, Host and Creator of This Guy Edits.

Pursuing his passion, Sven applied to various film schools and—despite his first applications getting rejected—-got into AFI for producing. Although he loved the experience, Sven realized he was far more interested in the creative process than producing.

Whether you have a degree or not, you're going to start as a production assistant on set… Nobody's hiring you over anyone else because you have a fancy degree from AFI or USC. They take whoever they feel has the hunger, the commitment, the discipline, the foresight, all these qualities that you need for people to notice you.

Sven Pape, host and creator This Guy Edits.

After graduating from college, Sven worked as an editor on James Cameron’s Ghost of the Abyss before going on to direct his first feature film, L.A. Twister. Sven shares the challenges he faced as a new director and how that experience influenced the way he directs and edits today.

Inspired by the success of his daughter’s channel, Sven talks about starting his career on YouTube and how he balanced his professional work editing while experimenting and growing his channel. From sharing advice on how to make a career in editing to overcoming his most challenging experiences and moments of burnout, Sven covers a variety of topics that will help guide aspiring editors and filmmakers as they pursue their passions, just as Sven did.

  • The first step to a career in editing is simple: edit and do it as much as possible. Enjoy the editing process, and make sure you can see yourself doing this for years to come.

  • It’s important to be enthusiastic about your work and serious about pursuing editing as a career. If you ever feel like you’re just sitting at a computer and looking at a clock, then editing might not be the career for you.

  • Take advantage of the experiences and connections you have at college, but note that most of the time, no one is hiring you over anyone else because you have a degree from a top-tier university. Instead, you get hired for your discipline, commitment, and passion for the job.

  • You have to create opportunities for yourself, and that starts somewhere on the internet, looking for jobs and someone to take a chance on you. Work attracts work, so you need to find a way to start working so you can get noticed by the right people who will help advance your career.

  • Don’t be afraid to take breaks or change career paths when you start to feel burned out.

  • If you want to become an editor, it’s crucial that you learn how to use industry-level software, such as AVID and Adobe Premiere Pro.
EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

OUR INTERVIEW WITH SVEN

Nick Lange

Well, today, we have Sven Pape, the founder and head of This Guy Edits, a very popular YouTube channel with over 450,000 subscribers and many fans all over the world, including myself and some close friends of mine, who have many times learned a lot from Sven’s videos. And so today, our goal is to learn about Sven’s story; find out how you got where you are; and explore your experience as not only an editor but as a director; and as a filmmaker who’s worked in many roles throughout Hollywood, and understand how that has influenced you as an editor today. 

And so, my first question, Sven, is how your career in film started, and when you decided to pursue editing professionally.

Sven Pape

Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m really always excited to talk about my – me. So, always open to the invitation. I’ve – when I started to become interested in film, I was pretty young; I was probably 15 when I actually had to move to South Africa, because my dad took a job there for a car company. And I – it was a complete culture shock for me, because in Germany, the school system is way different than in South Africa; South Africa has school uniforms, military haircuts – it’s all about the whole – the community being part of it. In Germany, it’s very much about individual, free-thinking spirits. And so, I couldn’t quite connect for quite a while. So, I went to the movies to find an escape, and I really connected emotionally with what’s going on the screen. And that’s sort of where my dream started to be part of that process of connecting with an audience; creating these kinds of emotions and shaping those. And so, I basically told my dad, when he asked me, what do you want to become? Do you want to get a job in the car factory? I’m like, nope, I want to become a filmmaker. And he said, alright, I’ll help you out; I’ll set up a couple of internships. And he’s – did an internship at the car company in the design department; at the ad agency and edit newspaper. And so, I spent a couple of weeks in each department, and I loved working in the ad agency; in the film department. I was just glued to the producer; and I was on set; and I just loved the entire process of them casting, shooting and cutting commercials; and I pretty much knew after that internship, this is what I want to do. I was still pretty young. I went back to Germany when I was about 18. Couldn’t go to film school in Berlin because you had to be 21. So, I took an advertising course; I did my masters in that. And then, I applied to film schools in Los Angeles, and got rejected, tried again, and got into AFI as a producer. And just really loved the experience, but also realized that producing is not for me; it’s too much logistics and money, and managing people. I was more interested in the creative process. And after I graduated, I bought myself a Mac and a Final Cut Pro System, and just started playing around. And that’s when I really started to feel like this is what I’m good at; this is what I enjoy; this is – this is really where I can be creative. And even though I also had this dream of becoming a director, I really, really love editing; and I love what’s happening creatively in the editing room. I feel like that’s where the movie happens.

Nick Lange

That’s great. What were those early films you were watching in South Africa that had such an impact on you?

Sven Pape

One in particular was Dead Poets Society. I don’t know if you remember the film with William Robins, and it’s like really the ultimate call for artists to find their voice and stand up for what they believe in. And I heard the call, and I was all in. So, that’s a big movie. I saw – I remember seeing The Big Blue Luc Besson movie in Cape Town on the big screen. Like, 10 o’clock at night show; I was the only person in the audience; and I was just – it’s cinema – like from the cinematography, an amazing, epic film. And just rewatched it as I – I was – I was living in Cape Town for the internship, but home was Port Elizabeth. So, I had, again, no friends, and I was seeing that movie several times there. And yeah, that definitely shaped me.

