I’ve often said that being a Post Producer is one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood. They are tasked with pleasing seemingly opposing forces, i.e. studios, networks, and show runners, while also managing a team of editors and assistants and making sure the show gets finished on budget (and on time). Having a good post producer that not only knows how to keep the trains running on time but also foster a creative, collaborative environment where everyone performs their best and enjoys life outside of work is a winning combination that is far too rare.
Today’s guest, Paul Leonard is one of those rare species of producers that has both editors and show runners alike wanting to work with him again and again. Paul has worked in television post production for 23 years and is best known for Co-producing Battlestar Galactica which earned 15 Emmy nominations (with three collective wins). He recently wrapped up a job at Marvel where he was one of the vice presidents of TV Post Production before deciding to go back to freelance producing.
Paul is a fountain of knowledge and wisdom with countless ideas about how to lead successful post teams. He also has a wealth of war stories about managing demanding executive producers. In today’s conversation Paul candidly shares his thoughts on what gets editors and AE’s hired, and what qualities he likes his editors to possess in the bay. He combines a winning charm with a no BS approach that has earned him the well-deserved reputation for making great shows while also keeping his team happy and sane (it is possible!!!! But it takes effort).
This is a rare “Insider Baseball” conversation that will be valuable to anyone wanting to get the unique perspective of a post producer who is both in charge of hiring, delivering a high quality creative product, and also getting maximum creativity out of his team while promoting a well balanced, collaborative team environment.
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Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- Paul’s early years starting out as an editor and getting into producing after earning his MFA at USC.
- Lessons Paul learned in wrangling difficult Executive Producers to try to keep his department from burning out and keep the show on schedule.
- How Paul became known as the ‘Hour Long VFX SyFy Guy’ and found himself pigeon holed.
- The surprising place Paul learned to become a great team manager and keep people happy, united, and doing great work.
- What made Paul gravitate towards producing rather than directing.
- How Paul learned to bring out the best in his editing teams and facilitated new creative ideas that he would bring to the Executive Producers on his shows.
- The fascinating story of how he and his post team saved the studio a million dollars while earning the show 3 Emmy nominations.
- What it was like working for Marvel Studios and how it affected his career.
- Why Paul got the moniker ‘Mother Hen’ from an Executive Producer he worked with.
- The questions he learned to ask to ensure that the show runs smoothly and his team is taken care of BEFORE starting the job.
- Paul’s thoughts on what it takes to lead a creative team in a collaborative environment and why it’s so difficult to cultivate that in Hollywood.
- How Paul learned to set boundaries with executive producers and earned respect of demanding, bully EPs.
- What Paul looks for when hiring editors.
- The sign that he wanted to hold up to editors in interviews to keep them from ruining their chances of getting hired.
- Advice for editors when interviewing and soft skills that they should possess once they are hired.
- KEY TAKE AWAY: Address ‘the note behind the note’ when making creative changes.
- Paul’s advice for getting on the ‘inside’ at places like Marvel.
- The important quality that editors should always possess when trying to have a fulfilling career. (HINT: it has nothing to do with talent)
Useful Resources Mentioned:
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Zack Arnold 0:00
My name is Zack Arnold, I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits rights or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health, or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you.
Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you're inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about this show and help spread the love. And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer O.G. welcome back. Whether you're brand new, or you're seasoned vet, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show, and thus the more people that you and I can inspire to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show. I have often said that being a post producer is one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood. They are tasked with pleasing seemingly opposing forces, meaning the studio's the network's and the showrunners. But then they also have to manage a team of editors and assistance. And they have to make sure that the show gets finished on budget and on time. Having a good post producer that not only knows how to keep the trains running on time, but also foster creative and collaborative environment where everyone performs their best and enjoys life outside of work. Well, that is a winning combination that is far too rare in our industry. Today's guest Paul Leonard is one of those rare species of producers that has both editors and showrunners alike wanting to work with him again and again. Paul has worked in television post production for 23 years, and he's probably best known for co producing Battlestar Galactica, which earned 15 Emmy nominations and three collective wins. He recently wrapped up a job at Marvel, where he was one of the vice presidents of TV post production before he decided to go back to freelance producing. Paul is a fountain of knowledge and wisdom with countless ideas about how to lead successful post teams. He also has a wealth of war stories about managing demanding executive producers. In today's conversation, Paul candidly shares his thoughts on what gets editors and as hired and what qualities he likes his editors to possess in the edit bay. He combines a winning charm with a no BS approach that has earned him the well deserved reputation for making great shows, while also keeping his team happy and sane. And yes, it is possible, but it does take effort. This is a rare insider baseball conversation that is going to be valuable to anyone who wants to get the unique perspective of a post producer who is in charge of hiring, delivering a high quality creative product, and also getting maximum creativity out of his team, while also promoting a well balanced collaborative team environment if today's interview provided you value, but perhaps there are a few of your own questions that you wish you could have asked today's guests. Or maybe you would be super excited about the opportunity to even jump on a live conference call with today's guests. Then I'm excited to share with you a brand new program that's called Podcast Insider. As a loyal listener and reader, I would love to give you the opportunity to become more involved in the content that we create for future episodes before you ask. Becoming a Podcast Insider is completely totally free. And it simply requires your honest feedback. All you have to do is visit optimizeyourself.me/insider to fill out a short survey and you're in It's that simple. As an insider, you'll have the ability to provide feedback on current episodes, you can suggest future guests and you can even provide questions for me to ask them. You're going to be the first to hear about upcoming workshops and masterclasses with discounts By the way, and you might even be a guest on a future q&a episode with me live on a zoom call. Once again. All it takes is five minutes of your honest feedback. And you can provide that feedback and become a podcast insider at optimizeyourself.me/Insider. Alright, without further ado, my conversation with producer Paul Leonard made possible today by our amazing sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven who are going to be featured just a bit later in today's interview to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes. As well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview, please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast.
I'm here today with Paul Leonard, who has been a freelance post producer for over 20 years now, most recently, you were the Vice President of TV posts for Marvel. And you're probably best known for co producing Battlestar Galactica, a show that TV Guide in Time magazine both called the best show on television, which earned 15 Emmy nominations, which included the following posts, categories editing, sound editing, visual effects, sound mixing, and you had three collective wins. So it certainly sounds like Paul, you have been around the block or two in the world of post production. It's a pleasure to have you here today.
Paul Leonard 5:42
Thank you, Zack, it's my pleasure.
Zack Arnold 5:44
Well, I'm looking forward to this because I have spent many years talking to a lot of creative professionals, mostly editors, and assistant editors. And I'm really interested to start bringing more of the producer point of view into this conversation. I have spent the last several years trying to really help people understand that putting our needs and our well being and our mental health and our sanity first. And the way we treat each other. And the way we work together is ultimately what's going to get us the best product not just being these drones at our workstations to put in 80 90 100 hours a week. And through the grapevine through one of my contacts that's worked with you for many years. She said, You have got to talk to Paul, I think you're going to have a lot that you're going to have to talk about. So I'm super excited about that. And we can talk shop and we can talk politics ad nauseum. But before we do that, I'd like to get to know a little bit more about you and your own journey. So I know that you are in the the producing world now and you have been for most of your career. But as I understand it, you've also done a fair amount of editing yourself, especially in your earlier days. And you're a bit of an editing nerd, just like us. Would that be the case?
Paul Leonard 6:50
A little bit I you know, I loved editing in high school, I had some VHS decks one with a flying a race head and things like that, and used to play and make videos with friends. Then I got an undergrad film school at University of Texas in Austin, and edited my projects and other people's projects as well and really would get lost in it. You know, like, Oh, goodness, it's 5am. I've been doing this for 12 hours or something like that. And then I went to USC to get my master's in a producing program, which honestly, I had mixed feelings about. I'm grateful that it coaxed me into packing my bags and convincing my fiance to move to Los Angeles. But ultimately, after two years and an MFA from USC, I found myself temping to pay the bills and trying to figure out how to make a career for myself in the entertainment industry. So I do want to add one thing quickly, which is, I wasn't the Vice President of TV post of Marvel, I was a vice president at the other was Paul Gad. Paul Gad was there a good year before me and we shared responsibilities, and I looked fall as a mentor and appear and he's fabulous.
Zack Arnold 7:55
Which is interesting, because as we talked about, right before we started recording, I see Paul Gad as a mentor as well. He's one of the very first people I reached out to early in my career and had a chance to visit the 24 post facilities and chat with him and have kept in touch ever since. And it's it's a very, very small world we live in, which is why it's so important to be nice, right?
Paul Leonard 8:14
I completely agree, don't burn bridges. Don't bad mouth, anybody, you know, at the same time, and I mean, I have you were talking about creating a sane work environment. It's something I think you learn along the way. And when I first fell into post, dating myself back in 96, on a show called sliders produced by Universal for Fox, within a few months, I found myself working six and seven day weeks, I suppose coordinator. And my wife said, What are you doing like this. And I actually went to my boss the AP and said, I don't want to do this. And you know, he, he talked me into sticking around, there's a certain thrill about, you know, putting the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in and getting it in just under the wire. But it can also be stressful and terrifying. But I don't like watching that punish other people. And I saw a number of casualties early in my career on a non union show with kind of an angry show runner who like to fire people. And then you know, one of my biggest credits working for several years on a show with two executive producers who didn't like to kind of the cutting room, but rather would send us volleys of email notes, sometimes a day or a week later than we expected. And so it became a hurry up and wait situation and lots of long hours. And poor assistant editors who were making outputs every night at midnight or 1am. And it was kind of terrible. And I at some point, I finally kind of circled the wagons and I pleaded to the studio for help in managing the EPs on that show. It was one in particular and they weren't very effective. And it took me a few years to look back on that and understand that the executive in charge point of view is actually someone looking to that same executive producer for employment. So he, he wouldn't discipline that EP. But I, but I did my best to say, look, we're not doing this or we're going home or I in some regards, waiting on notes from that particular individual, I would make my own notes. And I sent those to him and said, you know, if I don't hear from you tomorrow, these are the notes that I plan to execute with this editor. And it would anchor him and provoke him, he would usually embrace three quarters of my nose, perhaps out of laziness, and then throw in his own 20% and say, okay, you know, when we see this tomorrow night, but it was just to kind of, we got to keep this thing rolling. This is a show that had, you know, 100 to 200, visual effects shots and episode, so we had to make a lot of decisions early in the process, in order not to destroy those artists lives. At some point early in this program, we built our own VFX shop. And, and so I was signing time cards for artists, sometimes up to 20 and 30 artists a week. And you really had to be smart about keeping that assembly line primed and moving for it will cost you a lot of money. So and I'm not sure I answered your question about as far as telling you a little bit about myself. I you know, film nerd love editing. The you know, I was a projectionist. In high school, I worked the first video rental store in Dallas, Texas, when I was 14 years old, you know, I've always tried to get as close to entertainment as possible. And when I did start to, you know, had to force myself to pay the bills and, and pay off my student loans. I attempt ad marketing and distribution and development. And finally, production, landed Steven bochco productions. For the first two seasons of NYPD Blue, I assisted the head of production there. And that's where I really started to get a good idea of everyone at work and what the responsibilities were and how a team made a show. And the post guys seem to be having the most fun. So once I went to a mix stage, I was like, wow, this is this is very exciting. How do we get closer to this, and it was probably six months later that I had a post coordinator, job at sliders. So those posts, individuals who were at bochco at the time are people that I still talk to, and still trade emails with, and we still try to help each other find work, etc.
Zack Arnold 12:20
So from that point, did you essentially go from the coordinator to the supervisor, to the associate producer to the CO producer, what is it was it essentially climbing the proverbial ladder, so to speak?
Paul Leonard 12:30
It was it was, you know, it was funny, because I think sliders was the perfect show for me to start on, because it had, well, first it was, it was kind of there wasn't there wasn't much expectation put on it. It was 13 episodes for Fox, it was the second season for the show. Oddly enough, it was a show that had a pilot eight episodes, and Fox canceled it. And then a year later, they decided that the show they replaced us with wasn't as performing as well as we did. So they went back to Universal television and said, Hey, can we put the show back together? And they put a couple of different exec producers on it. And one of them had a relationship with the AP that I worked for. And, you know, someone I knew from bochco said, Hey, you need to meet my friend, he's looking for a coordinator. And I had breakfast with him at Jerry's famous deli in Studio City. And he said, Well, the job starts Monday, can you do it? And I was like, Okay. And so, but what was great was, it was a steep learning curve, I mean, you learn really by mistakes. But at the same time, it was kind of low and under the radar, so we could just get the show done, and get it on the air. You know, I made friends back then on that first season for me on that show that I still I was able to employ one of them two years ago on a program I still keep in touch with, but at the same time, I think we got to the end of that 13 and I think the studio to some regard, certainly my boss didn't think the show was coming back. So he took another job and moved on. And then all of a sudden Fox goes we want 25 more of them. And the studio decided, hey, let's really put some money into the show. So let's move production from Vancouver to the universal lot. So now we were all you know, together production and post which was more exciting experience. And so then my boss you know, came to the show sleeves rolled up and I got a post super bump. And at the end of that season, which was grueling, no kid, you know, we delivered some shows hours before they aired It was terrifying in a way and they were chock full of visual effects and complexities. At the end of that season, my boss went away and then I I actually stayed on as opposed to for work for another AP and then the following season after that I got bumped to AP and and I was you know, I never dreamt of looking for another show. I thought why would I as long as this stays on. those last two seasons were for sci fi channels. So it was for a smaller budget Fox canceled the show. But what I didn't realize and this is something to talk about was that I believe Came known as the hour long visual effects sci fi guy, so I stayed in one place too long and was pigeonholed. So even even other shows produced by Universal at the time, like law and order wouldn't return my calls and I learned it because oh, you're the sci fi guy. So
Zack Arnold 15:17
because clearly you wouldn't be able to lead and manage a team of creative professionals if there aren't science fiction storylines and visual effects involved, right impossible
Paul Leonard 15:27
to do. And, you know, I was I was galled, honestly, it's like, I can't supervise the mix of a courtroom drama or a police drama. Like we just mixed an episode in a day when electrical storm slowly destroys the world that our heroes are on. And so anyway, it is what it is I you know, I I tried to walk away from that. And sci fi channel and universal were the folks who kept offering me jobs. So I did that for a couple more years until the Battlestar Galactica pilot landed in my lap, which was very ambitious and expensive at that time, $15 million for for our miniseries. And there was already a co producer on the show who was intimidated and wanted off the show and decided to she had made a mistake. And she started asking me for advice. And then she started asking me to take her job. And I said, Well, I think you're gonna have to talk to studio about this, I can't just take your job. And it turned into a phone interview. And I was hired. And that's where I hung my hat for, you know, though, that pilot was probably a year, and then four more seasons, and then a season of Caprica. And then another year on button Chrome, which was like a backdoor to our pretty cool. It was insane.
