Picture Editor Sue Federman, ACE Uses Her Ten-Year Career as a Professional Violinist to Her Advantage
May 31, 2023

Written by Libby Slate, Emmy Magazine

A few weeks before Sue Federman, ACE, won her fourth Emmy Award for editing last year, she met Joshua Bell after a Hollywood Bowl concert in which he was the soloist. “I was at Indiana [University] when you were,” she told the star violinist; they shared a bonding moment when they discovered they’d studied under the same music professor.

Federman had a ten-year career as a professional violinist, as a member of the Honolulu Symphony and San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and a sub for San Francisco Opera. Seeking other creative horizons, she eventually landed on editing. “I discovered that I enjoyed mental creativity and telling stories, as well as music,” she says. “It seemed like the perfect way to incorporate all my interests and passions.” After internships and an assistant editor position at
Roger Corman’s company, she became an assistant editor on Coach.

“I fell in love with television,” the New Jersey native says. “I really enjoyed the fast pace and live audience interaction of the multicam comedy. It’s like shooting a little play every week.”

Having worked on series including It’s All Relative and One on One, in 2005 Federman settled in for a long run on CBS’s How I Met Your Mother. She edited almost every episode of its nine seasons and won three consecutive Emmys, of six nominations, starting in 2011. She scored her seventh nom in 2021 for CBS’s Man with a Plan and won her fourth Emmy, appropriately enough, for Hulu’s How I Met Your Father last year. “[Multicam] editing is technically challeng-
ing because you have to recreate the live show but edit the different takes together, including
editing the audience laughs, to make it flow like one live performance,” she notes. How I Met Your Mother combined elements of single- and multicam, with up to eighty-five scenes in
each half-hour episode because of the flashback storytelling style, and no live audience.

Having decided to take on the challenges of single-cam editing, Federman is now one of the editors on Loot, the Maya Rudolph comedy on Apple TV+ about a billionaire divorcée. The series returns for its second season later this year. She also worked on the Amazon Freevee comedy Primo.

Whatever the format, Federman refers to her musical experience when cutting. “Editing is so much about rhythm and pacing — bringing out the different emotions in a story and being able to land the moments,” she says. “Each character has their own rhythm. My musical background has been incredibly helpful in working with audio. And having played so many musical pieces, I’ve learned a lot about phrasing and structure, which applies to telling a story on film as well.”