WHAT OUR MEMBERS DO: Isabel Yanes, Assistant Editor

Isabel Yanes, assistant editor. PHOTO: Courtesy Isabel Yanes.

Q Where are you currently employed?
Warner Brothers Television.

Q Current projects?
Season 2 of “Superman & Lois.”

Q Describe your job.
As an assistant editor, I am a systems manager and a creative contributor simultaneously. At the start of a new show, it is my responsibility to establish the project’s organization and workflow. I manage all media, prepare footage for my editor, and design temporary sound and visual effects. Additionally, I note-take during meetings (one of my favorite aspects of the job, believe it or not) and export video references for directors and producers. Once an episode reaches final picture lock, I distribute this finalized version to various departments including sound, music, and online/picture. Given the large amount of visual effects on superhero shows, I am not responsible for tracking visual effects shots as they make their way into existence through one or more vendors. Nor do I deliver files to visual effects vendors on my current show; however, I have done so in the past for lighter projects.

Q How did you first become interested in this line of work?
In high school, I joined an afterschool film club that grew into a broadcast and video production department. Through these courses, I learned the basics of filming, editing, and animation. I gravitated towards editing almost immediately, as I enjoyed the creativity that emerged from assembling footage with limited resources. I majored in Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia where my love for television blossomed as shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” captivated me.

Q Who gave you your first break?
My first job in Los Angeles straight out of college was an assistant editor position for Fine Brothers Entertainment. I was set on avoiding the production assistant route, if possible, and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. During this job, I fell in love with commuting to work by bicycle and worked an unheard of 9-5 schedule that allowed me to attend every networking event that existed.

Q What was your first union job?
“For All Mankind,” an alternate history, science fiction series for Apple TV+. Working with Ron Moore and the entire post team was an incredible experience. Though I have worked on great shows since, this is hands down the best project I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone on the team treated each other with the utmost respect, and I embraced a work-life balance that truly worked for me. I still miss greeting the office with a daily “Hey FAM!”

Q What credits or projects are you proudest of, and why?
Though the pilot was never picked up, working on Glen Mazzara’s “The Dark Tower” was an absolute pleasure! It significantly advanced my creative and technical abilities as I worked with only one editor and a small visual effects team. Every day, my knowledge and skills were tested to the highest degree, and the collaborative environment Glen and my editor Nathan Gunn created was incredibly fulfilling as a creative. By the end of the project, I genuinely felt like I played a notable role in the final product.

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Q What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Learning to work with unsavory personalities and navigate an industry with historic harassment and discrimination has unfortunately been my biggest challenge. While I have worked with countless amazing people, I have also worked with those who yell, patronize, and violate both my contractual and personal boundaries. I’ve discovered that establishing clear boundaries and demanding respect from others in my personal life has helped me do the same in professional environments. Educating myself on my contract by speaking frequently with field reps at the union office, and reading books like “Difficult Personalities: A Practical Guide to Managing the Hurtful Behavior of Others (and Maybe Your Own),” have also been instrumental. Furthermore, I have learned that financial resilience is necessary for me to avoid or ultimately leave shows with toxic work environments.

Q What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
While serving as a substitute on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” I had the opportunity to work with my favorite actress/producer from childhood, Felicia Day. What a joy it was to watch her dailies and interact during ADR sessions!

Q Jobwise, what do you hope to be time doing five years from now?
Five years from now, I aim to be a full-time editor for fantasy and science fiction television. I intend to work on shows that allow me to maintain a healthy work-life balance and whose post teams are staffed with genuinely good people. I’m currently editing alongside my editor on “Superman & Lois” with the goal of receiving additional/co-editor credits and preparing for the opportunity to move up when it presents itself.

Q What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Food is my heart’s true passion! From weekly meal planning to buying food at the Farmer’s Market, cooking, baking, photographing and of course EATING, I am a serious foodie. I even have a dedicated Food Instagram account: @isabel.yanes.foodie.

