This year at our REEL GIRLS event we were honored to welcome Alum and multiple Emmy-winner Rachel Sophia Stewart ('13) -- we sat down with her recently. Rachel is a Senior Editor at History Making Productions and her work generally entails editing their main series and features.
Rachel says it’s easy to trace her path from Temple to where she is now. Sophomore year, she remembers overhearing in her post-audio class that one of the older students was shooting a senior project in Reading, her hometown. She convinced them to let her on crew as a production assistant because they wouldn’t need a place for her to stay, since she could stay with her parents.
She met people on that set that called her for future work. Meeting people at each set continued to help her secure new jobs. Eventually, she was working on set as a camera assistant, and met someone who was able to get her an interview at History Making Productions. So essentially, that first set led directly to the next, and to her whole career, right through to today.
INTERVIEW with Rachel below:
What drew you towards editing?
In high school I was part of the morning news/ broadcasting club. They were able to send students (on scholarship!) to a week long film camp, at our local television station. I went the summer of my freshman year, and I was hooked after day one. This was my first exposure to the world of editing. Since then, my love for editing has only grown.
What is your favorite project you've ever worked on?
“Beethoven: In Beijing” is a feature length documentary that we just got picture lock on at the end of January. It explores the future of classical music, and the long history the Philadelphia Orchestra has with China. I have spent the past four years working on this project, including travel to and from China with the Philadelphia Orchestra. As an editor, I didn’t expect to be so heavily involved with production, and I definitely didn’t expect to leave my edit bay. This film challenged my notion of what an editor’s role is, and gave me a behind-the-scenes, up close look of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is not only my favorite project, but it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever worked on in my life.
Which accolades/awards were you most proud of?
I have always had a few edit “goals” on my career to-do list. One was to edit a documentary about Ben Franklin. This turned out to be something I was able to accomplish earlier than anticipated. In 2015 “Franklin’s Spark” was nominated for best editing at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy awards. When they called my name as the winner, I was humbled, honored and shocked. So it was my first win, for my editing craft, and for a project that was close to my heart.
What surprised you the most about the professional world?
The most surprising part to me about the professional world is the way in which we move from project to project. I think only once in my ten years in Philly, I have actually needed my resume. Everything else—every job, every film—has come from word of mouth.
What is your fondest Temple classroom memory?
I have a lot of fond memories from my classes at Temple. Two semesters in a row, I had a class taught by Oscar Molina, a TA. For two straight semesters he tried to teach us that every shot in a film needs meaning behind it. Simple concept in theory, but for a green film student, all I really wanted to do was film dream sequences and put in “cool” shots. Once he finally got through to me though, it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my head, and it transformed the way I think about my work completely. I remember after that, I pulled an all-nighter in the tech center. It was just my friend Kelly and I, and as we wrapped up our edits, in the middle of the night, amped up on Starbucks, we just shouted “WE ARE EDITORS!” as our projects rendered. Oscar’s lesson gave me the confidence to truly believe in my art.
What's a Temple place (or food) that you miss the most?
I miss the editing room at the tech center the most. I spent so many nights there, along side other editing students, taking turns napping or making a coffee run. There was something magical that happened there in the wee hours of the night, a special camaraderie, everyone in it together, as long as everyone worked with headphones in. I also worked at a bakery throughout my time at Temple, so at the end of the day, I would take as much leftover bread and pizza as I could, and walk around Annenberg, handing out loaves to other hungry film and theater students. It was always fun to see the look of joy on my classmates’ faces when I handed them a fresh loaf of bread to munch on between classes and all-nighters.
What advice would you give to current Temple students?
While what you learn in your classes is going to give you the technical tools you need to work in film, the invaluable part of your time in school is the connections you make and the people you meet while at Temple. So don’t be afraid to make friends and make projects with them. Even the smallest set can lead you to the next big thing.
How would you recommend finding work in the field during and immediately following school?
The best time to find work for immediately after school is to start looking six months before. If you can start the semester before graduation, you’ll find something by graduation. If you wait, then you’ll have downtime in between. I started freelancing my senior year, working on as many professional sets as I could, that helped me to make connections with working crews in Philadelphia, which eventually landed me where I am now.
It was so great to talk with Rachel and we look forward to seeing her future projects!