Spotlight: Charles Donohoe, Editor for Television

Every so often the Oracle selects entertainment professionals with established Hollywood careers to interview about their work, opinions and what advice they have for those wanting to make it in Hollywood. This week’s session is with Charles Donohoe, Editor for Television.

So Lets Get Started…

charles donahoe

Charles Donohoe, Editor For Television

1. If you can, tell our readers what company you’re currently working for, what’s your job title and on what show are currently working on? What are the Last 3 shows you’ve worked on that your proud of most as an editor or AE?

Currently, I’m working as an Editor for Prometheus Entertainment, a production company based in Hollywood. The job I am working on right now is Kendra, for E! Entertainment Channel, a reality docu-drama following Kendra Wilkinson as she copes with being a new mother. And the last three shows I’ve worked on were Finding Bigfoot, a ridiculously fun adventure reality series following a group of scientists as they go searching the far reaches of the planet for traces of a sasquatch; Parks and Recreation on NBC, a scripted comedy series following a team of government officials in the Parks and Recreation department of the government, and Femme Fetales, a scripted film noir series for Cinemax that told a new stories every episode of intrigue and mystery.

2. How long have you been in LA and where are you from originally?

I’ve been in L.A. for the past eight years (since 2003), and originally I grew up in Rockville, MD.

 3. Did you receive any POST high school type training before you came to Hollywood to be an Editor? (Film School / college / specialized training)

Yes, I received a BA in college with a major in Film and a minor in English. Otherwise my training was off of non-paid internships I obtained during the summer months in High School and College.

 4. Are you in the editors union? Should you want to get in the union? How much is it $$ ? Pro’s and con’s for the Union? Can an AE get into the union?

I am a member for the Editors Guild. I feel it can be very important to be a member of whatever union the field you attain for is in. The idea is to open as many doors as possible to future employment, wherever that may be. So if by chance you are offered a great opportunity working on a show like Breaking Bad or Mad Men or Parks and Recreation (which are all union shows), you can tell them you are a member and ultimately be hired. (On the other hand, if your are NOT a member, by law they cannot hire you. Why limit yourself?)

iatse 700However, I would like to stress that when you’re starting off, it is important to have an understanding of unions in this industry. Unions will never find you jobs –and they cost money! So if you find yourself in the position where you’ve obtained enough hours working as an Assistant Editor, you don’t necessarily have to join immediately. All you have to do is submit the proper paperwork, which the editors guild has on their website ( and once you’ve taken the classes they ask you to take by law, you can wait for as long as you want to pay the entry fee and finalize the deal. Therefore you can hold joining the union, and paying the revolving until you’ve been offered the job. It only takes 24 hours to process the entry fee check. So you can be hired on day one, pay the entry fee that night, and walk into work the following day and you’ll officially be union. Again, the goal is to keep as many doors open as possible. But also it’s always good to save money.

 5. Were you ever a PA before you were an AE (Assistant Editor) in Hollywood? If so, what show? And how long before you moved up to AE.? If never a PA.. Why Not? How did you do that?

I was one of the lucky few who never started as a P.A. When I graduated college, I wasn’t given the proper knowledge that everyone started off as a P.A. Instead, my professor told me that if I wanted to be an editor, I needed to start off as an assistant editor. So I devoted every waking second of every day for three months to finding an assistant editor gig. Luckily, I found one job that was perfect for a beginning assistant just a week before I were to be completely broke and forced to go back home. I think, however, that this industry is such a wide open arena that if you have the determination, you can get a better gig strait out of college. You just have to have the gusto and high self esteem to take the more technical jobs. When I finally got my first job as an assistant editor, I was TERRIBLE! I had no idea what I was doing. Perhaps in some way or another it would have been good to start off as a P.A. to get the proper training I needed to work the equipment. As it happened, I screwed everything up, and almost kept a show from making air!

My suggestion to anyone who wants to go that route, of which I would tread carefully if I were you, is to go to the LA411 website. There you’ll find a list of all notable post houses, rental houses, and just about any production company you can find. And I would cold call all of them to see if they have any openings for jobs. In the end this is exactly what I did, and it has turned out amazing.

6. What percentage of NEW HIRE AE’s get stuck working the Night shift? Is this a good thing or a bad thing.. Pro’s and Con’s of the night shift? ( Compare type of typical workloads day & night / interactions with higher ups..)

I’d say new hire AE’s will ALWAYS get stuck on night shift. However, there is nothing bad in this, since even experienced and the most well-paid editors get stuck on night shift on occasion. It’s just something to get used to.

That being said, it does make for a very difficult transition when starting off as an AE. Whatever happens, always think of it like this: you’ll never know how well you can swim until you’ve put yourself into a sink-or-swim situation. Assistant Editors are always technical in this day and age. They have to know how decks work, how they’re wired, how to fix them if they’re broke, and how to trouble shoot everything. It takes a lot of detective work and a LOT of pre-planning. And considering you have wiring setups in editing control rooms rivaled only by NASA, this can be tricky. The wonderful thing about working day shift is that you’re working not only with the rest of the crew who can help you troubleshoot, you’re also working with the rental houses who supply the equipment to the production company, They have their own tech support that usually can solve any problem with one phone call. The terrible thing about working night shift is that you have none of this. You just have yourself, and this can be scary, and stressful. But no matter what, it’s a wonderful beginning to helping you learn fast and build the self-confidence you need so that when you do work in post, you can do just about anything with your chin held high. Like I said before: you’ll never know how well you can swim until you’ve put yourself in a sink or swim situation.

