16 years ago Henry Dangar was a pretty grumpy man - he was grumpy that the funding bodies had started to dictate the director’s choice of editor, destroying established working relationships. He was upset the ABC was dismantling its editing department, losing a valuable training ground. He was angry that the introduction of computers in the editing room had made producers think that editors could cut twice as fast, with less assistants.
Henry Dangar wasn’t alone with his worries.
Jenny Ward was concerned by changes to Australian Content rules. Worried about changing work practices leading to declining creativity. With the introduction of all the new editing devices - Lightworks, AVID, D-Vision, Media100, dAVE! - what do we learn, how do we learn, and FEGA, the Film Editor’s Guild of Australia was no longer there to help.
With Jenny in one ear, and Henry in the other Sara Bennett said “why don’t you two get together and do something about it??”
So they did.
In May 1995 they organised an evening at the The Harold Park Hotel. A crowd of 80 editors and assistants turned up and the ideas flew around the room about how to form a guild, including becoming an arm of ASDA, which was very quickly shot down in flames. We were eventually kicked out into the car park still talking madly and that’s where the ASE began.
Henry became our first President, Jenny became Vice President in the second year. It was an incredibly exciting time, each month figuring out which café, pizza joint or Thai restaurant would be our venue for the next committee meeting…
Henry quickly set the agenda, he mooted the idea of a mentorship scheme to support emerging editors. He rallied a library of rushes from recently completed productions for editors and assistants to practice on. It began a time of incredible generosity of spirit as talented editors gave over weekends of their time to run creative workshops in both drama and documentary. The highlight of Henry’s time as president was participating in the Fade To Black conference in May 1996. This was initiated by the ASE in conjunction with the other craft guilds to highlight the perilous state of postproduction at the time. In his speech to the conference Henry said, “The ASE holds the view that it is quite acceptable to ask the editing team to go the extra yard to realise the dream. But the ASE finds it wholly unacceptable to ask the editing team to make up the shortfall in the budget.”
And Henry warned us… “Editors must insist on their rights in order to complete a film to the highest standard. If post production standards slip then we (as editors) have to be prepared to take the consequences.”
This determination to maintain good craft practices began over 35 years ago when he became an assistant in the ABC editing department. Fired by ambition to edit, he traveled overseas to the BBC and came back declaring himself an editor. By 1981, on Stir he was probably one of the youngest feature film editors in Australia.
Now he has edited 24 feature films including Winter of our Dreams, The Crossing, Spider and Rose and Lucky Miles. He is now considered one of the best in the country. He won the AFI Best Achievement in editing for Kiss or Kill. He has received nominations for his work from the AFI, IF Awards, FILM CRITICS CIRCLE and the ASE.
Many of us have settled in to enjoy his television dramas among them: Blackjack, The Bangkok Hilton, Love My Way and Rake.
Henry Dangar, we have now grown to a membership well over 400 Australia wide, and it is with great pleasure we give you life membership of your Guild, the Australian Screen Editors...
- excepts from speech by Fiona Strain ASE