WHAT OUR MEMBERS DO: Alex Szabo, Assistant Editor

Alex Szabo, assistant editor. PHOTO: Courtesy Alex Szabo.


Where are you currently employed?

I’m in the early steps of editing a horror-comedy feature. It’s a little project during my hiatus on “Ted Lasso.”



Current projects?

I’m an assistant editor on “Ted Lasso.” I assist for editor [and MPEG board member] A.J. Catoline.  The other assistant editor is Francesca Castro who works for editor Melissa McCoy. There is some collaboration between us all!



Describe your job.

I’m sure readers of this magazine know the job, but I have a hard time explaining the basic concept of editing to relatives during the holidays. So how are they supposed to wrap their head around the little details of assistant editing? It is both technical and creative thinking on the job. Before production wraps, we’re usually ingesting the previous day’s batch of scenes (dailies) into Avid and organizing the notes from the day. When my editor A.J. is fairly satisfied with roughing out a scene, I’ll take the sequence and apply a lot of sound work to it and sometimes a placeholder piece of score or needle drop. Eventually we climb from editor’s cuts all the way to studio and network cuts, but there are usually many pit stops with rounds of notes and miscellaneous exported clips sent to set as a reference. I help digest notes with A.J. in a sort of analytical process to see how I can help tackle them easily. In a personal general sense, though, I try to keep spirits up when things feel super-busy, point out funny ideas in an edit or performance, and offer up my eyeballs and brain on the best course of a scene we’ve watched countless times. I didn’t even get into roughing out visual effects and working with music supervisors. It’s a lot to explain to a blank-staring relative!




How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I’m not sure really. I have fuzzy memories of pausing (ruining) VHS tapes at my parents’ house. I’d be staring at a favorite scene, wondering how it was possible. So if I were to pop in our copy of “Home Alone,” the shot of Marv’s head being blow torched is very chewed up thanks to pausing on it so many times. I later dabbled with home movies in an early version of Final Cut in the late 90s, and editing really grabbed my attention. So then I found a knack for it during film school.



Who gave you your first break?

I worked throughout college doing restaurant work or retail, but I had acquired multiple internships in TV for when I wasn’t working. Years later, I had post PA work, cutting promo spots and assisting in reality where multiple connections from college helped me find the work. I felt I was not really hitting a nice groove yet, although I was at least working. That’s when I linked up with an editor, Bob Lambert. He and the producer needed someone to review all the dailies for a blooper reel in the credits. That work was relatively easy for me to do, and I stayed in the loop and let him know that I was interested in helping push the movie across the finish line in any way possible. That moment helped me gain some needed momentum and experience for other work to come.




What was your first union job?

First union job was an independent feature, “Accidental Love,” the movie I spoke of above. It was delayed from a long holdout and a complicated reshoot. It was a right-place/right-time scenario for me as other assistants over time moved into other projects, and I was credited as an apprentice.



What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?

“Ted Lasso.” It was and still is an unexpected hit for us, and it’s been a joy to work on. I had worked in a bit of comedy before “Lasso,” but I’ve never been part of a project where every department works together so seamlessly where it creates this cohesive flow. I’m happy we’re editing comedy that’s balanced with a healthy dose of drama and sports action. There are days where I audition an idea, whether it’s a sound effect, good take, or needle drop, and I just laugh out loud like an absolute nut, but I always think that’s a good sign, right?



What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

I’ve experienced technical missteps and putting out those tricky fires, but the shift from office to WFH [work from home] in spring 2020 was big because of all the uncertainty and anxiety about it. I remember the couple last days in March acutely because I didn’t want to believe COVID would be so terrible. I left some coffee mugs and food behind because I was thinking, “Eh, we’ll be back in a week or two, right?” Luckily, production was done shooting so we weren’t getting slammed with new scenes in the morning, but we had to figure out how we were to essentially evacuate Warner Bros. with all episodes intact. Francesca and I had to think through copying media from our shared Avid NEXIS storage to external drives. Since we were leaving a shared editing experience, we had to really ramp up communication with the editors. This meant sending bins through email constantly, conforming sound work and notes even faster, and figuring out Zoom or Evercast for screening cuts. This is all happening while refreshing news feeds on the COVID spread and doom-scrolling. Luckily, we came out okay, but it was obviously unprecedented, and I’m thankful for a good team with a sense of humor during the dark times.




