“I’m standin’ on the outside looking in…”

“I’m standin’ on the outside looking in…”

by DEBORAH PEART ASE

The above line from the classic Cold Chisel song has come to ring in my head several times over the last 14 months since I made the switch from sitting to standing when I work. Many of you may have read about or have colleagues who have made “the transition” (yes we may well be our own little editing cult), but I can personally say hands down, that it’s the best thing I’ve done for my cutting in recent memory.

Like many of us, I was very aware that my posture was starting to diminish after long hours in the chair, I developed RSI like symptoms with my wrist (which a Wacom assisted in remedying) and I had a pinched nerve in my shoulder. On top of that, my lack of movement during work seemed to make me less inspired to move outside of it. Since I lobbed the chair, I’ve become more active in my downtime and more energetic in my cutting time. I’d say I spend at least 70% of my day on my feet, the rest on a fancy pants “active stool”. I also stretch out on a yoga mat and break out the foam roller too while contemplating the odd trim. More then anything, and as daggy as it sounds I do feel more engaged with the work, I can step up and look at things more closely or I can hit play and wander around listening or watching. The experience, for me, has become more alive.

But don’t just take my rambling word for it. I got in touch with a few of my standing peers and asked them why they made the switch and the benefits they have gained from it.

RODRIGO BALART (Sucker, Storm Surfers 3D, INXS: Never Tear us Apart)

I always felt ripped off that I missed working in cutting rooms during the time of film, when editing (and assisting) was a much more physical labour and the raw material more precious. Standing at Moviolas was a big part of that physical way of working and I wanted to give it a go when I started cutting. But nowhere I cut could facilitate a standing desk.

Rod’s setup at Adelaide Studios last year

Then in 2012 I read an article in the ASE newsletter (I think it was the newsletter - or maybe the website - it was posted by Pete Crombie) about the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time. It was a wake up call. Editors spend so much time sitting, and I'd recently had an episode of not being able to use my arm after sitting for 2 hours going through a big batch of rushes (my assistant - Karen, had to operate for me at one point!). I was generally feeling more and more lethargic in the cutting room and the article got me back to the idea of standing. The planets aligned, because the next gig I had was at Deluxe and they had a standing desk - I haven't looked back!

The immediate effect was a physical re-invigoration in the cutting room. In the long term, I feel a lot healthier in there. I move so much more - I stand to cut, sit to review, stand to watch rushes, sit to e-mail, and every now and then, when the moment is right, do a little dance at the desk while working. I don't know if any of that has translated into better edits, but I'm certainly a happier editor.

ROLAND GALLOIS ASE (Samson & Delilah, Painting with Light in a Dark World)

I was always trying to not get stuck in the same posie all day. I felt that it made things worse when things got tense. So I had already tried lifting various desks on to blocks and getting a saddle chair to try and alleviate some of the shoulder/back/RSI pain I felt on long projects. Once I got a hold of a mechanical desk I knew that this was exactly what I was looking for.

Roland on location in a caravan inTwizel NZ on SLOW WEST 2013. The production company See Saw sourced and paid for the rental of the desk whilst I was over there.

The benefits? Much less shoulder or back pain. I feel I have more energy during the day and can concentrate for longer periods of time. I also find that being able to move around more freely whilst working helps to reduce the gradual build up of stress. Of course if I do feel tired of standing I can just lower the desk and sit.

I also think standing suits some styles of work better than others. Action scenes or ones where a lot of rushes and high-level of concentration is required, seem to lend themselves to being more engaged with the material and I feel you gain from standing up to cut. When there are a lot of people in the room and you need to make changes is another example where I seem to work better and in a more efficient and quicker way if I'm on my feet.

Watching rushes, taking notes and actual screenings are when it does feel more natural to be in a more passive stance and siting down for those tasks. That being said, I am so used to using a mechanical desk I am not really conscious of when I stand or sit when lost in the footage of the film I am working on.

Edit set up at Goldcrest in Soho for SLOW WEST 2014. The hire company who provided the AVIDs also had automated desks for rent. They did not find it unusual at all and said that many editors in the UK use them.

MATT VILLA ASE (The Water Diviner, Predestination, The Great Gatsby)

My initial introduction to standing up at work happened in such a way that I can only conclude it was meant to be. And the results have long since made me glad it was.

Having developed a mild yet constant lower back pain over the years which was only worsened by long stretches in the chair at work, I was forever looking for ways to improve my workplace situation; chairs, posture, monitor height etc...

Then about four years ago, I took a job on a film where the only desk available belonged to the person I was filling in for... and it was a standing desk. In the absence of any option, I embraced the change and it was the best thing I ever did.

Matt’s LA setup on The Great Gatsby

The benefits of this way of working became immediately evident. My back felt better, my neck felt straighter and because I was engaging more muscles by standing than sitting, I was pleased to be doing at least some form of exercise throughout the day. And in case my feet get tired, I keep a drafting chair nearby (like the ones we once used at a film winding bench) should a change of position be required. But this still keeps you sitting up straight.

Making the switch

Being a freelancer, I first wanted to make sure I could actually work like this so much like Rod on his Adelaide job I asked the production company to supply me with a desk propped up on besa blocks. That, a few reams of paper, a little monitor adjusting and I was set. The first week was definitely the most tiresome but over time it just got easier.

Since then I’ve always told the production company as soon as I sign on for a job that my preference is to stand. They have all been happy to oblige, to the point that on my current gig production actually bought stand-up desks for my assistant and myself. As it’s a long-term job they could see the benefits of ensuring we were both looked after in what is a crucial part of how we work.

My edit suite on Gallipoli, even with the fancy desk, A4 paper reams are still a must!

In time I will probably look to buy my own stand-up desk (most likely the one I’m using now), but they are heavy beasts and really a two-person job to transport and set up. Like anything it feels like more people and companies are seeing the benefits, so I say try your luck first before you fork out for one. One thing I did do was purchase my own stool. There are so many ergonomics chairs out there and I think it really is a personal thing.

(June 2014)

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