Editor Ken Filewych’s VERY thorough answers!

Posted on May 17, 2010

Well, I have to say Ken really outdid himself by being massively comprehensive when he answered your questions! I know I learned a lot, and now you can too! Click though for his answers!

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Q: G'day from Australia Ken! :) Just thought I would applaud you on the wonderful work you do for the show *clap clap clap* Ok, my question is: As the editor you must receive some funny cuts, where the actors stuff up there lines, or something unexpected happens. What are some of the funniest bloopers you have seen involving Ty and Amy? : ) Thanks!
Posted by The_Heartland_Fan on May 3, 2010 5:34 PM

A: Hello Heartland Fan from Australia. It's always nice to hear from our international fans. As far as bloopers are concerned, our actors all come to set prepared but inevitably, there are days with difficult dialogue, troublesome actions or times that they just have uncontrolled laughter (some would even call them giggles). Each year, Jane and myself create a video that we show at the wrap party and part of it involves bloopers and it is always well received. I'm always a little nervous showing the blooper reel but luckily our actors have a great sense of humor.

Specifically, besides seeing bulls mount cows in the background of serious scenes (I'm a city boy and, well, a boy) some of my favorite Amy and Ty bloopers are the ones they've done with risqué dialogue and/or actions to which I can speak of no more.

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Q: Hi Ken! I LOVE heartland and i can only imagine how much work it must be to get everything together perfectly! I would like to ask, what was the hardest episode to edit yet? thanks!
Posted by Margaret on May 3, 2010 6:51 PM

A: Hello Margaret. It is a lot of work but it seldom feels like it. It would be hard to pin down one particular episode that was "hardest" because there are many different challenges in every episode. For example, in an episode like "Ring of Fire" even though the scenes are scripted there are many, many ad lib moments and the story during the event is told through our announcer and competitors just talking to the audience. Therefore the decisions as to what pieces to use (out of dozens of lines) and when and where to take breaks from the action are all to be discovered. At the risk of sounding corny, I do feel the footage speaks and as an editor you just have to listen to what it wants to be.

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Q: Hi Ken, you do such an amzing job on heartland everything turns out brilliantly! my question for you is how long does it take for you to put together one whole episode? thanks a lot you make heartland that much better!!!!
Posted by Ashley on May 3, 2010 7:29 PM

A: Hello Ashley. As other people such as director Dean Bennett have mentioned, Heartland is "block shoot" This means we do 2 episodes every 15 days (or what we term a "block"). Jane Morrison and I alternate blocks so for example, if Block 1 starts shooting on a Monday, the film is sent out to Toronto to be processed that night and I have the first dailies (footage that was shot) back in Calgary to work on Thursday. I then continue to cut the show while it is being filmed. In this scenario, Block 1 would be finished on the third Friday and then the next Monday, Block 2 starts (which Jane now starts working on.)

So...I get my final dailies three days into Block 2 and I then have to have the director in to see the complete cuts of both shows in seven to nine days after final dailies are received. Then the producers see a cut. And then the broadcaster (CBC) takes a look. And finally, they all get a last look. During each of these "cuts", notes from the various parties involved are discussed and incorporated. If all goes well, these 2 episodes of Block 1 will be "picture locked" by the time I get the first dailies from block 3 although it is not uncommon to be finishing up some episodes as we start our next block.

And those shows still aren't done because after those shows leave my computer, it is usually about another two months before a show is "completed" because there is still dialogue cutting, music scoring, sound effects, colour correcting and sometimes visual effects to be done.

Repeat this for 9 months.

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Q: Hey there Ken! You do an awesome job editing the show! Keep it up! My question: What do you love most about film editing?
Posted by Shanna on May 3, 2010 8:06 PM

A: . Don't tell anyone but I think I have the best job because dozens upon dozens of extremely talented people work long and hard writing, prepping and shooting the shows. Then I get the footage and get to put all that hard work together and be the first person to see it as a whole. A common phrase in our industry is that a show gets "done" three times. The first time is when it's written, the second time is when it's shot and then the third time is when it's edited. This is very true because there are so many variables when shooting. A scripted line of "Amy walks over to Spartan and Spartan looks away" may not seem like much but if that action isn't filmed as stated, then other options must be considered. The challenge is to build into the show the same emotion as written and acted but it may have to be shown in an unintended way.

The other thing I love is being able to change the meaning of things with just a reworking of the shots. In this example from the show, watch how in the first version of the scene, Amy forgives Kit and offers an olive branch. In the second version, Amy does not forgive Kit and therefore their future friendship is in jeopardy.

