Focus On – Mark Atkin ASE on “The Slap”
You cut four of the eight episodes of The Slap, each a different character’s point of view. Which episodes did you cut and stylistically what was different about them?
I cut ep's 1 ("Hector"), 2 ("Anouk"), 6 (”Manolis") & 8 ("Richie)". "Hector" is the ‘set up’ episode in which we had to focus on Hector and at the same time, introduce the other characters. It's a very busy ep with lots of people (especially at the BBQ scene) buzzing around, punctuated by private moments that change the rhythm quite suddenly. It establishes the use of stylistic elements like ‘jump cuts’ (usually to reflect disturbed states of mind), the deliberate use of soft shots and more ‘classical’ cutting. So it's a big cocktail that sets up possibilities for the rest of the series.
"Anouk" is a more contained story taking us way from the crowd into a very private and emotional world. The coverage and cutting style is less frantic and fragmented. We linger on reactions and allow the camera (often hand-held) to move from moment to moment.
"Manolis" reflects the quieter, slower world of its older character. The approach to shooting and the cutting is more classical throughout, emphasising stillness and reflection.
The "Richie" episode is very emotional. The editing mixes straightforward use of coverage and fast abrupt cutting. The overall rhythm begins more slowly and considered and builds in pace and intensity to reflect Richie's escalating distress.
How involved were you in pre-production in deciding each character’s episode style?
As is often the case with TV, I had minimal input during pre-production. The writers, producers and the 4 directors were involved in workshops to work out the approaches taken.
What is your favourite episode and why?
My favourite chapter in the book was "Manolis". It's close to my favourite ep in the series too, but I really love ep 3 ("Harry"), which Andy Canny edited and Matt Saville directed with his usual flare. Alex Dimitriades' performance is a stand out. The technical, aesthetic and emotional elements work together so beautifully.
How long did you have each episode and how did that affect the edit?
Each block of 2 episodes had a total of 7 weeks - so 3 and a half weeks per episode - to be edited. Of that 7 weeks; 4 weeks was assembling during the shoot and then the director had 3 weeks to fine cut with the editor, which included the 2 or 3 screenings with producers and network.
What was the most challenging aspect of The Slap?
Most TV shows have a set of characters and a stylistic template that applies to the whole series. The biggest challenge with The Slap was to look at each episode from the point of view of its main character & reinforce that through the cutting styles. Although there are common approaches throughout the series, they are mixed and played with in different ways. We tried to reinvent our approach each time. The first 2 episodes for example, are completely different in feel and perspective.