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- What’s it like to edit for Logan Paul?
What’s it like to edit for Logan Paul?
The creator’s long-time editor weighs in on creator-editor relationships.
Illustration by Garrett Golightly
Inside the Mind of Hayden Hillier-Smith
Creators with an obsession for editing hardly need an introduction to Hayden Hillier-Smith. He’s the person behind nearly all of Logan Paul’s six years worth of videos—including last month’s Pokémon masterpiece with a staggering 75% retention rate. He’s the expert to whom creators like Airrack and Yes Theory look when they’re in need of both critique and inspiration. He also uploads regularly to his own YouTube channel, sharing editing tips and storytelling explainers.
For a relatively small but highly in-demand niche of YouTube editors, Hillier-Smith has emerged as something of a celebrity. But that hardly happened overnight.
As Logan Paul’s second hire in 2016, Hillier-Smith has grown his editing skills in tandem with Paul’s career, helping Paul’s channel rocket from 20,000 subscribers to 23.5 million. Now Hillier-Smith is blazing his own path as a creator, editor, and teacher. We spoke with him about how he got the job with Paul, what more YouTube editors should do in their videos, and his next move post-Paul.
Hillier-Smith: After I graduated university in 2014 I started a YouTube channel with two Google employees called What’s Good London, which was a documentary culture series on exploring London. We had plans to expand to other cities, like What’s Good LA, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out. Then I got a job with a Facebook video company. I ended up getting fired, so I’d rather protect their identity, but what happened is that I didn’t agree with their business practices, so I told the boss he could go f**k himself.
Then the word went 'round about the kid who told that guy to go f**k himself. And Logan’s manager, Jeff, told him about it. And then Logan was like, ‘that's the kid I want.’ So that's how I ended up getting connected with Logan.
From mid-2016 to today he’s been the sole person I’ve worked for. I was the second person he ever hired and I started working with him [from the second video on his channel].
For creators and editors, the best relationship is based on trust, but you have to spend a long time getting there. During the daily vlogs, I’d edit a video, he’d give feedback, then we’d post it. That’s always been the workflow. One of the things that Logan loves is that I don’t do what he expects, I don’t do what he would do as an editor. And he 100% trusts that what I would do differently is something very unique.
The best way of phrasing it is that Logan is the kid from Ohio who grew up playing American football, very masculine and rough. Meanwhile I’m very quiet and an introvert who is sometimes scared to go out of the house and would probably break my ankle if I kicked a football. We’re polar opposites in terms of the social spectrum. But because of that it meant we were able to meet in the middle. I was able to think completely differently from Logan, and Logan really appreciated it and loved that.
Logan wasn’t funny to me for my demographic, so I had to make him funny for me, and Logan always appreciated that. His content seemed to be a lot more universal compared to his brother because I was able to cater towards a demographic that Logan wouldn’t have initially considered.
If I was gonna do an experiment, I would not let Logan know that I was doing it until he saw it. But that is also a massive risk.
But one of the main reasons why I stayed with Logan so long was because he encouraged me to not do what was obvious. He always made sure that it wasn't just a tedious job to me. And so I think it’s important for the creator to give the editor permission, but then the editor [has to be] willing to listen when the creator disagrees.
And if you can get that healthy dynamic, that then means both of them have an equal collaborative opportunity.
When we did his boxing content I studied a lot of boxing films like Creed, Rocky, and There Will Be Blood.
When Logan started his Pokémon series I had just watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and I loved the style and feel of the show, it made chess feel highly intelligent. And I wanted to reflect that style in Logan’s videos as well. That’s why there’s that documentary-style music.
Edgar Wright has been one of my biggest inspirations. He does a very good example of using music to help motivate a sequence. Most people know him for directing Baby Driver, but I know him for directing Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz taught me comedy editing. Like how that one friend can make a bit of a difference in a joke and motivated cuts.
Monty Python influenced me comedically as well, and I’ve been able to inject British humor into [Logan’s] content, which is one of the reasons his content feels unique.
I think when it comes to editing on YouTube, many look to MrBeast as inspiration, but I think that’s only a limited amount of education. I think we need to look at movies and TV and see what they’re doing right and how we can translate that to YouTube.
The big issue I’d say with a lot of YouTubers is that we want to tell it fast, not tell it better. Editors and creators need to learn that telling it fast develops insecurity and lack of trust in the audience. Learning how to tell it better and having more confidence that you can tell it better also respects the audience and [gives them] a more satisfying experience.
A few major opportunities landed in front of me that I couldn’t ignore: One was the pandemic. I moved to LA shortly after the pandemic started, so I couldn’t explore the city and had to look for other things to keep me occupied.
By the back end of 2020 Logan started to slow down on content because he started training for a fight. Then I saw a content creator, Jordan Orme, started making reaction content breaking down the psychology of music video editing, [which] was his profession. Then I went ‘wow, people actually want to talk about this?’ I was always under the assumption that no one cared about my passion and love for editing because there were no videos made on it.
All of the editing videos on YouTube at that point were how to do one effect or another or how to do this transition—that was the market. And I never liked that. Then Jordan gave me the permission to talk about the psychology of editing—we are actually coming out with a podcast together soon where we’ll talk about editing.
I’m now at this career pathway point where I’m looking for more reasons to actually engage in discussions of storytelling and editing and learn editing myself more.
So now I’m experimenting—that's one of the reasons why I'm starting a podcast where I want to bring in music video directors, film directors, and commercial editors and get their perspective on things.
I also want to continue making content on my channel. The current format I’m really liking is roasting large creators’ content. I think a lot of developing creators like to look at the biggest creators as if they’ve figured it out, while I like to relay the message that we’re all still trying to figure it out.
I’ll be releasing a course in a couple months. We’ve been working on it over the course of this year, so I’m looking forward to seeing if this is potentially going to be a revolutionary tool for the next big push of high-quality YouTube editors.
The editing and storytelling discussion is what I've fallen in love with. Logan has acknowledged this life path that I'm currently going down, and he’s like ‘hey, I know you wanna do this. Off you go. And I will call you when I need you.’ Despite me being older than Logan, he’s always been like a big brother to me, and he supports me in moving forward. Our last official working project together was 99 Originals.
As an industry, YouTube editing is still in its early days. But as Hillier-Smith’s experience illustrates, fundamental career-building values hold true: Relationships (here, between creators and editors) grounded in trust and respect allow entire teams to flourish. Growing together can keep you from growing apart. And calculated risk-taking pays off.
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