Nick Lange

Oh, that’s great. I met Luc Besson once at a screening of Sunshine. Really nice guy; really modest, and just an amazing director. When you applied to AFI – why did you do that? And looking back on that experience, what do you think is the value of film school? And do you think it’s necessary to have the type of success that you’ve had in your career?

Sven Pape

It definitely helped me to be at AFI because it allowed me, as a foreigner, to come to LA – on a student visa – and be able to play around for several years. And so, it gave me that two – three years where I could just experience filmmaking – in obviously the capital of entertainment – and seeing how infrastructure really works. Like, I was in Berlin; and I was quite active there in the film industry, but the difference is night and day in terms of infrastructure. It’s very political in Germany; it’s very set prices everywhere; and it’s very hard to get a movie made. In LA, it’s the opposite; it’s very easy to get a movie made at whatever budget you have. Like, at the time, equipment companies would give you a camera for – if you – if you have a relationship and say, hey, I’m a student, only have 500 bucks, can I have this film camera for the weekend, even though it would be a $10,000 package? If they have it, they would give it to you because they were banking on the fact that down the road, you were going to remember them when it’s time to shoot your first big feature film or studio film; and that attitude didn’t exist in there. So, going to film school allowed me to experience that, and gave me – gave me the opportunity to figure out a way – how to stay here. But, I do think if somebody asked me, do you think film school is worth it? I would say no, because film school has the problem that it’s too expensive; it sets you back by a couple 100 grand in a worst case scenario; and it takes away – it takes time, like, your two – three years of the market when you should already be building your career. You’re learning your craft, and that’s all great, and you’re meeting interesting friends and your peer – peers in the school. But most of the time, whether you have a degree or not, you’re going to start as a post-runner; as a production assistant on set, and your career starts there. And you have to build your way up, and nobody’s hiring you over anyone else because you have a fancy degree from AFI or USC. They take whoever they feel, like, has the hunger, the commitment, the discipline, the foresight; all these qualities that you need for people to notice you. And if you have those qualities, you will move up pretty fast and get from PA to post-production coordinator to whatever – maybe assistant editor. And once you’re in the mix, it’s very easy to – relatively easy to get your next job that’s a little bit higher on the tier of that ladder you want to climb.

Nick Lange

I agree with that. I went to film school also, both undergrad at UCLA and as a grad student at Columbia. And especially as a grad student, it was very expensive. I went deep into student debt very quickly, and I dropped out after one semester because I was so scared of what was going to happen after school. It was hard enough working out from under that student debt. I, you know – I have friends from that program who came out with around 300,000 of student debt and had real, you know, challenges getting their career started after that because of, you know, the fact that, like you said, no one’s waiting to hire you after film school. It’s not like a law degree or a medical degree where you can start work – working at a firm or a hospital right away; you still have to work your way up, like you just said, and build that network of people who will give you your chance.

Sven Pape

Since you said you went to Columbia, there was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Columbia and how the students in the film program paid like $250,000. And then, they looked at them and see, okay, what jobs did they get, and where are they now? Now, a couple years later, and they all had like 30,000 or less per year jobs, and it didn’t benefit them at all that they went to Columbia.

Nick Lange

That’s exactly right. Reading that article was just an – I mean, it brought me right back to that, you know, that day that I – that I dropped out, which was really hard decision. I felt like I was letting all my friends down, all my classmates down; I felt like a loser, you know, and my dad was not supportive of that decision.

But now, years later, seeing that article, and seeing, you know, all these sort of worst-case scenarios that I had – I had nightmares about coming true, I’m happy that came out; I wish it came out 10 years ago. I think a lot of people are pushing right now. And so, tell me about how you brought L.A. Twister’s to life. How did you get this amazing – film amazing directing opportunity from a graduate of film school?

Sven Pape

Yeah, I willed it. So, I was – I was – so, I graduated, and I worked for James Cameron on Ghosts of the Abyss and was cutting the 3D IMAX movie, and I already could see the path because there was a follow-up project that I was asked back to cut. And I was – after working for Jim for three years, which was an amazing experience, like, I’ve learned so much, and I loved it; and I’ve worked fairly close with him, like, we had offices next to each other and cutting stuff.

And I – but I was completely burned out on just cutting underwater footage for three years, and I was not – I could see that if I would take that next opportunity, it would not be good for me. Even though it might be really good for me, because ultimately, ended up doing Avatar, and like my co-editor on Ghosts of the Abyss, John Wolfe Refoua, became the editor on Avatar.

