Editing hit TV shows keeps Kieran Healy doing what he loves to do

Martha's Vineyard Regional high School graduate Kieran Healy, class of 1996, now a seasoned film editor working in New York City, stands in front of his video editing work station. — Photo courtesy of Kieran Healy

On Their Way is an occasional series in which The Times introduces people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate and television video editor Kieran Healy, class of 1996, said that he has achieved all of his long-term career goals. The 34 year old lives in New York City where he works as a video editor on several TV shows including the documentary TV series “Boston’s Finest,” airing Wednesdays at 9pm on TNT.

“The series follows several different units in the Boston Police Department, with unprecedented access to both the officer’s professional lives and their home lives. It’s a show I’m excited about and glad to be a part of,” he told The Times in a recent interview.

Kieran has had an interest in making movies since he was young. His family moved to the Vineyard when he was 1½; years old with his mother and dad, Kate who is deceased, and Bill Healy, who now lives south of Boston. It was only a few years later when he began carving his own path to success when he first picked up a film camera at the age of four. His dad liked to take photographs.

When Kieran was nine and a student at the Tisbury School his stepmother’s mother who lived in Texas gave the family a VHS video camera for Christmas. She hoped to see her Vineyard based daughter’s family on video tape. Kieran’s stepmother, Tisbury town moderator Deborah Medders, said video cameras were fairly new to the market at that time and theirs was huge. She said it would disappear, sometimes for long periods of time. “Kieran was picking it up and just going out with it.”

She said that Kieran would take the camera out with school buddy Ryan Begley. “They would go out for hours videoing mostly outdoor scenes. They were inseparable, the two friends and their camera,” she said. “I think he enjoyed the camaraderie, being part an artistic team.” Kieran said that he still carries the fun of working with video in his early years with him on every project he works on.

He taught himself to edit, in a fashion, by recording segments to a VHS recorder, rewinding and working the start and stop buttons on both devices.

As portable video cameras became cheaper the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School picked up several. Kieran remembers trying to substitute video projects in lieu of written ones whenever he could. He said that English teacher Dan Sharkovitz helped him think about things beyond the movie making process, the story telling. Kieran graduated in 1996.

“Because the Island was so supportive of different kinds of art and entertainment it was a place that was conducive for me to make stupid movies with my friends both in high school and junior high. I have taken the lessons I learned there with me,” he said.

Kieran graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001, where he learned to edit film. “I graduated just as everything was moving over to video editing. I barely touched a computer while in college,” he said. “I ended up teaching myself how to do it on a computer in the years after college.”

One of his learning projects after college was a feature length, stop motion animated film called “Viva the ‘Nam,” an intricate, irreverent, comedic film with a cast of hundreds made in an Austin garage. It follows the travails of a group of sixties era American kids who join the Army and end up in Viet Nam. Stop motion is a time consuming process where each frame is shot individually, moving puppets small amounts for each shot. The film can be found on YouTube.

After 12 years in Austin he knew he had to move to either Los Angeles or New York to find the editing work he wanted. The New Englander in him won out. He liked the idea of being closer to home and his sister Siobhan lived in New York. “She talked me into moving. She was the only person I knew in New York,” he said.

He said he timed his move in 2008 pretty well, with a chuckle, just a few weeks before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the economy nose-dived, but he had no trouble finding work as a freelance video editor.

He now works for Jarrett Creative an independent entertainment production company that does production work on over a dozen TV shows. Kieran is supervising editor for Celebrity Ghost Stories. He has also edited shows for MTV, SyFy, A&E, TLC, Bio and Lifetime networks.

He works in front of three computer screens while editing. The “Boston’s Finest” work involves sorting through tens of thousands of hours of video footage taken while police are on their beats, documentary style, to create a cohesive story. He says it is a collaborative effort. “A producer maps out the story and I find the important elements in the footage to put it together,” he said.

Kieran said that New York has become a very bike friendly city, even though some of the drivers are not, and he likes to ride his road bike when he is not in front of his computer screens. He loves to “burn” the length of Manhattan on the Hudson River Greenway bike path, riding as fast as he can.

When he travels he tries to rent or borrow a bike when he gets to his destination. “It’s the best way to get to know new places,” he said. He first developed a love for cycling when he rode his bike to his summer jobs on the Vineyard. He makes it back to the Vineyard when he can, once or twice a year.

“I am still making stupid movies and would like to make another feature length movie but I am also making smart television for the most part,” he said. “I have friends I care about. I like where I live and I enjoy everything I’m doing.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story failed to reflect the fact that Deborah Medders is Kieran’s stepmother. His birth mother was the late Kate Healy.