No Short Cuts: An Editor’s Tale

March 31, 2011 at 11:29 am

INTERVIEW: An Editing Tale | Editing Blog | Becoming A Professional Editor


“I was attracted to post production because it scared me”

Andy Peterson is a professional editor who has worked on feature length documentaries, live productions and television shows like Survivorman.  His journey to become a professional editor is a story of passion and the dedication needed to realize your dreams.

Every passion begins with a spark.  In Andy’s case, it was a tour of CBC.

“I was in highschool and we did a tour of the CBC news studio in Windsor, near my home town. I was bored out of my mind, so I strayed from the tour. Walking down a hallway I passed a dimly lit room with a bunch of TV screens and a guy tapping away on a computer.  The thing that caught my attention oddly enough was his color-coded keyboard.  It was an editor frantically working on a news story for the 6 o’clock news. I remember thinking the whole thing was fascinating, and wanting my own color-coded keyboard.”

That spark fueled his established interest in film and television and led him to study the industry in college.

“I was always able to compose a decent shot with a camera, I understood the technical aspects of a studio production but when it came to post- I didn’t know how to put two shots together.  My first year of school we didn’t touch a computer, everything was tape to tape. Nowadays I can cut a scene 5 different ways in 10 minutes and decide on the strongest cut… When you are editing to tape, (or film) each edit has to be deliberate and intentional- or you end up spending all night in the suite fixing cuts. It’s a fantastic way to learn what shots will work and what won’t.  It quickly became an addiction and I decided to make it a career.”

I think there is something calming about knowing instinctively what you want to do with your life. In Andy’s case, he knew early on that he wanted to become an editor and avoided the stress that can sometimes weigh heavily on the mind of a high school graduate.

However, knowing what you want to do doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to devote yourself to that goal.  Andy seized every opportunity he could.

“To graduate, we needed to complete a 100 hour unpaid internship. Most people ended up in Toronto at big studios, or in their hometown Rogers Cable stations.  I was presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to work and shadow Les Stroud, host of Discovery Channel’s ground breaking, genre-creating show ‘Survivorman’. It just so happened Les was expanding his company, and was looking to take on two student placements.  I jumped at the chance to work with him.  I worked away in an abandoned hotel room in Huntsville Ontario for two years side by side with Les.

My entry into the industry was unconventional but I wouldn’t trade it for anything  I worked my butt off and Les kept re-signing me. Smaller projects at first, then a feature doc, and I eventually ended up as an editor on seasons 2 and 3 of Survivorman.”

Proof that anything is possible if you put in the time and effort.

“My first big project was the documentary ‘Off The Grid with Les Stroud’, a 90 minute feature about sustainable and environmentally friendly living. I started out by logging and capturing over 120 hours of footage. This was also my first real gig as a cameraman.  I remember Les pulled my co-worker Max and myself into his office one day and said ‘Alright boys, I didn’t bring you here to just log tapes- start cutting.’  That was it.”

As his knowledge and skills increased, Andy found himself gaining more and more responsibilities and once again, he took on every challenge.

“During seasons 2 and 3 of Survivorman I was fortunate enough to go on location with Les and act as a second unit cameraman. I’d shoot the setup of the show, and then film beauty shots, sunrises and sunsets, and interviews while Les was off surviving for 7 days.  I remember I flew back from the South Pacific shoot on a sunday night with a Pelican case full of about 80 tapes. I had contracted Dengue fever on the shoot and was pretty violently ill. We had 11 days to capture, cut and finish an entire episode… we usually get 6 weeks.

The decision was made to post the show in Toronto- out of our element, using Avid machines (we were all Final Cut Pro guys at the time). We lived, ate, slept and cut in that post house until the job was done- teaching ourselves Avid on the fly. Our senior editor did not flinch and his confidence lead us to deliver the show on time. Whenever I see that show on air I always smile. It’s probably my favourite episode.”

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary Andy directed and edited called Rubber Side Down.  It was a phenomenal story.

“Two of my good friends decided to bike across Canada: Victoria to St. John’s. My friend Greg Mailloux was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 15 and had always dreamed of doing it. Once he felt well enough, he decided to take on the feat as a fundraiser and donate money to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. I set the guys up with a couple HD camcorders and they filmed about 130 hours of footage from coast to coast. We turned it into a feature length doc and were able to raise about 100k for the foundation.”

It’s inspiring to think that a chance encounter with an editor at CBC years ago led to a career that would help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good cause.  You never know where you will end up unless you go for it.

Currently, Andy is working on a pilot called ‘Road of Wonders’.  You can check out the trailer at

To make a donation to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada and find out more about Rubber Side Down visit

Special thanks to Andy Peterson.  Follow him on twitter @andyDpeterson

No Short Cuts: An Editor's Tale | Editing Blog | Becoming A Professional Editor