Many of us have an all or nothing mindset when it comes to success.
Either we become a multi-platinum singer instantaneously or give up altogether. Queens, N.Y. to Minneapolis transplant, Bertram “Trama” Cambridge, led a successful life as a hip-hop artist while quietly building an impressive career as a film editor. Retiring from making music, Cambridge made a smooth transition into the film and television. Recently winning two coveted Telly Awards for the Food Network program “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” he proves that it is ultimately up to an individual to define his or her own success.
AS: Give the people a little bit of background on yourself and your work.
BC: Well I grew up in Queens N.Y. and according to my parents I’ve been drawing since I was four years old. While attending Art & Design High School in Manhattan, I landed an internship with an up and coming director and my lifelong mentor Steve Conner. Every summer I would work with him doing everything from delivering packages around the city, to drawing story boards, to plugging the parking meters on the set of McDonald’s commercials.
In 1996 I graduated from Pratt Institute with a degree in Art Direction and thought my next step would be to find a job in the city creating print ads but then I got a call from Steve. Steve was now running his own advertising agency called C&C Films. They were creating everything from commercials, music videos, television shows, graphics, etc.
At the time they were using Avid to make directors reels but he told me it had the capacity to edit video as well. My eyes instantly lit up because as a product of hip-hop in the (19)80s and early (19)90s I would religiously watch shows like “Video Music Box,” “Yo! MTV Raps” and “Video Vibrations” on BET. I would literally tape every hip-hop interview and music video on VHS. The next day I came up to C&C Films with a bag full of VHS tapes and had the idea of cutting together a music video for “Verbal Intercourse” from Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” album. When I was finally done I can’t explain how excited I was to bring that VHS home and play the video for my family and friends.
Within one month Steve hired me as the editor at C&C Films and that has been my career and passion for the past 19 years.
AS: You recently won two Telly Awards for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” What’s that project about and what was your role?
BC: “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” is a basically a cooking show hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network. Every week the show travels across America to bring you those hidden hole-in-the-wall spots that have great food. Before I started editing the show my wife and I would watch it all the time because she loves getting new recipes from blogs or the Food Network. One day she forwarded an email to me from Craigslist that said “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” is looking for editors. I ended up sending my edit reel to the production company and they set up and interview two days later. Seven years later I’m still cutting the show.
AS: A few years back you decided to retire from making music. Why, and does your work in film have something to do with it?
BC: When I wasn’t at work editing all of my free time was dedicated to my music from recording albums, to doing shows in and out of state, to creating a street buzz. I retired from making music in 2010 because I got full custody of my son, Eli, and knew I wouldn’t be able to create music at the same level and rate I had been over the years. I had to put all that energy into my son and I’m so glad I did because he has turned me into a man. He helped me refocus on what is important which is family. Being a parent is a fulltime job. My schedule is first helping him with his homework and then doing my freelance work at night. When you see him on the honor roll and how respectful he is to adults it’s worth it. My wife and I just had a beautiful baby girl named Isabella six months ago and who knows you may see me out doing some surprise performances here or there. I still record at home because right now I listen to hip-hop on the radio and the stuff they are saying is not what I want for my children. So I can change the station or make something they can listen to.