Brittany DeLillo (B.A. ’10)
Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
"Dream your film." Bill Jennings said those three simple words to my RTVF 47 class junior year and I've held them close to me ever since. To those who haven't had the privilege, he meant that every moment of your free time should be spent planning your film, to the point that you're dreaming it, scene by scene, shot by shot. Every detail should be acute and motivated; costumes, props, lighting, editing, casting, etc. The only way you can accomplish that is by dedicating every waking moment to its existence, bordering on obsessive (at least for me it was). I can't begin to tell you how much it helped me on my class film and through a lot of projects both at Hofstra and now at SapientNitro. There are those days when the footage doesn't speak to you. It's a mess of lines that never cross but I take a moment and try to work through what I want it to be – the tone, the imagery, pacing, the key points of the story and 99 percent of the time it works. "Dream your film." Easily the best thing I learned at Hofstra. Thanks, Bill.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After graduating, I sent my application to nearly 150 different film jobs in the New York and Greater Boston areas. No success. Frustrated and broke, I applied for a job at an Apple Store after hearing about several colleagues who had done the same. About two months of interviews and hiring seminars later, I was hired as a specialist at the Boston Apple Store, the largest in the country at the time. What I learned there had nothing to do with i-products and everything to do with communication. How do you handle tough situations? Tough questions? Demanding schedules? Demanding customers? I learned how to probe until I got to the crux of someone's needs, and then applied that to the features and benefits of certain products. Essentially, I learned how to get to know people and isolate their needs and satisfy them. It doesn't sound like much, but you'd be surprised how many people fail at these simple tasks. You have no idea how helpful this is when you're editing with an audience of nervous creatives, each with their own unique ideas about how the piece should look.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I am an editor. Unlike the past, though, you’re not just cutting footage that an assistant or producer gives you. Being an editor in 2012 means you also need skills in workflow management, motion graphics, compositing, audio mixing and color correction. I dabble in just about everything related to post-production, but through and through I am an editor of motion pictures. I tell stories through the juxtaposition of one shot next to another. I attribute getting the job almost entirely to luck. One day while working in the Apple Store, a gentleman came in looking for some headphones. We started talking, and I learned he worked for an agency in Boston called SapientNitro. They specialize in digital advertising rather than traditional: website redesigns, web banners, pre-roll videos, in-store digital signage, viral campaigns, kiosk and vending machines, mobile apps, social media, data analytics, and traditional TV, radio, and print for Agency of Record accounts. Rolled into all of that is a heightened push for video to tell consumer stories, showcase products in action, recreate web experiences and anything else people can come up with. For an agency that few people have heard of, they have garnered an incredible amount of success and acclaim in just four short years (voted No.1 digital agency in the United States, No.3 in the world by Ad Age this year). As I asked further about this man’s work at SapientNitro, he mentioned a film series for RAM Trucks that was in pre-production and we talked more in-depth about the production and their post work. As someone who’d been stuck in retail for several months, it was invigorating to be talking in-depth about this kind of work. I wasn't trying to pitch myself, but I showed a genuine interest in what they were working on. Before he left he gave me his card. "Contact me in two weeks. We may have a job for you." Turns out he was the legendary Alan Pafenbach, the man behind Volkswagon's hugely successful Drivers Wanted campaign. Six weeks later, I was handling all their in-house post-production as an intern while working at Apple on the side. Two months of proving myself and surprising my creative directors landed me a full-time position as an editor and I've recently been promoted to senior editor. Now I'm cutting TV commercials and web content for one of the largest digital agencies in the world. It only took a year and a half. You can't write a better story.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
A friend of mine at Apple said it best: "Remain teachable." Never for a second should you think you know everything. The moment you do, you're dead. It's probably better to assume you know nothing right out of the gate. Seek out as much information as you can about editing, visual effects, 3D, camera tech, color science, motion graphics, lighting, film theory and sound design. Read blogs, books, forums, newsletters, listen to podcasts, take courses online, watch tutorials and learn as many pieces of software you can get your hands on. While real world experience is the number one way to get better at your job, the amount of information you will learn from the aforementioned will make you infinitely better. I try to listen to at least one podcast a day and am constantly checking my RSS Feeds. Things are moving at a rapid pace, and an editor needs to be as knowledgeable in new cameras, codecs, software and techniques as they are in craft and theory. Keep yourself knowledgeable about the industry and the people working in it regardless of whether or not it fits your specific skill sets. Every day, the lines between job titles blur a little bit more. And please, for the love of God, have a reel.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
How has your degree from Hofstra helped you?
