EP002: Assistants

Episode 002
Duration 38:35

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The role of the assistant is different,
& yet still kind of the same

The role of an assistant in postproduction has changed a lot over the past couple of decades. If you’re looking to break through as an assistant editor, colorist, sound designer/mixer etc it can be challenging.

It used to be the large postproduction facilities were full of multi-million dollar gear, huge rooms, and assistants running in every direction.  These days with so much work happening by individuals and often in remote setups, learning the ropes and building important skills

In this episode of the Offset Podcast Robbie & Joey share their thoughts on the evolution of the postproduction assistant, what skills assistants should learn, and what employers should look out for.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

-Robbie & Joey

Video
Transcript

01:00:00:20 - 01:00:05:03
Robbie
Hey there. Welcome back to another installment of the Offset Podcast. I'm Robbie Carman.

01:00:05:05 - 01:00:06:04
Joey
And I'm Joey D’Anna

01:00:06:07 - 01:00:20:15
Robbie
Joey, this week we're talking about something that we get asked about quite often. That is, how do I become an assistant in postproduction - stay tuned

01:00:20:17 - 01:00:28:21
Robbie
Hey, guys. Welcome back. You know, Joey, when I was a younger person, let's just put it that way without revealing my elevated.

01:00:28:22 - 01:00:29:17
Joey
long long time ago

01:00:29:18 - 01:01:08:12
Robbie
Elevated age these days. You know, post-production was very much so. A master apprentice or operator kind of assistant kind of thing, Right. You know, as an assistant, I remember that one of the facilities I first worked at, there was probably another 15 or so folks that were, you know, air quotes, assistants doing various things around the facility. And I figured, you know, this is a good topic to talk about because, you know, we get asked at least, you know, a couple times a month from, you know, whether it's cold calls or cold emails or conferences or wherever, like, hey, how do I get started with what you guys do or how do I get started

01:01:08:12 - 01:01:37:17
Robbie
in editorial or VFX or whatever? And, you know, I think it's just a it's a hard topic to really kind of give somebody like, you know, a one liner kind of advice because it's difficult these days and it's different than when we were kind of coming up in the industry, you know, 20, 25 years ago. And it's something that I think we should just explore a little bit and talk about in this episode, because I think there are places and people that do kind of the assistant, you know, pipeline really well.

01:01:37:19 - 01:01:53:01
Robbie
I think there are certain people that do it poorly and make that assistant kind of burn out and never want to be in this industry in general. Right? And then I think there is, you know, some stuff that we can talk about when it comes to the assistant itself, their attitude, what they're expected to do, you know, that kind of stuff.

01:01:53:07 - 01:02:20:06
Robbie
But where I want to get started was kind of just a brief history of, you know, in our 20 or 25 years each in post-production, kind of what that evolution of the assistant looks like. And you being someone that literally grew up in a post house. I kind of wanted to get your take first on kind of what has been the evolution of the assistant, where, you know, traditionally what do they do, where were they in that kind of stuff?

01:02:20:06 - 01:02:21:22
Robbie
So why don't you start us off?

01:02:21:23 - 01:02:45:22
Joey
Yeah. So like you said, I grew up in a post house. My dad was a broadcast engineer, and I started out in the post office very early in the days of linear tape to tape online. That was kind of where I got into the post-production business, specifically online, in linear rooms. And in those workflows, the assistant was not just a convenience for the operator, right?

01:02:45:22 - 01:03:12:23
Joey
The assistant was an absolute necessity because you had people running back and forth between tape rooms. The equipment room and the edit suite. You had people that needed to type everything manually on your character generator if you wanted things to appear on the screen. And there were so many different devices in that edit suite that needed to be operated, that one you needed an assistant, otherwise you would just be there all day trying to run five different machines.

01:03:13:01 - 01:03:36:14
Joey
And two, it was a great opportunity for the assistant to learn so many different pieces of technology and how they go together because you're bouncing around to so many different disciplines from maybe operating the edit control or maybe operating a switcher, maybe operating the kiran, maybe operating tape decks, doing signal routing or even helping clients with whatever they needed so the session could keep running.

01:03:36:14 - 01:04:00:16
Joey
It was really a kind of catch all for the entire post-production environment in one room. And once we moved out of linear and into nonlinear, some of those aspects stuck with it, especially when we were still in non-linear in tape world where we might have been doing an offline and in a nonlinear room, bringing everything in from tape and then bringing it all in from tape at higher resolution.

01:04:00:17 - 01:04:22:01
Joey
And then as basically toolsets got more and more concentrated, right? You go from my linear suite that had five different pieces of technology in it all. Talking to each other, to one nonlinear system like resolve or smoke or flame or any of the others that are out there now, that is a suite of tools. All on one desk.

