Alaster Jordan Editor and Partner, Whitehouse Post

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After his move from London to NYC, TRUST catches up with Whitehouse Post Editor and Partner Alaster Jordan to discuss the rewards of grueling work, the relationship between editors and agencies, and some good (and not so good) advice.

What are some of your favorite campaigns to have worked on with Whitehouse Post?

It’s interesting how your feelings towards certain projects change over time. By this, I obviously mean that those jobs which were incredibly difficult due to brutal hours, insane deadlines and sickening budgets, alongside good creative, somehow developed a warm fuzzy glow of affection a year or two on. This is often partly due to accolades and awards that they’ve collected, but more importantly, demanding situations and schedules can bring out the best in good craftsmen and help focus people’s thoughts and when you review the results in the cold light of day, they stand up. Probably three campaigns spring to my mind for different reasons, and two of them definitely fit into the category I’ve just described:

Coors – “Jean-Claude Van Damme”: Just very very very hard work, but well received.

Walkers (Lays) – “Sandwich”: Seven cameras, six celebrities, twelve spots, six three-minute films, two weeks, one editor.

British Heart Foundation – “Hard & Fast”: Great script, great director, comfortable schedule, dream agency team, charming clients. The exception to the rule?

What sorts of goals have you set for yourself and for Whitehouse NYC during your tenure at the New York office?

I’ve never knowingly set myself goals, and I should follow that statement with a smart justification for it, but I don’t have one, and if I did it would be boring, complex and unreadable. As for Whitehouse NYC, they don’t need me to set goals for them. It’s already hugely busy, vibrant, well run and fun. My goal should be not to fuck it up! We are expanding our space this year, and making tech and cosmetic improvements, but my main aim really is to just ensure that we have the best possible people doing the best possible work.

How has the production industry changed since you got your start? How have you seen the role of editorial companies and editors evolve over time?

I started a while back in London, where things are done differently than they are in the US anyway, and editorial companies are used differently in the US than they are in the UK and Europe. But, one of the biggest changes from when I started is the amount of time the agency spends with the editor. While it’s fairly common for the team to spend a few days or even weeks in the edit now, when I started it was unusual for them to be in for more than an hour. If there was significant work to be done after the first presentation, they would pop back for an hour the following day to see the changes.

I haven’t really seen our role change over time, the way we do our job has changed, the machines, the environment, the level of “finishing” in the suite etc., but our actual role feels remarkably similar to me. We may now “cut” on set more, as opposed to just “being” on set as we were before, and our assistants’ roles have changed massively due to the evolution of workflows, but the basis of our level of input is consistent with how it was in analog/film times.

Obviously budgets, schedules and other stuff has changed, shrunk, and gotten harder etc., but that’s universal across every sector of industry, and is totally boring.

There is no place for ego or vanity in the cutting room; creativity, thought and honesty are what matter.

How have you found New York to be different from London?

I’ve been here 10 days so far, so it’s a bit too soon to be asking. If I were pushed, it would be easier to say what’s not different, and I honestly can’t think of a single thing that isn’t different, not a thing, not one.

What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve received over the course of your career that you’d like to pass along to the editors you mentor?

Nobody ever gave me advice, and if they had I would probably have been too cocky to take it…

What I learned from my mentor (Dave Garland) who was the best editor I have yet to come across, was that the idea is all that matters. Everything you do in the edit suite should be directed at making the idea work as well as it can. The “script” and the “idea” can be two different things, and the script may not be the best interpretation of the idea, so do whatever you have to to make the idea king. There is no place for ego or vanity in the cutting room; creativity, thought and honesty are what matter.

Actually, one person gave me a piece of advice when I started out. He said, “Work really hard when you’re a young runner and assistant editor, and you won’t have to work so hard later, when you’re an editor.” But he was clearly a liar and a fool…