‘Paddington’ Editor Mark Everson on Cutting Comedy with a CGI Main Character

By in The A-List, Video Editing

London based Editor Mark Everson is known for cutting comedy and documentaries for television and feature films. His TV credits include The Mighty Boosh, Peep Show, Come Fly with Me, and Pete Vs Life. His Film credits are, Bunny and the Bull, Burke and Hare, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, and the recent hit movie Paddington, directed by Paul King.

“I got involved in Paddington through my relationship with Director Paul King. We first worked together on a sketch show in 2006 and we’ve worked together ever since. Paul and I work very closely together in the edit. We have developed our own process and short hand. We generally communicate through a series of grunts and non-verbal ticks. This tends to happen when you spend hundreds of hours together in a dark room.”

“One of the complications of having a CGI main character is that you keep getting new rushes in the form of VFX submissions right till the last moment.”

—Mark Everson

“Fiona DeSouza was the Assistant Editor and Tom Sainty was the Second Assistant on Paddington. Richard Ketteridge was our VFX Editor and Henry Kemplen was the Assistant VFX Editor. And that was it. It wasn’t a massive post department considering the size of the movie. We just didn’t sleep much…

Paddington Bear started his ‘early life’ looking very rough and he was floating around the shots (not walking yet), usually with a guide dialogue from Paul King. Later on he slowly started to walk; fur, expressions and eye movements were added, and lastly gravity (on the fur), lighting and environmental interactions such as water on his fur completed the CGI main character. Along the way, we inserted Ben Wishaw’s dialogue performances and slowly signed them off for dialogue animation. Consequently, we would revisit and recut scenes far more often than on live action, because as the rushes and the dialogue performance changed, we would need to tweak our cuts. It was also a bit off-putting that our timeline was never the same as how we had left it, because the VFX submissions were being added while we were cutting. It felt like we were herding cats for a long while. What you end up with gives the illusion of simplicity and looks very straight forward but it took a long while to make Paddington feel like he was in the room. I look at it now and can hardly believe he’s not real.”

Timeline of Paddington

“At University I read ‘Scorsese on Scorsese’ where he said that all directors should be editors first. It was then that I decided to be an editor.”

“It all started for me when my dad got a video camera for family holidays when I was 13. I soon started to make videos that starred my friends. They generally involved murders or ‘comedy’ sketches. At this stage they were all edited ‘in camera’; which means you shoot your film in sequence, shooting one take for each shot and pausing the camera after each. So chronologically and shot by shot your movie is constructed.

When I left school I wanted to continue making films so I did practical production based courses throughout college and university. At college, I first used a 2 machine linear editing suite. I loved it and was probably in there more than any other student. At university, I was particularly into Martin Scorsese films. It was there that I read ‘Scorsese on Scorsese’, where he said that all directors should be editors first. It was then that I decided to be an editor.”

Mark Everson editing Bunny and The Bull

“I was the first generation of assistants not to touch film. I was feeding tapes to the Avid when I started assisting in 1998. Nine Gigabyte drives weighed a tonne and knocked out as much heat as a radiator. Monitors were colossal tube based monsters that also knocked out serious heat. In winter, your edit suite would keep you nice and warm. In summer it wasn’t as much fun. Since then we’ve gone tapeless, monitors are flat and you can run Avid on your laptop and fit a TB drive in your back pocket. I don’t know what’s next, but in my opinion, the more mobile and simple editing can become the better.”

Mark Davies and Mark Everson winning an RTS Award for Pete Versus Life

“I’m happy compositing, animating and doing my own VFX work on the Avid but I’m not abreast of the technical advancements. I’ll generally work on whatever version of Media Composer I’m given. ‘Extend‘ and ‘Add Edit‘ are the buttons that I add to my keyboard that aren’t already there. And the shortcuts that I have on screen are ‘Audio Mixer’, ‘Effects Palette’ and ‘Render’.

I’ve heard lots of editors complain about doing sound work but personally I want the mix inside Media Composer to be smooth, so I prefer having sound effects and atmospheres in the cut. I find that it helps me get the rhythm right if everything that can produce noise is making a sound, especially in comedy. In the final mix, sounds are often replaced but the rhythm of a scene and the comical effect will remain the same.

In Paddington, we had the sound effects for the bear’s actions before we had the animated bear in place. So the different sounds emitted would often inform the animation team of where and when we wanted the bear to interact with the live action shot. This sounds mad but it worked as a good starting point before we had a bear.”

Mark Everson in the edit suite of Mighty Boosh III

Being known for cutting comedy, Mark Everson is happy to share some comedy editing tips with us. “Firstly ask yourself what is the joke and what shape should it be. You can mess a joke up if you aren’t clear what it is or how it functions. If it’s a comic reveal, make sure you cut from ‘I’m not getting on that bike’ straight to freewheeling down the hill screaming. Seeing them putting their cycle clips on and getting on the bike will ruin your laugh.

Also, I had a note from a producer some years ago and he asked me ‘can I see the funny man say the funny thing please?’ In my cut I had played a funny line off-screen. He was right, in comedy you usually want to see the funny man (or woman) say the funny thing.”

Mark Everson on the set of Mighty Boosh III

“It’s great when a film or television show you have cut is well received and people have a fondness for it. I really enjoy hearing people’s enjoyment.”

“If a show or movie is good, I can relax and be a normal(ish) viewer. When something just works, I don’t think you need to watch with your head, you just feel it. But when you’re not engaged, your critical editor’s brain kicks in and you start mentally editing it and shouting your notes at the television. Or is that just me?

It takes time for me to watch my own work afresh, and if I do so, I would make some small changes given the chance. These are often last minute editorial decisions (why did we put that back in?) or bits that we were still be perfecting at the end of the editorial process (could that have been a fraction better if we had another crack at it?) This sounds sloppy now that I’m actually saying it out loud, but editors strive for perfection so I guess this feeling is inevitable on occasion. Having said that, most things I edit, I’m actually quite happy with.”

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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.