The Mob on Ice: Crafting the “Untold” Story Behind Hockey’s Original Bad Boys

still image of "Indescribable".

Image source: Netflix.

New Documentaries on Netflix Indescribable It explores stories of the world of sports that we don’t see in the headlines. The episode “Crimes and Punishments,” edited in Premiere Pro by Neil Meikejohn of Rock Paper Scissors and directed by Maclain and Chapman Way, follows the harrowing story of the now defunct Danbury Thrashers – a hockey team owned by a mob-connected man, run by his 17-year-old son, It operates as a mob front with violent connections on and off the ice.

Meikejohn started his career as a production assistant after film school and worked his way up to lead editing. Below, he discusses his career journey, his tips for getting started in the industry and staying connected, and his favorite hacks from Premiere Pro. Indescribable Currently available to stream on Netflix.

How and where did you first learn to edit?

After film school, I got a job in PA at Rock Paper Scissors and was able to start assistant editing under my mentor, some of the best editors out there. I was able to figure out how to organize their shots, pull out selections and watch as they make their edits in all the different media: long form, commercials, music videos. I was able to technically learn the craft to get the project done efficiently and put it together in an entertaining way, but I was also able to learn a lot of individual styles and editing techniques within those different mediums. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work my way up the list and start freeing myself, but it’s something you always keep learning and pushing yourself.

How do you start your own workspace project/setup?

In setup, I first make sure that all the shots play smoothly in Premiere Pro. To keep project and file size down, most of the larger formats have been converted to 1920×1080 for more efficient editing. Once the footage is out, I go through the interviews first to get a treatment of the story from the characters’ perspective and organize the audio bytes by subject/scenes in a sequence. Then I go through all the archives and divide them into corresponding thematic sequences so that I can easily combine the speaking head and the archive and find things quickly. Since this was a sports documentary, I sorted the archive in several ways. I broke everything through the important matches and also scored all the goals, celebrations, great passes, hockey fights etc. to get any kind of shots I needed quickly within my reach. When I build each scene, I have the sequences available to pull selections and grab the best audio and footage bytes to start working with.

Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.

I think my favorite scene is the “Bad Guys” montage where the team starts playing and winning through fighting and intimidation. The episode is about a gangster and his 17-year-old son, who runs the hockey team. We use a song from Bugsy Malone, “Bad Guys,” an old musical about gangsters played by teens and kids. It’s definitely unexpected, as the hockey fight montage has been cut into a musical, and thus the document turns into a fun music video. You learn that the players are the bullies of the league, in a team run by an immature 17-year-old general manager and funded by his evil father who pays players under the table. The whimsical song and editing style help create cohesion among the “hockey bad boys” who come together as a team, and help entice the audience to ride with these crazy characters.

Hockey team photo.

Image source: Netflix.

still image of "Indescribable".

Image source: Netflix.

What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving it?

The challenge of a documentary like this is the amount of footage. The great thing about Premiere Pro is its ability to handle large amounts of footage in many different formats. We had music, special effects, home videos, photos, newspapers, video inventory, photos, game footage, vintage game graphics, legal documents, and interviews with directors. They all had different files, sizes, and frame rates. Premiere Pro was able to import and work with all these different files with very little rendering. Any problematic files I was able to drag into Photoshop or Media Encoder and transcode differently so I can quickly get them into the project. While I downsized my project multiple times by clearing early/old edits, I was able to keep most of the important edits and all of my snapshots and select sequences in one project and still work quickly.

Graffiti art from trash.

Image source: Netflix.

I’d like to create new After Effects compositions using Dynamic Link, which can help me or my co-editor create and edit graphics, still images, or compositions. We had a lot of newspaper and still images, so we were building a lot of movement on it and adding vignettes, blurriness, and textures to make it more readable and interesting. Photoshop and After Effects were great tools for building some of these more complex compositions outside of Premiere Pro. While everything was colorful and mixed outside, for offline editing we wanted everything to look cool and look great and set a trend for our outside vendors. I’ve used Lumetri color correction to set the look for all interviews and archival shots, and create presets for easy access. Depending on the scene or tone, I’ll make things brighter or moodier. I worked hard to make scene transitions fun with sound design, so I used multiple sound effects and transitions to achieve sonic changes between scenes and create bigger transitions with sound. The archive sound wasn’t great, but I was able to use the Audio tab to fix quickly and add clarity and reverb to smooth things out.

I love the way Premiere Pro is so effortless, and while other editing systems are stricter, you can easily capture clips, drag, drag and drop clips, and drag clips and audio quickly. It makes for some “happy accidents” but I’m also able to design the sound, mix quickly with keyboard shortcuts, and test different shots of my picks to see what works best.

What is your favorite hidden gem/workflow tip in Adobe Creative Cloud?

We had to sync a lot of the audio, both with archival game footage (the clean sound of the announcers with the sound of the rough game footage) and swapping the clean interview sound for the bad camera sound. With the Synchronize tool, we were able to quickly sync the audio without having to do it manually. It saved us a lot of time in prep work. I also like to use adjustment layers to apply effects, luminosity, or colors to multiple clips or scenes to set a unified look.

Who is your creative inspiration and why?

While I have many filmmakers that I love and look forward to, the collaborations for me are the biggest inspiration. Working with directors Maclain and Chapman Way as well as with Netflix created a wonderful meeting of minds where I was able to bounce ideas off them and vice versa. Sharing edits early in the creative process and getting people’s feedback is one of the best ways to hone your edit and identify areas that need clarification or feel like they’re slowing down. Finally, Broker Way composed the music for the episode. Since the composer started early in the process, I was able to work with his music to build the scenes and find great moments for the music to pull off or flow again which really helped shape the movie and find its sound.

What was the most difficult thing you had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What is your advice to aspiring filmmakers or content makers?

Starting every project seemed to be the hardest thing you had to face. You have this mountain of picks and you have no clue where to start. It may sound silly but the best way to get around this hurdle is to just start putting things together. You don’t have to get the answer right right away, the fun comes from simply putting together a picture of the music, building a shot-by-shot scene, section by section, and watching your movie take shape. I think for aspiring filmmakers, I’d give the same advice – just get started. If you’re an editor, find someone who needs editing help, whatever the project. Filmmaking is a craft and I’ve learned a lot from the smallest week-long commercials to the biggest year-long films. Take on as many projects as you can because with each new job you will add to your bag of creative tricks and meet people you can learn from and who might help you later in life.

Indescribable Currently available to stream on Netflix.

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