01:04:22:03 - 01:04:48:12
Joey
And that's where it gets really, really hard for assistance to find a place where they're useful. And more importantly, for people that have assistance to find really useful things for their assistance to do that aren't just, you know, menial work. Yeah, that's that's, that's the the downside of being an assistant and also the kind of the hard part of if you're there to be an assistant to learn which I think is is really valid.

01:04:48:13 - 01:05:08:11
Joey
It's hard if all of your tasks are kind of the same menial thing. Right. You need to spread out. And that's really the responsibility of the person who has the assistant who hires the assistant to make sure they're spreading their usefulness and their knowledge around. And it's a kind of educational tool. You don't want an assistant to stay an assistant forever.

01:05:08:17 - 01:05:30:21
Robbie
Well, there's a lot to unpack from what you just said. So for those of you who might not be familiar with some of the things like character generators, still stores edit controllers, Yes, Joey has one of all of those things somewhere in his workshop in his basement. You're right. Those rooms where I'm first of all, I just remember being a 20 something year old, you know, young, 21, 22 year old person walking into those rooms.

01:05:30:23 - 01:05:37:16
Robbie
And there was always just this like vibe in those rooms of just like there was so much going on. Right.

01:05:37:16 - 01:05:43:08
Joey
And imagine every panel in your software being its own box with a keyboard and a screen.

01:05:43:09 - 01:06:07:03
Robbie
Yeah, exactly. The desks were gigantic. You know, there were there were seating for, you know, not just like, pliant, comfortable sitting. There was, you know, eight or nine Arians or whatever rolling around the floor because, you know, people had to come to different parts of the desk to do different thing. And there's just I remember there being just a lot of movement, too, because it's sort of like a lot of that stuff, you know, the actual machines, tape decks, etc., wasn't housed in the actual suite itself.

01:06:07:03 - 01:06:22:16
Robbie
It was housed in a central machine room. So a lot of times like depending on the facility, right, you either have like a kind of a short cut back door in the room to the to the core, to the machine room. Other times I remember I worked at one place where it was like all the way at the other end of the building and it was like no easy way to get there.

01:06:22:17 - 01:06:47:13
Robbie
So, I mean, if I had a, you know, a watch back then tracking my steps, it would have been, you know, 10,000 a day easy going back and forth between the rooms. But I think you're right. There was a lot, you know, going on in those rooms, a lot of things that one single person couldn't do. But I want to speak to also to the experience of being in that room as a young person trying to get, you know, sort of the knowledge and it kind of hits on something.

01:06:47:13 - 01:07:11:21
Robbie
I want to explore that you just mentioned, but I'll first give you the my my feeling. I remember walking in that room the first time. Again, just being a little impressed by the just, you know, the Starship Enterprise kind of feel to the room, but to being intimidated a f man, just like, you know, it was one of those things, especially, you know, here in the D.C. area, as you know, where we do a lot of political work and things are moving very fast.

01:07:11:22 - 01:07:34:04
Robbie
It just I saw so many people enter these rooms as assistants and got beat down really quick. Right. Because they weren't they you know, they spent 2 seconds to look at something else and the whole ad, it passed them by. Right. And I was like, What are you doing, man? Why don't you push that button? I told you to, you know, punch in the kiran right there or, you know, execute the system or whatever it is.

01:07:34:06 - 01:07:53:19
Robbie
I remember the feeling being one as, yes, I'm learning something, but also very much a trial by fire kind of situation, Right. Where you were thrown into this room. And oftentimes, you know, the clients in those days were always in the room. Right. So if you screwed something up, you spelled something wrong in the wrong or you did whatever.

01:07:54:00 - 01:08:15:03
Robbie
It was instantaneous. What are you doing? I don't like this kid. Get out of, you know, get him out of here. Get a new kid in here kind of thing. And so I just remember the feeling of being impressed, but also just really tense all the time in those rooms, just because it was sort of like, and I but I what I really remember is the times when the clients were not in those rooms.

01:08:15:03 - 01:08:35:12
Robbie
And I tell you why, because that was where the people that I were working with, the operators, the editor later, you know, the colorists or whatever, that's when they could actually take the time to kind of give you that institutional knowledge that inside baseball kind of thing be like, Hey, I know what you're doing, it's the right way to do it, but you can save five steps if you do it like this.

01:08:35:14 - 01:08:52:03
Robbie
But more importantly, what I remember from that, that period of time of being assistant is also just like the art of running a room, too, because even more so than we do now, you know, we talk about this often with our colleagues in our, you know, our friends and, you know, audience members and stuff about how important it is to run a room.

