Newsletter 58 – January 2003

Online archive copy of Newsletter 53 which was a printed newsletter:

President's Letter

Thank you again for all your emails of support, its great.

Between editing shifts I hope I can, with your help, continue the upward growth of our fair guild as she blossoms with the fruits of accreditation. Its even possible my writing may improve!! stay tuned!
So to the AGM at AFTRS. It was terrific. We voted in a new committee and 2 motions,

Motion 1. The ASE will write to the funding bodies and the Minister to express its concern that the present environment of low budget filmmaking is antiethical to the development and viability of the Australian post production sector. The Guild asserts that the role of government should be to uphold and not undermine wages and conditions.

Motion 2. It is proposed that a sub committee be created to establish guidelines for attachment, mentorships and work experience and will seeking funding from the various bodies.

This was brought up by two concerned assistants at the AGM proposed that a mentor scheme would be a great thing to promote in a time when the interaction between editors and assistants is squeezed in between the swapping of shifts. Not a great learning moment.

Our main topic “Garage Daze” was discussed regarding the pros and con’s of owning your own system.

Simon Smithers says its great to work at home, you see the family, you have great lunches, no travelling and you see the family more. He is also totally conversant with his system so there was no problem about technical backup and you see your family even more.

Paul Healy found it terrific working at home except that people thought they only needed to pay you next to nothing because you were working at home. Which is a bit unfair.

A full report about the AGM is also in this newsletter, so have a good look at it.

We had our first Executive Committee meeting on Monday to cheer the outgoing and hooray the incoming committee amid bottles of red wine and Margaret’s platters of cheese, pistachios and figs. We ploughed thru a long agenda to nut out what we could do this year.

Melbourne’s committee is also hot to trot with a tram load of ideas for it’s lucky Melbournites.

The first important cab off the rank was the the accreditation sub committee driven by Andrea Lang, Melanie Sandford, Emma Hay and as yet to be confirmed Henry Danger and other accreditees which will be gearing up with great gusto to finalize the criteria for next years crop of Accreditees. This will be done with a hot phone link to Melbourne. Watch out for developments.

The next in line was Rishi Shukla’s bus to Atlab workshop for assistants and editors to see how to liase with the lab and how to be prepared for the best trip ever to the final finish line of your film.
We then had a map of events yet to be confirmed with such aims as to look at how fast turnaround TV editing can be made streamline and hasslefree, how to use a Final Cut Pro Saturday session,
new ideas for how to use and update our web site and perhaps a special Frame-by Frame with an Accreditee.

If you out there have any ideas about a film you would like to discus with its editor or a skills workshop please let us know, its a two way street!
The Christmas Party with ASDA and the Composers Guild at the Writers Centre was great. Lots of fine tucker, salmon wasabi rolls, dried tomatoes (Margaret Slarkes idea) and slices of turkey and ham (Helen Martins idea) washed down with fine wine and conversation. It was very pleasant on the verandah on a balmy summers night, with so many producers, directors, composers AND editors what was there to talk about?.......see the photos inside.....

So I hope you all had a very pleasant burp free Christmas break from me,
regards,

Jane St Vincent Welch

A Dream Job - Roland Gallois

When Georgia Wallace-Crabbe of Film Projects first spoke to me about the “The Shark Tracker ” editing job I thought it sounded too good to be true. I filed it away in my mind as one of the ones you don’t put to much store by so as not to get your hopes up too high. Of course I kept talking to Georgia about it but I didn’t really believe it would ever happen.

So when I was chosen as picture and sound editor I wasn’t really prepared for 8 weeks of cutting in the South of France on a natural history doco about tiger sharks. I am bilingual French /English which made my selection for this Franco /Australian co production a natural one as I have cut several doco’s before but never a natural history doc and never in France. Co productions often requires a proportional mix of creative staff to money, which goes some way to explaining the expense of sending me to Europe…

Before leaving to France I had only had a 5-minute conversation with Roland, the French director (he was in Vietnam at the time, bad phone line…) so my curiosity about all the arrangements was naturally heightened. Especially as it turned out that I would be working in his attic, staying in a local persons house, 600 km from Paris in a tiny village I’d never heard of called Die. In other words jumping into the unknown….