When I enrolled at Hofstra I didn't know the first or last thing about making films. All I knew was that I wanted to do it. Six years later, I consider myself to be pretty savvy in both the technical and theoretical aspects of filmmaking thanks to Hofstra and its professors. The production courses helped me narrow my focus to post-production and the genre courses pointed me to acclaimed filmmakers and their work.
I don't think a degree generally helps you in the industry. Kids who attend film school are a dime a dozen, especially with the low cost of cameras and software. Everyone is a cinematographer. Everyone is an editor. We’re over-saturated with film programs and not all of them are spectacular. I came out of Hofstra knowing a lot of key concepts and classical skills that many people lack, but I don’t rely on the actual degree to get anywhere. No one in the industry really cares where you went to school. They care about what you’re capable of as a professional. In the end, it's how you spend your time at a university that truly helps once you graduate. My mission at Hofstra was to learn everything I possibly could about filmmaking, and I think I achieved that. The piece of paper is irrelevant. Never use your degree as a crutch for success, use what you learned in the process.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I'm going to break the rules and choose two things. First, the stress. The edit-round-the-clock, not enough footage, creative director looming, temple rubbing, deadline in two hours and the render bar won't move fast enough stress. I love tight schedules with insane deadlines because that's when you really grow as an editor. Not to say you should wait until the last minute to complete every project, but being able to manage your time, manage the footage, manage your timeline and most of all manage the five people behind you watching your every move, and by the way it's due right now – that’s the greatest feeling in the world. It forces surprising creativity and builds a relationship with your clients. People trust me and my abilities when a project comes down to the wire, and that's something that never comes easily. You have to be forced into those situations to cultivate it. Second – the variety of projects. One month it's a series of documentary-style short films profiling RAM Truck owners all over the country. The next week it's an art house, black and white piece for an internal meeting among the teams at Fidelity. And in the middle, eight television commercials for the Northeastern restaurant chain Bertucci's. There's been work for Dunkin Donuts, Chrysler, Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Cigna, The Hartford, Rue La La, CVS, Audi, the list goes on. I'm also crazy enough to accept freelance work on the side. New Balance, the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) and The Tribeca Film Festival are a few side projects I’ve taken on this year. No two are the same and each one has its own crazy, yet challenging, elements. I never know who will walk into my office or what will be on the hard drive my producer gives me. Honestly, I have no idea what I'll be working on in a month, and that's refreshing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing to in the future?If all goes to plan I'll be getting my Oscar for Best Motion Picture Editing. Seriously, that's the end game. It's really hard to explain that to people in the industry because you appear shallow, like you’re only working for that reason. But to me, receiving that award means I've proven myself as an editor, as a professional, as someone who has excelled in their craft. Having that as my ultimate goal keeps me honest, keeps me motivated and keeps me hard-working. For athletes, it's a championship or an Olympic medal. For me, it's an Oscar. What next? I joke that I'm 10 years ahead of my 20 year plan. There are a lot of people my age who are getting coffee and logging dailies and making runs to drop off hard drives. Somehow I skipped all of that and became a senior editor at a major employer two years out of college. But if you let that get the best of you, losing sight of your goals becomes very easy. I don’t want to be comfortable, not until I walk on that stage to accept my award. Now that I'm getting my sea legs in the commercial and advertising industries I'm hoping to make the move to New York or Los Angeles within the next five years. From there I'll begin transitioning into feature and short film editing. That's when I'll walk into work every day and hit nirvana. That's where I want to be.