What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

It’s probably a “you had to be there” moment, but years ago, we had some green-screen test footage. We had a clip of my producer friend staring blankly at the camera and dipping out of frame. We spliced him into the sunset from one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. It was a great gag and pick-me-up moment. There’s a ton of other fun moments, but I’ll leave it at that.



Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

Five years might fly by! I’d be stoked to be in a position like I’m in now, focusing on delivering great assistant work and being blessed to work with awesome comedy editors like A.J.  Hopefully, I’ll keep getting opportunities to cut scenes and prove I have the editor blood within.



What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Music. It was tough not seeing live shows for a while. I occasionally play guitar and wish I knew piano. Our keyboard gathers dust. I’ve been glued to Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” Beatles doc series. When I have the ability to get out there, I like to snowboard but just cruise — nothing crazy these days. Gotta protect your bones and brain. I’ve also played tennis more and more, which seems to be a popular thing lately since it has that social distance.



Favorite movie(s)? Why?

I don’t think I have just one, and even choosing a few seems tough! I like too many. Should I list just a few? “Magnolia” might be my favorite, by Paul Thomas Anderson. If it’s one of those “Mannly” nights, you need to fire up “Heat.” “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” is my childhood favorite. “Tropic Thunder” is my favorite comedy of the early 2000s.



Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?

Lately, I really enjoy “Succession.” The camera moves and editing accentuate the great performances. It can get so dark, but they still find those laughs, which is amazing to me. I LOL’ed constantly on my re-watch of “Eastbound and Down.” Maybe even a LMAO here and there, maybe too much laughing for my neighbors. I love how the characters are so well-defined even though they’re completely zany, and there are some really fun edits. Plus Sudeikis’ character Shane is an awesome complement to McBride’s Kenny Powers. It’s fun to see the different style of comedy from that era ten years ago.



Do you have an industry mentor?

A.J. Catoline. I’m very thankful he gave me the chance to work with him on “Lasso.” I feel like there are certain editors who don’t want to make time to impart a little knowledge to assistants, much less let them cut here and there, but A.J. enjoys the journey of mentorship. What’s good, too, is that it is not a one-way street in the edit room. He really values my creative input and perspective. So I’m always learning something every week, which is huge. We always seem to be on the same wavelength. He’s a good mentor and friend.




What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

I think we can agree that the industry is competitive and perhaps intimidating when you’re finding your way, but I feel like there are more and more opportunities, especially in television. You need to believe you can do it. It’s a basic — maybe trite — piece of advice, but I’ve always had to give myself pep talks in thinking about bigger goals while at stepping-stones along the way. If you’re in school, try and squeeze a way into an internship, but I’d be sure it’s in line with your goal and not too far off the radar. Perhaps a post PA position is within your grasp. I encourage making films with friends. I’ve dabbled in directing shorts, which sometimes come together purely out of curiosity for when we get to the edit. Scenes from small projects might end up being something to showcase, or at least get notes on.

Passion projects reminded me that I still valued and enjoyed the filmmaking process, even though my day job was something completely different. It was like refueling the ambition battery. Nowadays, it feels harder to get out and meet people, but I think it’s best to fight against that inclination some of us introverts/not-so-extroverts have to stay home, especially if you know you need to refresh and make new connections in real life. I’ve met people where things don’t click, and you sit there awkwardly with a coffee or beer, but that’s not the worst thing, right? That meeting might go the other direction, where it flies by and you made a connection you wouldn’t have made from just a message board. So yeah, I’m going to feel silly saying the overused Gretzky quote, “You miss 100 percent of shots you don’t take,” but you know what? He’s right, damn it, and he’s got four Stanley Cups. Four!



Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

It’s thanks to the Guild’s workshops and mixers that I met a few colleagues, including A.J.! So I’ll give a nod and tip of the cap to the Guild for having events!



Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

I’m blessed to be with the union, and I’m hoping we grow stronger and learn from this year’s contentious negotiations. Let’s build upon the grassroots activism we witnessed online. Solidarity forever!