Rob Hall Film Editor

Agent: APA   -   Matt Birch   -   +1 310-888-4200   -   mbirch@apa-agency.com

INTERVIEW - AS ASSISTANT EDITOR, 2005

 (from the Guerilla Film-Maker’s Handbook)

Q – What are your responsibilities in the cutting room?

I work as a First Assistant Editor on feature films. This meant it is my responsibility to ensure that

everything in the cutting room runs smoothly, efficiently and on time - from start to finish.

Q – What do you do before shooting starts?

 In the run up to a shoot, the editor and myself will plan thoroughly to make sure that the cutting room

workflow is in place - that the kit will be ready and that it will actually work technically, which is becoming

a more complex task as features are being shot digitally -  the technology advances so fast that the standards

also change fast - liaising with the camera department and the sound recordist are essential and it's wise to

get test footage beforehand if possible.. Test everything right through from digitising to outputting material

for the sound editors (get them to OK it). You should also make sure the telecine/dubbing house will be

giving you the right format tapes with all the correct burn-ins, etc. Everything done at this stage saves

time and trouble later on.

Q – What is your role during and after a shoot?

Once shooting starts, it's my job to digitise the dailies tapes (picture and sound), sync up, label the shots and

do playouts of the entire day’s sync dailies for all those that need them. I cannot emphasise how important it

is to make thorough checks at every stage of the process. The dailies tapes will also come with documentation

that must be filed properly, as should the continuity notes. The only other daily task is simple: do everything

the editor needs done while he's cutting! This can include the following: making playouts of cut scenes,

gathering and cutting in temp sound FX, mocking up temp visual FX, producing lists/images for pickup shots

that are needed, filing any further documentation received, labelling EVERYTHING, dealing with and

reporting problems (for example, neg scratches), making daily backups of the project and last but not least,

making cups of tea…

The end of the shoot signals a change in job – there are no more dailies tapes (except for pickup shoots later

on), but lots more playouts and temp sound FX work to do.  Most features these days have a good number of

visual FX shots in them and I’m in charge of tracking these shots and liaising with the various VFX houses that

may be involved. This can become a very big job if the number of visual FX shots gets into the hundreds.

Negative may need to be cut and scanned for visual FX work long before the cut of the film itself is locked,

all of which must be ordered and tracked. Sound editors and a composer will also become involved, requiring

copies of the each cut, as will the director and the various producers. Again, a backup of the project should

be made on a daily basis.

All of the above has assumed that there are no film dailies printed as well as the telecine tapes - these would

normally be handled by one or more separate film assistants, who would sync up and, if desired, conform the

film print to the digital cut for the purpose of screenings. Most productions now will screen cuts of the movie

from a tape (played out of the offline edit system by the assistant editor), rather than on film.

Q – Is assistant editing a good way to become an editor?

 Being an assistant is a perfect way to learn how to become an editor. First, you have an editor working with

you that you can watch and learn from; second, the editor should know about EVERYTHING that goes on in

the cutting room, because it’s he or she that is ultimately responsible for anything that goes right or

wrong. You won’t know if your assistant isn’t performing if you haven’t ever done it yourself - the editor’s

reputation is often dependent on work performed by their assistant. Of course, the essence of editing is

actually cutting and it’s up to you to make time to edit anything you can in your spare time – short films,

promos, showreels, or just practicing on scenes from the film you’re assisting on. Occasionally the editor will

allow you to edit a small scene in the film, but don’t expect it!

 

Q – If you’ve assisted on bigger budget movies, would you be happy to work on low budget

movies as an editor?

If offered the chance to edit a low budget film, I would definitely be very interested and, provided I was not

on a job and had not agreed to do a job that would clash with it, I would take it. There are two types of

assistant editor – those that want to become an editor and those that don’t. Although being a career assistant

can be both rewarding and a stable income (especially if you associate yourself with a successful editor), I am

one that aims to become an editor outright. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always the fallback of assisting again.

 

Q – What does feature film assistant editing allow you to offer as an editor?

As an assistant attempting the switch to becoming an editor, I would bring the experience of running a

cutting room from start to finish for a feature film - emphasis on ‘feature film’ - an editor that has only worked

with shorts and promos beforehand will not necessarily take into account the scale of what they are about to

undertake. It requires excellent structure and organization, both within the project and in the cutting room in

general. Very high standards in all areas are needed, with great attention to detail, all on a large scale. This

is absolutely vital, since a lack of organisation inevitably leads to constant impediments to the actual purpose

of an editor – to edit. The faster you can find a shot, a sequence, a document or whatever, the less interruption

to the editor’s train of thought (and the director’s, since he will work closely with you after the shoot). Working

as an assistant for an established editor also allows you to work in bigger budget movies at an early stage of

your career – this is all to your advantage as it can be an intensive learning experience!

 

Q – What problems can arise in the cutting room?

There are always mistakes made by everyone during a project, including the assistant editor. These can be

incorrect key numbers and timecodes, shots out of sync, bad labelling, a bad telecine, anything. However, it is

the assistant’s job to always check everything, absolutely everything, that comes to them and is given out by

them. If you’ve made a mistake, it will never leave the door (or be given to the editor) because you will have

always checked it first. If you’ve found someone else’s mistake, get them to correct it – they will appreciate it.

These checks take time, but it is always quicker in the long run, without fail.

 

Q – What advice would you give to a new film-maker?

For someone wishing to get into the film industry, I have one piece of advice: set yourself a very high standard

and NEVER compromise it in anything you do. Any time there’s an option of taking an easy way out by

producing shoddy work, remind yourself of your standards and remember that it’s keeping to them that will

set you apart from the crowd. Not that many people do this, but not that many people make it to the top.

Rob Hall    -    Film Editor    -    tel: +44 (0)7986 049 658    -    roberto2104@email.com

Rob Hall Film Editor

Agent: APA - Matt Birch

+1 310-888-4200

mbirch@apa-agency.com

Rob Hall - Film Editor

tel: +44 (0)7986 049 658   -   roberto2104@email.com