Q & A with Film Editor Chris Murphy

This week we are featuring Editor Chris Murphy in our weekly inspiration series. Watch any of Chris’s work and you will be taken to a place and feel something brimming with beauty. His fresh approach has garnered international recognition and countless awards including Cannes Lions, AICEs, D&ADs, MMVAs, One Show and a mention in TIME magazine’s Top 10 Online Videos. We recently had the opportunity catch up with Chris to chat about his work and what goes on behind the scenes.

Screen grab from Jeep’s “Two Words” Commercial

How did growing up in Toronto influence you as a filmmaker?

I went to a high school that started out as an experiment. Marshall McLuhan was supposed to be a place where all the kids learned on laptops and tech-based education was all the rage. The laptop scenario didn’t really pan out but having a state of the art Mac-based computer lab allowed us to learn on the original iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop and other design staples still used today. If it wasn’t for this access I am not sure I would have discovered my love of editing or editing as a craft all together.

At Marshall McLuhan we created a multi-media festival called “M3F” or “The McLuhan Multimedia Festival”. It was an art gallery/competition that students all across the country could compete in. This is where my friend Jamie Cussen and I started to make short films. Jamie and I both work in the film industry in advertising today.

Can you pinpoint your first break in the industry?

My first break was being given the opportunity to edit a video called “Pink Ponies” for a Toronto-based agency called John St.

It was meant to be a spoof of a case video, which is a summarization of an ad campaign that is used by awards shows to determine which successful campaigns are to be given recognition. It was the first of its kind to poke fun at the case video genre. From humble beginnings, it blew up in the industry. After that, John St. continued to create self-promotional videos that made fun of truths in advertising, using their agency as the main character and its employees as the actors. I got to collaborate with them for over 5 years on these projects. The other videos were: Catvertising, Buyral, Exfeariential, Reactvertising and Jane St.

Where are you currently?

Currently, I am an editor at Whitehouse Post in LA. They represent me in the U.S. I am also represented by Relish in Canada.

When taking on a new project, what questions are you asking?

Different projects require different workflows. If a project has a lot of VFX or if a project is documentary based, the way I approach the edit varies. Often times I will reach out to colleagues and run my workflow ideas by them to see if they have suggestions on smarter ways of working. It’s helpful to explore these before diving into a project. I’ll also always try and talk to the director and agency teams to get a feel for how they see the project coming to life. Since it’s been in their minds for much longer than mine, it always helps to see how these ideas came to be.

What is your favorite shot in the Tangerine “Work Hard” commercial?

My favorite shot in the Tangerine spot is the second shot in the cut. It’s of the massage therapist staring blankly ahead as the camera pans down to reveal a terribly hairy back covered in oils. This says it all. We can sympathize, and it’s a touch of humor in an otherwise serious spot.

Which editing platforms do you use, and why?

I currently edit in Premiere Pro CC. Before that I was a die hard FCP 7 fan. I assisted in Avid when I was coming up in the industry. I also see there are strides being made in FCP X. But for now Premiere is my program of choice. There is always a lot of debate on which is best. For me, it was the most natural transition once FCP 7 couldn’t keep up.

What do you think makes a strong editor?

I think a strong editor is someone who is flexible. You have to have an opinion but also be willing to experiment in the room. Editing is often very psychological. Imagine having ten voices saying 10 different things that could make a cut better all at the same time. You have to discern which comments you agree with and which you don’t and then present options that reflect what’s being asked of you all the while keeping an edit that you feel works. When you see people actually feel something you’ve crafted, it makes it all worth it.

Can you tell us about your process in building out the Jeep “Two Word” commercial?

Funny enough this was shot in and around Toronto but you wouldn’t really know it. This job was a whirlwind. It was a four-day shoot and we had to lock picture on the morning of the fifth day. I was editing on set with my assistant Lauren and at night back in my hotel room along with the director and the agency. We were very open with each other because we had no time. The music and the VO was already locked which helped a great deal with the turnaround. As the footage started to come in I played with the timing and cadence of the words quite a bit to make things fit just right.

The director Thomas Garber would come to my makeshift edit suite on set between setups and look at what I was coming up with. He’d offer thoughts on what was starting to come together and it would send me down new roads. We gelled quickly. Originally in the script, the commercial was supposed to start in the vineyard, but when the footage came in, the professor scene was so beautiful that I suggested the projector would be a great first frame. And it ended up sticking. To date, it’s my favorite spot I’ve finished in the U.S.

What’s next for Chris Murphy?

I always like to keep my options open. I edit short films occasionally to remind myself it’s ok to let takes breathe and not everything has to exist in thirty seconds. I love movies and I hope I find my way into the world of features one day. It has to be the right script and right team to make that huge commitment but it’ll happen.

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Written by noravera
February 10, 2017