Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Backroom boys

Backroom boys

Meet your favourite editors. Over the year, we've polled producers from our three major surveys - of commercials, broadcast and corporate production - about who are your top UK film editors. Rob Buckley wades through the nominations to discover what's so good about the five who won top votes from short-form producers, and the five top in the long-form arena

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John Smith's agent is a big fan of film editors. “He once told me,” says Smith, co-owner of The White House, “that 'when the cast and crew have finished shooting for six weeks, and are sunning themselves in Malibu, you're going to be in the cutting room for six months, holding the film together for everyone.”

He's not the only fan. Your votes named over 100 such stalwarts - and here are the top ten.

Sam Sneade
“What's the collective noun for editors? A whinge,” jokes Sneade on a busy Friday afternoon. Anything but, you'd have thought, judging by his own amiability. Sneade, the highest-rated short-form editor who runs Sam Sneade Editing, attributes his win in true award-ceremony style mostly to his staff - “a nice, chilled-out bunch of people.”

Sneade is one of the few editors who still gets to work with celluloid on occasion rather than the mouse of an Avid, something he says is “tremendously satisfying and you just don't forget it.” But it's more or less a dead art these days, which isn't altogether a good thing. “It gives you an appreciation of timing and how to edit. Editors don't have the film knowledge they used to, but there are certain cornerstones of our craft that no amount of nerdiness will replace - like judging performances.”

Sneade would love to work on more big features, having cut his first (Final Cut, with Jude Law) last year. But there's still something enjoyable about cutting ads when it's “working really well.” His main complaint? A certain major kit supplier that “springs unwanted upgrades on us at vast expense, and is trying to turn us into online editors. We're not interested, and I don't need 27 layers for video special effects?” Not much whinging at all, in fact.

Steve Gandolfi
Gandolfi has been running Cut and Run for 13 years and is as busy as ever. “We're getting lots of ads and promos; all four of us are busy.” His problem (in common with many) is finding assistant editors.

“There are lots of runners, lots of editors but there's a gap in the middle. It's much easier to become an editor now: the learning process has been cut down by a couple of years, but I'm not sure it's for the better. They don't have the fundamental training: you can put people in front of Avid and if they can join pictures together, they think they're editors. It's very important to watch someone: I employ extra staff just so they've got time so sit down, watch editors and get training.”

Though he still enjoys editing, running the company is another matter. “Sometimes I wake up and think 'God, ft's giving me a headache.” His tip for the top? “Smile like you're serving at McDonald's. Keep your head down and meet lots of people.”

John Smith
Just returned from editing the Gene Hackman film Under Suspicion, Smith (Leaving Las Vegas, Sliding Doors) knows his job isn't easy. “It takes years to become a good film editor you're not born that way. Editing is very hard work. You have to learn how the business works and need more than a modicum of talent. You have to learn about rhythms and judging performances:h ow else can you make an audience of 500 laugh or cry when you want them to?”

Despite his US trip, Smith's commercials profile (from work such as Double Life for Sony's Playstation) remains high - even though he admits his original motive for doing ads was to get into features. “I love ads but I like to have the chance to do both,” he says. A firm Avid admirer, he still likes working with the raw stuff. “There's something very therapeutic about handling film, something organic and personal, which I don't get from this technology.”

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