Best Cutters (2008)

L.A. Final Cut Pro Users' Group

Every fourth Wednesday of the month is L.A. Final Cut Pro Users' Group night in Hollywood's Barns­dall Art Park, where filmmakers of every stripe congregate to explore different aspects of FCP editing software.

As movie editing goes, Final Cut Pro is the Coke to Avid's Pepsi (or is it the other way around?), and whether you're an FCP novice, a professional editor or a Pepsi drinker crossing to the other side, chances are the crowd at lafcpug — as members have tagged it — can shed light on your darkest editing experiences.

Founded in 2000 by former film actor and current FCP enthusiast Mike Horton, lafcpug is Earth's largest known gathering of FCP users, quickly growing from early get-togethers at Horton's friend's house to larger venues. In 2004, the group found home in the Gallery Theatre, buried in the hills of Barnsdall Art Park. Horton and Chris Meyer, a local motion-graphics star, installed state-of-the-art projection facilities. (Horton: "Chris did most of the installing and I did a lot of begging.")

Over the years, thousands of film-editing types have watched guest lafcpug speakers — experts on some aspect of moviemaking — orchestrate FCP-friendly software on a giant screen, honing muddy movie scenes into moments of contrast and suspense in the time it takes to figure out the group's acronym. (It's pronounced "laugh-see-pug," with an American accent.)

Past lafcpug topics have included "Legends of the Digital Video Revolution," "Motion 3 and FX Night" and "From FCP to the Web." The meetings are a consistently comedic Q&A affair, where anyone can ask anybody anything about Final Cut Pro and other movie software. And there's always a show-and-tell in which a filmmaker answers questions about how the heck he did that thing and what program or technique he used to do it.

Then, Horton emcees the raffle (a $5 donation at the door, which goes toward covering the venue's rent, makes you a contender for FX software worth, in Horton's words, "billions" — his skills as MC are a big part of the group's success). At a recent gathering, the music editor for Sophie's Choice, The Cotton Club and Fame called out the raffle winners. His name is Norman Hollyn, and he heads the editing track at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Hollyn was also the film editor on that other classic, Heathers.

A core group always goes for pizza after the gatherings, when people like me can pick the brains of people like Hollyn. If you can't make it to the meets, there's always a complete stranger on the lafcpug Web site who can talk you down when you think you just erased two years' worth of film clips after accidentally changing your startup disk.

Founder Horton loves that he was able to go from movie acting to organizing lafcpug full-time, both online and off. He just got back from the first annual lafcpug European supermeet in Amsterdam.

Horton built it, and we'll keep coming.

—Mel Yiasemide