Talking with Karen Pearlman, Dany Cooper, Deborah Peart, Patrick McCabe & Leanne Cole [Interviews]

"Screen editing is often described as ‘the invisible art’, but according to Dr Karen Pearlman, President of the Australian Screen Editors Guild (ASE), there’s nothing invisible about it. “Good editing is visible in the form of good story,” she says emphatically. “When you have emotional engagement with the characters, or when you see something that’s visually exciting or spectacular, then you’re watching good editing. The edits aren’t visible, but the results certainly are!”

The mysterious craft of editing involves the selection and combination of shots and sequences that form the coherent film we enjoy on screens. Not only do editors separate the “wheat from the chaff” amidst reams and reams of recorded footage (usually digital these days), the editor is an active and dynamic part of the filmmaking process. Pacing, music, dialogue and performances are selected and used by the editor to craft a story that moves and breathes and flows. In fact, according to Pearlman, “editing is a form of choreography – it’s all about shaping the flow of movement to make meaning.”

The role of the editor is so crucial to the filmmaking process, that the relationship between director and editor is often described as a kind of marriage. Many directors choose to work with one tried-and-true editor numerous times over the course of their career. Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese are one such example in Hollywood, along with Walter Murch and Francis Ford Coppola. In Australia, Jill Bilcock (ASE) and Baz Luhrmann are a frequent editor/director team, while Veronika Jenet (ASE) and Alexandre de Franceschi (ASE) are frequently credited as Jane Campion’s editors. Nick Beauman (ASE) has long been the editor on Gillian Armstrong’s films, while Nick Meyers (ASE) has edited all of Robert Connolly’s features.

The letters ‘ASE’ after an editor’s name signify accreditation by the Australian Screen Editors Guild – an honour given to selected full members of the guild who’ve made a substantial contribution to the industry. (You can see a full list of accredited editors here .) On December 5, 2010, the winners of the annual ASE Awards will be announced, together with the awarding of the new recipients of accreditation. (You can find this year’s nominations here .) In celebration of this event, and in recognition of the essential role editors play in our screen industry, we’ve put together a bonanza of interviews. Browse at your leisure and meet these sometimes shy, but very important artists as they reveal some of the secrets of the profession – and some hints for happy ‘marriages’!

 The Choreographer: Dr Karen Pearlman

Highlights: In this interview Pearlman talks about good editing and the importance of a sense of rhythm, diplomacy and an organised mind as part of an editor’s skill set. She discusses ASE accreditation and paints a picture of what it’s like to attend the ASE Awards – the “best party of the year for editors”. Pearlman talks about the serious issue of escalating shooting ratios – where editors are leant on more heavily than ever to pull a story out of mountains of footage – and the new challenges of editing for cross-platform storytelling.

Karen Pearlman: I think editors are great. I think they’re terrific people, really smart, and sadly undervalued in the industry.

AFI: Do you think that’s because they’re largely invisible in what they do?
Karen Pearlman: Well, interestingly, one of my missions in the president’s chair of the ASE has been to mount the case to say: “Good editing is not invisible!” That’s slightly controversial, of course, because when you watch a story, you’re not watching the edits – at least we hope not. But as long as we as editors continue to say that good editing is invisible, it makes us invisible and does exactly what you’re suggesting, which is to make us undervalued. So, good editing is visible. It’s visible in the form of good story, and when you watch a good story, when you watch the movement of the story or when you have an emotional engagement with the characters, or even when you see something that is visually exciting or spectacular, you’re watching good editing. It’s not visible – the edits aren’t visible, the results are visible. Editing is visible!
AFI: Is this a particular problem in the Australian editing community or is this worldwide? Would you say that the editors in Hollywood are more recognised for what they do?
Karen Pearlman: Not substantially more recognised. I haven’t worked in Hollywood, so it would be hard for me to say precisely, but there’s a culture around editing of being good at keeping secrets, and we’re happy to continue with that culture. We really do not tell tales out of school, and this means that maybe we don’t always get the credit that we might get for saving a story, for example. But it also means that directors always know they can trust their editor and that trust relationship is very important and highly valued and encouraged. It’s a trade-off: editors tend not to have any real desire to steal the limelight or to take credit for things. Our desire generally is to tell great stories beautifully. The thing about editors that makes them so great is that they love editing – that’s what we do, we love it! So that’s okay, we’re happy to be editors, we’re not wannabe directors. We like being editors, and part of that is being trusted with the production secrets.

AFI: There was an article recently published that said that the Oscar for Best Picture invariably goes to one of the films that has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Editing. They’re very closely linked.
Karen Pearlman: That’s interesting! Look, it was argued way back at the beginning of film, when film was a new medium, that what made it different from all the other arts was in fact editing. So, what that means, even to this day, is that you can’t have a good movie without having good editing. And that’s what plays out at the Oscars. You can have a good story, but actually for a good piece of cinema, a good movie, you have to have good editing.

AFI: What is it about editing that you, personally, love?
Karen Pearlman: It’s like magic. My first professional career was as a dancer and a choreographer. So when I made the transition to editing, my idea was that in some interesting way, editing is a form of choreography. It’s all about shaping the flow of movement to make meaning. That’s what editors do, and hey, that’s what choreographers do too. Isn’t that interesting? It’s like magic to me, it’s so immersive. You get in there and hours will go by.

AFI: How do you judge editing for the ASE Awards?
Karen Pearlman: The editor shapes movement – movement of the story, movement of emotion, movement of image and sound. Therefore, those are the criteria that we use to judge Best Editing awards. We give a score out of ten for movement of story: is it clear? Is it compelling? Do things come in the right order, with information withheld or revealed? Then, movement of emotion: do you find yourself engaged with the characters? Are your emotions moved, and are the characters’ emotions in motion? And movement of image and sound: as I said, it’s all about creating an engaging or surprising visual and aural experience.

AFI: There are some really great reading resources on the ASE website, and some very lively discussion forums around the craft.
Karen Pearlman: Yes, we’re going for a big, big revamp next year. We’re going to redo the whole thing and make it an even more useful and lively resource with different kinds of video. Watch this space!

AFI: In terms of membership, you’ve got different categories of members – the student, the general member, and the accredited member. It’s the accredited members who decide the awards, is that how it works?
Karen Pearlman: Yes, and we also have associate members who tend to be people who just like editing – like for example producers, who value editors. The full members are all editors. Not every full member is accredited. To become accredited, you need to have a substantial body of work, you need to have made a contribution into the industry, culture and the profession, and you need to demonstrate your commitment to editing and your capacity for it. So that’s quite a competitive process at this point, becoming an accredited member. And it’s the highest honour we can bestow on somebody. And yes, one of the responsibilities of an accredited member is to judge for the awards.