I still – looking back at it, I feel like it was the right decision to say no. I have an opportunity to – I made a little money. I have – I found in a partner; a producing partner, and he brought me the script, and we could take a chance on this right now, and this might be the only time that I ever get to direct a movie, and I will regret if I don’t take this on. So, I just went for it, and to be honest, I wasn’t ready. Like, the film is – it’s okay. It’s like on IMDb; it has like 6.0 or something. But have – making a movie that’s okay is not good enough when you need to break into the industry; it needs to be a showstopper; it needs to be at Sundance; it needs to win Sundance, really; it can’t just be in Sundance; it needs to win Sundance to really make a difference for your career. And I wasn’t in terms of my craft; I was nowhere at that level where I could pull this off. And the script wasn’t really ready too, but I wasn’t aware of this, being young and naive. My whole attitude is always take action, take action; just do it, and you’ll never regret having done something as opposed to saying no, and then you look back at it. So, it – in that way, I think it really worked out for me, but it also didn’t fully serve what I came to do as a filmmaker. Like, I still have that fire to tell a story that comes from my heart, and that I executed on the level where I know it’s great. So, that fire is still there, and that’s still going to happen, but that’s how my first feature film happened. I did another one there, which was also for hire, and then I went back to editing after that.

Nick Lange

That was Hollywood Kills? How did that one come to be?

Sven Pape

Yeah, it was basically – somehow, people that were not in the industry were interested in making a movie, and they had a script, and they were shopping it around. And because I just had finished L.A. Twister, somehow, they paid attention to me in the sense that I was able to approach them and show ‘em the film. And then, they got back to me and interviewed, and it worked out. So, they hired me to direct the film.

Nick Lange

And what were the biggest challenges of both, onset as a – as a pretty new director?

Sven Pape

So many challenges, with the first one really being a director that people respect and understanding that as a director, you have to really portray confidence all the way. So, as soon as you are a little bit unsure or you, like – you’re not committing to an idea right away. Like, I love to explore options; I’d love to discuss different scenarios. But sometimes, that can come across as not being sure what to do. So, I had to very quickly learn and think about – I had a really good partner, Patrice Crochet. We went to film school together. He’s a cinematographer, and he sort of helped me, and told me, look, when you – when you’re on-set, doesn’t even matter whether you know what you’re doing, you just need to portray it; you just need to be in charge. And so, once I learned that, it really helped me be – have a much better grip on just the entire production, the crew, and everything. Doesn’t mean that I have to yell or whatever, but just to be confident in whatever I decide was really important.

Nick Lange

Do you find that’s the case, as a professional editor, or is it different?

Sven Pape

It’s a little less different, like, you – it’s okay to be a little softer as an editor because you’re kind of a listener anyway, and you’re supportive. So, you need to be a little bit more nurturing and allowing the other person to take charge. But, on the other hand, as an editor now, I’m very confident. I have very strong opinions about how a scene should be cut, and it’s just a matter for me to figure out how can I bring it across in a way that I’m not a threat to the director, where they feel like I got – I got a handle on this. And I’m not afraid to speak up, but I’m also fully respectful of their vision and allowing them to take time to formulate that vision or find that.

Nick Lange

Yup. Okay. What – how did those feature directing experiences influence you as a director? I’m sorry, as an editor.

Sven Pape

I mean, it goes both ways. On set, I was already an editor when I was directing my first feature, so I knew a lot. I had a really good handle on coverage and knowing which camera angles are going to cut together, work together, what is it that we’re missing. It also helps to understand that performances don’t have to be perfect on set. Like, they’re all just little building blocks. So, you just need a little luck here; you need a little emotional reaction there and all the other stuff. Like, I don’t have to redo a take with an actor, if for some reason they break character in-between, because I don’t know how it’s gonna cut together. If I know I got the moments in the right angles, I can move on, and I can – I can portray that to the actress as well. It’s like it’s okay to take chances and try something, and then maybe you’ve suddenly fall out of character and you need to catch yourself. So, I can be more supportive to the – to the actor that way.

Nick Lange

Right. That makes sense. And what did you learn about editing working with James Cameron? What was that like?

Sven Pape

I mean, it was amazing. He was a mentor without really recognizing that he was. It’s because – it’s not because I asked a lot of questions, and he would be like, so happy to answer; it was more because we were doing the work, and I was doing the work for him. So, as soon as I was cutting staff, he would really focus on audio, and he would just give me this hard drive with all the sound effects he had from previous movie, Titanic, and said, go through all that stuff and fill that scene with just like – I want to hear the water; I want to hear the submarine; when he’s hitting this thing, we need some metal sound there. And so, he was very, very much focused on audio first, and most of the direction he gave me ever was all unsolved. And it really helped me understand how important working with audio is when you’re – when you’re cutting picture.

Nick Lange

How interesting. So, on that film, was there a separate sound editor or sound designer?

Sven Pape

Yes, yes. So, once the film was done, or even as we were cutting, they already had a guy from Industrial Light & Magic, who set up shop in the office, and we will be testing cuts back and forth, and he would start doing sound design. But regardless, we would always do our version first of how it should sound, so that when it gets screened, there’s no questions about – it has to feel like the real thing.

Nick Lange

That makes sense. Did he use a lot – did he keep a lot of what you did? Or did you set the tone for his work throughout?

