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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Paul Watts
This former Rushes runner might still be there if they hadn't “offered to promote me to librarian; I had to leave after that.” Now co-running The Quarry after stints at Picture Post and Sue Moles Editing, Watts enjoys “trying to keep decisions objective in a room full of people being subjective” - aka editing.

His firm is lucky enough to be busy, Watts says, when - though no-one's budget is dropping, nor are they cutting corners - work is going to fewer people.

Watts likes to be involved in the whole process, down to the online and dubbing, so advises anyone coming into the industry not to book any evenings or weekends off. As a result, his best clients are those “who pay ratecard and bugger off at 6pm.”

Rick Russell
The worst recent development for Russell are the hoops promos and ads have to go through to get made. Gone are the days when you'd be commissioned on Monday and on air by Friday. Now “it goes into research, committees go back and forth…'

Russell's firm, The Final Cut, started in 95 out of his desire to run a cutting room his way. He now thinks ”more and more of the company, less of personal considerations. That's what excites me more than anything.“ Another graduate of Sue Moles, he's worked with the great and the good and was even asked by Tony Kaye if he'd like to direct. Not an entirely unattractive offer.

He'd prefer to work on his own script, however, returning to his roots in drama. He also wonders whether editors should direct: ”it suggests editing isn't an end in itself. I'm comfortable being expert at what I do. If were to direct, I'd want to make the sort of material I cut, rather than at a lower level.“

Terry Rawlings
Top of the long-form editors is Rawlings, nearly a legend among film editors, having cut Alien and Blade Runner among many others. He started in sound, on the very first series of World in Action, before being given his break into film editing by Ridley Scott after handling the sound on Scott's debut feature, The Duellists.

”It's like a drug: I can't live without it,“ he maintains. He's tried his hand at directing, but believes producers prefer him as an editor who can ”look after new directors.“ Surprisingly, his last film Entrapment was his first non-linear excursion. ”John Amiel said 'try it, you might like it.“ HeavyWorks, with its Steinbeck-like interface, won him over, but he says he's too old to learn Avid as well.

Another who worries about how assistants learn their craft in a non-linear world, Rawlings turned his third cutting-room into a big-screen cinema during Entrapment. ”How can you edit properly if you're more computer-oriented than film-oriented? I don't want to know how my edit system works any more than how my car works. I learnt without realising it, looking over editors' shoulders, so I always bring assistants in to see what I'm doing. Never be too proud to show your staff what you're doing: you need the criticism.“

Charles Davies
Charles Davies has done it all. Directed, edited; corporate, broadcast, features. He has been down the Amazon, across Siberia and even worked with Tarka the otter for TV and film. And after all that, he still prefers editing. ”You have to work with what's been shot, ignoring what could have been. It's like working with a blank canvas.“

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