It’s not every day that someone from North Dakota goes on to become a famous film editor.
Kayla Emter got her start as a camera operator at KX news, which she says was terrifying, so she ended up switching over to the graphics booth. But it was her love for film (the classics are her favorite) that led her to become a film editor — including for a movie you might have heard of: Hustlers.
Emter told KX how she got there. “I remember going up to one of the KXMB videographers and I was like, ‘Hi, I’m a sophomore in high school. I really want to do these videos would you mind if I used your footage?’ and I think it kind of caught them off guard.” she says.
Even though North Dakota isn’t known for having a big film community, Emter says she got a camera and started filming anything she could. She filmed things like family gatherings, friend events, and even made highlight videos for the Bismarck High School hockey team.
“It was something that I created and made people happy or whatever the emotion that came from it,” says Emter. “So when I started showing it to family and friends and they had an emotional response to something I created I felt like this overwhelming responsibility and really exciting for me.”
After earning her degree from Columbia University, she wanted to take the career to the next level. She decided to apply to the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.
“There were only fourteen spots from around the world,” she says. “So I never had any idea that I would be one of fourteen and I was lucky enough to get in. It was the best way for me to get to know Los Angeles and form a network of film editors and grow and continue to work with.”
Emter has worked on films of a variety of genre: from comedies and dramas to horror films and thrillers.
But says she had to start at the bottom to get to where she is now. “I just hustled and worked hard,” says Emter.
And hustle she did.
She landed a job working on the film Hustlers — a box office hit starring A-list celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and Constance Wu.
“Hustlers going into theaters is truly a treat,” Emter says. “I have to say that usually, the movies I work on are smaller scale… theaters don’t always pick them up.”
“I was very excited that Hustlers came to Bismarck was on 2 screens which is great and my family didn’t have to drive to Fargo to see it finally,” she says.
She says being from North Dakota has never held her back. “It was a great conversation piece,” she says. “I kind of stood out because of that but it never hurt me in a negative way,” says Emter.
So what’s next for Kayla? She says the industry can change quickly, so she can’t get specific, but: “I will say it may or may not be on Netflix in 2020.”
KX News wishes Kayla the best of luck and we are so proud of her!