Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
Gabrielle Anex remembers being shy about handling the adult movies at the video store where she worked after high school, not wanting to look at the racy box covers.
I think having a musical background helps because I understand a tempo that dialogue and action should have. I can tell immediately if I have a scene that feels off when I watch it. A lot of times it’s knowing when not to cut. —Gabrielle Anex, Editor
If only her old bosses could see her now.
Anex in the past 16 years has become one of the adult industry’s most trusted editors, working closely with New Sensations on dozens of the company’s award-winning porn titles. The 2013 XBIZ Award-winning Studio of the Year has established a reputation for creating quality features and all-sex movies that maintain dramatic tension without skimping on the sexual heat.
If it’s on your screen today, chances are that Anex spent several hours with the footage a couple months ago making sure what made the cut was only what was necessary to tell the story. The art of editing can elevate a movie to exceptional levels and Anex makes her living in the details.
In this exclusive interview, the seasoned vet discusses her path to the profession, her biggest challenges and her favorite projects.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Southern California in the small town of Rancho Cucamonga.
What were you doing for work before you started editing professionally?
Before I started editing professionally, I was making a living and putting myself through college by arresting shoplifters as an undercover security officer for major department stores. I wore plain clothes and acted like I was shopping, all the while watching other people while they shopped or, hopefully shoplifted. We had cameras all over the store and I enjoyed the voyeur aspect of what I was doing, but it was also dangerous if you arrested someone who fought with you or tried to get away. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life forever, so I applied to UCLA’s film school and got accepted.
What other jobs did you have?
Besides the undercover security position, I also was a video store clerk right out of high school where I was very shy about having to put films back in the “Adult” section. My bosses used to tease me because I would run in and throw the tapes back on the shelf while trying to avoid looking at the covers! The irony of that is that now, a good majority of those adult films would be edited by me.
How did you learn how to edit?
I went to UCLA’s film school and graduated in 1995 with my Bachelor’s Degree. While there, we learned to do all the basics of filmmaking; directing, camera, editing, sound, etc. I edited my 16mm student film on an 8-plate, flat-bed editing system which is how they did it back then. We actually had the film developed and then physically cut it with what is called a guillotine splicer. We would take out the frames we didn’t want and tape it back together with actual tape like Scotch tape but with perforations. It was a tedious process, but it taught me the tangible feel of what it means to “cut” a film. Nowadays, everything is done on computers but I’m glad I had that background in actually touching film and having to really think about edits before I made them.
How did you get into professional video editing?
Like most film school graduates, I couldn’t find a job after graduation. So I went back to catching shop-lifters full time. A woman I worked with told me her husband was a postproduction manager at an adult company and offered to give him my resume. She did and he hired me. I started off editing compilations and then very quickly director James Avalon took me under his wing and I began editing his films at Metro. He taught me so much about editing and really believed in my abilities. My first complete feature for him was “White Angel” which I received my first of 15 AVN nominations for Best Editing.
What do you like about editing porn?
Editing porn has given me a freedom to really experiment with different styles and ways to tell a story. I like that I have so much creative input into the films, much moreso than a mainstream editor would have. I am also really big into sound design and so I try to incorporate sound into all my feature-type films I work on. I also enjoy finding the right type of music for a film. In mainstream, I wouldn’t have that kind of creative freedom. Luckily, I have found that most directors really like my choices, both with picture and sound.
What are the biggest challenges to editing porn?
This is going to sound odd, but after 16 years the biggest challenge to editing porn is the sex. By that I mean, making something I see over and over interesting. I liken editing the sex part to doing the same jigsaw puzzle over and over. Some puzzles have a lot of pieces, some have few, but I have to put them together and then the next day, dump them out and start again. So that part gets redundant. I’m lucky in that during my career, I’ve edited some really big feature-type films with dialogue and effects and decent actors. That’s my forte, the porn with dialogue or action. But the sex is obviously necessary so I try to put a lot of care into that as well.
On average, how long does it take for you to edit a feature movie, an all-sex movie?
A feature film with minimal sound work takes me on average three to four weeks. If there is sound effects work or design, it will take me a little longer. An all-sex movie, depending on the director, I can cut in three to five days.
Which movie in your career took you the longest time to edit and why?
Immediately two films come to mind, “Hearts and Minds 2” directed by Andre Madness and “Horizon” directed by Sam Hain. I have a very fond place in my heart for “Hearts and Minds 2” because I did all the picture and sound work and there was a ton of sound design. When you’re doing a war film, the actors are shooting guns that make no sound and so it’s my job to put that in and make it believable. You can’t just use the same machine gun sound for every gun otherwise it’s just a big mess of the same sound. So each actor’s gun had to have a different sound during the fight sequences and that was a major challenge. If you watch that film, you’d never know that most of the fight scenes were filmed without sound. “Horizon” also took a long time for the exact same reasons. I enjoyed that one because of the sci-fi aspect to it, much like “Star Trek, The Next Generation: A XXX Parody” that I also cut.
What are the keys to effective editing?
Patience and pacing. There are so many dialogue scenes in adult that make me cringe when I watch them because they just don’t sound real. Granted sometimes the dialogue is just badly written but a good editor can often fix that. I think having a musical background helps because I understand a tempo that dialogue and action should have. I can tell immediately if I have a scene that feels off when I watch it. A lot of times it’s knowing when not to cut.
Do you have a method you follow every time?
On a feature, I will rough out all the dialogue and then start thinking of sound and music as I go along. Sometimes I know specifically what kind of music I want so I will start pulling music from our music library and place it in to see if it works. Once I get the dialogue close to what I want, I will sit with the director if they choose and let them see it and make whatever changes they might have. Then I cut the sex because it doesn’t take as long. I clean up audio, lay more music in and do a sound mix.
Which editing projects are you most proud of and why?
I am very proud of “Hearts and Minds 2” for the reason I mentioned. I really am proud of the “Sex Files I” and II parodies because I was a huge “X Files” fan and I really tried to stay true to the feel of that show, same thing with “Star Trek: The Next Generation: A XXX Parody” and I really loved “The Friend Zone” because the story was just so genuine and fun and the actors were great.
How did you come to work with New Sensations/Digital Sin?
I was working freelance when I met Nic Andrews, who in turn, introduced me to Scott Taylor, the owner of New Sensations. New Sensations was starting to do more feature porn and so I arrived at the right time. I really enjoyed all the parody work we did for a few years there. And now I really enjoy the Romance and Couples lines we are doing.
What other editing jobs do you do?
I’ve done some mainstream editing gigs, including a UFC series on SPIKE TV and some small stuff on KCAL. I’ve also done sound design on a number of independent films, including animation. I really enjoy cutting trailers and I’ve had several of my parody trailers be recognized by mainstream media.
What are your hobbies?
I am a martial artist, currently an Orange Belt in Tae Kwon Do and I do a lot of biking and reading. I also write and am working on a book about my experiences in the adult industry. And I really dig video games, which is unusual for someone of my age and gender.
What are your future plans?
I’d like to continue editing professionally and maybe someday branch out to mainstream trailers and films. I also really would love to do some more sound-design work.