Martin Walsh is a film editor and an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences member with more than 30 film credits since 1985. He won the Academy Award for Film Editing and the ACE Eddie Award for the film Chicago, for which he was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Editing. His other credits include Iris, The Krays, Mansfield Park and Bridget Jones’ Diary.
On March 25th, 2015 Martin participated in our live Q&A panelsession, together with Supervising Sound Editor James Mather after the screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella in London, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (London Office) in association with Pinewood Studios Group and Avid. Matt Gallagher from thecallsheet.co.uk moderated this special live event. We had the chance to sit with Martin and talk about editing Cinderella as well as working with Media Composer.
Martin Walsh and Director Kenneth Branagh were finishing their previous project, Jack Ryan, when Cinderella came along. “We even started shooting Cinderella during the final stages of post on Jack Ryan so we set up a second set of Avid cutting rooms at the Pinewood Studios.
My associate editor Matthew Tucker took on the first cut of Cinderella while I was finishing the mix and VFX on Jack Ryan. It was a busy time for everybody.”
“It’s important for a director to have some detachment from what’s going on in the cutting room. Too many spend their time worrying about the minutiae of cuts while failing to see the bigger picture.”
“Kenneth is totally involved in every aspect of the editing process but he doesn’t sit and watch me work. We work in stages, organically. First we examine the overview of the whole movie; where does it feel long, which scenes/sequences can it live without? And we attack it in broad strokes. When we’ve got it into a shape and length we’re happy with, we’ll start to play with the internal architecture of individual scenes; shot sizes, camera moves, etc…, knocking the scene around to find its best shape.
Then the most important part of editing can begin; analyzing performance where every actor, every line, and every take comes under scrutiny. I get all the notes together and Ken leaves me to it. He has a much better memory than I do, so he’ll spot the tiniest differences in tempo when he looks over what I’ve done. This is a crucial part of the process for me. I think it’s important for a director to have some detachment from what’s going on in the cutting room. Too many spend their time worrying about the minutiae of cuts while failing to see the bigger picture.”
“I didn’t want to become an editor; I wanted to be an architect. The problem was I could draw but I couldn’t do maths. I found my way into editing through music, sound and by being in the right place at the right time.”
There have been a few guys who gave Martin a bit of help along the way but his main influences and inspiration came simply from watching movies. “I was 20 in 1975. Kubrick, Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg, Woody Allen all had a strong influence on me at the time, though I found it difficult to work their techniques into the local BBC news show.”
Times have changed, especially for a feature film editor like Martin, who has worked both on analogue and digital editing systems. “I miss having to get out of my chair to get a box of film off a shelf, holding the film up to the light; the time it took to make a series of changes and reflect on them. I miss having my assistant in the room with me and the conversations that brought with it, the clatter of Steenbecks and Moviolas; finding a chinagraph pencil behind my ear on the train home and sellotape in my hair. What I don’t miss are joins bursting apart in the projector, print scratches, dodgy changeovers, out of sync screenings.
In the digital world I like being able to change my mind, the ability to try an idea that would have taken hours in analogue in a matter of minutes and store it for later. I don’t like the non-stop, do it now, show me mentality. Stories need time.”
Nowadays, Walsh also spends more time on basic sound editing in Media Composer. “Gone are the days when you could screen a ‘rough cut’ with just the dialogue. Presentation is everything. Every time we run even a short section it must look and sound like a finished movie.”
“I am definitely not a ‘techie’ in the editing world. My favourite shortcut is Apple Z [Undo]; that really is a work of genius! There are lots of others but they become second nature, muscle memory things and I don’t know they’re there until they don’t work. I can use the title tool when necessary, I can do a resize if I have to but I stop at green screens. I leave that to the experts.”