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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Now specialising in documentaries, Davies also has good words to say about corporate. ”You have a company engineer, say, who knows his subject and has respect for you a film-maker. In TV, everyone's jobs overlap so you don't get that. Incorporate (nuts-and-bolts work we used to call it) you offer a service to people who couldn't do what you do. TV has its own rewards, though - more people see it.“

Still working with film - half his workload till a year or so ago - Davies believes ”you're not a film editor if you can only push buttons. You have to be able to use both.“ He learned the art of non-linear from a Molinare tecchie who knew Macs and Avids backwards and wanted to learn editing. Six jobs later, each had acquired the other's knowledge.

Editors ”shouldn't just be another pair of hands for a director. You must be able to offer creative ideas; otherwise why can't the director do it himself?“

Ian Farr
Drama editor and former BBC man, Farr may have once wanted to be a director, but editing is his love now. ”The cutting room is where the story's told. The camera's only where it's recorded.“ The editor's power to bring the audience along a chosen path without them realising it, he believes, means the assembly is the most creative part of the process.

This extends to improving an actor's ability. A famous (unnameable) actor on an HBO production he edited routinely fluffed his lines; Farr edited the raw material to produce a ”tight performance.“ He's working on getting into features, but ”Americans always want you to have track-record. Producers aren't willing to take risks any more.“

Laurence Williamson
25 years an editor, Williamson also has the distinction of being a former pupil of Davies. He's been running offline firm Tangram out of the same Soho office for nearly 14 years. A TV documentary editor by trade, his work is mainly for BBC and C4.

He firmly embraces the new. Non-linear editing? ”Wonderful, absolutely wonderful.“ New-generation editors? ”There's a firmly-held view people aren't learning to edit very well. Hopefully, they'll learn at college; we've had a few people in on work experience and they've been extremely good.“ Digital video? ”Revolutionised documentary-making as much as 16mm film did. For some kinds of programmes, DV is wonderful. From an editing point of view, it's also great to have a 200:1 cutting ratio because video is so cheap compared to film.“

His only doubt about the boom in documentaries hitting the new channels is whether 'they're good enough to spend time watching.”

Vicky Price
The best thing about editing, says ex-Granada editor Vicky Price, is that every project is different. The only woman in the top ten (but by no means the only one nominated), freelance Price specialises in TV documentaries, preferring “programmes that tell a story in a half-an-hour to an hour. As a documentary editor, you're creating much more than on a drama, working to further a director's ideas.”

She has also taught C5 reporters and researchers to edit. “We gave them shots, all moving, and told them to cut them together. There was nothing there unworthy of being transmitted. It was when they were shooting that they came unstuck.” Falling budgets mean that production secretaries and assistant editors are a thing of the past for documentary editors, but Price almost prefers that. “In a way, the editor becomes more responsible for making everything work - with no fanfares. It certainly makes life easier.”

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