Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Producers are picky about their editors. As a companion to last November's poll of top film editors, this month we reveal their favourites in the video suite, from votes they cast in last year's three major surveys of broadcast, commercials and corporate production. This time, out of 250 votes cast, we counted 200 different names - and a number of the editors that made their way to the top of that huge pile have fans in more than one of those disciplines. Rob Buckley finds out why

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | All 3 Pages

Editors can be the unsung heroes of production. Since a bunch of French academics came up with the concept of the auteur during the 50s, the director has been regarded as responsible for everything inf ilm-making and television work from set-decoration to sound-effects. Except of course, there are a lot of people who actually do it for him: like editors.

They can be either invisible or overwhelming in their contributions to a final product, yet most directors and producers have favourites since they know just how much a good editor brings to a show. Over the past year, we polled independent production companies to find out their three top video editors, and six names stood out a mile from close to 200 nominated. So how do they feel about being judged better than their peers, and why do they think they have been?

No 1: John Hollis
“It's a bit of a surprise,” says Hollis, top video editor this year. Odd that, because he's been nominated before, in our 1998 poll in which we lumped video editors together with film. Perhaps he didn't expect lightning to strike twice in the same place? No, but for an editor that deals mainly in ads, he says, “it's good to be to be recognised in such a wide-ranging poll.”

Starting as a tape-op for SVC, he worked his way up to editing both on- and offline, using one of the first disc-based editing suites. After a six-year stint at The Mill (some of it before it was even called The Mill) as head of editing, “I got into Avid a little bit, but then I wanted to know why we couldn't online like we could in an Avid,” Hollis left to become one of the directors of the esteemed Smoke & Mirrors, which he and his partners formed when they decided Inferno was the way to go for online editing and compositing.

Hollis is one of the few brave souls who have ventured from behind the editing desk to direct (although he doesn't like to talk about it much). He's even braver for deciding to stick with editing as well. “I quite like the idea of doing both. Directing's as important as the compositing side, but I still like being on the cutting-edge.” His directing skills mean that he's seen the other side of the business, so he understands his clients' points of view better, he maintains.

But although he splits his time between the two roles, he has no worries about new, undertrained and inexperienced editors coming into the business to poach his work. “People with real editing experience always go further. And if you're into graphics as well as editing, you'll rise to the top.”

One of his main selling-points, he believes, is he's one of the lucky few who likes to have an editing suite full of clients. “I like the interaction with people. I enjoy it.”

A confirmed fan of promos and commercials (“although when I'm on an Avid, I don't mind what I do”), his main gripe isn't a decline in budgets (they're the same as ever, he says), it's clients not planning their budgets and schedules to give enough time or money to post-production. “They spend so much making it look good to start with, they forget it can all fall apart in post,”

No 2: Jason Krakowski
Krakowski is one of a rare breed - an editor who works normal hours. He has a family to look after, true, but that's not the only reason he goes home in the evenings. “If you're tired, you can't edit and I don't think there's any point trying. When people ask me what my overtime rate is, I tell them I don't have one because I don't do overtime.” He also berates the industry for causing the late nights by starting late - he prefers an 830am start.

He began in the film cutting-room, inspired to join the business by watching Laurel and Hardy on the box in the 60s. “I was only six but I knew I wanted to be involved in it in someway,” he remembers. This linear beginning taught him the value of thinking before editing; now, by sticking to proper times, he can think about what he's going to do before he does it, he says.

Krakowski mainly works on corporate, his broadcast work being confined largely to overseas output. He did, however, spend a year on Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct and edited several episodes of World Productions' drama Ultraviolet.

A confirmed Lightworks fan, Krakowski makes only the occasional excursion on to Avids. But, since “you're finding more and more people who know only how the equipment works,” he hopes he's able to pass on his editing know-how on to his assistant. “I'm one of the few editors doing corporate work who has an assistant, and that's terrifying. It's very important - the quality has gone down in the last 10 years since people haven't been being trained properly.”

No 3: David Smith
Jaleo isn't a popular system, but Oasis's David Smith loves it. “You can even do high-res cinema commercials with it,” he enthuses. “We were looking for a system that could cope with more effects work, and one day we got a letter inviting us to have a look at it. We were amazed at how simply it could do things from an editor's point of view, not just an artist's.” Yet, paradoxically, even with those capabilities at his fingertips, he finds that most directors want him to make their footage look “crappy.” C'est la vie.