Zack Arnold 16:39
So for looking at that whole trajectory, what I'm really curious about is where you learn to be a good leader, and a great team manager, you and I have never worked together before. But your reputation speaks for itself. For the people that I have spoken with, you certainly would not be on this microphone. If I didn't believe in your ability to properly manage team look out for the well being of your workers, make it all about the project, but also have some semblance of I want to look out for everybody's welfare. What I want to dive a little bit deeper into is, is it the Peter Stark program? Is that on specific shows, did you have a mentor? Where did you actually learn to be a team leader and manage people properly?
Paul Leonard 17:19
You know, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, it goes back to high school I was I was king of the band weenies. And I played saxophone quite seriously for about 10 years, professionally for two of those thought I was going to major in music in college. And I was kind of talked into being the drum major of the high school band The last two years of high school. And it was you know, it was kind of bad news bear situation like 35 musicians have varying degrees of talent. But a new band director landed there who was a strict disciplinarian, and he scared off a couple of people. I was like, What are you doing? Like we can't afford to play with 32, let alone 35 people, I kind of became the good cop. And I think that's where I found that I, I thrive, which is I could, you know, I could essentially get on their side, I could look after these people, I could try to make them comfortable. And also try to pull good work out of them, and unify against essentially a common enemy, which at that time was the band director, he was a lovely man. And he was great at what he did. He was just he was just so hard on them. So the last year my senior year, we became it became the first year that our high school band went to state marching competition and my high school have been open for over 50 years. And that was really, it was just one of these teams spirit, you know, kind of coming together and really achieving a goal. And then in college, I helped start a student run television station. And in the US, we appointed myself station manager because I helped raise all this money. And we essentially applied for an one access cable allocation at the University of Texas, creating what's called Texas food and television, which is still in the air in Austin. We're on the cable. And I again, you know, working with dozens of people of all different backgrounds towards a common goal. It became successful for me and, and I along the way had decided that producing made better sense for me than directing the directors, the budding directors that I met in undergrad film school, were more egotistical than myself. And they were so passionate about a particular vision, sometimes uncompromising, and I was always the cheerleader who kept people together. So I thought producing made better sense for myself. And that's why I applied to the surf program. But you know, my first season and post my the Associate Producer that worked for had been doing that job for 20 years. And there was still I realized within a few months quite a bit he didn't know about how to finish shows and get them on the air. And so he rather than ask questions, he lashed out at people and blamed people and he had tempers on put his fist through some drywall, we call people terrible names. He was hauled into anger management by Universal at some point. And so again, it kind of became people calling me, assistant editors, editors VFX supervisor saying, we have a problem, or we have to get this done in spite of your boss, like, we need to break this to him or we need to work around him or we have to learn how to manage him as well as get the show finished. So again, I became I became good at that. And certainly recognizing, I think his blind spots and getting the job done. in a strange way, I have to say, I don't hate that individual because they gave me a career. And I learned I learned to do a lot. And he gave me a long leash and ultimately was grateful that I was picking up the pieces and getting the show finished. So.
So that's that now the season, he ended up getting replaced where he left, the show was replaced by somebody who was a micromanager, who didn't let anybody do their jobs, you had to put his finger in everything. And I went from supervising mixes as a coordinator, how strange is that to only writing POS and schedule, but never going home early like staying until I had to be the last one out to turn off the lights. And nobody really enjoyed making that show. Because it didn't feel like they had room to do their jobs or be trusted with some creative responsibility. So when I was given the opportunity, it was more of a reaction against my first two bosses, like how do I find that happy medium where people enjoy themselves, they can express themselves early on on a little show called The Invisible Man for sci fi channel in 2000. You know, I found myself talking to editors and assistant editors and post supervisors about why isn't the show work better? You know, what are we missing? And it became this this kind of a sandbox approach to this open dialogue that love the program, but was also very critical of it. And then I would approach the showrunner like we had another idea what if we did this? Or what if we aired episode six before four? What if we move this here, you know, this one editor had this great idea for a restructure. And surprisingly, I found the showrunner when he wasn't yelling at people to be open minded and say, Well, let me see that, or can you go make that version of it and show it to me? And you know, I so I became a bit of a facilitator and an encourager, and found and this certainly continued on to Battlestar, to insane results we had the situation, the most insane story, I think, is that we had an episode, the editors cut was supposed to be about 42 minutes long, and it was 78 minutes long. Now, we always had extras on that show, because Edward James almost led a cast of great pauses, you know, just like he would roll out a line. And he was he was awesome. And he had such gravitas and really brought something to the show. But he and a number of other cast members started going off script and started introducing other ideas. And they were allowed to do so by the writers, as long as they said at once a scripted, they could play around a little bit. And so you ended up with these extras, that conservatively were 10 minutes, but the most egregious 30 to 35 minutes of extra content. And I looked at the editors cut the dirt, the editor was wringing his hands, like I'm not sure we're gonna do about this. My exact producers heard about it, and they started to go into flop sweats. This was season three, I watched the editor's cut. And I went to the editor said, You know, I think most of this was really good. Like, I don't think we should try to cut it, I think we should try to grow it and make it you know, eighty four minutes instead of 42 minutes. And so the director like gave notes remotely and didn't show up. And I was like, fine, take care of the director. And then let's take the long cut. And let's go talk to the exec producers about making that a two parter, because there's places that don't quite make sense. And there's a scene from the previous episode that we cut that we could put in here. And so everybody started participating in this. And the non writing EP on the show said, Well, how would you structure it? What would you steal from the from the cutting room floor? And how would you make that a second part? And we came up with questions that weren't answered. And we said, we need one day of photography from first unit to pick up scenes that explain this, this and this. And by then I had already called the line producer to say, well, we struck this that we struck that set but we do have the cave sets like great we need our heroes in the cave discussing strategy for how they're going to get off this planet and rebel against the Cylons. And so we literally kind of did a new story break we took that to the non writing EP. He took it to the writing showrunner. Brilliant Ron Moore, and then they pitched it to sci fi channel, sci fi said sounds great and We got our one day of pickups. And we made a second part, part of the contingent was, let's put another 200 grand into Visual Effects. I was very close with the VFX supervisor, a brilliant artist named Gary hutsul, who passed away a few years ago. And Gary said, Well, he was the original intent. And here was what was originally discussed, but never made it to script stage, or here's why this was dropped, or here's what that piece of footage is supposed to represent. And I was like, Well, what would you need to tell that story? So by the time the sci fi channel conversation happened with our EPs, they said, here's what we need to make this happen. And we ended up saving the studio over a million dollars. And we created the second part to Exodus that I jokingly called short ends. And it was nominated for three Emmys including Best Director,
Zack Arnold 25:44
oh my god, that's awesome. I
Paul Leonard 25:46
And one for visual effects.
Zack Arnold 25:49
That's what you get for outside the box thinking I love it.
Paul Leonard 25:52
And you know it, but to me, it was it was a thrill to participate in because, you know, I mean, whenever I approach a show a new show a new job, you know, whenever there's an opportunity for producers cut on an episode, I was shot down my thoughts. And I respectfully send an email to the showrunner and say, Listen, this may be a bit this may be above my paygrade. Or I may be crossing a line here. But I'd like to make some suggestions. If you're open to it. I'd like to keep this dialog open. I'm not looking to take credit. Honestly, this may be the only time capsule version of that story of Battlestar that anyone will come to learn. Because it hasn't really been talked about. In all but one season of a show. The producers have always been interested willing, you know, that's not to say that I that I don't stub a toe or someone doesn't at one point say well, we're not even at entertain that I'm like, that's totally fine. There's no ego here, I'm just want to participate.
