Allan Piper

Allan has been cutting for 16 years.

Allan has been cutting for 16 years.

What are you currently cutting?

 I’m cutting PLAYING WITH FIRE at Atlas for E! It’s a docusoap following NY chefs, food writers, and restaurateurs.

Where did you grow up and when did you decide that you were an editor?

I grew up in McLean, VA, outside Washington, DC. I began making short films as a kid. I still think of myself primarily as a filmmaker, but somewhere along the line I came to agree with Sergei Eisenstein’s view that “the art of cinema is first and foremost editing.”

What was your first cut?

My first real project was a short documentary I made about Admiral Byrd’s 1933 Antarctic expedition, but the first time someone else gave me an editing credit was on the CBS/Eyemark show, THE WILD WEB.

What’s one thing you’ve seen in the past 5 years that’s influenced something that you’ve cut?

I’ve had the privilege of being on teams with some incredible editors. Seeing what they do with the same material I’m working with has inspired me. 

Who’s one person you owe thanks to for getting you to where you are now?

My mom made experimental art films in the ‘70s, before I was born. When I was in third grade she taught me to edit on a reel-to-reel/Moviola set-up in our basement with a Guillotine splicer. That’s when I got hooked.

I also have to credit Mike Wechsler for bringing me to New York. I came here from LA for one month to cut his first episode of What Not to Wear. Eight years later I’m still in NY. 

How did you approach your career trajectory?

I really got lucky. Right out of college I made STARVING ARTISTS, an indie comedy. I taught myself Avid so I could cut it, and when I was done, I discovered I had a marketable skill doing something I loved. This was in Boston in the late ‘90s, when there happened to be a flurry of New England film production, and editors were in short supply. 

I’ve tried always to work with smart, talented people, and that’s led me to a lot of fun projects.  I’ve also avoided shows about rich people throwing tantrums, even though they seem to be an increasingly large part of the industry.

What’s the most important thing you put into your projects?

I think empathy might be the most important trait for an editor. Someone posted on NYEC  that he catches himself making the facial expressions he’s looking for in a scene. A lot of us do that because we feel (or at least relate to) the emotions of our characters. It’s what let’s us tap into the emotional rhythm of a scene.

What’s your scene process?

I lay down the skeleton before fleshing it out. For most scenes, that will be the dialogue, but for a music video or music driven montage it would be the song, and for some scene it would be a certain piece of action.

What’s your degree in?

Literature. It’s all about telling stories.

The project you’re most proud?

In 2011 I made MARRIED & COUNTING, a feature documentary about two men who celebrate twenty-five years together by traveling the country to get married in every state that will let them. In 2012, I cut videos for President Obama’s campaign video team. 

Match Frame key?

P

Sitting or Standing?

Does anyone other than Walter Murch actually cut standing? If I wanted to stand in one spot for ten hours at a time, I’d go back to being a museum security guard.

FCP, Avid, or Premiere?

I don’t use Premiere enough to have an opinion on it, but FCP and Avid are equally good. The haters on both sides can stuff it. Unless it’s a project with a lot of stills, then it’s got to be FCP because Avid Moving Picture is so clunky. I do have a special fondness for Avid though, because I cut my first feature in the attic of the guys who invented it.

Easier to Cut: Comedy or Drama?

Drama’s a little easier, but comedy’s often more fun.

Childhood inspiration?

My mom’s art/dance films. Also, like all boys who grew up in the ‘80s, I was in love with Star Wars.

Dream project?

Just did two of them. Now I have to come up with a new dream.

Allan is a member of New York Editors Collective