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Thinking of Attending Adam Epstein's Cutting Edge Tour?

We’ll tell you what to expect and why you should make it at all costs…

Let’s face it, if you’re just starting out in editing, money’s tight.  For those working in post production, you’ll probably work freelance at some point if you’re not doing so from the beginning.
On one hand, this means you get 100% of the profits — Yay!!! It also means you get 100% of the expenses — Aw!!! With that in mind, you probably want to keep your expenses as low as possible. So when you think about attending a training conference, you’ll want to make sure you walk away with more than just a $300 bag of of pamphlets from their sponsors and little else.
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Back in July, we had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Adam Epstein while attending the Premiere Pro World Conference. He was the Saturday key note, and I was intrigued to find more about how he handled the intensity of the incredibly short turnaround he faces as editor for the Saturday Night Live Film Unit. Of course, anyone who edits broadcast news may balk as they face the shortest deadlines of all. But remember, Epstein isn’t just cutting clips with voice over. He’s producing very polished, high quality shorts. Most times, these shorts are parodies of movies and television shows. This means the burden is upon him to nail the look of each piece so that it matches the look, feel and even the audio of whatever it is they’re trying to parody. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Wes Anderson parody trailer for ‘The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders’.

The Setup

With our pallette sufficiently moistened, we jumped at the chance to attend The Cutting Edge Tour for ourselves and find out how Adam does it. Let me start out by saying I was thoroughly impressed. I attended the Los Angeles leg of the tour, and by this time he had already done eighteen shows with thirteen left to go. This meant that by the time he got to LA, he was battle hard. Let me set this up for you. What he’s doing isn’t some glamorous tour where he’s whisked away via private jet with a crew of fifty or a hundred people. It’s Adam, his crew of three in a minivan which tows a Uhaul. They drive everywhere all across the country sometimes doing two shows in a row in separate cities, as was the case for the Los Angeles date.  Anaheim was the day before.
For some conferences, the speaker simply shows up and the hotel takes care of all the rest, but again, this wasn’t the case here. Not only did they have multiple large screens and a backlit cyclorama for Adam, but they also has a series of smaller, twenty inch monitors on the back tables which mirrored the larger screens guaranteeing that no matter where you sat, you had a good view.

Adobe Premiere Pro

Epstein and crew use Adobe Premiere Pro exclusively. For the attendee already using Premiere Pro, expect to learn a myriad of workflows, tips and tricks to streamline your own workflow, making you more efficient and proficient. Again because Epstein’s deadlines are so tight, he has been forced to learn how to maximize the potential of Premiere Pro to ensure he’s editing the fastest he can while not skimping on the quality of the final product. If you’re a Final Cut or Avid user, you’ll pick up some the same info, but you will have to translate it into the language of your chosen app. Let me be clear though, I never got the impression that Epstein was a shill for Adobe.  He uses it and loves it; end of story.


The Class

The event is broken into two parts, a day and night section, and you can either purchase both or just one. The day, from 9AM to 4Pm (with an hour for lunch), is filled with the nuts and bolts of his editing workflow, short cuts, work arounds and how-tos. Here, he takes the actual projects produced for the SNL Film Unit and dissects them to show exactly how he did each one. What you’ll walk away with is a not only a behind the scenes view of how these productions are produced, but also how you can leverage his techniques into your own productions.

The evening (5PM to 8PM) is a more intimate session and concentrates on the general philosophies and approach to editorial. Here you’ll get a chance to think and digest the overall job of an editor.  If you’re like me, you’ll quickly come to realize and appreciate that you’re not just cutting, you’re composing. The night session is dedicated to thinking on a deeper level about how crucial the editing process is and how the editor can change the entire theme, tone and meaning of a production. You might think that sounds like a power trip, but Epstein tempers this idea with a section on the politics of editing and how to work well with others. He goes over not just professional etiquette but also the mindset of an editor, and how to train yourself to avoid an attitude that could spell disaster for your career.
I remember every good teacher I’ve ever had. I also remember every bad teach as well. If the instructor is controlling, arrogant, self-righteous, I’m not very likely to walk away with anything but contempt for the class. In my prior conversations and in all of the promotional material for the tour, Adam Epstein comes off as a likable, knowledgeable, witty chap who you’d like to hang out with. Let me just say this is not an act. If it is he pulls it off.  Albeit, you’ll find him laser focused, but also incredibly accommodating during the presentations and the breaks.
These breaks were clearly for the class and not for Adam, as most of the breaks he spent pinned to his podium answering questions. This speaks to his commitment, not only to what he’s teaching but to honoring the value of each attendee. When you consider that this man hasn’t had a real break before, during or after any of the tour dates, you realize the sacrifice he’s making, ensuring everyone gets the knowledge they came for. An instructor like that is worth his weight in gold, and Adam Epstein definitely makes my list of “Good Teachers”.
Even though the class is all day.  There is a finite amount of time to get through the material for each section. Nothing can throw off a schedule like questions from the audience, and some presenters maintain a policy of hold all questions until the end. This not only breeds contempt for the people with questions, but it prevents any organic dialogue in what is supposed to be a learning experience. However, that’s not the case with Adam Epstein. The man presented and took questions with the dexterity of an auctioneer, and his answers were always thoughtful and honest. Of course if the question was outside the range of what was being presented or if he was about to cover it, he may ask you to hold it, which was not only appropriate but ensured that he stayed on track.


The Final Analysis

If you’re an editor in any stage of your career, this class is for you and well worth the price of admission. For the beginner, you’ll walk away with technical knowhow and theory worthy of any film school. If you’re a seasoned editor, you’ll learn new short cuts and work arounds that were birthed from necessity and unique to Epstein’s experience. For the do-it-all producer that writes, directs and edits their own productions, you’ll gain new insights on how to work smarter and think about post production during physical production to save you time. My one issue is that the technical portions of the class move pretty fast, and although I took notes, I don’t think I’ll retain everything. Fortunately, for every ticket, you’ll get a digital download which is video of the entire first half of the class to watch over and over to your heart’s content.
With that in mind, I highly recommend this course. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in one of the remaining cities, (listed below), and editing is a portion of what you do or want to do, then get yourself to The Cutting Edge Tour. If the tour has passed through your town or if you live too far, then there is a digital download with over seven hours of education available on the Cutting Edge Tour’s website.
For more information about The Cutting Edge Tour, go to their website at:
To see our interview with Adam Epstein from Premiere Pro World go here:
Here are the remaining tour dates at the time this article was published: 

Written by Clint Milby

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