Zack Arnold 26:47
And I think that that's relatively unusual. You may may be from your earlier part of your experience, you realize that that's not necessarily the norm. But at least my experience in television, is that the terms are always kind of interchangeable associate producer, co producer, it's all I've to this day, I still don't understand how all the credits work, because it's all over the place. But the person that runs the post production department will call him the CO producer. They just kind of have their lane, you make sure that you're taking care of the mix and the schedules and the budgets and whatnots. And, you know, the the CO producer, oh, you're not going to give notes, like we have directors and writers. And it's it's unusual to work with a co producer, at least in my experience that has such a hand in the creative process. And the best producers that I've loved working with do because they can be in the room they can serve as the de facto showrunner if the showrunners in the middle of something else. And they'll say, you know what, let's, let's workshop the scene, let's see if we can get it even better before the producers come in. That to me is the collaborative process, as opposed to the way that I feel a lot of television specifically, is structured, where the CO producer, I've always said it's the most thankless position in television because you have to serve and please everyone, you've got to deal with the editors meet their needs, but then you have to make sure that you're meeting the assistance needs, then you have to make sure that you're dealing with the showrunners, who's often in opposition to the directors in opposition to the studio executives. So talk to me a little bit about having to be in the middle of everyone's needs and finding a way to please everyone.
Paul Leonard 28:14
Well, why it's important to me to communicate to the showrunner that I'm there to serve the show. And it's, it's, you know, I think it's prevented me from getting jobs recently, where I just came off an 18 month job as a VP for Marvel. So I think there becomes a question of who do you work for
Zack Arnold 28:31
now? Now you're a studio guy right now you're on the you know, you're on the studio side.
Paul Leonard 28:36
That's right. That's right. Yeah. Can I be trusted with the show? Can I keep secrets from the studio and network in order to get the show made the way the showrunner wants to make it? So it's important to me to communicate early on to the showrunner like, Look, I'm privileged to work for you, I want to help you make the best show and realize the best show that we can together. So you know, I've had you know, for instance, I was dropped into a show, I had a very strange experience. Once I became the sci fi guy, where the President of current programming for universal cable productions at the time, I guess it's universal content production, essentially put me under contract, and to be like his FIX IT guy. And so like, we need to deploy you to this particular show. It started with a program that was three weeks away from air and nothing was completed. And sci fi wanted to air 13 in a row. And it was a house on fire. And I was I said, I really don't want to do this, the Vice President of post at NBC Universal, so we just go over there for two weeks and help out. And then once I got there, I realized I don't think I don't think you guys are gonna have this alive. I don't think you can make these airdates they go, Well, actually, that's what we need you to do. And what I realized, was okay, it's like, if you compensate me and if we understand that, I can't guarantee we're going to meet these dead lines that I'm willing to try. But then I realized that the showrunner didn't want to return my phone calls, because I became the network guy that was boots on the ground to get a show done. So I reached out to that individual a couple of times. And then I recognized that everyone was upset about the first episode after the pilot. And it just so happened that my favorite editor, I don't mind mentioning his name, Andy Sackler, I think he's brilliant. He I actually met him as an assistant editor on the Invisible Man back in 2000. And thought he was the smartest guy in the show and said, I want to promote you to editor and I did for that series. So I was able to give him his first editing job. And he was put on a week before I was and he was trying to stop the bleeding and fix this first episode after the pilot. But we had this raft of network notes to try to address and I was getting trying to get the showrunner in the room with us to talk about it. And ultimately, what happened was, Andy did the notes. He and I talked about him What made sense, what didn't, and then we invited the three exec producers to the room to watch the cut. And I said, Listen, if you're not comfortable with this version of the show, we're not sending it back to the network. Like, this is your show. You know, we want to help you make your show. We think some of these ideas are good. We think some of them don't quite work. We're going to show them to you. And let's talk about it. And you know, the show writer took his took his hat off literally at one point and put it over his face, and kind of moaned and he said, Oh, God, it works better than I thought it would. Like, you know, it actually got
now that particular show runner got into kind of a shoving match with the same executive that had dropped me on the show. And it had to do with a needle drop in an episode, it was the strangest thing, but it became this like, bridge too far. And, you know, we got to the mix played backstage, and this executive was coming. And I said to the showrunner before he walked in, I was like, Look, if you want me in your corner in this fight, I'll take it. But you have to tell me what to expect for me. Like I could see this either way. But I work for you. I don't care how I got here. I care about the show. And I work for you. So he actually said, I appreciate it. Don't worry about it. I'm going to drop the song. I was like, Okay, great. So I was able to relax, by the way that showrunner was fired a couple of weeks later, which was sad. But nonetheless, um, so I'm trying to, you know, I'm trying to make a great show at the same time. You know, I realized that the hours that are required of the individuals, ie editors, and assistant editors and the VFX editors and the VFX supervisors, becomes grueling And oftentimes, unnecessarily so to create versions, or let's experiment, it's like, we're past that point of experimentation. Like, we need to agree on a game plan and execute it. So I like to become, you know, what are the EP on a show, nicknamed the mother hen? In the context, this is no time for that mother hinge. And that I felt I felt terrible for these people who were putting in crazy long hours. And we had a system that we went through four or five assistant editors every season of Battlestar, because the hours were just too ridiculous. And as much as I could try to help it, and we'd certainly pay them over time. You know, we just back how complicated the show was with exact producers who traded cuts, you get a cut, I get a cut, you get a cut, I get I was like, we have to stop this. So and it No, you know, neither one of them was firmly in charge, you know. So that was that was difficult. So through that I certainly learned to. And honestly, when I get asked to work on a show, I often say how many executive producers are on the show and who's in charge? Does everyone else know that person's in charge? Because I've also been on shows where there was five executive producers, and three of them were all told they were in charge. And you know, it was like, This is absolute madness. And the time the day that number three showed up and knocked on the door and said, Now it's time for my pass. I was like, Okay, can I get you some coffee, I made him comfortable. And then I went into my office and called the studio executives. So what is going on here? Like, this isn't what we agreed to this is what you told me the job was. I'll indulge this person today and see what they have to offer. And then I'm going to choose a side. I'm going to tell the studio what that side is. And if they don't agree with me, I might have left the show. But they did agree with me and I said okay, now we need to enforce that. So I had to write wrote that particular exact producer and copied everyone else including the studio to say, you don't get your own past and editorial on this program anymore. You have to send your notes to that person because you're out of sync with who we think is running the show. And we don't have the time or the resources to indulge your version of the show. I think some of your ideas are really smart. It's not in keeping with the vision of the show. that exact producer was outraged, as I would imagine. The studio executive told me they fell out of their chair laughing. And we never saw that person again. They never even came to editorial after that. Now, by the way, I'll never work for that person again. That's okay. I mean, I say that now.
Zack Arnold 35:25
Still, you know, I believe that life is too short to not enjoy the process and not enjoy the people that you're working with. So you might be out of job, but you're also dodging a bullet working on a show that could be miserable with somebody that you just can't collaborate with? Exactly.
My sincerest apologies for the interruption in the middle of this interview. But if you are a content creator, or you work in the entertainment industry, not only is the following promo, not an interruption, but listening has the potential to change your life. Because collaborating with ever cast is that powerful. Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with Evercast co founders, Brad Thomas, and award winning editor Roger Barton,
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Zack Arnold 36:23
I also had the same reaction, when I first saw ever cast to words came to mind game changer.
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What matters most to me is it makes the entire process more efficient, which then translates to us as creatives who spend way too much time in front of computers, we get to shut it down, and we get to go spend time with our friends and family.
Zack Arnold 37:09
The biggest complaint and I'm sure you guys have heard this many, many times. This looks amazing. I just can't afford it.
