The Creative Blog Interview with Mick Audsley

From Dangerous Liaisons (1988) to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Mick Audsley has an enviable feature film career. The Creative Blog sat down with him for his story, and advice on becoming an editor.

“I think the big thing about the job that we do is to leave your own ego at the door. It is a collaborative process.”

Hello my name is Mick Audsley, I’m a freelance film editor and I’m horrified to say I think I’ve been working in this business for about 42 or 43 years; my maths won’t allow me to calculate.

How did you start your career as an editor?
One of my fellow Royal College of Art students with whom I used to go and shoot stuff as a camera and sound team said, “oh there’s this little pilot for a version of King Lear the BFI’s making and there’s nobody to cut it, it’s 3 minutes long would you like to cut it?” And I said ‘I don’t know how to do that” and he said “you’ll be fine” and I thought of the 25 quid I was going to earn, or whatever it was and so I said “yeah I’ll do it”. The minute I started I got very excited about the process. It hit me like a tonne of bricks and I realised that’s what I wanted to do.

What film did you most enjoy editing?
I don’t know, most of the films that I’ve been lucky enough to work on I can only say I’ve had wonderful experiences and largely that’s not just do with making something but it’s to do with the pleasure of the collaborations and the fact that while we were making those films we were all joined in this joint venture, and thats a wonderful part of the editors job, because you get to be part of the whole thing, not just the shooting crew, but the whole process, the sound, the music, you’re at the hub of all the manufacturing and art and craft process. And what a joy that is, to hang out with all of these artists.

Do you have any pre-edit rituals?
I personally do a lot of the work with the screen play before shooting, if I’ve got it, because I’ve worked with many of my friends over the years and they’ve given me the screen play that’s in the developmental stages to comment on and perhaps see or flag up any issues that might turn into editable problems. I find that very useful. I like to understand the construction of the movie on the page so that when it comes in and it’s in a fragmented form after shooting all out of order, I’ve got a pretty good idea where everything goes and how they work, because I’ve learnt the screenplay.

What do you do when you don’t agree with a director’s editorial decision?
I think the big thing about the job that we do is to leave your own ego at the door. It is a collaborative process. I’ve seldom felt that we’ve not improved things by those sort of interactions. I may be certain I’ve got a really good pass at the material quite early on but the explorations that you find or the changes that you’re asked to make whether they’re good or bad, usually get you somewhere better in the end, usually. I can’t say I’ve had many experiences where I look back and say that’s not as good as it was. Usually we find it in the end. You might go for a while and you think ‘oh i will live with it’, and then you show it to an audience and that will tell you something else altogether anyway. So you have to be prepared to have a strong sense of what you feel the film should be , because you can’t make choices without that. You have to believe in that thing you see, your interpretation of the pages, or performances, and then be very open to shape it.

Harry Potter script
Basically, this is a marked up script from the Harry Potter project number four. Usually a script supervisor will supply you with the pages and different angles marked as to how they appertain to each page of the screenplay. I always did it myself as well because I found the process of noting down all the material and all the angles and all the nuances between takes, if I could, was not only helpful with my first construction of the scenes, but was an absolute library of information for me later on, I would need to refer to when you’re at the stage of having to make changes or look for different performances or understand the film in a different way as it grows. So this prep work that’s a little bit nerdy I know, but my drawings and markings and notes available to me is incredibly important. For me, I would advise anybody, whether you do it this way or any other way, with thumbnail tiles in an Avid or whereever, there’s the same information at your fingertips. I like writing because it stays in my head.

How crucial is a positive personality in the edit suite?
Filmmaking is hard, filmmaking is difficult. There is always pressure, time pressure, creative issues, there’s money, there’s producers, there’s the audience, there’s all kinds of stuff. I think in the cutting room as we call it haha, you need a real friend, someone who’s supportive, but also tough, a balance between a critical eye but supportive in equal measures. You dont want to be someone who doesn’t contribute some strength, or opinion, or diverse opinion even, but you also have to be there to help them through what is a hard journey, which is to make a whole movie, and to make a good one is nigh impossible.

What advice do you have for editors at the start of their careers?
I would say look at cinema all the time, what’s going on now, have a look at other films different things, different genres, different countries, anything, languages whatever. But also develop your skills, for me learn about how screenwriting works, that helps you understand the construction of movies, how the writer’s work and just get going you know, and learn to be someone who can share, who’s got a collaborative nature because you’re not the parent, you’re the midwife. You help give birth but it’s not your child as such, it’s got many other affiliations as it were. You feel like you own it, but you dont, and you’re going to have to let go of it in the end.

See the full video interview at https://sohoeditors.com/talent-pages/the-creatives-blog
Created for The Creatives Blog by Rowan Gill – Soho Editors