Sven Pape

I – yes, he did. I mean, he kept on the film as well. He didn’t take credit for Ghosts of the Abyss, but he looked at every scene, basically at every frame, and made sure that he’s good with it. But, no, there’s a lot of it in there where I feel like the whole opening actually was something that occurred as an assistant editor, that I shout to him, and that gave me the job. In that scene, even though it’s a little tighter, it’s basically that very first cut that I did at night without anyone knowing.

But, yeah, no, I mean, he definitely is very hands-on on everything, and there’s no – there’s no question that, ultimately, it’s whatever he sees, he signs off on it, and it’s his voice. But he takes every person’s work and incorporates it. So, it doesn’t feel like he’s changing everything; it always feels like he makes it better.

Nick Lange

Oh, that’s great. Okay, so after directing these two films, what brought you to that day in 2016,  when I believe you were editing a film that a director, Mark Webber, was shooting in Pennsylvania while you were cutting? Is that right?

Sven Pape

Yes. Yeah, that is – that is correct. So, Mark and I already had cut one or two feature – worked on one of two features together. I’d cut his first film that went to Sundance. So, he already had – he did a movie before that, that went to South by Southwest, was starring Rosario Dawson, I believe. And then, he did this second movie, and I was really, really lucky that he gave me a shot at this film. It was – it’s one of my favorite films that I’ve ever cut; it’s called The End of Love, and it’s kind of a cinema reality is what he calls it. So, there’s a lot of documentary elements that he utilizes, but it’s a complete feature fictional – fictional story. And so, we had a really strong bond as just collaborators, and I already knew from, actually my daughter, that YouTube is a thing. She – when she started going to school – so, even before middle school, she already had a YouTube channel, and she was telling little stories with toys: My Little Pony. And she – I gave her Final Cut, and I said, you should learn that as opposed to iMovie, because the things that you’re doing, it’ll pay off. And she was one of the top MLP creators during that phase and was already making money – enough money to buy her own camera, lights, all that stuff. So, I knew that YouTube is a thing and it has to be taken seriously. So, I started experimenting with that on another channel, that was about chickens and homesteading, and the very first video that I posted, it took me 10 minutes to film with my phone. And then, I posted that video and it got like 100,000 views, and it made 200 bucks in AdSense money. And at that moment, I realized, okay, I can see this. So, then, I pitched this to Mark and say, look, the next movie that we’re doing – because as independent filmmakers, we’re all struggling to find our audience, even when we get to Sundance, doesn’t mean that anybody is going to watch this film in the theaters. We have to make a connection; we have to find that audience. Why don’t we do that while we’re already cutting the film, and we’re letting people be part of that process? So, that, by the time that we’re done, they just gonna want to watch the movie because they’ve been part of the process. And he’s like, that sounds great to me. Why don’t you cut a couple of episodes, show it to me, and then we’ll go from there? So, I recorded three episodes back-to-back, which are the – they are on the channel; the first three videos. And he watched them, said, this is awesome. I’m actually learning something about editing myself, keep going. We decided on a couple of scenes that we’re not going to include in this, but otherwise, he gave me carte blanche. He didn’t even watch any of the other episodes I believe. And so, then, I posted a video – first, it was like three times a week whenever I was cutting a new scene. And as I was doing that, I started to realize it has to be more than just showing the process of editing; there has to be some form of educational value or entertainment value to just expand and find that audience. And so, every episode, you can tell there’s an evolution like each episode gets a little bit better in terms of production value and what the takeaway is. And then, by the time we were done with a movie, we had maybe 20 – 30,000 subscribers.

Nick Lange

Wow, already?

Sven Pape

And I was thinking, okay, so what am I going to do with this channel? Now, this is like – I was getting so much out of it in terms of just working really fast and getting instant feedback from the audience. I was growing during that whole process creatively, and I realized that it has to – we can go bigger with it. So, that’s when I started doing video essays on other films, bigger films, more tips in general. And so, by the time I did something like Christopher Nolan video on Dunkirk or so, suddenly, these videos would get several 100,000, if not a million views. And I really realized for myself, wow, editing can be for bigger audience, and we can actually really celebrate editing because, as you might know, editing is kind of really under the radar; it’s invisible. It’s really easy for an audience to see and hear great sound, great camerawork, and make like – appreciating it. Hans Zimmer; everybody loves Hans Zimmer, because it’s so – you can take the soundtrack, and you can listen to it in your car, and it makes you feel something. With editing, you can’t do that. So, having a channel that really shows how powerful editing is, and that it’s really showing – like, we control performances. People don’t think that’s the case. Other than the director or the actors, nobody knows that we decide when to show somebody how long they’re gonna say something and in what order. So, we can completely manipulate a performance and make actors feel certain things that they didn’t feel in the moment. And that’s so powerful that I think it’s interesting to discover when you’re – when we look at it on the channel.

Nick Lange

Oh, I totally agree. Tell me about your lifestyle. So, in, you know, along this theme of helping the unseen be seen, I’m interested in looking at how great life as an editor can be. What – how do you balance your professional work with this channel? What do you like? What kind of freedom does editing afford you? And what do you love about this career?