AFI: So when you see an editor with the letters ‘ASE’ after their name, they are an accredited member?
Karen Pearlman: Yes, and you’re not allowed to put ASE after your name unless you have it, so I can’t write “Karen Pearlman, President, ASE”. I have to write “Karen Pearlman, President of the ASE”, so it’s not confusing in any way, because I’m not accredited!

AFI: Can you paint a little picture of what happens at these ASE Awards ceremonies?
Karen Pearlman: This will be our fifth annual awards ceremony. They’re very fun and they’re the best party of the year for editors. We hold the awards at The Vanguard in Newtown which is a lovely jazz club here in Sydney. It starts out with drinks, everybody gathers, having drinks and enjoying themselves. Then we sit down for the ceremony and usually, we’ll have a keynote speaker of some kind or some kind of kick-off event. Last year we had Lynden Barber talking about editing from a critic’s point of view. The year before we had kind of a dance event that my partner Richard James Allen choreographed for us. It was about how editing is like choreography. Then we’ll do accreditation and we will give a brief bio of the person being accredited, watch two or three minutes of clips, excerpts from their bio of work, and then they get to speak. And then we have dinner, and dinner is delicious. Next we move into the awards proper. This year we’ll have a representative of Avid presenting the Feature Film award, and a representative of The Lab, presenting Best Editing in Television Drama, because they’re our awards sponsors. We’ll also have Best Editing in Doco, TV, Non-Drama, Commercials, Music Videos and Short Films. Lots of awards, lots of happy editors!

AFI: What are the central issues of concern for editors working in our industry at the moment? Is there anything in particular that is a source of worry?
Karen Pearlman: Look, as far as industrial issues and practice issues, I would say one thing that’s a worry not just for editors, but for many people in the industry is ratios, by which I mean: people shooting on Red camera or video cameras will just simply shoot and shoot and end up delivering 100 hours of rushes for a ten minute story. That’s a very serious issue for editors, we’re being employed for shorter and shorter periods, and have higher and higher ratios and the maths just doesn’t add up. That’s something that people really need to become aware of. In a way, it’s worthwhile mentioning that if you really understand your own story, you don’t really need to shoot at that ratio. It’s sort of leaning more and more heavily on the editor as storyteller. We can tell stories, make no mistake about it, but it’s worth thinking about really understanding your story and just shooting the ratios that you really need.

Another issue, of course, is constantly changing technologies. Editors have to do a lot of background work to do to keep up with changes, and nobody’s particularly paying editors to do that work or to keep up, so that’s a big thing. Also, the devaluation of certain parts of the post process are really a worry to editors. For example, attending mixes is something that editors should always be invited to, to attend the mix. They can add huge value to the final mix. By the end of a long edit, it’s really the editor who understands the story and why every shot is there. To exclude the editor from the mix by not paying them to go is really a mistake. It’s important to include them in order to add value to your story. The question there is: why would you go through all of that and then not pay the editor to be there? So, pay the editor to go to a mix!

AFI: Are most editors sole practitioners working on their own as freelancers?
Karen Pearlman: Generally that will be how it works, certainly in feature films. Television editors will get contracts of various lengths. Some editors are employees of production companies, but more often they’re freelance, but they will get a contract. Substantial contracts might go for the entire length of the show’s production period. Documentary editors are almost always freelance. Commercial editors tend to work for a commercial editing firm. You know, there will be firms such as ‘The Editors’ – another one of our valued sponsors – they employ editors on a regular basis and gather them to work in-house. Music video editors are always freelance, as are short film editors.

AFI: Is there an award wage rate for editors?
Karen Pearlman: There is, but it’s highly problematic for us. The award is set by the MEAA [Media Entertainment Arts Alliance], however it is not really a living wage for a freelancer, and this is a problem. It would be fine if somebody had a contract that was guaranteed, ongoing, 52 weeks a year, then you could live on that wage. But if your contract is such that you’re working six weeks and then you’re not working six weeks, it doesn’t work. And since most of the industry is predicated on those terms, it’s very problematic for us. Most working editors in features or TV drama, they wouldn’t work for that scale, for the union rate. It’s not an appropriate rate. And I think you’ll find that’s true for everybody in the industry, pretty much. It’s not an appropriate rate. It’s been set on the wrong understanding of how editors work, in my own personal view.

AFI: Can you talk about some of the essential skills an editor needs to be successful?
Karen Pearlman: There are really two things that an editor does: they give the story a structure, and flow. Structure is very important – they need to have a mind that knows how to organise things. Then they have to have a sense of rhythm. You’ll very often find editors are musical. Music is big in the background of a lot of editors. Or they’ll do some kind of dance or sport or even rowing – I know editors who’ve done that. They need to have a good sense of time and the flow of time and shaping the rise and fall of tension and release in a story to keep the audience engaged, and that what rhythm is about.

AFI: What are some of the personal qualities an editor needs to have?
Karen Pearlman: Well, diplomacy is a very important part of an editor’s training and skill set – really being able to be positive and helpful, and at the same time constructive and critical. What an editor needs to do is cut the best possible story out of the rushes. The service that they provide to directors is in showing what they really have [in the footage] rather than what the director maybe hoped would be there, but isn’t there. You know, shooting is very hard and directing is very hard, and editors are very sensitive to that fact, but it may not always be what the director hoped. The editor’s skill is to find something there, to find a story there, and to bring it to life, so that it is a satisfying outcome for a director.

AFI: Finally, are there any particular issues with editing for the cross-media environment? Has this changed the nature of editing?
Karen Pearlman: I think that is a really interesting question and has a lot of implications. As an industrial question, it’s pretty huge, because at the moment, nobody really knows how to make money on the web. Until somebody figures out how to make money on the web, our wages and conditions are going to continue to get worse. On a level of craft and storytelling, well, there are some things that are just the same, and some things that need to be thought of in completely different terms. The things that are the same are what we would call ‘cut scenes’. So, for example, if you went on a game or if you went on some kind of web resource where there’s a doco or a bit of a story... All those things that have been cut, that simply play from beginning to end – that’s all the same, that’s editing and storytelling as we’ve always understood it. What’s really going to be interesting over the next few years is for editors to figure out how they can contribute to giving structure and flow to an online experience. And that means something where the viewer may be making all the decisions about where to go and when. So, devising that sense of structure and flow for online experiences, I think, is a really interesting challenge ahead of us and one that I personally embrace. We have to be able to think differently about time and about story and those are the challenges.

