Body & Soul
Body & Soul
BY EDGAR BURCKSEN, A.C.E.
Editing doesn’t seem to be a very physical job.When we were dealing with film there was somekind of miniscule physicality when we had torewind reels, make a splice, or drag a reel from thebench or Moviola to the Steenbeck or Kem forviewing. But nothing compared to all the physicalwork people on the set or location have to endure(ever tried to lift a camera, move a lamp, or pullsome electrical cables?). The physicality of edit-ing in connection with the handling of film hasbeen the foundation for a lot of semi-romanticideas about our job. Walter Murch, A.C.E., toldme that the best ideas came to him when he wasrewinding his reels. Rewinding reels of massiveamounts of pyrotechnics on VistaVision as a visu-al effects editor at ILM for Die Hard 2 never gaveme good thoughts—only pain. An orthopedic sur-geon who examined me told me I had a “tenniselbow.” The physical part of editing unfortunate-ly reveals itself mostly as ailments of the body:back problems, shoulder and neck pain, and, inthe digital age particularly, carpal tunnel syn-drome. Luckily there are a lot of people in allkinds of sectors working on computers today, sothe prevention of getting debilitating injuries hascome a long way. The Editors Guild magazineeven dedicated a whole article on the ergonom-ics of editing on computers, advising us on theproper position of the monitor, your hands on thekeyboard or the mouse, the height of your chair,and very helpful pointers to keep your torso andlimbs moving in the editing room the waythey’re supposed to.
But the effect your physical condition has on themental part of editing never seems to be takeninto consideration. We’re in the sitting positionmost of the day. We sit at breakfast, we sit in ourcar, we sit at our Avid, we sit in the studio com-missary for lunch, we sit in front of the TVwhenwe’re home or sit in a theater to watch a movie, aplay, or musical performance. All of this might bea challenge mentally but we don’t challenge ourbody physically. I never paid any attention to thisuntil I found out that I had borderline hyperten-sion. My doctor asked me when I came in for mybiannual check-up if I did any exercise. Myanswer was no, how would I have time for that inthe busy schedule that we’re facing every day?My wife Jana encouraged me to join her at theYMCAand follow her exercise routine, but I wasinside all day already and going into a sweatyroom doing exercises on stationary equipmentdidn’t appeal to me. Running was out of the ques-tion also because of knee problems caused by amotorcycle accident when I was 27.
A longtime friend of mine, director Bill Birrell(he also shot the photo) suggested I join him onone of his rides on the bicycle. He is a member ofVeloclub LaGrange in Santa Monica and theyhave rides every morning at 6:30 a.m. Getting upat 5:00 a.m. to do a ride didn’t sit well with mebut I decided to give it a try anyway. Bill lent meone of his bikes and the apparel that goes with itand I went on the “easy” ride on Friday morning.I could barely keep up, and halfway through Ithought I was going to collapse. But I finished thetwenty-five mile ride encouraged by the veteranswho stayed with this “newbie” giving me adviceand cheering me on. It’s more than two years nowsince I mounted a road bike. I have my own bike,all applicable apparel, and I regularly ride arounda hundred miles a week, usually going uphilldoing 2700 ft of climbing per ride, and my hyper-tension is totally gone.
But I wouldn’t be bothering you with all thesecycling particulars if it didn’t connect with the edit-ing part of my life. When I step out of the showerafter my early morning bike ride, I feel energizedand ready to take on the mental challenges, of edit-ing. An equilibrium seems to exist between physi-cal and mental challenges and when that gets outof whack they seem to influence each otheradversely. Mental ailments like stress dissipate likesnow in the sun when you counter them with anequal amount of physical pressure.
It’s more than just the physical nature of cycling.As editors, most of the time we’re working insolitude, and when we’re in the presence of oth-ers we’re almost all of the time talking aboutfilm. Our profession seems to absorb us com-pletely, even when we’re at the dinner table or ata party. After our morning rides we gather atPete’s coffee shop and we talk about the ride, therude motorists, the state of our bikes, new equip-ment, or what kind of race is up for the weekend.Film is seldom mentioned even though there area lot of people in the club from the “business.”The virtual absence of film in this part of my lifemakes more room for it on the professional sideof it, with all the invigorating advantages.
My wife still thinks I look silly in my tight lycrabiker shorts and my loud colorful jersey with theclub’s sponsors on it, but when I climb fromPacific Coast Highway to the top of LatigoCanyon in the Santa Monica mountains it’s thesilence around me, the sound of my lungs pump-ing oxygen into my bloodstream, and the gentlesound of the bike under me that gets me into aZen-like state where nothing seems more impor-tant than to reach the summit. The exhilaration ofthe final pedal stroke and the reward of a simpledrink of water out of my bottle are nothing lessthan the feeling of finishing the edit of a sequencewhere all your problems and challenges havebeen solved. Cycling improved my editing, evenif I’m the only person who believes that.