When "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker” slammed onto the scene, Jason Painter’s career assumed a whole new trajectory. The 33-year-old editor made it all the way to the Super Bowl this year, having cut the Rawson Thurber-directed Reebok spots featuring tackler Tate, whose out-of-nowhere attacks arrive perfectly paced. "There’s a rhythm to all the hits,” explains Painter of how everything fit together for an impeccable comedic effect. "One might be going left to right; one might be going right to left; another might be straight on. There has to be the right juxtaposition, as well. For instance, you lead with the pacing of Mr. Felcher, a straight man, and then you introduce the comedy. So you have to know the pacing of how long that needs to hang, how long Felcher needs to be up there, how quick the hits should be.”
Reebok "Terry Tate"
In fact, keeping proper tempo and a visual balance is key to all of Painter’s work, whether he’s doing ultra-slick film or gritty comedy, as in the Reebok parody of Nike’s "Streaker,” in which Terry Tate appears out of the blue to cream the soccer game intruder. There’s also simple storytelling for Mercedes and Sony, flashy effects for Konami and music-driven cuts for a spot directed by Zach Snyder for Soft & Dri, for which Painter chose music and shots to maintain the balance of women’s beauty and brawn. Even on recent PSAs for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which aired on a jumbo screen in Times Square, he interwove staccato and prolonged cuts to create compelling spots out of simply-shot testimonials. "There’s a rhythm to every edit, except for maybe a one-take, but there are even subtleties sometimes within that,” he insists. "It’s almost like writing music, another way of composing.”
It figures that musicality and a sense of visual harmony informs his work. Painter grew up playing piano in a musical household and then went on to study graphic arts, fine arts and photography at Southern Illinois University. After running his own design business for a few years, he eventually moved to L.A. and worked as a PA at Cucoloris, where he discovered home was at the Avid. "I walked by an edit bay and this guy was cutting a music video. Something just clicked when I saw the music, the imagery, the rhythm and the composition that went into it all. All those things I’d done — my music, graphic arts, photography — sort of applied exactly, except that it was in moving form.” Painter then got a job starting at the bottom as a runner at full-time editing shop Swietlik, and within months he was assisting Bob Jenkis (now at Crew Cuts).
Just two years ago, Painter finally became a full-fledged editor, and as far as he’s concerned, his task is not just about making a story fit into a 30- or 60-second time frame. "It’s my job as an editor to help solve challenges and make the spots communicate — make people laugh or feel something,” he believes. "It’s like art. I think the best art makes you feel something. If a commercial doesn’t make you feel anything, it’s probably not successful. But if it made you feel joy or feel energized, or made you laugh, brought any kind of emotion to you, I think that’s the sign of a successful commercial. That’s the key for me.”