WHAT OUR MEMBERS DO: Emma DuPell, Assistant Editor

Q: Where are you currently employed?
I just wrapped on a show in July with Paramount Animation. I was on the project for two and a half years!

Current projects?
I completed work on a cute animated musical feature film called “Under the Boardwalk,” which is based on, and in, the Jersey shore. Our main characters are hermit crabs. It’s a family film, good for all ages, but currently does not have a release date.

Q: Describe your job.

I work as an Associate Editor, which is a title mostly used in animation. It means I work as a secondary editor. I work closely with my editor, David Salter, cutting in storyboards, sound effects, and dialogue. Once our film moves into the production stage, I cut in Previs/Layout (first stage of animation, focused on camera and blocking), Animation (where the roughly animated Previs characters come to life with lip sync and acting), and Lighting/Final Render shots (those beautifully finished, lit and fully textured shots you see in every animated show).

Q: How did you first become interested in this line of work?
When I was a child, I was obsessed with anything animated. As I got older and technology advanced, I was able to find more animated content online — shows that I would not have been able to find on TV — and I realized how vast and advanced animated storytelling is. There is so much you can do using animation as a medium, and I always wanted to be involved with it.

Q: Who gave you your first break?
There are a few people who gave me my big break, the first being Sharon Smith Holley for allowing me to intern at the Editors Guild and help with the 75th Anniversary celebration. She then invited me to all Editors Guild and ACE events, and I met Richard & Collen Halsey, who hired me as their assistant editor. I worked with them on a few live action feature films that enabled me to accumulate enough non-union work days to get on the union roster. Lastly, John Venzon hired me for my first animated feature, “Storks,” where I had temped for a few weeks while one of his assistants was on vacation. I had zero animation experience, but John believed in me. Thanks to him, I was able to get my foot in the door.

Q: What was your first union job?
My first union job was a CW TV show, “Beauty & The Beast.” Laughably, I did not last very long on the show, but it was a valuable lesson, and I am still grateful that I was able to work on it so I could finally get my union card.

Q: What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?
There are a handful of films I take pride in, a mixture of both live action and animation. The two live action films were “The Invitation,” a drama/horror film where I was an assistant editor under Plummy Tucker, and “Dragged Across Concrete,” an action thriller I worked on as assistant editor to Greg D’Auria. The two animation shows were “The Lego Batman Movie,” the animation action hit on which I assisted Garret Elkins, and the animation comedy “The Addams Family,” where I worked as first assistant to David Salter. Although these shows range from thriller to family films, they have commonalities: my editors were fantastic, they each mentored me, and we were always able to talk about the story and dissect scenes together. I am forever grateful to each of them for hiring me and making me feel like a part of the team.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
The biggest challenge I face with any job is the politics. How do you handle an upset producer? How do you handle a moment when the director and editor have conflicting viewpoints? It’s taken me a while to learn how to become diplomatic and stop myself from responding reactively or defensively (although sometimes I still fail!). During those times, I have learned it is best to listen, take a step back, and give yourself a moment to come up with a solution to whichever problem arises in that moment.

Q: What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I’ve had a lot of fun on all the animated shows I’ve worked on. In animation, editorial is the hub. You are involved every step of the way, from pre-production through post-production. How is editorial involved in pre-production when we’re clearly post-production? This is the magic of animation. When we’re in the storyboard phase, we’re reworking the story over and over again. Editorial is heavily involved with the storytelling process; it’s very collaborative and a lot of hard work, but I absolutely adore it. It certainly helps that everyone I have worked with in animation has been so great.

Q: Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope to continue moving my way up the editorial chain and one day become a lead editor on a feature.

Q: What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Work from home has really changed my lifestyle. I now walk my dog every day during my lunch breaks. It brings us both joy. I love reading, playing video games, cooking new meals, and learning more about Los Angeles history.

Q: Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Naturally, I feel I have to pick movies from both animation and live action. “Beauty and the Beast” will always be my favorite animated film. Belle heavily influenced my childhood, including reading because she loved it. “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a very close second – really, any Miyazaki film because of his brilliant storytelling and animation. For live action, it would be “Run Lola Run” and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.” My European mother introduced both of these films to me as soon as I turned 18, and I had never seen such storytelling! Both films are so intense, and you get so invested with the characters. Of course, I can’t leave out my all-time favorite comedy, “Blazing Saddles.” Mel Brooks is a genius. Other honorable mentions go to a few Bollywood films that bring me pure joy: “Dil Chahta Hai,” a feel-good road-trip-with-friends movie, and “Singham,” a cop movie with such intense over-the-top action, it nearly puts our action films to shame.

Q: Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
This may sound scandalous in the golden age of television, but I’m not the biggest series viewer. I enjoy watching “Dr. Who” because it’s silly, and sometimes I need a quick pick me up after a long day. I like watching any shows that are on the comedic side and don’t take themselves too seriously, like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Q: Do you have an industry mentor?
I have two mentors: Sharon Smith Holley, who is my biggest supporter, someone I can always come to with questions or concerns; and David Salter is always there for me, whether it’s to discuss a scene or be an advocate for me in the cutting room.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
My advice echoes those who came before me: network, network, network. If you are passionate about a certain medium, find people who work in that area and offer them some coffee! Your enthusiasm will win people over and you will get in. Just keep doing it.

Q: Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I have reached out to our field reps several times over the years, once for a Tier 1 project that never paid on time (and I finally did get paid!), and other times with time-card questions (meal penalties, vacation/days off). Never hesitate to reach out to our reps. They are extremely helpful and they are here for us! I am so thankful we’re able to turn to our reps for help.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Always feel free to reach out to the union with questions or concerns, I’m always surprised how many Guild members don’t do that. We’ve got to stick up for ourselves and look out for each other because studios won’t. You are your own best advocate.


Compiled by David Bruskin.

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