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Zack Arnold 37:45
I cannot stress this enough Evercast is changing the way that we collaborate. If you value your craft, your well being and spending quality time with the ones you love, ever cast now makes that possible for you and me to listen to the full interview and learn about the amazing potential that ever cast has to change the way that you work and live, visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast. Now back to today's interview.
So one thing that I'm really, really curious about, this is something I've wondered for a long time. So you can tell me having seen it from the inside as a producer, one place where you and I are very much in agreement. Even though you're on the producing side, I'm on the editorial side, I always believe that our role is to serve the story. And as an editor very similarly to you, as a producer, I have to serve you, the producer serve the showrunner serve multiple showrunners. Then there's the director's cut, there are all these different viewpoints. And I feel like I'm there to be the shepherd. I'm trying to protect the bad ideas as much as possible. I'm trying to take all of the ideas and say how can I package all of this in a way that it still meets the schedule, but I can still play around and please as many people as possible without losing sense of the story. For you. It's very similar, where you're managing some of the creative side, but more it's how do I manage all the expectations and still serve the story from a budgetary side from a deadline side? It could be the best story in the world. But if it doesn't get on television, well, that's my fault, right. So that's challenging. There's a lot of things that need to be learned to do that, as definitely as you do that. And what I found, and there's actually been a lot of talk about this, just generally in the culture of the entertainment industry, frankly worldwide, about how there's a lack of leadership training, in film production and producing where a lot of people will fall into it from one angle or another. And then they'll kind of learn on the job and learn from another person on the job. And as you climb the ladder, practice becomes permanent. But practice doesn't really become perfect because you're learning a lot about habits and you're really more of a boss. My job is to make sure we meet the budget. The trains are running on time and they all make it to the station on time. But there's a lack of actually prioritizing. How do I become a leader? How do I better manage Teams? And how do I really make sure to cultivate collaboration? And it sounds like you're very much on the other side of that. But have you also seen this culture of, I just need to get the job done. If people don't get it done, I'm just gonna replace them with other people to do as opposed to, let's learn and grow as people together.
Paul Leonard 40:17
So there's a lot swimming through my head at the moment. I've certainly seen both approaches. And I've, I was I was on a program. Funnily enough, I was hired because the show runners, it was a team said, we love Battlestar, it's one of our favorite programs. If you're the guy who posted this show, we want you on this show. Well, no longer no sooner did I land on the show that I sent them my thoughts on the first producers cut, and they kind of said, Those aren't welcome here. And I said, Well, you wanted the guy who posted Battlestar, this is how I did it. And I said, but if if you're telling me you don't want me in the cutting room, and you just want me to get the show made, I can do that. I'll help you make your show. I'll you know, I'll provide for you in ways that I can. Well, no sooner did I step aside, that I started getting emails and phone calls from editors saying we're miserable. We hate their ideas, they're making the show worse. And then it's literally I've become the the peace hands like I no longer have even a dialogue in how to how to cut the show. I'm being told to cut there now cut to the close up there. And they all found a very demeaning. And so we had 13 episodes to make with three editors. I believe, by the time we finished number 13. We aren't editor number eight. Because they all fail started quitting. So once my inbox became full of complaints, I went back to the exec producers, and I said, we think you're hurting your own show. We think, you know, we think you you reach a place of diminishing returns, where you start tearing your show down. And the editors are not enjoying themselves. And they they think there's a better version of this show that was that was stuck on the drive. And one of the EPs called me very upset. Like, how dare you speak to us like that? And I said, Okay, it's fine. I'm just explained to you that people are going to start quitting, and it's going to become more and more challenging to finish your season with tight deadlines. And that's what happened literally one editor one day said, I can't do it. Today's my last day. And that editor that extra was like he just quit. Well, I quit to like, I'm not gonna stay. And I had to talk to my EPs to say, this is what I was trying to warn you against. And then guess what, hey, assistant editors on the show, I started calling other editors started pulling other editors Do you want to come? This is what it's going to be like, you know? Yes, it'll pay well, yes, I'll feed you lunch, and perhaps dinner, if that's what you know, those are the hours we end up keeping. I can't say that you'll, you'll love it. But we'll do the best we can. And you know, as it turned out, one and assistant or two assistant editors both got opportunities to edit, because we couldn't find editors to fill those chairs to get the shows done. So that was that was not, you know, I confirm that why don't want to work for that team again. And you know, they still get shows made. And that's fine. And I went back to working I should mention Kevin Murphy and executive producer I've worked for on three different series who is a lovely, and very collaborative and open minded, fun individual. And he's just, he's just a wonderful boss. So I'm waiting for him to sell another show. I got a little off there, Zack, because I was just thinking of this one particular program that was just like, let's just burn through people to make our show and get it done.
Zack Arnold 43:53
Well, what I'm so curious about is the way that our departments are structured, and that they are just interchangeable parts. We're all here to just get the trains to the station on time within budget, as opposed to let's actually get the producers leadership training. Like how many times have you gone to to like some form of corporate leadership training or professional development to teaches you how to be a better team leader? Like, have you ever been offered that at any level in the filmmaking industry?
Paul Leonard 44:21
No, and undergraduate college, of course,
Zack Arnold 44:24
but there's no interest anywhere in developing talent. So we can all learn how to be more collaborative, even though I'm sure you would probably agree. Your ability with Google Sheets is not why you get hired. I bet you're really good at budgets. The tools that you use, you're great with calendars, but that's not why you get hired, you're hired because you're so good at shepherding a team towards a unifying vision. But that's not taught. That's not a soft skill that's taught in our industry and we cut we become these interchangeable parts, where it's just well everybody's miserable. Find somebody else that's willing to be miserable it this week, we Ready to just so we can get the train to the station?
Paul Leonard 45:02
Well, I got it, I have to say, you know, it really comes from it really comes from the head down, you know, and so if an executive producer, you know, I literally had one EP say to me, he'd rather be feared than respected. You know, I mean, there's, there's all kinds of personality disorders in our business. And, you know, if you don't feel like you're allowed to, you know, it's also kind of a divide and conquer mentality, you know, it's not, it's not every show runner that is open to ideas or contributions, you know, and you find this from the composer for the music editor, from the mixers, from the colorist from so many people who participate in making the show, if they're given an opportunity to tell you what they really think, or to present another idea, you know, they get really invested in, they get excited about participating in the show. So I found, because I love every step of the process, that when I ask those questions, or I bounce my own ideas off of those individuals, they go, what about this instead? I love that. And so my hope is to get that individual recognized for that contribution. So when given the opportunity, I'll say, you know, the mixer had this other idea. And so we also prepared this other version, or if you're interested, we could pursue that. And you know, and then often, most, most often, those people in charge will say, yeah, let's check that out. But at the same time, I think because there's so much content these days, and a demand for so much content, that a lot of people are being pushed into executive producer jobs, that aren't qualified, that aren't ready for that are wildly insecure, who might be temperamental, who may, you know, avoid eye contact with post producers and editors. I mean, there's, there's just all kinds out there. So, you know, again, someone in my job, which I think is kind of a middle management job, might approach that individual with the same kind of we have an idea. But I think more and more would probably expect to be shut down. Like, we're just not interested in that, you know, this is what we're going to do. So I, you know, it's so it's difficult, you really have to kind of read the room and test the waters and see what the boundaries are. And above you, I think, before you can pull everyone together. So you know, it's tough, you know, I mean, because that executive producer, you know, may spend three to six days with an editor, 12 hour days, at the same time taking phone calls, and eating lunches and dinners and whatever, you know, you get so involved in people's personal lives and other business that goes on, we have, to some degree take or take our marching orders from those people. And it's funny, because one of one of my nightmares, exec producers, continues to work and went on to other programs. And at some point, the CO producer of one of his subsequent programs, essentially approached me and said, I understand you worked for this gentleman for this many years. I said, Yeah. And he goes, Well, how in the world did you do it? And I said, Well, I threaten to quit. Because you know, season one of this particular program, I got to a place where it's like, there's no way I can manage this program, and sleep at night, and provide any kind of sanity for my team, as long as this particular individual keeps behaving like this. So I'm, this is like Episode 10. of season one. I said to my wife, I think I'm going to get fired today, because I'm going to I'm going to go after this guy. And she said, Please do. Let's just get it over. And instead, it turned into a funny relationship where he liked, he didn't mind being pushed back. He was a bully that like to pick on people. And he liked to scare people, but he actually enjoyed sparring with me. And once I realized that, then I was able to, to take more care of people and to tell that person No. And so when this co producer approached me years later and said, How did you manage him? And I said, Well, I, I told him off, and I was prepared to quit. And he just was horrified at that, like, it never entered his mind. Like, that's not my relationship with Mike and ever get away with that. And I was said, Well, I didn't think I could either. You might surprise yourself, but I can't really encourage someone to jump off a cliff. It's just that's what it came to. for me. You know, where I was literally waking up in the middle, the night stressed out over this show,
Zack Arnold 49:34
where I'd love to switch gears next, knowing the amount of shows that you've worked on the number of seasons and how collaborative you are, with the creative process. I want to look at this from the perspective of the editor, hoping to get the attention of either the CO producer or the showrunner that saying I want to work on this job. You've worked with a lot of editors in your career, I would presume, what is it that you're looking for when you want to hire an editor because it's not a simple process, you don't just say well qualified an avid check, Oh, looks like you can do outputs check. It's it's a lot more complicated than that. So if I'm interested in working on a show with you, or I want to get the attention of the showrunners, or the executive producers, how do I do it as an editor? What are you guys looking for?