AFI: That’s fascinating. Thanks for talking with us.

you can see more of Karen Pearlman’s work at the Physical TV website

The International Editor: Dany Cooper ASE

Highlights: Dany Cooper talks about working on both large and small budgets, in Australia and abroad, and the fact that in the US there is an extraordinary depth and breadth of editing experience within the industry, with skills handed down through generations. She emphasises the importance of an editor being involved at the final mix, a practice which is dying due to tightening budgets. Cooper discusses the joys of collaboration, with her most recent experience in the UK working with the warm and supportive team at Ken Loach’s Sixteen Films. Like many editors, she has a background in music and likens the creative process of editing to musical experience.

AFI: You’ve worked extensively in the US as well as in the UK. You’re back in Australia now. Is it a case of moving around to where the work takes you?
Dany Cooper: I enjoyed working in the US and London, but I have worked here primarily since about 2006. I left the Battlestar Galactica series in 2005 to do Candy with Neil Armfield. Once completed, I went back to LA but a family illness brought me home again. I did two features here and then a short show in LA at the end of 2007. I’ve just finished a film in London, Oranges and Sunshine, a UK/Australian co-production. I really enjoy traveling for work.

AFI: What are the most obvious differences between working here and say, when you were working on Battlestar Galactica, on a very big production like that?
Dany Cooper: The miniseries of Battlestar Galactica was like cutting two features, but it’s worth noting that we are comparing a television miniseries with an Australian feature. The two formats have their own innate differences, however on Battlestar, the overall budget was higher than my experience on a lot of Australian films.

In the US the editor’s role is recognized as more integral to the whole production and I was kept on the show from the start of principal photography until the final mix was complete. We shot in Vancouver and then moved to Los Angeles to finish.

Working conditions in the US are generally regulated and enforced by the union.  Also the depth of experience in the US is unquestionable. Quite often I met editors whose fathers had been editors and their brothers-in-law post supervisors. They have generations of picture editors passing on skills and developing craft, where we seem to learn it all for first time with each successive generation.

AFI: Looking through your extensive credits it looks like you’ve been working non-stop for the last twenty years. Is that the reality?
Dany Cooper: No, I have had periods of time where I’m off three months or even five months. It’s the nature of freelancing.

AFI: What is the primary way that directors find you and decide to employ you? Is it through contacts?
Dany Cooper: I think it’s probably through word of mouth and contacts, or someone may see a film you’ve cut and like your work. Over the course of my career I have formed relationships. That’s what happened with [director] Michael Rymer when I edited Angel Baby, his first film, and since then we’ve done a lot of work together. He was the director on the Battlestar mini-series and invited me to work with him in the US.

AFI: What was it like to win an AFI Award [Best Achievement in Editing, 1995] for Angel Baby so early in your career?
Dany Cooper: People like to say that it was the first thing that I’d ever cut, which was not quite true. I had been an assistant editor and I had cut short films and dramatised documentaries, but Angel Baby was my first full-length feature. It was wonderful. I was very pleased to be chosen.

AFI: There have been other AFI nominations – for The Well and Candy, and the Emmy nomination in 2004 for Battlestar Galatica.  Most recently though, you’ve been nominated for the AFI and ASE Award for Best Editing for Beneath Hill 60. Can you tell us a bit about the particular challenges or experiences of working on that film?
Dany Cooper: The main challenge was to try and make sure that everything looked and felt as real as possible. We were creating a World War I epic, and we (myself and director Jeremy Sims) concentrated on performance when we were editing. Everything had to feel as believable as possible as well as telling a good story. A lot of emphasis was placed on claustrophobia and intensifying how the miners felt underground. It was important to develop as much tension as we could.

AFI: How long was the edit on Beneath Hill 60?
Dany Cooper: A seven week shoot, then a one week move from Townsville to Sydney, then another week to complete cutting the last day of principal photography and do an editor’s assembly of all material shot. We edited at Cutting Edge Sydney for twelve weeks once the shoot was over. I finished full time work at picture lock and my assistant, Luca Byrne, stayed on to handle EDLs (Edit Decision Lists) and hand over to sound. We were both brought back on a part time basis to assess visual effects and titles and the DI (Digital Intermediate – a process between editing and printing). I regretted that the budget could not have kept us on for the rest of post to help with ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), music, sound mixing and print checks as I think it’s important for picture editors to be at the sound mix.
That’s a big difference between Australian mid range and low budget features and American mid range pictures. It’s become an unholy custom for picture editors in Australia to be laid off at picture lock-off. I know it’s hard to get the money to make a film in Australia nowadays but why remove a main collaborator at the time when the film is the most vulnerable? A lot can change between picture lock and the print.

AFI: I actually thought the editor would be in on the final mix and that it was just the assistant editor and the assembly editor who weren’t being kept on for that process. Because I think that was something I’d heard that in order for young editors to learn, they need to be included and for people to come up through that process of apprenticeship and they’re not getting that. But if you’re saying even the editor isn’t there at the final mix... I didn’t realise that.
Dany Cooper: Well, it’s been something I’ve noticed happening more and more since probably 2006, maybe earlier.

AFI: The reasoning is that it’s expensive to be employing the editor all the way through?
Dany Cooper: Yes and it basically comes down to people thinking, “Well, what are they doing if they are not sitting in front of the Avid?” That’s why, I guess, when productions are doing budgets they find it easy to deem it unnecessary.

There are so many details the picture editor handles after the picture is locked. Just because they don’t cut does not mean they are not still helping make the film. EDL’s, screenings for festivals, dubs of the film, VFX approval, making sure the VFX are cut in correctly, fitting new music for screenings and assessment…

Because we know every frame of the film, we can spot very quickly when an error has been made. The picture editor knows what the director intends, having sat with him or her for many weeks, and as the director is often busy at this stage the editor helps monitor the overall [result] as the director is having to deal with the minutiae.

You mentioned assistant editors. On a 2 to 8 million dollar budget we normally have an assistant start at/or prior to principal photography and finish a week or maybe two weeks after picture-lock depending on the amount of VFX and dubs that have to be made.

A recent trend has started where some productions are asking that the assistant editor be employed for the shoot and a week overlap and then lay them off during the cut, for about 8-10 weeks and bringing them on at the very end to do a handover. Besides the obvious scheduling and economic implications, assistants aren’t able learn anything in a situation like that if they’re laid off during the main part of the filmmaking post process.

