Glenbrook North graduate is a catch for prime reality TV show
One never knows where a summer school class may lead.
Alexander Rubinow, Glenbrook North '97, turned his interest in a catchy course description into hundreds of television screen credits, two Emmy nominations and a gold statue.
An editor on Original Productions' "Deadliest Catch" on Discovery, in 2015 the Los Angeles resident won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program.
Rubinow was up for the same award earlier this month at the 2021 Creative Arts Emmys for the "Deadliest Catch" Season 17 premiere episode "Out of the Ashes." It detailed Alaskan crab fishermen's uncertainty about operating in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Married 11 years and the father of a 9-year-old son, Rubinow has worked on "Deadliest Catch" since 2010 and was part of a nominated editing team that also included Naperville Central graduate Joe Mikan.
But the editors of National Geographic's "Life Below Zero" edged out the competition in the ceremony held Sept. 12 outside the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
"It was not the outcome we wanted, but it was an experience we will not soon forget," Rubinow said in an email.
The program, and Rubinow, must temporarily be content with the overall "Deadliest Catch" haul -- 54 Emmy nominations, 16 Emmy awards, and 15 straight nominations for Picture Editing.
"He's now become one of the main pillars of editors on the show," said co-executive producer Geoff Miller, a New Trier graduate with two Emmy awards for Best Unstructured Reality Series.
"If I have an issue, I call him first," Miller said.
Rubinow also won't soon forget the 2015 Creative Arts Emmys. His editing team won for the Season 11 premiere, "A Brotherhood Tested," the fifth straight year "Deadliest Catch" won the category. He accepted the award in front of his wife, Dori Jennifer, his sister, Rebecca, and his parents, Steve and Marlene.
"I got to give the speech, and it was just an amazing moment. You feel like you're floating on air up to the stage," Alexander Rubinow said over the phone from his Los Angeles home, where he's been editing since March 20, 2020.
"It was something I never could have imagined. I went into this industry because I loved doing it. Winning the award was sort of icing on the cake. I grew up watching the Oscars and thinking 'What if?'"
What if, after fifth grade at Meadowbrook School, Rubinow had chosen to attend an overnight camp rather than Betty Moody's summer school class at Northbrook Junior High?
"This course description just jumped off the page at me -- Student Video Production Class," said Rubinow, a member of the honorary society, American Cinema Editors (ACE).
He may still have worked in entertainment. His father had a Super-8 camera and a splicing kit. Alexander was a fan of animation, cartoons, Disney, movies, TV. It may have worked out.
But after studying video production in junior high, then working with Glenbrook North broadcasting teachers like Vince Pinelli and Peggy Holecek, Rubinow found his niche -- which he developed further at the University of Iowa.
"When you're a student you have to do everything, every step. You have to be the writer, the producer, the camera man, the editor," he said.
"And I found that when we would do group projects when you could just pick one thing to do, I always was gravitating toward editing. I just liked that part of the process the best, where I could just sit there at night and put the whole thing together," he said.
Rubinow graduated from Iowa in 2001 with a double-major in computer science and communication studies. He didn't think he had industry connections as he sent out resumes, but he had actually made inroads.
Inspired by John Hughes movies shot in the North Shore, while in high school Rubinow filmed documentary shorts on Hughes' shooting locations and downloaded them online. Those drew attention.
In 2000 he'd interned at Michigan Avenue postproduction studio Avenue Edit. One day he stopped in to say hello to the receptionist. She gave him a phone number for a person working on MTV's "The Real World: Chicago."
He landed an unpaid internship, which led to another for the feature film "Uncle Nino," and efforts like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's "Project Green Light."
On Sept. 9, 2002, "with a job I had gotten from sitting in Northbrook," Rubinow moved his two suitcases into a great uncle's house in Los Angeles for his first Hollywood job as a videotape logger on the first season of MTV's "Fraternity Life: SUNY Buffalo."
He's since worked on shows such as "Cake Wars," Modern Marvels," "The Curse of Oak Island," the documentary film "Waiting for Superman" and many others. When not embroiled in "Deadliest Catch," he works on an offshoot, "Deadliest Catch: Bloodline," and is currently editing "911 Crisis Center" about emergency dispatchers in Cleveland that's set to debut in November on Oxygen.
"Deadliest Catch" is no fib, a fly-on-the-wall account of, by fatalities, the second-most dangerous job to logging. Two roving camera operators plus mounted cameras filming all day, every day on six or seven crab boats over 15 weeks in Alaskan waters generate some 40,000 hours of footage and a tree's worth of notes to be pored over by producers.
"After everyone's decided that these stories will play in this episode, then it comes to me. Instead of tens of thousands of hours of footage I get hundreds of hours of footage that working with the story producer have to be crafted into an hour of television, which is roughly about 42 minutes of television when you have the commercial breaks," Rubinow said.
While the filming is chronological, the stories may not be. Crabbing season runs from October into December and from January to March, Rubinow said. A key event such as the death of boat captain Phil Harris in February 2010 -- Rubinow joined the show the month before -- may supersede what happened months before.
"That happened in February, and we start editing in November," Rubinow said, "so suddenly one of the main characters dies, now you have to start going back and saying, 'Maybe this story that we weren't thinking of playing before we should play now because it highlights that character and his sons, and now we know the end of his story that we didn't know when we started.'"
Co-executive producer Geoff Miller likes Rubinow's organization, his technical prowess, his ability to find specialty shots that make episodes pop. And consistently, Rubinow's ability to get a show out the door.
"I think what Alexander brings to the table is just his ability to take a script and turn it around really quickly," Miller said. "He's as fast as anybody. When on deadline for a show like that, which is very, very labor-intensive, that comes in really handy."
As a freelance editor Rubinow is always on the lookout for opportunities. Rare is the one which produces an Emmy nomination, or a statuette.
"Winning an award is very exciting," he said. "You never know when you're going to be associated with something that's going to break through or that people recognize and that people will vote for. It's a really long process and I was very fortunate to be able to work on 'Deadliest Catch.'"