Joe McNally, head of editing at Gramercy Park Studios, talks the integrity of a good edit, spine-tingling stories, and the art of the balancing act
Day in the Life of… is a series from the Creative Circle, celebrating and championing the diversity of talent across Britain’s creative community. Encompassing creatives from all areas of the advertising and creative spectrum, each edition focuses on an individual and their role within our exciting community.
Here, head of editing at Gramercy Park Studios Joe McNally talks the integrity of a good edit, spine-tingling stories, and the art of the balancing act...
I am the head of editing at Gramercy Park Studios. It is my job to creatively and efficiently edit jobs that come to GPS for offline, develop new relationships with agencies and directors, and build a strong editing team.
How I got here...
I was one of the lucky few to go to university in New York to do a degree in film and television. It was a ‘very hands on’ four years, learning all sorts of disciplines. I found myself however spending most of my time helping a lecturer / documentary maker in the cutting room. I loved it! Being able to experience the power to change things around whether it be someone’s feelings or reactions to something, restructuring a narrative and all the things we know an editor can do. I was sold!
I graduated and had a choice to “go West,” as they say, or go back to the UK. I opted for the bad weather and good beer and asked a friend for help! She worked at a production company and I was fortunate enough to grab an opportunity doing work experience with an editor for six months. I worked for free two days a week and then got a job as runner. I had no illusions about the path ahead and knew that it was time to make tea, watch and learn!
My tea making skills improved as did my bartending skills!!! I never regret my work as a runner as it taught me how important good working relationships are. Make a good tea with grace, care about what you do, and hopefully learn something along the way.
From company to company I progressed from assistant editor to junior editor and even completed a year as a junior post production producer to learn a little more about the wider post production process. However, I did, of course, go back to editing!
My boss at the time, a very talented Australian editor, decided to head back to his homeland after many years of working together (all Aussie editors do that BTW - must be the weather!).
So, I had no job and was getting married in six months…! I decided to go solo and set up my own small edit suite. I soon learned a lot about paying all the bills before paying yourself, managing staff and a growing clientele. But most importantly, managing people’s expectations.
I had 10 very good years of running a small business, meeting new people and doing all types of editing work from feature to documentary to content. After that decade, I was on the road to freelance… editing on trains, planes and anywhere you could put a laptop.
In 2016, Gramercy Park Studios expanded and developed its editing team across the pond in New York where the talented Vee Pinot now resides. Hence I stepped in to pick up the baton and run the editing department in the UK with a very welcoming nice bunch of people.
My typical day...
Every day is different but most days I am in early, before the hubbub starts, to collect my thoughts and plan the day and week ahead. If I have jobs on at different stages they all need managing. Where are the rushes? Do they need transcoding and syncing? What is the work flow for this particular job? Who am I meeting today? When do the clients come along? “I need an extra day.” “Sorry, you can’t have one!” Other days it is just you and the footage and you are left to craft - bliss! As frequently as possible, I let people know what I am up to and generally try to keep in touch.
Hardest part of my job...
I wouldn’t say there is a specifically ‘hard’ part to be honest but each job brings its own challenges. Meeting people’s expectations and still producing good work is one example. Keeping the integrity of a good edit is the main challenge. There are many voices before a cut gets approved and it is my job to address as many of these as possible and articulate what can, and can’t, be done. It is a balancing act that requires confidence and experience.
What I enjoy the most about my work...
I go to work and get to create stories! The novelty of that is still a spine tingler for me. There is that strange feeling of excitement and anxiety before you dive into the pile of footage and wait to see what’s going to come out the other end. It is infectious and once I have started editing I don’t want to stop until I see a structure or a path I like! I also like the fact that I am not making the same thing every day - I jump from genre to genre and that keeps me on my toes. My working life is all about structure, performance, timing and pace. I like the feeling when I have done a good job and clients walk away happy. Building strong relationships with clients and peers is very important for me.