Twain Richardson – Frame of Reference with Editor Ron Sussman
Upon receiving a degree in Design from Arizona State University, Ron
headed to the prestigious graduate film program at New York University. There he watched hours of movies drank too much beer and coffee and made a few forgettable short films.
Preferring a real world education, Ron left NYU and headed to Los Angeles where he joined the staff of Harmony Pictures. While directing some smaller projects for Harmony, Ron realized that it was the process of editing that inspired and fueled the flames of his creativity. He soon left Harmony and joined the editorial staff of Ace and Edie where, under the tutelage of editors Jim Edwards, Mike Miller and Jeff Wishengrad, his real education began.When Miller and Wishengrad formed their own company, Ron followed and became a full­fledged editor cutting spots for Toyota, Pontiac and LA Gear.
Once again opportunity knocked and Ron joined Optimus in Chicago. There he won several awards for his editorial work for clients like Anheuser Busch while building snowmen with his wife Fran and their newborn son Jordan. After a few years, Good Pictures in San Francisco called Ron back to the west coast. Somehow, between cutting spots for ILM, Coca­Cola and Bank of America, his daughter Hallie was born. Ron spent the little free time he had left mountain biking and preparing for earthquakes. A chance meeting with Larry Bridges of Red Car lead Ron to join the newly formed Red Car Dallas office.
Ron and family desired to move back to the west coast and Ron reconnected with his friend and mentor Jim Edwards, cutting a successful campaign of spots Jim directed for Comcast.
This renewed association lead to Ron and Jim reforming the respected editorial company Ace & Edie.
Today we sit down with Ron to get talk about his editing process.
What got you interested in editing?
It’s funny because I started in the industry working at a Foley shop in LA that was doing major features and I was interacting with top sound editors daily, but it wasn’t until I actually started to do a bit of directing that I realized how powerful editing was and how I could encompass all the arts and my music background into this one area. It really was an exciting revelation.
How did you get started in editing?
I took a job as a runner for no money at Ace & Edie in LA and worked my way up the ranks to apprentice, then assistant, then ghost editor and finally a full­fledged paid editor. When I started we were still cutting 35mm film on a KEM and there was a much more formal path to working your way up. Some of the skills you learned along the way are no longer taught in this digital age and that is a shame
What is your preferred NLE of choice? Why?
I started working on Avid ID #6 in 1990 and worked on for the next 16 years. I was kind of forced to work on FCP and at first I hated it. However, until Apple’s recent decision to tell us how we need to be editing, I had been working exclusively on FCP7. Depending on the job and where I am working, I am currently editing in either Avid or Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Both NLE's have made serious strides and continue to improve the flexibility and speed of their software. I also recently started using Blackmagic's DaVinici Resolve, which is becoming an editing and color correcting power combo. For me, speed = creativity. I don’t want to have to stop and think about what button I need to push or setting I need to have in order to work. I just want to hit the ground running and Avid and Premiere both allow for that.
Give us a run through of your editing process
I am a bit impatient when it comes to starting a project. The thing I love about file based media is I can import and dive right in and start working. I lay everything, all the takes out on a timeline. Then as I go through the footage I will pull selects up to another track. I work pretty fast and tend to not heed the selected takes on the script notes. What may indeed be a good take or
even the best take may not work in the context of the commercial or video. If I am cutting a long form piece, it’s a bit like sculpting a big block of marble. I just keep watching and trimming and building until I feel I have a compelling story. Sometimes that can take days, sometimes it flows like a hot knife through butter.
What tips were you given that was really helpful?
Look for the unexpected moments, great things can occur in between takes and when the talent doesn’t know the camera is running. It’s all about attention to detail. Organization is key. Work to live, don’t live to work.
How organized are you?
Very, almost anal to a fault. I don’t want to have to think about where things are or go looking for stuff when I want or need it. That applies to my physical work area as well as my NLE. Even back in my film cutting days, I knew where every single loose frame was and which roll it belonged in. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a job that someone else has started and the elements are scattered over multiple drives and not placed in folders. I have a folder structure that I have developed over the years that lays every aspect of the job out in one place. If you are not organized, you shouldn’t be in this business.
Can you work without a script, finding the story and building it on your own?
Yes, I think that is one of my strengths as an editor. I can take endless, seemingly disconnected interviews and build a compelling, emotional story.
What is your favorite film? Favorite TV show?
Wow, thats a tough one to have to narrow down. My top favorite films are “Raging Bull”, “Alien”, “The Apartment” and “The 400 Blows”. Thats an eclectic mix for you! As far as TV, I love “Game of Thrones”, “House of Cards” and "Girls". I am a bit in awe of Lena Dunham, the creator, writer and director of “Girls”. She is only in her 20's and is a major talent.
What style of editing have you done? (Narrative/Documentary/News/Corporate/Wedding/Etc)
As a freelancer I do it all, with the exception of weddings. not to put it down but that is a different level of work I never delve into. I have spent the majority of my 20+ years as an editor cutting commercials and over the last several years I have been doing a fair amount of corporate work which can be documentary or narrative or both. I enjoy the variety.
If you could meet any editor, who and why?
Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor of most of Martin Scorsese’s Films and Kelly Dixon, one of the editors of “Breaking Bad”. Kelly has elevated what is considered the norm for television editing to new levels. Most of my favorite editors happen to be women. Dee Dee Allen and Anne V. Coates have cut some of my favorite films and have really had an influence on me.
What advice can you offer to get through complex edits?
Get up and walk away from the computer. I know that’s difficult to do when you have clients in the room, but take a break. Go sit outside and close your eyes and just “be” for a little while. You will be surprised how much refreshed and how much vigor you have afterwards.
