Turner’s Trailblazing Women in Editing
October 13, 2017
As TCM Trailblazing Women spotlights the contributions of women in film all month long, we’ve been celebrating our very own trailblazers who help push the envelope and inspire others to do the same. This week’s Turner’s Trailblazing Women takes a look at the incredible editors who help create the groundbreaking content you see every day all over Turner, all over the world. We sat down with seven super-talented, trailblazing editors and asked them about their careers, aspirations and dream projects.
What project at Turner are you most proud of and why?
Shayne Borenstein (editor, creative services, Turner Studios): When I was still learning editing, I was a production assistant at the Atlanta Braves (owned by Turner a the time). I edited a music video that played on the scoreboard at Turner Field before the bottom of the 9th inning. It had mostly slow motion shots of the players and was cut to the Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer & Steve Stevens - I’m a big fan of 80s music. I remember how it caught the attention of the crowd that night and how it made me feel to have such a large audience see what I had created.
It solidified my decision to pursue editing. I also remember my co-workers at the Braves applauding for me after the video played. It was a special experience; a night I will always remember.
Jessica Teal (senior editor, creative services, Turner Studios): I can’t think of one piece in particular that I’m most proud of. I like any project that allows me to use a range of skills, like playing in After Effects and heavy sound design. I would say that I’m really proud of the body of work that I’ve done over the years for Adult Swim. I can’t imagine having more fun editing spots than that, and I was lucky to do it for so many years. I’ve also done a few “Behind the Curtain” pieces for TNT that I really like, because they’re longer pieces that you can really sink your teeth into and have fun with.
Meg Pearlstein (editor/producer - CNN Image+Sound ATL): It's difficult to name just one project or piece. I've worked on shows about the first Persian Gulf War, the OJ Simpson trial, the 9/11 attacks and many mass shootings over the years. In 2015, I worked on a Wolf Blitzer documentary called “Voices of Auschwitz” for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp. We profiled several survivors of the death camps. The documentary premiered at the Holocaust Museum in New York City, and the survivors’ stories had such an impact on me. I also just finished working on a Will Ripley documentary on North Korea, which was fascinating and incredibly eye opening.
Who was one of your biggest supporters along the way (boss, mentor, man or woman), and what lessons did you learn from them?
Liz Sabagh (editor/producer – CNN Image+Sound NY): A student I met in my production class; she was brilliant beyond her age. She had been through cancer, and she was strong and kind and smart. She inspired and supported me, and we became best of friends and still are to this day.
Kerry Schnitzlein (senior editor, creative services, Turner Studios): One of my biggest supporters was and still is Amy Linton. She is an award-winning freelance editor in Atlanta who I met as an intern at the Department of Natural Resources film unit. We got to know each other there, and she was very open about her knowledge. Her editing is very lyrical; there is an underlying visual beauty to everything she works on. I learned a lot about how editing can enhance the beauty of whatever I am working on.
She is also excellent with music. I learned a lot about how music and sound influence the feeling of a spot. It can turn a good spot or movie into a great spot or movie. She’s also a great human being. She introduced me to my husband and is godmother to my son. So, she has affected my whole life, not just my editing.
Christine Tranchina (editor II, creative services, Turner Studios): I have a large group of girlfriends working in professional fields. They have always been my biggest support system. They understand the pressure of working in male-dominated fields and are always there to talk out problems and celebrate successes. I think it’s important to have people in your life that you can talk freely with and there is no judgment.
Joann Sierra (editor/producer – CNN Image+Sound DC): One of the best experiences was editing and producing for “Global View,” a weekly international public affairs program with Anchor and World Affairs Correspondent Ralph Begleiter and Executive Producer Pam Benson –the best mentors ever!
I learned about teamwork, trust, journalism, commitment, consistency, resilience and excellence, among so many other things. But what I treasure most is our deep friendship.
I benefited from great professional role models that demonstrated that it is indeed possible to have work-life balance and a rewarding career at CNN.
Do you watch television differently due to what you do for a living? In other words, are you constantly noticing things that inspire you or that you would do differently?
Liz Sabagh: Absolutely! It’s so much fun to watch television and be inspired by the way the editor cut a scene together, or by the music they chose (sometimes I’ll turn the audio off and just watch the video or close my eyes to really feel the music). I also pay close attention to the use of graphic animation - how did they do that, it’s like magic! I could watch a piece over and over and still go back for another viewing just as “a normal person,” as my husband says.
Shayne Borenstein: To some degree, I do watch shows differently because I’m an editor. A large amount of my work involves sound design for TNT, and I often watch promos and trailers, looking for music inspiration. Sound design is so crucial in conveying the emotion of a piece. Editing is about knowing exactly how your audience is supposed to feel at any given moment. This takes time and thought. When it’s done right, the viewer will have a powerful connection to what they are watching.
On a more humorous note, I like to point out to family and friends the continuity errors that I find in TV shows and movies.
Meg Pearlstein: Yes, I do watch TV differently. I notice story structuring, writing and editing styles and editing techniques. But what I really love is when I get so immersed in a show or documentary that I don't think about the editing; I’m too interested in the characters and the story. That's when I will have to go back over the documentary and specifically look at how it was constructed.
