Ep76: Transitioning to Scripted Television

Ep76: Transitioning to Scripted Television (Without Becoming an AE) | with Phil Habeger & Toni Ann Carabello

Pictured: The main gate at Paramount Pictures. It may seem impossible to get to the other side of any movie studios’ walls and into scripted editorial…but I promise it’s not as difficult as you think.

Let’s get real: Making a major career transition is hard. You’ve spent perhaps a decade or more honing and perfecting your craft, building a network of contacts and clients, and you’re at the top of the ladder…only to realize you’ve climbed the wrong ladder.

If you ask ten different editors who work in narrative television & features about how they broke in or transitioned from a different medium, you’ll get ten completely different answers about how they did it.

Even worse, the business pigeonholes us and assumes we can only do ONE THING. Clearly if someone edits reality television (or trailers, or game shows, or YouTube videos, or whatever), they simply could never learn how to edit scripted narrative, right? Right?

In today’s conversation I chat with not one but two seasoned reality editors at the top of their games, Phil Habeger and Toni Ann Carabello, who have decided they are done with reality and want to make a major transition in their careers to scripted.

Except they had NO IDEA how to make the transition.

Working with me in my Optimize Yourself Coaching & Mentorship program, both Toni Ann and Phil have spent the last four months designing the path that makes sense for each of them. But unfortunately they both were working under the assumption that the only way to break into narrative television and features was to take a step “backwards” to become an assistant editor. This simply isn’t true, and in today’s conversation we do a live coaching call where I walk them through their various options so they can choose the path that makes the most sense for them.

This is a unique glimpse “under the hood” of the process I use with all of my students to design their unique path to success. If you’re interested in working with me and having me in your back pocket for the next 12 weeks where I’ll be 100% invested in helping you succeed, you can learn more about the program here: optimizeyourself.me/optimizer

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Understanding that their is no single path to your perfect career transition
  • Evaluating your options (you have more than you think!) when looking for a big vocational upheaval
  • Focusing on who you know, rather than just putting more work on your resume
  • How someone else’s lateral career move might be your promotion
  • How Toni and Phil fell into the world of editing
  • Ways in which your limiting beliefs are keeping you from pursuing the career you deserve
  • Refining your goals so that you don’t end up in an undesirable job that technically fit your criteria for a new position
  • What to do when the jobs that are finding you are the wrong ones

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Ep70: To Assist or Not to Assist…That Is the Question (pt 1)

Ep71: To Assist or Not to Assist…That Is the Question (pt 2)

LEARN MORE & APPLY » Optimize Yourself Coaching & Mentorship Program

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:


Toni Ann began her career in tv at 22 yrs old and got my first job as a PA at MTV. She was on the producing path, but after getting the opportunity to learn how to edit, her focus shifted.
She went on to become one of the series producers/editor of MTV Cribs, where she was instrumental in developing the look and style of that show.
She has since worked on many of the big reality shows out there, like multiple Housewives franchises, Say Yes to the Dress, Long Island Medium, 90 Day Fiancé, and Busy Tonight.

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Phil Habeger was raised in Iowa, spent about 10 years in Boston and has been in Los Angeles for the last 10 years. He fell in love with editing the first time he touched an NLE in a college course in 1998, and has been editing ever since. Phil finds joy in bringing characters and story to life in the edit room and has no plans to ever retire from editing.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Elyse Rintelman. 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).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”