As Frame.io’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Ron Dawson worked with senior management to execute the company’s content strategy. As Managing Editor of their blog, the Frame.io Insider, he determined its strategic direction, while managing a small in-house team and their freelance writers and photographers. He told Wonder Shuttle that their goal was “to provide both practical and tactical information for predominantly post-production professionals.” He gave this interview before his departure from the company.
Is the Frame.io Insider a resource for people using Frame.io’s product, or is it covering the industry for a more general filmmaking audience?
If you think about it from a content marketing perspective, our blog is what you would call “a top-of-funnel play.” The audience for it are predominantly in the post-production industry, whether or not they are in the market to sign up for our services, and so it is, by far, one of the largest resources of traffic to the Frame.io website in general.
What really sets our blog apart from the thousand other filmmaking blogs out there is the depth in which we go into our topics. Our blog posts average around 2,500 words, and it’s not uncommon for us to have a post that gets into the 3,000- to 5,000-word range.
One of our top 10 blog posts is actually north of 10,000 words. And one of our top 10 posts is about time code, which is a topic that, on the surface, is about as dry as you can get, but believe it or not, there’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into time code. The more technical our articles are, the better they perform. We have a very technical audience who likes to get into the nitty-gritty, and our blog gives them that meat, so to speak.
Are you doing a lot of the editing yourself, or are you mostly managing people who are editing?
The two other people on the content team that report to me are a content marketing coordinator and a senior copywriter, both of whom do various amounts of editing on each post. Our senior copywriter is an excellent editor in her own right and actually used to be an editor in the film industry. (That’s a word editor, not a video editor. It can be hard communicating what I do in this particular industry because whenever I tell people I’m an editor, they immediately think video editor. Which, ironically, I actually am as well.)
As a managing editor, I’ll take a look at them if it’s something that has any kind of significance with regards to its impact on the company or to what the industry is going to see. For instance, we have our annual Oscar Workflow Roundup article, where we break down the production and post-production workflow for all the Best Picture and the Best Editing nominees. I’ll edit and I’ll read through that; that’s one of our biggest articles of the year.
As an editor, are there any qualities that you think makes for the best content?
I like to describe our blog as the Wired magazine for the post-production professional, because I think that gives a real clear idea of the kind of technical writing that we look for. We’re very particular about finding people who are both technically proficient in their craft, but who can also communicate that proficiency effectively. So basically you have to be a good writer and you have to know your shit.
And whenever possible, we get original photography. Most blogs, if they write about any person in the film industry, they’ll use EPK (electronic press kits) and get the traditional PR photos that every other blogger is using, or they’ll pull a screen grab. When we have to, we’ll do that too, but I would say 99% of the time, when we actually interview somebody, they are located in a city where we have a photographer. So when a person reads our blog, they immediately see something different.
How do you find that your experience writing has made you a better editor?
I think when you go through the process of writing and you understand what goes into it, it gives you a sense of empathy when you’re on the other end and you’re editing somebody else’s work. And so when I’m editing other writers, I know how their mind is wired, how they’re thinking, and then I can speak their language as well. It’s not unlike a filmmaker like James Cameron, he’s the kind of person who knows every aspect of filmmaking. He can operate the camera, he can edit, he knows visual effects, he knows sound. When he’s giving direction to his crew, he commands a certain level of respect because they know that he knows their stuff, which means they also know what they can’t get away with. As an editor who’s also been a writer, it’s a very similar dynamic.
So Frame.io has been your first editing job. How have you found the transition? Did you feel at home right away?
Yeah, I’d never been an editor. A lot of my job was using my experience to help pick freelancers, to help drive the direction of the blog in terms of topics we would write about, and, since I was working as a video producer when they hired me, I knew my technical side. I think that’s why he saw in me that I could be an editor, and he could see that, based on the type of articles I’d written before, I was good at the writing part and probably good at the editing part too. The grammar was good, the spelling was good, and so either I wrote flawless prose when I first came out, or I would go back and edit it. I think it was one of those things that probably came naturally, in terms of being able to edit.
And did you learn a lot on the job from your first boss about editing?
Not about editing, I think most of the things I learned on the job were paying attention to brand. I think one of my lessons was learning how to let go of some of my own personal sensibilities in favor of the company’s brand. For instance, I love the kind of articles and interviews where you learn about the filmmaker, how he or she got inspired, that personal story of the filmmaker. That was not what the Frame.io blog was about. Instead, its focus was on the technical aspect of the craft and providing practical advice and education.
Also, as a cinephile who appreciates the classics, I love black and white. Frame.io is very much forward-thinking, and so anything that felt too nostalgic could be considered off-brand. I love nostalgia, I love anything retro, I used to be a swing dancer, I love original jazz. So the biggest lesson for me was learning how to let go of my sensibilities and look for writers who could be very technical and forward-thinking, as well as how to edit with the Frame.io hat on, and not the Ron Dawson hat on.
As you get into editing and managing, how do you feel about being behind the scenes?
Sometimes it’s hard, more internally, because it can feel like it’s a thankless job. We don’t have a formal masthead or anything, and I think people just take for granted that the blog just runs automatically.
I often compare it to movies, because the average reader doesn’t know all the people working behind the scenes and what they’ve done to make the final work happen.
Totally. I always make it a point to sit through credits. I like to get an idea of what goes into making a movie.
To the editors out there, take pride in the work that you do, knowing that it’s affecting people’s lives. It’s not for the faint of heart, but what you’re doing is making an impact. Be able to be the kind of person who can revel in that knowledge, even if it’s not public.