Smith's been with Oasis almost from the first day he moved to London with the expansion of his previous firm, The Image Company, from Yorkshire. He began working on film special effects back in the days before that meant using a computer. But when he encountered video, he discovered he loved the instantaneous quality of the medium.

The Image Company became one of the first online facilities in Yorkshire, but Smith found he was still concentrating on his first love: special effects, which drew on his film experience. He soon found himself working for Oasis - as a client - doing just that.

Claiming to his credit Channel 4 idents and a Mercedes commercial that ended up on Imax, Smith is sticking with effects, compositing and experimentation. “It's more rewarding putting it all together,” he explains. “It's even more rewarding when you finally see it.”

Smith is “gobsmacked” to have been nominated, he adds. “I'm so surprised. You're busy getting on with work so you don't take much notice of whether people are aware of you, and what you're doing.”

No 4: Stefan Stuckert
One of only two freelances in the top six, Stefan Stuckert alternates between Germany and London for his projects, but claims England as his home. “I've been in London 10 years since I studied film here. Then I became an assistant for Noel Chanan, a very experienced documentary editor. He's a very good teacher - as much as you can teach editing.” In association with Chanan, the BBC's 6x60-minute Living Islam was his first project-the first BBC documentary series to be cut on an Avid, he believes.

Documentaries for Channel 4 and ITV, sponsorship idents for Channel 5, as well as high-end corporate and commercials work are among Stuckert's specialities, but he loves promos, of which he's now done over 50. “They're more challenging, more cutting- edge,” he believes. He cites his eye for structure and pacing, particularly with regard to music and soundtracks, as some of his key talents.

Stuckert says the reason he loves editing and doesn't want to direct, despite the offers he's received (mainly from promo production companies), is that “editing is the one branch of film-making you can't teach. There are courses you can take in everything else, but editing is still something you have to do in order to learn it.”

No 5: Perry Widdowson
“Whenever I've seen these surveys, I've always had my doubts. I mean, how can you tell how much input an editor has had into a final project?” Widdowson, a former BBC man who got his editing experience at Complete before co-founding Editworks, speaks from experience, having sat on a judging panel himself. However, that doesn't alter the fact he's pleased to be nominated- although he can't work out which clients did it.

Widdowson started off as an electrical engineer before discovering after three months that he hated it. He then followed the traditional career path of tape-op to assistant editor to editor filling in when the chosen editor is ill.

“Looking back now, it was atrocious,” he says with a cringe about his first work. “A client said at the time 'we really like him, but he doesn't know his way around an edit suite.' Ironically, that's now one of my longest-running clients.”

Perhaps it's this memory that makes him worry about how the next generation of editors will get their training.

Widdowson is one of the few that uses Avid only infrequently, his usual tool being the linear suite. “For the sort of work I do, there's no alternative, and apparently Avid has no plans that there will be.” His speciality is light entertainment, with So Graham Norton being one of his main (and favourite) credits. He loves what non-linear has given editors in terms of flexibility but, until some enterprising company adds multiple-camera capabilities to their platform, Widdowson will still be a confirmed linear editor - doing his best to make everything look as seamless and as unedited as possible.

No 6: Nick King
TSI-incumbent Nick King puts his nomination down to his “staggering good looks” - and his experience. After joining the BBC as a maintenance engineer, he soon graduated to tape-op, before moving to Rushes where he learnt to edit. King now specialises in Smoke and Fire work, but Fire is his preference because “it's awesome - great for different types of work.” Its Avid-like timeline also helps and it “allows you to do more creative things than in online.” However, he still spends half his time in Avid online suites.

His engineering background gives him an advantage with new machinery, he believes, since he can “always find which buttons to push” and if things go wrong at an awkward time, he can usually fix the problem.

King prefers editing to other parts of the production process because he can see projects through from start to finish. He hopes he doesn't have a trademark style since “what I do should be invisible,” he maintains. If he does have a style, though, “it changes every two weeks.”

He currently alternates between commercial and broadcast work, his favourite project being They Think It's All Over, which he's been on since it started. “It's not technically very demanding, but the clients are really easy to work with.”

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | All 3 Pages

Interested in commissioning a similar article? Please contact me to discuss details. Alternatively, return to the main gallery or search for another article: