Chapman University - Bachelor of Arts, Film Studies
As an editor for reality TV, Rebecca Lynn Mair gets to watch all of the footage from shows that you only wish you could see. She currently works as an editor on “Paranormal State,” A&E’s hit show in its fourth season. (The new season starts this fall.) Rebecca worked on the post production side of television for about five years and for a little more than a year now has worked on and off as an editor. Shows on her lustrous resume include “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Deal or No Deal,” and “Wipeout,” among others. She started her college career at the University of Alberta in Edmonton where she attended a semester and a half before taking some time off, not knowing what she wanted to focus on. Three years later, after realizing that a career in retail was not meeting her life goals, she applied to Chapman University and enrolled in heir Film and Television Studies Program.
Never be afraid to tell people what you’re good at and what you want to do.
How did you discover your current job?
When I was at film school I discovered the wonders of editing while helping with projects for Chapman’s cable access program. Through helping other students by editing what basically were 30 second spoof commercial spots (kind of like something you’d see on “Saturday Night Live”), I really fell in love with both the technical and artistic process of editing and decided that it was going to be my “thing.”
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
Once I graduated, armed with the experience of an internship at E! under my belt, I was fortunate enough to get my first break working on a big reality show. My first job was a “cog in the wheel” kind of position, but it lead to meeting more people, who found out that I had dedicated so much time in college to editing, and that eventually led me to my first job as an assistant editor. There I was able to work hands on with producers, who were the people that saw potential in me, and were willing to offer me a more “playmaker” position as editor. I work freelance, so a great part of my job is networking with other people, making sure that they know what my skill set is and trying to be a pleasant person to work with!
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
It definitely helped knowing the right people to get my foot in the door. The person who helped me get hired onto my first big show was someone who I was friends with before we worked together, and without her mentioning my name to someone who was hiring, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In every potential job situation in this industry, I strive to have my name be on the tip of someone’s tongue. Making sure people know how much I love my job helps me get there. Learning that from my first job offer really set the stage for how I would have to approach job opportunities for the rest of my career.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
My day starts, and lasts, in front of three computer monitors. I usually have a first pass at the footage that a crew has shot in the field. Most of my day is spent alone, watching scenes, and figuring out what the story of an episode is, and how to make sure it’s being told in the way we want it to be. Somedays it’s simply making sure 45 minutes of conversation on video is condensed down to two minutes of the smartest sounding, most concise minutes possible. Other days, it’s making sure there are plenty of flashy effects to wow an audience. I have a producer who normally sits in and discusses the episode with me, generally at the beginning of the day. He or she makes sure to check up on me periodically to see if I’m on track, or to help find solutions if I find any road blocks. Occasionally we sit together and address the networks’ notes if they’ve seen what we’ve begun to put together for the episode and want the direction to change, or we spend an afternoon “polishing” a show to make sure it is the most television ready it can be. On this particular show there are three other editors with me, and we’re constantly making sure that we are all on the same page in regards to what we’re trying to produce.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy it most when I talk to someone after the show has already aired on TV and, as a fan, they have a positive response. Once I have a long conversation with someone who was enraptured with a season, or an episode I was privileged to work on, and I can see that the show was, at the very least, an hour’s worth of escapism and contentment for that person, I am reminded why I love television. That’s when I get to not only be a part of it, but also be a fan. It’s a very rewarding feeling.
What is the most challenging part?
The industry is very different than working a 9-to-5 job. There are often no set schedules, or rules for vacation time, or holidays, and it’s hard to make sure my life doesn’t become my job. There had been a few years in a row where I would work nights on the eve of Thanksgiving and not leave until dawn on that Thursday. I really had to step back and see where my priorities were when I was falling asleep in front of a turkey dinner. I have made sure to be more selective about where I dedicate my time now, but I can still get bogged down by the pressure to work long, hard hours. On a more superficial level? Matching music to my cuts! I’m still learning how to put the right song for the right emotional movement when working on a scene, whether it be a tense scenario, a simple conversation or something action packed. Finding the right mood is essential to getting the audience on the same page, and it’s an art form I still have a lot to learn about.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
Everything is trial and error, and there’s a certain amount of artistry to what we do -- making it OK. If I try something in a cut that I feel is a risk and show it to my producer, I know that it’s either going to fall flat or be something he didn’t even know he wanted. Television is always moving forward, with or without me. I can’t be afraid to try something new, or else I won’t ever get ahead.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
This is a boys club, no doubt about it. Currently in my office there are seven males and myself. In a business whose interview process is often hinging on who knows who, it can be challenging to make sure that guys know you’re the right person for the job, instead of their drinking buddy ... or frat brother. Being a part of a production office means getting in on the camaraderie, and sometimes I have to be “one of the boys.” I am, however, very much a girly girl, and I try not to lose that part of me either. I think my ability to blur the lines has definitely helped get me where I am. It’ll be an uphill battle to make this industry much more woman-friendly, but there is a future for it.
Who are your role models?
My older sister (a successful attorney) has definitely played an important part in making me who I am today. She is three years older than me, and her advice has come to play an integral part in the way I choose to do things. My mom, a woman who re-entered the workforce after a 25-year hiatus to raise and take care of her children, also is an inspiration. I wouldn’t be halfway where I am now without both of them in my life. From within the industry, I can look to female personalities like Meryl Streep and Barbara Walters to have had an effect on the landscape of both film and television. They are the type of women who refused to let femininity take over the role in their work. When people look at Meryl, they see her body of work before they note her gender, and that’s inspirational. I can only imagine the richness that must bring to a production. Editing itself has been a kind field for women, having had some really revolutionary ladies like Thelma Schoonmaker, who is someone whose body of work I admire and respect, but looking around this office I feel like there is room for more!
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
I’ve gotten criticism for this, but it’s totally worked: ”Fake it ’til you make it.” Sometimes the boldness of telling someone that they can trust you with a task without you yourself knowing for sure that you can do it is the best way to learn on the job. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when you can tell yourself that you can — and will — do something.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Get out there. Get your name out there. Never be afraid to tell people what you’re good at and what you want to do. The people who are most vocal about it are often the ones given the chance to do something great. And believe me, there are people out there who are less qualified doing a lot more, because they’re so-and-so’s son’s-uncle’s-cousin-mechanic’s friend!