My name is Brian Sarfatty. I am a freelance video editor with ten years experience, cutting in both Avid and Premiere, in broadcast, corporate, government, and education, and technical experience in feature (Avatar). My professional career has spanned three continents, from the USA to the UK to New Zealand. I have learned from many amazing visionaries and creative filmmakers. The diversity of my experience makes me adaptable and offers me unique perspectives.

I first learned how to use the Avid in the summer of 2000, during an internship at Synapse Film and Video. I immediately developed a passion for editing, drawn to the creative power of constructing stories. By September of 2000, my professional career in video editing had begun, as I was hired as an “Avid Editing Expert” at the Northwestern University Advanced Media Production Studio.

NUAMPS’s focus was on combining video and emerging audio/visual internet technologies for learning, led by new media visionary Dennis Glenn. This was before YouTube, when most consumers still had dial-up at home, and the first version of Flash with interactive scripting capabilities had just been released. We pioneered using internet video for distance learning, developing interactive audio/visual Flash applications and media-rich websites that were ahead of their time. Very quickly, I expanded from editing to live webcasting and multi-camera shooting, advanced web encoding and optimization, to writing CSS, HTML, Javascript, and Actionscript for web applications. The first project I worked on at NUAMPS, The Last Expression, was a virtual multimedia exhibit for the Block Gallery about the creation of art at the Auschwitz death camp. It combined virtual art exhibits, 360 degree walk-throughs, and web videos of interviews and performances.

In 2001, our team developed into the Distributed Learning Center and moved into a new home under the School of Communication. There we produced libraries of hundreds of categorized “clip” style videos for specialized recruitment at the McCormick Engineering School, and a similar video library and whole new CMS-based website for Communication’s rebranding from the School of Speech. We also produced innovative distance learning materials for the Law and Medical schools that combined video and interactive Flash content. Working with these organizations spurned my passion for using emerging technology to find creative ways to connect people and ideas.

Seeing how the web enabled people to interact at a global level sparked my involvement with the Center for Art and Technology’s Wishing Tree project. I was partnered with,Radrigo Cadiz, a Chilean computer programmer and electronic music composer, to help create a web-based art project envisioned by established Dutch multimedia artists Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas.  The concept was based on a Chinese tradition of hanging wishes to trees located in temple courtyards. The virtual tree was generated programmatically in Flash, and grew from a seedling to a mature tree when users from around the world logged in and placed wishes on the tree. Elsa and Madelon flew in for the website’s opening and live event held at the Block Gallery. It was unbelievable to meet, work with, and learn from these prolific artists, and help realize their creative vision.

My appetite for working at an international level was not yet satisfied. In January 2003 I set off for a five-month program in London that was a collaboration between NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the BBC’s training division. The program consisted of seminars held at BBC studios around London, where we were trained by working industry producers and directors. Our hands-on practicums were staffed by crews of professional cameramen, PA’s, actors, writers, and editors who worked at the BBC. After learning from the best, we went on to participate in an internship at a BBC production department. I worked at the BBC Arts Department at White City, where I helped producers research material, find archive footage, and film interview segments.  I also assisted the editor by capturing, conforming, and cutting montage sequences. The TV programs I worked on included the BBC’s Big Read Debate, a panel discussion of Britain’s favorite books, a documentary about trash culture and “lad mags” (I got to interview the UK director of Maxim), a documentary about architect Sir Christopher Wren, and an interview with architect Renzo Piano. My time at the BBC impressed me with publicly-funded television’s role to simultaneously entertain and educate, and serve cultural needs not met in the commercial sector.

The program’s end saw me rushing back to the States, as an animation I co-created, LCD, was being featured at the Kalamazoo International Film Festival. This festival was an amazing opportunity to meet talented animation filmmakers from around the world, and my film won a silver medal!

Returning to Chicago in mid ‘03, my interest in emerging technologies continued at Mythryn Digital Storytellers where I helped produce interactive Flash customer service training demos for Accenture. In August of ’03, I began working full-time as an assistant editor at Mixed Media, a small production company in Chicago run by editor/producer Ernie Schubert. Our specialty was high end documentary-style fundraising videos for large non-profits. We produced annual videos for the Jewish United Fund that involved shoots in Chicago, Eastern Europe, Israel, and South America, documenting personal stories of communities and individuals helped by JUF. Finished with a custom score and professional graphics, these videos were the gems of the JUF annual fundraising cycle and well known throughout the Chicago Jewish community. We also produced fundraising videos for St Vincent DePaul Center, Notre Dame University, and Jewish Council for Youth Services. Our secondary business was producing videos for corporate theater events. These were shown at conferences, conventions, trade shows, and national meetings for big brands such as Culligan, Spectrum Brands, Morgan Stanely, Siemens, and Meridian Yachts. They typically included high-energy voice over, fast editing, and graphics spurning brand pride, accomplishments, and corporate morale.

As a two-man operation, I got to learn and do a lot during my time at Mixed Media. My responsibilities included helping to coordinate shoots, to designing motion graphics, to engineering technical solutions to streamline our workflow, to becoming an associate editor and cutting many of our corporate and fundraising projects independently in a second Avid suite.

