Editor Stephen Haren Enjoys Spending Time Sculpting Drama Inherent in the Scene

By in Video Editing

Film editor Stephen Haren always had a lifelong interest in cinema, and knew from very early on that he wanted a career in filmmaking. One of the things that he found most exciting about the editor’s role in the filmmaking process was their direct involvement in creating the finished film, being there from the first day of shoot to the final release.

“The Editor has to try and create the most coherent, affecting, and enjoyable film possible out of the raw materials he or she has been given, and that’s a hugely exciting challenge.”

—Stephen Haren

Stephen has recently finished editing Geezer, an American independent feature. It’s a comedy/drama starring Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day plus a great supporting cast including Fred Armisen, Selma Blair, and Judy Greer. One of the most appealing aspects of the project for Stephen was the large amount of dialogue improvisation and also the opportunity to cut a number of live music sequences.

“As an Assistant Editor I worked with some great editors and directors, but the most influential for me were Justine Wright and Kevin Macdonald, with whom I worked on two films. Their desire to make the best film possible through the constant bending and re-shaping of material was a great lesson, but most of all great fun.”

'The Last King of Scotland'

“My favorite project as an Assistant Editor was The Last King of Scotland. But as an Editor, Northern Soul was a great experience and a film I’m very proud of. The club scenes in Northern Soul were very challenging, especially those set in Wigan Casino and the smaller venues where the main characters put on their own DJ nights. Trying to hit the key story and character beats in those scenes while also integrating footage of the dancers (who had to be dancing in time to the music) and attempting to make the whole thing feel involving and atmospheric was very difficult but tremendously enjoyable.”

“The experience of making a film is so much fun that it’s hard not to love the final product even while recognizing its faults.”

'Northern Soul'

For Stephen the most satisfying days are those when he feels that both director and editor have cracked a previously insurmountable story issue, or made something brand new out of spare moments, footage that didn’t seem to work up until that point. “Cutting action is always a treat, but if I had to choose I would go for dialogue scenes. Spending time sculpting the drama and/or comedy inherent in the scene, or indeed inventing it, is one of the great pleasures of the job.”

Stephen Haren

“There have been various technological changes over the last few years, the move to shooting digitally being the most notable. This has had an impact on the way people shoot, as there tends to be less planning and a lot more footage to deal with. But ultimately the task for the Editor is exactly the same as during the celluloid era; to try and make the best film possible out of the footage that you have.”

I would say I’m a medium-level techie. I know the editing and post-production process very well, and try to learn about the emerging new features of Avid if they’re useful to me. I have my own home PC setup, Media Composer version 8, which I use for certain projects. But I generally use hired-in Avids, and have recently been slipping toward a preference for Mac.”

Stephen’s favorite shortcuts (the ones he always maps to his keyboard) are Match Frame, Make Subclip and the Segment Tools. And in his top Media Composer tips & trick list we can find:

  • Highlight your sequences, right-click and select ‘Get Bin Info’ in order to find out their total duration in 24fps.
  • Embrace colour coding of source clips.
  • Keep hitting Save!

Timeline from 'Geezer'

“As for the effects, I use AniMatte most often and am a fan of the odd Region Stabilizer. But I’m an amateur when it comes to color correction and will only tweak something if it helps make the scene more convincing.

Regarding audio editing, I try to do as much dialogue and sound editing as is necessary to make a scene play well, but am wary of spending too much time on such things when it means not editing picture. I try to create a temp score that is tonally fitting but which isn’t so perfect that it restricts the composer from creating something unique for the film.”

“I worked as an Assistant Editor for a number of years and so I know the role very well. As an Editor I just need my assistant to be organised and conscientious”

Finally we asked Stephen what he looks for from his assistant editors and what’s the best way for an aspiring editor to get a job as an assistant.

“I worked as an Assistant Editor for a number of years and so I know the role very well. As an Editor I just need my assistant to be organised and conscientious. I would advise an aspiring Editor to contact Assistant Editors, Post-Production Supervisors and Editors with their details and hopefully something will come of it. It’s essential to always be pleasant and beware of being too pushy.”

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