01:08:52:05 - 01:09:26:11
Robbie
Not only was the operator back then running the room for the sake of, you know, appearances for the client, they were like, you know, they were like the lieutenant or captain or whatever, you know, in their unit. And the army kind of commanding an operating everybody else to do their job and making sure it all syncs up. And I think back on some of those those early days, I still to this day is respect those editors that were in those rooms because the not only are they doing something creative, they're also managing the client as well as managing, you know, two or three, you know, 20 somethings in the room just getting their feet under

01:09:26:11 - 01:09:53:16
Robbie
them. How to do that? And the last thing I remember about that time period is how much I found that being a, you know, kind of a yes person and kind of ingratiating yourself, I became like, you know, well, we're booked on this. I want Rob in the room with me kind of thing. I'm sure you experience something like as you got better, you became you weren't, you know, quite the operator yet, but you were the trusted assistant, right.

01:09:53:18 - 01:10:21:10
Robbie
And that meant more sick time, more learning the techniques, but more importantly, more face time with the clients that, you know, five, ten years later would then come in the room with you because they're like, yeah, I've worked with, you know, Joey, Rob, whatever since, you know, they were a kid kind of thing. So it's good. I wanted to ask you, though, do you think that now where we are in 20, 23 or 2024, that the assistant role is still.

01:10:21:12 - 01:10:21:18
Joey
A.

01:10:21:18 - 01:10:36:02
Robbie
Thing, or do you think that it is just it's wither on the vine and people who are assistant editors, colorists, etc. are just there because maybe some old school nostalgia? I have some opinions on this, but I'm curious about what you think.

01:10:36:04 - 01:10:57:21
Joey
Yeah, I think it's it's a much tougher world to get into post-production these days. You know, we were really, really lucky to get into this business at the time. We did, Yeah. Because like you said, that assistant operator relationship was the best possible learning experience. And it wasn't just learning, Hey, this is what this button does, or even the creative side.

01:10:57:21 - 01:11:28:18
Joey
This is what makes an image look good. This is what makes an edit look good. It is. This is how you navigate the client relationships in this business. That will be your entire career forever, right? The intangible skills that go into managing a roomful of people, which was how it was done back then, like you said. But those skills carry over to managing a gigantic email chain today with clients that are remote in different locations and coordinating teams and coordinating different aspects from editors to colorists to audio mixers.

01:11:28:19 - 01:11:58:12
Joey
The skills that we learned being in online rooms 20 years ago are, I think, so important to the modern world. But there's not really a good training ground for those skills anymore because that old kind of assistant is not necessary anymore. So now you have assistants who are either a getting just menial work, right? Like I was saying earlier, just, hey, go in and track all these shots, right?

01:11:58:14 - 01:12:26:16
Joey
You know how to track shots. Good. I put power windows on everything. Track everything for me. Yeah. You're not going to learn much doing that. You'll help. You'll you'll help the colorist, and you will get paid a rate for doing that work. But it's not going to advance your career. So the harder thing I think about this a lot because like I said, I feel very fortunate to have been brought up by some honestly incredibly talented artists that were just hugely generous with their time.

01:12:26:16 - 01:12:52:07
Joey
I think I like to think I've had a pretty successful career. I credit the early mentors that I had in that post. Else with that career 100%, I would be nowhere without them. So trying to figure out how to do that to the next generation. In a modern world where everything is decentralized, everything is obviously non-linear. I mean, part of it is doing things like the podcast that we're doing right now, right?

01:12:52:07 - 01:13:07:07
Joey
We're trying to just talk to people out there with our experiences that they might never have, and hopefully some of it is is helpful. But yeah, I honestly don't know the answer to where does the assistant fit well in the current ecosystem.

01:13:07:07 - 01:13:24:01
Robbie
So I've thought a lot about this. You know, just in prep of recording this, but also just in general over the past couple of years. And I think there's a there's a couple of things at play. So I think, number one, that it's so easy for us to forget now. But, you know, 20, 25 years ago, there wasn't anywhere else to get access to the equipment, right?

01:13:24:01 - 01:13:47:09
Robbie
Yes. So that was the only if you wanted to, you know, use the equipment, you had to go through this pipeline of being assistant. You know, now you buy a laptop, you buy, you know, an activation code. And, you know, whether it's audio, VFX, color, edit, whatever, you're off to the races with whatever tools that you want. So it's, it's you know, that that general use term of democratization is good thing.

01:13:47:09 - 01:14:07:12
Robbie
It's great for getting more people access to higher end pieces of software and hardware but it has been derogatory or, you know, bad for people in the sense that, you know, they're not having to go somewhere, interact with people, learn and, you know, and build themselves up of that. But I also think it's a different thing for different parts of our industry.

01:14:07:12 - 01:14:48:02
Robbie
Right? So I think a lot of you know, so I think of our industry kind of being maybe three or four, maybe five different tiers, right? So there's kind of sort of the editorial tier, right. Telling stories, putting together edits. There is the, you know, the audio side of things, which is actually multiple disciplines within that, whether that's fully, whether that sound design, whether that's mixing whatever, you know, there's color and finishing, which again multiple disciplines in there you know true colorist or making these or you know whatever and then you know kind of some some of the overlap VFX right, whether that's true compositing visual effects work or whether it's more simple stuff that

01:14:48:02 - 01:15:13:18
Robbie
you might do in the in the context of, you know, a finishing, you know, editorial finishing color kind of pipeline. And I think those different places get different results when it comes to their assistants, right? I think that a lot of episodic TV, certainly a lot of feature films couldn't be made without assistant editors. Right. Because they're doing things like, Hey, here's 50 terabytes of footage.

