AE: Shorthand or Disrespect

By DaleshTV [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Ah yes, the AE debate in last issue’s Op/ Edit column (“AE: Acrimony Over an Acronym,” CineMontage Q4 2015). I’ve been working in the industry steadily for nine years and have never heard the term “AE” until my friends, who all had been working in behind-the-scenes facilities or on reality shows at the time, mentioned it. It still makes my skin crawl when I hear it, and I’m unfortunately hearing it more and more from other producers in scripted television. Thankfully, I never hear it on the features side of things.

It would be nice if the reality side of the business would just say, “Assistant Editors” instead of using the acronym. Is it that big of a deal? No, not really. Will we still do our jobs? Yes, we will. We are some of the hardest working people in the industry
 and we know we don’t have the respect we deserve, nor do we get paid what we should. Yet we all show up day after day because we love what we do.

Instead of standing up for just our union title, we should be standing up for more respect as well. I always feel like we are the ants from A Bug’s Life and the producers are the grasshoppers. There are more of us and they know this. And they know that they can’t get their show done without us. It’s time that we all start recognizing it too, and fighting more for our rights and money in this industry that freely spends $6,000 for a fake beard to be placed on an actor — and that is a fact.

The bottom line is that, contrary to what was said in the Op/Edit article by the anonymous assistant, our title does define us, not our work. We are apprentices, assistants and editors. After that, then our work ethic defines us. I’m not really sure how the actual work defines you. That almost says to me that you are OK with being called “just a pair of hands.” We should all be proud of the work we do as we are creative people and we help take the lives of others and transport them into another world where they can escape their problems, if just for a little while. Be proud of that.

“I always feel like we are the ants from A Bug’s Life and the producers are the grasshoppers. There are more of us and they know this.” – Scott Jacobs

Scott Jacobs, Assistant Editor Studio City, CA

As an assistant editor in reality television, I didn’t even know there was controversy over the term, since I hear “AE” used regularly and interchangeably with “assistant editor.” Last summer, when “The Assistant Editor Song” came out, my peers and I gleefully shared it without any hesitation (In the songwriter’s defense, “AE” does rhyme with more words than “Assistant Editor”).

I never took offense at the acronym, but as the article pointed out, I have noticed that the position is moving away from the creative towards the technical, and I can see how the initialization of the title reinforces that move, as well as widens the division between assistant editor and editor. I also agree that it’s the quality of my work that defines me. But after reading the Op/Edit piece, I will definitely be making a conscious effort to refer to myself as an assistant editor out of respect for the craft and my fellow assistant editors.

Caroline Wang,
Assistant Editor (Pending)
San Gabriel, CA

 Why is everyone so afraid to be associated with fetching coffee? Many of us love those fresh roasted beans and, regardless of title, if our crew needs fuel, let’s be proud to make the best cup 
we can. Perhaps the debate should be 
less “AE” vs. “Assistant Editor” and more “French press” vs. “drip” — or in the best case, tips for negotiating usage rights to the director’s espresso machine.

Jeremy Weinstein, Assistant Editor Los Angeles, CA

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