Since graduating from Dodge College’s Film Production program in 2007, Melissa McCoy has gone on to work on TV shows like CSI, Grace and Frankie, Life Sentence, and most recently, as an Editor on Ted Lasso. Editors are responsible for putting together the final image that viewers see on screen. However, comedy show Editors, like Melissa, have the additional job of making sure the jokes are well-paced and punchy. We recently asked Melissa a few questions about her time as Editor on Ted Lasso and how her time at Chapman led her to where she is today:
Please share your career path with us: how did you go from being a Masters Film Production (Editing Emphasis) at Chapman to editing for Ted Lasso?
While I was in my final year at Chapman, I did an internship with ACE (American Cinema Editors) which helped me see the path I wanted to take once I left school: work the number of days needed to join the union so I could then hopefully get a union job in narrative TV. After graduation, I found a night shift gig at a Reality TV house for shows like Rock of Love and Charm School where I earned my required days to join the union. Not long after that, an assistant editor position opened up at CSI, a show I shadowed on my ACE internship. I formed a great relationship with the editors and kept in touch while working toward my days, so I was thrilled to get that job. I spent five years on the show learning from my mentor editors Alec Smight and Barrie Wise. I also edited the indie feature version of a short film I did at Chapman Mamitas during my time there. I would cut in the evenings, putting into practice the techniques I learned watching CSI editors during the day. Doing all the side projects while assisting helped sharpen my skills and gave me a great second education outside Chapman. And I learned an important lesson, the way to get better is to cut more, to learn by doing!
After my time on CSI, my heart knew I wanted to work in comedy. I found a job assisting on the Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) produced show Undateable. With Bill’s company Doozer, I moved up the ranks and eventually landed a full editor position on the show Life Sentence on the CW and eventually Whiskey Cavalier for ABC. While on Whiskey Cavalier, Bill was developing Ted Lasso with Jason Sudeikis. Even without seeing a script, I knew I wanted to hop on because I knew the comedy combo of Bill and Jason would be amazing. I was right. I had a great relationship with Bill and asked if I could cut on Ted Lasso. I was brought on to cut the pilot episode and have been with the show ever since.
What is it like working on a large project like Ted Lasso? What is your favorite memory from working on the project?
I’ve worked on some big action shows, but Ted Lasso has been the hardest. We have big action pieces with the football (soccer) matches and some heavy dramatic scenes. Touching that line between comedy, drama, and sports action takes a delicate hand, especially when the show means so much to so many people. I’m constantly focused on what’s best for the story and staying true to each character to help make those transitions in tone as seamless as possible.
My favorite memory would have to be the Season 2 premiere party. The roof was designed to look like an English football stadium with a giant movie screen. We screened the first two episodes of Season 2 with a live audience – something I rarely get to experience working on a TV show. It was a magical night that made me realize this show has gotten pretty big! And then all the awards show hoopla that’s happened since has been another cherry on top!
What is your personal editing style? Are there any specific moments throughout the episodes of Ted Lasso that you are personally proud of?
I am happiest as an editor when I focus on character and story and work toward what would serve those two things overall. I always start working by first re-reading the script and seeing what the original intent was on the page. I’ll visualize the shots I’d put together to make that happen. Then, I’ll watch all the dailies and see what was shot on the day. Sometimes I find precisely what I had envisioned. Other times, I find new things I had never expected but are lovely. Invention becomes a necessity as an editor. It’s all a part of the filmmaking journey that I love; finding that final rewrite in the editing room.
I’ve loved all my episodes of Ted Lasso so much. I’d say the scene at the end of the Ted Lasso pilot where Ted has a phone conversation with his wife was a personal favorite. I didn’t have the other side of the conversation in coverage, the viewer had to infer what was being said by his wife through Jason’s performance and our editing. I had to create the right pace and seamlessly put together the performance using a wide, medium, and close-up from the same angle. There’s no place to hide in a scene like that. It was challenging but rewarding to craft that performance of Jason’s while staying true to the editing rule of saving the close-up for the emotional beat change in the story. Another favorite was the karaoke scene in episode 107, “Make Rebecca Great Again” that turns into Ted’s first panic attack. Going from the team winning their match and celebrating to Rebecca performing a rendition of “Let It Go”, all while showing Ted building into his panic attack, was a puzzle that was so rewarding to put together.
Were there any specific resources (i.e., professors, courses, workshops, career advising, etc.) at Chapman that contributed to your career journey post-graduation?
Having Paul Seydor as the editing professor at Chapman was such a gift. He is the one who encouraged us editing students to apply for the ACE internship. I was lucky enough to be chosen for one of those spots, but even still, it opened the doors to those events, panels, and some of the most outstanding editors. I learned so much from participating in as many Q&As or networking events as I could.
What is the best advice you have received that you would give to current students?
Always be learning. I approach every job I take as an opportunity to learn. Even now, I can always learn some new tricks of the trade from my assistant or music editor or VFX editor that may help me on my next job. The other important thing is while it is great to learn from those at the top of their careers, it’s equally important to have a group of aligned peers in your network. This business is all about who you know.
Any parting thoughts or advice?
If you have a passion and drive to work in the business, just keep working toward your goal. This business is about building and growing. I spent a long time worrying I’d never make it to the editing chair, but I just kept pushing myself by taking side editing jobs to learn more or accepting more challenging assistant editor jobs. I soaked up all the advice my superiors would give. I compare my journey to climbing a mountain. Each one of those steps led me to the editing chair. Now that Ted Lasso’s success has led to many panels and Q&As where people want to know how I got my start, I’ve been able to reflect on my career. Step by step, I got to my dream place, editing a show I’m so passionate about. I’m still climbing, but I’m also learning to take the time to enjoy the view.