Sven Pape

Well, as an editor, you can be – it can be really hard, or it can be amazing, in terms of your creative freedom; your work-life balance. It kind of depends on how good you are. I call it the go-to-editor. So, the kind of editor that producers want to work with and that they’re going to call first. If you’re in that position, you can make more requests. For example, I used to work for Fremantle media, which is the company that did American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Deadliest Catch, and so on and so forth, and I was becoming the go-to-editor in the development department. So, I was cutting new pilots, new sizzles to sell shows, and if that show gets sold, they could make potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. Like, there was one show where they bought, I think, 100 plus episodes based off the pilot that I cut. So, they’re hiring the best editor that they can, and money is not really an object. What matters is are they available? Are they willing to go through this process because it goes to network. So, you have a lot of different people looking at this, giving you notes, and it’s going back and forth, back and forth. Everybody has a different opinion, and you need to be that person that’s like willing to work with them to find the best product possible. And once you’re in that position, you can say, A) pay me more, B) I want to come in at 11 in the office, and I’m going to leave whenever I feel like I want to leave as long as I get the job done. You can make all kinds of demands, and then you can balance it with your – with your family life as well. So, for example: for me, it was really important that I work from my office as opposed to their office. So, if they hire me, they will have to come to me as opposed to I have to come to them, and that really helped me be happier with a job and also be able to make sure that when the family needs me, I can – I can make that happen.

Nick Lange

Yeah, that’s great. What advice do you have for people who want a career like yours? How can aspiring editors, or talented amateur editors, or professional editors who aren’t yet working in the types of projects that they want to – what can they do to accelerate their careers?

Sven Pape

Well, the first thing they have to do is they have to edit; they have to edit as much as possible. The slogan on the channel is Just Edit. If you edit every day, and you love it; you enjoy the process, then there’s really nothing stopping you. For most people, the process of editing is actually very tedious and frustrating, and if – it can become very hard for them to get to a final cut. That is good when you’re not really enthusiastic about the grind because ultimately, it’s you in a room with a computer all day long. And for some people, that means they’re like diving into a world, and they’re just lost in – they’re just exploring things; it’s like they’re out there on, whatever –  out there in the universe. And for other people, it’s just sitting at a computer and looking at the clock, and when can I get out of here? And so, you have to go through that process and understand whether you are either that one person or the other person. If you feel like you really enjoy the process, and you could see yourself grinding away for years to come and being enthusiastic about that, I think you should really seriously pursue it. And you will – every editor will get burned out eventually. They, at some point – even Eddie Hamilton when he cuts Top Gun Maverick. If he has to show up every day for six days a week, and cut this movie for 10 – 12 hours a day, and nothing else matters, after a while, he’s gonna be a little burnt out, and he’s gonna say, maybe I want to do something else. But he wants it bad enough, and he enjoys this so much that he can play at that level. And if you want to – want to become one of the top editors, then it’s there; it’s so easy for you to get there because, at some point, everybody else will get burned out. It’s just sort of how bad you want it.

Nick Lange

So, for everyone out there who wants it so badly, what steps can they take to get that first in? To get their foot in the door somewhere, or get their work in front of the right person?

Sven Pape

Well, work attracts work. So, you need to find a way how to get working. And for me, even though I had – let’s say I did Ghosts of the Abyss after I was done directing. I started at the bottom again, like I had nothing. I had no one calling me. I have no – I still don’t have an agent and no opportunities. So, you have to create opportunities for yourself, and that starts somewhere on the internet; on Craigslist or monday.com, or the person that you know who knows somebody, and you need to find a backdoor to convince somebody that you will cut something for them that is of value to them. Make like a win-win proposition: they get something where they have nothing to lose, and you get some body of work. The moment that you start working, you’re in a much better position because work always attracts work. That person is going to refer you to their buddy; they’re going to have another project that they’ve always been thinking about, now they actually have somebody they can trust, and you start to leverage up. So, nobody will get a job to cut a scripted TV show based off you going to film school, or you having the dream to become an editor, and you did a course about Adobe Premiere. The only way you’re gonna get that job is if you cut this – your neighbor’s wedding video, who happens to be a producer on that show. Who then says, wow, you did a really amazing job on my wedding video. Do you want to become an intern at our show, or do you want to assist? And then, he’ll help you get in there. And then, it’s up to you to make yourself indispensable. People start to trust you to offer up to cut things on the side. Finding that an editor that is supportive of you – being also creative – is maybe willing to mentor you, who then says, hey, we just fired this one editor here in the other office. We need to find a new editor. Who do you know? Then, that editor says, you know what? As opposed to interviewing another editor we don’t know; why don’t we give this guy a try? He’s cut some stuff for me as an assistant; I trust them. I think he could pull this off, and that’s where – how you get your opportunity.

Nick Lange

I love that. That’s great. What are your goals for This Guy Edits? And what is it that you love about running this channel?

