15 Questions with Eileen Meyer

Photo by Claire Marie Vogel
Manhattan Edit Workshop congratulates Eileen Meyer, winner of the 2016 Karen Schmeer Fellowship! Eileen completed the MEWShop Six-Week Workshop in the fall of 2011. We caught up with her to chat about her achievements since, including a Cinema Eye Honors "Outstanding Achievement in Editing" nomination for her latest film, Best of Enemies, a 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize nominee.

1. Where did you grow up?
Durham, North Carolina.  

2. What kind of film education did you receive?
My first job at 15 was at a local, independent video store that was walking distance from my house.  The store catered more towards the new indy films that were coming out in the late 90s, so that was my first experience with films that inspired me to be a filmmaker, especially all of the Sundance films of that era.  Later in high school I worked nights and weekends at an arthouse movie theater in Chapel Hill, NC and got my second dose of inspiration. I attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA from 2000-2004 and studied documentary film.  I lived in NY for a few years after college and worked for a small documentary production company.  I was able to explore all aspects of the field, but gravitated mostly towards editing and producing.  

3. How did your experiences in MEWShop’s Six Week Workshop complement the education you had before you took the workshop?
When I attended MEWShop, I was at a turning point in my career.  I was living in Memphis, TN at the time and had been editing and producing there for a few years.  I decided that I wanted to focus my career on editing, and was looking for ways to expand my network-- either by going to graduate school or moving back to New York or Los Angeles, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.  I did know that I needed to learn Avid if I was going to be in Los Angeles (I was only on FCP 7), and I needed to build a website of my work.
I applied for an “Individual Artist Grant" from the Tennessee Arts Commision and used that money to attend the MEW six-week workshop.  The decision to take those six weeks out of my day to day life just to focus on the next steps in my career was so incredibly helpful and I am grateful for the step up it gave me in my eventual move to LA.  

4. Which film/s originally inspired you to pursue editing?
Sherman’s March by Ross McElwee and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.  

5. What do you think are some personal qualities (in yourself and others) that make editing a natural fit as a career choice?
Empathy, patience, a deep understanding of people and psychology, and a strong work ethic.  

6. What’s your favorite editing software? Which software do you have the most experience editing with?
I had the most experience with FCP 7, it’s what I learned to edit on.  Now I work mostly with Premiere Pro CC and I’ve learned to love it, although it still seems like such a young program and has its issues.  

7. What is your favorite edited scene of all time? Why?
Editing is so often invisible, that this is a hard question for me to answer.  My favorite scenes are often the very first shot or scene of a film, where you can really grab an audience by the throat.  I love a cold open that perfectly sets a tone for the film you’re about to see and asks the “question” that the film will answer.  The cold open of The Trials of Muhammed Ali edited by Aaron Wickenden (my amazing co-editor on Best of Enemies) is a perfect example- it’s surprising, heart-wrenching and so powerful in the first three minutes.

8. What other jobs in the film industry appealed to you? If you had to switch career paths, what would you pick?
I also really like producing.  I’m a natural “helper” and I often end up with a producing credit on projects that I’m editing because I get so involved with that side of things.  

9. What is your current favorite film or television show from an editing perspective? What makes it so compelling?
The Knick.  The editing is genius, along with everything else Soderbergh does on the show (directing AND cinematography).  A one-man-wonder.

10. What was your proudest/happiest/worst (pick one) moment as an editor?
My proudest moment as an editor was when I first went to Sundance with a film I edited.  It was something I thought I would never get to do, and now I’ve been TWICE!  An experience I hope to repeat as much as possible in the future.  

11. How do you see the post-production industry evolving over the next decade or so?
I’m excited about the possibilities of VR and would love to edit a film in that medium.  I have no idea how it works, but would love to learn!

12. What technological advancements in post-production have affected your work and process the most?
The integration of After Effects and Photoshop into Premiere is a great asset.

13. Talk about your most challenging experience as an editor.
Every project has it’s challenges, and I think the question is how we learn to work through those challenging moments.  When you’re stuck on an idea or a scene, or you are so entrenched in the footage that you lose the audience's perspective…I’ve learned that a change of environment can make all the difference.  If I’m stuck on something, I’ll upload it to Dropbox or Vimeo and watch it at a coffee shop on my laptop or in the bathtub on my phone or on the big tv in my living room.  You’ll see it a different way each time and new ideas will come.  

14. What project/s are you working on now?
I’m working on a film about LGBTQ rights in Alabama and I’m about to start on a film about Clive Davis, the legendary music producer.

15. Is there anything you do outside of editing that has helped you sharpen your storytelling skills?
Lately I’ve been reading books about screenwriting and story construction.  I never had a real formal narrative education, so I’m working backwards and learning all the rules now.