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In the next example, watch how in version one of the scene Tim is addressing the whole gang. In the second example, there is more weight put on Jack's line (by adding an extra shot) and the scene ends putting weight on what Lou thinks. In the final version, watch how it's pretty much between Tim and Ty.

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In this next example, Amy walks in on Ty and Kit at a different moment of the scene, changing it's meaning.

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In this last example, the first version of the scene shows Amy walking in, we then see what she sees and then she reacts. In the second version, we see Amy react before seeing what she sees and there is also a greater time passage before Tim shows up. The third version has the scene go by quickly which lessens Amy's connection and concern of the situation.

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Q: Greetings, Ken! I've had a wee bit of experience with digital editing, so I have a tiny idea how much fun (and how frustrating) things can be. I don't think I'd have the patience for your job, so a big thumbs up to you and your partner, Jane Morrison! My question deals with how much contact you have with the writers and directors, etc., in regards to the final product... Whose 'vision', ultimately, are you editing together from all the raw footage to what we see on our TV screens? Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions!
Posted by TC on May 3, 2010 11:16 PM

A: The talented Heartland writers are just down the hall from us and we talk to them a fair bit about episodes, characters and arcs. I also play ball with Ken Craw so we talk L.A. Dodgers as well.

As for the directors, they come in after Jane or I have put together their two episodes and then they get a couple of days in the suite with us to make sure their vision of the eps are complete before the cuts go out for viewing by producers etc.

As for whose "vision" hits the screens, as many before me in the Q&A have said, it is a team effort. Everyone brings something to the table so at every level, the show just gets better and better.

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Q: Greetings from Britain! As an amateur film-maker (heavy accent on the amateur!), I have had a reasonable amount of experience at editing a variety of things. So, my question is... What is the most challenging and most pleasing/satisfying thing about editing Heartland?
Posted by 3blindmice on May 4, 2010 6:20 AM

A: Hello 3blindmice. I love cutting scenes that have little or no dialogue that create emotions. For example, I loved putting together the Caleb crash scene at the end of 314 or the scene in 313 where Pegasus dies. Those scenes have beautiful pace and are (in my mind) quite emotional. Also, some of my favourite scenes may not be noticed by people and that is because I love a challenge and if for some reason we have a to turn a scene around emotionally or expand something with little footage, it's a great feeling to do that seamlessly.

When it comes to editing in general, here's an example I like to show when I'm talking to students or teaching courses. These stills are taken from a documentary called "Edge Codes" (official website) and what I have done is arrange the exact same 8 shots in two different "sequences."

Edge Codes Winner

Edge Codes Winner


The amazing part about this is that these two sequences have the opposite meaning although all the shots are the same. That is the power of editing. We can shape and tell different stories and convey different emotions using exactly the same footage.

By the way, whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them to watch "Edge Codes."

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Q: Ken, I agree with everyone here... both you and Jane bring the scenes alive and we Thank you for it, also, Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. So my question is: When did you realize that you wanted to be a film editor and why did you decide to be one?
Posted by Dalaigh on May 4, 2010 11:26 AM

A: I have always loved movies and when I was in junior & senior high school I made films with friends but I never thought that it would be my career. But the more I played around with my own stuff the more I realized I loved doing it and had some level of talent for it.

I often tell people that editing is music. It is loud and soft, fast and slow. Those are the ways we create emotion in music and it is how we create emotion in editing. Having played violin since I was 4, music has always been a huge part of my life and I am always noticing how much editing is like writing and playing music.

The other reason I decided to be an editor is, as you can see from my picture, I was destined to be "behind" the camera and being a relatively quiet control freak, editing was a natural choice.

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Q: Hi Ken, Heartland is really great. It must be hard to decide what scenes to use. You really do show off Alberta. We love all the characters in the show. Do the actors have any input in the editing?
Posted by amelia on May 4, 2010 1:25 PM

A: I don't see the actors too much to be honest. I know some editors who purposely never go to set or have any interaction with actors so as not to ruin the illusion of the characters. I've never felt that way and I always really enjoy talking to the actors because to have their take on certain situations is very interesting and can be helpful. Having said that, there are certainly times when I might get a phone call from an actor worried about a particular scene that, for whatever reason, they felt didn't meet their expectations and they want to discuss it.