In early 2006, I left Chicago and headed out on my next adventure – New Zealand. An interest in working abroad was sparked by my time in the UK, and I was looking for a place as different from Chicago as possible. My first full-time job down under was at The Dub Shop in Wellington. This was the swiss-army-knife hub of technical postproduction services for the Wellington film and video industry. I designed professional DVDs, transcoded footage, onlined TV shows, prepared festival screeners of local features, encoded commercials, and transferred archive films and analog audio recordings to digital formats. We had a very international team, with two Americans, a Fijian Indian, a Brazilian, a Spaniard, a Colombian, and a Chilean. The shop was run by local veteran editor Simon Reece, who worked on films with famous kiwi filmmakers Vincent Ward (The Last Samurai, What Dreams May Come, Alien 3), Barry Barclay, and Gaylene Preston, and was former business partners with Jamie Selkirk (Academy-Award editor of King Kong and Lord of the Rings). Simon taught me an uncompromising attitude for quality and technical perfection. Through my time at the Dub Shop, I very quickly learned my way through the Kiwi film industry, which helped me make the connections that would lead me to work on Avatar and at Propeller Productions.

Whilst working at the Dub Shop, I met Jonno Woodford Robinson (assistant editor on Lord of the Rings and King Kong), who helped put me in touch with Weta Digital. A couple weeks later, I got a call from the production manager on a film being shot in Wellington called Avatar. They were looking for someone experienced in operating HD decks to work an overnight shift in the engineering truck running dubs of their dailies. It was so amazing to be a part of this production, and see some of the amazing technologies being used. For example, they had live motion capture actors playing giant creatures interacting with actors filming elsewhere on set, composited together through real-time 3-d graphics engines.  It was also very interesting to see all the raw green screen footage, and then see the finished scenes with the graphics.

Also around this time, I was offered a full-time editing job at Propeller Productions. They specialized in producing video projects for government agencies, banks and insurance companies. I had the opportunity to work on some very interesting videos for ACC, a unique government-funded insurance company that automatically covers anyone in New Zealand who is in an accident. I also cut internal videos for the Internal Revenue Department, customer service training videos for the National Bank, and assisted with an entertaining induction and orientation video for parliamentary aides. Unfortunately, the impending elections and economic crisis impacted our business and my time at Propeller ended in May 08. However, this opened up a new world of opportunities for me in the burgeoning indigenous broadcasting industry.

In July 2008 I moved to Rotorua, the cultural capital of the indigenous Maori community, and began working at Maui Productions on television programs for Maori Television, the national broadcaster focused on preserving Maori language and culture. The programs I worked on ranged from a panel talk show, Whatukura, that was spoken entirely in the Maori language, to Kai Time on the Road, a food-cooking show that was 50/50 Maori and English. I also worked on Maori content for our mainstream national broadcaster, TVNZ, including a documentary about traditional tattooing and VT segments for Marae, a Sunday morning current affairs show. The production company consisted of an all-Maori staff, and I was privileged to be immersed in the culture not just in the content I was producing, but in everyday workplace interactions. For example, all production meetings began with a karakia (traditional prayer) and our Christmas Party consisted of a hangi, a traditional feast cooked inside the earth. Being the only staff video editor at this company gave me both a lot of responsibility and creative opportunities.

2008 was also an election year in New Zealand, and I was responsible for cutting all the broadcast campaign material for the Maori Party, including campaign ads, longer-form campaign openers and closer videos, and election day coverage of the local Maori electorate for TVNZ. New Zealand politics are unique in that the country is divided into two overlapping electorates, the Maori electorates, and the general electorates, with a certain number of seats reserved in government for representatives from the Maori community. Traditionally, the Maori seats were the stronghold of the mainstream liberal Labour Party, but due to a political split in 2004 these seats are now contested between the Labour Party and the Maori Party, with the latter presently holding the majority. It was really interesting to learn about a very different political system, and how indigenous politics interact with national politics. With the help of our videos, the Maori Party expanded their representation in Parliament and gained ministerial positions.

My work in Maori broadcasting continued in 2009, when I moved to Auckland to begin working on a show called Ngati NRL at Butobase. The show tracked young league rugby players of Maori and Pacific Islander decent, who left New Zealand for Australia to break into the first grade NRL level. My experience working here was very different, as this was a multi-ethnic team of Australians, Asians, Kiwis, and Canadians that relied on Maori cultural and language consultants. However, the team was committed to treating all cultures with respect and integrity, as demonstrated by the next project I worked on at Butobase, Minority Voices. This ten-part TV documentary series related the challenges faced by refugees from the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central and Southeast Asia in settling and adapting to life in New Zealand.

Simultaneous to this work, I was enrolled in a year-long Maori language and culture course at Te Wananga o Aotearoa to increase my understanding of the content and cultural issues in my work. It was such a positive experience to grow with the course participants, many of whom were Maori and were learning their traditional language for the first time. The course included a weekend stay at a marae where we participated in a deeply spiritual powhiri ceremony. We called upon our ancestors and the ancestors of our hosts to welcome, interact, and debate with visitors. We slept in the whare nui, the intricately decorated community house where ancestors reside, ate traditional communal meals, and participated in a traditional kaihoe waka rowing exercise. These experiences sensitized me to appreciate another culture and the issues they face, and gave me a deeper appreciation for the spiritual aspects of my own cultural identity.

The end of 2009 saw me headed on an around the world tour to see friends and family, flying to Europe via Korea, and working my way through Israel, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the UK, flying back to Chicago via Ireland.

Back in Chicago, I freelance at Adelstein Liston, Grand and Noble Productions, Backstar Creative, Fooditude Media, Resolution Digital Studios, Richter Studios, Bitter Jester Creative, Mixed Media, Potenza Productions, and Picture Show. I have taught video production and postproduction classes at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. I am always looking to expand my freelance client list.  There are so many amazing stories to craft here in Chicago!