My other hobbies include all things sustainability-focused (climate change, waste reduction, environmental justice, etc.), stereotypical SoCal exercises (yoga, hiking and mountain biking), and addictively reading fantasy novels from the library. I also love to travel and aspire to live in a different country every year, if possible.

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Q Favorite movie(s)? Why?
To the dismay of many, I’ve never been much of a movie person. Most recently, I watched “Chef,” directed by and starring Jon Favreau, after falling in love with the TV series on Netflix. I do, however, enjoy documentaries and must give a shout out to “The Biggest Little Farm,” which follows a couple’s journey of developing a sustainable farm outside Los Angeles.

Q Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
“Game of Thrones” will always have a special place in my heart (despite fumbling at the goal line) because it is the epitome of what I love in fantasy novels—complex and evolving characters, gruesome war and torture, sex, and of course… magic! Also, DRAGONS. It’s no surprise then that “The Witcher” is my current top pick.

Animated shows like “Avatar” and “Over the Garden Wall” redefined animation for me. I dedicated 2021 to watching all movies and TV series in the “Star Wars” canon, and “Clone Wars” blew me away. Dave Filoni’s work is nothing short of incredible.

My guilty pleasure reality show favorites are “The Bachelor,” “Survivor,” “The Great British Baking Show,” and “Somebody Feed Phil,” because I can never get enough competition, food, and travel in my life.

Q Do you have an industry mentor?
Although we no longer work together, Nathan Gunn continues to mentor me, and I cannot express the immense gratitude I have for his willingness to always be available for me. He is a masterful editor, a well-versed diplomat in the cutting room, and a wonderful human being who has stood up for and stood by me through the best and worst of times. It is an honor to have worked for him, and I hope to make him proud as I transition into the editor’s chair.
Brian G. Addie, my current editor on “Superman & Lois,” has taken me under his wing. As I strive to make the jump to editor, he is teaching and mentoring me on both the craft of editing and the mediator role that editors undertake. I am very fortunate to have found a teacher that thinks and works the same way I do, all while providing encouragement and creative criticism that motivates me to keep going.

Q What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Read Lori Coleman and Diana Friedberg’s book “Make the Cut: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Assistant Editor in Film and TV.” Develop networking skills and put them to use at networking events to start building your own network. Contact assistants and editors that you admire and aspire to be, with the genuine intent of asking for advice, not a job. Learn to budget and save money. It will allow you to say no to the jobs that don’t serve you and help progress your career more quickly as you wait for the right opportunity instead of the first. Practice setting and enforcing boundaries. You will gain respect and self-worth, and empower those around you to do the same. Establish healthy habits and maintain consistency. Doing so early on will make a significant difference in managing projects where consistency is imperative.

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Q Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Before I start a new job, I call Jessica Pratt [the Guild’s senior field rep and now Assistant Executive Director] to go over my contract and make sure I know my rights. Every. Single. Time. I also send her my first paystub and respective timecard to check that I am being paid correctly. You’d be surprised how much vacation and holiday pay you could be missing out on because of an accounting error.

I’ve also spoken with her when instances of harassment and contract violations have arisen. I appreciate that what steps are taken is ultimately up to me instead of being forced to file a grievance the moment I share an issue. In my experience, problems in the workplace are more likely to be resolved when a discussion takes place rather than a formal write-up that can take months or more to make it through the system. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important that our field reps are aware of the issues we’re experiencing so they can better prepare us on how to navigate repeat offenses.

Q Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Solidarity, education, and active involvement are key to making a difference in this industry. I urge everyone who joins the union and the entertainment industry in general to learn what it means to be a part of this community. See a problem? Talk to your coworkers, field reps, and other union members. You are a part of a collective voice, so use it! When we stand up for ourselves and our union kin, we make the industry a better place for everyone. Never forget that we are all human beings with a shared passion for storytelling. We all deserve a safe working environment, actual living wages, and time outside of work to thrive, not just survive.

Compiled by David Bruskin. 

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