Shane O'Neill Jan/Feb 2013

Shane O'Neill Jan/Feb 2013

From Barista to The New York Times

How do you like working at the NYTimes?

It's great. I'm at the news desk working with people who are at the top of their game. There are new projects literally every day. And there's a lot of people on the team that I'm working on wearing a lot of hats at once, so even though I was hired as an editor there's an opportunity for me to gain more production experience.

Is that part of the appeal for you?  To be able to get on more productions?

Very much so.  Something that I really love about my job is that I am constantly absorbing new information and theoretically at least there’s the possibility to learn new skills and new elements of production.

Maybe you can give me a thumbnail version of your path from The Edit Center to the heights of journalism.

Before I started at TEC, I was waiting tables and editing short little promos for a monthly party I was throwing called 'Fancy'. My boyfriend was like "You seem to really enjoy editing. Maybe you should look into getting a job you don't hate"  And then I was working as a barista at a coffee shop, must've been 2012, where Hannah Vanderlan, who went to TEC, was hanging out. We had become friendly, so when she mentioned she was an editor and I said I was curious about doing that, she desperately wrote down her name and TEC on a piece of paper.  Then I took the class and haven't waited tables since!

Was the class what you expected or different than what you thought it would be?

To be totally honest, it exceeded my expectations. As someone going into with with zero real-world experience, I was expecting it to give me proficiency in editing, which it did. But more than that it supplied me with a framework for how I was able to get work ever since I took the class, which I wasn't expecting at all.

First of all, the fact that you're coming away with an additional editing credit is incredibly helpful when you’re starting out. And it's a really good environment for practicing what it's like to work directly with a producer or director in real time.  Also, screening a movie and then bringing editors in to discuss what their editing choices were was really illuminating on how the process of editing works. You just get so much in the way of hands-on and real-world experience.

Do you remember what your first job was, out of class?

The first thing I got paid to do was editing videos for a woman who lived on the Upper West Side teaching mime classes. [Laughs]

How did you get that job?

I posted "Entry level video editor for hire" on the Craigslist gigs page. And every day I would reply and send out my resume to anything that remotely fit. I also have a lot of friends who are performers or have side gigs, I would just periodically post on Facebook, “If you need work, let me know and we can negotiate.” A friend of mine's girlfriend was starting a non-profit and she needed a promotional video.  The second movie I edited, I was just at a gay pride pool party and was hanging out with a guy looking for an editor. I was really flooding the market and seeing what stuck.  The TEC listserve and the references that you get, they've served me really well too.

Is there a specific thing that led to the New York Times?

Yeah, [TEC alum Hannah Vanderlan] was throwing a housewarming party and I ran into [TEC teacher] Andrew Blackwell, who had just gotten a job as Supervising Editor of Op-Docs, so he was the one who put me in touch with people at the Times.

Looking back, what do you think you got out of the class?

I'm always shocked by how much I still rely on the things I learned in the class. The workflow for how to tackle a doc project with a lot of footage has been one of the most helpful things that I've drawn on a lot. The importance of never burning bridges because the community that you're working with is smaller than you think it is. Fifty percent, if not more, of what you're doing is the relationships that you're forging with the people you're working with.

How do you feel about editing now?

I fall in love with it every day.  I think that you're exercising control over how stories are told which is an awesome and fun possibility and power in it.