Sam Selis, Charlieuniformtango

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Odds are, at this very moment Sam Selis is in panic mode. "That's my ritual up until that looming deadline of the first presentation to the creatives," he admits. "After that, it's all great." For a guy who's managed to acquire a reputation as a go-to editor for comedy spots, one would think he'd be a bit more easygoing. But Selis harnesses his nervous energy, putting it to good use at Charlieuniformtango's small Austin office.

Thanks to a little nepotistic assistance from his brother, Jeff, a Wieden + Kennedy producer, Selis landed his first editing gig in '97 at W+K in Portland. And since moving to Charlieuniformtango last June, he's cut silly spots for the likes of Nike and Pennzoil. Yet, despite his inadvertent focus on comedy commercials, Selis, 36, doesn't think he has a bigger funnybone than anyone else.

Surely he jests. Just take a look at "Pool," a Dial spot in which the editorial touches accentuate the subtle drollery. A man who's about to plunge into a public pool cracks his back in anticipation, oblivious to the fact that a floating youngster has floated a fresh load of poo. The spine crunch, added by a mixer, was Selis' idea; so was including some of the assistant director's unscripted voice work. Little did the guy know when admonishing some hooligans to flee the set that he'd end up featured in the final cut as a lifeguard yelling from off in the distance. "I cut him in to add another layer of sound," says Selis. "The freshest stuff is the film between the takes."

When a recently produced spot for AARP hit the edit bay, not only did some unanticipated footage make its way into his cut, Selis was stunned by the fact that the client actually signed off on it. The infomercial spoof features a muscle-bound spokesman hawking a fabulous new product, which in the end is revealed to be "walking for health." Apparently, the magic happened in between takes when the actor hammed it up. "If anything in the film makes me laugh, we try to use it if it'll fit," says Selis. Much to his astonishment, "every weird little thing we tried to get in was approved."

Not every job's such a cakewalk, though. After Selis cut a series of dramatic 30-second spots for Kohler, the client requested that he cut them down to :15s. His initial reaction: "impossible." Selis made it work, although he laments, "I think they're much stronger stories as :30s." Regardless, the Kohler spots did sate Selis' craving to edit more emotional stories as opposed to the farcical fare that usually fills his plate. He's not one to snub work, though. Selis expresses a genuine concern about getting enough jobs from outside of town to ensure a refreshed reel when it comes time to revisit Austin's only large agency, GSD&M. "My goal is to get more work in L.A., New York and Portland," adds Selis. "The hardest part is for agencies to justify to clients why they have to fly three people out to Austin. It's a great excuse to come to Austin, though."

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