We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Brock and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, what principle do you value most?
I have two guiding principles: First, I believe we are all connected. Gaia: The earth is a living intelligent organism and we are part of it not part from it. My life has been based on this fundamental sense. It is not intellectual but felt and is the driving force that gives me drive to this day. Storytelling is a spiritual undertaking because whenever you successfully tell a story through whatever medium you are connecting human beings together by spreading empathy. People are not all good or all bad. We are a panoply of hopes and conflict and forces and desires. Stories show us how through all our diversity we are actually all the same. Second guiding principle: To quote sage wisdom from the Chinese oracle, iChing: “Perseverance furthers”. Of course, to achieve anything of value one must persist. But for how long? And why keep at something? I think in order to have the staying power to go the distance, you need discipline and discipline is in limited supply without deep emotional conviction why you’re pursuing what you’re pursuing. For me, it’s never been about sweat and sacrifice waiting for some distant payoff. And since long term goals never were a motivating force in my life, my career path is extremely windy if the general direction was always strongly moving forward. Some would also say that to really succeed, a clear intention is an essential part of the formula as well. I think my intention has remained exactly the same since I was quite young but for many years though I wasn’t really conscious of what that intention was. I only felt something undefinable incessantly kicking me from behind pushing me forward.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Creative Professional Particularly in marketing and advertising circles the word “authenticity” has been bandied about so much that its over use has undermined some of the word’s depth. I think the same can be said about the job description, “storyteller”. I’m proud to be a good storyteller who relies on a slew of diverse experience to bring out what is emotionally authentic onto the screen but I’m not sure how the title storyteller is received these days. Everybody is a storyteller these days like everybody is a life coach. That is to say there are great storytellers out there as I’m sure there are tremendously gifted life coaches. It’s just these titles we all carry with us get in the way sometimes. I have done a very wide variety of onscreen storytelling. Lately my focus is on telling life stories, usually private documentaries for families. The person does not need to be famous or special. Families have such rich backgrounds with wisdom and lessons that get partially squandered when not shared with those they love in the present generation and those that follow. In my experience I have found that everybody has a story to tell. https://vimeo.com/user31280947 I derive particular reward from doing these kinds of projects because the family is my client not a production company. It’s intimate. I basically know who is going to view this little documentary at least for the time being. I get their feedback and I feel their gratitude directly. When editing for television or other commercial projects, personal feedback like that is not part of the deal. Still, without years in the entertainment industry I would not have acquired the necessary skillset I now have to do what I do the way that I do it. There are things you can learn while there are also certain talents you innately possess that can’t ever be taught. I like to fire on all cylinders when I can and the fact I’ve been around so long and garnered so much diverse experience over time positions me particularly well to be doing these kinds of projects. Additionally because I’ve got kind of a disarming bedside manner, I work well with all kinds of people. First Republic Bank Wealth Management now has me listed as one of their preferred vendors to produce projects like this for clients. But to get to this place I really need to rewind to about twenty years or so… The years where I really cut my teeth telling stories lasted more than a decade starting around the new millennium when I spent thousands of hours in post production edit bays cutting trailers and bonus features for DVD, later cutting footage for non-fiction television and documentaries. I love good onscreen storytelling with a passion and would have loved a shot at it being a picture editor for feature films. The closest I ever came to editing narrative features or episodic television for that matter was doing actors reels for Seven Summits Pictures and Management a long while back. I loved cutting those! One particular reel I did was the showreel for Rebecca Pidgeon who is married to David Mamet. David actually gave me direction over the phone helping me re-cut some of her tv and movie scenes. Afterward he said to me I was one of the few editors he knew who had “both sensitivity and edge”. Wow, I was floored! What a complement! I was going around to all my friends saying “Hey David Mamet said….” Was I ever able to capitalize on that get work with him or find entry into that part of the entertainment industry where I hoped I might flourish? Nope. Oh well. Like in other industries it’s all too easy to start down a path and the farther you go the harder it is to retrace your steps and “unpidgeonhole” yourself. I was destined for and remained a non-fiction off-line editor. I did work a lot and learned so much back then. Being thrust into a position of maximizing dialogue and choosing the best b-roll shots, re-arranging this and that in the storyline, creating tension here and letting a sad moment linger….. all in the service of getting the viewer to feel the most, to be engaged. You can’t teach this. You must do it. Over and over again. The whole skill of editing is all about adjusting, correcting. First you put up the scaffolding and then you adjust, remove, add, change… You are only correcting until you’re finished. (If you are short on patience don’t ever try this job.) Then you become a really good storyteller. These ten years I spent in the industry has a prequel which plays a very large role in what shaped me and what still drives me. Given I’m one of many professionals who appear in your magazine I’d guess the word count for my story wouldn’t allow. Nevertheless here are some bullet points and I’m happy to fill in some interesting stories about how a Jewish baby boomer ended up in Germany in 1979 as as a musician and finally returned stateside to become a picture editor in entertainment industry in 1998 married with children: 1980-1998 * My life as a creative professional started at the beginning of the 80’s. Went to Germany with a band for six weeks and ended up staying almost twenty years. As a professional I was: * A stage tech for tv concerts: learned signal flow and how to mix audio * Earned a living performing everything from country music to middle eastern jazz * Discovered MIDI – (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Everything from this point changed and determined my trajectory for the next 30 years. Learned about the principle of NON-DESTRUCTIVE EDITING * Started composing music with two guitar players and released instrumental music that was life changing for me. I’d found my voice. We got written up in Billboard in Germany. * Became instructor in digital audio and video software in an educational institute. * Also travelled Europe and photographed eventually exhibiting my photography * 1999 – Became a Project Coordinator for a DVD company in Burbank. Took Avid classes on the side and ended up being the house editor for about 4 years. I edited 35 IMAX trailers and numerous bonus features for DVD during this time. It is what got me on my feet professionally in Los Angeles 2010 – 2020 Started turning away from entertainment industry to be my own full service video production company Now I am focusing on legacy videos, biographies. Business profiles.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Not my forte even though I’m a born Angeleno! 1. Back on the Beach Cafe by the Annenburg. Love this place, Chairs sink into the sand, you eat lunch and in front of a pristine wide southern California beach. 2. Solstice Canyon – Beautiful stroll 3. Bike ride through UCLA. Did it as a kid always loved the hills and pathways! 4. Tree People off of Mulholland Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife has been my voice of reason, keeping my feet on the ground as much as possible when my head loves to be in the clouds. I cannot be more blessed with her and my two kids. My inspiration to do what I do has seeds in my mother’s artistic sensibility, passion for music as does my father’s gifted photographic eye and intellect. I carry with me their warmth as people to this very day. My two brothers both who leave an indelible mark in my pursuits. Teachers in my life: Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Where to begin? Words fail as notes rise and in the end there’s “nothin’ left to do but smile, smile, smile!” Chuck Brown my drum teacher. Krishnamurti and Ram Das. Musicians I’ve learned from on stage: Willy Ray Ingram, clarinet, sax, piano. He taught me to have the time of a Mac truck with his cowboy boot on the stage pounding 1, 2, 3, 4! Joel Wachbrit guitar player extraordinaire: Taught me to listen. Rabih Abou Khalil: Taught the value of odd time signatures and the beauty of Fairuz’s voice I could go on….
JIm Brock – Jim Brock Photography: Picture of me playing drums with my brother All other screenshots are from work I have participated in production or post-production. Always a grey area with editors.