Which plug­in(s) do you find most useful? Why?
In my personal opinion plugins can be a crutch that can be over used to solve problems with an edit. That said, there are many great plugins out there that can enhance an edit. For me the place plug­ins really come into use is in After Effects, not really in the edit itself.
How does the director­editor relationship work for you?
If you have a strong relationship with a director who works all the time, you work all the time. Its rare, especially cutting commercials that you actually even get to meet with the director. Ad Agencies,in my opinion sometimes do themselves a disservice by not allowing the director to communicate his intentions to the editor or at least give the director a shot at a 1st cut. Every spot I have ever cut, where I have gone on set and seen what is happening has made the edit so much smoother. Also in a good editor/director relationship, the director knows to let the editor do his or her thing and not sit on top of them second guessing every decision.
How do you deal with problem clients/directors?
I would rather work with an a difficult person who has good ideas than a nice guy who can’t decide what color yellow is. Patience pure and simple. That is something that took me a long time to learn but is essential. Most difficult people are operating out of fear and if you can get them to relax and feel like they are in good hands and taken care of they soften up a bit.
What’s your overall philosophy about editing?
There has to be an emotional hook. I don’t care if you are selling motorcycles or presenting a sales techniques, the viewer has to feel a connection to what they are viewing. If I have made a room full of corporate types gets all teary eyed watching the video, I know I have done my job even if the video is for a new computer chip.
Name one thing that you would tell an aspiring editor?
Learn about other things besides just editing and filmmaking, educate yourself on art and music. Music plays such an important part in the way I work. Never stop learning your craft. Things are changing in this industry at such a fast pace that you have to stay current or you will fall behind. Most importantly, don’t define yourself by the tools you use. If you are an editor than you can EDIT! Being able to operate a piece of software doesn’t make you an editor any more than knowing how to work a stove makes you a chef. I can accomplish the same results, given the time, with film on rewinds and a little viewer as I can with the most powerful NLE on the market. That being said however, in this current market it is important to be fluent on Avid, FCP, Adobe and whatever else comes down the pipeline.
You can catch up with Ron on his blog ( or follow him on twitter (
Ron Sussman Looks Back at Thirty Years of Creative Tools 6/28/16

From Flatbed to Media Composer — Veteran Editor Ron Sussman Looks Back at 30 Years of Creative ToolsBy Ron Sussman in Filmmaking (, Timeline Tuesday (
June 28, 2016
As a freelance editor, I’m free to take just about any job that comes my way. Working in a smaller market provides me with a lifestyle I enjoy, but the types of jobs are somewhat limited as far as my choice of NLE. To succeed in this market, I need to be well versed in all the current NLEs, as well as motion graphics and color correction.
Director Lisa Eastman approached me to help finish her autobiographical documentary, Living O The Manhole. She specifically needed an editor well versed in Avid. The documentary needed some tightening and finishing. Lisa also needed a trailer cut for the film, an o icial entry in the Madrid Film Festival. The film tells the story of Lisa’s life living in one of her family’s Manhattan hotels, contrasted with the story of her grandfather, an immigrant who came to the U.S. with nothing and built a steel and hotel empire. As the film had been cut in Avid, it made sense to cut the trailer in Avid as well.
As I watched the film many times while finishing it, I had a really good idea of what kind of story I wanted the trailer to tell. The film has several story threads that overlap and build to a defining moment in Lisa and her family’s life. It was important to capture the key moments of the story and give viewers a sense of who Lisa is while not giving too much of the story away.
The film had been cut on a MacBook Pro running an older version Media Composer at Lisa’s house. The trailer gave me the opportunity to give the latest release of Media Composer 8.5.3 a good run on my system at home. There are many very talented editors in town, but few have had any practical experience working with Avid. I have been editing on Avid since early 1990 and started on system ID #6, at the time, still on the last o icial Beta release of the so ware. MC 8.5.3 has many great new features and excellent functionality, and it allowed me to work fast, which was important because the trailer was needed in Madrid on a short time frame.
I have spent the majority of my career editing commercials for major advertising agencies and clients including Budweiser, Nissan and Coke. I was one of the last generation of editors to come up cutting 35mm film on a flatbed, which allowed you to take your time and think visually. In the late ’80s, while editing at Miller/Wishengrad in Los Angeles, we made the switch from 35mm to the second generation of George Lucas’s EditDroid, an NLE that worked o a bank of seven LaserDisc players and was “non-linear” in playback but had limitations due to the maximum number of discs and the amount of footage that each disc could hold. While at NAB in 1989, I saw Avid sitting on a little table o the beaten track and was instantly hooked. Shortly therea er, I jumped at the opportunity to work at a post house in Chicago where they had made a big commitment to Avid.
Media Composer allowed me to work the same way I was used to working, on a 35mm flatbed, but with a level of flexibility that film didn’t o er. Having never been a “tape” editor, I didn’t really care about pre-roll, EDLs and time code. What was important to me, and continues to be, is the footage. I think fast, and I work fast. Being creative and telling a story is what is most important, whether I am cutting a 30-second commercial, a four-minute corporate video, a trailer or a film. Media Composer allows me to work quickly and find the “moments” that make an emotional connection with the viewer. Equally as important, Avid is stable and rock solid. I know that I can rely on Avid’s deep tool set and its unparalleled media management. Avid sets the benchmark that every other NLE has copied from day one.
Ron is a multi faceted Editor, comfortable editing everything from commercials to sports to documentaries. An accomplished musician, painter and photographer, he draws from these artistic disciplines. Based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, Ron splits his time between Scottsdale and Los Angeles.
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