01:15:13:22 - 01:15:20:14
Robbie
I want you to spin through that. And Paul selects from that. So when I come in tomorrow, I can start cutting that scene.

01:15:20:14 - 01:15:21:10
Joey
And organize it.

01:15:21:10 - 01:15:22:21
Robbie
And organize exactly that.

01:15:23:00 - 01:15:25:13
Joey
That's a great way to learn critical organizational.

01:15:25:13 - 01:15:47:04
Robbie
Skills, put it in, put it in the bins, get it organized, whatever. And I think also that that that editorial assistant pipeline also seems to eventually progressed to where that there was like kind of a little bit of a caste system within the editorial assistants. Right. Where when you're on the top of the desk in the editorial assistants, that's when you start cutting your own scenes together.

01:15:47:04 - 01:16:09:20
Robbie
Right. And handling, you know, doing strong outs. So when the editor, the actual editor comes in, you know, they're not starting from scratch. They're looking at your work, refining your work, etc.. Right. In the audio world, I see a lot of analogies to the editorial side of things where I know at least from the audio folks that we've dealt with, you know, they'll do things like, Hey, all I need you to do is dialog cleanup, right?

01:16:09:20 - 01:16:29:12
Robbie
Where you know, you're just going through and cutting out asses and chores and whatever at the end of things. Next level up from that is doing some sound design to where, you know, maybe some fully and then you finally progressed to doing your own mixes. And it's the same thing with editorial, right? You might do a rough mix of a scene for a you know, a more seasoned operator approve in the world of color.

01:16:29:14 - 01:16:54:19
Robbie
I actually think that's where it's a little the most complicated. But I have one thing to add to this that I don't think that black magic in particular did this on purpose, because in a lot of color workflows, those same thing with editorial and audio. There have been similar things, right. As you mentioned earlier, go track the window or make the outputs or, you know, probably more of times and often do the conform for me.

01:16:54:19 - 01:17:18:01
Robbie
You know, do all the busy work that was there. Black Magic, I think, actually made this a little more, again, democratize for assistance because sort of of the segmentation that the app itself has. Right. So for a smaller production company, like there might be things in resolve, but I just don't like to do or I'm not maybe they're not my strongest area, right?

01:17:18:03 - 01:17:39:12
Robbie
I might say to somebody, you're good at Fusion. Well, go paint out all those license plates for me right now. Traditionally, that might have been another vendor. Another person had hired, you know, a visual effects person. But now that this one in this app, you know, a lot of people use, we included has that segmentation. I think that does offer opportunities for more in the color world for more varied kind of things.

01:17:39:14 - 01:18:03:03
Robbie
But I do think it's a complicated thing with color. I'll get back to it in one second. And lastly, with visual effects, man, I just don't know how that segmentation in visual effects is work so that well, mainly because I don't know, but also just because it is so complex and tedious sometimes that I wonder how visual effects studios kind of segment that work.

01:18:03:04 - 01:18:28:22
Robbie
Sure, it can be, you know, basic things like, Hey, I need you to build these mats or I need you to, you know, do organizational level things, whatever. But I do think there's room in the segment. But let me ask you this, Joy, because you've been on the end of this. How much of a role, no matter which industry or segment you're in or how you're doing, assistant does the make or break success of being the assistant depend on the person that's the mentor or the operator?

01:18:29:00 - 01:18:52:00
Joey
I think it depends completely. I think if you are going to bring on an assistant, part of that implied relationship is, yes, assistants don't make as much money as, you know, people billing full rate for their services. Right. And part of that tradeoff of if you're going to be hired as an assistant, probably not making as much money as if you were hired as a full artist or operator.

01:18:52:02 - 01:19:13:07
Joey
There needs to be something else to make up that that difference. And it is career development and education. Yeah, right. It is the responsibility fully of the artist hiring an assistant to make sure that it's worth it to them to be the assistant, right? Yes, I'm making a little bit less money, but I am learning so much from this person.

01:19:13:13 - 01:19:34:11
Joey
And if they have a good attitude towards teaching and being helpful and tolerating mistakes, like you said in those rooms with clients, sometimes if you messed up, it was that was the end of it. And or you got yelled at and you felt completely out of place, you know, people got real serious about this stuff. Like, you know, it was life and death, not making TV commercials.

01:19:34:14 - 01:19:39:03
Robbie
What do you mean you didn't do an insert? You did an assembly. What?

01:19:39:05 - 01:19:55:12
Joey
Yeah. Yeah, You didn't turn pre read on, did you? Just ruin the whole thing? You know, obviously there's different levels of mistakes, but if you are bringing someone on as an assistant, you need to be ready to tolerate mistakes and convert mistakes into learning learning opportunities.

01:19:55:12 - 01:20:18:12
Robbie
And I think it's defining what is needed. I see so many people. First of all, I don't believe in the idea of like free internship, free assistant kind of thing. If you're going to hire somebody to be your assistant, treat them like professional, pay them right and actually have a plan. Like I see so many assistant relationships ruined by I don't know, the kid just sits there in the room all day and looks at his phone.

01:20:18:14 - 01:20:41:16
Robbie
That's not the kid's fault. That's that's the operator's fault. Not having a goal and having a plan. The other mistake that I see that's related to that is from a lot of these people is not having the trust factor to let them actually do real work. Right. And then it becomes like, well, if I you know, you hear these people say this all time, well, like, I don't want to have to go back and just redo all their work for the sake of doing it.

01:20:41:16 - 01:20:48:10
Robbie
Like, to me, that's like, what's the point then? Why? Why even entertain having an assistant if you're not going to let them come over the time?

01:20:48:14 - 01:21:10:17
Joey
For some tasks and some instances, having the assistant means, yes, they mess it up. You have to redo it. Sometimes that means more, more hours. Yeah, for you, as long as the relationship results in a net of teamwork. Right. If if the total net amount of hours is reduced by having that help, you need to be able to respect that this assistant's going to make mistakes.

01:21:10:22 - 01:21:16:06
Joey
You're going to need to help them fix them. And at some point it might take more of your time, not less.

01:21:16:06 - 01:21:34:19
Robbie
Well, I think maybe it's because we have a background in education, but I like to think about the assistant thing as like, you know, giving them a syllabus of like, okay, here are here are the milestones. Here's like what we're going to try to accomplish, you know, and it might start off with, you know, number one thing, I have a pile of media that I just need you to organize into logical bins.

01:21:34:19 - 01:21:44:01
Robbie
Like can't really screw that up too bad, right? Or I need to copy you. You know, so from point A to point B or whatever, and then progress as it goes on. But like communication, if.

01:21:44:01 - 01:21:49:23
Joey
You jump in day one, say, Hey, I need you to roto all these shots for me. Super precise, right? You're setting them up for failure, right?

01:21:50:03 - 01:22:03:09
Robbie
And it just being communicating that clearly and having like an actual plan that is communicated to that person. Like, hey, listen, I know that you want to be sitting here doing exactly what I'm doing, but that's a year from now. Right.

01:22:03:11 - 01:22:28:06
Joey
And that really reminds me of something because earlier you mentioned the technological aspect of how this new kind of modern democratization of software and hardware has kind of brought more people in. Yeah, I think if you look at modern workflows, especially, you know, modern post-COVID workflows, we've got an opportunity here to bring assistants back. Earlier, I was saying I kind of don't really always see how an assistant fits.

01:22:28:08 - 01:22:55:08
Joey
Well, guess what? Now you've got black magic cloud, you've got cloud databases, you've got various different cloud syncing solutions to really shrink the world geographically. You have services like Lucid Link that is bringing on different, you know, regions to where they can act like they're in the same room together, you know, utilizing that technology to bring on assistants and bring them up where they could be in their living room somewhere.

01:22:55:10 - 01:23:21:02
Joey
Five states away, but almost feel like they were in the room with you. That's not something technologically that we've had up until pretty recently, and I think we're still seeing how that's going to evolve. But I think the new Internet based collaboration technologies that are coming really into full force post-COVID are the biggest opportunity for assistance to be developed and to learn and to get into the industry that we've seen in a long time.

01:23:21:02 - 01:23:47:13
Robbie
Well, to add to that and then I have another point, is that I think the beauty of that, too, is, you know, for the longest time you're looking, you know, people like us have been looking in our own geographic pond for people to bring in. And that what you just said really expands that possibility out dramatically by saying, you know, listen, this is the most qualified person, but they live in, you know, whatever, Kalamazoo or whatever.

01:23:47:19 - 01:24:28:09
Robbie
And yeah, that's the person we want to work with. We have Internet, we have the technology to do this. And like, you know, let's let's train them up. But the thing I was going to say and that goes along with the technological innovation is that without a shadow of a doubt, the 20 year old person or 22 year old just graduating from college is, I mean, leaps and bounds in most cases more technologically advanced with the tools than I think either one of us was maybe at maybe me, especially at 20 or 22, because again, at the time you had to go to the facility, there was one $1 million room.

01:24:28:13 - 01:24:53:06
Robbie
Right. Getting access to that was, Dude, don't don't frickin bring your coffee in here or your soda or whatever. Like, there was none of that. I am shocked by how many kids do things in these tools, various tools that I'm like, Wow, how do you do that? So begs the question or the observation. I should say that being an assistant is only one part the technical stuff, right?

