The Best Quotes from Edit Fest London 2014
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the American Cinema Editor’s Edit Fest London at the very comfortable BFI on the South bank in London. It was a fantastic day and a brilliant opportunity to meet many more editors, not only from London but also from around the world.
I’ve written up 5 Lessons from Edit Fest London over on Premiumbeat.com which you should check out too. In this post I’m simply going to type up some of the best quotes that I scribbled down during the day, which I made as accurately as I could so nobody sue me.
Edit Fest London – Editors on Editing
The first discussion panel was Small Screen, Big Picture – with a fistful of television editors (although many also cut features) discussing their craft. On the panel were Mags Arnold, Stephen Ellis ACE, Mark Everson and Tim Porter, and it was moderated by John Wilson ACE.
“Editors are often brought in quite late, and should be brought in more in pre-production to help shape the story.” – Documentary editor Stephen Ellis ACE (SE)
Focus on the people, not the action: “The real narrative is what happens if a huge event becomes an emotional fulcrum in your life.” (SE) Sometimes what’s most interesting in a story is not the events that happened themselves, but the change in the people they happened to.
Game of Thrones editor Tim Porter showed a clip from episode 8 of season 4, which involved a duel between two characters with a surprising and gory twist which he described as “The most fun I had at work last year!”
Mags Arnold described her break into the industry whilst working as a first assistant editor under Mick Audsley on High Fidelity and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin saying that she would “speak up at screenings and so on” (i.e. don’t be shy and be respectfully opinionated) and went on to cut her first film, My Little Eye on FCP v1.
“There is always one week that happens in documentary editing where there isn’t a film. And you’re pulling your hair out. And then something clicks – even if it’s just one scene – and then everything’s fine.” – SE
“Most of my breaks came from people being ill, or people seeing something and giving me an opportunity. It’s about even.” – Mark Everson
“You get type cast within a few years, and I went from getting phone calls saying ‘We’re looking for a documentary editor’ to ‘We’re looking for a comedy editor.'” – Mark Everson has cut Peepshow, The Mighty Boosh, Alan Partridge and many other British comedy shows, he is currently editing the new Paddington Bear movie.
Possibly the most practical tip of the day came from Mark when he recounted a story involving a producer watching an early cut of a comedy show, who then said: “Can I see the funny man, say the funny thing.” Often in drama editing you might play a line ‘off’ (screen) where as in comedy you most often want to see them say it.
Mags also gave a good comedy editing tip when asked how do you reassure yourself a gag is still funny when you’ve seen it a 100 times. “I remember how funny I thought it was the first time I saw it and I go with that.” Stephen said it’s also good to remind the producer or director how much they laughed the first time.
“The hardest thing is trying to hook up with a director or a producer who is going somewhere and convincing them you should be given a chance.” – Tim Porter
Mags Arnold (the only woman on this panel) was asked if there is a difference in being a female editor to which she replied. “I was never hired because I was a woman, but because I was good.” and “Editing is a craft that requires good instincts, empathy and I think men and women have them in equal measure.”
Tim Porter talked about how good it is to constantly be working with new people because “It keeps you honest – you have to keep proving yourself until you show them something half decent, because you think they think you’re an idiot. So you try to build every sequence as well as you can.”
When asked how do you get into editing film and TV if you’ve already been editing for years in other sectors (e.g. high-end wedding videos) Tim Porter said “Write to everyone you can, cut some short films as best you can and get into a (post-production) facility.”
Dailies to Delivery – Editing Feature Films
The second panel of the day featured a bevy of extremely talented feature film editor’s and was moderated by Mick Audsley. The panel featured Mark Day, Alexandra Mackie ACE, Ken Schretzmann ACE, Lucia Zucchetti ACE and Mary Jo Markey ACE – who is currently editing Star Wars: Episode VII.
Between them they’ve also edited Harry Potter, RKO 281, Judge Dread, Monster’s Inc, Cars, The Ratcatcher, Mission Impossible III, Star Trek, and Super 8, to name just a few.
Mary Jo Markey ACE described how she made the jump from television to feature films with director JJ Abrams when he took her with him. “He knew I would be loyal to him above all others. Without trust between a director and an editor there’s nothing.”
When asked how the editors handled the ever increasing volume of footage and shorter post-production schedules editor Mark Day commented “There’s no way to edit and watch all the material, you just have to spin through it. It’s a different way of working.”
Mary Jo also suggested that “The important thing to do on the first cut isn’t to look at everything, but to shape it the way you want it to be and then go back and fill in all the angles, once you have a feel for the whole.”
The editor’s all agreed that the two most irritating questions from producers or directors is “Have you put anything together yet?” and “Is that the best take? – No, I put the worst one in!”
Pixar editor Ken Schretzmann described how much work goes into editing a film at Pixar, which can take up to 5 years to produce. He commented that the expectation of editors now “is always to have a full cut with sound effects and music etc., which is nice if you have the time, but there’s always a rush. What I’m losing is the time to sit with it a while and think about it, to process it.”
Lucia’s editors tips were to use Avid Script Sync and to prioritise the A-camera. “A good script supervisor really is your ears on set. Get to know your script super, so they can really tell you what to look at when you get your rushes. Friendship and trust with your first assistant also really helps.”
One of the editors described the first assistant’s job as huge: “10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. You need them to process everything and run the cutting room.”
Another editor described how important attending the sound mix can be. “The mix can make or break your cut. And so you need to be there to guard it and collaborate with the sound team and director to make sure things aren’t misinterpreted.”
When asked how they handle feedback Mary Jo encouraged editors everywhere by saying “Really bad notes that get done, will often eventually get undone. I will voice my opinion once or twice and then a month later I will bring it up again. But you have to pick your moment.”
Mark Day described learning the editing process like this “The only way to learn is to be in the cutting room, absorbing it all by osmosis. There is no short cut to a first cut, it’s an evolutionary process and you have to be there to see the cut evolve.”
Ken said “Cut everything you can. The only way to learn is to keep on doing it and be ready to step up.”
All the editors agreed that finding and sticking with young directors was an essential part of moving forward in their careers. Mary Jo suggested that “The work speaks for itself, so do good work. Do your best and have ambition with your work. It’s also about having empathy for the director – being able to help someone who feels their whole career is on the line.“