On the upside of reality, cutting San Francisco spots is not exactly settling for second best. "I'm not an awards hound, but a lot of stuff I cut has won awards," Frisk notes. "There are a lot of creative people in this city. The way advertising is done here is not like anywhere else in the country, really. It's a little more off-kilter." Is there still enough work to go around? "I don't know. but I'm still here," he laughs. In the unlikely event Phoenix need rise from the ashes, it won't be the first time. Frisk owes the name to the fact that the local office of Editel, where he was working at the time, burned down in 1991. "Editel ceased to exist on a Friday evening and on Monday morning four of us started up a new company," he recalls. "The name was chosen in a hurry. If I'd had time to think about it, I might've called it Bob's House of Cuts or Bad Monkey." Luckily, he didn't have time to think about it.
Frisk is an Ohio native who was a film nut in his youth and an avid maker of Super 8 movies in high school. After graduating from Bowling Green State University he worked in post on local news, then at PBS on documentaries. He settled in San Francisco and was doing online editing for Varitel, "and there was someone there around '87 who hooked me up with this young agency and a couple of kooks named Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein," he explains. "I learned a heck of a lot from them when they got that shop going." But he doesn't work with them much anymore. "The people I knew there all moved on." He's forged connections with plenty of other local agencies, though, most of which were started by Goodby alums. Shops like Black Rocket, Butler Shine & Stern, Grant Scott & Hurley and the now disbanded Goldberg Moser O'Neill. "Most of my work tends to come from the smaller agencies," he notes, " and the vast majority of my work comes from within this market." Which is both a blessing and the crux of his business problem. Will the notoriety of the Musco olives campaign get him more national attention? "I certainly hope so, but we're off in the hinterlands here; this is not L.A. or New York. It's kinda hard to convince people to come here, though it sometimes happens. It helps to have reps; I don't have any and I should."
What Frisk does have is an editing sense that only comes with time. "When you have enough experience under your belt there are certain things you can just toss out the door because you just know they aren't going to work; you don't even bother trying them." At the same time, he points out, "I steal some of my best ideas from the people in the room. But one of the great things about editing is I have control of what's going on in this room, and no one ever really does out in the field. I've always seen my job as trying to make the writer's vision come true - as close as I can get to what he had in mind. I'm prepared to support an idea. I would describe myself as a pretty much invisible editor. I don't do 'flashy'; I'm looking at the story and I'm making sure that every single shot advances the story. You don't have time in 30 seconds for gratuitous stuff. The language has to be sparse and very clear."
Though he may not do "flashy," Phoenix and its editing staff of five is getting flashier of late - witness the new, Frisk-cut Yahoo "Critters" World Cup spot, where all the greenscreen effects were done in-house. "This is branching out for Phoenix Editorial," Frisk declares with some satisfaction. "We're getting into that now; facilities that used to do this work, like Western Images, have closed. This is one of the trends now; effects will become desktop. We've got Flame and Smoke compositing and a lot of Mac-based stuff. I kind of stay away from that end. There are people here who can do this."
Will it get to the point where he'll boutique it up and take "Editorial" out of the name? "Uh, I don't know. You have a company for 11 years, I wouldn't throw the name away yet. Maybe Phoenix Digital," he says mockingly. "Ooooh."