Most Australian films now expect to audience test, and when you audience test, you need a “decent” sound track. One of the primary jobs an assistant editor has during the director’s cut is to handle temp sound and sometimes music which makes an audience test possible without paying for a temp mix. (An audience test can be negatively influenced by rough sound and music). Aside from the sound they also check that every frame of that picture is logged correctly, that all EDL’s and lists provided will be perfect so that the picture does not go over budget in the final stages of post production.

On an 8 week cut without an assistant you will get 4 weeks of cutting and 4 weeks of assisting (yourself).  Better to pay the assistant for the extra 4 weeks so the editor can work for the whole time.

Further if an assistant is laid off it’s generally unlikely they will put themselves on hold for the cutting period just for one or two weeks work so a new assistant will be brought in and that person won’t know the material, won’t know the particular foibles of that production, and errors will be made that will cost the production far more than say the 4 weeks wage they would have charged to stay on the picture. I don’t know if people would ask a cinematographer to work without their camera assistant.

AFI: In very simple terms, can you explain what the editor can bring to the final mix?

Dany Cooper: The editor shapes the picture, right from the start – with the director, always with the director. The editor is very, very finely attuned to nuance – where the music goes, where the dialogue falls, how the dialogue falls in relation to each picture edit, how the sound FX affect a transition and how all of that impacts the storyline.  

Usually a director is incredibly busy at that time during the film, so it’s like you’re the director’s right hand. You know all the things the director wanted and you’re there to remind him or her of the whole. Generally this time overlaps with checking DI and prints so an editor is also focused on two areas at once.

AFI: Not to mention the importance of being at the final mix from a professional satisfaction point of view.
Dany Cooper:  Yes, great satisfaction. I wouldn’t complain about it but I think it’s important to say. I am sure that all crew members have suffered similar cut backs due to decreasing budget.

AFI: It’s a recurring issue whenever we talk to editors, so you’re not alone. Your most recent project was Oranges and Sunshine. Can you tell us in terms of editing, what was the main challenge there or the main joy?
Dany Cooper: Oranges is a tightly budgeted performance based film and a very simple yet sad story. Jim [Loach, the director] and I felt very simpatico about the edit. There was a lot of teamwork.  My favorite thing about editing is collaboration, working with the director, making something together.

AFI: It’s often been described as a marriage, the working relationship between editor and director.
Dany Cooper: Yes, it has. One becomes very intense about the footage. Putting stories together and creating characters is a very creative and fascinating thing to do together. It becomes obsessive.

AFI: What are the secrets to a good marriage in that sense?
Dany Cooper: Oh, the same as with any marriage – to listen! To always listen to the other person’s point of view and to take it further. An editor works for/with a director and thus ultimately for the film and we want to make the best film we can and interpret the director’s vision and put it onto the screen as well as you both can.

AFI: Technically, has the changing nature of technology over the last twenty odd years been hard to keep up with? Are you always having to cut on different software, depending on the project?
Dany Cooper: What I find now is that every film has a different post path, but that just requires research. No, I’ve never had any trouble with that...

AFI: You just have to adapt?
Dany Cooper: You learn to make it all work for you. It’s not the equipment that makes you a good editor.

AFI: So most editors these days would have to be able to use Avid and Final Cut and some other programs as well?
Dany Cooper: Yes, yes! I don’t think you could survive in this industry without being adaptable.

AFI: I was going to ask if there are any young editors able to cut on film, or is that kind of a dying art, because it’s not called for very often?
Dany Cooper: It’s rarely taught, but I think it’s a good thing when it is. I believe The Sydney Film School still has Steenbecks. It’s nice to have some experience of handling a roll of film or running it through your fingers on a bench, even if it’s historical.

AFI: You started out as a musician?
Dany Cooper: Yes, well, I wanted to be a musician. I was in youth orchestras and played the violin and piano and started off doing a music degree at Sydney University.

AFI: Apparently a lot of screen editors seem to have some kind of musical talent or background. Is that because editing is a bit like music?
Dany Cooper: Yes, it can be exactly...you’re working with bars, shots, creating phrases, which are sequences within scenes, which are, I guess, movements. You can equivocate the two. Having a strong sense of rhythm is certainly a good thing with editing. Also, I think the subtlety of music affects the way I make a cut. I look for nuance in a musical kind of way... It’s hard to explain that.

AFI: Thanks for your time, and good luck at next month’s AFI Awards!
Dany Cooper: Thank you.

 Mini Series Maestro: Deborah Peart

Highlights: Deborah (also credited as Deb) Peart talks about the experience of working on the pacy and gritty Underbelly series. She discusses the use of music in editing, and talks about early mentoring by producer extraordinaire John Edwards. Peart also addresses some of the problems editors face in dealing with increasing shooting ratios and changing technologies, and advises that in times of stress and schedule blowouts, it pays to stay calm and avoid ‘freaking out’!

AFI: You won an ASE Award last year for your work on an episode of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, but you’ve been involved in all the Underbelly projects, is that right?
Deb Peart: Yeah, I came to Underbelly by luck, really, because they initially tried to do the show with just two editors. But like any new series, they found that the schedule was a little tight, so they needed somebody to come in and just pick up the slack on a couple of episodes. I was really fortunate, because I got to step in there and do that. I worked with Peter Andrikidis of all people, so it was a really great opportunity there. I did two episodes down in Melbourne and then – because I’m Sydney-based – when series two came along and it was shooting in Sydney, they gave me a call and asked me to do half of that. The same thing happened with series three. We sort of split it up. Tony Tilse and I did four episodes in a row together, and then I went on to Rush, then came back and did the last four. So that was pretty mad! And the telemovies are three stand-alone telemovies based on a lot of true crime stories. They’re three completely different films. So yeah, yet again just another, I guess re-visioning of the franchise and the format. It’s been quite challenging in that respect, because rather than the slog of a series it’s much more refined storytelling.

AFI: Do you think there is a style of editing that carries through over all the Underbelly franchise?
Deb Peart: It’s funny, because the producers round here call it the ‘Underbelly attitude’ and it’s sort of a... you know, it’s not necessarily always conventional editing style that’s required. And a lot of it’s got to do with how things are shot. Sometimes, it can be just very straightforward coverage and two-handers and what’s happening in the scene will lend to that. But sometimes it can be pretty crazy and frantic and you go with it. Music is such a huge part of Underbelly and as editors on Underbelly, you have to embrace music as part of the storytelling because you use it so often to drive the story forward by use of montage and things like that. We have a pretty huge library here of music that we call upon when we’re putting stuff together to tell a story in a certain kind of way. Usually with music, we try to be quite ironic about what we use. It’s not the literal meaning of the songs that translates to the things that are happening on screen. Music opens up a lot of doors too, because there’s some stuff that we get from our music supervisor that’s quite diverse and off-centre and you start playing around with things and then it sends you off into another idea in your head in terms of how you want to cut it and put it together. Sometimes that music will dictate how you cut.