How does it make you feel when something you’ve created and worked so hard on is seen by millions of people?
Kerry Schnitzlein: I am constantly surprised that pieces I work on are seen by so many people. Editing is such an isolated job, and I can manipulate my spot to my heart’s content. So when I see it on-air or in a movie theater, it sort of shocks me that other people are actually watching it.
Christine Tranchina: Obviously, it makes me feel great when something I’ve worked so hard on is seen by millions. I used to point out promos I made when at home during family holidays just to see their reaction. It’s also fun to check out social media. Often people will film spots they like and post them with comments. The Turner networks post content (we are doing a lot more work specifically for social media), so it’s interesting to go to these social networks and read people’s opinions of the work.
Joann Sierra: I feel honored and inspired to continue to improve when something I’ve created is seen by millions of people. To cite a quote attributed to John Ruskin, “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.” I keep this in mind as it pinpoints what journalists strive to do every day.
How does it feel to know that other women could be inspired by what you’ve accomplished and use that as motivation?
Liz Sabagh: I hope my accomplishments inspire and motivate women, especially young women. When I started out in television, opportunities for women were not as available as they are today. However, I was determined, stayed true to who I was and had great respect for the industry and those I worked with. Women need to know that anything is possible. If you have a passion and are determined, nothing will stop you.
Christine Tranchina: If I could inspire other women to go into the production field, I think that would be amazing. In the past, the editorial group here was predominately male. These days the up-and-coming people I see around are much more diverse, and I think that can only bring great things for Turner.
Joann Sierra: I am deeply humbled. I think of my daughter – an intelligent, independent and confident young woman – when you ask this question. And I hope to help other women in some small way in finding their path to pursue their passion. Inspiration is everywhere, especially when we pause a moment to perceive it.
When you were young, did you envision yourself in this line of work?
Jessica Teal: I definitely did not envision myself in television at all. I was going to be a rock star. I was so close.
Shayne Borenstein: I was definitely influenced by my father who is in the newspaper business. From an early age, I wanted to be a writer, so I decided to attend journalism school at Kent State. During my junior year, I changed my focus from print to television. Editors are storytellers. Instead of print, I’m simply using a different medium to tell stories.
When I receive hours of footage from a video shoot, my job is to find what the story is and to make the best promo or long-form piece that I can.
Meg Pearlstein: I had no idea this is what I would end up doing in my life. I grew up thinking I would be an archeologist, finding fossils around the world. But I have a need to be creative, to make art. I have always had a camera in my hands. My Dad taught me how to use his Minolta camera when I was eight, and I've been taking photos ever since. As a kid, my dream job was being a National Geographic Photographer. But I found CNN instead!
What advice would you give to other women who are entering the editing or production field?
Liz Sabagh: I’ve been at CNN for well over 20 years, and I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. Now is the best time for women; opportunities at Turner are endless. If editing and producing are your passions, I would advise you to be the best at it that you can be. Do it every day, know the latest software, stay up-to-date in all areas of the business. Find a mentor, ask questions, be open to all feedback, and make connections. Know yourself, your strengths and be honest. If your work is good, it will be noticed. Oh, working hard and getting along with others should have been put first!
Jessica Teal: Have confidence in your abilities! And forget what your mom taught you about being polite - you’ve got to speak up and be heard; go for the jobs and projects you want.
Kerry Schnitzlein: I would give women the same advice I would give anyone: show up, work hard and be a pleasant person to be around. People enjoy working with hard workers that they like.
Joann Sierra: Learn everything you can and continue to challenge yourself. Experience as much as possible; creating the opportunity to learn what you like and don’t like is invaluable. Take the time to teach yourself what you don’t know yet, ask questions and learn from your talented colleagues. Change is a constant in an editor’s life. Try to meet it with grace and resilience.
What is your dream project?
Jessica Teal: My dream project would be for The Smiths to get back together, and I get to edit their first post-reunion music video.
Liz Sabagh: My dream projects are collaborative projects, like working on a documentary or going out in the field to help shoot footage, in addition to editing the story.
Shayne Borenstein: I would love to work on a show like The Affair on Showtime, which tells the same story from different perspectives. It conveys, in a very effective way, how people can experience the same situation differently. I think it would be fun to edit a show like that, from each character's point of view.
Kerry Schnitzlein: This is going to sound really corny, but unless I was working on movies in LA, I am working on my dream project. I love what I do and whom I do it for.
Meg Pearlstein: I don't know if I can say I have a dream project. I have never worked on a project I didn't like or one I haven't learned from. I love the variety of projects and not knowing what will be next.
Christine Tranchina: My dream project is traveling the world and creating a documentary about my travels.
Joann Sierra: My dream project would be editing and producing for The Wonder List for all the amazing adventures and storytelling that show encompasses.
Watch Trailblazing Women: The Women That Crafted The Stories, hosted by TCM’s Ileana Douglas every Monday night in October starting at 8 p.m. ET on TCM.