Directors and producers on editing

Dewi Humphreys (Director)

Filming is like shopping for ingredients, while editing is cooking them into a palatable dish.

Jon Plowman (Producer & Former Head of BBC Comedy)

A good editor is your production’s best friend. He or she can make a good show look great and a great show look fantastic, but an editor’s greatest trick is to make a bad show look passable, or even quite good.

Richard Boden (Producer, Director & Director of Programmes at Delightful Industries)

Editing can be a strange way to spend the day…or several days…..or several days and several evenings. You finish making a show and then find yourself in a small darkened room, usually with air conditioning that either freezes you, or leaves you falling into a heat induced coma. So…you want to be sure you’re working with an editor who is not only skilled at the technical side of the job [sort of a given…you hope!] but also someone who is creative, sensitive to the needs of the director as well as the writer – often the same person. As well, you rely on an editor to be able to be objective – be the viewers’ eyes if you will. Having sweated over the show, you hope you’ve squeezed every drop there is to be squeezed to get the performance……but you’re too close to the programme sometimes, and an editor who is brave enough to say that a moment isn’t really working the way you’ve shot it, and then adds, “but how about this”, is so valuable.

Of course the editor who just tells you it isn’t working but doesn’t add the “how about this” solution is pretty useless!

John B Hobbs (Producer & Director)

I had just finished filming a night shoot for ‘Allo, ‘Allo!, and was walking back to the unit base when Jeremy Lloyd, one of the series’ writers, asked me whether I realised that that was the first time we’ve ‘killed’ any Germans on the show. I remember, after a little feeling of unease, replying to the effect that he (Jeremy) had written the script, and indeed was alongside me when I filmed it. Despite this, I realised I had made a big mistake, ‘Allo ‘Allo! was, after all, a comedy. I assured Jeremy the next day, totally without any justification, that I could sort it out in the edit. That’s what a good editor does – allows you to tell a white lie with complete confidence, that there is a solution, even though you have no idea of how to achieve it. Chris cleverly used matched bits of the grassy field to cover up the ‘dead’ bodies, and with a voiceover of, ‘Quick! Let’s get out of here’ from the fleeing and happily alive German soldiers that I had shot only with a camera. The sequence was saved, and with it, to a small extent, my reputation.

Roy Gould (Comedy Director)

A director who has been working on a show from the script stage through rehearsals and into the studio can sometimes lose focus with what is important and what is not. A good editor who has not been involved with these other aspects of a production comes in with a fresh pair of eyes and ears and have not been tainted by everything else that has been going on beforehand, and will be able to help the director to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Sydney Lotterby (Producer & Director)

I want an editor who I know wants to work on the sort of programmes I make. Ability and enthusiasm are the obvious principal attributes of a good editor, but hard on their heels is tact and charm.

An editor’s skill is repairing by using the best retake, not necessarily the easiest, even sometimes using the sound from one take and vision from another, but that’s where the skill lies.

The director is sometimes too close to the programme, and a good editor is often able to suggest time cuts if needed.

All directors are possessive – it’s their baby. When they are new – they want it cut their way – now’s the time for an editor to be tactful – suggest but don’t be dogmatic. Remember, once you’ve shown your skill and gained the director’s confidence, you’ll most likely be editing alone next time. Leaving a lot more time for the director to show his appreciation and buy you a drink!

Gareth Gwenlan OBE (Producer, Director, Former Head of Comedy at BBC Television & MD Topcomedy Ltd)

A wise director will choose, as a matter of priority, an editor who is familiar and sympathetic to the style and expectations of the production.
A good editor will contribute editorially, lighten the load, and often inspire the director to make a better programme.

John Bartlett (Producer, My Family, Goodnight Sweetheart)

Editing is a technical job, and an editor is a technician, assembling the writers’, actors’ and director’s achievements into a preconceived whole. Genuinely top-class editing is all the foregoing, but then you have to add craft, artistry, a genuine and instinctive feel for the material and the ability to transform what could be just a professionally produced programme into so much more.

Ed Bye (Director)

A good editor can make your show better than you ever anticipated, often making the editing process the most enjoyable part of the production, and most times will get you out of the proverbial.

Julian Meers (Producer)

Editors don’t just cut pictures, they require both creative and technical skills combined with huge patience, a degree in director psychology, greater aural than verbal senses and a beady eye on the clock. Not much to ask really, but that’s the gig.

Lovett Bickford (Director)

Making a film or television programme is essentially a collective creative activity.
The director perhaps has the overall vision, then his production team go about realising that vision. Within that framework the editor is a crucial element, and many directors rely on them hugely. Many films (which will remain nameless – it’s a fairly bitchy profession!!) have been made in the editing suite. Indeed, many a director, not sure of what he wants, has shot scenes from every conceivable angle and shot size, and then left it to the editor to assemble and make the scene. Of course, this is not always the case, but editors I would say are probably the key element in the finished product. A clever editor can very often get a director out of trouble, if he has failed to cover a scene properly.


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