Making it as an Editor on Hit Network Television Shows

Film and TV Editor Sunghwan Moon

Next to the music industry, breaking into the film and television industry is arguably one of the most competitive fields for aspiring creatives; but with a little bit of talent and a lot of dedication it’s definitely a feat within reach. Aside from pushing oneself to continually create new work and go out there and make contacts, for anyone who actually wants to make it in the industry it’s a good idea to look to the way others have achieved their success.

When it comes to editing series for network television, editor Sunghwan Moon is a powerful figure to look to for inspiration on how to make it in the industry. Hailing from Gwangju, Korea, Sunghwan has managed to make it onto some of the most popular series in the U.S. an editor. Early on in his career he immersed himself in the industry by editing on-air promotions for the Disney Channel Korea and the trailers for “Iris,” one of Korea’s highest rated TV series, which earned eight KBS Drama Awards, two Korea Drama Awards and countless others.

He’s gone on to cut numerous films over the years including the award-winning films “The Wind Falls” and “Tracks, as well as the animated feature “Garfield’s Pet Force,” Kristine Namkung’s romantic comedy “Head Trauma,” Shuming He’s drama “Mrs. Alderman” and more.

When it comes to cutting films, Sunghwan says, “My approach is always the same in any projects. I try to do my best to help the director and writer achieve their vision that they want to convey with the story. I think it is what I should do as an editor to help find the best way to make it happen.”

While he’s carved out a powerful mark for himself as a lead editor on indie films, he’s never been afraid to take on the role of an assistant editor on bigger projects, after all, getting one’s foot in the door is the first step and sometimes the most challenging part. In 2016 Sunghwan came on board The CW’s Golden Globe Award winning comedy series “Jane the Virgin” starring multi-award winning actress Gina Rodriguez from the two-time Oscar nominated film “Deepwater Horizon.”

Poster for “Jane the Virgin”

Made in the satirical vein of a Latin telenovela, the series, which has released 81 episodes to date, is a massive undertaking for its editing department, and the entire cast and crew for that matter.

“During the dailies, while shooting, the first thing I do every morning is to organize what was shot on a previous day and have them ready for an editor. After that, I would mostly work on the sound and VFX,” Sunghwan explains. “‘Jane the Virgin’ is pretty heavy on VFX with text, simple graphics, etc. Other than big VFX like green screen composition, I would say 80 percent of VFX was done by assistant editors. And once editing is done and we do picture lock, I do turnovers for other post vendors, which means sound, VFX, color, etc.”

Considering that the 20 episode run of season 3 that Sunghwan contributed to for “Jane the Virgin” pulled in an average viewership of 1.6 million per episode, the pressure to deliver extraordinary work was definitely present. This is where Sunghwan’s seasoned skill in the industry coupled with his ability to maintain a cool head and get the job done on time made him stand out.

He admits, “Given a tight schedule, it wasn’t easy but I must say I enjoyed working on the show a lot.”

Little did he know at the time, but his exceptional work on the uber popular series “Jane the Virgin” would soon lead him to work in the editing department on Freeform’s dramatic comedy series “The Bold Type,” which has earned numerous nominations including the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Summer TV Show and the Female Choice Summer TV Star, the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and others.

“While I was on “Jane The Virgin” I got a phone call from a friend. She knew one of the producers on “The Bold Type” and told me that they were looking for an assistant editor. As I was about to wrap up “Jane the Virgin,” she forwarded my resume to them and I got a job,” recalls Sunghwan.

Starring award-winning actress Katie Stevens from MTV’s “Faking It,” Sam Page from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “House of Cards” and Aisha Dee (“Chasing Life,” “The Saddle Club”), “The Bold Type” depicts the outrageous lives of those responsible for a global women’s magazine, an episodic story inspired by the life of Cosmopolitan editor in chief, Joanna Coles.

“I started working on the show from season one. My editor was very supportive, and so was the producer. When we were starting season two, my editor told me that he would like to have me edit one of the episodes,” explains Sunghwan. “I think it was possible because my editor vouched for me, and producers knew that, working on the show from season one, they trusted I knew the show.”

Coming on as an assistant editor where his unique ability to sort through and piece together footage in record time garnered attention behind the scenes, Sunghwan’s skill led him to be tapped as the lead editor on season 2 episode 5 of the series, titled “Stride of Pride,” which aired earlier this year.

“The main story in the episode was about Jane realizing white privilege. As myself being a minority, this story was quite personal to me. Jane is not a bad person, she just didn’t know she had white privilege, which I think is often the case,” explains Sunghwan about the episode.

“Jane and Kat are best friends, and they have this conversation in the coffee shop in one of the scenes. This is a very difficult conversation. A TV show edit is usually relatively quick, but on this I tried to give them a moment so the weight of it could land better with the audience.”

In terms of the most important things to take into account as the lead editor of an episode for a series that is already two seasons into its run, Sunghwan says, “It’s always about understanding the characters, especially on a TV show. You have to keep track of where each character comes from and goes to. I had to maintain the tone of the show. On a TV show there are multiple editors, directors and writers working on the show, thus it is important to keep the tone the same throughout all the episodes.”

In addition to signing on as the assistant editor of the new CW series “Roswell, New Mexico,” which is due out in 2019 and stars Jeanine Mason (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Tyler Blackburn (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Ravenswood”) and Heather Hemmens (“Yellowstone,” “If Loving You Is Wrong”), Sunghwan is currently the lead editor on the upcoming film “Plead Me Guilty” from award-winning director Kimberly Harris (“Faith,” “Rose’s Turn”).

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