Sven Pape

Two great questions. So, my – the life of a creator is about five years, they say. Like, after five years, it’s hard to do the same thing; you need to expand. So, for me, that worked out in various ways. Like, we have the go-to-editor course, and I built that in the last two years. And we’re now also just finished the first cycle of a mentorship program, where we have editors like Kelly Dixon, who cut Breaking Bad or the new Star Wars on Disney Plus, is a mentor to one of our students who’s like at that level, where it really makes sense that they get a mentor; we have Jason Ballantine, who’s cutting The Flash right now, the Warner movie. All kinds of top-level editors that are mentoring. That’s the program that we’re building, and that’s kind of what gets me excited again about This Guy Edits. So, it’s really expanding the universe of This Guy Edits, but it’s also telling the stories about different things. Like, I started a new channel that’s all about solar; I’m really excited about solar right now because we’re doing a remodel. So, I’m applying all the things that I’ve learned about storytelling, and I use them in this channel. And even though it has only maybe 25,000 subscribers right now, with the videos – 100,000 plus, even a million on there. So, that’s very exciting to me too, like, just find new topics where I can still meet the audience.

Nick Lange

How did you – tell me about this mentor program? How did you get that idea? And how does it work?

Sven Pape

Actually, one of the students in the go-to-editor course, who’s now my business partner, pitched me the idea and said, why don’t we – why don’t we think even beyond the course? The course is great because it allows you to do hands-on cutting on actual feature films that I worked on. So, you get scenes, and you get to cut them, and you get feedback from us, but it’s still kind of you just doing the work. But there’s a lot of – there’s a lot of need for feedback and coaching. So, the next step, he suggested, would be to build some form of coaching mentorship program. And then, I started to just reach out to some of these editors that I already worked with on the channel, maybe. Like, Josh Beal, for example, we did a video. He cut House of Cards and lots of TV shows, and I – we became friends because of this YouTube channel, and me doing a video on how he cut the counterpart with JK Rowling. And I asked him, would you be willing to be a mentor? Like, I will pay you – will pay you whatever your hourly rate, but you have to commit to doing a one-hour phone call every week to one student for six months. He’s like, great, I’ve always been looking for ways how I can like, take what I know and give it back to people. Kelly Dixon said I wish I would have had a mentor when I started; it would have probably accelerated my career by three years or more. And so, generally, film editors of that level, they will – they’re really – they helpful people anyway, because they are, as editors, helping directors, and they’re all trying to find ways how they can give back, or how they can do more than just show up at a panel and talk about that job. So, we built this program around that concept of a one-hour call every week. And then, we filled it up with group seminars, where we invited group experts, and we did a big symposium where all the mentees meet all the different mentors, and they all sharing like the three things that they wish they knew when they got started 20 years ago. We had every mentor talk about that and share those things to the mentees. And now, in cycle two, where we’re trying to take this to a level where we get it actually fully sponsored by, like, big brands and make it for free; make – let the sponsors pay, and then, have a – and then, it’s just, are you at that rank? Are you at that level where mentorship really makes sense, because sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, you have somebody who can’t really take advantage of the opportunity to talk to Kelly Dixon for six months, because they’re just not quite there mentally or body of work. So, that’s what where we are – that’s what we’re building right now.

Nick Lange

How do editors apply for this program? How do they get involved?

Sven Pape

Well, right now, you have to be a student in the go-to-editor course. So, we really just pick who we feel within the course is ready. So, you have to apply – you have to enroll in the course. And then, when you actually do the course, and you do the exercise, we see promise. There’s many opportunities. We really want to bridge the gap between just teaching and actually getting a job. We’re not afraid to say, yes, let’s reach out to the industry; let’s make that happen. And so, we kind of handpicked, I think it was seven or eight mentees, and then we found the mentors for them. But now that we’re going outside, we will on the YouTube channel – we will announce it and then show what that process is to apply.

Nick Lange

Awesome. Who is – who’s right for the go-to-editor course? Who’s the ideal learner?

Sven Pape

If you’re curious about editing – if you just want to find out if this is for you, the course is right for you. So, it’s for beginners and intermediates, for sure. If you feel stuck – let’s say you’re a corporate editor and you really want to become narrative because we – 80% of what we focus on is narrative – creative editing. We don’t teach software; we don’t teach workflow. All we do is creative editing and career development. So, we have two modules: it’s all about creative and one module, it’s about personal branding, how to find jobs, how to get the meeting; getting the meeting is 90% of getting the job. So, once you realize that, the way that you approach getting the meeting changes completely. Lot of people, like on the phone, they’re already trying to negotiate their rate, when all they need to accomplish is to get that meeting with that producer; just make them interested in meeting you in-person, and once you accomplish that, you have a much better shot at getting the job. So, we teach all kinds of techniques that will get you there. And so, if you’re curious, or you’re stuck, I think this is really, really good for you. The other thing that I’d like to point out is we also regularly do an editing bootcamp, because it’s taking the course – enrolling in the course is not enough; you actually need to cut those seeds, do the exercises. So, I actually have directors that wanted to hire me and I say, no, I can’t do it, for whatever reason – budget or time – and I always pitch them the idea of why don’t you hire one of our students? And we have a process for that, which is we announce the project, the students apply, and they need to submit the scenes in the course to be eligible, and they need to submit at least two scenes that I’ve cut. We go through their application resume, there’s a certain questions we ask: outside work and those scenes, and then we pick the top eight. These top eight, you will give them dailies for one scene of your film, and you have them cutted. So, these eight go away for three weeks, they cut the scene, submit it to the director, the director picks however many they want – three – four people – and sets up an interview. And then, he interviews those persons – those people, and then they have the option to make an offer. They have to pay, and they have to offer a credit. So, there’s not a freebie. And they then – so far, every director that participated in editing bootcamp has hired an editor out of the course; and so far, it’s always been it’s worked out great. And that’s their first opportunity to cut a feature film.

