- Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005
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"As an editor, you're kind of like an archeologist," says Jennifer Dean, who cuts at bicoastal Lost Planet. "Everything is ahead of you, and you're just slowly dusting away, revealing different layers as you go.
"I feel that's the biggest challenge as an editor," she continues. "Whatever you get [in a project], you just have to find it, and I feel like all the pieces are there--the music is there, the sound effects, you just have to keep chipping away until it reveals itself."
Dean, who became a full-fledged editor a little over a year ago after assisting renowned cutter Hank Corwin, is revealing plenty with her deft editing skills. Moving between comedy/dialogue fare and highly visual montages, she's cut memorable ads for the likes of Starz, adidas, the BET Awards, Lincoln Mercury and Mitsubishi. She also lent her talents to the short film The Little Black Dress, directed by Talia Lugacy and featuring Rosario Dawson. The Little Black Dress is part of a short film series from Glamour, with sponsorship by the magazine advertisers, including Elizabeth Arden and the Bebe clothing chain. Produced via bicoastal/international Moxie Pictures, the films will be distributed on DVD in the December issue of the magazine. (Jenny Bicks, Trudie Styler, and the team of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mary Wigmore directed the other shorts in the project.)
The Little Black Dress focuses on a young woman (Dawson) starting a new job--she meets her rather intimidating new boss, who invites her to a banquet that starts in a couple of hours. New to town, she rushes out and buys the first black cocktail dress she sees--turns out it's on the short side, and pretty revealing--showing off her back and tattoo. As she says in a cell phone conversation with a friend, it's not the outfit she hoped to impress in. She arrives at the venue, and heads to the ladies room for a quick once-over, striking up a conversation with another woman, who's dressed in conservative attire. Feeling insecure, she tells this stranger of her plight; the other woman tells her she looks gorgeous, lifts her hem to reveal her own tattoo, and tells the young woman to just go out and be herself. Taking the sage stranger's advice, the younger woman marches into the party, holds her head high, and walks over to say hello to the man she's working for. He's clearly impressed with her attitude, and to the young woman's surprise, the lady from the restroom is there--turns out she's the wife of the head honcho. "It's this nice little short story," reports Dean. "It wraps itself up nicely at the end, and it's not trying to do too many things at once." She became involved in the project after reading about it; Betsy Beale, executive producer at Lost Planet, followed up with Moxie, Dean met with Lugacy and they connected over their shared love of film history.
Dean, who attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, relates that she initially intended to get into teaching, focusing on film history. She later worked with experimental filmmaker Stan Brackhage, curating some of his film screenings. While Dean realized academia wasn't the right fit, she does turn to her extensive knowledge of film when cutting. "My schooling has really helped me out in my career as a commercial editor," she says. "... When I think about new projects, my brain starts scrolling through all the films I've seen to get inspired."
Dean headed to Los Angeles, and in 1999 started at Lost Planet, eventually moving up to assist Corwin, who in addition to his notable commercial work has cut several high-profile features, including The Legend of Bagger Vance and Nixon. With hindsight, assisting Corwin was an invaluable experience, says Dean. "It was one those things, that when you're in the middle of it, you don't even understand how valuable it is because you're just so busy all the time," she relates. "It was really good--all the different projects, and the level of work that I was exposed to and a part of was [amazing]. You just can't get that anywhere else." Dean also praises Corwin's viewpoint and work ethic, saying it rubbed off on her. "He's not cynical at all," she reports. "He's really in love with what he does, and he treats every project with the same status. He gives a certain amount of energy to everything he does."
Since branching out on her own, Dean has shifted between comedy/dialogue projects and lush montages. Her comedy skills are on display in the Starz spots "Airport" and "Train." The ads for the cable movie channel send-up certain Hollywood conventions. For instance, in "Airport," a guy runs up to a ticket counter, wanting a flight to Baltimore that leaves immediately; upon finding out the ticket will cost over $2,000, he pulls an array of cash and credit cards to pay for the exorbitant fare. The tagline: "Movies make us run after the girl." Alison MacLean of Park Pictures, New York, directed the Starz work, which was out of TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco.
Dean's visual stylings come out on ads like adidas' "Night Practice" from director Kinka Usher of House of Usher and TBWA/Chiat/Day. Set to a drum-heavy score, the spot, which promotes adidas' involvement with Major League Soccer, features young soccer players seemingly pitted against their MLS idols--in actuality, the images are projected onto a garage door. Asked about the two genres, Dean relates that both seem to come naturally to her, although there are some differences. "I think why comedy is so great because there's so many ways to cut things," reports Dean, who hadn't done much in the comedy arena until this year. "When you are with people in the room, some people find one thing funny, while someone else finds something different, that there's so many routes to go. I feel like on montage, you're really playing with imagery, and you a hit a soft spot, and that's where you feel like it's the best."
While Dean remains firmly planted in commercials, she also carves time out for other projects. Aside from The Little Black Dress, Dean cut a short film, Stray, directed by Theresa Wingert, that's currently on the festival circuit, and a music video for John Legend's "So High." She's also mulling over a concert film project that she would work on with Corwin, and while she considers the possibility of doing a feature film, she is wrapping up some Lincoln Mercury spots for Young & Rubicam Detroit, Dearborn, Mich. "Lost Planet is always so supportive," states Dean of working in other areas. "They want to keep you as busy and as involved in as many types of filmmaking as possible."