Ryan Hardison is an editing wiz, prize-winning woodworker, and the co-owner of Red Arrow Industries. Recently, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his journey to company ownership and what gets him excited to come to work every day.
What’s your favorite aspect of moving from editor to boss?
One of my favorite things to do is to train editors and work with interns to pass along experiences to them. I get to do a lot of that now as a boss. I get to sit in on a lot of edits and I like the back and forth of talking about possibilities. When you’re an editor, sometimes it’s just you by yourself so now I like the teamwork aspect of it more. I like being able to guide a show and be collaborative with the editors and producers and find the best solution to these problems that come up.
Do you like to be on every project?
I don’t want to be on every project. When an editor has been here for a while I feel like I don’t have to give my input as much.
It’s nice to see a cut of a video that I haven’t seen yet. I’ll watch an early rough cut that’s been posted to our video library and see a couple of things that I would change. Then it will be sent to me after the producers and editors have worked on it and all those things that I would have changed are already fixed. For them to solve everything perfectly without my input feels great. I don’t feel the need to put my stamp on everything. I don’t give people more notes than they deserve. I’m not going to make an editor change something solely because it’s not how I would have done it.
What’s advice you give to your editors?
We are not artists. It’s easy for people in a creative field to feel like they’re artists and what they’re doing is perfect. Actual artists work in a vacuum – they go into a studio, they make a piece of art and nobody tells them to do it differently. And whatever they create, maybe a person loves it maybe they don’t, but an outsider doesn’t get to tell them they did it wrong. But we’re not artists. We work for clients that have needs and wants. They have certain things they need the project to be, which may not be the way you want it to be. We are homebuilders, we are contractors. Even if it’s not the house we want, we will build it for them the best way possible.
It’s not meant to be insulting to say, “You’re not an artist.” There have been thousands of conversations before you get the show – with clients, producers, focus groups – so what you think as one person may not be the most important. But always try to find ways to make it the best show possible, find ways to wow the clients.
Sometimes executives push you in ways you wouldn’t have thought of going.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I was still in college and I was hired on as a PA for ESPN. I had never worked as a PA or for anything as big as ESPN, and I didn’t know the city. My mentor at the time told me, “Whatever they ask you to do, do it. They don’t know you don’t know how.”
Asking the producer wasn’t going to solve the problem. He was asking me to solve the problem. Sometimes you don’t ask questions, you just got to get the job done.
Oddest project you’ve worked on?
I had to edit a Hooters’ hot tub dance party in 3D before 3D was even a big deal. I had to invent a way to edit this thing because our equipment didn’t do that. I had to come up with some effects to make it work. I sat there in an edit bay for three days with a producer wearing red and blue glasses and watched Hooters girls in bikinis. We both got pretty bad headaches.
If you could be an editor for any TV show what would it be?
The type of show I would like to work on is one that gives you a bit more freedom in the editing stage. Where you can tell one story with your footage and one with your voice over or narration. Those are fun to work on.
I would like to work in a documentary genre. MTV had some music documentary show that was edited with sound bites, news clips, and archives and was really well edited. No voice over or interviews.
There was a show on Bravo! called the “It Factor.” I really enjoyed that show a lot. They followed around actors as they went around and did auditions and got the part or didn’t get the part, but they just followed them for six months straight, watching their journey. I would have liked to work on a show like that.
I’ve worked on tow truck shows, wedding dress shows, fighting shows, History Channel documentaries, reality shows, home improvement shows, competition shows. I’ve enjoyed working on all of them for some reason or another, even wedding dress shows because I enjoy figuring out how to tell that story because they are all very different. I don’t want to do any of them all the time, but there is some aspect in every project that I enjoy.
Who is someone in the TV industry that you look up to?
I looked up to Danny for years before we started Red Arrow. And I still look up to him because he does tremendous work on the production side of things. Over the years we’ve really found our niche where I work in post and he works in production. I look up to him because he is such a hard worker and has such a good handle on how to produce the things we do.
I don’t really look at outside editors and think I wish I could be more like them and I don’t look at companies in town and wish we could be more like them. I don’t want to be. I like the way Red Arrow is and we’re always working to make it better.
Kelsey is pretty nice too. There are a lot of people I look up to within Red Arrow. It sounds silly but that’s who I work with all the time and who I’m impressed with daily. I’m impressed by Mason every day. I’m impressed by Kyle every day. The way they go into their rooms, shut the door, and don’t come out until they have a great project – that’s impressive, I admire them for it.
Why did you want to start Red Arrow?
We wanted to make Red Arrow the culmination of all the good things we had found in the companies we had worked for in the past. We wanted to make an efficient system and most importantly, have the power to change our workflow if it was needed.
In my previous company I was stuck in the line of seniority, so I left and instead of going with another company I decided to go freelance. After that transition I was so busy I couldn’t breathe. From August to February I was working seven days a week, from 7am to midnight. At one point my workload got too heavy to handle so I called Danny, who had two AVIDS, to help with digitizing tapes. After three days I went to pick up the tapes and we got to talking about needing help. That led to talking about making a company and hiring someone. That’s when we really decided to start a company.
There has been a lot of pain, there’s a lot of responsibility and stress. But now it’s been twelve years since leaving another company and I know I wouldn’t be happy still being just an editor. I’m so proud of what we have here as a company – the team we have and the quality of our work.
We wanted to do more and make a better work environment and I think we’ve done that.