Mick Audsley Believes the ‘Power of Filmmaking’ is in Picture Editing

By in The A-List, Video Editing

The editorial work of Mick Audsley includes more than 30 feature film credits, spanning almost 40 years in the film business; Dangerous Liaisons, Interview with the Vampire, Twelve Monkeys, Mona Lisa Smile, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

We had the chance to interview this veteran editor while he was on a break from his latest project Everest, by director Baltasar Kormákur. His editorial team still has three weeks of work to do; record the music and finish the final mix. The movie is in its final stages and will soon be receiving the last visual effects shots. In the meantime Mick is teaching at Columbia University in New York City. Luckily for us, he could make some room in his busy schedule, to sit down and talk about his job as a Picture Editor.

“I didn’t get involved in Everest through the usual routes. While working on a film with Terry Gilliam, two good friends who always rent me my Avid equipment also supplied Baltasar some Avid gear for his previous movie. They said that I should ring Baltasar, who was just starting with his new Everest project. This was on a Friday, so I wrote him an email. The next Monday we met, and 5 days later they offered me to do the film.

Baltasar and I didn’t see each other much during the shoot period (15 weeks in Nepal, Italy and Pinewood). He was very gracious about letting me carry on and edit a first version of the movie. Actually, we really got together in Reykjavik in Iceland, homeland of Baltasar, to work on the ‘director’s cut’. Because of the vast amount of footage that was shot, my first version was almost 3.5 hours long. So every day at around four o’clock we would watch a reel or a section, take notes, discuss the cut and then I would make changes to the edit. It worked very well; he could carry on with other projects, and I was happy to explore different editorial approaches.”

Mick Audsley

“I fell by accident into sound editing, and after that, picture editing. For me it seemed the most interesting and exciting place to be; where the ‘power of filmmaking’ really lies.” —Mick Audsley

“I started many years ago at film student level in the sound department, recording sound on the set. But I fell by accident into sound editing, and after that, picture editing. For me it seemed the most interesting and exciting place to be; where the ‘power of filmmaking’ really lies. I didn’t think it would last very long, but here I am 35-40 years later: still in the cutting room.

I am an editor who comes from a film background, meaning that I was physically cutting film. It gave you certain disciplines because of the speed, the commitment, and literally chopping things up and putting them through a machine. I think the change to non linear editing has been absolutely liberating: the fact that you could store many versions of your cut with ease and the use of multi-track sound.

Recently, the biggest change was the introduction of the digital camera, producing huge volumes of material, and creating a different attitude to where the discipline of choice comes in. That process has been delayed into the cutting room. Now you can say: Let’s shoot everything we can, and decide what we need later, whereas with film, in the analogue world, that wasn’t a financially viable option.

For Everest I was receiving about 5 to 6 hours of material a day. In the days of film, that would only have been half an hour to an hour’s worth of material per day. As an editor back then, it was easy to review the previous day material and be able to cut during the rest of the day. Nowadays with 5 to 6 hours of dailies, I wouldn’t have time to edit, and moreover my brain would just explode…”

“Alexander Macendrick, Martin Scorcese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Dede Allen, Walter Murch are filmmakers that I was lucky enough to meet and who ‘educated’ me. Not just on cutting and the editorial side of a movie, but thinking about filmmaking in the bigger picture.” —Mick Audsley

Creative Consultant Ray Cooper, Film Editor Mick Audsley (with Bonnie the border terrier), Post Production Supervisor Mike Solinger, Sound Designer Andre Jaquemin, The Legend Terry Gilliam, Dubbing Mixer Rob Farr, and Producer Amy Gilliam (Left to Right)

“I am very spoiled by having a team of wonderful Assistant Editors who are my close friends and filmmaking colleagues. They support me in every technical way so that I can really concentrate on my side of the job. But as an editor I am very happy with all the new features in the latest Media Composer versions; the developments are staggering.

Apparently the way I lay out and organize the shortcuts on my keyboard is very eccentric! Because I am left-handed, some of the most important commands are on the left side of my keyboard. It’s also a way of assuring that no one can step into my shoes that quickly, because when you sit down in front of my Avid, everything just looks… crazy [laughs].”

A timeline of 'The Zero Theorem' by Terry Gilliam

“Audio is very important to me. I tend to work with eight audio tracks in my timeline. I find if it goes beyond eight, it’s very unmanageable when you are making changes. I put the dialogue on the first four tracks, additional atmosphere and effects on tracks five and six, and any temp music on seven and eight. Together with four-five layers of video tracks, for me that’s the perfect way to start constructing the spine of the film and maintain an overview of my timeline.

I really like to go to the cinema. When I watch a movie I just switch off the editor’s part of my brain. I become a member of the audience and enjoy the film. That’s something I can’t do with my own projects. It even takes a long time before I go back and look at some of the previous work I did. The other day here at Columbia University, I screened a film that I had done 10-12 years ago. It was the first time I saw the movie in a way the audience sees it, because I had forgotten all the details and the exact scenes.  And I have to say, it was quite an enjoyable experience, and a nice surprise.”

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I'm Social Media Manager for Avid and editor-in-chief of Avid Blogs. You can find me on Twitter at @editorbelga.