Catching up with Filmmaking Grad Justin Feinman, Trailer Editor at Open Road

Just four years after graduating from Woodbury University’s Filmmaking program (’16), Justin Feinman already has a list of credits behind his name that would suggest a much longer career history. He has already worked on Trailers and TV Spots for various studios, including Hulu, CBS All Access, Fox, USA, and The CW. Currently a Trailer Editor for Open Road, he recently cut a teaser for Normal People and a binge trailer for the Twilight Zone Season 1.

Staying connected to his alma mater, Justin recently created a sizzle reel showcasing Woodbury’s class of 2020’s senior thesis films, which you can watch here.

We caught up with Justin in an interview to learn more about his journey leading up to his current role.

How did you get the trailer editing gig at Open Road?  

I started working at Open Road, a post-trailer house, as a Data I/O about three years ago. Over time, I climbed through the ranks as an assistant editor, apprentice editor, and eventually editor. I had been an assistant editor for about a year when a friend suggested I take a stab at cutting my own trailer. I figured I’d give it a shot, and soon fell in love!

You’ve got a significant body of credits already, in terms of both series on which you’ve worked and studios for which you’ve worked.  What’s behind that success?

I’ve always had a passion for both music and storytelling. The beautiful thing about cutting short-form content is that you get to combine the two in the most inventive way. Once you find a song that stands out to you, something just clicks and you think “of course!” I always let the music guide the story. There’s a lot of trial and error in terms of what footage goes where, but as you keep chipping away things gradually fall into place.  Like anything, the more you do it, the more natural it feels and the more confident you become in your decisions.

Of those projects, which ones stand out for you, and why?

My favorite project has to be the Twilight Zone Season 1 Binge Trailer.  At the time, I was still working as an assistant editor, cutting in my spare time.  I showed a rough version of my trailer to some of the higher-ups. They loved the piece, sent it along to the network, and after a few rounds of notes, it was approved to finish. This was the first spot I cut, and it will always have a special place in my heart.  It was an eye-opening experience and certainly inspired me to continue editing.

I understand you were a nominee for a Clio Award, which Time Magazine describes as the world’s most recognizable international advertising award. Tell us about it.

The Clio nomination actually came as a result of my work on the Twilight Zone Season 1 Binge Trailer.  It was nominated as part of the Twilight Zone Campaign. The awards ceremony took place at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood last fall, and to be honest, I’m still in shock. It felt surreal to be surrounded by so many creative minds who work on all forms of marketing and media. It was an incredibly humbling experience.

What are you working on right now? 

Unfortunately, I can’t say… as you may know, the industry can be pretty tight-lipped about projects that aren’t announced yet.

How has the pandemic affected you personally and professionally?

Well, the benefit of working in post-production is that you have the means to work from home if needed, so thankfully I’ve been staying busy with work from the comfort of my own abode. I do love the personal feedback from other creatives, so there’s certainly a loss since our ability to work hand in hand with others is limited right now. There’s also a lot of potential distractions since you’re now home all the time, so setting up a routine early on really helped me stay focused on my work.

What experiences at Woodbury proved most relevant for the career you’re now having?

The ability to creatively explore as many different avenues as possible was extremely helpful. I went to Woodbury thinking I wanted to act, then fell in love with writing, directing, and editing. I knew that among all of those, post-production would be the quickest way to get a steady paycheck while trying to pursue other avenues. I ended up falling in love with the creative process and the collaborative experience!  Also, the Woodbury film program really encourages networking, and I was even introduced to industry people who helped pave the way for my career. As cliché as it sounds, this industry is truly all about the people you know.

You’re essentially teasing projects, but how much is left on the cutting room floor?  Put another way, what’s the ratio of how much you have to work with and what you end up with?

There’s a lot left on the cutting room floor. At the end of the day, it’s 1-2 minutes showcasing the best the series or feature film has to offer. Every project is different, but usually, you either get full episodes/features or dailies to cut with. You’re always looking for shots that will not only sell the show but the tone of it as well. That said, you need to have an intimate understanding of the show/film, because you’re constantly reworking your trailer, swapping in new shots to find the best moments to support the story.

How steeped in a project do you need to get in order to do a trailer?

Usually, the creatives assign you to the project, whether it’s a trailer, TV spot, or digital spot. From there you watch through and get familiar with the material provided and then dive into crafting your story. It’s a very competitive field, because not only are you competing with editors from your own company, you also are in competition with other trailer houses too.  Several trailers are sent to the studio and over time they whittle it down to one or two spots, eventually choosing what they feel will sell their show/movie the most. Producers and creatives do a great job of helping you perfect the vision of your story. The whole experience is very collaborative.

Describe the art of the trailer.  When you see trailers for various films, what do you look for?

It’s hard to describe because trailers can be so subjective and personal. But for me, I’d say it’s all about story. There are ways to enhance the story being told in a trailer, for example, the use of graphics or fun moments syncing to the beat of the music. At the end of the day, the combination of all these elements with a cohesive story in two short minutes is something that really stands out to me. If you can get someone to be emotionally invested in a story in such a short amount of time then you’ve done your job.

In creating a trailer, who calls the shots?

That would be the client. In other words, the marketing executives at studios. We’re given direction and tasked with cutting a trailer and our producers from Open Road are in constant contact with them about what’s working and what needs improvement. The producers have such a close working relationship with the clients that they are able to understand their vision and can help guide/collaborate with the editor throughout the creative process.

Where do you see your career going from here?

I’d love to continue editing and being creative. It’s always a treat when my trailers air for the world to see, but really the work that goes into it; the collaborative creative process is always the best part. Storytelling will always be my passion and whatever way I can continue that will be where my career takes me.


Last Updated on July 7th, 2020

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