Paul Leonard 50:18
Well, you know, oftentimes, the executive producer, maybe in tandem with the studio might say, here are the kind of editors we're looking for based on credits, you know, we're making a horror show with a sense of humor, we think it's like this, that and the other, you know, so don't bring me a sitcom. Don't bring me a straight drama editor, a period piece editor, you know, again, it goes back to the pigeonholing. And so, you know, you kind of start by looking for editors who've worked on programs that your creative team aspires to make, or, you know, enjoys themselves. And then you end up with, you know, when when I was doing this job with Paul Gad at Marvel, you know, we might end up with a list of 30 editors, based on credits and some referrals, and diversity, you know, we're trying to build, you know, let's, let's get, you know, a nice, diverse group of people. And then you go to, you know, the executive producer, as well as the executive, the creative executives at Marvel and say, who do we like, they may say, Let's meet with these 16 people, you know, are these 15 people to hire three. So, you know, you've checked availabilities, and things like that, and then you get these people in the room and what I found, I joked at Marvel, because I sat through so many meetings and interviews, that I wanted to make a sign that said, Stop talking. I found more people, and this probably applies to myself as well, maybe I recognize myself, more people would talk themselves out of a job. Like, three minutes before the end of the interview, I really felt like they had the job. And then they would volunteer a little too much, or say something ridiculous. And you could just feel the room go cold. I was like, Oh, no, I can't believe it. And then after they left somebody saying, Why did they say that? And it was no, but then that was terrible. But, you know, ideally,
what I try to encourage in the candidates that we would hire look for. And there were, sadly there were a number of shows that we crewed up that never went into production, Marvel gets so excited that they would say we're gonna make this pilot, absolutely, we're gonna make it for ABC. And we would build a dream team. And then two weeks later learn, oh, we're not making it after all, talking about. And this happened several times at Marvel. So I went through this exercise quite a bit. But it would start with credits. And then you know, you'd hope to bring in somebody who didn't who had confidence, some personality, not too much personality, not too talkative, not too many war stories, you know, and oftentimes, the ones that I felt really struck a chord with the showrunner would say, you know, this script reminded me a little bit of Logan, you know, like they would, they would mention credits of films or TV shows that they seem to respond to. But they would explain thematically, it felt a little bit like this, where I could see this feeling or this tone, or this look of the show. And oftentimes, executive producers say, Yes, I love that. You know, and, you know, it's a little bit of a risk, because no creative wants to be told, like, Oh, I can see that you stole from Logan, you know, to make this pilot. But if you do it in a smart way to say this reminds me a little bit. And if they kind of draw a blank, like, I have no idea what you're talking about, that you don't spend too much time justifying. But But oftentimes, you know, when someone says, Oh, they get it, that's exactly what I'm going for, or I hadn't thought of that. Oh, that Alexander Payne film was really interesting and quirky in that way, that doesn't always work. You know. So again, a little bit of personality, but not too much. And you know, and then once you get on the job, and keeping the job, I found much like what you said, I asked that editor to be a guardian of the cut. Because I've employed several times editors who will do anything you ask them to do. I don't want that. You know, because the editor will say that it's better than it. It's better. And it's like, Is it really like, I need you to have an opinion of the show? What's the best thing for the show? I don't care who gave the note whether it's me or the showrunner, if you say. Now obviously, if it's a showrunner you don't say that stinks. You could just say like, how she kind of thought you had a better before, you know, you need to express it in a way that's not insulting to somebody giving a note. But I think it's important for an editor to have a point of view and to have a stake in the fight about what they think is best. Now, it may come down to studio or network notes like we can't lock the picture unless we make this particular compromise. Again, this is Where I love that part of the job. And that's something that oftentimes, and this happened on a number of sci fi channel shows where exec producers would be crestfallen when they read the network notes for the lock notes like, I can't believe they want me to do this. And I would say, Well, then let's not do that. Let's offer them this instead. You know, something that Andy Sackler used to say is, what's the note behind the note? You know, maybe they're bumping on it for this particular reason. This other note further down seems to add up to the previous note in there. They don't like this particular performance in the show, or there's something that they're bumping on. So the showrunner loves that, if you can come to them and say, No, no, let's not give them that. Let's not hurt the show. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let's offer him this instead, then, and I love editors to do that, you know, we had reached a place on the pilot of The Son for AMC. It was a Western starring Pierce Brosnan that I just loved. Where we just were hitting our head against a wall over some creative notes. One day, like 10am, the editor said, Hey, come in and take a look at this. I couldn't sleep last night. So it came out early this morning. And I tried this version of the teaser. And they showed us this thing that was just like from another planet. And it was so cool. It's like we had all reached a place where we could not even imagine how to get past it. And they had totally cracked the safe. Now, sadly, it didn't go over with the network. But it did lead to another conversation that turned into a pickup scene where we kind of said, Look, we don't think we can give you what you're asking for the showrunner said, we have this particular idea in a previous draft. If we could restore that and pick it up, we can do it in two weeks. And that's what we ended up doing was some pickups for the pilot. And everyone agreed and made a better product. But I just idolized that editor who just didn't give up and just had another idea. Another idea that wasn't exactly what you were expecting, or not what you even asked for. Just really fascinating.
Zack Arnold 57:01
Yeah, I always what I will tell other editors, and is really one of the secrets to how I'm able to maintain the relationships that I have and continue getting hired back, is I will always question things that I don't think are going to make the show better. But I'm not going to say no, I'm not doing that. That's dumb. I might have done that when I was 24. But I find that a lot of editors, even when they become more veteran, they get stuck in that being a bad habit of well, nobody's seen the dailies more than I have. I know that won't work. Oh, yeah, you know that. And that that's an approach that I don't believe in. But I also believe in getting the results somebody wants not necessarily doing it the way that they asked because a lot of times they don't know how to ask for it. And they don't even know what the result is they're looking for. But like you said, What's the note behind that? Well, I think they want it to feel this way. They're not saying it. But I think they want it to feel this way. So let me do it a completely different way than the notes. And then they're like,
yeah, that's exactly what I want it. That, in my opinion. That's what helps you build these relationships, get in the room. And those are the kinds of things that you would want to convey in a meeting to say, this is what I see my purposes. Would you agree with that?