AFI: It sounds like the relationship between the music supervisor and the editor is an intricate one?
Deb Peart: Yeah, there’s a lot of communication between us, absolutely. The way it works always varies depending on the project you’re doing. Usually, for an episode of Underbelly you might have up to about 10 songs. Some of the scripts lend to more music than others. There’s obviously score as well, by [composer] Burkhard Dallwitz. Sometimes the stories are more score-driven. Often, our music supervisor is just constantly giving us stuff, which I have in a big playlist on my iTunes, so when I’m assembling rushes, I’m listening to that music in the background all the time. When I hear a song I like, I’ll put it into a playlist and then I’ll get up to a scene and go through that list and find something that works. Sometimes we can’t get approval to use the music we want, so our music supervisor has to try and find something else in the same tone.

AFI: What is it about editing that you love?
Deb Peart: I just enjoy the challenge of it. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle in a lot of ways. It is about trying to tell a story in the most concise and the strongest way possible, and really making sure you get everything out of the performances – that it looks believable and it has a truth about it. Sometimes it’s about turning things on their head as well. I’ve always believed that the script is a kind of blueprint, but it’s not the way it’ll all finish up. In many respects, when going through that process of editing with the director, once it’s off the page and it’s on the screen, it can become a totally different thing. There’s that element of storytelling, it’s like an evolution, I suppose. I love being challenged by that.

AFI: You got your start as a post production supervisor and then moved into more of an editing role. Are you still involved in both kinds of work?
Deb Peart: No, I’m pretty much just editing now. I had a strong background in post supervising, so I do understand the process very well. But I came to a point in my career where I could have potentially ventured into producing if I wanted to, or pursue something a little bit more creative, which I thought editing would give me. An opportunity was given to me to do that so I just gave it a go, and that’s how it happened. I did a show for [producer] John Edwards a few years ago and that got the spark going and I kept at it.

AFI: What a great producer to start with. What was that like to be working with John Edwards?
Deb Peart : It was just great. John is probably, in all honesty, one of the most encouraging people, someone who sees something in someone and gives them a go. I worked for John as assistant editor on a mini series called Marking Time a few years ago, directed by Cherie Nolan, who I’ve actually just done an Underbelly telemovie with. So, we come full circle now. He really gave me an opportunity to go either way with producing or editing, and I went down the editing road. I do actually have a lot to thank him for. He does push the boundaries a bit too, which is great, particularly with the work he’s done on the cable shows [Love My Way, Tangle etc] and on Offspring too, it’s quite a daring show. He’s got guts.

AFI: Is your experience as a post production supervisor useful in terms of what you do now as an editor?
Deb Peart: Yeah, I did a show called Farscape for several years and I was given a budget that I had to manage and look after a crew. So I had to look after editors, assistant editors and we had a sound crew as well, and then I also had to manage a schedule. With Farscape we were churning out 22 episodes a season. So it’s a case of locking in a schedule and a timeframe to get that done efficiently and taking in all the elements that have to happen, be it the edit and completing the edit and then taking it into sound, and visual effects. It involved bringing all those elements together and then physically getting masters delivered to networks and overseas distributors and all of that – very much a managerial type of position.

But something I got [in that role] was the chance to sit with editors and directors and get that experience of sitting in a cutting room and seeing what goes on. As a post supervisor, I got that opportunity because I had to be privy to network screenings and directors’ concerns about little bits and pieces. So I had spent a lot of time with editors and directors in cutting rooms, getting that sort of experience and seeing the transformation of an edit, so to speak. Unfortunately, in this non-linear age and with the amount of shooting ratios going through the roof since we’re not shooting on film anymore, assistant editors, particular on long form television series, don’t get a lot of chance to do that, because they’re so bloody busy, thinking rushes and getting stuff out the door.

AFI: Did you do any kind of formal film education?
Deb Peart: I did a Bachelor of Arts in Melbourne at RMIT in Media Studies, although they don’t have a production element to it, like a film and television production element. But I did an attachment in my final year at Crawford’s in Melbourne. I did an attachment there on a show and I got a call back from them six months after I had finished, offering me a job as an assistant. So that’s how I got started.

AFI: You talked about the problem of ratios. Is this a big problem at the moment with the burden being placed so much more on the editor to make sense of this mess of footage?
Deb Peart: Yeah, it just depends on how you deal with it. If you’re given time and a schedule to look at it all and to spent time with it, then it’s not a problem. It always just depends on how much there is. What tends to happen is some days you get more than others. So it’s about the balancing act of just getting it all done. For example, there was a day on Underbelly: The Golden Mile when we were shooting in a court and we had three cameras blazing away for the whole day. So I think I ended up having about 8 ½ hours worth of material. And I’m only given a day, realistically, to cut all of that, so that ain’t going to happen. So, that blows things out by a couple of days, and it just has be accounted for on a schedule, because I have to look at everything. Having said that, I’ll look at everything and depending on the kind of coverage, I’ll be watching three cameras at once. Otherwise, I’d just be there for days.

AFI: God, you must get a headache! [laughs]
Deb Peart: Yeah, it can be daunting, but I find that the best thing to do is just to not freak out. Because if you freak, you get even more in a hole, so you just have to say, “Okay, there’s a lot here,” and just get through it as best as you can in the time that it takes. If the producer turns around and says “you’re two days behind”, it’s like “well, I’ve got 8 ½ hours of rushes to watch and cut in one day, so of course I’m behind.” And that just has to be absorbed.

AFI: Is it difficult for editors to keep up with technology?
Deb Peart: I think it’s often more of a thing for assistants, like shooting on different cameras. For instance, I know the Red workflow is very different in terms of ingesting and getting stuff into the system for editors, it’s quite different to other camera formats. On that level, it’s something more assistants and post supervisors have to wrestle with. As an editor, I guess there’s the whole Avid and Final Cut Pro scenario, because as a freelancer, you might be offered jobs, and they’re done on Final Cut and if you’re an Avid editor, that can be a bit daunting. Having said that, I think the differences between Final Cut and Avid are becoming more and more blurred. Final Cut is actually a relatively simple program to get your head around if you know Avid and vice versa. But you just have to be open to it. But look, I think the biggest issue has been just that fact that shooting ratios go up and if schedules don’t accommodate it, then that’s where it becomes a problem. I think more and more people are seeing now that that’s the nature of it and allowances have to be made. And if they’re not, then that’s just short-changing the production in the long run.