The finished documentary is really a portrait of Richard Fitzpatrick, a marine biologist, lecturer, eco tourism entrepreneur, film maker and environmentalist all shot several months before in Far North Queensland. What makes Richard stand out from all the other renaissance men is his extraordinary relationship with his subjects - sharks of all species. Richard catches his sharks by the tail with a little bit of rope and then hangs then upside down to “chill them out” before he measures and tags them for his research. The images of him catching a huge tiger shark in this way in the climax of the film are quite amazing.

Thanks to the flexibility of Georgia’s producing style I was also able to take my eldest son Jack with me. Once I had located Die on the map it turned out it was quite close to Lyon where my father has retired. We were able send Jack to a bilingual school in Lyon and I made the trip every weekend via a 2 hour Saturday morning/ Monday morning train commute. His trip went very smoothly and was the sort of fantastic learning experience I had imagined for him. It almost went awry though as the day before we were to leave he came down with such severe food poisoning that he had to spend the night in hospital and was forbidden to travel by the doctor.

It would not have been quite so bad if I was not already a week late (according to the French producers delivery requirements) due to my previous commitment on ’Painting with light in a dark world’ a doco that I was still fine cutting the day before departure. Luckily we were able to get a flight the following day, and a shaken Jack and I arrived safely, a little apprehensive at being a week and 24 hours late to work, a first in my book.

Everything began to fall into place once in France. Roland Theron picked me up from Lyon and drove me at 170 km per hour in his little Citroen through the beautiful valley of the Drome to the foot of the Vercor Plateau the largest wilderness area in France. His family was from the next valley and he had settled here 10 years ago, balancing a seemingly idyllic lifestyle with TGV (the fast train) commutes to Paris.

My room was a delightful large and airy “chambre d’hote” a kind of bed sit with views to the plateau and meters from the local Cathedral bells. My hosts turned out to be ex film students enjoying a sea change and were very welcoming and understanding of the whole process.

Roland Theron’s Final Cut Pro was housed in a magnificent 100 sq meter attic in his 400 year old house that shared a wall with the original Roman fortifications. The Drome river ran along the side of Die and I had my first of many swims that night in its invigorating stream admiring the medieval surrounds I had landed in.

The surprises continued the following day on booting up FCP. The familiar program was all in French, you might well say ’bien sur’ (of course) except that Avid is internationally in English and I just expected the same of FCP. It turned out even French editors I knew found the very literal translation a bit bewildering at first. To me it really meant the difference between just looking and clicking, and reading, translating in my head and looking like I knew what I was doing. Of course the fog of jet lag was settling in when the difficulties of the non-qwerty keyboard became apparent. Anyone who has typed their e-mails in Europe knows the frustration of hitting the A key and getting a Q – crqp is usually the result. I kept wondering where were the keyboard short cuts? Even the most simple like Apple S and Z were in physically different parts of the keyboard. FCP is often very alphabetical in its short cut logic like F for find, would it be the same in the French version? In any case I would have to wait a week to find them, as we would be digitising first.

Or should I say doing the “derushage”, literally un-rushes-ing. Typical Franglais word where an English term is borrowed and then conjugated into ’correct’ grammatical French. In this case it’s a new term, one lacking in our vocab. We have logging and digitising but not a word for ’selecting the shots to use in the film’. Our French schedule even made the distinction between the two, derushage then digitising. A vital difference emphasising the importance of watching all the footage and the work of selecting the shots. In our case Roland Theron set off the tapes at night for digitising, saving plenty of time but I missed the chance to watch the selected takes a second time in veg memory mode.

At the same time Roland set up his laptop next to the FCP and kept copious notes obviously to help him with his memory, but also as the basis for the VO, which he refined all the way through the cutting. This was the first of several times saving editing working methods used by Roland.

