From ‘The Walking Dead’ to Apple TV, Editor Olivia Wyrick Shares Her Journey and Advice

Posted on: Oct 12, 2023

Olivia Wyrick

By Steffanie Bradley

Olivia Wyrick has been working in the film industry for close to 10 years. She started as a PA at a post-production facility and worked her way up to head online editor. She decided to move show-side and was able to use her online editing hours to get in the Motion Pictures Editors Guild. Once in the union, she worked as a VFX editor and assistant editor on The Walking Dead. She got her first solo episodic credit on Foundation season 2. Discover how she made major career moves and her advice for those looking to get into editing.

How did you get your start in Hollywood?

I started as a PA, as most people do, at a post-production facility called Mad Old Nut Productions. I was hired [as] a post-production assistant. Not getting coffee, but helping out setting up computers, setting up editors’ systems, dealing more with the hardware and things like that. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but I saw a path to editing and post-production through that, since it was very closely related. We were working on television shows such as The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, and a lot of TNT shows and some big name things.

I was very excited about that and it took a little while to get out of that post-production assistant position. Probably about a year, year and a half. I was promoted to assistant online editor and became the head online editor after four years. From there, I hit the top of where I felt I could be in that area, and decided to go show side. I was probably doing that job for about two and a half years before I decided to go in another direction.

Can you briefly explain what a head online editor does and how it is different from creative editing?

There is an online process, so when a show shoots—a television show or a movie—they shoot all their dailies, they just have their footage. It’s generally very high resolution, large files, depending on what they shoot with, what camera. If it’s a RED camera, they’ll have RED files. If it’s an ARRI ALEXA, they’ll have high-res files.

They want to shoot in the highest resolution possible for mastering, but those tend to be very large. They can be upwards of four terabytes, four to eight to 16 and generally you don’t want to cut with those files because they’re so big, you can’t manage them.

It’s not a creative position in the sense that you’re doing the editing, but you’re making the decisions— it’s a kind of problem-solving technical job. You oftentimes run into issues where things aren’t relinking, where there’s certain effects on the shots that you have to recreate with the files.

It’s a little more technical than being a picture editor, so it’s not for everyone, but I loved it. I think it was very beneficial to start in that sense and then go into the show side, because I kind of had an edge knowing the back end before I went over to the show side and went on the more creative end, or creative aspect.

Did you always know you wanted to be a TV editor?

I knew I wanted to be in television from a very young age. I think originally I wanted to be a director and just be on-set—not in films, but be part of films. I went to Boston University for film and television at the College of Communications, not really knowing, but kind of wanting to direct. I took a lot of different classes in the film industry and I loved editing.

I was editing in high school a little bit, so I was familiar with the programs and I found that in college I was cutting my own stuff and that whole process. That’s where I decided that was an area I wanted to concentrate professionally on. Directing also seemed so unattainable in a way. It felt a little far.

Editing felt like something that I could do at a younger age. Directing…it’s a hard area to get into and coming right out of film school, I didn’t even know anything about online editing. I didn’t realize how many things there were in the post-production world, how many roles and jobs there were. In film school they often tell you, “Okay, you can be a director, a writer, an actor, a producer or an editor.”

Walk me through your show-side journey.

I got my start on the show side in visual effects on The Walking Dead, season 8. I wanted to move show side, which meant I had to get into the union, so I had to get a number of hours to get on the roster to then get hired as either an assistant editor or a VFX assistant editor. That took a little bit of time. We were onlining the show at the time and they were looking for a visual effects assistant editor, which was perfect because it was a good entry-level position never having done show side before. 

My favorite project probably had to be Foundation season 2, where I am an assistant editor. That was really special because it was the first episode that I edited as my own, where you get credit as the specific episode editor. I had co-edited some episodes and cut some scenes on The Walking Dead and on Foundation season 1. It was a great, fun experience, to see my name in the credits and the opening sequence was so rewarding. 

Do you have a long-term goal with editing?

I’d love to get into features. I didn’t even realize, before coming out to LA, the difference between being in features and being in television. When I was daydreaming about being in the “industry,” it was always a thought of, “Oh, I want to make a movie. I want to make films.” I didn’t really think about television until I saw the various opportunities in it. I’ve loved it so far.

What does it take to make that transition? Do you just need more credits? 

It really comes down to getting more experience, having more credits, working with more people. So you get more contacts, you get to know more producers and maybe someone’s like, “Oh, I’m doing this movie. Do you want to work on this movie?” You don’t have to have an agent or anything like that, but it does help because they can vouch for you. They can put your name into certain projects that you might not know about. It does help to have that and a lot of editors that I know do have representation.

How do you obtain an agent as an editor?

You just have to shop around. It’s kind of a two-way street. You have to find somebody that is willing to represent you and you have to trust them that they can. When the time comes, I’ll reach out to my other colleagues and other editors that have agents and ask them.

What will the process be like for productions to get back online once both of the strikes are resolved?

It’s going to take a lot for everything to get back to where it was pre-strikes. There’s locations, there’s equipment rentals, there’s obviously the actors, there’s the writers—there’s so much that goes into production. It’s going to take a few weeks to get the ball rolling. Production’s like a big boulder we all need to collectively push back up a hill. It’s going to take a little while to get studios and set locations back, to get the crews and production offices, post-production offices, and writer’s rooms all on track and back together. Some of those people moved or got other jobs, it will take time to fully re-assemble teams.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into editing?

Figure out early if you are passionate about it, because a lot of it is long hours, as it is with a lot of [jobs] in production. You’ll have to start as someone’s assistant—either an assistant editor or a VFX assistant. In reality, a very common path is to get your hours for the union before you can join the union. And those are long hours. Once you’re on the roster, then production can say, “Okay, I’m looking to hire an assistant editor. Let’s see if they’re on the roster.” 

You want to have a good attitude and not give too much pushback, because people won’t want to work with you. You really have to be collaborative. It really is just about how vocal you are in what you want. If you’re passionate and a good worker and trustworthy and can meet deadlines, people are willing to give you a chance even if you don’t have that experience.

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