AFI: As a freelancer working predominantly in television, is your general feeling that there’s a lot of editing work out there at the moment?
Deb Peart: There seems to be a fair bit of work in television. I mean, Channel Nine’s been great in terms of just keeping their drama portfolio right up there. They’re very encouraging of it. And I know the ABC is about to go into a big slog of drama. They’re commissioning a fair bit at the moment. I’ve been fortunate, but you do have periods where you might have a month or two off, because jobs are just not happening.

AFI: Thanks for your time Deb, and good luck at the ASE Awards!

 The Emerging Editor: Patrick McCabe

Highlights: Patrick McCabe talks about the experience of being an assistant editor on the gripping documentary InsideThe Firestorm – the process of dealing with huge quantities of source footage in different formats, from mobile phone to video, to news reportage. He also talks about his work as an assistant and assembly editor on the hit drama series Offspring – a gratifying process with its quick turnaround time. As a young emerging editor, McCabe discusses his lucky break on Mary and Max, and the leap from assisting into the role of editor on the upcoming feature film Exit.

AFI: You worked as assistant/conform editor on the Renegade/ABC documentary Inside The Firestorm, which has been nominated for an AFI Award. I was dreading watching it, because of the tragic nature of the subject. But the way it was made, the tracing of this natural disaster, was just so compelling, and almost exciting, though devastating of course. There was a real narrative there, and a real feeling of suspense.
Patrick McCabe: Yes, I think the best decision they made was to show it all in real time, so you’re always checking in with what’s just happened and you’ve got a real idea of what it would be like to be in that situation with more information emerging. It was a good job to work on. I mean, the sheer amount of footage was huge, with a lot of long interviews. We were working with all these different kinds of footage, from mobile phones to home handycam to ABC footage and it’s just this crazy mix of stuff. Technically, it was a bit of a big job, just wrangling all that material. I was the assistant editor to Steven Robinson, a very experienced and well-known editor who has done a lot of ABC stuff. We fell into a way of working together after a little bit, and it worked out pretty well.

AFI: The results on screen are certainly amazing. How did you come to the craft of editing?
Patrick McCabe: I did an Arts Communications degree in Film and Journalism, finishing about 2001. I’ve been playing in bands and running a small record label and doing radio work at Triple Z. This was all in Brisbane, where I used to live. I didn’t actually come to use my degree or any of the filmmaking or editing experience I’d gained for quite some time, not until about 2006. I moved to Melbourne and realised that I didn’t want to do soul-destroying office work anymore – call centres and that kind of thing that I had been doing through uni. My skill base had a lot of computer skills in it because I had done IT work and that kind of customer service stuff, so I thought, I’d take my computer skills and combine that with my love of film and television and editing seemed like a real obvious choice when I really thought about what I’d like to be doing as a career. One of the first things I did was get in touch with a friend who I knew had a friend who was an editor, and he put me onto the Australian Screen Editors Guild. I showed up to one of their functions, a Young Editors Night, which is kind of a place for younger people to come in and show some of their work and have some interaction with more established editors.

AFI: This was in Melbourne?
Patrick McCabe: Yes, in Melbourne. They do the Young Editors nights once a year or so. That led me to a job on a feature film called Mary and Max, Adam Elliot’s debut feature film. I got a job there as a post production assistant, I guess mainly because my computer skills and database skills were good and that was a really data-heavy job, because it was all shot on digital SLR cameras. I was attached to the editing department, but I wasn’t doing any of the editing work, but because it was such a long job – I think it took about 55 weeks or something to shoot, it was a long time, so I kind of wormed my way closer and closer to the editing as the job went along and ended up getting a second assistant editor credit on that as well. I started freelancing after that job finished.

AFI: Had you done any digital editing with the journalism degree?
Patrick McCabe: Yeah, I had edited a few of our uni-based projects. I’d made a documentary about the boxing scene in Brisbane and directed and edited that, together with a couple of other very short things at uni. But I hadn’t really thought about editing as a career at that point.

AFI: Mary and Max is a great film to have as your first major editing credit.
Patrick McCabe: Yeah, I got pretty lucky I think. After that I started the hard slog of freelancing and cold calling and meeting editors for a coffee and just trying to get your name out there so that you’re considered when they need an editor or an assistant. Now I’m at the point where I’m getting offered more work than I can handle, which is good. I’ve done a lot of assistant editing, but right now I’m trying to move into editing, which is more what I really want to do. If you do too much assisting, then it can be hard to make the jump.

AFI: You can get pigeon-holed as an assistant?
Patrick McCabe: Yes, you can be too good as an assistant and then that’s all people want you to do, because of course they need a good assistant. I’ve got a good reputation for doing that kind of work, but you need to be pretty forthright about wanting to do some cutting as well. But yeah, I’m getting there.

AFI: You’ve worked as both an assistant editor and an assembly editor. These are very different roles?
Patrick McCabe: Yes, I’ve done both roles. An assembly editor is really doing the rough cuts for the editor. You take a scene the way it’s been shot and you get the script delivered to you, and the script is marked up with which shots match up to which parts of the dialogue, so you can get a real clear idea of how they’ve covered the scene camera-wise. Then you just kind of throw it together roughly and try and choose the best performances that you can get from the actors and try to establish a bit of a rhythm in the scene and get it feeling natural, depending on the project of course, what they’re going for. So that’s assembling.

Assisting is quite different. Assisting is really media management and organisation. For example all the different shoots are broken down into scenes and then there’s descriptions of each of the shots. So the assistant does that work, and also the labelling and organising into scene bins – all these folders are called bins. The other big thing for an assistant, especially on drama work, is syncing. Because you receive the picture from one place and the sound from another, you’ve got to sync the two together and then lock them down together, so that when it all gets passed down on to the editor, they can easily find everything they need in the scene; all the dialogue and all the audio is there, just synced up, ready to go.

Assisting on a documentary is different again, because generally there’s a lot of different kinds of material coming in, like I was saying before with Inside the Firestorm. So there’ll be different producers and they’re all procuring footage from all these places. Then they’ll shoot the interviews. There’s the organising and then there is logging as well. You load up the clip of the interview and then both Final Cut and Avid have a marker kind of system, so you can just go through and put a marker in and make a note about what they’re talking about. You kind of learn to know what the editor on a documentary wants and then you can go through and label the things that they’ll be looking for. A lot of the time you just give a description of what the interviewee is talking about at that moment. So the assisting side of it is really doing all that nitty-gritty kind of stuff that the editor doesn’t really want to do. They just want to think about the cut and only the cut.

