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The Work That Made Me: Alison Grasso


Cutters Studios' editor on Saturday Night Live, the influence of Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze and Lurpak's kitchen odyssey

The Work That Made Me: Alison Grasso

Multitalented editor Alison Grasso joined the staff of Cutters New York in 2019. A graduate of NYU (BFA, Film and Television Production) and Goldsmiths, University of London (Master of Arts in Documentary Filmmaking), her passions for documentary-style visual storytelling, beauty and fashion are reflected in her creative collaborations for scores of prominent brands and musical artists. In the expanding world of feature audio, Alison’s editing credits include the ground breaking feature-length audio movie 'Shipworm,' the entire second season of the top-rated podcast 'Limetown,' and promos for the acclaimed audio documentary 'The Wilderness' hosted by Pod Save America's Jon Favreau. Alison is also an award-winning multihyphenate filmmaker, a SAG-AFTRA-registered voiceover artist with many top-tier national credits, and a card-carrying Beer Geek.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

The most memorable ads from my childhood were definitely the ones on my parents’ VHS tapes of SNL’s Best Of the 70s and 80s. I’m not really sure if those count… Bad Idea Jeans is chief among them, along with Happy Fun Ball, which taught me an early appreciation for the potential absurdity of disclaimers and fair balance. 

As a 90s child, I was also massively into TRL during its heyday, and tuned in every afternoon to observe the barely-changing lineup of top 10 music videos. There are way too many iconic, memorable ones to count, but anything by Bjork goes on that list (Hyperballad!) To this day I will quote Fatboy Slim’s 'Praise You' (Spike Jonze) as my favourite music video – it’s so simple but so innovative, and most importantly, really quite sweet. No matter how many times I watch it, it’s always a delight.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

As a 90s child, the works of pioneers like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze were hugely influential to me. They were presenting short form work that was at the intersection of art, promo, and music that, in my youth, I hadn’t really seen before. Plus, the fact that so much of their early work involved in-camera effects and a general DIY attitude made it seem attainable. Can I call it lo-fi highbrow?? Like anyone with a great idea, creative mind, and a lot of gumption could make something really cool. As a kid from Maryland with no ties to professional filmmakers or the media industry, they made my perceived disadvantages seem like less of a barrier. 

The creative work that I keep revisiting…

In terms of commercial work, I return to the Lurpak ads somewhat often – I love that they take something that’s fairly benign and make it into an epic, cinematic odyssey, while still being tongue in cheek. They fully commit to the creative and pull out every possible technique to make margarine look awesome. The opposite of lo-fi highbrow.

And here we are with another music video… Lykke Li’s 'I’m Good, I’m Gone' is one I always come back to. The jump cut works overtime in this video, and combined with other fairly straightforward techniques, it sort of checks all the boxes for me. Not that any of this work is simple! It definitely isn’t. It’s very precise but it’s also really accessible. I don’t know if this is a function of getting older or just the time that I grew up in, but, I’ll take the Muppets over Marvel any day, if that makes sense! Like I’m usually way more excited by traditional techniques done really really well.

My first professional project…

I can't say with certainty what my 'first professional project' was, but I'll never forget being an assistant on a Gillette ad with major celebrity sports talent. It was a huge project and it was shot on multiple different types of film stock. As a fairly young assistant at the time, I knew it was a really important job as well as an amazing opportunity, so naturally it was terrifying. It was also a challenging edit, and so while I was only the assistant on the project, I learned a lot from observing. I’d say it was an incredibly formative experience that definitely influenced my technical, creative, and interpersonal skill development. And it taught me a lot about humility! I’m forever grateful to my editor on that project for extending so much patience, kindness, and encouragement to me, since I was still figuring some things out.

The piece of work that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

The Kars 4 Kidz commercials. The jingle from these ads has got to be permanently stored in every New Yorker’s brain, whether they like it or not. The weak lip syncing and air guitaring to the corny song are pretty bad, but the kicker for me was the tag sticking out on the kids’ clothes. That pushed me over the edge.

The work that I’m proudest of…

I made my first 20-minute documentary this past year, about a Leeds bakery called Get Baked and an incident dubbed #Sprinklegate (google it). It was accepted into the Leeds International Film Festival and was awarded Special Mention (basically 2nd place!) in its screening competition of Yorkshire Shorts. I made the project pretty much entirely on my own – producing, directing, shooting, and editing – with basically no budget. It was insanely challenging to do all these roles myself, and while I've been cutting for what feels like my whole life, approaching a project of this length and doing it alone was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But that said, I can see so much improvement across all my skills, and I'm pretty happy with how the film turned out, even with my many limitations. I was totally honoured just to screen in the festival amongst so many beautifully made short films, most of them fiction. So getting a special nod was just the icing on top.

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Cutters Studios, Fri, 02 Dec 2022 15:38:02 GMT