Editor likens his craft to sculpting


TYLER COOK, 27, began honing his filmmaking skills while a student at Findlay High School before attending a film school in North Carolina. Work on an independent film led to other opportunities and he was hired as an assistant editor of the CW series “The Vampire Diaries” in 2009. He is now lead editor of a spinoff series, “The Originals.” (Photo provided to The Courier.)

Staff Writer
On a film or television show, the role of the editor is like a sculptor, chiseling away from lots of footage to refine the story. That’s how Tyler Cook sees it. The lead editor for the CW network’s series “The Originals” started learning filmmaking when he was a student at Findlay High School.
Cook, 27, who graduated in 2004 and now lives in Los Angeles, said during high school he was “sort of figuring out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be and that sort of thing.” But he knew he loved movies and had since childhood, citing “Star Wars” and “Toy Story” as examples that affected him at a young age. For a while he wanted to be a computer animator but realized he would “need to be good at drawing.” What he loved most about movies was telling stories.
He took a television and radio class in high school. Students were allowed to rent out equipment over the weekend and Cook and his friends would make movies.
He realized he was particularly interested in editing when he studied film at the North Carolina School of the Arts. He made movies in school and would take on many different tasks but found it was the editing he most looked forward to.
“I loved to be in the editing room,” figuring out how scenes were constructed and put together, he said.
When you think of a filmmaker, you generally think of a director or writer or producer, Cook said. But the editor’s role is “kind of like a sculptor,” who is given footage and the script and then has the task of chiseling at the footage to “find the movie or the TV show within it.”
Cook said a film adage is that a movie is made three times: first, when the script is written; second, when it is shot; and third, in the editing room.
In his role on “The Originals” he must look at actors’ performances, select music and sound effects and pay attention to “how one scene flows into the next. How long you linger on certain shots.”
He is there, he said, to support the story and the subtext of the piece.
“What I enjoy about it is watching it go through the process,” he said.
Show someone the raw footage of even the best film and it will appear dry and tedious, he said.
“It doesn’t really have any sort of magic to it,” he said.
But when he starts to slowly assemble the film he can “see it come to life.” Particularly rewarding is seeing the film or show create an emotional response.
Cook described editing as “a wonderful mix of art and technology,” allowing him to use computers and be creative.
“Editing is kind of like a giant puzzle,” Cook said.
One of the first things Cook worked on out of school was an independent film, “That Evening Sun,” starring Hal Holbrook. He said not many people have heard of the film, which played several film festivals and had a small theatrical release. He had the opportunity there to work with “really smart, creative people” and, because it was so small, had the chance to interact with these people one-on-one and ask a lot of questions.
“I just learned a lot,” he said. “I got to watch really good actors.”
He also worked on “Eastbound and Down” for HBO, which he said was the “opposite end of the spectrum” as it was a comedy.
He started as assistant editor on the CW series “The Vampire Diaries” midway through its first season in 2009 and was promoted to editor during the third season. He is now full-time at “The Originals,” a spinoff of “The Vampire Diaries” which premiered last fall.
“I think these shows are really cool because they’re not just one thing,” he said. “I get to flex like a lot of different muscles.”
That is, there is horror, but also action scenes and fight sequences, along with drama and romance.
He also loves that “we use music in a really cool way.” Cook gets to pick out the songs and has had the opportunity to use some of his favorite independent and underground artists, who then gain exposure through being on the series.
Cook works anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week.
“It’s a pretty intensive job,” he said.
There are often long nights and weekends. But “it is, for sure, going to work and doing what you love. … I feel like I get to go to work and play every day.”
An episode will start shooting on a Monday and he will get the first footage on Tuesday. The next week and a half involves looking at all the scenes, putting them together and watching all the takes to find the best performances. After everything is cut he takes each individual scene and puts it together. Then it’s time to add sound effects and music. Then he turns it over to the director and they go through it again together, after which it’s time to send it for first the producers and then the studio and network to review. At each stage of the process, the episode is refined more and more and scenes may be taken out or added in or restructured.
The job also includes meetings to discuss visual effects, and working with the show’s composer to talk about music.
There are three editors on staff so each edits every third episode. However, Cook might be working on more than one episode simultaneously, with the different episodes at different points in the editing process. This means keeping track of where in the story a particular scene takes place and what has happened so far in that episode. Cook said it’s easy to get confused, but keeping it all organized is routine by now.
As lead editor on “The Originals,” Cook has some supervisory responsibility over other editors. But he said what the title really refers to is that he is responsible for cutting “the big episodes,” including the premiere and the finale.
He cut the pilot of “The Originals” in March 2013.
“Pilots are daunting,” he said. “It’s kind of an insane system.”
That is, normally it takes a month or two to make an episode so there is time to “put it through its paces.” But when making a pilot, “everything’s accelerated.” Working on the pilot, he was at work until 4 a.m. every day for about three weeks.
But while it was tiring, it was also greatly rewarding. Working on a show from its inception allowed Cook to feel like he was finding “the vision and voice of the show.”
Cook’s advice to others wanting to pursue a filmmaking career?
“First of all, watch a lot of movies,” he said.
And, he said, read “as much as you can” and form connections with others in the field. He recommends going to film school, as he did, but said just as important as the knowledge gained in his studies are the connections he’s made with other alumni.
He also advises aspiring filmmakers to get out and make films.
Cook’s favorite films also include French and Italian films of the 1950s and 1960s, the films of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock and the films “Children of Paradise,” “Seven” and “Fight Club.” Favorite TV shows include “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and “The Simpsons.”
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