AFI: You’ve recently been working on the Channel Ten drama series Offspring. What was your role there?
Patrick McCabe: I was doing both assisting and assembling. A certain part of the day was dedicated to the assisting work and making sure all of that was done. And then there were certain days or certain parts of the week where I had time to do the assembly work as well, because the schedule was quite tight. They were working on this roster where they’d start shooting the next two-episode block, but the editor who was going to edit that block would still be tied up on their previous block for the first four or five days. So there’d be four or five days worth of rushes that we would need to do all the assembly work on before the editor would get to them. So it’s just getting those rough cuts into shape.

AFI: On a series like Offspring, how many people would be working on the editing?
Patrick McCabe: There were two full-time editors and then there were two full-time assistant/assembly editors. And then the post-production producer as well, who would also do a bit of editing, mostly the re-caps at the start of each episode.

AFI: Geographically speaking, where did all this editing happen?
Patrick McCabe: Well, Offspring was produced by Southern Star and they leased a building in Footscray, because they also produce Rush and they had Rush all set up in this building in Footscray. There were a number of people working on both productions, so Southern Star just hired another office around the corner. It was this huge warehouse shed and we were using about a fifth, if that, of the space in the building. Actually I had quite a large office. There was all this empty space in there – I had to bring a couch in just to kind of fill the void! We had an office each and a shared storage system for all the media. Each morning we’d have the footage delivered by one of the assistants, the new footage from the shoot the day before, together with the audio and away we go. The two editors on that were really great. That was Peter Carrodus [ASE] and Denise Haratzis [ASE]. They’re both really good, really experienced. It was great to be assembling for them, because they got to see me cut and offered a bit of advice. It’s great when you get to pull a little bit of knowledge out of their experience.

AFI: What is it about editing that you love? What’s your favourite thing about it?
Patrick McCabe: I think it’s just really remarkable when you see a scene come together and start to work. It’s quite amazing how you can manipulate the footage to get what you want out of it. That’s really rewarding when it works well.

AFI: Can you give us a specific example of that?
Patrick McCabe: Hmm....well, with this feature that I’m working on right now, Exit,the script is really quite dense and the writer was really working to do a lot in every scene. In every scene there are things happening on quite a few different levels, not only in the dialogue and the way the dialogue fits into the overall narrative, but there’s a certain weirdness happening in the background. What we found with a few of the scenes is that when we’ve stripped them back and pulled certain parts out of them, then it kind of distils the parts that are working and allows them to really shine.

AFI: What’s your least favourite part of the editing job?
Patrick McCabe: Well, the least favourite part of the job is technical difficulties. You know, dealing with computer issues or crashes or losing material, that kind of stuff.

AFI: Does that happen sometimes?
Patrick McCabe: Not if you’re on top of things and backing up. The edit itself just fits on a USB stick, so I copy that and take that home every night. But you know, computer problems are inevitable in a way and just dealing with inexplicable computer problems can be a real pain. But you get to know how to deal with them and put a lot of preventative stuff in place so that they don’t [happen]. And like I was saying when we started talking, I’ve done a lot of IT work and I’m good with both PCs and with Macs, so I’m a pretty good trouble-shooter. It really helps actually that I’ve done a lot of assistant work and worked with computers a lot.

AFI: Exit is your first feature as editor. How has that experience been different from the assisting and assembly editing experience?
Patrick McCabe: It’s been really rewarding in many ways, just developing a good relationship with the director. I’m just learning more and more all the time from him and just from really working all the way through it, seeing the process through from the very beginning to the very end.

AFI: How did you come to be working on Exit?
Patrick McCabe: The film has gone through a few different phases. It’s been in production for four or five years and it was originally scripted as a six-part TV series, so it’s morphed into a feature length script. Once they were almost finished shooting, they came to me. Actually, one of the producers, Kate Pappas, works at Renegade, who produced Inside the Firestorm, so that’s how I got involved. I worked with Kate for a little while and we got along pretty well, so she brought me on to this.

AFI: Have you always loved film?
Patrick McCabe: Yeah, I have! You know, it hasn’t always been my first love – music always really has been my first love. I’m not a film buff, I’m not a film geek, but I’ve always really enjoyed film and TV drama. I think that my really strong interest in music and my gut feeling informs a lot of what I do as an editor as well, because so much of it is about an instinctual feeling of what works and what doesn’t and it’s about rhythm. Hopefully I have this innate feeling of what works and what doesn’t.

AFI: Do you edit to music?
Patrick McCabe: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes it helps to throw a piece of music down and you get a whole different feeling for how the cuts are working, how the scene is working. Usually I start without music.

AFI: Who are some of the people you’d consider mentors within the industry?
Patrick McCabe: Well, I’d have to say Bill Murphy, who’s an accredited screen editor. Bill cut Mary and Max and he’s done a whole host of amazing Australian feature films, including Romper Stomper and a bunch of television and documentary and after Mary and Max he helped me find other work. And the other person I’d say, who I also worked on Mary and Max with, is Henry Karjalainen who was the post production supervisor. I learned a lot from him in terms of the assisting editing side of film and TV work and how it can get quite stressful at times. The way he coped was just amazing. On Mary and Max, he had so much to deal with and he’s the most patient, kind and motivated person I’d probably ever met, he was a real inspiration actually.

AFI: So patience is a very important personal quality of a good editor?
Patrick McCabe: Patience is good! [laughs] You need to be able to work closely with the director. I think you have to really want to produce the best possible work and help the director realise their vision. Also, the other big thing is the objective opinion that you can bring to the edit because the director or the writer or the producer, they’ve been involved since the writing of the script and through the production, and you can give them a view of the material that they don’t have because they’re possibly too close to the material.

Sometimes, for example, the director will want to include something specifically because they worked so hard to get that shot. And you try and try and try to make it work for them, but it just doesn’t work and you have to say “Look, we’re better off without that fantastic shot”. So I think, it’s a good quality to be able to be objective and stand up for what you think is right as well. Otherwise you’re going to end up just being someone pushing the button and I think that a good editor brings a certain creative element to it that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The way the cuts work, so often it’s about the feeling of just the way one shot moves into the next and the motion involved in one shot and how that makes you feel when you get to the next one. And that’s the kind of stuff that comes through a lot of editing experience that directors don’t get and producers don’t get.

