Sherri Margulies On The Spot

After graduating from Boston University, Margulies began as a receptionist at Crew Cuts in New York in 1988 and now, at 36, is a top editor and partner at the post-production house. Her work over the years has included spots for Pepsi, American Express, AT&T, Burger King, the New York Lottery, General Electric, Verizon Wireless and Visa. It’s been a labor of love in more ways than one: She is now engaged to the agency’s director of technology, Christopher Keenan.

Q: How did you to get into advertising?

A: It was a happy accident. I actually wanted to be a biomedical engineer and discover the cure for cancer. At Boston University, I found out I hated engineering. I hated chemistry. I started taking some advertising-related classes, and I studied advertising law. After I graduated, my uncle got me a job as a PA on a set for a Fisher-Price shoot. Crew Cuts hired me as a receptionist. I’ve been here ever since.

How has the job changed since you started?

When I first started, we were on film. So if you wanted to try another version, you had to send it out overnight. Thanks to technology, you can have versions and versions of things. There are great graphic programs, sound programs—amazing tools that you have at your fingertips to be able to show an idea rather than just talk about an idea.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

Joe Pytka. He put me to the test and made me learn more about myself and my abilities than anyone besides my mom.

What work are you most proud of?

That brings me back to Joe. It was the “Free as a Bird” video we did for the Beatles when they came out with the anthology. It was amazing to be involved with a project and the energy related to a musical group that has had such an influence on the world.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

Time. I think editors have the least amount of time in the process. Creatives need more time to develop an idea. A director’s schedule takes longer. But generally, media is already bought and an air date is already set. If editors had more time alone with their film, the results could be better.

What is your role in the creative process?

The role of the editor is to have a pure, instinctual reaction to the film. It’s to look at a concept and footage without the emotional burden of the process it took to get there.

BBDO’s Charlie Miesmer once told you that you edit like a man. What did he mean?

I understand that it was meant as the ultimate compliment. At the time, editors that he would consider really talented and who did some great work were men. The only time I notice a gender difference is in how women editors approach [material regarding] female sexuality. We don’t cut stuff like that very often, but generally I think you can’t tell the difference.

What was the last ad that made you think, “I wish I had done that.”

The eBay spot with the clocks.

How do you get past a creative block?

I eat chocolate.

What is the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

Oh, God. I hope I haven’t made it yet.

Any products you would refuse to work on?

Cigarettes and Republicans.

Name one person you’re dying to work with, living or dead.

Alfred Hitchcock. His [style of] filmmaking was way before its time. The twists and turns in the storytelling were amazing.

What’s your biggest accomplishment?

Remaining best friends with the same group of people for 20 years, from college and at Crew Cuts.

What makes a good creative director?

A good creative director can see something for what it is and constructively contribute to it, as opposed to looking at it in terms of what they would have done.

Are most open to editing suggestions?

It varies. The editorial side of the business is very relationship driven. If you have a good collaborative relationship with a creative, you tend to work with them repeatedly. In those relationships, there is a lot of trust and a lot of openness.

In your bio, you define perception as a fiction. William Blake defined reality as what we perceive. So is all reality a fiction?

Maybe fiction is too strong a word. [Reality] is certainly subjective. If you ask two people about a conversation, you’d get two different versions. It’s the nature of any interaction.

What are the biggest challenges facing companies like Crew Cuts?

There are so many more post-production houses now than when I first started. Talent rises. So you have to not get complacent.

Give me three words to describe yourself.

Obsessive. Optimistic. Reflective.

What was the last CD you bought?

Fatboy Slim’s latest. Before that it was Adam Sandler’s comedy album. Sad to say, I don’t buy CDs anymore. I’m an iTunes junkie.

What is your biggest fear?

“Four more years.” After that, I worry about another ice age. The end of the world due to global warming.