Christina Humphries: A commercial editor in the first person

Christina Humphries

As one of the few female editors in Toronto’s commercial editing industry, Rooster Post Production partner/editor Christina Humphries occupies a unique vantage point in the business. In this article, Christina tells her own story, … in the first person.

I grew up mainly in rural Ontario, and because of the smallness of lifestyle, I never thought of working in commercials for a living. I always had a love and appreciation for film and visual story telling, but my eyes were opened to commercial post when I first started working at The Players Film Company in downtown Toronto. An acquaintance from Queen’s University, where I went to school, was looking to hire a post-production coordinator for a booming production company. The Players Film Company had some of the top directors producing some of the best work at the time. I was overjoyed to be offered the position … and once there, I was surprised to see the creativity, talent and production value that went into these short films. It made me realize how much commercials were already a part of my life – like the jingles that I still hum twenty years later. I realized that commercials represent the cultures, trends, dreams, aspirations and identities of the world – how could I not want to be a part of that? Commercial advertising is always changing, challenging and rewarding.

After months of hard work, I moved over to Player’s sister company Relish to work as an assistant editor. I always have had a love and appreciation for film and visual story telling, but my real education started when I first became an assistant editor. I don’t believe that editing can be taught from a book. Editing is a feeling and you need mentors to help you take those feelings and translate them to the screen. As soon as I entered the business there were so many people … peers, co-workers and clients, who became my mentors and friends. They were, and still are, my true teachers.

Back then I was a bit of a rarity. Maybe I still am. I would love it if there were more female editors in the business, but it isn’t a profession that women are drawn to. Editing is a huge investment in time and emotions. Like any artist, you bare your soul via your work, but it is a collaborative art where you have to take the ideas and tastes of the many people you work with into account. You need to be emotionally strong to handle it. Perhaps many woman find it too draining.

Industry-wise, it isn’t very often you see women working on car and beer campaigns which I find strange … lots of creative campaigns offer both a male and female point of view. On Volkswagen “Terra Firma”, I approached the edit from a mother’s point of view, telling the story of her child’s joy at finally being at the end of a long, long drive. Meanwhile, the edit is representing the tension and unfolding of a young boy’s body and energy as he hugs his second mother … Mother Earth.

Whether you are male or female Super Sexy CPR speaks to both in very similar ways. Seeing two beautifully… art directed women on screen will catch anyone’s attention. The challenge with that spot was to keep it clean and still appeal to all audiences. My female perspective came in handy … I think it kept the spot from potentially becoming too vulgar. Softer cuts and transitions, smooth body motions and different speeds help to make the spot feel softer and … safe to keep watching. Cutting with a male point of view added tighter shots, longer pauses, close-up voyeuristic shots and repetitive motions. Both points of view help to cut a successful commercial.

Then there’s TELUS … the commercials with the cute animals. There, you’re working without actors, sets, and with footage that can be interpreted and used a million different ways. Every take is different and probably isn’t the way you want it in the end so where do you start? TELUS is a whole other animal, no pun intended. I have to know where I want to end up before I begin. The music for those spots comes from anyone and everywhere. Music drives these spots, helps tell the story and sometimes the story is created around the music. I often take different tracks and approach the boards in various ways to compliment the music. The hardest part is falling in love with a song, building the story around the song and not getting the rights in the end.

To see Christina’s full commercial editing reel click here

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