Paul Leonard 58:06
Yeah, no, that's really smart. I you think you put it much better than I did? I think that's really perfect.
Zack Arnold 58:10
So the next question is, we've talked about what it really means to be a great editor in a collaborative editor in this environment, how to stand out in the interview. But I think another question a lot of people are probably asking, is, if you have that list of 15 25 30 people that you're calling down for interviews, how do I even get on that list? place like Marvel, it just seems like it has these giant walls made of steel and cement? How do I ever get in the door? How do you get those 30 resumes and get those 15 interviews? How do people get in this world? If they're looking at it from the outside?
Paul Leonard 58:44
Well, they have to, I guess they have to network and find somebody who's on the inside, whether that's an assistant to an executive or, you know, a writer's assistant, or they learn about this show that's going to develop that they love. I mean, you know, there's, I can't I can't comment so much on what it you know, I honestly, I felt like I was the outside of Marvel, even to a large degree once. But I will say there's one anecdote that I think is fascinating, which is we were on Battlestar, we had started to cultivate a following and some critical praise. We were, I think, on season three of the show. And there was this one particular editor. I don't mind giving his name because it's a I think a great story. Julius Ramsay goes by jute. He was, he came out of reality. He had been an unscripted editor on a number of shows been nominated for Emmys. Certainly, he wanted to get into scripted. He was desperate to transition from reality to scripted settled for an assistant editor job on Alias and the last season assistant editor who you know, it's the last season of a show when it starts to run out of steam and everybody's looking for other opportunities found his way to the editing. Chair because there was no one else there and cut the like the last two episodes of Alias had made an impression on those producers exec producer said why was great. At the same time, he had called our office for months and wanted to chop on Battlestar. And he had sent me his resume. And I said, Look, I don't want to tell you, my executive producers are not going to hire the guy that worked on all this reality shows. They're just not. And he was like, I want to do what I want to do it Alias I've done all this stuff. And I started sending the calls to my post super who like became friendly with this guy he was just worn down by it's like, he's got a lot of charisma. He's you know, he's really saying, you know, he's speaking the right language. I really think we should give him a shot. Well, funny enough. I had an editor a few weeks after that. That last conversation who said, I'm taking a month off, I'm burned out. And we needed this editor too bad. We couldn't just say well, then you're gone. I would just said okay, well, let me figure this out. So we need to give one episode to somebody else. So we started looking at the usual suspects. And lo and behold, Jute Ramsey's resume popped up, and I went to the Bs, and I was like, look, I think this might be the best candidate. Let's at least talk to him. So Jute came in. He said all the right things like oh, there's a very taste style this show that reminds me of the French Connection, whatever he said, he completely like finished David ickes sentences who said hire, we gave Jute one episode, he crushed it. Because he's, he's a really good editor. And and then those same EPs turn around and say, Can you figure out a way to keep them round? So we went to the studio was like, Look, we want to throw them another episode this season and bring them back season four. So we kind of jiggered some numbers. And while we can take a little from this and that and he stayed on, and I think it was the third episode he cut of the series, it was the premiere of Season Four, he got nominated for an Emmy for best editing. So and of course, he flourished season four. Now smartly, this is this is, you know, I this also has to do with the wall that you're talking about. Frank Darabont was supposed to direct an episode season for Battlestar. And a couple of weeks before photography was to roll Something happened with schedules or and he fell out but we learned that Frank Darabont was a huge fan of Battlestar and had a dialogue with our EP. We then learned a couple months later that Frank was making a show called The Walking Dead. And Jute was like, hey, Frank, I'm the Battlestar editor. I'm the Emmy nominated bouncer. And so Jute got hired to some one of the walking dead. And I think it was, I don't know if it was Season Two or season three, that he was like, I'll come back to edit if you let me direct, and they let him direct. So he ended up directing, I think two episodes of The Walking Dead before he left that program. And of course, Paul Gad was the CO producer from season two on So Paul and I compared notes on the you know, the trajectory of Jute Ramsey but you know, really scrappy, resourceful guy that just network the hell out of it. And would find a way in
Zack Arnold 1:03:09
the joke that I make all the time with people I have it in articles in written form. I talk about it on the podcast when they say I want to marvel is always kind of the that's the creme de la creme for people. I want to work on Marvel movies, I want to work on the Avengers or I want to work on whatever. And I always make the joke that you're never going to see the following job listing in the classifieds Marvel seeking qualified editor try it. The next Avengers franchise film right doesn't work that way. Have you ever put a job listing anywhere
Paul Leonard 1:03:37
ever? Now it doesn't work that way. I will say and you know, Paul Gad could confirm this or echo this, this idea. Marvel television and Marvel Studios merged in January, I was one of 30 people given a severance package and a pink slip, like we saw coming several months ahead. But I certainly thought a lot of us thought Marvel Studios has announced a dozen shows for Disney Plus, they need people who know how to make television. Well, as it turns out, they don't turns out that their approach to making streaming content was to approach it like a feature and they weren't interested and how the TV people make TV. And we were essentially told as much. I ended up kind of, you know, also feeling a bit on the outside. And I approached Kevin Feige, you know, after frankly after the holiday Christmas party when I had a few drinks, I shot him an email and played the USC alumni reaching out to another Trojan for a few minutes of his time. mentioned what a comic book nerd I was and how I sold a huge run of amazing spider man's to help pay for my first semester of film school and vary considerably. He wrote me back and he set me up with an interview with the number three person at the company whose name I won't mention at the moment. And a month later turned into a long phone interview, where she said what exactly it is you do at Marvel Like, how did you, you know, and what did you do on Battlestar? And after I had told her all these stories, she said, okay, you're too creative to be a post guy here at Marvel Studios. And you're way too involved as an executive to work here at Marvel Studios. It turned out that the way the product gets made there is Kevin Feige goes to color correction and mix playback and visual effects reviews. He has a few people he trust. I heard through the grapevine that the showrunner doesn't even come to the last mix playbacks, like after the last episode of the season is locked. They're gone. So that's just how they make it. So you know, I mean, there's really no way to find that out until you until you you go, you just dig deeper.
Zack Arnold 1:05:42
And like we talked about, kind of sucks that you can't do that. But at the same time, kind of a bullet Dodge, because it would be a horrible fit for you. That's exactly for you to be somebody that you're not
Paul Leonard 1:05:52
I mean, I guess I would have done it for a year or two, because I wish I could, then I could say I did it. But I wouldn't have been satisfied. And I probably would have made people miserable. Like my wife and baby Kevin Feige, he would say why are you telling me this stuff? I know.
Zack Arnold 1:06:07
Well, it certainly sounds like through a lot of this, that a common thread is this idea of just being honest. Just being authentic to the product, being honest about here are the circumstances, here's what it's gonna take, or here's how I feel about you and working for you. Do with it what you will. And I think that that that honesty and authenticity has served you very well throughout your career,
Paul Leonard 1:06:26
I'd like to think so thank you.
Zack Arnold 1:06:27
Well, this has been a tremendous pleasure. I love seeing how things work in different areas of the industry outside of the small little dark cutting room, with usually no windows. Seeing outside there the rest of the industry now seeing a little bit more from the studio angle as well. Is there anything too close? That we have missed that either a producer that wants to become a better producer should learn? Or an editor that wants to learn how to grow their career and build better relationships with producers? Is there anything important you want to share that we've missed?
