On the Beyond Reality podcast, I chatted with award-winning editor, Karen Crespo, who has been responsible crafting some of the most memorable moments on our favourite shows such as Masterchef, Australian Survivor and Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. I found out about Karen’s early beginnings in TV and how her creative style and ability to carve out emotional moments became renowned in the industry.

To listen to the full interview, check out the Beyond Reality podcast here: Beyond Reality – Karen Crespo or find it under Beyond Reality in your favourite podcast app.

Hayley Ferguson: Hi Karen, ever since we worked together, I’ve wanted to get you on the podcast, and you’re actually the first editor I’ve spoken to, so I’m actually really excited to chat to you today. The question I always tend to ask people when they come on the podcast is…Did you always want to work in TV?

Karen Crespo: Essentially, no. When I was younger, I was a very artsy kid, very creative, and, you know, participated a lot in those drama productions at school and musicals. And, you know, as a teenager, I would have a little camcorder and would make my little drama friends do like short films with me and, you know, would cut them and create little music clips and stuff.So, you know, I was really into film and I knew I wanted to get into the film industry in some way or another, but it wasn’t exactly TV straight away.

And so, did you study it? Did you go to university?

Yeah, so after I graduated high school, I went straight into a film school, Sydney Film School in Redfern and it’s a small international school, but it was renowned for its working of 16 mil film and editing in 16 mil film. So you would have classes where you’d have to physically film all these Steinbeck’s these old machines. And in those courses, I found a real appreciation of cutting and like how decisive you had to be on making a cut, like your intention of that cut. Because if you got it wrong, it would take forever to undo what you did. Literally, stick taping the cut. So, you know, I found through that that I really appreciated editing and the intention of the cut.

And I guess getting behind an Avid after that is like a piece of cake?

Yeah, well, I mean, you know, you really love the undo button, like, Control Z, it’s your friend!

So you graduated and what happened next for you?

So the school was basically more round film and drama and documentaries, so far from the reality TV or TV world. But once I did graduate, reality TV was really in full swing. So, you know, you had the shows like MasterChef and Big Brother coming up. So once I graduated, I managed to get a contact from a friend to a small post-production house that was doing a show – I can’t remember the name of it but it was one of those shows that was trying to blend all those formats, like it was a cooking show, but a dating show. So I managed to get on board with that as an assembly editor and I managed to impress the post producer that was on that. His name’s Rob Wallace and he was going to be the executive producer of the next series of MasterChef after he finished that project. And so he asked me along to be an assembly editor for that, for the series. So that was great because, you know, it really got my foot in the door by that point to work on like the really big shows and the rest is history!

And so how did you find it? I mean, when you were at film school and you were obviously, studying all aspects of film production when I guess got the editing bug there. Were you thinking about reality TV?

Well, I suppose, when I first went into the film school, you know, I obviously wanted to be like the next big director or whatnot. Like, you know, the next Quentin Tarantino. And I think everyone from that school was like that. And the reality is that only probably 1% of those people would actually get to that sort of position. But within the course, it wasn’t just purely based on like what drama and film is like or what documentaries are like – it was essentially honing and understanding what storytelling is. And even though I didn’t think of going into reality TV at the time, I was learning a lot about how to craft and tell a story visually, musically – using all those types of tools in that medium to essentially tell a story. And so I found that that that I was able to take into that workforce once I got into the TV industry.

After your time as an assembly editor, what was your first job stepping up to the role of editor?

So it was MasterChef.  I’m very thankful for MasterChef because it was a show that I grew in. So as an assembly, as a junior, the first junior job I got was with Master Chef. And then the first editing job I got was with Master Chef again. So it was good having the consistency of knowing a format of a show to, to work and in to really upskill my boss. And then because I knew the show so well, I knew then how to bend it as well, like bending the rules of it. So that was pretty lucky that I had that whole process from the beginning into, into what then essentially kicked me off into my career as an editor. There’s a reason why that show has gone on for so long, why it’s so successful. There’s something about that formula that really works. And so, understanding what that is and applying that every time you’re working on the show, it helps you out a lot.

Can you just explain your process as an editor and what you actually do?

So I work fairly closely with a post producer and essentially, the post producer would try and map out on the timeline what are the key story arcs of what’s happening in that episode. So putting down a lot of actuality or interview grabs to play out how that episode is going to go and essentially that gets given to me and I kind of work on trimming the fat, trying to make sure things that aren’t too airy…clarify things or space things out and build the rhythm of a scene. And then you’re trying to go through the vision and seeing what is visually going to help you tell that story, whether it’s certain looks or GVs. And then also a big part of reality is the music as well. And so you’ll  spend a lot o time trying to find the particular track to convey what’s happening in that scene emotionally or tonally. And you are working a lot back and forth with your post producer to kind of really fine tune those scenes and then eventually that gets screened to your execs.

If you’d like to listen to the full interview, click here or find it through searching Beyond Reality on your favourite podcast app.

Karen Crespo is an award-winning television editor. Her credits include; Masterchef Australia, Australian Survivor, Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds, Hunted and The Bridge. Karen has won three ‘Ellie’ awards for best editing in the reality television and factual entertainment categories and in 2017 she was nominated for an ACCTA for best editing for her work on MasterChef Australia Episode 1, Series 9.

Karen Crespo winning Australian Screen Editors Award
Karen Crespo won Best Editing in Reality Television at the 2022 Australian Screen Editors Awards for her work on Survivor Season 6, Episode 24