We did a lightning visual assembly stringing all the possible scenes in rough order and then inserted slabs of relevant interviews. Nothing unusual granted, except that we never watched an assembled scene end to end. The net effect of this discipline was of real freshness several weeks later when we watched the 2 hour version combined with a feeling on my behalf that I was always slightly behind in my knowledge of the material. At least I was up to speed on the French system - nothing like trial and error and a dead line.

We had a composer, Eric Ragu attached to the project but due to the time constraints of the schedule the idea was to have him deliver the music before the lock off. The first tracks he sent were mostly fine emotionally, but of course the sync relationship was far from ideal especially in the shark capture sequences. So we got Eric to send us the music in separate elements. So for example I would have up to 4 tracks – strings, percussion, sync/music effects and a kind of rumbly bass atmosphere to make up the music. This was great fun as I really began to feel like a composer, changing the emphasis at more or less at will and of course adapting the edit to suit. It reminded me very much of my work with Andrew Lancaster who is a composer and director so of course it was always very easy to change the temp tracks. The final film’s music is a mix of Eric’s tracks and library music or ’musique au metre’ literally music by the meter.

Roland Theron was insistent that the films sound track should ’live’ at every moment. I did not have a library of sounds at my disposal and apart from the copious atmosphere tracks supplied by the shooting crew nothing. I was able to give Andy Bellety a wish list of sound effects and additional atmospheres that Georgia delivered when she came from Australia to the fine cut screening. The sound underwater was the most interesting challenge as what you hear in the sea, a kind of crackling doesn’t really pay off dramatically especially over time The other great advantage of track laying in FCP is the constant opportunity to keep readjusting the fine cut.

The cut just seemed to improve at each screening. All the producers were happy and Richard Fitzpatrick’s notes were also very helpful. The temp VO went through many permutations. Roland would make a dub of the cut on VHS and play it back on his TV. He would then set his Mini DV camera to film the screen whilst recording his voice, which made placing the voice back into the cut very quick. This was before a “ speaker pro” or voice over artist would record the definitive version in Paris where the mix and online were finished.

Our international 52 min version for NBC and Channel 5 in France were finished but we had to do a 43.5 minute version back in Australia for Channel 9. When I described that not only was the program so much shorter but was actually interrupted by commercials 6 times to the local French people I met they were incredulous. Armed with the DIGI beta master and 16 AIFF files we made some major and minor cuts for a zippier oz version.

Victorian Notes

Christmas Party 2002

This year we headed to the Red Eagle Hotel in Middle Park where we did what editors do best, chew the fat into the night. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors of the 2002 party who with their generosity helped us to acquire ample food and beverages for the enjoyment of our members and guests. They were: Computamatch, Digistor, Horizon Films, Music and Effects, Soundfirm and The Edit Shop.

New Victorian Committee

Our elections occurred in an informal manner at the last Committee meeting for 2002. After being a member and occasional friend of the ASE for several years I acquiesced to putting up my hand for the position of chairman. This appointment seemed to take effect immediately as throughout the course of the meeting people’s eyes began to focus in my direction whilst making their addresses…an eerie feeling, comrades. Rapid note taking ensued as I assumed the mantle in a rather hurried fashion. So, here we are, the new Victorian Committee …Shaun Smith - I began my indenture to the film industry many years ago as cameraman, editor and boy Friday to the one of the maddest companies in the world – based in Raffles Hotel, Singapore, to be exact, but that’s another story... I have been doing corporate, government and magazine style work over the past year as well as a VCA short drama Shanti (in Hindi!)

Beth Tootell was elected to the position of secretary, taking over from Leon Burgher. Prior to alleviating the stress of freelance editing with a month in France, she worked on the feature film Trojan Warrior, the TV series The Ponderosa as well as a host of corporate videos.

Leon Burgher continues as a committee member and is keen to follow up on his hard work of 2002, in particular sustaining the momentum of the accreditation process. Last year Leon took a break from the freelance world for a producing gig for the Fox Footy Channel, covering the AFL season.

