(Thursday 23 April)

(Mark Warner ASE and some of the other participants. Image coursesy of Fiona Strain ASE.)

Having to change the 2020 Sydney Meet the Winners panel discussion into a Zoom event turned out to have a number of advantages, not least that more winners of 2019 Ellies and AACTA editing awards were available to chat about their work and careers. They also had an audience of ASE Members from interstate, and the travel time was reduced for all concerned.

From the comfort of their own homes, moderator Simon Callow-Wright spoke with panellists
Mark Warner ASE (Feature Drama Ellie - 'Ladies in Black'),
Sally Fryer ASE (Feature Documentary Ellie and AACTA - 'The Final Quarter'),
James Manche ASE (Drama Ellie - 'Bloom'),
Andrew Cooke (Current Affairs Ellie - 'Australian Story'),
and Kelly Searancke (Open Content Ellie - 'The Last Fight').

'Ladies in Black' is the seventh Bruce Beresford film Mark has edited. Mark said it was a simple ensemble film with a tight script, so his edit was based around the performances and helped by the fact that they were really good. The challenge came in trying to juggle the feedback and preferences of the various stakeholders while preserving the delicacy of the edit.

Mark enjoys editing performance-based films as during his early career he found himself pigeonholed as an action film editor. After deciding he wanted to work on more acting-based films, he spent nine months out of work, turning down jobs until he was offered 'Cocoon: The Return', which, while it is a science-fiction film, had an ensemble cast, and was his breakthrough into editing a range of genres.

Sally Fryer said that the edit of 'The Final Quarter' was shaped by the fact that director Ian Darling wanted to use only archival footage broadcast during a certain period, their decision to depict everything in chronological order and the fact Adam Goodes was already committed to 'The Australian Dream' and couldn't be interviewed for 'The Final Quarter'. Sally and Ian didn't believe they would get permission to use all the archival footage they wanted but decided to make the film they hoped they could make. As it turned out, everyone except Alan Jones gave clearances. 'The Final Quarter' has been widely used in schools, and Sally believes that its short clips makes it easier for young people to engage with the material. They became aware of 'The Australian Dream' quite early on, and saw cuts of each other's film. Sally said the two documentaries are complementary and almost sequential as 'The Final Quarter' finishes with Adam walking off the football field, and 'The Australian Dream' starts with him returning to country.

'The Last Fight' was quite a different editing experience for Kelly Searnacke who usually works in commercials. He enjoyed the challenges of having no script and a larger scope. While going through the rushes, Kelly discovered that the best interviews were audio only, when the director had been getting the subject of the film, Denis, used to being interviewed, and just let him talk. Kelly said that boxing, filmed at different frame-rates is beautiful and powerful on film and provided excellent overlay for these interviews. He said this was a lesson for him in utilising what you've got to make the best edit.  The Last Fight' was not originally intended to be a film about mental health but  Kelly realised that it formed a large part of Denis's story and therefore would become a point of focus in the film, but not the only one as the film would always be about Denis himself.

James Manche ASE also discussed the difficulties caused by having multiple stakeholders giving, often conflicting, feedback. This is a problem he feels is growing as film and TV productions are forced to look for many different sources of finance, who then all have input into the final product.

In his Ellie-winning episode of 'Bloom', James ended up diverting considerably from the script and intercutting scenes in order to navigate the performances, storyline, structure, and conflicting feedback. The edit ended up taking twice as long as usual and James appreciated that everyone involved understood that this was a necessary part of the process in order to finish the episode.

Like Mark, James doesn't watch all the rushes - he usually doesn't have time. He reads the script and starts with the circled takes. He will check the other takes and may end up recutting completely if he finds a better performance.

Andrew Cooke said 'After the World Ended'  - the story of how a bereaved family is coping five years after flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine - turned out to be a very unusual edit for an episode of 'Australian Story'.  His original brief was to balance tragedy and hope, to channel the emotions so they could present the story to the audience in the most impactful way. Andrew said this proved difficult when the subjects of the episode wanted instead to focus exclusively on the positive side of the story. Andrew and the producer felt that the story needed the impact of the grief to make the positive ending more powerful.

Unusually for 'Australian Story', Andrew had all the footage for this episode before he started editing. In fact, the filming had occurred over a 2-year period when and where the subjects were available. With the producer, he nailed down the structure, then was left for a week to do the fine cut and colour-in, then another week for revisions.

The group then discussed how young Editors might get a break in the business, especially when producers are often wary of bringing people without experience in particular genres. They discussed the importance of bringing Assistants into the edit as much as possible, and giving them assemblies or even scenes to edit. They agreed that aspiring Editors should cut anything they can so that when they do get a break, they have all that experience to call on. Mark noted that being able to re-edit footage and create different versions is one of the advantages of non-linear editing that just wasn't feasible when he started out editing on film. Sally, James and Fiona Strain discussed how editing sound had taught them about the rhythm of dialogue, which then fed into their picture editing. Sally maintained that it is not the Editor's responsibility to 'fix' all the problems in a production.

They also discussed how relationships are the best way to find work - meeting directors, producers and other Editors at film schools, industry events and workplaces can lead to jobs.  The group agreed that while working with the same director can lead to fruitful creative partnerships, working with different directors can stretch your creativity in different directions. James talked about the creativity in making someone else's vision your own - finding yourself in something you didn't create.

The group discussed different methods of adding music, sourcing temp tracks from other films or getting the composer involved early. Andrew said that when he has limited screen time to get the point across, music plays a big part in setting the tone and assists in steering the ship in the right direction. Mark and Kelly prefer to add music at the last minute if possible. Mark said music affects a different place in the brain, so it can change the edit. He prefers to edit to the rhythms of dialogue and body motion. Kelly says that if an edit works without music, then the music is the icing on the cake, adding to the edit,  rather than smoothing over the bumps.

Steered by Simon and enhanced by audience questions, it really was an extraordinary discussion ,with a diverse group of Editors providing information and insights from their varied careers. Thank you to all the Editors, Simon and the audience for their participation.

Please join us for Meet the Winners! Part 2, on Sunday 17 May, 1-3pm (AEST). For more information and to register, go to the event webpage.

Alison Myers
Executive Committee Member

(eNews 97 - May 2020)

Meet the Winners is back!

And this time it's virtual!

Winners from the 2019 Ellie and AACTA Editing Awards will be gathering online
to talk about their award-winning works, their careers and editing in general.

The Meet the Winners Part 1 line-up includes:

  • Mark Warner ASE (Feature Drama Ellie - 'Ladies in Black')
  • Sally Fryer ASE (Feature Documentary Ellie and AACTA - 'The Final Quarter')
  • James Manche ASE (Drama Ellie - 'Bloom')
  • Andrew Cooke (Current Affairs Ellie - 'Australian Story')
  • Kelly Searancke (Open Content Ellie - 'The Last Fight')

The panel discussion will be moderated by Simon Callow-Wright.

Event 1 - Thursday 23 April - 7-10pm AEST

This will be an ASE Members-only Zoom event.
To attend, email office@screeneditors.com.au by Tuesday 21 April.