Adam Pertofsky

By Published on .

If Adam Pertofsky were to pare down his career to a 60-second spot, it would include some trippy flashback scenes. Chief among them would be the moment when the L.A.-based Rock Paper Scissors editor learned he was slated to cut Nike's "Freestyle," directed by HSI's Paul Hunter. "That was interesting because it was great to hear Paul Hunter's name again," he notes with a bit of awe. When Pertofsky, now 33, was still pretty much a neophyte, one of his first jobs was cutting music videos for Hunter, when he too was just starting out, at The Oil Factory in Los Angeles. "I didn't see him for five years, and then all of a sudden, boom! I got a call and they said Paul Hunter's directing the spot and I was cutting it," Pertofsky recalls. "I thought, 'Wow, isn't that wild?' I remember calling him up and he was like, 'Adam who?' " he laughs.

No one's asking that anymore, now that he's a starter on Team Nike. As if "Freestyle" weren't enough to put him on the map, Pertofsky also edited the elegantly inspiring "Move," which debuted during the Winter Olympics. But his winning streak with Nike and Wieden & Kennedy started way back, when he cut the 1999 Gold Lion-nabbing "Meat" and "Jumper," spots directed by the late Jhoan Camitz, from the "What Are You Getting Ready For?" campaign. He also cut "Beautiful," which featured scarred athletes in slo-mo grandeur and took Gold at Cannes the following year. The spot was directed by Frank Budgen, who turned out to be another face from Pertfosky's past. "When he walked into my room and saw me," he said, 'You look familiar.' I said, 'Yeah, I used to get tea and coffee for you,' " he laughs. Pertofsky had first met Budgen when the aspiring young editor was working as a PA in the U.K., after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications. Pertofsky spent three years in England, assisting at production companies like Stark during the day and cutting freebie clips for indie bands at night. He then moved to L.A., where he worked briefly in features and then went back to freelancing in clips.

Pertofsky's not one to gloat about rising in the ranks, however. In fact, he's genuinely awestruck by the opportunities he's gotten, even if his initial advertising gigs already started pretty close to the top. When he joined Rock Paper Scissors, one of his first jobs for Wieden was cutting Miller Genuine Draft spots helmed by directors like Tony Kaye and Joe Pytka. Most recently, Pertofsky completed work for MasterCard, as well as a round of Robert Altman-directed promos for E! Entertainment. He also recently found himself face to face again with the Hughes Brothers, whom he first met years ago at The Oil Factory. The director siblings just re-signed with the shop and helmed the '70s-style "Rucker Park" spot for Nike, which is yet another Pertofsky cut.

After a decade of editing, Pertofsky now knows it's best to trust his gut. "I try to work really fast because I just want it to be instinctual and to feel right," he notes. "I personally like things when they're slapped together rather than when they're noodled forever, because usually your first cut is your best one. It's when you're thinking the least and you're feeling the most."

His instincts were crucial on "Move," creative director Hal Curtis' follow-up to the "Freestyle" phenomenon. The breathtaking :90, directed by RSA's Jake Scott, seamlessly segues two dozen distinct vignettes of athletes in motion, accompanied by an inspiring piano piece by Jonathan Elias. "I cut that whole thing before we even had a sound for it," Pertofsky notes. "Hal would ask to watch it without music, because he just wanted to look at the piece, get a feel for the piece by itself. A lot of times I cut without music anyway. I like putting the picture together by itself. When you find your own rhythm and you have your own style, you have an internal timing anyway. I was able to do it just by what felt right to me."

Curtis vouches for Pertofsky's instincts. "I trust Adam," he says. "I trust his judgement editorially. He's very versatile, he can tell a story, but he also has a good sense of rhythm and how the film flows and moves. 'Move' was such an editorially sensitive spot that we included him in all discussions with Jake from the very beginning. Everyone needed to feel confident that what we were doing visually was going to be successful and he had a lot of good comments early on that allowed us, when we were storyboarding and shooting, to avoid something that would have really hurt the spot."

Ultimately, the spot remained remarkably true to the board, according to Pertofsky, but ensuring the right emotional effect required a lot of fine-tuning in the edit room. "As an editor, my goal is for the audience not to see the edits," he explains. " 'Move' in particular is about the edits, but you don't want to see the transitions, you want to feel them. So I tweaked the heck out of the transitions to make sure you couldn't see them. I worked on that by really noodling it, what they call 'frame fucking,' going back and forth through the frames to make sure I had the best transition. I wanted you not to be thinking, to just get caught up with the spot, feel the size of it, the breadth of it. It's all about illusion. I hate when you're trying to pull someone's strings. With 'Move' we were going for getting chills, that's for sure. The goal was definitely to move people emotionally, but we weren't going to go out of our way. We were just trying to let it happen. That's what I really shoot for. You want to move people and get their attention, but you don't want to force the issue."

Most Popular
In this article: