Gavin Cutler is content with never having edited a Super Bowl spot. "My stuff usually gets rejected by the networks," he says, only half joking. "When I get Super Bowl spots, I'll know something has changed."
The commercials the 38-year-old partner at MacKenzie Cutler in New York cuts usually push the boundaries of good taste. Among his projects this year: a Quizno spot in which a man eats a sandwich he has just wrestled out of his dog's mouth, and a Conseco spot from Fallon, New York, starring a corpse who continues to earn a paycheck.
Cutler demonstrated his sharp humor early on in his partnership with fellow editor Ian MacKenzie. During their first year in business in 1997, the shop sent out holiday greetings with $50 bills and notes reading, "Go buy your own damn fruit basket." "Gavin had to twist my arm to do it," MacKenzie says.
The partners alternate good cop and bad cop roles with their 20-person staff, says MacKenzie. Cutler is a stickler for punctuality, for example, while MacKenzie is exacting with the technical details of editing. Ultimately, says MacKenzie, "Gavin is a hugger."
Cutler says MacKenzie taught him "the power of not cutting"—of keeping his fingerprints off the work. He also credits Cliff Freeman creative director Eric Silver with encouraging him to act as a sounding board for creative concepts. "He truly is a partner," says Silver, who describes Cutler as "painfully focused."
Cutler's reputation for cutting outrageous comedy began two years ago with Cliff Freeman's Outpost.com campaign, which included gerbils being fired out of a cannon. He also cut the agency's Budget ads. It's been an award-winning recipe, but Cutler admits it has limited the style of boards he sees.
Cutler's latest project is a step toward "more serious work"—a holiday campaign for Qwest out of J. Walter Thompson, New York—but he won't be turning his back on what got him here. "Comedy is king right now," he says.