[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, a series in which I interview young people who are making focused moves to advancing their careers using whatever tools available to them. Shannon Griffin has edited music videos that have garnered over 1M views on YouTube, Her work features celebrities and influencers like Wilmer Valderrama, Jasmine Sanders, and Arianny Celeste. On the side, she also manages a hobby Instagram account where she posts pictures of her boyfriend eating. I wanted to gain some insight as to how she navigates her work life.]
Why video editing? What draws you to this field?
I actually stumbled into video editing funnily enough. Senior year of high school I was taking a theater class and one of our assignments was to create funny sketch videos that we would be showcasing at the end of the year. I knew that nobody in my class wanted to edit the videos. Video editing is super monotonous and low-key boring sometimes. But I volunteered to edit all the videos anyway because I knew that if I did all that work I would get an A in the class. The videos actually turned out pretty good and my teacher Mr. Doyle took notice. He pulled me aside and encouraged me to pursue video editing as a possible career choice. At the time, I had no other career prospects. I had no idea what I wanted to do with “my life.” I knew I wanted to be “creative” in some way. And when I thought about the actual process of editing, I realized that I had a lot of fun doing it. Time flew by when I edited, which some people may call “getting into a flow state.” That’s when I decided that video editing would be my ‘thing’ and I’ve been pursuing it ever since then. (Crazy how teachers say one thing and your whole life changes…).
Video editing definitely evolved into my passion. People always say stuff like ‘find your Passion™’ But it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. As I improved overtime and kept working and learning, I started loving video editing more and more. It’s like a huge puzzle and there’s no ‘right’ way to put it together. I love working with visuals and trying to find the best way to tell a story through the video medium. But the best part is collaborating with super talented directors and cinematographers. Everyone has a different perspective on life and it’s always translated through the way they make their videos. I don’t know. It’s hard to put into words. I also try not to think logically about ‘why’ I love video editing so much. I just follow what my gut tells me. And it tells me it’s just really cool.
What kind of prep work did you do to get yourself in position to edit video in the entertainment industry?
I didn’t want to go to film school because I felt that most film schools didn’t teach post-production. (Although I just learned that Chapman University has a great program… oh well). That’s why I decided to attend Sarah Lawrence College. I thought that it would be a good idea to just take whatever classes I wanted while working as a film intern in Manhattan. Although I did take a couple film classes. I took film theory courses mostly, but I took a production class and a screenwriting class. Theory really helps you form opinions and give you a voice. I also spoke with a couple film professors and sometimes they had a film project that needed editing. I would edit their projects for free on the side which was great practice.
But working as an intern was the main way I primed myself for the work I do now. I learned how to use different editing software. I experienced what it was like to work with tight deadlines. I met and worked with seasoned professionals who took the time to mentor me. I experienced what it was like to work for a large company (CBS Sports) and a small company (Orig Media, Priority Productions). Doing all this also helped me gain more confidence, which is invaluable, especially as a woman in the industry.
What kind of career advice in this field would you give to your past self?
The best career advice is to surround yourself with mentors and experienced professionals. Even Drake says “I can’t do this on my own.” It’s really inspiring and motivating to know that there are successful people in the industry you’re trying to break into. And great mentors can help steer you in the right direction. More often than not, your friends or family have no idea what kind of work you do. They’ll try to give advice when you need it but it’s usually not helpful or accurate. And when you’re first starting out, there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty. A LOT. Mentors know what you’re going through and they’ll be able to guide you through the tough times.
What are your biggest challenges with your main hustle? Your greatest accomplishments?
Biggest challenge by far is collaboration. As a video editor I work with the director, the client, and others to bring a vision together. Sometimes we all won’t agree on every decision. You have to have great communication skills and a lot of patience to find a happy medium. And sometimes you have to make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with (like cutting your favorite shot or using a take that you don’t like). In those moments you really have to be aware of your ego. Music videos, documentaries, narrative… it’s all a collaborative effort and you can’t always get your way. It’s challenging and sometimes intimidating, but it gets better as time goes on (at least that’s what I tell myself).
We’re about to wrap my first ever feature length documentary, so that would probably be my greatest accomplishment. The project posed a lot of challenges, creatively and technically and I feel much more confident after working on it for a year.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year?
I’m super fortunate to have found a great team of people who are not only super hard-working and creative, but give me a lot of great opportunities. My main priority right now is to take advantage of those opportunities and to keep learning and growing with them.
You can find more of Shannon’s work at https://vimeo.com/shannoncgriffin.