Top 10 quotes from veteran film editor on how he stays organized, the power of tempo, and little moments.
Emmy Winner: Editor Taylor J. Mason, A Black Lady Sketch Show
4 minute read
The first-time nominee on the moment she realized she wanted to be an editor, fave moments from this season, and editors she admires.
Creator Robin Thede's A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO/HBO MAX) continues to deliver fall-off-your-couch laughs — while making history. Editor Taylor J. Mason, along with Stephanie Filo, ACE, Bradinn French, and Robyn Wilson, represents the first all-Black Emmy-nominated editing team (Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming). In honor of this weekend's Creative Arts Emmys (Sept 3 & 4), we chatted with first-time nominee Taylor.
Update: Congrats to Taylor and the rest of the team for winning the Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming! Congrats!
When did you realize you wanted to become an editor?
I realized I wanted to become an editor around my third year in undergrad. I took a broadcast journalism class where I was tasked with shooting and editing my own news packages. I can remember sitting on an insanely dusty floor, digitizing my way through a stack of mini Dv tapes and thinking, wow, this is a really tedious process. It wasn’t until I started arranging clips on my timeline and watching as my news story turned from something unwatchable to halfway decent that I thought, wow, what kind of sorcery is this? I was hooked from that point.
Are there any particular moments from this season that stick out?
I had some pretty fun moments collaborating with the other editors. Toward the end of the season, when all sketches were placed in their respective episodes, we would get together on Evercast with showrunner Robin Thede and come up with episode titles, the only rule being that we pull lines from existing sketches. It was never not entertaining. We chose all kinds of ridiculous lines, mostly to make each other laugh even though we knew they would never make the cut. Episode three’s, "Y’all want some blood juice?” was probably the tamest title we came up with in that session.
The whole season was filled with great moments like this. We had all worked together in some capacity on other projects prior to ‘Sketch Show' and developed a pretty strong shorthand (communicated through gif-riddled Slack channels for the most part), so brainstorming and giving one another feedback was always a fun and easy process.
Why do you love being an editor?
I really enjoy this form of storytelling. The simple act of arranging elements in a particular order to convey ideas and elicit feelings is pretty incredible and feels like a superpower most of the time. I also love the challenge of crafting something unique and unconventional while working within (and sometimes outside) the confines of a typical story structure. It’s an art, a science, and, as mom likes to say, pure wizardry.
Who are your favorite editors out there?
Barry Alexander Brown was probably the first editor I learned about because the films he cut were some of my favorites. I love how the editing of Do The Right Thing and School Daze is unapologetically present but never disruptive. It’s a kind of balance I aim for when cutting anything super stylized. Conversely, editor Joe Walker, who I’ve had the privilege of assisting, is a master of immersion. In Sicario, Blade Runner 2049, and Dune, to name a few, his editing feels imperceptible and loyal to the narrative, creating an experience so immersive that you leave the theater feeling like you played opposite Timothee Chalamet for the last few hours. Editor Terilyn Shropshire is a force who can tackle all genres. It’s crazy to think that Love and Basketball, When They See Us, and The Old Guard are works of art all edited by the same person. I’m striving to be that versatile in my career.
Can you give us a few examples of how you used Boris FX tools on the show?
I’ve used Boris FX tools on almost every project over the last few years. On A Black Lady Sketch Show, there was a sketch I cut called "Strictly Frizzness," which required a bunch of video game animations throughout. I relied heavily on Mocha Pro for motion tracking and roto work as well as Sapphire’s particle plugins to create some pretty cool fizzing soda, smoke, and Lye animations. My effects were only supposed to be used as temp for review purposes, but Boris FX made the work look so polished that when it came time for finishing, the directive was to basically replicate the offline, which always feels good. Having tools like this at my disposal is a game-changer.
Want more? Hear from other members of A Black Lady Sketch Show's nominated editing team.