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New Talent

New Talent: Tara O' Sullivan

PS260 Assistant Editor discusses the origin of her love for film, her YouTube web series and her plans for the future

New Talent: Tara O' Sullivan

Tara O’Sullivan has always had the creative film bug. Her family loved that, and as a kid, Tara’s parents would support her ambitions by gathering in their living room, to see her showcase her DIY creations. Her family even allowed her to stay in costume and wear her Wizard of the Oz ruby slippers to the store when her ‘productions’ had finished. Years later, Tara had kicked those ruby slippers off and got her foot into the door of Adland when she was hired as a runner at post house PS260.

Similarly, to her childhood heroine, Dorothy, Tara met a cast of characters on her way and also convinced them to follow her on her journey. She’s the creator, writer and star of her own YouTube web series ‘Small and Unique’ and her editing magic, also impressed the post production wizards at PS260 as she’s risen up the ranks from Runner to Assistant Editor.

LBB’s Jason Caines sat down for a chat with Tara to discover what her day to day is like as an assistant editor at PS260, how she came up with ‘Small & Unique’ and her plans for the future. 

LBB> What were you like as a kid?

Tara O’ Sullivan> I was a strange, and sometimes creepy child. I used to whisper and repeat everything that was said to me or near me. I would dress in a Dorothy costume that required me to wear about twelve layers of socks, to fit into my oversized ruby red slippers, and leggings on my head, to simulate long pigtails. It didn’t matter which color—pink, purple, blue, I’d use whatever was clean and available and still go along with my mom to the grocery store.

I wrote a self-illustrated book on folded up computer paper when I was seven called “How Scientists Discovered the Popoffcactmomif”, it was a creature named for the names/initials of everyone who was physically near me when I wrote it.

My parents always let me stay strange, so I never changed. They encouraged our creativity, so my brother and I started making films as kids. We made stop motion LEGO movies, nature documentaries, sci-fi dinosaur movies, and my favourite was a fake news show complete with mock commercials that we made with my best friend when we were ten. I haven’t seen it in at least a decade, but I can say with confidence that “News Now” is the best thing I’ve ever made. I think my childhood definitely had a lasting impact on my creative nature now.

LBB> How did you get into video editing?

TS> I could say that it started with the films that my brother and I made as kids! But that would be a lie, because he did all the editing. When I was a junior in high school I took a film class at my high school and learned some basics, so I ended up making a video for our end of the year “Credo” project that was meant to represent who we are. I experimented with stop-motion and other super DIY effects, and ended up being really proud of the final product. I worked so hard on it that I ran out of time for the creative writing portion of the assignment and ended up writing a minimalistic poem the night before it was due that was something to the effect of: “I don’t know who I am.” I enjoyed making the video so much though that I ended up eventually deciding to study Film and Television in college.

LBB> How did you get your start in advertising?

TS> PS260 was actually my start in advertising. I got a job here as a runner when I first moved to New York and a few months and one successful pie eating competition later I was promoted to assistant editor. 

LBB> What’s a day to day like for you as an assistant editor at PS260 and what are the main challenges of your role?

TS> Something that I love about being an assistant editor at PS 260 is that every day is different. It’s hard to get bored. I think the main challenges come from the fast-paced nature of the work. It’s common to be balancing a handful of projects with tight turnarounds, and it’s important to know the ins and outs of every single one of them while keeping everything organized and moving forward. By nature, I’m pretty cool-headed under pressure so I usually enjoy the energy of it all when things get hectic.

LBB> What's been your favourite project to work on so far? Please tell us about it.

TS> It’s hard to pick a favourite. It might be in part because it’s my most recent project, but I’ve been working on a Valentine’s Day spot for American Greetings that’s been really enjoyable. The agency creatives from MullenLowe are really talented and have great taste, which made the editing process fun and collaborative. The spot itself has vignettes of different kinds of relationships and the struggle we all go through to say what we mean to the people we love, and they cast all real people instead of actors which makes each scene feel more genuine and relatable. It was really well directed by the filmmaking team the Mercadantes.

LBB> You co- created, write, edit and act in YouTube comedy series "Small & Unique”. Tell us more about it and how you decided to start your own online show

TS> Small & Unique is a passion project of my creative partner, Ford Phillips, and mine. We were hall-mates our freshman year at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) where he studied performing arts and I studied film and television. We were always improvising together and acting out weird, elaborate scenes. Sometimes for the entertainment of our group of friends (who did not ask to be entertained), sometimes just solely for the entertainment of no one else but each other. I would also always come to him for notes on my writing or my editing because I valued his taste and timing. It made sense that we would eventually make something together, so once we moved to New York we decided to start writing down more of our ideas and fleshing them out into stories and sketches. The episodes are mostly inspired by real scenarios or conversations that we find ourselves in and then when we see how far we can push them. We’re lucky to have a lot of funny and talented friends in New York from college, and friends I’ve met through working at PS 260 who were just as excited to help turn our series into a reality.

LBB> What advertising/brands or ad makers inspire you?

TS> Lately I’ve been inspired by the trend of long-form campaigns that has been happening over the last couple years. It’s pretty standard to create a spot that tries to grab the viewer in ten seconds before they inevitably hit the “skip ad” button, but with so many new mediums of advertising there are less rules and restrictions for the type of content we can create. Some of my favorite ads are more like short films than advertisements and make me want to forego the “skip ad” button altogether because I want to see the story play out. Some perfect examples would be the Kate Spade #missadventure ads or Spike Jonze’s Kenzo World spot.

LBB> What are you into outside of advertising?

TS> Outside of editing and advertising I want to write and direct. I’m into comedy and most of my writing tends to gravitate that way, but I’m interested in creating all kinds of content. I also enjoy acting and performing. I’m also into murder. Not committing it… just listening to podcasts about it.

LBB> Do you have any advice for younger, budding video editors out there?

TS> I think it’s important to edit personal projects as often as you can. You can always find ways to be creative and infuse your own voice into anything you have a hand in, but the best way to hone your voice and instincts is to create your own stuff. Starting off, you usually won’t get a ton of creative control. Also, ask for feedback on your edits. I’ve learned so much from more senior assistants and editors at my company.

LBB> Do you have any upcoming projects that you'd like the people out there to know about?

TS> Ford and I are currently writing and planning season two of Small & Unique! It can be difficult balancing jobs, lives, and personal projects so there’s no definitive release date—but we’re hoping to have it out by the end of the year. I also have a short coming-of-age comedy called “Take With Water” that I wrote and directed a couple of years ago that was on the festival circuit for a long time, and I’m finally planning its online release.

I’m also writing another film that is not a comedy based on a true hitchhiking story from the 70’s, so be looking out for that in the next 1-40 years. 

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