One of the best things about the show I’m working on now is that I have a team of wonderful Editors whose work is absolutely top notch. The Story Producers on my team are terrific as well, and darn it if we don’t all get along like the freaking Waltons.
This kind of arrangement shouldn’t be taken for granted, however — Editors and Story Producers don’t always get along so swimmingly!
I can remember times early in my career where I’d slave over a stringout or paper edit for weeks only to have the whole thing discarded by an Editor who preferred to work from scratch — asking me to find this shot or that shot for them to fill in their vision and running their edits well into overtime. Conversely, I’ve known a lot of Editors whose patience has been tested by Story Producers who didn’t respect their process, hawking their every move and reducing them to button-pushers instead of respecting their talents.
Real collaboration yields the best results, but how do you do that — and who has the final say in the bays?
Well, on my current show, I have the last word with story (save for the Network and the EPs), but I only step in after my Story Producers and Editors have their own full pass at delivering the best story they can construct. I participate in the structuring of the episode from the beginning, but how those scenes play out in post is largely left to them until I see a full assembly. The only exception from that mode of operation is that I take on every third episode myself.
The best work often requires getting out of the way of story. Editors need time alone to bash through ideas, Story Producers need their time to keep reviewing, composing, and generating the rough material for the Editors to work on, and the Supervising Producer (that’s me) has his own special bucket of clams to worry about. Yet we still manage to get a show out on schedule, on time and at budget. We all respect each other and each other’s processes. No one is settling arguments by pulling the “boss” card, though I’m sometimes called upon to make judgements on how I’d prefer to see scenework play out… and I’ll never make anyone feel like a jerk about differences in subjective opinion (unlike some hotheads I know).
Story Producers and Editors who spend too much time jockeying for dominance in the bay are a huge morale-suck for the shows they work on. No matter your position on the show, keep the mood light, support your coworkers, and when in doubt, ask your SP what he or she thinks when differences of opinion arise in the edit bay.
At the end of the day, what matters in Reality TV is that you made something great (or at least as good as you could make it) and that you got paid to do it. Don’t get hung up on petty power trips.