This is the kind of rut most editors can only dream about, and the wide-ranging Wieden connection can be traced directly to Norling, who says he brought the shop with him when, after a five-year stint at 2Pop Editorial, he made the move to FilmCore four years ago. It's a creative link that transcends any particular person or team at the agency, Norling explains, since there are different creative groups for every account (in Nike's case, for every sport), and the groups, moreover, are frequently shifted around.
And sometimes when watching the spots your head gets shifted around, but that's more Walker's reel than Norling's, which is to say that Walker works out of FilmCore's San Francisco office, Norling out of the Hollywood office, but the differences between them are more than simply geographical: At the risk of making glib tortoise/hare distinctions, Walker's got a "fast" reel and Norling's got a "slow" one.
Walker, whose USA Today spot is so dizzying it should come with a warning label for epileptics, describes his reel with Xtreem unction: "Very graphic and visual. I tend to pack a lot in within 30 seconds and really mix up the pacing. Really aggressive."
Norling says, "I used to have a faster reel-for a long time I did nothing but fast-cut work, but after a while you want to change that." Well, Norling is 35, Walker 32, so maybe Norling has outgrown quick cuts. "It's not that W&K will come to me only for slower things-the relationship you develop with an agency is far more complex than that," he says. "But that fast-cut pigeonhole is something I had to consciously break out of. You have to take all the fast stuff off your reel and put on what are not necessarily better spots but anything with a slower pace. Same with comedy; you want to cut comedy, you've got to put on your reel anything you've cut that's remotely humorous. You've got to build bridges that way. This whole hierarchy of stereotyping is baloney, of course; the notion that someone can only cut one way is ridiculous, but that's the way it is."
Walker happily adds music to the way it is. "I lay a lot of sound design in as well to enforce my visuals," he says. "If I didn't have my own sound design to present the cut with, I think you'd look at it and say, 'What the hell is that?' It'd just be a blur of images. But if you can find the right sound for those images, it tells a very rapid-fire sort of story and it hits you right in the face."
Norling's reel also offers face-hitting, in the form of stitch-splitting ESPN hockey comedy, with a goaltender in full game gear driving a cab and a player helping out security guards at the ESPN studios by beating the crap out of an "unauthorized" pizza delivery guy. This is as slow as you'd expect such comedy to be, while a third Norling ESPN spot with Michael McKean doing Spinal Tap shtick is so slow your grandma could catch it. On the other hand, Walker's got flash-framey promos for ESPN's Extreme Games with the giveaway title of "Raddest Show." He also has the ace-velocity "Virtual Andre" for Nike tennis, along with the aptly named "Top Speed," featuring Monica Seles playing a James Bondian game of lethal rackets in a careening car.
In contrast, Norling's got Nike's "Frozen Moments," in which civilians raptly watch Michael Jordan on TV, a spot that moves mostly in Heinz "Anticipation"-speed slow motion, but there are exceptions, of course. Walker's got a Nike paean to female athletes called "Stories" that has a more relaxed narrative lope. "It's about heart, soul and pride," he says, "and the rhythm of the edit matches it. I love the pacing of that." Norling's got Nike's "Search & Destroy," a Tony Kaye study of athletes that moves at a pretty nervous clip, just like Tony.
Nevertheless, it's Walker who lives in the fast lane, and he's quite comfortable there at the moment. "Yeah, you can get pigeonholed," he says without much concern. "I've sent my reel off for some comedy jobs, they say there's no comedy on the reel, then I'll have to send another reel off. I have done some ESPN comedy, but I haven't done true national comedy. Comedy is very tough to cut, you've got to have great timing. I can do comedy, and I've done it, but I guess I really appreciate the visual things a little more.
"It's a strange style, it's a style that I've fallen into, and I think it comes from doing music videos," he reflects. "I've done a lot of those, where you basically have complete freedom, and I bring that to my TV spots." He's cut for Garbage and Alice in Chains, he did the new Blues Traveler, "Carolina Blues," an "Oliver Stone-type montage, all kinds of film stock, heavily cut," he says, but he also put together that "beautiful, slow and dreamy" Jewel video, the one with the blue walls. "I do tend to get the faster Nike spots, but some are story pieces like the Seles and the Agassi. Action stories. I haven't gotten into the real emotional-type story spots-yet." Walker is not perturbed about the industry's chronic case of quick-cut fever; "It all depends on your target audience. If your audience is 24 years old, you can be as aggressive as you want. It's an aggressive world out there."
Norling has his misgivings about this brave new blipvert. "Well, compliments of MTV and the rest of it, people have to be fed a lot of information fast," he says resignedly. "I sometimes regret that, but it's a situation where everyone has ideas that are bigger than 30 or 60 seconds, and they have to be compressed. The fact is, it's nice to be able to hang onto things and to know you haven't lost someone's attention span because you didn't cram 12 shots into three seconds. You look at movies and you wonder how people can sit through them anymore. I love watching old movies, movies with slow pacing and great dialogue where characters are really developed, but there's a generation of people out there that simply will not be able to get through these well-written films. I sat down the other night to watch a movie with some friends, and I put on Double Indemnity, a beautifully written classic, and I was looking at their faces; in 10 minutes they were bored. So I took it off and put on something with a lot of explosions in it, and they were like, 'Hey, this is great.' "
As for music videos, "I haven't cut one in a long time," says Norling. "They make a nice change of pace, but they're usually done on a real ball-busting schedule so I wouldn't want a steady diet of them. They do let you get beyond 30 and 60 seconds, and you can try different things, but their lack of substance is a real problem. If I was going to work on a video, I'd hope it was one that had something more to say than, Look at this new technique we can do in Flame."
Speaking of tech, all the digital gear "allows you to play with the images more," says Walker. "If you want to distort an image, change the color, completely change the look of a scene, you can do it all realtime. The access is there."
Norling conveniently plays the tortoise: "Yes, you can work faster now, but you can only work as fast as you can think. Back in the days when I was cutting on film, yes, there were times when you had to search for a piece of film, it was cumbersome, but there was also time to think about what you were doing. I've got a creative peak level, and I'm not going any faster than that, no matter how fast the equipment is. It's like those cellular phones; how much smaller can they make them before they're just not going to fit your head?"
Well, Norling is from the conservative Midwest (Chicago), and he started in post at Optimus after a few years of film school, then moved to L.A. and joined Red Car. Walker is from swinging Southern California, and he went right into the TV/film business at age 18 as an animator-his mother was a television producer at Warner Bros. He was a sound editor before he was an editor and he's been at FilmCore since 1988.
On the subject of future directions, however, the hare is predictably lagging the tortoise: "I haven't thought of cutting a feature," says Walker. "Right now I really like doing commercials, working with different people, building a client base. People are coming to you for a reason, they're hiring you to do what you do. It's getting to be really fun, it's not just a job. I do wish I had edited Apocalypse Now, though. I actually don't know who cut it, oddly enough. The editor's the unsung hero on that movie."
"Editing a feature would be fun," says Norling. "You look at Hank Corwin, and all you can say is, It can be done, you can have your cake and eat it too. But I look at boards all the time and I say to myself, Hey, this doesn't seem too great, I'm not sure I want to involve myself in this for three weeks-never mind the seven or eight months of a feature. I'd like to do one, but not just for the sake of doing one. It would have to be the right one.
"We could even edit a film at FilmCore," he adds. "We're going in a lot of great new directions here, there are a lot of changes. You know, it's all the same equipment."