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Q: Hey Ken! I think you do a wonderful job as an editor for Heartland! My question for you is, do you find it difficult to edit when stunt riders are used?
Posted by Teri on May 4, 2010 7:04 PM

A: Hello Teri. Stunt riders or stunt performers in general can be a challenge. There are a number of things to consider other than whether the actor and stunt performer look alike. If an actor and stunt performer ride differently that sticks out far more than any other visual cue. Also, in an episode like 313 where there is dressage, it is most important to make sure the horse is "doing what it's suppose to" as per the script. In fact, in that episode, both the actor and stunt performer as well as their horses are quite different. However, one can get away with things like that when the moments are engaging and cut properly as you can guide people into looking at the action, not necessarily the continuity. For example, you would never cut from a medium shot of the horse and actor to a similar medium shot because you would really notice the differences. If you cut from a detail of the horse then to the stunt rider and then to a detail of the horse and then to the actor, things are less noticeable.

It's my job to make sure continuity is kept but if you've ever watched a Martin Scorsese movie, you know that if the drama and emotion are stellar, continuity really doesn't matter.

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Q: Hi Ken, My question is, being the editor of heartland, do you have all the episodes memorized by heart and which one do you know best??? i know i would be able to recite every line if i watched them 100 TIMES!!! great job by the way!
Posted by eventer on May 4, 2010 7:19 PM

A: Hello eventer. I would say that Jane and I (and our assistants Todd Buttenham and Duane Martin) definitely learn most of the lines as we go along. Having seen the episodes over and over, Jane and I can recite the shows pretty well but something to remember is we're not just concentrating on the dialogue when we watch the shows over and over. We're watching for emotion, pace, action and/or many other things.

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Q: Hey Ken! Awesome job with the editing, the episodes are always seamless, and seemingly one long take rather than several snippets from various different takes, which I guess is pretty much the point of an editor. So, my question is, what is the hardest thing to keep track of when you are checking for continuity? Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!
Posted by Milly on May 4, 2010 7:43 PM

A: Continuity is a very strange thing. There are times that you can get away with huge continuity errors and very few people will notice. I remember watching the season premiere of the excellent and popular Fox series "24" a year ago and noticing some things in this clip.... (spoiler alert - watch it now before reading on)

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It's pretty hard to believe that you can see both the B camera and cameraman as well as the stills photographer IN THE SHOT. We deal similar things on Heartland. For example, a horse might move unexpectedly and a wrangler might get in the frame. Often what we'll do is "punch in" or increase the scale of the shot and reposition the frame so the not intended person or object is not seen. We do this a lot.

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Q: Hi Ken, You do a wonderful job on Heartland. Out of all the episodes on Heartland, which scene was you favourite result (after editing it) ? Why? ?Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
Posted by Francesca on May 4, 2010 10:27 PM

A: Hello Francesca. I don't have a favourite but the end scene of 313 where Tim is delivering the eulogy to Pegasus is a beautiful and engaging sequence. Also, I was really happy how Caleb's crash in 314 turned out. The stunt rider in that episode was incredible and actually got stepped on by the horse (the shot is in the sequence.) Also, Kerry James did a great job hopping along side the horse which really helped sell the fact that he was the only cowboy throughout the sequence.

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Q: Hey! I was wondering, when you shoot a scene, do you use many cameras at once, and that's it, or do the actress play the scene many times and you use only one/two cameras at the same time, and you shoot the scene over and over again? How can you know if the person or horse says at the exact same time every time you shoot it? What if we can see that she's moved? By the way, great job!
Posted by Line from Norway on May 5, 2010 9:51 AM

A: Hello Line from Norway. I don't know the exact percentage but for the majority of Heartland (about 70%??) there is both an A Camera and B Camera running. On some of the more complicated and action filled scenes (like the Ring of Fire) there are usually three cameras running. These horse sequences can be very hard to film and our camera operators and crew do a great job capturing the moments.

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Q: Greetings Ken, Like everyone posting here, we enjoy every "finished" episode & season of Heartland. From previous blogs about behind the scenes we have learned there is more than one director responsible for the series, so how does this change up of directors & their ideas affect your job of editing? Does each director have a different "look" they are going for and must you adapt to them OR do you give them what you see as working best and then they decide what of your work they will use in the final shot/s? Over the seasons I have noticed some episodes may seem almost "choppy" whereas others (different director) will have that half second more of a scenery shot or an actor's reaction in a dialogue scene, who makes those decisions - editors or directors?? Thanks for the great work, look forward to Season 4!!
Posted by DDW on May 5, 2010 11:12 AM

A: Hello DDW. Great question. All directors are different and that is another aspect of the job I love. I get to work with incredibly talented directors who all approach the show in their own way. For example, Dean Bennett is a master painter and former D.O.P. and I think his shows reflect that. Grant Harvey is an old friend and in general we have far too much fun in the suite (although we work very hard.) All the directors bring a different set of skills to the process. What I try to do is get into their head as I watch the footage and believe it or not, it happens. You learn how a director covers a scene and what their tendencies are. You learn about what they like visually as well as what they like from their actors. In the end, it is Jane and my job to insert their shows into the Heartland opus so that it all works as a complete piece.