John Leonard is kept off the street by his DV Express which earns enough to feed him and his two cats. After stepping down as chairman for the past twelve months he’ll be adding his contribution in 2003. By the way, he’s not parochial, he just really likes Melbourne.

Ben Loveridge joined the ASE in 1999 and completed an attachment on the World War I doco Pozieres. He’s since worked as an assistant editor on Short Cuts, Surprise Surprise and features Guru Wayne and Take Away. He was the on-line editor on the US TV series Ponderosa and now works at Horizon Films.

Chris Mill our final member couldn’t hack the pace and has bailed without attending a single meeting! Seriously folks, he’s embarked on a two year course with AFTRS Sydney, studying drama editing. All the best Chris, I’m sure he’ll make his face known to the ASE up there.

Our administrator this year is Beth Akister who continues on from 2002 after replacing Samantha Shepard. Beth’s currently at uni doing a BA in media and politics. As well as dining in obscure Italian eateries she confesses to a fetish for ticket stubs and cheque butts, this making her perfect for the job.

Stephen Rees is a freelance television editor, producer, graphic designer, web-site maestro and co-director – but aren’t we all these days… Although retiring from Committee duties he remains involved as a friend of the Committee. Last year he took on the task of reinvigorating (I’m sure you’ll agree) a rather dormant ASE website. His goal for 2003 (apart from creating the most dynamic website ever!) is to finish his first feature film, which has been in production for – I kid you not – 18 years! Keep up the good work Stephen.

Roberta Horslie remains a friend this year and has kept herself busy during the “holiday” period working on animation projects, music video clips, film trailers, independent docos, commercials, Willie Wonka’s wild and woolly wombat world, you name it… Not like Roberta at all. Seriously, the Committee always welcome her energy and enthusiasm and the ASE membership always benefits from her efforts (usually made on top of huge work commitments). I forgot to mention her mates wedding video she cut in between stuff! Go you good thing!

Cindy Clarkson and Martin Fox are the other two friends of the Committee for 2003. After serving on the Committee in 2002, Cindy retires to the back bench this year, due to a busy work schedule. Martin’s been a friend on at least two other occasions and lucky for us, can’t bear to sever the friendship in 2003. Maybe he’ll become a friend for life. Keep up the good work guys!

A message from the Chair

Firstly, I’m honoured the Vic membership nominated me for this position. Thanks to John, Leon and other Committee members for their work last year. I know they had a tough time, due in part to the departure of other members along the way. I’m sure accreditation had its challenges too.
Looking forward, I’d like to see the ASE membership continue to grow. To aid this, we’re endeavouring to hold more events this year. Kicking off, there’ll be an animation night on Tuesday 18 February, to be held in conjunction with Animation Posse. Featured will be work that recently garnered a Sundance Film Festival award.

In addition, there are two events on the drawing board for the first half of the year. One on HD, the other related to sound post production, both involving highly respected institutions… And there’ll be plenty more.
At this point I’m going to hum an old tune, GET INVOLVED! The Committee needs input and feedback so we can present the events you want. Its no use kicking back and saying ah, they’ll take care of it. Contribute! We are only an email or a call away… the Vic office address is You can also ring Beth Akister on (03)_9686_6955.

Finally, I look forward to the year ahead and hope we can all have some fun along the way.

Shaun Smith

Ray Thomas interviewed by Andrea Lang

The Australian Screen Editors Guild held its first Accreditation Awards on the 21st of September at NIDA. The letters ASE after an editor’s credit indicate that they have been accredited by their peers as masters of their craft. But what is editing? When all the shooting and shouting is done the enigmatic craft of editing begins. This is the first of a series of articles on editors interviewing editors.

The Australian Screen Editors Guild was set up to encourage knowledge and ideas about the craft of editing, from the marriage of picture and sound to all the technology surrounding the craft. But editing is primarily about intellect and instinct.