Nick Lange

Yeah. That’s great. How cool. How do you think that editing is going to change in the coming years? So, working with all these different students, what are the skill sets that you’re seeing that you think are going to be most important in the coming years? What software will be most relevant?

Sven Pape

Software will always change. Avid is still number one when it comes to top-tier shows and movies. So, that’s what you want to do. If you are also thinking about becoming an assistant editor to become an editor, you should definitely learn Avid. You – there are others – I actually – I’m not a big fan of Avid to be honest. I tried to cut all my features in Final Cut 10, but I think the most important software to relieve sort of – make a good living and play the field is Premiere. Premiere is where it’s at. So, probably, if you’re – if you’re anywhere in the like, a YouTube world or corporate world – anything but top-tier editing – you probably want to know Premiere. Now, to answer your question about how do I see editing changing, I think it’s going to become more remote; it already is, and I think there are many ways how that could actually be beneficial. I enjoy cutting from home. I have an office where I can actually invite the director to sit in. They have their own suite too, where they can stay the night if they need to. And so – but the director doesn’t have to be there every day, and it’s actually –  I’m more productive if I can decide when I cut, and if I cut remotely. So, 80% of great editing can happen remotely with no problem; with actually benefits, and I think that’s the technology is catching up and the mindset that that’s actually an option is also there. The other thing I see is editing is becoming more playful. There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening on YouTube, where it feels like wow, this is amazing editing. This is incredible. Why haven’t we done this in movies? And then, it sort of comes over – if you look at a movie like Uncut Gems, you can tell that that’s cut differently than your average movie. And so, I think it’ll be a little bit more stylistic and quicker and snappier and fresher. And I definitely – I definitely sense that oh, I need to – I need to watch out. I’m becoming a little slow, and –

Nick Lange

Wow, yeah. I love that video where you break down the scene when Adam Sandler walks in with envelope of cash. And you talked about how the script has lines in there, where the bookie wants, you know – he says he has 5,000 for the bookie, but the bookie – they just cut that out to give – to let you feel like Adam Sandler – see how rushed his experience as a human being is. We’re just losing scenes.

Sven Pape

Yeah. I mean, I love what that film accomplishes, in terms of us feeling like the character. It’s not just – it’s not just show, don’t tell; it’s like feel, don’t show, and I think this is a great film to study editing.

Nick Lange

Oh, yeah. How do – I’m sure you evolve a lot as an editor as you do these analyses, and really study what it is that’s working so well in these films.

Sven Pape

I do. I mean, I’ve never really reflected on editing before the channel. So, the channel gave me the opportunity to actually verbalize why I’m making decisions or what I’m seeing and how it makes me feel. So, then, I’m starting to realize, oh, there are certain patterns; there are certain concepts, and working with other –  like, collaborating with other editors on the channel, or even experts like Dr. Karen Perlman, who’s like, studies editing, we start to realize, oh, there’s more going on. This has to do with mirror neurons; it has to do with all kinds of eye tracking concepts, and so on and so forth. And then, to be able to be aware and implement it is great.

Nick Lange

I love that. In one of your videos with Roger Nygaard, looking at comedy editing, you have a quote from him: become a filmmaker who edits, not just an editor who cuts films. What does that mean to you?

Sven Pape

Well, I feel like it applies to me, and what it means is that all the great editors are filmmakers first, is what Roger Nygaard says. And we talked about my experience directing and producing, and I also did some writing. It actually does help me to be a better editor, to understand all these crafts a little bit at least. Like, I don’t feel like I’ve mastered any of them, including editing. But it helps to really understand why a cinematographer thinks differently about a scene than an editor. And it also helps when you’re a filmmaker to understand editing, because it changes the way you write and direct a scene, and I can tell when a director doesn’t edit. Like, I can tell that the way that there seeing a scene is different, and it’s not necessarily bad, like, they’re brilliant directors who don’t edit, but you can tell that they are not seeing the big picture of how it’s going to come together, the same way than somebody who has to put it together.

Nick Lange

Interesting. Will you cite any directors that where you’ve noticed this with?

Sven Pape

While some directors that I worked with, certainly. I mean, I wouldn’t dare to cite a name. Like, I wouldn’t say Steven Soderbergh doesn’t know what he’s doing, or he’s not cutting; I’m pretty sure he is, actually. But certainly when I’m in the editing room, and I’m sitting with the producer or director, I know pretty fast whether they – they’ve had their hands on the keyboard or not.

Nick Lange

Okay, wow, that’s interesting. Okay, so you have this – you seem to have built an amazing team who helped you with your channel? Writers. Editors. How did you build this team? How did you find these people? And how do you work with them?

