A look behind the scenes of Star Trek: Discovery with Chad Rubel, Film Editor

Chad Rubel came to Hollywood as a part of his program with Ithaca College in New York State back in 2000. He never left. Since then, Rubel has worked on multiple documentaries, films, and television series first as assistant editor, and now as editor. Many of those projects are quite famous, but Rubel is now part of something that he must pinch himself daily, so he knows that this is happening.

After years of work, Rubel is a Film Editor on Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. Being a long-time Trek fan, it’s a dream come true.

“As a kid, I have very fond memories of watching The Next Generation in syndication in the 1990s,” says Rubel. “I remember it being on five days a week at the same time. The episodes were never in the correct order, and I was happy to see an episode with Q.”

Beyond being a big Trek fan, there is one specific benefit of working on Discovery for Rubel:

“It is also nice to have a show that your friends might actually watch without pestering them.”

For those who do not work in show business, Rubel is one of a few folks who work on Discovery who are among the last people who work on the show. Rubel, and his two editing colleagues, take the footage and audio created for each episode and assemble it all together into what we see on CBS All Access or on a Blu-ray disc later.

Editing for television and the movies is as much art as it is technical. Rubel, and others like him, must be able to use the latest in editing gear, in this case, is Avid (which is like iMovie at Warp 11). He must also take the notes from the director, producer, and others to create each episode.

“Discovery shoots in a different location than it edits,” says Rubel. “I don’t meet with the directors until they are done shooting and ready to work on their Director’s Cut. I am in communication with the director before and during shooting. I also listen in on some of the pre-production meetings.”

“It is also nice to have a show that your friends might actually watch without pestering them.”

“Before I sit down to cut a scene, I’ll reread the script to look for a deeper and fresh understanding of the scene,” says Rubel. “I ask myself questions like who is this scene about. When I start watching dailies (unedited footage shot during that day), I am looking for puzzle pieces that flow together with my shot selection.

“The number one thing in editing is always performance. A great performance will guide your decisions around it. I always look at editing as music with patterns and rhythms. Words are like beats, and camera moves are long notes to me.”

“You find a lot of editors played an instrument at some point in their life,” he says. “If you look at an editor’s timeline, where we put video and audio in a sequence, it looks like a musical staff.”

You might remember catching Rubel’s name on some previous Trek shows. He edited two “Short Treks” — Ask Not in 2019, followed by Children of Mars in 2020. Both of those episodes had a very different feel, as “Ask Not” was part of the “Discovery” story, while “Children of Mars” worked into the “Picard” timeline.

Before landing at Star Trek, Rubel worked on a number of shows, including the long-running program “Fringe,” for which he served as an assistant editor for 35 episodes.

“Working on Fringe was one of my favorite shows that I worked on,” says Rubel. “It was my first Scripted TV show that I worked as an assistant editor, and it was also the longest show I worked on lasting five seasons.”

“When your first show lasts five years, you tend to think they all last that long, which I quickly learned wasn’t the case.”

He notes that he worked on a show for Facebook Watch called “Limetown,” which starred Jessica Biel. That show lasted just for just ten episodes.

Some editors say that they saw “Citizen Kane” or “Apocalypse Now” and knew they wanted to get into filmmaking. No film or show inspired Rubel to jump into the business; rather, his high school TV production classes gave him his start. From there, he went on to Ithaca College, then to Los Angeles. And since he’s been in Hollywood, he’s learned from some of the very best.

Chad Rubel has a starship next to his office door. How cool is that? Photo courtesy of Chad Rubel

“The other editors that have inspired me have been the ones that I got to work for as an assistant editor,” says Rubel. “Some of my most valuable lessons about editing have been about work ethic and treating people with respect.

“The first editor that I worked for on a Scripted TV Drama was Jon Dudkowski for about seven years,” says Rubel. “Jon has been an editor on Discovery since Season 1, and it has been great working with him again, but now we are both working as editors.”

Working with Dudkowski has been a treat for Rubel, who says that it’s essential to have a good rapport with the other editing team members. This is especially meaningful when working on a show like Discovery, which is built on decades of  Trek shows and films that came before.

“The number one thing in editing is always performance. A great performance will guide your decisions around it. I always look at editing as music with patterns and rhythms. Words are like beats, and camera moves are long notes to me.”

“The hardest part of working on such a big franchise is that there is a lot more riding on it,” says Rubel. “Normally, you are creating a world on a new show. On Discovery, you have a world that has already been established, and you want it all to work on a bigger level.”

Fans were expecting that we’d see the third season of Discovery sometime after Picard aired (in the Spring of 2020). Still, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything, including the physical location where Rubel and his teammates worked on the show.

“Discovery worked in an office building with the writers in Hollywood,” says Rubel, who says that the Post Production team met to continue working on the show from home. Rubel says that they copied all the footage onto “giant hard drives” before leaving.

“When editing from home, I was able to stream the episode in real-time to producers over the internet to give notes,” says Rubel. “That way, I was able to make changes and have them watch with no lag in time. The streaming of my computer was set up by our Avid rental company, Pacific Post. It actually worked out great, in my opinion.”

While the show did go on for the folks who work behind the scenes to complete the final touches on Discovery, the fans must continue to wait to see what happened to Michael Burnham and her crew after arriving 900 years in the future (as seen in the Discovery teaser trailer).

When asked, Rubel is confident that Star Trek fans will be very pleased, and the wait will be worth it.

“All of the post departments are going above and beyond working remotely on Discovery,” says Rubel. “I am really proud of the work that we did and can’t wait for the fans to see Season 3.”