I often think of editors as the bartenders of the film world. We invite people into our rooms for long stretches of time and we hear about the successes and failures of a particular shoot. We hear about peoples' families and sooooo much more. It is a very intimate atmosphere because for a director coming into the suite to watch their episodes, it can be very difficult. The speed at which the shows are prepped and shot and the constant give and take between "craftsmanship" and "budget" are always there. After three hard weeks of prep and three hard weeks of shooting, when a director finally walks into the edit suite they can be quite separated from the footage (not to mention run down.) They may feel that they didn't fully "get" a particular scene for some reason. They may feel that a core theme throughout a show didn't quite "work." What I hope is that when they finish watching the episode, they say of a particular scene or element "Wow. That worked out better than I thought it would." And if that isn't the case, that's when we put the hammer down and work until it all works.

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Q: Hey Ken, One of my favourite scenes that you have edited was in the episode ' Corporate Cowgirls ' when they were trying to get on the horses and were falling off or, getting on backwards! That made me laugh out loud literally ! My question is what is you're favourite genre to edit and do you edit more shows and movies other that Heartland? Thank you for your time and have a great day/evening! :)
Posted by Calli on May 5, 2010 4:24 PM

A: Hello Calli. I agree that the scene in "Corporate Cowgirls" where the girls are riding backwards etc is a great moment in Heartland and it couldn't have been cut by a better editor. And... that would have been Jane!

I feel so lucky to work with Jane Morrison who has so much experience and talent. As I was mentioning in another answer about how different directors bring different things to the table, the same goes for editors. Jane is a renaissance woman who lives on Bamfield Island in British Columbia - which as far as I can tell is only accessible by taking a boat, a plane or possibly riding in on a seal. Jane has a wonderful sense of humour and a love of life and when I watch her episodes, I feel that really comes out. I always look forward to asking Jane what she's doing for the weekend (if we're not working) as her answer might be something like this.... " I'm going to a seminar at Lee Valley Tools to learn how to carve wood sculptures and then on Sunday, I may go skydiving. "

Let's hear it for JANE!!!!

As far as favourite genres that I enjoy editing, there really isn't one. I remember in the first season of Heartland I was finishing up a dominatrix movie with Tricia Helfer and LeeLee Sobieski and had also just spent a few months in an edit suite with the legendary Joni Mitchell cutting her ballet. If there are three more diverse projects than a dominatrix movie, a modern ballet and a Sunday night family show on CBC I don't know what they are. That's what keeps me going. I love editing documentaries, music videos, short films, feature films, Heartland, commercials and anything else I can get my hands on. I just love the challenges and the variety.

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Q: Hey Ken, First of all, a big thanks for taking the time to answer all these fan questions! I have a huuuuuge admiration for editors-- having done a little amateur film editing myself, I can't imagine how much time and effort goes into doing the actual pro job. My question for you would be... apologies for it being very technical... what film editing software would you recommend? I've played around a lot in Pinnacle Studio, have learned enough about iMovie to hate it, and am really starting to wonder what the pros actually use. Willing to help out an aspiring amateur? ;)

P.S. And if you want to add what your favorite comfort food is, I wouldn't mind knowing that too! (For Twe's amazingly long and interesting list of the favorite comfort foods of cast & crew).
Posted by Twe on May 5, 2010 7:49 PM

A: I'm always glad to talk technical although it isn't my strength. I'm an editor first and a computer guy waaaaayyyyy second - that's why Jane and I have an uber-tech-guy as one of our assistant editors. His name is Duane Martin.

We use Final Cut Pro Studio as our editing software. We have a common server (we call it HAL) that stores our raw media files which allows all of our work stations the ability to access any and all footage at any and all times. In fact, all of us could be editing the very same clip on numerous Final Cut stations at once. Very cool.

I am a huge fan of FCP (and Macs) and Jane comes from years of experience on Avid. My personal take is that a program like Final Cut has influenced so many young editors and it is used so much in schools that FCP is now a very common and effective choice. I have never used Pinnacle Studio but products like that and the Adobe line of products are comparable, from what I hear.

For me, you can never learn enough programs as many, many features and functions transfer from one program to the next. For example, a keyframe used for animating a property is pretty much the same from program to program once you understand what it does. Over the years I have worked on Avid, Final Cut, Media 100 844, After Effects, Motion and many more, not to mention the old stand bys like Photoshop, Illustrator and DVD Studio Pro.