Sven Pape

The first thing is it’s really hard to find good editors – and that’s why there are go-to-editors – and I usually only hire from within. So, most of the editors that I hired are either people that are in the course – and I recognize potential – or they approached me and they made me what I call a backdoor offer, where they said, hey, I’m really strong with Adobe After Effects. I noticed your videos are lacking some, like the level of your motion graphics could be much higher. Here’s an example of what I can do. Next video, would you be interested if I just do a couple of your graphics? And if you’d like at that time, consider hiring me on the next project? I love that type of approach, and I love hiring people like this because I get to – they are proactive. I’m not actively seeking them out; they’re seeking me out, and that they have something to prove, and they’re hungry and they’re providing value. And then, it’s just a matter of me saying, well, if I hire this person and I get this sponsorship deal, this person is helping me get that video done faster or better. And I have this money available anyway, why don’t I take some of that and give it to them? And so, that’s how that process happens. So, right now, I have five editors working on YouTube videos, and they’re all on a fairly good level where I’ve only really need to spend maybe a day – maybe a week at the most to just make sure that it has that sort of This Guy Edits touch.

Nick Lange

Awesome. Yeah, I – they – you have consistency throughout, and they just keep getting better. What – so, as a final question – well, I’d like to hear about secret editing hacks. But, I also want to ask you, if you – if you have a few more minutes, what the hardest point in your entire career has been when you came closest to quitting – giving up, and how you – how you got through that.

Sven Pape

I don’t think I was ever really close to quitting. I mean, the hardest experience was my first student film producing because I wasn’t – I wasn’t really prepared for the stress it takes to run a set as a producer. And even though it’s just a student film, it was still like a $30,000 budget; and it was still a crew of 15 to 20 people; and it was relocations, permitting, stands, underwater photography; and everything has to happen at the right time. So, you make your day, and you have to do whatever it takes to get your shots and make your day. And going through that experience for the first time was like war to me. Like, I lost 25 pounds, which I wish I wouldn’t have gained back, but it was so stressful as an experience. The good thing is, afterwards, it changed my whole attitude towards filmmaking. I was like, we’re just making movies, we’re not changing the world, and if things don’t work out, there’s always another way, or we’ll survive. And so, I’ve never felt that level of stress ever again, even working on a James Cameron thing in the middle of the ocean, and Jim screaming and yelling at me because I have a camera stuck in his face, and he doesn’t – he doesn’t think this is good. I just couldn’t care because that – because of that experience. So, that’s one experience, but I did have kind of another crisis moment when I was working for Fremantle media at around four to five years, where I just was completely burned out and it’s just – the paycheck wasn’t worth me going into the office, and I just had to switch lanes, and that’s when I like went to independent film and documentary, and rediscover my love for editing.

Nick Lange

What causes burnout? What did it that time?

Sven Pape

Well, it’s like having to do something for an extended period of time that is really hard, or that you creatively don’t care for. And even though I loved the people at Fremantle media, I mean, I – we – my – she was the senior vice president at Fremantle media. The bond that we had was so strong, like, she just needed to call me and I would be there for whatever show, whatever she needed. And she would watch out for me the same way, like whatever I needed, in terms of financial compensation or flexibility in terms of the schedule, she would accommodate. But he – after four or five years of doing this, and not really caring about the product more than just make a sale, I was just not – I couldn’t see myself doing this for another five years, and I had to just take a break. So, that’s what creates burnout – is when you lose that love for what you do.

Nick Lange

Yeah. Tell me about Secret Editing Hacks.

Sven Pape

So, Secret Editing Hacks is a free mini course that anyone can take, and I’m sharing basically some things that will help you come across as being super creative as an editor, and it’s all based on process. And so, what I really share is the way that I select shots in there. There’s a certain method that I’ve developed over 10 plus years that I apply, and you just have to take a mini course to see how I do it. And the idea is really to figure out what are the greatest moments, and you focus all your energy on putting these greatest moments together – and when you have these gold moments cut together, it doesn’t really matter how they transition with each other; a shot next to shot will always create meaning. So, if that first shot is amazing and that second shot is amazing – amazing in an emotional way, where it like matters to the audience – they will mostly figure out what happened in-between and it will look really fresh, interesting, and smart to the audience. They feel like they’re being respected. They’re participating; they’re engaged. So, I show a method on how I identify those moments, and remember these moments – even six months after I’ve cut the scene, and I need to go back and recut the scene; and I need to like, rework the scene for whatever reason; and I need to create another scene that is just as powerful.

Nick Lange

That’s awesome. Okay. What inspired this course?

Sven Pape

Well, it’s a marketing ploy. So, the idea is you sign up for free; you love it, so – it transforms your editing; and then, you’re willing to consider joining the go-to-editor course.

Nick Lange

That’s great. Well, Sven, thank you very much. Really enjoyed this interview. Love your videos and I’m excited to see what’s next, so thank you. 

Sven Pape

Well, thank you for having me, and I’m excited to see – I know you guys are new in the podcast world. So, I’m excited to see what you guys do.

Sara Gerbereux

Sara Gerbereux

November 29, 2022

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