By Peter Galvin
Award-winning editor Karen Crespo left SFS in 2008 and entered the TV industry straight after. She’s never been out of work since.
Right now her ‘home’ is on the reality TV series Masterchef, a ratings juggernaut for the Ten Network, now entering its ninth season, and a job she says is full of day to day challenges: “It’s a show where a lot of the story is created in post-production,” she said.
Arriving at SFS with a love of movies and an open mind about her future direction Crespo found her inspiration in the cutting room: “Once I discovered editing that was it – that was going to be my specialty.”
Crespo first got work in the industry when she heard about a job opportunity going in a small production house. Not long after she joined the Masterchef team in its third season as an assembly editor. Over time she ‘worked her way up’ as junior editor. “I am now one of a group of main editors on the series,” she said. “TV is…well, you know you’ve done something right when people start giving you the hard jobs – that’s when you know you’re good!”
Still, Crespo says, after all these years lessons learnt at SFS find their way to her Masterchef edit suite: “I’ll be cutting something and suddenly I’ll remember those early tutorials at school about some fundamental rule and it’ll be like,
‘don’t make that mistake!’”
For Crespo the most rewarding thing about her work in TV is just how creative something like Masterchef can be – especially for the editorial team. In 2015 Crespo won best editing for a Reality TV Show at the Australian Screen Editors Awards (a prize she shared with her Masterchef colleague Robin Crago.)
“That was definitely the highlight of my career so far,” she said. “It’s great when you get acknowledgement from your peers in the form of an award – it’s a recognition that you are doing a good job.”
Crespo would like to get involved in drama feature film some time in the future. But, she says, such a move would most certainly mean major changes in lifestyle, financial compensation and status. Amongst the virtues of TV is that – at least for post-production staff it is a well paid ‘day job’…at least if one lands a gig on a series.
Jonathan (Jono) Tyler who left high school in 2003 has worked in features and TV since he was a teenager and has credits on Stealth, Superman Returns, Australia, Wolverine and Underbelly in various ‘assistant’ roles in art department/effects/camera dept. He came to SFS to “get back to basics” and to work on 16mm. Tyler has built a successful freelance business since graduating six years ago, specialising as a steadicam operator and camera assistant. His recent credits include Love Child, Rake and Doctor, Doctor.
He has strong opinions about the kinds of experiences that await anyone contemplating a career in TV and features. Tyler sees each sector as unique and cautions graduates over any casual assumptions they might have.
“You would be surprised about what people might say after getting a taste of both features and TV,” he told SFS.
There might be an appetite amongst both veterans and new comers to grab those big name credits on $100million dollar features he says but he’s found that peers and colleagues can come away ‘bored’ and ultimately dissatisfied after a stint on a major film.
“In TV Aussie drama you have to work harder, you get paid less and have less perks,” he said. “But you get to go home on the weekend and relax and there’s not the same pressure as when you have a screaming American director. And you know everyone’s name at the wrap party.”
As for his own future Tyler says he wants to build “a good rep.”
“I think working on a film with a really good story is more important to me than working on a blockbuster,” he said.
Still, says SFS graduate Catherine Rynne, the pressures on crew members in TV production vary from role to role, show to show and depend as much on budget and schedule as they do on what the script demands.
“I once worked for months on end on a TV show and only had like a day off…once in a while,” she said. “If a certain scene needs a certain prop you keep searching till you find it…and that means working day and night and through the weekend till you do!”
Rynne works as a Buyer/Dresser – a specialist role in the art department.
“What that means is I meet with the production designer and break down the script, highlighting all the props (those objects that actors handle like a phone) and dressing (like artwork, books on a shelf). Depending on how much time is available I present options in terms of design and pricing. Then once the PD elects what they need I go off and buy the stuff then dress the set with it.”
Leaving high school in 2006 Rynne came to SFS in 2011 after a few years in the work force. At the time she thought she wanted to be an editor.
After graduation she got design experience and fell in love with the current role: “I don’t want to be a production designer,” she said. “I find Buyer/Dresser really thrilling in that you have a real say on what the set looks like.”
Her credits in TV include Home and Away for the Seven Network and Deadly Women for the Discovery Channel. She has worked on the features UnIndian and All About E (directed by SFS teacher Louise Wadley.) For Rynne the major differences between TV and features is simply budget and prep time.
“TV is great – the money is pretty good, and at best its fun, very collaborative, and ‘a day job’, with four to five months of steady work,” she said.
Her advice to SFS graduates entering TV is ‘be a sponge’. “You need to be excited about what you do.” It’s important to observe on-set protocols and respect all roles equally adds Tyler: “Crews are tough – it’s like the first day of school so you need to be confident and work hard and the work you do is the source of respect…how well you do the job is what people remember.”
Crespo believes that its important that any role has to be more than just a job and advises grads to get involved with the on-set process as well as pursue their own projects: “It’s special and wonderful to create something when you are working in a team – you need collaboration.”