Cut to Black: Christopher Columbus Watkins III, Assistant Editor

For each day in the month of February, the African American Steering Committee will be highlighting Local 700’s African American members, both past and present, and their accomplishments. We look forward to showing the contributions and influences African Americans have had on the industry.

Name:  Christopher Columbus Watkins III

What’s your job?  I’m a scripted Assistant Editor.

List the credits you’re most proud of.  Below Deck,” “Dead To Me” and “Sugar,” which is currently unreleased.

What are you working on right now?  Currently, I’m unemployed, I believe it’s still an affect of the fallout of the strike. I’m looking forward to that changing very soon.

Who and what are your influences and/or mentors?  I have a HUGE list of mentors and influences, it’s imperative to stay motivated and having consistent sources of motivation and admiration pulls me through. Mentors who I’d say had the greatest impact in my post production career are Tommy McCarthy former VP of post Production at Sony who sat me down to guide me through my internship and told me after our first sit down “I know just from this conversation… You are one of these people in this industry that can do absolutely anything he sets his mind to.” Sabrina Plisco whom I met as a result of being an ACE finalist, who always gives me amazing advice that I got to work with on “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” Troy Takaki of ACE who gave me amazing advice and essentially the blue print to succeed as a post PA and connected me with my first feature film. Then there’s Pamela March who was the first editor I got to sit behind as a PA coming out of USC. Not only did she have phenomenal advice but she championed my first scripted job and made sure each year that I was on pace to get in the union. With all of their advice together, they gave me the blue print to succeed in this industry, they also instilled in me the confidence I needed to know that I could and would. Infinite gratitude.

What books are you reading, shows are you watching and/or movies you’re excited about?  I’ve got to admit… I’ve been picking up and putting down “Game Of Thrones” book one for years. I’m around page 600. Novels don’t get too much of my attention but I’m reading through a few screenplays right now as well; pilots for “Atlanta,” “Snowfall” and “Insecure” specifically. I’m currently watching Brother’s Sun, From on MGM+, Succession, rewatching Barry with my parents when I can and I keep a few anime in rotation. Jujutsu Kaisen is amazing, just started “Tongoku Daimyou and “Tokyo Revengers and  American Animation wise, just finished another season of “Rick & Morty.” A wide array of tonally different productions keeps everything fresh. I’m a huge gamer too, I just love stories in all mediums.

What would be your superhero name? MULTI MAN!… That’s a bad name — I’d need to workshop that name… I’d want to be one of those Superheroes that can shape shift and/or steal other peoples powers. I love to not be caged in and to have as much fun possible doing as many different things as possible.

What are your black history month memories and any cultural or historical impacts on your life?  Sports were big for me and February not only means black history month, but it’s also the beginning of Spring training for the MLB, which makes me think of Jackie Robinson. Before film was my love, it was baseball, and my defining moment at USC’s film school was writing a baseball film. Stories like Jackie Robinson’s in which one comes in as an outsider and does well despite the adversity… inspire all of us to do better. This had a huge impact on me growing up. My neighborhood, Leimert Park, celebrates blackness passionately, I grew up around that and being steps away from the MLK day parade a few weeks prior to each black history month. The consistent celebrations of who we are imbue me with pride. Black history month encourages and amplifies the pride.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? I used to abhor “networking” and when people would say “it’s who ya know”. It’s not so much advice as it is a mentality shift to genuinely making friends based on passions that aren’t post production. Someone once told me “Just be a good person. Anyone you’re on a crew with will likely spend more time with you than they do their family, so learn a lot sure, but the most important thing is to be a great person, and when people like you a lot, they’ll teach you what you need to know anyway.”

If you could time travel, when would you go and why?I actually think we’re living in the best of times now. I love modern technology and I don’t want to go back to a time where people that look like me and darker were treated worse frankly. I’d also rather not have to cut on a Moviola or literally cut rolls of film. 

What’s a little known fact about you? What are your hidden (or not so hidden) talents?I’m generally an open book so I’m not sure what would be considered a little known fact but I came in to this industry with the objective of placing my imagination on to screens. I was originally on track to be a writer, USC funded one of the films I’d written, the baseball one, and added it to it’s curriculum for a semester. I was mentored by Robert Townsend, Tyger Williams, Gail Katz and more phenomenal film makers. I’d love to be staffed on a show as a writer one day and ultimately become a show runner. The dream is becoming respected as both an Editor and Screenwriter.

What’s your favorite (Black) television/movie moment? In recent memory… It’s gotta be the resounding impact “Black Panther” had for both releases. It was a HUGE celebration of PAN-Africanism. It felt like every black person in the world was united in the celebration and joy of that glorious representation on screen. Not only that but it was a huge celebration amongst USC’s film community. It had macro and micro impacts that I can still remember very specifically. Children in costumes — adults too — but the impact on young kids who are still forming and will remember that moment forever. And people actually feeling “Wakanda Forever” as being akin contextually to “Black Power” is crazy amazing. 

Was there a television show/movie that inspired you to pursue your career? So very many. But I’d say the very first would have to be “Spiderman” 1. No film felt so magical and surreal in my young life up to that point… And then “Star Wars”…. And then “Harry Potter,” in order of inspiration… Then all of the rest of Marvel everything. I’ve seen the first Spiderverse film at least 34 times. It’s flawless. I was inspired by all of the fiction — the worlds that people could create with their minds and this medium that could teleport me there.

What’s your personal/professional mantra? Life is about fun, hard work gets you there. That and always follow the golden rule, treat other’s as you’d like to be treated.

What’s the last show/movie that left you speechless? The last film that left me speechless was “Poor Things.” A fine mixture of disturbing scenes, phenomenal performances and a story with a timeless message told in a way it’s certainly never been told before.

What would be your dream project to work on? My dream project though… When I was an ACE intern finalist I met Sabrina Plisco, she’d worked on Dr. Strange amongst many other fantastic productions (Ms. Marvel and Strays recently). When I finally got to sit down and talk to her I admitted I essentially wanted to be her. I want to work on the heavy VFX Marvel Films and shows, the ones that take you out of your reality and in to another with fantastical elements. The “Star Wars,” “Harry Potters” and “Lord Of The Rings” of the world with micro stories with characters you care about so deeply who are affected by the macro movements and complexities of the world. Where political powers make choices that inspire war — those large battle scenes — all action scenes are what I’m drawn to ever since I was a kid pretending to be Walker Texas Ranger (which my aforementioned Mentor Troy Takaki edited, so it was big meeting him) or Jean Claude Van Damme. But the meaning our characters give these battles is what I’m further drawn to — to amplify the stakes of these battles. Juggling the physical and mental stakes of the world and character dynamics is my day to day dream as both an editor and writer. To me, that is the key that unlocks the success of my objective in this industry. Which is to take people from their day to day stressors and make life a little bit easier with immersive entertainment and a positive life changing message here and there.