01:24:53:06 - 01:25:10:14
Robbie
It's really only one part. Like, Yeah, okay, this is how you balance something, okay? This is how you shot match something or, you know, in the case of editorial to say flow, whatever technical thing you want to bring out, I think that's really only one part of it. The more challenging thing now that I think than the technology is all around the edges.

01:25:10:17 - 01:25:21:05
Robbie
Soft stuff, right? It's very difficult to teach somebody. the room just got awkward, right? How do I deal with the room? Just go.

01:25:21:07 - 01:25:22:21
Joey
This zoom call just got right.

01:25:22:22 - 01:25:42:21
Robbie
How do I deal with the uncomfortableness of this now without actually physically being there and that so the client communication, the awkwardness, you know, all that kind of stuff, I think that, you know, is is again, trial by fire that a lot of people have gone through. And that is where I see a lot of challenges. I'll give you an example.

01:25:43:00 - 01:26:07:02
Robbie
Ten, probably ten or 12 years ago, I had hired an assistant that lasted about three months. They were good, technically very good. And I was like, Listen, you're ready to do your your first session. It was like an easy, you know, like seven or eight shot kind of, you know, not only PSA or something, it wasn't anything high brow was, you know, bounce it, get out the door.

01:26:07:04 - 01:26:23:23
Robbie
And this this person decided to do what I'll just call a heavy handed kind of look. Right. And so the night before, like, what do you think about this? And I was like, I don't think it's the right thing for the spot. I would come in, you know, again, not wanting to take over as the offer because that's another important thing.

01:26:23:23 - 01:26:45:11
Robbie
You want to let people kind of fail on their own. I just simply gave the advice of I would have something else a little bit more vanilla prepared as like, Hey, I tried this and if it hits, great. If not, you're not scrambling. And this person, when the client came in, watched their version of this spot, was like, What are we doing?

01:26:45:11 - 01:27:01:14
Robbie
This is not for, you know, whatever the matrix or whatever, you know, turn around and be like, well, I'm the colorist. I know better than you, the client. Right? And I see a lot of that thing, you know, And they were eventually put in their place and it worked out and they went on to bigger and better things and moved to New York and all sorts of stuff.

01:27:01:14 - 01:27:35:17
Robbie
But I see that kind of thing moving way more pervasive now when the feedback loop, the criticism loop, the awkwardness as we just described in the room, is not is not there when you can hide behind a computer screen, right. And hide behind not having to do this stuff live. And so to me, the biggest challenge in the new world of assistants is how to get them to fail in a graceful way, in a move the ball forward learning way that is really difficult to do.

01:27:35:17 - 01:27:41:05
Robbie
You know, and I don't know, you probably experience something with similar watching people in that in that situation.

01:27:41:07 - 01:28:09:22
Joey
It's a chance I've been in that situation. I can remember around 20 years ago arrogant me being really upset when somebody told the management that they didn't want me around certain really high profile clients because of the way I acted and I thought I was the hottest thing in the world and I was personally insulted by that. And then years go by and I realize I wouldn't have wanted how I was acting and how I was communicating in the room with that high end of a client.

01:28:10:03 - 01:28:18:19
Joey
And it was completely right. And they saved me some big embarrassment by managing me as a junior correctly.

01:28:18:21 - 01:28:45:12
Robbie
Right. And so I think in this world that we exist in now, this remote, everybody's democratized their tools. I still think that, you know, I was talking to a friend of mine down in Austin, Texas, the other day, and it was talking about the roles of assistants and stuff a little bit because they have gone through a number of them this year and kind of complaining a little bit about how this part of it is challenging, especially with people being remote, you know, two or three, you know, four days a week kind of thing.

01:28:45:14 - 01:29:03:21
Robbie
I think that this again, all comes back to the syllabus of the operator, right? Yeah. And that sense is like, listen, it's going to be important in your development, but you're going to have to come in and be in a supervised session with us, whatever that time period is, once a week, twice a month, whatever it be. And at first you're just going to sit there and say nothing and do nothing and just observe.

01:29:04:03 - 01:29:28:09
Robbie
But like building that kind of thing in. I also think the one thing that a lot of operators and I think I've been there, I know you've probably been there as well, is that we have a tendency because I think that we get crapped on so often by clients. We have a tendency, I think, to be extra crap tastic to assistance in terms of critiquing their work.

01:29:28:11 - 01:29:43:13
Robbie
And that can be a real deflator to somebody who is just kind of getting started. Like it is really a life skill to. Joe. You and I talk about this in our professional work every day where I'm like, still at 45 years old, I still get like my feeling. But we weren't.

01:29:43:13 - 01:29:44:02
Joey
Saying how old.

01:29:44:02 - 01:30:05:14
Robbie
We were, right? It's true. I still get hurt sometimes when I come in and you're like, Dude, it's not that bad. They're just asking you to like, you know, saturate a little bit more or whatever. And I'm like, All right, but can you imagine not knowing a whole lot, not having the experience that, you know, one of us has or, you know, other people who are going up in the industry and then and going and being like, you know what?

01:30:05:15 - 01:30:29:08
Robbie
I just my heart was just broken because my mentor or my, you know, the guy, the person that's supposed to be leading me just totally destroyed the work that I did and was aggressive. I think that there is a place for being a little bit of a hardass, but I think again, going back to my syllabus thing, it's all about the delivery and what and making sure the person knows it.

01:30:29:08 - 01:30:50:22
Robbie
Like, you know, even if that's like something like role playing, be like, you know, what did I know? This is not my M.O., but I'm going to sit on this couch and I'm going to be a real, real, real difficult person to you. Right. I think a lot of I know that you don't follow a lot of professional sports, but I think about these stories that Tiger Woods, you know, professional golfer, tells all the time about his dad when he was a kid.

01:30:51:00 - 01:31:06:14
Robbie
You know, he'd be preparing for a shot and his dad would be sitting behind them with change in pocket, you know, jiggling the change in his pocket or his dad would do, you know, some little some little thing on the golf course to get inside Tiger's head and to kind of throw him off his game on the right.

01:31:06:16 - 01:31:20:20
Robbie
But it was methodical. It was planned. It was like Tiger didn't you know, I don't think felt like he was always a malicious thing was that was just there was a process to it. And I think that's important is as an operator to kind of get assistance to be like, I am going to be hard on you from time to time.

01:31:20:20 - 01:31:34:05
Robbie
I am going to be difficult on time to time. But this is not me like making a personal malicious attack against you. This is trying to me to prepare you for the wider world of clients, difficult situations, etc..

01:31:34:07 - 01:31:47:05
Joey
Yeah. So I mean, if I could distill it all down, I would say that to create the ideal assistant and what were you the word for somebody who has the assistant senior.

01:31:47:07 - 01:31:49:04
Robbie
Mentor operator.

01:31:49:10 - 01:32:10:08
Joey
All of us, whatever, you know, but the, the assistant and the assistant e relationship, both of them have a set of expectations and responsibilities I think need to be taken very seriously On the person hiring the assistants side. It is you need to come in with an attitude of I am going to teach, I am going to mentor.

01:32:10:10 - 01:32:37:21
Joey
And yes, if I get some help with my labor, that's wonderful, right? I won't always get the help I want. I need to be able to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. I need to actually plan this, not wing it. The syllabus. I think the the idea of a syllabus mentality. I had not heard that before until today. And I think that's that's the perfect way of describing how you should take this relationship, you know, attitude wise right then from the assistant's standpoint, right.

01:32:37:21 - 01:32:56:09
Joey
You need to be one ready to learn and be attentive. You're not on you're not there to be on your phone goofing off all that. Right. You need to be ready to do some of the menial, tedious work that you don't want to do. And you need to have a good attitude about it. And you also need to be ready to make honest mistakes.

01:32:56:11 - 01:33:22:12
Joey
Take information that you've assumed over the years. You know, we talked a lot about the democratization of the technology and learning this software. The problem with that is a lot of people learn a lot of the wrong things. Just look at any resolve. Facebook, you know, what to us is a kind of assumed skill color management. And we've talked about doing a whole podcast about this and we will know why everybody is wrong about everything with color management.

01:33:22:17 - 01:33:47:13
Joey
Go to any Rizal Facebook group and look at any of the screengrabs of somebody saying, Why does my image not look right? And they have a complete random spattering of color management settings. There is so much bad information out there and so many little pieces of good information out there. So an assistant may come to you knowing a lot already and you need to be able to say, okay, well, you're right about this.

01:33:47:13 - 01:34:07:08
Joey
We can expand on that or you learned this completely wrong. And both sides of that relationship need to be we ready for that situation, the assistant to learn and to understand that what they think they know might be wrong and the assist me to be ready to turn things into a learning opportunity and be patient when things don't go right.

01:34:07:11 - 01:34:23:01
Robbie
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I think, you know, on the, on the, on the assistant side of things and their attitude. I think one other thing that I will say and I have to be careful about how I tread on this because at my advanced age these days I tend to be a little bit of get off my lawn kind of attitude.

01:34:23:02 - 01:34:45:13
Robbie
Right. But I will say one of the things that ruins the assistant relationship for me, and I'm just going to use a I don't know if this is the right word for it, but is they like, you know, just kind of a lazy, like, not caring attitude? Right. So you mentioned mistakes. I you know, I see a lot of people like, yeah, I made a mistake.

01:34:45:13 - 01:35:00:00
Robbie
Big deal. Like, no, that's not the attitude I want you to have. I want you to attitude. If you if you got pointed out that you made a mistake. Okay? I'm sorry about the mistake. No problem. Can you know, the responsibility of the system is. I'm sorry I made the mistake, but can you teach me how to do better?

01:35:00:00 - 01:35:17:13
Robbie
I want to learn from this. I want to get better at this. And honestly, that might mean for the assistant putting in some extra hours to. To learn how to do something or, you know, asking around the rest of the facility or being proactive and going on various groups and forums and going, Hey, this happened to me in my job.

01:35:17:19 - 01:35:44:13
Robbie
You know, can somebody give me some, you know, additional advice, like it's not a one way, you know, the mentor operator feeling everything down hill. That assistant has to take some responsibility for their own learning, too. And then I think the last thing I'll add to this conversation is and you had said this, but I'm going to say in a slightly different way that I think on the operator or the mentors point of view, if you're in this just to get somebody to do work for you, that's the wrong reason to do it.

01:35:44:16 - 01:36:12:21
Robbie
Like hire another operator to do the work and just, you know, delegate to them. Right? If you're going into this, the real role in the real goal you should have is if, God forbid, I drop dead, I've trained the person who can fill my spot to come up there with the necessary skills to be good at this. You know, and I talked to a lot of people, you know, from time to time the like, well, I don't want put in all this effort if they're just going to go to, you know, wherever, you know, go to some big facility in New York or L.A. or London, I want that for them.

01:36:12:22 - 01:36:16:16
Robbie
Well, if I've done my job right, I've advanced their career.

01:36:16:22 - 01:36:21:11
Joey
And that's a great learning opportunity for them. And they will probably speak very highly of you, Right?

01:36:21:11 - 01:36:35:16
Robbie
Everybody wins and move them up the ladder. That is that's a win for me, right? And I like I don't as you said at the top of the conversation, this person shouldn't be an assistant forever. And if they are something wrong about that pipeline is wrong, you know.

01:36:35:16 - 01:36:52:04
Joey
We can't think about this industry as a zero sum game. And we've we've we've had this in various different. Okay, if I train an assistant, what if they become better than me and take all my clients? If I can buy resolve for $300, why is someone going to pay me to do the work? But no, it never pans out the way.

01:36:52:04 - 01:37:03:00
Joey
All of the doom and gloom of the industry is going to end because resolve is hundred dollars, because air is coming, because all the assistants are going to learn on YouTube and displace us. It's never come to fruition and it never will.

01:37:03:05 - 01:37:21:02
Robbie
Yeah, very cool. So obviously a deep topic. I'm sure we could keep them blabbing about this, but we'll talk for a while. If you are trying to be an assistant, whether it be in editorial, audio color, finishing, visual effects, like go for it, you know, try to get hooked up with facilities. Don't don't be afraid to reach out.

01:37:21:02 - 01:37:45:19
Robbie
Don't be afraid to tell people what you know and what you more importantly, what you don't know and what you're trying to get out of it. I do think that, you know, matching up to the right set of people or facility is an important part of this equation that we didn't really explore. But, you know, if you're going after you love doing commercial work, then probably going to a place that's doing a bunch of episodic long form is probably not the best place for you to go right, right, right.

01:37:45:21 - 01:38:03:00
Robbie
Vice versa. So trying to match up with a person, if there is a hero that you have, you know, like if I could go wherever A, B, Walter or Debussy is, you know, assistant Great. Like, you know, those are two heroes of mine. I would have done that. Probably not now, but, you know, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, try to try to do that as well.

01:38:03:00 - 01:38:24:12
Robbie
And on the mentors side or on the operator side. Yeah. Going into this with a plan, going into this with clear communication, going into this with trying to improve the person that you're taking under your wings. Professional life is the way to go. Some good stuff. If you have any comments, please let us know. And as always, thanks for checking out this edition of the Office Podcast.

01:38:24:14 - 01:38:25:07
Robbie
I'm Robbie Carman

01:38:25:12 - 01:38:26:14
Joey
And I'm Joey D’Anna

01:38:26:16 - 01:38:27:07
Robbie
Thanks for watching.


Robbie Carman
Robbie Carman

Robbie is the managing colorist and CEO of DC Color. A guitar aficionado who’s never met a piece of gear he didn’t like.

Joey D'Anna
Joey D'Anna

Joey is lead colorist and CTO of DC Color. When he’s not in the color suite you’ll usually find him with a wrench in hand working on one of his classic cars or bikes


Stella Yrigoyen - Editor
Stella Yrigoyen

Stella Yrigoyen is an Austin, TX-based video editor specializing in documentary filmmaking. With a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin and over 7 years of editing experience, Stella possesses an in-depth understanding of the post-production pipeline. In the past year, she worked on Austin PBS series like 'Taco Mafia' and 'Chasing the Tide,' served as a Production Assistant on 'Austin City Limits,' and contributed to various post-production roles on other creatively and technically demanding projects.


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