This article was also officially published on the Avid website
Graduation day was a very exciting and special day for me. After a year of long days and nights spent in the edit suit, to finally graduate with a distinction on my MA in Post Production Editing was the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my whole academic life. To top it off, getting the Avid Award in addition was just the additional icing on the cake.
When considering to sign up for the course I was very sceptical on whether I really needed to learn anything on editing, I mean how hard could it be? So I thought. But I am grateful to have made the choice to take on the course because one of the main things that I’ve come to learn is an in depth understanding of what editing really is, and the various approaches to the craft. During my year at university I had hands on experience on the various editing approaches and I became aware of its 3 main attributes, which are the collaborative, narrative and technical nature of the craft.
Significantly the way the course was structured did address these 3 areas, we had a theory-based module where we learnt narrative constructions. We also had another module that concentrated on technical skills, as well as weekly lessons on Media Composer. Finally, we edited films collaboratively with directors and producers.
One might argue that the software you use is not that significant to editing, however, I’ve come to realize that the more you learn your chosen software, the more efficient you become when editing, saving yourself and your director valuable time during those precious moments you are working together in the edit suite.
Nevertheless, knowing the software inside out is not enough to produce a good edit. Without a clear narrative suitable to form, it is like knowing how to drive a car but without a destination. A good plan is essential, preferably on paper to give you a sense of how your narrative will shape up before you’ve began editing. Below is an example of a scene breakdown I used for my master’s project (“Becoming Us”) before I began editing. I was able to visually see what would happen to the mood, tone and emotion of a scene if I removed certain dialogue or what would happen to the overall dynamics of the film if I moved certain scenes around.
Another thing that I learnt about the narrative is that it needs to have a clear structure, a beginning, middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. The very first drama I edited on this course had a problematic plot. When the film got to the editing stage we realized that the edit according to the script just wasn’t working. However, after going back to the drawing board and shuffling some scenes around, in the end the solution was to get rid of the original beginning and start the film with the ending instead. I discussed this idea with the director who gave me the go ahead to give it a shot and it worked.
This film’s success was as a result of good collaboration. It’s very important that whilst you are driving the narrative forward that it fits in with the director’s vision. No matter how great your idea is, it’s always best to discuss it with your director. Likewise, a good director listens. In this example, the final film may not have been what the director originally intended, however we worked together to make the film as best as it could be.
Upon reflection, my year at university was field with various activities that all contributed to my learning. For me learning was not just done in the university, but also equally as important, other events outside of the university. For example, I attended a Craft in Spotlight: Editing workshop at BAFTA, the day before the BAFTAs, which was an insightful workshop paneled by BAFTA editing nominees including the winner, Tom Cross. I found everything that was said by the panel very useful and even went on to quote some of it in my essays.
Furthermore, from this event I had the opportunity to network with other industry professionals. Networking is regarded as highly important in the film industry, and at this event I happened to spark a conversation with a gentle man who ended up being director Michael Davies; winner of a BAFTA himself and director of a popular children’s series Tracy Beaker returns. This was a great opportunity as I was able to interview him later as part of my research for my studies.
In the same year I also won the Avid Internship prize. The criteria for winning this were based on my editing portfolio, grades and a 100-word pitch that I had to give. The Internship was jam packed with workshops; one in particular was with an Oscar winning editor Mick Audsley, and other various industry professionals. Included in the internship were tours around major post production houses in London to get an insight of how post production houses operate.
I’ve also been to the Sheffield Doc/Fest as a delegate guest; a festival that is all about documentaries. Finally, I attended BVE expo in London Excel where again there were speeches and master classes from industry professionals.
Finally, I had the opportunity to apply everything that I had learnt over the year on my final master’s project. This was the most challenging project I worked on during this course for a number of reasons; the dialogue and the acting weren’t very good, (also to the director’s admittance). I was working on a 22 page script which roughly equates to 22 minutes screen time, however by the time I made the final cut, the film was about 13 minutes long due to having cut out a lot of bad moments, whilst preserving the original idea intended by the director. Because the film was shot with single camera setups, it made editing a lot more difficult as I had to avoid jump cuts without the availability of multiple angles to work with on most takes.
To then go on and win the Avid Award was phenomenal; I was ecstatic. This award was given on the basis of having the “best editing on a Masters project”. The hard work had paid off. I do hope that this is the beginning of many more awards to come and my dream is to go on and win other awards such as the BAFTAs and OSCARs. I have since gone on to win the ‘Be Inspired’ student short film competition with a different film, and I am due to start editing a documentary about education in Comoros in the spring.