AFI: Finally, do you still get a kick out of seeing your work when it comes on the telly – say with Offspring? Do you sit down and watch it?
 Patrick McCabe: Yeah, you should ask my wife! I’m always like “Oh, I did that scene!” Yeah, it’s fun, really, it’s a lot of fun. Especially with Offspring it’s been fairly immediate – about two months. Sometimes it’s such a long time between when you work on it and when you see it, so when it’s this immediate it’s really gratifying.

AFI: Thanks for your time, and we’re looking forward to seeing Exit.

For more information on Patrick McCabe’s work, visit his website.

 The Western Star: Leanne Cole

Highlights: In this quick Q&A conducted by email, Leanne Cole manages to convey her lively personality as she discusses her enthusiasm for the job, her love of acting and actors, and the particular challenges of working with edgy ultra-modern storyline of the acclaimed new West Australian feature film Wasted on the Young.

AFI: What was your path into editing, your training, education and early experience?
Leanne Cole: I studied media at Murdoch Uni in WA, with every intention of becoming a director.  It became apparent during my screen productions units that I was probably better suited to editing. I just really enjoyed it.  And I didn't have to go outside in the sun which is good for a ginger such as myself.  I had a lecturer, Melanie Rodriga, who had a lot of faith in me and gave me some great opportunities.  Through assisting on her feature Teesh and Trude and some other jobs, I learnt much about the industry and was introduced to some great people.

AFI: What is it about the editing craft that you most love?
Leanne Cole: Generally I enjoy the whole process of editing.  I love telling stories and I've always been that way.  With editing I get to play with this magical material that so many people have put all this love and energy and time into.  Knowing that it’s my responsibility to take that material and make it the most engaging story it can be is really exciting.

When I was much younger I really wanted to be an actor. I probably would still try if I didn't get so self conscious. But I think editing gives me a chance to act, but kind of anonymously, and without actually having to act. This probably sounds weird, but when I'm editing performances for a scene, I'll often find myself pulling the facial expression I want to see or feel from the actor, until I find it in their performance. And then that’s the bit I use in the cut. Bringing out the best in the actors, I think is the part I love the most; it’s the most satisfying.

AFI: What are your least favourite parts of the process?
Leanne Cole: I hate that point when you realise you've lost all objectivity and you start to think you're crazy.  Also when you meet the actors and you feel so close to them, having spent hours with them and they have no idea who you are. It’s like unrequited love.

AFI: Can you briefly tell us about Wasted on the Young, and what you were trying to achieve with the editing on this project? What were the particular demands of this story?
Leanne Cole: Wasted was such an intense film to work on because of the subject matter.  The film's non-linear structure was scripted, but required quite a bit of shifting around in the edit until we found the right order for the story.  The director wanted to create the feeling for the audience that they were on the outside looking in on this cold vague hyper-real teenage society.  So I aimed to carry on through the edit what had already been established with the production design and the cinematography.  We experimented with "data moshing" – which is that digital artifacting that we used in a few scenes – to exaggerate that sharp coldness that comes with the technology that our characters are submersed in. While aiming to serve the story to the best of my ability, I also obviously wanted to get people to love our leads Darren and Xandrie and hate hate hate Zack and his henchman Brook. I think the hatred and desire for revenge against our 'baddies' is probably the strongest reaction audience members have to this film.

AFI: What format was the film shot on and what tools used to edit on?
Leanne Cole: The film was shot on the Panavision Genesis by the wonderful Mr Dan Freene and cut on an Avid Media Composer.

AFI: How did you come to be working with the writer/director of Wasted on the Young, Ben C. Lucas? And if the relationship between editor and director has been described as a working marriage, what kind of marriage did you have?
Leanne Cole: Ben and I met on a project several years ago through Aidan O'Bryan and Janelle Landers of WBMC, the producers on Wasted on the Young. Aidan asked me to edit some short film for free, for a guy in Sydney – I was living in Perth at the time. So I cut Ben's short film in Perth while he directed from Sydney and gave direction over skype. We worked together on a few more projects together before Wasted and have always had very complementary ideas and methods. Our working marriage was always a happy one, but Wasted on the Young certainly pushed us to our limits. As Ben and I were also partners at the time, we were very honest and possibly a little too honest at times with our opinions. The edit room was often full of colourful discussion. I believe knowing we were both putting in our best and not holding anything back just made a stronger film.

AFI: You've worked on some short films and documentaries, but this is your first feature. Was the difference mainly one of scale?
Leanne Cole: Working with the Wasted team on my first feature drama project was a luxury. I had already proven myself to the key crew so I didn't have to worry about that, I could just focus on the job at hand. That possibly aided in me not feeling so overwhelmed by the whole process. There are obviously huge differences between editing a short and a feature and I was very wary of issues that can come up in structure and flow if your head is in a short film frame of mind.  Wasted was the most important thing in my life at the time, so I was completely committed to it.  That doesn't happen so much with short films.

AFI: This film was made in WA, is that where you're based? Can you comment on any perceived boom in film and TV production in the west at the moment?
Leanne Cole: I am a WA filmmaker, yes. At this stage of my career I am really keen to broaden my horizons and continue challenging myself with work from anywhere in the world. It's only going to make me a better editor. We are truly lucky in WA to have the fantastic support of ScreenWest and just a great group of people working in the industry. WA filmmakers certainly have opportunities that others in other parts of the country do not. ScreenWest is always trying to encourage upcoming talent and new ideas, even potentially risky ones – like Wasted.

AFI: Can you name some of your mentors and inspirations?
Leanne Cole: I've worked with so many inspiring people up to this point already. With each job and each director I learn something new. I worked with Elissa Down on some of her earliest projects and mine too. I think people with that amount of energy and drive are just so great to be around. It's just contagious. Dan Freene – our cinematographer on Wasted is like that, just lifts the energy of everyone in the crew. I've really learnt a lot from Ben Lucas as well. He's a smart one. And very talented.
AFI: The films that have had the biggest impact on my psyche are....?

Leanne Cole: When I was a child my sister used to tape late night SBS movies and I watched them even though they were inappropriate for a 10-year-old.  So, Eating Raoul, and The Abominable Dr Phibes. I'm sure it perverted my understanding of right and wrong. I love anti-heroes.

AFI: The key issue for me as an editor working in Australia is....?
Leanne Cole: The size of the industry and the audience.  It just affects everything, the budgets, the variety of work, the quality of work, the amount of films produced, the confidence of the practitioners. The small population of Australia is both a blessing and a curse.

AFI: Thanks for your time, and we look forward to the release early next year of Wasted on the Young.

You can see more of Leanne Cole’s work on her website."

By Rochelle Siemienowicz and Simon Elchlepp on November 2010.

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