Andea Lang, past President of the ASE, interviews Ray Thomas, one of Australia’s finest editors.

AL: How did you start in editing?

RT: As an assistant at the ABC in 1966—straight out of school. I worked up to editor in News and Current Affairs, Chequerboard and Four Corners. In 1973 I worked at the BBC in London for six months as an assistant then returned to the ABC. In 1976 I left the ABC and have worked freelance for all the channels mainly in Current Affairs, some drama and nowadays I work mainly in documentary.

AL: How do you think the News and Current Affairs background influenced you ?

RT: I really liked love working with journalists and I think it helped me to value storytelling. I love a good story. I like newspapers, I like news; it never felt like work because I was interested. Any documentary I like can be told in a hundred different ways, but what’s really important is that it tells a good story.The pressure of current affairs: the speed; having to do something in a week and maybe having regrets., But then moving into documentary and having 12 weeks - it was a great change to have that extra time. Current Affairs trained me to be able to deal with good journalists and bad journalists and still tell the story. I like newspapers, I like news; that part of it never felt like work because I was just interested..

AL: When you first look at rushes what do you feel? Despair?

RT: Sometimes. Some you know are going to be terrific and others you look at and feel, this will be hard work.

AL: What makes rushes leap out at you?

RT: It’s about the people and their story. There’s something about people onscreen—they either have a presence or they don’t. You can only honestly react: ’I’m interested in this person or I’m not’.

AL: How do you approach your work?

RT: I like to meet up with the filmmakers during planning and shooting and talk about how things are going and share where my interest is. Then I might look at a bit of the rushes. I never get so involved that I get to know anyone or meet anyone, all I do is react. I never tell them what to do because they’re obviously doing their thing. I ’m just work with the people characters that are good, but I’m asking them about the story and always thinking, thinking that at the end: a) This has to fit into 50 minutes and b) The audience. Will people be interested in watching it?

AL: How do directors differ in the way they work?

RT: Editing The Diplomat, Tom Zubrycki and I worked together and cut scenes over a year. Tom was shooting. There wasn’t really a Day One of the edit. The first five minutes of the finished film was originally forty minutes in the rough cut of all the stuff that we thought was very important then. But what with events in East Timor unfolding so fast, that whole forty minutes had to be cut down. We’d cut a lot of scenes together and be sitting there, listening to the news with Tom deciding where in the world to go and whether to shoot—events were happening right through the edit. That was terrific.

Working with Robyn Anderson and Bob Connolly was totally different. They don’t didn’t look at the rushes much at all while they were shooting. They shoot over time and it’s their decision when to stop. Then Bob sits down and catalogues everything and does all the transcriptions and then starts to do an assembly and a long cut of what they think the story is—so a lot of the rushes I never see. Then I go in when he has a long cut. I’d go in and spend a day just watching what he was cutting and then go away and then come back when it was ready to get cracking. I really like this way of working.

AL: What makes a bad director?

RT: The difficult director is the one that isn’t positive. They’ve got to be positive about the story and know where they’re going. The few bad experiences I’ve had have been with people who are extremely negative about their rushes. I’m forever saying ’it’s not that bad’. I like being with people who are enthusiastic about getting the story.

AL: There can be tension in the room sometimes.

RT: Yeah, and I guess my way of dealing with that is just picking away. I’m not there for a confrontation. I try to take the director’s ideas in, but I keep chipping away at what I think will work as well.

AL: How do think your cutting has changed over the years?

RT: Working with non-linear has been the biggest change. Now the technology can make me to think: ’whatever works’. It’s hard to articulate—you stumble on things. The first film I cut non-linear was with Julian Russell. He introduced me to Lightworks and I was impressed by it but thought: I’ll never crack this. But he persisted and persisted. I’d have some days where I’d stand back (because I couldn’t get my head around it) and Julian would run the system and I’d suggest moving bits around, which got to be quite appealing, but of course couldn’t continue!.

AL: How has it changed the way you put things together?