Paul Leonard 1:06:59
Well, it's clearly about the team and the NIV. And the individuals, I think it's it's really important, like you said, to be honest, you know, wherever possible when when someone's considering working on your show, as a producer to say, here's what we're expecting, here's what I imagined the hours will be like, here's what we think the commitment is going to be like for you. And I want that editor or that person to say, you know, I'm excited by this, or here's my concern. We hired an editor on a show. And after dailies started coming in, they said, Oh, I'm also teaching a class at USC. And I was like, Well, how is that going to work? And I was obviously put out that they hadn't disclosed this. And I said, Look, I will try to work with you on this. But we are already stressed about your particular episode, because the script isn't terribly strong. I've already gotten calls from a few people who think that the director isn't 100%. And sure enough, when it came time to Director's Cut, and the editor is like, but I have to go teach I was like, you know, I reached out to the showrunner and said, here's the situation, he said, Well, you just have to ask the editor to choose, are they going to teach? Are they going to cut and they chose to cut? I was honestly I was surprised. But you know, it is about the individuals. It's about finding that alchemy of people who enjoy working together being together and contributing and participating in something, I think that can be really exciting and fulfilling. So you know, there's a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of luck involved. And from a management point of view, trying to encourage people and bring out the best that they have to offer.
Zack Arnold 1:08:38
I'm just a big believer in setting up an environment where people are set up for success as opposed to failure. And I think that there's a lot of let's set this up. So people just barely don't fail as opposed to Yeah, but what is it going to take to actually set us up for success, where we enjoy the process? Yes, they're going to be long hours, but they don't have to be every single day, all day, the whole season. And we get to make something really cool. Like let's let's get in the habit of setting everybody up for success instead of just not barely failing that. That's my philosophy anyway.
Paul Leonard 1:09:06
So it would be great to be on that same team with you sometimes.
Zack Arnold 1:09:10
Well, I did knowing how few people there are in the industry and how many you and I seem to have in common that may happen sooner than we think every great. Well, on that note, this has been a tremendous pleasure. I really appreciate your time and your advice and your expertise. I think this is really valuable for so many people to hear on the subject of networking. Would you be interested in allowing my listeners to reach out and connect with you if they are interested in doing
Paul Leonard 1:09:33
absolutely my path? Can
Zack Arnold 1:09:34
they do that?
Paul Leonard 1:09:35
They could they could email me. I think I gave you my my LinkedIn profile. They can reach out to me through LinkedIn. I can share my email address or you can share it with them. If that's the most efficient way to do it. I don't
Zack Arnold 1:09:47
know whatever is going to be the best for you.
Paul Leonard 1:09:48
Why don't you put it in writing and just share that with him. I'm totally fine. And they should probably mention you or your podcast, which by the way feels like a great service. So thank you for providing these.
Zack Arnold 1:09:58
Sure. I appreciate that. I talk about networking and building relationships a great deal. So I can assure you, anybody that is going to see your information that I'm going to put in the show notes, I'm going to warn them, they better go through all of my references, and all of my resources for writing really compelling outreach messages to provide value to the recipient, do not reach out to Paul and say, Hey, Paul, here's my resume, would you consider me refer me for jobs, don't do it,
I promise, you're only going to get good outreach coming from this audience.
Paul Leonard 1:10:26
Excellent. But that sounds awesome. And honestly, you know, if I land a show in March, or may like I've had some nibbles, but nothing quite firm yet. I don't have a team, like I, you know, I'm going to be looking for a post super post coordinator, post PA, editors, assistant editors, like, you know, I haven't gotten serious about beating the bushes and really looking for that right team. So this could work out for some of your listeners as well.
Zack Arnold 1:10:52
Well, for anybody listening, you want to connect to Paul go through any of my resources to write great outreach, connect with them, and you never know what might happen. Indeed, that's what this is all about. So Paul, once again, thank you so much for your time, I greatly appreciate it.
Paul Leonard 1:11:04
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Zack Arnold 1:11:06
Before closing up today's show, I would love to ask for just a couple additional minutes of your time and attention to introduce you to one of my new favorite products created by my good friend Kit Perkins, who you may recognize as creator of the Topo Mat, here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with Ergodriven co founder and CEO Kit Perkins, talking about his latest product, new standard whole protein
Kit Perkins 1:11:30
binds to health and fitness generally, but I want it to be simple and straightforward. About a year, year and a half ago, I started adding collagen into my protein shakes. And man, the benefits were like more dramatic than any supplement I've ever seen. So I thought if I could just get this down to coming out of one jar, and it's ingredients that I know I can trust, and you just put it in water. And you don't have to think about it.
Zack Arnold 1:11:50
When people think of protein powders, they think, well, I don't want to get big and bulky. And that's not what this is about. to me. This is about repair.
Kit Perkins 1:11:57
So a big part of what we're talking about here is you are what you eat. Your body is constantly repairing and rebuilding, and the only stuff it can use to repair and rebuild is what you've been eating. Unfortunately, as the years have gone by every day getting out of bed, it's like you know, two or three creeks and pops in the first couple steps and that I thought you just sort of live with now. But yeah, when starting the collagen daily or near daily, it's just gone. So for us job 1A here was make sure it's high quality, and that's grass fed 100% pasture raised cows. And then the second thing if you're actually going to do it every day, it needs to be simple, it needs to taste good,
Zack Arnold 1:12:30
what my goal is that for anybody that is a creative professional like myself that's stuck in front of a computer. Number one, they're doing it standing on a Topo Mat. Number two, they've got a glass of new standard protein next to them so they can just fuel their body fuel their brain. So you and I, my friend, one edit station at a time are going to change the world
Kit Perkins 1:12:48
and even better for your listeners with code optimize on either a one time purchase for that for subscribing, save order 50% off. So if you do that, Subscribe and Save that's 20% off and 50% off with code optimize that's a fantastic deal.
Zack Arnold 1:13:02
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Thank you for listening to this episode of The Optimize Yourself podcast to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one. Please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. And as a quick reminder if you'd like to be involved in the creation of future episodes, which guests we have on the show our topics of discussion and so much more. I would like to invite you to become our newest podcast Insider. All it takes is a few minutes of your honest feedback and optimizeyourself.me/Insider. And a special thanks to our sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven for making today's interview possible. To learn more about how to collaborate remotely without missing a frame. And to get your real time demo of Evercast an action visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast and to learn more about Ergodriven and my favorite product for standing workstations to topo mat visit optimizeyourself.me/Topo. That's t o p o Thank you for listening. Stay safe, healthy and sane and be well
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Paul M. Leonard has worked in television post-production for 23 years. He is best known for Co-Producing “Battlestar Galactica”, a show TV Guide and Time Magazine called “the best show on television.” “Battlestar” earned 15 Emmy nominations in the following categories Leonard supervised: editing, sound editing, visual effects, sound mixing with three collective wins. Paul won a Streamy Award as Producer for “Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy” in 2009 for Best Dramatic Web Series. In 2012 Paul produced “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome,” a two hour pilot shot entirely on green screen that featured over 1800 visual fx shots, which received three Emmy nominations for best visual fx, sound editing and sound mixing. In an entirely different arena, Paul developed a script and set up the feature film “Assassination Games,” which was released on DVD in 2010 starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Paul also taught a class in editing and post-production for the University of Texas’ LA satellite program for ten years. Paul earned his MFA from USC’s Peter Stark Producer Program. He wrapped up a VP – TV Post-Production at Marvel job earlier this year.
The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).
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