Piecing Together America’s Future Famous: Angus Emmerson

Whether you work in television, music, or any other creative industry, becoming a hit is only part of the struggle. It takes an immense amount of talent and hard work to get noticed; it takes even more to stay there. While the faces on television hits like American Idol and American’s Got Talent are essential, they are only the most obvious part of their success. The massive community of artists and professionals behind the scenes are the iceberg factor that comprises the eighty percent of work and talent that you don’t see. Editor Angus Emmerson has contributed his time and skill to both of these TV institutions. It’s often his work which is the first thing viewers see. Working closely with Simon Cowell and the producers of these programs, Emmerson is a vital part of why audiences are so excited when these shows come on the air.

One of the surest indicators that you have reached the level of status that permeates all of society is when you are referred to with only one name. Cher, Madonna, Prince, LeBron and of course Idol; everyone knows exactly what you are referring to when you say this. In addition to its eight Primetime Emmy Awards and eighteen seasons on air, American Idol holds the record for being the most expensive TV series on which to advertise (more than $700,000 for a thirty-second spot and up to $1.3 million for the finale). These two factors vet the show’s immense commercial and financial success. Money and popularity create a great deal of scrutiny for any professional. American Idol Co-Executive Producer Dan Martin approached Angus to create an exciting stylized opener like the one he created for ABC’s multiple Primetime Emmy Award winning series Dancing with the Stars. Inspired by Emmerson’s work for ABC and other projects, Martin instructed him to throw out all preconceptions about Idol and create something fresh and unique for the new season. Angus relates, “The most rewarding part of this series was throwing out the rule book on the openers. As a kid, one of my earliest memories was watching American Idol so to make my way to Hollywood and be asked to create something new for the show was a full circle moment for me. The hardest part of editing a show that was previously established and in such high regard was simply bettering the show. Coming off the shows continued success, they were/are constantly looking to make it better and continued growth. It’s such a successful formula, so it’s absolutely a fine line of pushing the boundaries and keeping the bones of what the show is.”

Great work gets noticed and Natasha Bruglar [Co-Executive Producer of America’s Got Talent] was so impressed by Emmerson’s work on Idol that she enlisted him to incorporate some of that style into the openers of AGT. Billed as America’s premier talent show, AGT competitors compete for the praise of the television audience and judges like Howie Mandel, Sharon Osborne, Heidi Klum, Howard Stern, Mel B, and others. Averaging around twelve million viewers, the diverse acts on the show allows Angus to exercise an immense amount of creativity in his editing. He notes that he has based some of his recent cuts off the Oscar nominated film The Greatest Showman, due in part to AGT creator Simon Cowell’s affinity for it. He explains, “Simon expressed his love for the film. Whether it be music choices, Color grading, Gold titles, or just anything that gave the feeling of the film, I transferred this tone to AGT in my recent editing. Being the American version of the show, it of course has to be the absolute greatest and set the tone for the rest of the world’s Got Talent franchise. I have cut the openers for Australia Got Talent also and the amount of effort that goes into the US version is tenfold. Simon Cowell has a huge say in the editing process so you know you are always trying to please him and push the boundaries. He has great respect for the editing process and I really respect that about him.”

Equally as impressive as the fact that Emmerson’s work is sought out by the creative executives in charge of these hit programs is the fact that the editing requires a curt turn around. Maintaining such excellence with essentially no window for a second pass makes skill and intuition a requirement for an editor. His constant inclusion in these live TV series has established that Angus is exceptionally equipped in both areas. His constant work schedule is reassuring to him that his work is valued but he also notes, “When people learn that I work on American Idol or AGT they always say, ‘Oh my God! I love those shows!’ and then they tell me about a story they remember. I love that I helped bring these stories to life. Hearing how they touch real people gives me something equally as important as the praise of the industry.”

Author: Patrick Wilson

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