News & Stories

Michael Cheeves
August 18, 2021

A music minor made a major difference in this alum’s film career

"From GA to LA! Let it be known that minors should be taken as seriously as one’s major."

“You’ll never know when your minor will come in handy,” says Michael Cheeves ’17, a communication major whose biggest gig yet — assistant editor for Apple TV+’s Spirited, a contemporary musical retelling of A Christmas Carol — had a critical job requirement: “must know how to read music and have a basic understanding of music theory.”

Cheeves checked that box and signed on to work with a stellar crew (including Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell), thanks to his music minor and Ruth Baker, lecturer of music. “Mrs. Baker supported my dream of the arts and pushed me,” he says, recalling the mentor who taught him voice, diction and music theory while setting a professional example. “A huge portion of who I am was formed sitting on her couch and being a college kid. She planted seeds of how to be a decent adult.”

Baker also stressed persistence, an essential quality in the fast-moving entertainment industry. It paid off for Cheeves, who has accumulated an impressive list of contacts: “Since graduating from Berry, I have had the privilege of working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood — The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, Evil Dead’s Ted Raimi, basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal and the coolest of Dogs, Snoop.”

Cheeves sported different hats (editor, writer, producer and animator) in building his career with a variety of clients, from The Weather Channel and the Cartoon Network to TNT, truTV and TBS. As an assistant editor, he collected credits from Cartoon Network Anything, “Extreme Cake Makers,” “Pandora” and “Creepshow” before joining Spirited.

“Growing up, I was a TV-movie junkie,” Cheeves says. “I was watching cartoons and movies, and it dawned on me that adults made them. …  I got animation and editing software when I was 12. Working on feature films became the dream.”

As an editor, he thrives on transforming raw footage into a final product. “I sit in the darkroom, figuring out the best way to tell the story, to figure out the best take and if it matches the character’s development,” Cheeves explains. “This requires technical knowledge of computers and an understanding of storytelling and an awareness of the director’s vision and the writer’s vision.” 

As a collaborator, Cheeves capitalizes on people skills learned from Baker. “She taught me how to navigate all the personality types in the entertainment industry,” he notes. “I adapted much of how she professionally carries herself into my own day-to-day workflow." 

For now, Cheeves gets a rush from the fast pace of moving from job to job: “I got the news [offer to work on Spirited] three days before my wedding. After we got back from our honeymoon, we moved to Boston for the four months of filming. Next, it’s off to LA in November to complete the film before the 2022 holiday season.” Thinking about Christmas year-round … in this case, it’s a gift.

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