RT: I’m more choppy—changing scenes and sequences around so fast that sometimes I get lost. Where did that shot come from? Why is that shot repeated here? Why has it come up again? Oh I must have pressed the button twice. I think you do more versions but in the end you undo a lot and in going back you make it much simpler.

AL: Yes, you agonise over it.

RT: Yes, because the machine lets you. You do all these tricks but in the end it can look so contrived. Like effects … you put characters and scenes in then sit back and watch it thinking, no … no … no. It ends up as you might have put it together on film, with that sort of consideration. Non-linear is fantastic, but you do try a lot of structures that don’t work.

AL: And there’s the whole thing of just not watching...

RT: Yes exactly, working with Susan Lambert we make a point of saying on Thursday of a particular day that we will sit and watch it with our hands behind our backs. Even if it runs 45 minutes and you know it will end up 5 minutes I think it’s a good process just to get that perspective.

AL: What else has changed?

RT: I think nowadays you have masses of shot material. People shoot so much more now and you do less on paper. I don’t use story boards or cards on the walls any more. I used to think they were good to help think about structure, because you could sit back and look at them and get a sense of the whole story. I still don’t mind them as a reference and I’ve had directors that have liked to use them—but I look at them rarely.

AL: And how do you keep your judgement?

RT: Screenings are a very good thing. You can screen in different ways—like large group screenings with massive feedback where you have to decide what’s relevant, or smaller quite critical screenings where you have a select group and you gather their reactions in a very calculated way.
You should screen when you have begun to feel satisfied. You might feel a character is very good, but when you screen, people just absolutely dump on them. They get completely lost and while you’re reaction is defensive you’ve got to take it on board. That satisfaction can be challenged and subsequently dissolved. Ideas that seemed so crucial, they go, and suddenly the narrative is clearer.

AL: Do you have a sense of when it’s right?

RT: I have a sense of when it’s right for me, and sometimes I can almost pick the day when something changes from rushes into its own entity. I just love fine cutting nowadays. It used to be a chore, now with non-linear, it’s a dream. With most directors I say I want some time to cut, and you can go, or, I don’t mind if you stay. I guess people I’ve worked with over and over just let me do it. It’s the best time.

AL: What would be the principles behind how you make a cut and where you make a cut?

RT: I do agonise over this—what I’m always after is a cut that isn’t noticed. Is that the whole basis of editing? I still wonder about that. I don’t like ’devices’ being used that are noticeable. I want people watching to be involved with the people and the story but not be distracted by contrivance. I have a problem with a lot of television—I don’t like being told that what I’m watching is an amazing thing, or, that something exciting is about to happen. I’m not thinking that it should be so flat that you don’t use those devices at all but that they aren’t that noticeable in what you’re doing.

AL: In documentary how do you know when cutting turns into editorializing?

RT: This gets into the whole tricky area of how you might manipulate stories and characters. From the outset there will be people that you like in rushes and people you won’t like. I think I’m most satisfied in the end if an audience is really divided about the characters—when part of the audience really likes someone, and another part really dislikes them. I think that then you can have a little smile, because it’s not someone you set up to be a fool, or good or bad. I don’t necessarily like documentary that denigrates a person but by the same token, I don’t like documentary that glorifies a person. I think these are both unsatisfying experiences.

AL: What are some of the keys to a good edit?

RT: Time. I suggest twelve weeks for the edit and their jaw usually drops. But if you agree to do it in eight weeks , it usually ends up at twelve weeks, and there’ll have been this big crisis somewhere along the line. I think there may be a lot of films that really suffer from lack of time in the edit. Another week and they would have been really good, another week again and they would’ve been even better and sharp. Often that change would be in the first ten minutes of the story.

