There are few women editors in Australia who have seen as many changes to the industry as Sara Bennett. She is also the mother of two daughters who, having witnessed life in the cutting room at first hand, were too smart to be seduced into the ‘glamour of the film industry’.
This is a short rundown of Sara’s achievements and her contribution to the Australian film industry over the past 40 years or so.
Sara started her training at the Paris Film School (IDHEC) in 1962/3. She then worked as an assistant editor, in London on a wide range of projects. However as her ambitions for editing were not being met quickly enough, a few years later Sara made the decision to leave and make her way overland to Australia via the Middle East and India.
She soon got a job at Eric Porter Productions in Sydney assisting no less than Nick Beauman. Around this time she met Tony Buckley and unofficially adopted him as her mentor. The first drama she assisted on was Skippy in 1969 and by the early 70’s Sara had worked her way up to sound editor on such iconic feature films as Caddie.
Finally in 1974 she was offered her first job as picture editor on the feature, Summer of Secrets directed by Jim Sharman. Sara’s editing skills and excellent convivial manner saw her work again with Jim on another feature in 1977, The Night the Prowler, produced by Tony Buckley and scripted by Patrick White. The moral being never give up and always believe in yourself!
Between ‘74 and ‘77 Sara worked on various television and cinema features with some of the best directors of the time like Chris Noonan and Ken Hannam. In 1983 she was one of the lucky ones when she scored The Dismissal working with George Miller and John Power. Her love affair with documentaries took hold with Chainsaw, written and directed by Shirley Barrett and produced by Tristram Miall. Then came the ultimate editing challenge when she worked with Bill Bennett on Mortgage, which was a complex combination of drama and documentary.
Besides being a master of her craft Sara has always contributed to the culture of Editing in many other ways. In 1994 she was appointed Head of Editing at AFTRS, a position she held until 2000. Prior to that Sara had run lots of short courses and done longer stints at AFTRS since its inception in 1973, teaching some of the best film makers Australia has produced such as Gillian Armstrong, Phillip Noyce, Chris Noonan and film historian Graham Shirley.
Sara had been a member of FEGA (Film Editing Guild of Australia) in the 70s and 80s and in 1996 she was involved right at the very start of the ‘new’ guild that eventually became today’s ASE.
Sara was made president of the Australian Editors Guild in 2004/5 creating a strong conduit between the guild and all of Sara’s extensive contacts in the industry. There were some very interesting discussions and screenings during her time as president.
Sara was heavily involved with the preparation and ceremony surrounding the first round of ASE Accreditations, presented at a glamorous event at NIDA. This marked the beginning of the Guild seeing itself as an equal not a minor player in the film industry.
In 2002 Sara joined the team at Popcorn Taxi and enjoyed four very happy years as Program Manager curating eighty odd programs. For the first time editors such as Jill Bilcock ASE, Neil Thumpston ASE, Alison Croft, Antonio Mestres and John Ottman found themselves on the stage speaking up for the role of the editor.
These are just some of the reasons why Sara Bennett is a Life Member of the Australian Screen Editors Guild.