Michael Sohcot is an Emerson alum who’s always been sure of one thing: He wants to work in television and film.
Michael’s current role as an Online Editor at Level 3 Post allows him to do just that. In fact, his work has helped shape some huge shows over the past few years, including DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Siren, Wayne, Kevin Can Wait, American Crime, Once Upon a Time, and much more.
We caught up with Michael to learn more about his career path since graduating Emerson in 2007…
What did you study at Emerson College? What originally drew you to your major?
“I was a Visual Media Arts major with a Film concentration. I actually think during my final year they began introducing specified niches like you could major just in Editing or just in Cinematography. I think when I graduated there was only one editing course offered at the school, and I had already known Final Cut and Avid for years before even taking that class! I remember going on one college tour in New Hampshire and the guide said, ‘If you want to be working in Hollywood making big movies, don’t go to this school.’ I knew Emerson was the right place to be.”
Were you involved in any student productions or orgs?
“While at Emerson I edited for almost every film and TV group on campus. I cut stuff for Emerson Independent Video, the EVVY Awards, Women in Motion, the comedy troupe Chocolate Cake City, the National Broadcast Society, and several shows that aired on the Emerson Channel. I was the head of Post Production for both the EVVYs and EIV. In my film classes, everyone else wanted to direct or DP, all I wanted to do was edit. They even made me direct a project in my Film II class and I hated it; I knew that wasn’t for me.”
Was there one experience you had at Emerson that sticks out amongst the others?
“I loved Emerson so much, it’s hard to pick one defining experience. But my junior year I co-wrote a feature-length script very heavily influenced by the TV-show ’24.’ I basically created a feature just so I could edit it! It was about two hitmen going after the same target in a race-against-the-clock format. We filmed multi-cam all over town. Several of the performers are now big-name actors and have been leads on ‘Orange Is The New Black,’ ‘How To Get Away With Murder,’ and ‘The Flash.’ It really felt like the project unified so many people from so many different majors wanting to be a part of this huge undertaking. We premiered the film at the Loews on the Boston Common and ended up winning an EVVY my senior year.”
What were your first career steps after college?
“I can’t even reference my ‘first job after college,’ because I’ve actually been working at Level 3 since I was in college. This coming January will be my 13-year mark. After I had been accepted into the LA Program, the school supplied names of Emerson-friendly internships we could apply for, but also told us we could go out on our own and search for companies. There were a few post-production companies on the lists but nothing that really interested me. So I instead looked up on IMDb what company edited ’24’ and under ‘post-production services’ it listed Level 3 Post. I went to the company website and emailed them completely out of the blue. When I drove out to LA, I did have 3-4 interviews lined up, including one at Level 3. They told me they didn’t really have an internship program, but agreed to take me on and I started as a vault clerk in the tape library. After a month I asked to see more of the facility and shadow some people. So for a week I was on the night-shift with the assistant editors. I’d work all night, go back to the Oakwoods, sleep and wake up and still have the whole day ahead of me. Since I had so much free time I just went back into work, my supervisor noticed that I was showing up even on my days off. They hired me a month into my internship. A year later there was an opening on the night-shift in the machine room. After a few years of that and being the lead night-time editor, there was an opening on the day-shift and I got to move up and get my own shows.”
Did you encounter any learning curves coming to Level 3 Post?
“It was a very big learning curve. When I applied I just knew Level 3 did post-production, I didn’t know it was strictly an online and finishing facility. Back then I probably didn’t even know what ‘online’ meant. This wasn’t the editing I was used to. I was used to be given footage and cobbling the story together. But online editing isn’t creative, it focuses on the technical side of things and deals more with re-mastering. We’re the last line of defense before delivering a show to the network for air. I do finishing work, which includes uprezzing, VFX, tech and production fixes, and titling. The old business model was that a show had a dedicated online editor, colorist, and VFX house to handle their show. But with the entire industry changing and clients expecting to be able to do more in the bay, we all have to broaden our knowledge. I can’t be sitting in my edit bay and have a client ask me to fix a shot and I have to say, ‘Sorry, that’s beyond my skills. Go to a VFX house.’ So now in addition to having to know Avid, our company has started using much more powerful VFX tools for compositing to make every edit room a one-stop shop for the clients’ needs.”
What has your experience at Level 3 Post been like?
“It’s an exciting job because no two days are alike. I handle 4-5 shows a season. On any given day I might be onlining one show in the morning, then doing VFX work for another series and titling a third series in the afternoon. Or during hectic parts of the season I might be working on four different episodes of the same series all in one day. And with the ever-changing industry, there are always new technologies and new workflows we need to invent to continue to do our job. Post-production is oftentimes playing catch-up with the latest camera or file-format that has just been released.”
How would you describe the culture at Level 3 Post?
“Level 3 has a great atmosphere, it really feels like a family. The facility’s changed over the years and we’ve always handled big-name shows, but it has a nice boutique feel. I’ve had some clients that say other facilities they work at are too big and they feel neglected, they can’t get the scheduled time they want with an editor, etc. We always put the client first and do whatever we can to keep them happy.”
When did you know this was the right fit?
“I remember the first year I was at Level 3, I was still in the vault and my friends kept telling me, ‘You could be editing somewhere by now’ or ‘What are you still doing there? This job isn’t for you.’ But I kept holding out, waiting to move up. Then when I did, I justified my not leaving by telling myself I was preparing for when I moved to offline editing. By staying at a finishing post-house, I’d be learning how to prep turnovers and seeing what offline did. At one point I did interview to be a post-PA on a show, but that’d be starting at the bottom again and having to work my way up. The uneasiness of looking for a new job if your show is canceled or doing PA-runs and working 12-hour days wasn’t appealing. Being at a facility instead of show-side is more stable and I’ve always been happy here.”
Do you have any advice for current students seeking opportunities?
“The best advice I can give is just get your foot in the door somewhere. You may be offered a job that you think is beneath you or has menial tasks, but that’s how you get your start. I used to tell people I’m not doing what I love but I still love what I do. Nowadays with shows being file-based (instead of shooting on film), they’re shooting 6-7 hours of footage a day! If I worked as the offline editor I think I’d have anxiety trying to manage all that footage with a shows’ director or execs standing over my shoulder. I love where I work and what I do. To keep the creative juices flowing I’ve done freelance work and made short films and competed in 48-hour film festivals with friends from college. The friendships I made at Emerson are still very strong to this day.”