The last four days of the edit are often so crucial, in “what’s left in” and “what’s taken out”. There’ll be scenes that will be so important it seems the whole story revolves around it, and then the scene’s gone and all of a sudden it’s still a great, sometimes better, story. It takes ages to let go of it … less now, less and less. Anything can be in, or out, up to the last moment. Nothing’s sacred.-

Ray Thomas’ credits include:
Black Harvest Joe Leahy’s Neighbours, Robyn Anderson and Bob Connolly, 1988.
Lord of the Bush, Tom Zubrycki, 1990
Black Harvest, Robyn Anderson and Bob Connolly, 1991
Bilal, Tom Zubrycki, 1994
Rats in the Ranks, Robyn Anderson and Bob Connolly,1996
The Diplomat, Tom Zubrycki, 2000
Facing the Music, Robyn Anderson and Bob Connolly, 2001
DIY Law, Susan Lambert, 2001

Denise Haslem article: Melanie Sandford

I caught up with Denise the day before she took off for the Gove Peninsular in Arnhem Land where she’ll be living for the next six months. She’s working on a film about law and order issues in the Yirrkala community.

Over the past twenty years Denise has edited some of the best documentaries to come out of Australia, “Tosca- A Tale of Love Torture”, “MABO- Life of an Island Man”, “Hatred”, “Aeroplane Dance”, “For All The World To See” to name just a few.

“I’ve been really lucky to work with people who know me well and know what my contribution is. People who don’t feel threatened when I have an idea that’s beyond just the cutting of shots together”. People like Trevor Graham. Her current project will be the fifth documentary Denise has cut for Trevor and the second she has produced for him. Denise likes to discuss the style and story with the Director before the shoot. There will be plenty of opportunity during the next six months as Denise is sharing a house with Trevor, his wife and co producer/writer Rose Hesp and baby Angelita. The cutting room will be set up in the Yirrkala community council offices.

The cutting room for Denise is “like a sculptor’s studio where you chip away at the block of marble in front of you until you begin to see the form and then you follow the grain, slowly carving and finessing. Some people equate it with cooking, putting all the ingredients together, I don’t because I’m not much of a cook. And there are no sure fire recipes. Each project has different requirements”. She told me that despite recent trends, she still likes to view the rushes with the director. “In rushes you’re the first audience, and if something jumps out at you and it works, then you have to hang onto that, you have to listen to that. Sometimes the director says ’this is the key moment of the film’ and you’re sitting blank faced and it’s not working. Then you have to figure out another way of making it work or somehow getting what the director wants from something else”.

“I prefer to assemble the rushes in a really rough form first, this can take about 4 or 5 weeks depending on the amount of material supplied, usually without the director. I don’t mind the director being there as long as they understand that this is a really broad brush stroke period and I will make the scenes work later on... I like the first assembly to be manageable and not run too long. Then I really start to work the material, moving sequences around, dropping things, finding the essence. Between the assembly and the rough cut I love the director to be there a lot. This is when really good arguments and discussions about the ideas in the film can happen. Trevor and I have had a few fights in the cutting room, but lots of good things come out of them. Out of the conflict often come creative solutions.”

Denise has worked all around Australia including in the bush, but this is the first time she has taken an edit room with her. She and Trevor decided to move the cutting room “On Site” so they can consult with the community about the ideas and the portrayal of the people as the film is being constructed. Language is another consideration and that way translations can be done on the spot. The Avid DV Express that Film Australia acquired should be perfect for this situation especially when people from the community want copies of ceremonies and other activities they perform for the camera. Denise will miss the easy access to colleagues for screenings. She believes they can be really helpful “particularly if you’re not certain if something is working or not”. For Denise criticism, as painful as it can be, is a constructive part of the process.

When it comes to screenings with the broadcasters she says: “You’ve always got to support the vision of the director. Occasionally the director needs to hear the more brutal comments an EP or broadcaster can deliver, I tend to be more diplomatic than them and sometimes a director can’t hear what I have to say”.

