Ep141: Michelle Tesoro (ACE) On Playing Chess With Your Career (Instead of Checkers) - pt1

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I’ve spent my entire career wondering what the difference is between those who simply string along one job after another to pay the bills and those who have extraordinary resumes, amazing credits, and award-winning careers. You might assume it's some combination of God-given talent, luck and hard work. If you've listened to me for any amount of time, you know I consider "luck" to be a four letter word (so that’s out), but I do believe talent and hard work absolutely play a role when it comes to success. However, I think the difference for those who reach the highest levels is that they are simply playing a totally different game than everyone else. Most people are playing a game of checkers...the best of the best are playing chess.

Today's guest, ACE editor, Michelle Tesoro has worked on critically acclaimed shows such as House of Cards, Godless, On the Basis of Sex, When They See Us, and most recently The Queen's Gambit. Rather than talk about her creative process editing The Queen's Gambit, Michelle and I take a different approach in this conversation and discuss the metaphor of chess as life and how you can apply a long-term, more strategic chess-like approach to your career.

Michelle and I had such an in-depth conversation that I've made it a two-part series. In this first part we discuss how Michelle chooses the projects & people she works with, and we discover how there is a common theme running through much of her work that keeps her engaged and passionate (despite the arduous nature of the projects she takes on). Michelle also shares what she believes to be her greatest assets and soft skills (outside the editing timeline) that have led to her tremendous success in Hollywood.

Finally, I am keenly aware that Michelle has been making the rounds on the podcast circuit, but rest assured no matter what you’ve listened to already this very candid conversation covers fresh ground with stories you definitely haven’t heard on other shows. And you don't want to miss part 2 next week where I put Michelle on the hot seat to discuss the challenge of balancing her career with the rest of her life.

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Here's What You'll Learn:
  • The first small moments Michelle realized that editing was for her.
  • How a street artist in New York helped her understand the power of editing and storytelling.
  • The similarities between Michelle and the lead character, Beth in The Queen's Gambit.
  • How Michelle has become comfortable being the only woman in the room.
  • The parallels Michelle can draw from the themes of On the Basis of Sex and her own mom and childhood.
  • Michelle shares one of the most valuable soft skills she possesses that helps her gain the trust of her collaborators.
  • How being clear about her goals early on in her career helped guide the decisions she made.
  • The word that Michelle has been practicing to use more often in her career. HINT: it’s not “Yes!”
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: The only way to confidently say no is if you know what the end goal is.
  • What Michelle learned from NOT getting the ACE Internship when she applied for it at the start of her career.
Useful Resources Mentioned:

Art Of The Cut Podcast Eps. 87 (“The Queens Gambit” Editor Michelle Tesoro, ACE) by Filmtools - ProVideo Coalition

Ep. 15 – Defining Goals, Working With Good People, and Editing “The Queen’s Gambit” with editor Michelle Tesoro, ACE | Film & TV Editing Mentorship Program

Ep118: Legendary Editor Walter Murch On Optimizing Creativity, Productivity, and Well-Being In Hollywood For 50+ Years

Twitter: @mtesorito

Instagram: @michtesoro


Continue to Listen & Learn

Ep115: How to Be So Thorough You Can’t Be Denied | with James Wilcox, ACE

Ep127: Chasing After the Next Gig vs. Building Your Career | with Kabir Ahktar, ACE

Ep132: How to Pursue Fulfilling Work and Find Your ‘Calling’ | with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

Ep126: On the Importance of Building Relationships, Asking Questions, and Never Giving Up | with Andi Armaganian

Ep131: How Having a ‘Side Hustle’ Buys You the Freedom to Say ‘No’ | with Alex Ferrari

Ep129: How to Cultivate a “Service-Centric” Mindset (and Why It Will Make You More Successful) | with Agustin Rexach

Ep117: Carol Littleton, ACE on The Secret to Surviving 40+ Years Working In Hollywood

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Guest Bio:

Cutting-edge film and television picture editor Michelle Tesoro is an industry rising star, known for seamlessly weaving narrative through the artful and elegant editing of a visual story.

Her most recent works include Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series “When They See Us” directed and produced by Ava Duvernay, and Netflix’s hit limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” directed by Oscar-nominated Scott Frank.

Tesoro’s versatile slate also includes Focus Features’ biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “On the Basis of Sex” starring Felicity Jones, Bold Films and Participant Media’s “Shot Caller” starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series “Godless,” directed by Scott Frank, and starring Emmy-winner Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery, and Merritt Weaver, Golden Globe-nominated show “House of Cards,” and the HBO’s series “The Newsroom”.

The Cinema Guild’s SXSW Grand Jury Prize-winning feature film “Natural Selection,” earned Tesoro the 2011 SXSW Award for Best Editing.

Tesoro’s unique perspective and refined expertise in composing striking narratives began early, growing up in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Whitney M. Young High School, studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Tesoro currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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