Oh, and my favourite comfort food? Popcorn!

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Q: Hi Ken, Wow - you are very good at your job! When does the cast get to see the final product? Do they see it put together for the first time on TV like the rest of us or do they get to preview the final edited episodes before they get aired? Thank you and good luck for Season 4!!
Posted by Sandra on May 5, 2010 10:56 PM

A: As far as I know, the cast pretty much sees the episodes as they air. One of the main reasons for this is that the shows are not completed much before their air times and the cast is working very hard throughout the season. However, we usually have a screening of the first few episodes for the cast and crew before the season premiere.

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Q: Hi Ken! Excellent job! Few TV shows have the quality of editing/directing that movies do, but Heartland certainly does. Well done! How long does it take to put together a sequence of scenes such as the one described here on the blog?
Posted by JumperCowgirl on May 6, 2010 7:40 PM

A: Hello JumperCowgirl. Nice handle. The sequence described in the blog would not have taken me too long to put together but I may have gone back and tweaked it as the episode developed. On a scene like that, I know that I have to accomplish a few things. I have to make sure that we see that it is Amy riding Spartan as we are introducing and beginning the show. I try and make sure that anyone paying attention would have noticed that the return address on one of the envelopes is from the Ring of Fire organization. However, in those situations, I hesitate to stay too much longer on a shot than normal because you want still want it to feel like a natural part of the sequence even though you are imparting information. And finally, we had to show Amy's reaction to the mail. Again. Not too much. Not too little.

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Q: Hi Ken! You do a great job with the editing of Heartland!! Thanks for all the work you do; keep it up! If you are editing a really exciting episode is it difficult to stay focused on the job?
Posted by Phoebs on May 7, 2010 9:06 PM

A: Hello Phoebs. I don't find it hard to stay focused on the episode and in fact, if it is an exciting scene, I'm trying to get my fingers to react quickly enough to get the thoughts out of my head before I forget them (I'm getting old.) I liken it to typing out an email or writing a script. If you have a really good idea, you are typing away and even though you are typing "this is what I just thought about" you are actually now thinking way ahead of that. That's why watching an editor put together a first assembly is not advised because what you are seeing on the screen is often what the editor was thinking about 15 seconds and 3 shots ago.

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Q: Hey Ken. First of all, I just want to say you do an amazing job! (so do you, Jane.) It must be really cool to see everything before it all gets put together to form an awesome TV series... All the patience and hard work is totally loved in the end. Anyways, Ken my question is... My favourite episode is probably "The Haunting of the Hanley Barn", but to you is there one episode that would put together that just screamed "I did a great job on this one"? From a very fascinated, and very happy fan,
Posted by Allison on May 5, 2010 11:04 PM

A: It's really hard to pick a favourite episode. They all have favourite moments. As for "The Haunting of Hanley Barn," my wonderful co-editor Jane cut that episode and it did turn out great. I remember reading the first draft of the script and it totally felt like an episode of a Scooby Doo cartoon. (BTW. Mark Haroun who wrote that script definitely could write for Saturday morning cartoons.)

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Q: Hi Ken! You're awesome and there's no show close to better than Heartland. My question is, if you were to use 3 words to describe your self, what would they be and why? Continue doing a great job and can't wait for season 4!! Love ya!
Posted by Jann on May 5, 2010 4:46 PM

A: Hello Jann. Hmmn - Okay - 1) Talented. 2) Funny. 3) Caring. Oh wait, that's three words that describe Jane.

For me... 1) Family. 2) Film. 3) Sports. (A 4th word would be Wine.)

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Q: Hello Ken. You do a great job with the editing, well done, it makes Heartland great! :) Okay my question is: What is your favourite thing about editing Heartland? Thanks so much for answering, if you do, and thanks so much for making Heartland so great!
Posted by Firefly on May 5, 2010 7:09 AM

A: Hello Firefly. My favourite part of editing Heartland is not unlike any other job that I do. I love seeing the results of really talented people putting stories on film and I love the fact that I'm the first to jam it all together. Besides the talented actors, you have met and will continue to meet many of the behind the scenes people whose creativity, hard work and intelligence can never be underestimated. There is one reason that there are very few great television shows and movies - it's really hard to do. The planets have to be aligned and everyone has to be willing to work really hard. Even though it's what I do for a living, when I see a magical moment on film sometimes I say to myself "that's amazing" and I really do mean it because I know just how many hours went into those few seconds.

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Thank you SO MUCH Ken! This was awesome!