“It does affect the film in the end if you don’t get on with the director which occasionally happens. But with most films I’ve edited it’s hard at the end of it to say who made what decision”. Denise has edited well over 100 hours of screen time and many of the films she worked on have won national and international awards. “When I look back on the films I don’t think “oh, that was a beautiful cut. I’m looking to see if the story and structure work”. Denise started out studying architecture at Sydney Uni and a lot of what she learnt about form and structure, she has been able to translate into the editing room. “Some directors, the less experienced ones, think that editors just are there to put one shot next to another. They don’t understand that editing is so much more. It’s intensely creative”.

With that Denise continued packing her 4WD for the long drive to Arnhem Land, which she’ll be sharing with her dog Lucy.

Good Luck Denise.

In Case Anyone Asks - Dominic Case

Dear Dominic

Between editing jobs I’m a keen angler, and I have always used film cans to keep my fishing flies and hooks in. I think I must have left a hook in a can that I put a roll of film in recently because, it’s now covered in scratches. It was meant to be a no-budget experimental film that I was going to cut for a friend. It’s colour reversal. There’s no money for dupes or anything – it’s the camera original and only reel. What can I do now?

“Fishing for Answers”

Dear Fishing

Frankly I don’t believe this stuff about fishhooks. I think you spent the day at the pub, came back to edit your friend’s film – on a Steenbeck which you haven’t used in years and years - got it wrong, and ended up with the entire roll all over the floor.

The good news is that you may have just reinvented scratch animation.
If you scratch directly onto colour film, you can achieve quite a range of colours with nothing more than a sharp point. Lightly scratching processed reversal film makes a blue mark as the top yellow layer is removed – go in a bit more deeply, and the blue scratch goes cyan before going completely clear when every layer is gone. Negative works the same way, but when it’s printed, the marks are yellow, orange, reddy-brown and black. But you can also produce coloured scratches directly on the print – green if you lightly scratch the top magenta layer, then yellow as the next cyan layer is shredded, and white if you, once again, go right through the lot.

Let’s face it: at this stage, your friend’s film is history anyway, and history’s generally boring. You have a great opportunity here to do something better. I suggest you go for broke (well, if you don’t, you can’t fix it anyway). It’s the old trick – if you can’t hide the problem, make it a feature (well, not a feature, it’s too short, but you know what I mean). Get hold of a couple of needles, a razor blade, and a bottle of tequila. Start with the tequila. It will soften the emulsion nicely if you spill it. You know what to do with the rest. Be bold with the blade. Do save a little Tequila for when you show the results to your friend.

Dominic

Dear Dominic

There are so many digital buzzwords going around these days, and I feel like a fool if I don’t know what they all mean. Film isn’t much better. Can you help?

A Dignoramus

Dear Dig
Here are a few of the terms that people throw around, that don’t always mean exactly what people want them to mean.

High Definition Television (HDTV): Means almost anything. Originally, it described Marconi’s TV system launched by the BBC in 1936, having 405 lines as distinct from the rival John Logie Baird’s 240-line system. High definition broadcasting will soon be mandatory in Australia, unless the government postpones it again.

Wide screen: In the cinema, an aspect ratio around 1.85:1, as distinct from the (rather wider) 2.39:1 Cinemascope format. These ratios were introduced in the 1950s to make film wider (and therefore better) than television. Television engineers were quick to notice the difference, and, around 2000, introduced wide screen TV with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1, generally described (to confuse the enemy?) as 16x9, which strictly isn’t a ratio at all.

Archival preservation: keeping a master copy (e.g.negative) of your film for future use. The term “digital archiving” may refer to a period of six months or so, up to a few years (the term is used synonymously with “back-up”, “asset management” or “availability for repurposing”). Film archivists speak of heritage, future generations, cultural obligation, and talk in decades; and are in turn held in ridicule by other archivists, who routinely work with medieval or paleolithic artefacts.

Compression: A computer technique for reducing file sizes. Compressing data means throwing away the bits that don’t mean anything. Compressing video images means throwing away the bits you hope no-one will miss. In sound, and in video grading, it has two more, entirely different, meanings. Use this term carefully at parties, or you will end up in difficult conversations with dangerous zealots.
I hope this helps you.

Dominic

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