7. What’s the difference between a Good A.E and a Great A.E ? What techniques and skills / knowledge make up that difference between the two? ( Grouping – Digitizing – Maintenance, file management or just experience etc.. etc.. other intangible qualities?? )

I’ve taught many assistant editors and I think the difference between a good AE and a great AE is very simple: BE FUN. The technical stuff you can learn. Once you get the theory behind the mechanics, everything else will click. But in TV it’s not rare to work twelve-hour shifts under stressful circumstances in order to make a deadline to air. So in a case where you were working these hours, who would you rather work with: a friend, or a cold coworker who knows his job? So joke around. Play games. And above all, have fun. After all, that’s why we joined this industry, isn’t it?

8. What are the pay rates $$ these days for entry-level AE? How about for a seasoned pro AE & a Pro Editor? (Just Ranges per hour)

Entry-level fee can be anywhere from $800/week (for a very simple program) to $2000 (for a daytime talk show, believe it or not). Generally, however, the pay is about $1300/week for assistants in non-union jobs while it’s generally around $1550-$1750 for union. For a kid 25 years old, it’s not a bad days work.

 9. What percentage of hollywood productions are using AVID systems to edit compared to other editing systems available? 2nd place being? and will that change anytime soon?

avid editingAt this point, I’d say it 75% Avids, and 25% Final Cut for any decent network or cable show. I don’t think that’s going to necessarily change anytime soon just because (to be quite frank) both products are poorly managed but they still have a monopoly in the industry. Neither one of them are trying to beat out the other, so I think they’re pretty comfortable where they are. That being said, I’d like to restate what I said in the beginning and say that you should try to keep as many doors open as possible. You should have a strong understanding of both, so that if you are asked to be interviewed for companies that work with either software, you can tell them with confidence that you are comfortable either of them. (I think it’s important to note that initially when I first moved to LA I had to turn down jobs because they were hiring Final Cut Pro editors, of which I had no background. Since then, of course, I’ve developed a strong knowledge of Final Cut and can efficiently work on either if needs be.

10. What’s harder… Editing for Reality Tv or Scripted Shows and why?

Reality is INCREDIBLY harder. The reason for this is that it puts the creative storytelling process in the editor’s hand. In a scripted television show, networks pay millions per episode for a team of writers to sit at a conference table and write stories, a director to plot out how the shots are going to go, a cinematographer to light it to enhance the emotional quality visually, and actors to act out the story.

Reality, however, has none of that. The goal in reality is to always be documentary: shoot as much as possible (with a story idea in mind) and then create the actual story after word in the edit room. In the edit room, we are in charge of creating a three-act structure, fully equipped with a conflict, a character arc and often a theme. In reality our cast aren’t :characters”, they’re people. And it is important to understand that “people” don’t sell stories. “Characters” do. So you have to be able to cut in such a way that brings out character types, and overall add to the emotional side of the story.

This being said, and also having the understanding that reality is considered the “dreg” of television, it may possibly be the most wonderful artistic outlet for an editor, just because it: a) puts the artistic power of story in the editors hand – you are the auteur; and b)t the pay in reality TV is much better (by leaps and bounds) than it is in scripted television.

11. Can you make just as much money working on a crappy TLC reality show than as a Network Prime time show? Why is that?

This is true. The reason is value. If you are an editor valued by the production company in such a way that they don’t want to lose you, they’ll be willing to pay top dollar to keep you there. After all, prime time network show or not, they’re not the one’s paying you. The production company is. And they’re the ones who decide how the network budgets get split up in the end.

12. What tips would you give the next generation of want-to-be AE’s & Editors that are thinking of moving to Hollywood to follow their dreams? (early on do’s and don’ts in your career – expectations – valuable skill sets that are needed if you want a leg up on your competition early on.. etc. etc.)

Whatever happens, this is an open industry. I’ve seen editors that worked on the side as actors, and Producers that worked on the side as screenwriters. Don’t be afraid to just go for it. But whatever you decide, don’t be timid. There are too many kids out there who want the job too. Just get out there, meet people, make phone calls (don’t forget about the LA411) and throw yourself in front of people. It’s okay if you get obnoxious with it, because in the end the bosses will remember the obnoxious one when we go to hire, not the timid one. If you got the skills, you got the Job! And if you have any friends or family in the industry, that helps to.

charles donahoe

Charles Donahoe, Editor For Tv

A favorite Editing quote “You’d be surprised how well you can swim when you put yourself into a sink-or-swim situation!”

Check Out Charles Donohoe on IMDB  – My Credits

Check Out Some of Charles Donahoe’s Work On Animal Planet’s – Finding Bigfoot



We’ll that concludes another great session of The Hollywood Oracle’s Job Spotlight segment. Thanks to our special guest, Charles Donohoe for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his Hollywood Story with all of us. Please check out his IMDB page for his extensive list of Hollywood Credits. And always be on the lookout @ for more amazing insider interviews from people who followed their dreams and succeeded. You too can make it happen, if you really want it!

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